Jersey Reflections: Enoch Green

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He was a pastor but also a Revolutionary figure.

Enoch Green, pastor of the Deerfield Presbyterian Church and advocate of the Revolutionary War, served his Cumberland County community well from his arrival in 1867 to his death, particularly in providing his congregation a much-needed new facility. But the years following the construction of a new church would eventually lead to the revolt from which the United States was born.

While in Deerfield, Green married Mary Beatty, the eldest daughter of Reverend Charles Beatty, and the couple had three children, William, Ann and Charles. But Green’s responsibilities extended to the needs of his congregation as well. He recognized early on the need to replace the log church over which he had been given jurisdiction, yet he needed to consider economics as well as practicality in his planning.

The Friends of the William Green Farmhouse website contains an excerpt from the book History of the Deerfield Presbyterian Church, which postulates that “to many, the period of Enoch Green’s ministry might be particularly notable for the fact that in 1771 the present stone church was built. As has been stated in the section of this book describing the building, it is the conviction of the writer that it was Enoch Green who ingeniously showed the congregation how they might have a meeting house of which they could boast with the least expenditure of cash. It is easy to visualize the joy and satisfaction of the people on the day they transferred from the log church to their new and imposing stone meeting house.”

The Presbyterian Church’s accelerating angst over British rule was matched by the growing unrest in Cumberland County over British taxation and treatment. In December 1774, the Greenwich Tea Burning made clear the sentiments of area residents and the subsequent failed attempt to bring its participants to justice served as another reminder that British rule held little sway over an increasingly resentful population.

As a Presbyterian Cumberland County resident, Green began to use his pulpit as a means of addressing the issue. Bridgetonian Ebenezer Elmer recorded one of these occasions when Green attempted to further the colonies’ cause practically a year prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence: “On July 20, 1775, a day appointed as a Continental Fast, a number of officers and men went up to Deerfield to hear the Chaplain.” Those in attendance that day were not the church’s regular parishioners, but were members of the Deerfield Militia who listened intently to Green’s message.

The Deerfield Militia was only one of many throughout the colonies ready for action against the British, should the moment arise. According to Willard M. Wallace’s Appeal to Arms: A Military History of the American Revolution, “As relations with the mother country grew tense, the colonial authorities stiffened the training of their militia. In Virginia, Maryland, Rhode Island and particularly Massachusetts, volunteers trained vigorously at parade-ground tactics and musketry. Rhode Island, in 1774, authorized company drill once a month, regimental drill twice a year and brigade drill once every two years.” As early as 1771, New Hampshire took steps to form its militia into a powerful and respectable body, while in 1772, New York also organized several companies against the day when they might be needed.”

The following year, on March 22, the Deerfield Presbyterian Church once again hosted a military presence. The Green website, referencing research published by historian R. Craig Koedel, reports that “this time members of New Jersey’s Third Battalion under the command of Joseph Bloomfield, a former student of Green’s classical school in the Deerfield manse” were in attendance.

The sermon delivered by Green on that spring day, according to the website, “rehearses the events leading up to the inevitability of war and is an exhortation concerning the conduct of any individual while serving as a soldier. The sermon clearly illustrates the attitude of the Presbyterian clergy with regard to the impending rebellion against English rule.” From Koedel’s perspective, it espoused the Presbyterian outlook that “the struggle for liberty and independence was considered to be a holy war.”

It wouldn’t be long before Green would step into the fray as chaplain for the American forces and face his most difficult challenge.

Next Week: Road to Fort Washington


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