Our History Early Methodism in Vernon Township
The first preaching of Methodism in Vernon was back in 1786 when Ezekiel Cooper traveled the East Jersey Circuit.
In 1787, Bishop Francis Asbury, a circuit rider, started his tour of New Jersey. He preached to a multitude of people at Nathan Benjamin's barn, located just before the Orange County boundary.
Nathan Benjamin was a class leader of the Hamburg Circuit in 1791. This circuit included Vernon, Beemer, Papakating, and nearby Orange County. He served in the Revolutionary Army in his youth in 1779. He was a patriarch of Sussex County Methodists. At 75 years of age, he was one of the Trustees in the building of the first Methodist Church in Vernon in 1835. Prior to this, before Methodism took hold in Vernon, the Methodists worshiped in Beemer.
Early Methodism was very strong in Vernon, probably stemming from the visits of Asbury and itinerant preachers in 1787, 1789, 1799, and 1807.
When Asbury was in Vernon he was entertained at Nicholas Simonson's Inn. The Inn located in the village proper is almost directly across from the present Vernon Church. [As of 1968,] the Inn was still standing, and in use as a private home. [This structure was located north of the present horse stables, opposite Great Gorge Village and Spa, and was burned for a Fire Department practice drill in 1970.]
A "Methodist Society" at Vernon antedated the building of a church by 40 years. In the New Jersey Conference minutes in 1837, Hamburg is designated for the station, but in 1838, the name Vernon is properly given for the charge. In 1842, Vernon is listed as having 415 members of the Methodist Church, with Glenwood being a Methodist stronghold.
The Reverend Ezekiel Cooper mentions stopping at William Winan's Inn in 1786 in Vernon and preaching there. [Winan's Inn was located at the junction of Hwy 94 and Route 515 - on the lot where the Lukoil gas station is currently located.] This was a pre-revolutionary tavern which is still standing. [The building has now been relocated to the Glen Drew Farm.]
The first Methodist-Episcopal Church was established in Vernon in 1837. The Dedication was on July 7. The Dedication was presided over by the Rev. Manning Force and the Rev. Sedgewick Rusling. A collection was taken up amounting to $101.34, all that was needed to complete the church. Previous to the establishment of this church, services were held in the school, and ministers of the North Church in Hardyston Township served.
In 1871, "the Society" of Vernon was in feeble condition owing to a lack of interest in the temporalities of the church and an almost total disregard for the means of Grace, and the congregation worshipped in an old an delapidated church.
At this time, the Rev. William R. Kiefer was appointed to the church and a movement was underway for the erection of the new church building. The cornerstone was laid September 21, 1871, and the end of the year showed encouraging results with new members and an adequate salary. The church was completed and dedicated on the first day of September 1872, and is still in use having been added to and improved thorughout the years. [This is the building currently in use by the Vernon United Methodist Church.]