Port Monmouth Community Church



The Church and It's People



Pastor A. Donald Magaw

Port Monmouth Community Church History compiled and edited by:

 Rev. Donald A. Magaw

During a recent search through the old files of the late Rev. A. Donald Magaw, an old brown envelope was found containing the notes on the history of the Port Monmouth Community Church. This is a definite miracle from God as the original published history of the church was lost during hurricane Sandy and it was feared that it was gone forever. The finding of these notes and manuscripts makes it possible to reconstruct much of the history of our church. This history is based on his notes until 1994 when he was called home to be with the Lord, the balance is compiled from my memory. (A study of the book of Nehemiah comes to mind). God still moves stones!

The average professing follower of Christ has often mulled over the words, “go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel,” and with it has associated the far-off regions of lands beyond the sea, distant camp fires, the beat of pagan drums, primitive canoes gliding silently through dense jungles, grass huts and the sounds of strange languages. A few have heard the call and have forsaken “father and mother, brother and sister” that the message of God’s grace might be heard in the ends of the earth. We honor those who have paid such a price for their Lord. But for the larger number of professing Christians who have not gone “into all the world”, there have been all too few who have realized the mission field which is available to them in the here and now!

The ingredients of this story of a home mission field are as follows: a deserted one-room country church, a dedicated man and his wife with a desire to bring Christ and His Word to a needy people and the enabling of the Holy Spirit to perform the task which He permitted them to undertake.

Much of the past history of this mission chapel in the wet-lands of Middletown is disjointed. The gathering of the facts has been as the gathering of the threads of a torn and frayed garment. The pattern has often changed for the weaving has been attempted too often by unskilled hands with the resulting snarls and knots marring rather than enhancing the appearance of the fabric until in sheer desperation the garment itself was cast aside as useless.

It was the first of March, in 1892, that Dr. Bennett recorded the gathering together of William Ludlow, August Lehman, Charles Tilton, Joseph Walling, Francis Downes and Stepen Carhart, as the elected trustees of the church to take on themselves the name of a corporation and certify the same under the terms of the law. It was said that the church was originally founded to give the fishermen a place to worship (because the high and mighty folks on the other side of town did not want the smelly old fisherman in their church). {It seems strange to me to take this attitude because as I recall, most of Christ’s disciples were “smelly old fishermen.”}

At the end of one year, with Pastor Joseph Clark in charge, the church boasted a value in lands and property at $1200, a mortgage of $300 and personal property valued at $100. It had added debts of $35 and a financial balance of $15. But if its worldly goods amounted to little, its heavenly assets were growing rapidly for it had fifteen teachers in the Sunday school with an average attendance of 75! The average wage for the pastor in the year 1900 was about $12.50 per month. However, in 1901 it was decided that “we should have free preaching”, that is a pastor without a salary. Later that same year it was decided to pay Brother Carhart a salary of $2 per month to serve as the church janitor, possibly because this was a task requiring sweat and elbow grease and the pastor’s job only required tears and prayer.

Around this time, when the town was known as Shoal Harbor, the Rev. Wilson took residence in what is now called the “Spy House” and then it was called the Wilson House. Wilson was the owner of a steam ship that traveled between Port Monmouth, Staten Island and New York City. He had a reputation as a firm, forceful preacher of the Gospel and was exceeded only by his love and compassion for the lost. Wilson Avenue still bears his name and Lydia Place is named after his daughter. Since Wilson house was the home of one of the first pastors of the church it was looked upon as the first church parsonage.

During the years 1904-1905, a power-struggle seemed to be taking place among the trustees of the organization. One trustee was dropped from membership; another was “scratched out” because he was not in attendance at a meeting. By January of 1906, the janitor’s salary had been raised to $3 per month, a new roof had been put on the horse-shed and the Rev. W.F. Carey was chosen to be the new pastor at a salary of $8.80 per month. In June of that same year, Henry Raynor, the church clerk, had recorded that “any member belonging to any other church can’t belong to ours.” By 1910, a lay preacher, Charles Lube, had taken over the pulpit and seems to have been doing a better job of preaching the Word for a sweeter spirit is in evidence in the old church records. In December of that year, it was decided to replace the old oil lamps with gas lights and a drive for funds was undertaken. To the credit of those in charge, a week of prayer was set for the first week in January. But here, the record runs out………

“Work for the night is coming” sang the twenty-one members of the Mission Aid Society as they met for the first time on March 7, 1924. Strange that all efforts to revive the program of this church were to have their origin in the month of March! Almost as if a dormant community was beginning to stir after a long winter…and this time it had been a winter of thirteen years. A new pastoral call was about to be issued, this time to Rev. Fox. In May it was decided to repaint the church, “the cost not to exceed $20, but somehow the years had taken their toll and Mr. Kopp was obliged to charge an additional $27 in order to give the building a second coat. How nice to have the outside clean, but what about the inside and human hearts? With the desire for outward improvement came the need for funds and by July regular food sales to raise money were being held in Mrs. Fox’s pavilion at the beach front with the result that by September the financial structure of the church boasted a total of $161.13 with a little note: “Short on my books….$.36.”

Then mysteriously, the church closed again, and the balance of the treasury went to a local Methodist church. It appears from the records, that strawberry festivals, cake sales, and the like were more important than preaching the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Again, the records end……


It stood there neglected, closed and forgotten. That which had been “erected to the glory of God and the promulgation of the Gospel” looked all the world like a thing of the past. The blistered weather-beaten paint told of years of neglect. The shutters hanging askew from their rusty hinges pointed in all directions to a prayer-less community. The yard over grown with weeds, brush and filled with trash gave no evidence of an interest in the words, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go up to the house of the Lord.” The wind whistled through the broken glass of the windows singing a dirge of the days that had long-since passed. The old church bell, taken many years before from the front of an old locomotive, (which ran through Port Monmouth), itself a relic of bygone days, hung on an impromptu platform near the front peak of the building. It had been so long since its voice was heard that the horns of the bell had rusted fast to the arbors. An old weather-beaten sign, nailed to the corner of the building, declared weakly this to be THE PORT MONMOUTH MISSION. Clearly the evidence on hand indicated…”ICHABOD, the glory has departed”.

It had not always been thus. In the days when schooners tied up at the docks of Shoal Harbor to deliver and receive the merchandise of the day; when scores of fisherman had tended their nets or their lobster pots and others had made their living clamming the waters of the bay, this Mission Chapel had been built in the wetlands to offer a place of worship for the fishermen and the dock-hands. Some say that the preaching from the pulpit of this place called men to repentance and a closer walk with God and at that time “the place was packed to the doors,” and the “the singing made the rafters ring”. But the only music to be heard now is the whistle of the blackbird perched on the reeds in the wetlands across from the church. “Change and decay in all around I see…O thou who changes not, abide with me”!

The challenge was given: “All right pastor, you told us today that ‘one and God can do anything’; you said that ‘God can work wonders with any church with just the right man.’ I’d like to show you a church that needs a preacher, a church where God has never been able to do anything, where He never will be able to do anything, and then you tell me what He can do with that!” The challenger was a local businessman with a sense of religious obligation but lacking a real relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. The challenged was a thirty-four year old Baptist preacher, fresh from a bout with a serious injury and anxious to get back into the work of the Lord. Suddenly he was to realize the answer to “Why?” God had interrupted his activities, laid him aside for nearly a year, and “Why?” God had caused him to look Heavenward for help and “Why?” he had been permitted long hours of study in the Word and long hours of prayer. From now on, and for a while these would be luxuries and valuable lessons upon which he could draw. The preacher was Rev. A. Donald Magaw and his faithful wife, Clara. This was at last the opening of a door “which no man could shut;” this was the beginning of a challenge…”ONE AND GOD!”


Photo's provided by Pastor Don

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Photo Provided By: Wanda Wohlin

Port Monmouth Church 25th Anniversary Pastor Ordination

Left to right: Henry Schacht (Head Deacon) with wife Doris Schacht, Clara Magaw, Pastor A. Donald Magaw


Article Provided By: Wanda Wohlin

August 1965

Rev. A.D.Magaw (Center Right) is presented a Keepsake Book and gift by Senior Deacon Luther Walling of Belford. PMCC Deacon George Fleming (far-right) ..Which is Wanda Wohlin's, Bill Schacht's and Lois Adubato's Uncle) proudly representing PMCC.




Pastor A. Donald and wife Clara

Photo Provided By: Pastor Donald Magaw



  History Continued: Page-2

Special Thanks To: Mr. Jeremy Lipari This entire website wouldn't have been possible without you! Thank You for your service to the Lord and supporting Port Monmouth Community Church.


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