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Stories from the Past : Hopewell Valley

The new Incorporated body “covenanting to walk together” and govern themselves according to the “Word of His Grace” were the well spring of a future religious community. It would number more than two-hundred and fifty a century and a half later. 

​Jonathan Stout died suddenly as a middle aged man in 1722. He had been elected Overseer of the Poor earlier in that year. On the Hopewell tax list that year he does not appear, though his sons Joseph and David both appear with 230 and 250 acres respectively. The third son Samuel was still a minor, though another 250 acres from his father was his. It was not until 1747 that a church was built -- and around it a village grew. As you drive past that simple sign that says 1703 remember Jonathan Stout.

David Blackwell

This story was originally published in the HVHS Newsletter Vol. 26, No. 4, Late Spring 2008
Jonathan Stout
Hopewell Baptist Church Founder

On the approach to Hopewell Borough, from at least three directions, signs proclaim the village was settled in 1703.  What this date actually commemorates is the arrival of Jonathan Stout from Middletown in Monmouth County to the Hopewell area. As the patriarch of a family that organized and sustained the Baptist congregation here, thereby creating a community, he is rightly accorded a founder’s status. 
Jonathan’s father Richard Stout was an adherent of the Baptist faith and a patentee at Gravesend, Long Island. Later, he became a patentee of Middletown in East Jersey at its founding in 1664.  Born at Middletown, Jonathan brought the faith of his father with him to the dense woodlands of Hopewell Township when he arrived in 1703. His nearest neighbor in Hopewell at the time was Dr. Roger Parke, a Quaker turned Anglican who earlier had moved to land along Stony Brook, in northern Hopewell.  Jonathan Stout took public office in 1708, when he became Overseer of the Poor for Hopewell Township.  At that time the township stretched all the way down to the banks of the Assunpink Creek, and included much of present day Trenton.

He had to wait more than a decade for others of his faith to begin their own cabins and clearings in the forest.  Certainly he kept his faith alive around the embers of the hearth for the education and benefit of his children. His fervency did not go unnoticed by Baptist ministers who baptized his 
Detail, " A new Mapp of East and West New Jarsey," published in London, 1706, Courtesy Library of Congress 
Engraving, Combination Atlas Map of Mercer County, 1875, Collection Hopewell Valley Historical Society
Now and Then - The timeless nature of this Hopewell church can be seen in these two photographs taken over one hundred years apart.

Top - This photo was taken in early spring of 2013. 

Bottom - This early view of the Old School Baptist Church in Hopewell is the lasting legacy of the Stout family’s influence in the founding of Hopewell. 

Christopher Bannister Collection, HVHS

adult children. At last, in 1715 without a building twelve residents of upper Hopewell Township were organized into a church. Jonathan and Ann Stout; Joseph Stout, their oldest son; Hannah and Ruth Stout; daughter Sarah Smith; Sarah FitzRandolph; Rachel Hyde; Thomas and Alse Curtis; and Benjamin and Mary Drake were the founders.  The minister Abel Morgan came with two of his Philadelphia congregation as did minister John Burrowes and one of his congregation.