A Brief Historical Sketch
by Judith Rapping
In its long history, the Windsor United Methodist Church has been in continuous service since 1839 and has had over 80 pastors and circuit riders. It continues today as the scene of many religious and social activities for the village of Windsor and the surrounding area.
Earliest mention of the local area in the 1600s refers to it as a wilderness with several Indian camps. Prior to 1818 the heavily wooded lands around Windsor were called Magrilla (the name is of unknown origin). In 1816 the local section of the stagecoach “turnpike” between New York and Philadelphia ran along Main Street.
Between 1831 and 1832 the railroad was constructed, and Centerville (as Windsor was then known because of its centrally-located position) became a stopover for travelers, and a thriving center for the bountiful farms and mills which serviced the growing population. The village was renamed Windsor in 1846 because a post office had already been established in the town of Centerville in Hunterdon County.
Methodist history is long and rich in the Windsor area. Initially clergymen held meetings in the local schoolhouse, private dwellings, and farm groves in the vicinity. The Methodist Episcopal Church had divided this section of the country into districts called circuits, and preachers called “circuit riders” made the rounds on horseback between Hightstown, Allentown, Crosswicks and Sharon. In 1838 at one such “grove meeting” on the Samuel Danser farm, the local Methodist church was formally organized and on July 1, 1839, Rev. Enoch Knowles filled the first appointment.
The Centerville Methodist Episcopal Church, a one-story brick building of “modern style and plain finish” (now the Fellowship Hall under the sanctuary), was dedicated on June 17, 1840. In 1863 due to a growing population, the church was remodeled to its current size in the Greek Revival style, and the steeple added. The parsonage was built next door at that time. Beautiful stained glass windows were installed in the sanctuary of the church in 1902.
The name “Episcopal” was dropped when the Methodist Church of the North and South was consolidated in 1939. In 1968 the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church combined, and from that time on we have been known as Windsor United Methodist Church.
On August 18, 1965 the church was severely damaged by a gas explosion. We are deeply grateful to God no one was injured. With the help of parishioners and community members, the church went through extensive renovation, including installation of a new steeple, and replacement of the stained glass windows. During the 6-month renovation period, services and Sunday School were held at the Grange Hall down the street (currently the Gospel Mission).