GOING UP TO THE HOUSE OF THE LORD
By 1731, the hardy group of Scottish Covenanters who worshipped on Free Hill in present-day Marlboro had outgrown their small log cabin church . Because the congregationís growth was fed by new settlements in the Freehold-Manalapan area, an acre of land was purchased five miles to the south to build a new house of worship here on White Hill (said to be named for its white oak trees).
There is a tradition that the builders planned to locate the new church on a lower part of the property and had gathered there to begin work. Whereupon a woman from the congregation named Janet Rhea seized the small cornerstone in her apron and, toiling to the top of the hill, set it down there, saying to the astonished onlookers: "Wha ever heard oí ganging doon to the Hoose o' the Lord, an no oí ganging oop to the Hoose o' the Lord?" Janetís point was made and that church, as well as the present larger sanctuary which replaced it 20 years later, was built on top of the hill.
In Rev. Symmesí history of the church, he described Janet Rhea as a woman of strong mind and scriptural application and a devout worker in the Presbyterian community that built Old Tennent. The wife of Robert Rhea, a carpenter by profession, who came from Scotland in 1688, Janet was also newly arrived from Scotland when they were married in 1689 at Shrewsbury in the Quaker Meeting House.
The old Rhea farm, which Robert had purchased, is now the site of the Visitors Center at Monmouth Battleground State Park. Janet Rhea Road, named in Janetís honor, is just west of the intersection of Routes 9 and 33. There is reportedly a family burial ground on the farmís property and that is where Janet and members of her family were buried. She died in 1761 at the age of 93.
A wonderful piece of furniture from the Rhea family home is on display in Freehold. A chair crafted by Robert Rhea was donated to the Monmouth County Historical Society and is on display at the main museum. The massive chair with very detailed carving was fashioned after chairs Robert remembered in Scotland. It dates from 1695 and is thought to be one of the oldest documented chairs crafted in America.
THE RHEA CHAIR