November 2005



Many impressive trees and shrubs beautify the grounds of Old Tennent Church and Cemetery.  There are enormous maples, symbolic dogwoods; trees and shrubs of every description.  For those with the patience to look, there are hidden treasures as well.  Rose expert Anne Haines of Millstone Township described to the Asbury Park Press the rush she felt upon finding an "Alba," one of the oldest varieties of roses, in Old Tennent Cemetery.  But grandest of all are the slow-growing, long-lived oaks.  Among these, one is particularly noteworthy, a time-worn survivor of a day when balls from cannon and musket raced past it and exhausted soldiers sought refuge in its shade.

Rev. Symmes wrote of the pride nineteenth century church members felt for two great white oak trees which stood in front of the church and of the pleasure people derived from their grateful shade and magnificent shape.  The trees are both shown in the 1894 photo on this page and the 1868 picture accompanying The Horse Sheds story reveals the oaks to be of great size even then.  Rev. Symmes believed that the trees must have been standing when the church was built in 1751 - perhaps among those which caused the place to be called White (Oak) Hill.   

In 1897, the trustees were compelled to remove the tree nearer the church.  It had many branching limbs which were beginning to die and threaten damage to the building by falling.  The other tree, which people called "the oak with the long limb" still stands, protected by its own lightning rod, more than one hundred years after Rev. Symmes wrote about it.  On a calm, sunny Saturday before Memorial Day in 2006, the great low horizontal limb of the oak unexpectedly crashed to the ground, toppling a number of tombstones.  The damage was repaired and the venerable oak - bearing one more scar - endures, standing guard as it always has before the old church.


Rev. Frank R. Symmes, History of the Old Tennent Church (second edition), Cranbury, NJ:¬  George W. Burroughs, Printer, 1904, p 51.


June 2006