Guide to the Records of Somerset County Bible Society 1817-1961 MG 167
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The New Jersey Historical Society
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Inventory prepared by Bob Golon as part of the “Farm to City” project funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
Finding aid encoded by Danielle Kovacs. March 2004. Production of the EAD 2002 version of this finding aid was made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Finding aid written in English.
Bible Societies were first formed in the early 19th century with the expressed purpose “to give free course to the word of the Lord, that it may run and be glorified â€¦ not only by preaching and teaching but also in the written word.” (Rankin, 1892) Their main mission was Bible distribution. The first such society was the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804. Within twelve years, 132 county and state Bible societies were formed in 21 states, with New Jersey having seven of them, one of which being the New Jersey Bible Society, founded by General Elias Boudinot of Burlington County. Boudinot also organized the American Bible Society in 1816.
The Somerset Bible Society was founded during this time of proliferation of Bible societies. On October 1, 1816, the Reverends Peter Studdiford, John Vrendenburgh, Robert Finley and Peter Labagh, along with laymen J. M. Bayard, John Frelinghuysen, and P. Z. Elmendorf met in Somerville, New Jersey in order to draft a constitution for the new organization. They met again in December 1816, and the Society was formally organized. Within one month, the board of managers of the Society appointed agents in each Somerset County township “who should canvas both for funds and for supplying the destitute with Bibles and Testaments.” (Rankin, 1892) The first annual meeting of the Somerset Bible Society was held in Somerville on August 19, 1817, attended by eight ministers and thirty-eight lay people. Reverend Studdiford of Readington was chosen as its first president.
The collection documents the activities of the Somerset County Bible Society, and consists of record books, letters, pamphlets, certificates, and lists spanning the years 1817-1915. The record books contain membership lists, meetings notes, and the Society’s rules and bylaws.
The record book dating from 1817-1867 contains a copy of the Society’s constitution; a yearly membership list for the years 1817-1831; notes from annual meetings from 1817-1851, including an original draft of the Society’s rules and bylaws written in 1817; and a list of the Society’s Presidents, Preachers, and Orators.
The record book dating from 1871-1891 contains notes from annual meeting, with a copy of the Society’s regulations, a list of annual meeting locations, and a list of the Preachers or Orators for each meeting.
The record book dating from 1852-1870 consists of notes from annual meeting for those years.
The record book entitled “Minutes of the Executive Committee of the Somerset County Bible Society” contains meeting minutes from September 10, 1891 through September 20, 1915. These meetings occurred at irregular intervals. The last page of this volume contains a list of U.S. Bond numbers deposited in the First National Bank of Somerville as of July 17, 1893.
The remainder of the collection consists of letters, lists, and pamphlets. An envelope that was donated to the Bible Society from Nicholas Williamson of Hillsborough Township, contains a pamphlet of a speech by Frederick Frelinghuysen to the annual meeting of the Society on August 21, 1820. Another pamphlet contains the forty-fourth annual report of the Somerset County Sunday School Association from 1903 and the Annual Report of the Executive Committee of the Somerset County Bible Society, 1899-1900. Letters include an incoming letter from A. S. Hunt of the American Bible Society in New York and a letter to Y. J. Frelinghuysen, the Superintendent of Public Instruction from Gustavus A. Moore, inquiring about a teaching position. Lists include a report of the contents of the Society’s depository collection from August 14, 1866, a list of Somerset County teachers, and an agenda for a Society meeting from 1845. There are certificates, both undated, containing details of some decisions and proclamations made during Society meetings. The collection also contains a fragment of a speech dedicating a facility.
As a result of a later acquisition (located in boxes 2 & 3), additional items were added to this collection including daybooks, cashbooks, annual reports, banking items and meeting minutes spanning from the years 1917-1961.
There are no access restrictions on this collection.
Photocopying of materials is limited and no materials may be photocopied without permission from library staff.
Researchers wishing to publish, reproduce, or reprint materials from this collection must obtain permission.
The New Jersey Historical Society complies with the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code), which
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This collection should be cited as: Manuscript Group 167, Somerset County Bible Society Records, The New Jersey Historical
Box 1, gift of the Somerset County Bible Society, 1932. Boxes 2 and 3, Gift of Jessie Havens, 2006.
Snell, James P. History of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, New Jersey. Philadelphia: Everts and Peck, 1881.
Rankin, John C., D. D. Historical Address Before the Somerset County Bible Society. Somerville, N. J.: The Unionist-Gazette Print, 1892.