"Straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life." Matthew 7:14 (Former inscription in Amwell Church)
For one to speak or write about the early history of the Amwell Church of the Brethren without mention of John Naas, would be unfair as well as difficult. This energetic evangelist arrived at Philadelphia, September 18, 1733, visited with the Brethren in Germantown, crossed over the Delaware River at New Hope, Pennsylvania, and settled in Northern New Jersey. With the help of four like-minded Brethren, he organized, before the year's course was run, a church where none had been before. Amwell Church stands today a continuing monument to the zeal, earnestness and determination of John Naas to serve his Lord.
In addition to this, Morgan Edwards states in his History of the Baptists that in the year 1733 Salome Miller and Joseph Miller, her brother, John Brech and wife, Peter Longanacre and Peter Rhode (all of Great Swamp, Bucks County, Pennsylvania) were baptized by Mr. John Naas.
So all this tells that John Naas was at once busily engaged in spiritual endeavors from almost the very minute he embraced the religious freedom of the American colonies.
Before there was a church building, Julius F. Sachse states in his German Secretarians of Pennsylvania, "Amwell meetings were held in different homes. In 1750 a church, a plain frame structure was erected. It was replaced by the present church in 1856."
J.W. Wayland, in his Two Centuries of the Church of the Brethren states: "The single colonial congregation in New Jersey was located at Amwell, in Hunterdon County, some 30 or 40 miles northeast of Philadelphia. It was organized in 1733 with 12 members." Another description of the church and its location is in Historical Collections of New Jersey, by John W. Barber and Henry Howe. It is: "The Society of Dunkers have a church in the central part of this township (Delaware), about a mile northeast from Headquarters, New Jersey."
Amwell Church of the Brethren was originally known as the Amwell German Baptist Church. "It is the oldest place of worship in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. During the Revolution, General Washington marched his army past the site of the present church and halted overnight at the village of Headquarters, a mile distant." This is from the Newark Evening News of September 9, 1933.
It has always been considered the third church of the Brethren in America, in regard to age. However, in Urner's History of the Coventry Brethren Church it is listed fifth. They are: 1. Germantown December 25, 1723 2. Coventry November 7, 1724 3. Conestoga November 12, 1724 4. Oley in 1732 5. Amwell in 1733.
In Abraham Cassel's "Notices of the Brethren's Early Churches, with Biographical Sketches of Some of their First Ministers" there is the following chapter:
New Jersey - The first appearance of Brethren in New Jersey was 1733, when the following 5 Brethren (who had come in with the last division of 30 families from Holland, with Alexander Mack, in 1729), to wit Reverend Johann Naas, Anthony Deerdorf, Jacob More, Rudolph Harley, and John Peter van Laushe, these five with their families, crossed the Delaware in 1733, and settled at Amwell, in Hunterdon County, about 40 miles NEE from Philadelphia.
They increased very fast under the pastoral care of the Reverend Brother Naas, but as the land was pretty well taken up and consequently too high in price for the Brethren, who were generally of very straightened circumstances, to procure themselves homes there, they were continually moving to other and newer settlements. But, notwithstanding this constant dispersion, in 1770 they numbered 28 families, containing 46 persons, that were baptized and in the communion with the church. They had no meeting-house yet at the above date, but kept up their worship at the Brethren's houses in relation, and observed the Holy Communion as often as a Brother found himself disposed to give the feast of charity. Then the whole church was invited to meet at his house, where, when washing feet was over and the right hand of fellowship and kiss of charity was given, the Lord's Supper was administered with the usual elements and the singing of hymns.
Their first minister, as already said, was the Reverend Johann Naas. He was born at Noorden, which was a considerable town in the Province of Westphalia, 12 miles north of Emden, emigrated to America in 1733, and settled with the church at Amwell, New Jersey, in 1733. He appears to have been a talented man and very earnest in the discharge of his pastoral duties, also to have been imbued with a good deal of missionary spirit, in as much as he traveled a good deal for the purpose of extending his views of the Truth, as it is in Jesus, and was the instrument of planting several of the Brethren's early churches. He was twice married, but left no issue that we know of, except two daughters; the one was married to a Brother Wilhelmus Grau, in Creyfeldt, and the other to a Landes, who afterwards joined the Seventh-day Baptists and went to Ephrata, but was soon dissatisfied with that community, and about 1735 or 1736 was received again to the Brethren in Conestoga.
Next to him was the Reverend John Bechleshammer. He was from Holland with Gideon Rouser for his assistant.
After him was William Housel, born in Neuwied, which was a flourishing commercial city in Germany, in the circle of the upper Rhine, about 10 miles north-west of Coblentz, in 1728. He was married, but had no issue and was called to the ministry about 1750.
Next to him was the Reverend Abraham Laushe. He was born in the Parent church at Creyfeldt, in 1732, and married to a daughter of the aforementioned Brother Bechleshammer, and left a numerous offspring, some of whom are still respectable members of the church at Amwell.
Date and Author unknown.