October 15

During the early 1700s settlers began occupying the Hopewell Valley northwest of Trenton, N.J., west of Princeton. For many years the Baptist believers in Hopewell met in the home of one of the first settlers, gladly receiving the ministry of various traveling preachers. The principle members of the congregation soon traveled to Philadelphia to join the Lower Dublin church, becoming a mission of that early Baptist Church. For several decades the mission was without a building, but that changed, when in 1747 one of the distinguished families of the valley, the Harts, gave the congregation property on which to build. John Hart was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Eventually a church was organized and the first settled pastor of the Hopewell Baptist Church was Isaac Eaton. He led the congregation to establish the first school in the nation for the training of Baptist preachers. Several outstanding men were either raised in or trained at Hopewell, including John Blackwell, James Ewing and John Gano.

The members of the church loved the Lord and loved their nation. When the Revolutionary War began, a courier arrived during a regular preaching service and spoke quietly with Colonel John Houghton. The Colonel sat reverently during the service, but once it concluded he mounted a large stone which rested in the field just below the meeting house. From this secular pulpit, he told the crowd about the events at Lexington, telling the men that he was willing to travel to Boston to assist the New Englanders. It is said that every man in that congregation volunteered to join Houghton.

Those hearts had been prepared by Pastor Eaton, whose ministry had come to a peaceful end a short time earlier – on this day (October 15) in 1774.