MARLBORO — An 18-month restoration project on the 102-year-old monument to the Rev. John Boyd at the Old Scots burying ground is finally complete. The last step, mounting the final plaque, was completed on May 13 by the Abby-Rose Monument Co., Hamilton.
"Now the monument really is the focal point as you drive by the cemetery" on Gordons Corner Road, said Charles Vastbinder, secretary and treasurer for the Old Tennent Cemetery Board of Trustees.
The impressive monument is the centerpiece of the historic cemetery that has ties to the Old Tennent Presbyterian Church, Manalapan, and dates back to 1692. Boyd was the first pastor of what is now the Old Tennent Church. In 1706, he became the first Presbyterian minister to be trained and ordained in the new world. Unfortunately, his tenure was short. He died in 1708, Vastbinder said.
The $12,000 restoration project at Old Scots was paid for with a $5,000 grant from the Monmouth County Historical Association and $5,000 from the Presbyterian Synod of the Northeast. The Old Tennent Cemetery board contributed the rest.
"We actually own the property," Vastbinder said, explaining that the monument was put in place of the original grave marker after the grave marker was put on display at the Presbyterian Historic Society in Philadelphia. The monument was put in place by the Synod of New Jersey in 1900.
The cemetery, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since August 2001 and on the state register since June of the same year, is a local treasure, Vastbinder said.
"The residents around there are very, very protective of the cemetery and keep an eye on it," he said. "They call the police when they see anything that looks suspicious."
There is precedence for that kind of vigilance. In fact, acts of vandalism that occurred in 1994 at the Old Scots graveyard led to widespread community interest in researching, documenting, restoring, preserving and giving recognition to the burial ground that is rich in Presbyterian history.
The Old Scots Meeting House, built in the Wickatunk section of Marlboro around 1705 on the grounds of the Old Scots graveyard, is the original location where the congregation of the Old Tennent Presbyterian Church once met. The congregation eventually moved to Manalapan.
The naming of the Old Scots graveyard to the state and national historic registers assures the continuation of protection and care of that property, Vastbinder said at the time it was being considered.
"It ensures the property will stay as it is and remain an example of our roots. It’s important for future generations to recognize their roots," he said.
Those roots go back to the early 1700s when the Old Scots Meeting House was built after the Scottish Presbyterians began to settle in what is now Matawan. The meeting house was built in Marlboro at the intersection of Wyncrest Road and what is now Gordons Corner Road. The only thing that remains of the church there is the cemetery that is referred to as the Old Scots burying ground.
The first pastor of that church, Boyd, was the first to be buried there.
According to Marlboro Township: A Rich History, a Bright Future, a book published by the Marlboro Historic Commission in 1999, Boyd was the first Presbyterian minister to qualify to preach in the American colonies. All ministers and churches that were not followers of the Church of England had to "qualify" to enable them to function or preach in the colonies.
Vastbinder said the property’s association with historically significant people such as Boyd, and John and William Tennent, is one of the three categories in which it was decided by the state review board that the property should be part of the state historic register.
John Tennent, who is also buried in the cemetery, was the minister of the congregation from 1730-1731. His brother, William, (the namesake of Manalapan’s Tennent section), became the minister of the congregation when it moved to the Old Tennent Presbyterian Church on Tennent Road in Manalapan in 1731, Vastbinder said. William Tennent led the congregation for the next 46 years and was buried in the sanctuary of the newer church.