The Kingston Presbyterian Church was organized in 1723 and located in a log building near the Millstone River in what is now the church cemetery. The church was formed shortly after Jediah Higgins purchased 1,000 acres from the Indians in the early 1700s and the town of Kingston was established. The location of this first log structure can be determined easily since all of the old tombstones in the cemetery surround the site where the church once stood. General George Washington traveled past this little church with his troops, avoiding the British after the Battle of Princeton by marching off to the left, down the road leading to Rocky Hill, while Cornwallis and his troops proceeded on the main road to New Brunswick.
The Rev. Eleazar Wales was the first recorded minister of the church. He played a prominent role in the Presbyterian movement in and around Philadelphia, which was the center of Presbyterianism in those days. On May 26, 1738, the Synod of Philadelphia ordered the creation of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, and Rev. Wales was instrumental in its formation.
The church suffered through some difficult times during the remainder of the 1700’s. During this period, Princeton University was built and the village of Princeton expanded, while the population of Kingston declined. (At that time, Kingston extended as far as Snowden Lane.) Consequently, the church lost many members to the “new” Presbyterian Church down the road in Princeton.
It was also during this time that the Revolutionary War was fought in the area, and British officers were quartered in local homes. Gen. Washington became a recognizable figure in the Kingston area at the time. Not only did he lead his troops past the church to escape Cornwallis, but he also had his headquarters hardly a mile from the church while the Continental Congress sat in Nassau Hall.
The original church building in the cemetery burned down in 1791, and another was erected in 1792 on the same foundation. The congregation worshipped in this frame structure until 1852, when the present building on Main Street in Kingston was constructed on land purchased from Elijah Stout. In 1853, the church building in the cemetery was sold.
In 1800, the Kingston Presbyterian Church began a period of prosperity and growth, which continues to this day. The church sent its first foreign missionaries to China in the early 1800s. Today the church sponsors missionaries in many foreign countries including India, China, Haiti, France, and others. Major additions have been made to the church building on Main Street, and ancillary buildings have been constructed (the Parish House and Manse). In 2015 the church completed a major renovation of its iconic steeple in a multi-step process that will not require maintenance for 50 years. In 2016 KPC refurbished the Parish House and installed a new electronic lift in the main building. The lift provides access to all three floors of the church building for those who cannot navigate steps or who need wheelchair access.
The church has sponsored work camps to North Dakota, Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, Maine, and Mississippi. Other churches have been incubated (Taiwanese and Hispanic). KPC hosted a Japanese Church for 10 years and has hosted the Princeton Korean Church for the past 17 years.
The Kingston Presbyterian Church remains a vibrant part of the Kingston community. Books of our history have been published. If you would like a printed version of our history, please contact the church office.