In February of 1975 a group of ten local residents met to discuss their desire to establish a local historical society. Although incorporated in 1901, Tabernacle history easily dates to earlier than 1778. It was about this year that John Brainard established a small church at the intersection of today’s Carranza and Medford Lakes Roads. It was know as the “Tabernacle in the Woods.”
By the time of incorporation in 1901 much history had gone unrecorded. In order to protect, preserve, promote and publish the tales and truths of our history, the Tabernacle Historical Society was established.
The article below is an excellent example of an early attempt to document the historic beginnings of our locale.
The following article has been updated from it’s original publication in the December 22, 1938 issue of “The Central Record.”
About 1778 or 1779 a little one room church was built where the Tabernacle Cemetery now lies, by a young missionary, John Brainard, who had a small church at Indian Mills. He felt that a church was needed in what was then the northeastern part of Shamong Township (Northampton Township then). It was called the “Tabernacle in the Wilderness” and here, both white and Indian people gathered to worship.
About this time an ambitious Englishman, Isaiah Haines, homesteaded and bought land near the little church. This was cleared and farmed, making so much a success of it that others soon followed suit, and a little community soon sprung up. ( See J. W. R. Richard Haines and his decendents, Vol 2, p. 109). These people were mostly of Quaker descent, were ambitious and hard working. Decendents of the first Isaiah Haines still hold the property, the old Haines’ Homestead now being in the possession of John and Carlton Haines (1938).
In 1803 William Wilkins, who had acquired land around the little church, and deeded the land that is now the (Old) Tabernacle Cemetery to Hosea E Moore and others, for use as a church yard and cemetery. The deed is on record in the old Proctors office in Burlington.
In 1880 ( maybe 1850) the first store was erected by a man named (Wesley) Willits near the little church and today (1938) a store still stands on the same site (next to the cemetery on Carranza Road). About this time, or a little before part of the name was dropped and the community was known by the name of “Tabernacle.“
The little one room church was also used as a school for several years. About 1855 or 56 a one room school was built, and a few years later the old Union school was erected, for children that had to travel to far to either Tabernacle or Indian Mills. Later the two schools were consolidated and the Union School was abandoned.
By this time Tabernacle was a thriving little community, and in 1877 a United States Post office was established. This office was in existence until the advent of the Rural Free Delivery. In 1880 the old church was deemed to small and inadequate by a membership numbering almost fifty, and so, under the leadership of Rev. George Reeves, the present M. E. church was erected on land that was deeded to the church by Joseph Mathis. Many ministers of note in the Methodist Conference started their career in this little church, among them being Rev. Harry J. Zelly.
The first lodge organized in the community was the order of St. Mechanics, in 1874. This later became the Jr. O. U. A. M. ( Junior Order of United American Mechanics). There were seventeen charter members in this lodge, only one of which, Franklin E Haines, is still living ( in 1938). In 1897 the Ladies Auxiliary, known as Myrtle Council No. 36 Daughters of America, was instituted with forty-three members. This functioned for several years, but the charter was given up in 1932. In 1914 the P.O.S. of A. organized a lodge in Tabernacle, which is still very active (1938).
In 1901 Tabernacle was made a Township, parts of Southampton, Woodland and Shamong being taken for this purpose. Frank D Crain was the first Township Clerk, and still holds this office (in 1938) , after forty years of continuous service.
Tabernacle now boasts of two churches, the Church of Christ having been built in 1918. This church has a membership of about sixty and is now a vital part of the community.
Today, Tabernacle, with its productive farms, its valuable cranberry bogs, comfortable homes, its churches, and new and modern school building, stands as a fitting monument to those fine old Pioneers who first worshipped in “The Tabernacle in the Wilderness.”