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Zarephath, NJ


Zarephath, NJ

Zarephath, New Jersey
Census-designated place

Location of Zarephath CDP in Somerset County. Inset: Location of Somerset County within the state of New Jersey.

Coordinates: 40°32′04″N 74°34′20″W / 40.534573°N 74.572191°W / 40.534573; -74.572191Coordinates: 40°32′04″N 74°34′20″W / 40.534573°N 74.572191°W / 40.534573; -74.572191[1][2]

Country United States
State New Jersey
County Somerset
Township Franklin Township
 • Total 0.445 sq mi (1.152 km2)
 • Land 0.404 sq mi (1.047 km2)
 • Water 0.041 sq mi (0.105 km2)  9.12%
Elevation[3] 75 ft (23 m)
Population (2000)[4]
 • Total 37
 • Density 91.5/sq mi (35.3/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) Eastern (EDT) (UTC-4)
ZIP code 08890[5]
Area code(s) 856
FIPS code 3483290[6][2][7]
GNIS feature ID 02584041[8][2]

Zarephath (pronounced ZARRA-fath) is a census-designated place and unincorporated community located in Franklin Township, in Somerset County, New Jersey, United States.[9][10][11] As of the 2010 United States Census, the CDP's population was 37.[4] It was the communal home to the Pillar of Fire Church, and was the worldwide headquarters of Pillar of Fire International and housed the church's college, Somerset Christian College, and radio station WAWZ-FM (farm and publishing facilities have not been in operation since the late 1970s). It is named after Zarephath, the place in the Bible where the "widow woman" sustained the prophet Elijah. Zarephath was a group of buildings located between the Delaware and Raritan Canal and the Millstone River. Following the 2011 flood, the College and all Pillar of Fire ministries were ordered to move, and the entire campus is slated for demolition.[12]


Zarephath is located at 40°32′04″N 74°34′20″W / 40.534573°N 74.572191°W / 40.534573; -74.572191 (40.534573,-74.572191). According to the United States Census Bureau, Zarephath had a total area of 0.445 square miles (1.152 km2), of which, 0.404 square miles (1.047 km2) of it is land and 0.041 square miles (0.105 km2) of it (9.12%) is water.[1][2]


Historical population
Census Pop.
Population sources: 2010[4]

Census 2010



The site was originally a farm owned by Peter Workman Garretson in Franklin Township. Peter married Caroline Van Neste Field and she became a follower of Alma Bridwell White and donated the land to the church after meeting her. The church assumed all debts associated with the mortgage on the property, which were considerable, and in return it was agreed the church would take title to the land upon repayment of the mortgage. Zarephath takes its name from a phrase in 1 Kings 17, because White saw a parallel with the moving to a farm and the story of Elijah and a widow.[13]

Pillar of Fire International takes its name from a phrase used in Exodus 13:21: "He guided the Israelites on their escape from Egypt by giving them a pillar of fire to light their way across the dark wilderness". It was founded by Alma White in 1901 and originally called the Pentecostal Union. They moved to Franklin Township in 1907 or 1908. The organization is also located in Denver, Colorado. The name was changed from The Pentecostal Union to Pillar of Fire in October 1917.[13] It is now known as Pillar of Fire International. The buildings on the grounds were built by members of the Zarephath community, as they stressed self-reliance. They farmed a portion of the 1,000 acres (400 ha) property.


The Zarephath Bible Institute was founded in 1908 as a "training school for missionaries, preachers, and teachers."[14] It was later renamed the Zarephath Bible Seminary.[15]

On September 11, 1912, the Zarephath Academy opened with an enrollment of fifty students, five of them ready for high school. "At this time, the doors were formally opened to all who wanted an education under Christian control, high school as well as elementary." It was later renamed Alma Preparatory School. The first high school graduation exercises for a class of four, were held at the Pillar of Fire Temple on June 12, 1916. The school was accredited by the New Jersey State Board of Education on November 14, 1916.[15]

Informal college level classes were held starting in 1917.[15]

Alma White College was chartered in 1921 and was closed in 1978.[16][17] In 1923 the Ku Klux Klan provided funding for the school, allowing it to become "the second institution in the north avowedly run by the Ku Klux Klan to further its aims and principles."[18]

[19] The first two Doctor of Divinity degrees, one honorary, were conferred in 1927.[20] Arthur Kent White received an honorary one; and Alton Milford Young received the second. Young at one time was the Grand Kaliff of the Ku Klux Klan in New Jersey.[21][22]

Somerset Christian College was established on March 23, 2001. Somerset Christian College is licensed by the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education to grant a two-year Associate Degree in Biblical Studies. Starting in the Fall of 2006, they offered a 4-year degree.[23]

Floods of 1971, 1999 and 2011

Tropical Storm Doria in 1971 and Hurricane Floyd in September 1999 brought record floods to the areas adjacent to the Millstone River, which is located behind the Zarephath campus. Despite maintaining a twelve foot flood levee, Zarephath was inundated with water from the nearby river and Delaware and Raritan canal. The flood crest was a record one, over three feet higher than the previously recorded crest in the river basin. The water level in the Zarephath compound was seven feet at the height of the flood.[24] The church's damage from Floyd was estimated at $2.5 million.[25]

Hurricane Irene destroyed much of the campus again in late August 2011[26] According to the Somerset Christian College website, the Zarephath Campus was ordered to be abandoned, and the school has moved.[12]


  • Pillar of Fire Cemetery, Zarephath
  • WAWZ (Star 99.1 FM); Zarephath, New Jersey; Owner: Pillar of Fire - Religious oriented music radio station
  • Documented Ku Klux Klan Gatherings at Zarephath

Biblical references to the ancient Zarephath

  • 1 Kings 17:9-10. "Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food." So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, "Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?"
  • Obadiah 1:20. This company of Israelite exiles who are in Canaan will possess the land as far as Zarephath; the exiles from Jerusalem who are in Sepharad will possess the towns of the Negev.
  • Luke 4:26. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.

Further reading

  • Alma White's Evangelism Press Reports, compiled by C. R. Paige and C.K. Ingler (1939)
  • Kristin E. Kandt; Historical Essay: In the Name of God; An American Story of Feminism, Racism, and Religious Intolerance: The Story of Alma Bridwell White, 8 Am. U. J. Gender, Soc. Pol. & L 753 (2000)
  • Christianizing the Klan: Alma White, Branford Clarke, and the Art of Religious Intolerance by Lynn S. Neal; June 2009


External links

  • Zarephath Cemetery
  • Somerset Christian College
  • Pillar of Fire
  • Zarephath Christian Church
  • William B. Brahms
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