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Zarephath, New Jersey
Census-designated place
Pillar of Fire chapel in Zarephath, New Jersey
Pillar of Fire chapel in Zarephath, New Jersey
Country  United States
State  New Jersey
County Somerset
Township Franklin
 • 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 75 ft (23 m)
Population (2000)
 • 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
Area code(s) 908
FIPS code 3483290
GNIS feature ID 02584041

Zarephath (pronounced ZARRA-fath) is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) and located in Franklin Township, in Somerset County, New Jersey, United States, about 15 mi (24 km) north of Princeton. As of the 2010 United States Census, Zarephath's population was 37.

It was the communal home of the Pillar of Fire Church, and was the worldwide headquarters of Pillar of Fire International, which comprises the church's college, Somerset Christian College, and radio station WAWZ-FM (the 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 flooding in 2011 from Hurricane Irene, the College and all Pillar of Fire ministries were ordered to move out of this floodplain. The entire campus is slated for demolition.


According to the United States Census Bureau, Zarephath had a total area of 0.445 square miles (1.152 km2), including 0.404 square miles (1.047 km2) of it is land and 0.041 square miles (0.105 km2) of water (9.12%) is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
2010 37
Population sources: 2010

Census 2010

As of the census of 2010, there were 37 people, 19 households, and 7 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 91.5 per square mile (35.3/km2). There were 20 housing units at an average density of 49.5 per square mile (19.1/km2)*. The racial makeup of the CDP was 97.30% (36) White, 2.70% (1) Black or African American, 0.00% (0) Native American, 0.00% (0) Asian, 0.00% (0) Pacific Islander, 0.00% (0) from other races, and 0.00% (0) from two or more races. [[Hispanic (U.S. Census)|Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.41% (2) of the population.

There were 19 households out of which 15.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.8% were married couples living together, 0.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 63.2% were non-families. 57.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 47.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.95 and the average family size was 3.43.

In the CDP, the population was spread out with 18.9% under the age of 18, 5.4% from 18 to 24, 13.5% from 25 to 44, 10.8% from 45 to 64, and 51.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 66.5 years. For every 100 females there were 54.2 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and old there were 66.7 males.


PIllar 01
Pillar of Fire, November 25, 1914

The site was originally a farm owned by Peter Workman Garretson in Franklin Township. He married Caroline Van Neste Field, who became a follower of Alma Bridwell White, then based in Denver, Colorado. Field donated the land to the church after meeting her. The church assumed all debts associated with the mortgage on the property, which were considerable; it was agreed the church would take title to the land upon repayment of the mortgage. Zarephath was named from a phrase in 1 Kings 17, because White saw a parallel with relocation to a farm and the story of Elijah and a widow.

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 as the group identified as Methodist rather than Pentecostal. 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-acre (400 ha) property.

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 along one edge of the Zarephath campus. Despite maintaining a twelve-foot-high flood levee, Zarephath was inundated with water from the nearby river and Delaware and Raritan canal. In 1999 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. The church's damage from Floyd was estimated at $2.5 million.

Hurricane Irene destroyed much of the campus again in late August 2011 According to the Somerset Christian College website, authorities have ordered the Zarephath Campus to be abandoned because of its location in the floodplain. The school has since renamed itself Pillar College and located elsewhere in Somerset. It also conducts some classes in Newark.


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