Rev. Norris William Harkness
13th Minister of the FIRST Presbyterian Church
of East Hampton 1909-1930
Rev. Harkness was a native of Philadelphia, Pa, born on August 17, 1874. He was one of 6 children born to Norris W. and Martha Linton Harness. During his High School years he attended the Episcopal Academy of Philadelphia, graduating in 1892. He graduated from Princeton University, Class of 1896, and the Princeton Theological Seminary, Class of 1900. While at seminary, in the summer of 1899, he served as a missionary among the “mountain men” in the Appalachia area of Kentucky.
Immediately after his college graduation, Rev. Harkness did not travel far, accepting a call to preach temporarily for the summer, at the Second Presbyterian Church of Trenton, New Jersey. After the summer, he received a call to be their permanent pastor. Rev. Harkness was ordained on November 3, 1901, and installed as the Pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church of Trenton on November 13, 1901 by the Presbytery of New Brunswick, NJ. The church located at Union & Fall Streets in Trenton, was in a neighborhood in transition, the church had lost many in its congregation. Rev. Harkness was hired permanently with the understanding that he would build a new church in a more central neighborhood. For the next eight years he worked on selecting a site, raising money, and supervising the church’s construction as Chairman of the Building Committee. Rev. Harkness donated the new churches cornerstone, and dedicated it to his first pastor, at his childhood church, in Philadelphia, Rev. George E. Baker. The new church, built at the corner of Market and Mercer Streets in Trenton, was dedicated on March 9, 1905. The Princeton Weekly of February 1909 wrote: “Rev. Norris Harkness is due the credit of taking hold of the church at a time when its very existence was in jeopardy, and enthusing new life and energy that resulted in the beautiful church edifice….”
Rev. Harkness accepted a call to East Hampton in July 1909. Worship services during his tenure, were held twice on Sunday at 10:30 and 7:30 pm. As was the custom at the time, he also was responsible for preaching at the Springs Chapel on Sundays at 2 pm.
In 1916, Rev. Harkness slipped on the steps at the Springs Chapel breaking his wrist, 13 years later he broke the same wrist, slipping on ice on the porch at the manse.
Rev. Harkness was the Pastor in 1926 when the Session House was moved from Main Street in East Hampton to its current location behind the church, off David’s Lane. The building was placed on a large foundation essentially doubling its size for use as Sunday School rooms.
After “years of poor health”, Rev. Harkness offered his resignation in 1930 after 21 years in East Hampton. Rev. Harkness delivered his final sermon and baptized three children on his last day in the East Hampton Church, May 18, 1930. The newspapers reported a “record congregation”, with many members of the Fire Department in attendance. His resignation became effective on May 31, 1930.
While in East Hampton, Rev. Harkness was a member of the East Hampton Fire Department, and Warden of Company #4. Upon retirement, Rev. Harkness described his years with the Fire Department as the happiest of his life.
In January 1902, while serving in Trenton, Rev. Harkness married Anna Rust of Gambier, Ohio. They had three children, Norris Worrell Harkness, (1902-1975) born in Trenton, NJ, and two children born in East Hampton, Evelyn Harkness Corbell, (1913-1984), and Lawrence Rust Harkness (1911-1973). Rev. Harkness and his family participated in the 275th Anniversary of East Hampton celebrations, appearing in local reenactment on the Village Green, commemorating the Settlement of East Hampton in 1649. Mrs. Harkness assisted with Red Cross Nursing courses held in East Hampton during World War 1, and was an active bridge player and member of Ramblers. In 1928 she worked in the tea room at the LVIS fair. After Rev Harkness retired in 1930, the family settled in Leesburg, Virginia.
Rev. Harkness passed away on News Years Day in 1958, at the age of 83, at a Nursing Home in Leesburg, VA, where he had been a resident for three years. He is buried at the Union Cemetery in Leesburg, Va alongside his wife.
Sketches of Trenton Pastors, No 28, Norris W. Harkness,
Trenton Evening News, September 26,1908
Installation of Pastor, Impressive Ceremony to take Place Next Wednesday Evening
East Hampton Star Article, October 22, 1909, p.5
Pastor Installed-Rev. Harkness Installed as Pastor of First Presbyterian Church
East Hampton Star Article, October 29, 1909, Front Page
Obituary - The Rev. N. W. Harkness, East Hampton Star, January 2, 1958, p.1.