PROTESTANT REFORMED DUTCH CHURCH OF GREENPORT
By Captain Franklin Ellis203
In the territory lying along the Hudson river in this portion of Columbia county, the earliest church interests were at Linlithgo. From the South bay, at Hudson, down the river to the borders of the Palatines, and from the river eastward to Claverack Creek, the territory was all comprised within that parish.
From the time of organization, far back in the early days of the manor, down to about 1814, church services were continuous at that point. When that society removed to Johnstown, and the house itself was taken there also, then the people from the south part of Greenport went there to church, as they had previously done at Linlithgo. This continued until about 1828, when the first house of worship was erected for Greenport, at an expense of about $3500. The then pastor of the Linlithgo church at Johnstown officiated at Greenport every Sunday afternoon. This was Rev. Edwin Holmes. This first house stood on the site of the present one, the land having been donated by Sturgin Sloan. It is a high and beautiful location. In 1836 a complete church organization was effected, though a collegiate connection was still maintained with the church at Johnstown, of which Rev. John H. Van Wagenen was then pastor.
The first officers chosen for the Greenport church were Henry Plass, Peter Benham, Michael Plass, elders; and John E. H. Plass and Wilhelmus Miller, deacons. Other members of the church at that time were Jonas H. Miller, Frederick Gardner, widow Sarah Hollenbeck, Maria Hollenbeck, Sophia Hollenbeck, Anna Maria Rockefeller, widow Deborah Hollenbeck, Margaret Fore, Maydale Elliot, Sarah Benham, Mrs. Rachel Ferguson, widow Hannah Heermance, widow Lucretia Gardner, Lena Hollenbeck, Emeline Raynor, Catharine Raynor, Sarah Raynor, Mrs. Catharine Cole, widow Christian Hollenbeck, Mary Ann McKinstry, Charity Benham, and Gertrude Rockefeller. The only members on this list now living (April, 1878) are Sarah Benham, Mary Ann McKinstry, and Frederick Gardner. Charity Gardner died March 30, 1878, at the age of ninety-one.
Rev. John H. Van Wagenen, of Johnstown, served as pastor of the Greenport church until 1841, when he removed to Kingston. Rev. Jacob D Fonda commenced his services under a call dated March 10, 1842, and continued until April, 1848, and with his removal the collegiate connection of this church with that of Johnstown terminated.
The first sole pastor of the Greenport church was called Oct. 16, 1848,--the Rev. Polhamus Van Wyck. He was disabled by illness, and resigned his charge Sept. 23, 1851. He was succeeded by the Rev. Jacob Voorhis, Jan. 28, 1852. His pastorate continued until July, 1856. He was followed by Rev. Horace W. Finch, who commenced his labors in September, 1857, and remained until April, 1861, preaching his closing sermon the last Sabbath in that month. As a supply the pulpit was occupied the next Sabbath by Rev. John S. Himrod, and his services were continued. A call was extended to him Nov. 30, 1861, and he was installed the following February. Mr. Himrod's earlier labors had been in this county, as he had preached at Mellenville (the second church of Clermont) for seven years. Subsequently he went to Brooklyn, and engaged actively in a missionary enterprise on Bushwick avenue. Out of this movement there grew up the Reformed church now existing upon that avenue. His health failed in the midst of these arduous labors, and he returned to Columbia county with very little prospect of ever being able to preach again. He, however, commenced as he was able to preach for this church,--just vacated by the Rev. Horace W. Finch,--and his health and strength improving, he has remained pastor until the present time,--sixteen years.
The church has a present membership of two hundred and fifty-eight, comprising ninety-eight families, and a regular congregation of about three hundred. The Sunday-school at the church has an attendance of one hundred and thirty to one hundred and fifty, with a library of two hundred and fifty volumes. Another school is maintained at Red Hill, numbering nearly as many, while from some families of the congregation the children attend Sunday-school at Hudson, Claverack, and Johnstown.
The present organization (April, 1878) consists of Gilbert Plass, Richard Hollenbeck, Peter Van Hoesen, and Cornelius Hollenbeck, elders; John C. Hollenbeck, J. Wesley Kipp, Wm. B. Walker, and William H. Best, deacons, Morris N. Miller, superintendent of Sunday-school; William H. Best, assistant; and Mrs. Andrew Hollenbeck, teacher of the infant department. John E. Gillette is the superintendent at Red Hill.
The present house of worship was erected in the summer of 1869, and cost about $14,000. Of this, the Ladies' Aid Society had previously raised by quiet and steady work, the sum of $3000, waiting for the men to "arise and build." The house is eighty feet by forty-four, having a fine audience-room, and and an additional lecture-room twenty by forty-two feet. The spire pointing heavenward from this beautiful hill is a conspicuous object for miles around. The society have a parsonage not far from the church, the dwelling having been erected in 1852.