The Reformed Church of Germantown
By Capt. Franklin Ellis275
This church was organized in 1728 or 1729 by Rev. Johannes Van Driessen, who was its first pastor, and who also ministered to the churches of Claverack and Kinderhook. It was for many years independent of ecclesiastical connection. In 1837, under the pastorate of Jacob W. Hangen, it was received under the care of the classis of Poughkeepsie. It was subsequently transferred to the classis of Hudson, with which it is now united. The site of the first house of worship was one-fourth of a mile from the river, on the farm now owned by J. R. Gale. The present building, which will comfortably seat four hundred persons, and whose present value is perhaps four thousand dollars, was erected in 1814, and it is located half a mile east of the village of Germantown.
The present pastor if Rev. Jame Wychoff.
This brief statement gives scarcely a hint of the interesting history belonging to this venerable church. Its earlier records are in German, and, though well preserved, not easy to be translated. In some respects they are exceedingly valuable. The record of baptisms, commencing in 1729, comes down in the first book to 1802. It is continued in the subsequent volumes until the present time, and it is probable that all the baptisms of one hundred and fifty years are recorded and preserved. In earlier times nearly the whole congregation were careful to present their children for baptism, and many kept no other family record than the entry upon the church book. Here, then, is stored away the family history of the pioneers. The list of marriages is not as complete as that of baptisms, and yet a close reading of the old pages will furnish, no doubt, many dates and names not recorded anywhere else. The leaves of this first book are in excellent condition, and the volume only needs rebinding to be safely kept through other centuries. The original corporate name of the society was "The German Reformed Sanctity Church," and this is strictly the legal title at the present time. Among the papers are some of historic interest, and very likely important as evidence of title, either to the church or other parties now holding by purchase and descent. There is a deed dated June 15, 1741, executed by Johannes Heiner and Christopher Hagadorn, conveying to Paul Dick, in trust for the Calvinist German Chruch, four several parcels of land,--parts of lots Nos. 150, 154, and 345; the first containing 1 rood 17 perches; the second, 2 roods and 38 perches; the third, 14 acres 2 roods 24 perches; the fourth, "the ground the church stands upon."
There is also the bond of the said Paul Dick, executed to the elders, Christian Dedrick, Tunis Snyder, Peter Stoplebeen, and deacons Peter Sherb, and Johannes Mowl, guaranteeing the said property to the perpetual use of the church on condition that services shall be maintained according to the "Established Reformed Religion." This bond is dated about the same time as the deed,-June, 1741. It is not certain when the old house of worship was erected, but it was no doubt soon after the organization.--1728 to 1740. It stood in the neighborhood of the early Palatine settlement,--a place full of historic reminiscences. North from the Mountain View House,--a little southeast of the old brick dwelling formerly occupied by John Kortz the first supervisor of the town. Its exact site was on the level ground just at the eastern foot of the slope, on which a few scattered monuments yet show the old burial-place. There for three-quarters of a century or more the fathers and mothers of the olden time met for the worship of God; there they brought their children for the baptismal blessing; there leaving, trustful hearts joined hands in token of life-long fidelity as the pastor pronounced the marriage-service; and from the sacred altars of the old church the beloved dead were borne forth ot the adjacent hill-side. Around the open graves mourning families gathered then as they gather now, while the solemn words of Christian faith and Christian hope fell gently, tenderly, from the pastor's lips; and so the site of the old church is hallowed by the precious memorials of the dead and the early memories of many still living. The place chosen for the new house in 1814 was central and convenient. The village of Germantown was not then in existence. The beautiful hill from which the tall spire has pointed heavenward for so many years affords a fine view east and west, north and south. Upon the ample grounds of he parsonage is a place to which public expectation points for the church of the future to be erected.
We are indebted to the courtesy of the pastor for valuable assistance in securing the facts above given, and for the following interesting items.
The title-page of the venerable church book has the following:
Seventeen hundred twenty-eight
Examined and ordained (?) Seminary
Dominie Jonos Von Driessen
V. D. M. E.
Ordained Kinderhook in Claverack,
Anno Domini 14th January, 1728
Soli, Deo, Gloria."
From the baptismal register we give a few names entered, as specimens of the valuable family history locked up in those old German records.
"1729, Sept. 7th, Sapina, daughter of Jacob Scherp.
"1731, April 3d, Lodeyck, son of Jacob Scherp.
"1731, Oct. 19th, Cathryn, daughter of Laurens Knickerbocker.
"1731, Oct. 19th, Catharina, daughter of Johannes Meling.
"1731, Oct. 19th, Johan Philip, son of Hendrick Meyer.
"1731, Nov. 14th, Elizabeth, daughter of Peter Smith.
"1731, Nov. 14th, Andries, son of Philip Barthel.
"1731, Nov. 14th, Hendrick, son of Jacob Ztesser.
"1731, Nov. 14th, Marghried, daughter of Frederick Stryd.
"1731, John Jacob, son of Christian Dedrig.
"1732, Feb. 23d, Catharina, daughter of Philip Klomp."
The first marriage record seems to be "1746, Wilhelm Hollinbeck mit Cornelia Brussi."
The old books are largely devoted to baptismal and marriage records, and do not give the official meetings of the consistory very fully. There is, however a catalogue of elders and deacons in German difficult to decipher. The list of pastors is difficult to secure, especially as the church was an independent body, and its ministers are therefore not recorded in the published minutes of higher ecclesiastical bodies. From 1728 to 1800 we have only the names of Rev. Johannes Van Driessen and Rev. Gerhard Daniel Cock. From 1800 to 1830 we have the name of Fox, who continued for some twenty-two years, and John Rudy. The latter is said to have first preached repentance and faith as necessary conditions of church membership. From 1836 the records are tolerably complete. Rev. Jacob W. Haungen was installed in 1836; Rev. I. Boyd in 1840; Rev. A. P. Fried, Oct. 16, 1849, Rev. Bergun Hoff, August, 1851; Rev. Abraham H. Myers, Dec. 1, 1856; Rev. Harvey R. Schermerhorn, June 1, 1862; Rev. S. W. Roe, May 6, 1867; Rev. G. D. W. Bodine, Aug. 12, 1868; Rev. James Wyckoff, Sept. 1, 1874.
One of the pastors of the Dutch Reformed church in Germantown, Rev. Gerhard Daniel Cock, having attended a council, Oct. 9, 1764, at Kingston, for the purpose of harmonizing differences which had arisen in the church of that place, found himself suddenly in trouble the next morning. He was arrested on a warrant issued by John Hardenburgh and Levi Pauling, justices of the peace for the county of Ulster, and charging the astonished peace-maker with being "a dangerous person to the Government, and a common disturber of the Peace of his Majesty's Liege subjects." He was thereupon required to take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, all of which he was entirely willing to do, and was forthwith discharged. Learning not long after that they had no rightful authority to do anything of the kind, and that the move was only a stratagem of one of the parties to the church quarrel, he forthwith drew up a petition to the provincial governor asking for the removal of the said justices from office, on the ground that they had made "a presumptious perversion and abuse of the power intrusted with the said Justices for the public good." History fails to show whether the justices cleared themselves before the council for their extra-judicial ecclesiastical proceedings, or whether they were "obliged to step down and out."
These lovely Graphics by: