REFORMED PROTESTANT DUTCH CHURCH
From the sketch by the pastor, Rev. E. A. Collier
KINDERHOOK, COLUMBIA COUNTY, NEW YORK
By Capt. Franklin Ellis63
The Reformed Protestant Dutch church, which was formally organized in 1712, by Dominie Petrus Van Driessen, of that (Albany) church, although the congregation had been supplied with preaching before this period by Rev. Van Driessen and his predecessor, Rev. Johannes Lydius. The first preserved records are dated May 27, 1716, and contain the first consistory of the church here named: Stephanus Van Alen and Abram Van Alstyne, elders; Burger Huyck and Dirck Goes, deacons. Other male members, so far as can be ascertained now, were J. L. Van Valkenburgh, Peter Vosburgh, Lawrence Van Schaack, Peter Van Buren, Bartholomew Van Valkenburgh, Jan. Goes, Peter Van Alen, Johannes Van Dusen, Johannes Van Alen, Joachim Lamberson, Thomas Van Alstyne, Isaac Vosburgh, Peter Van Slyck, Lambert Huyck, Barent Van Buren, Matthew Goes, Cornelius Schermerhorn, John Van Alstyne, Lucas Van Alen, Tobias V. Van Valkenburgh, Leender Connyn, Jacobus Van Alen, Aendries Prosie, Thenis Van Slyck, Thomas Wieler, Melchert Vanderpoel, and Abram Yansen.
Preaching was supplied in connection with the Albany church, and by other supplies, among them Rev. John Jacob Ehle, until 1727, when the Rev. Johannes Van Driessen, brother of the Albany dominie, who was ordained to the holy office by the faculty of Yale College, commenced a pastorate which continued eight years. One-third of his time was devoted to the churches in Claverack and the Livingston manor. During his ministry the first church edifice was built. It stood very near the present residence of Mrs. John H. Reynolds. Its site was at one time a burial-plat. Some still living remember it as a plain wooden structure, with its lofty wine-glass shaped pulpit; with its little high stand, where the chorister stood and read the Commandments and the Psalm; with its bell-rope coming down into the centre of he middle aisle. Forty-nine were added to the church membership during Mr. Van Driessen's ministry, of which number only two were received by certificate. He records one hundred heads of families as members of his congregation. After Mr. Van Driessen's removal to New Jersey (where he is supposed to have died and been buried), the church was destitute of a pastor for about twenty years, and was again dependent upon such occasional ministrations as could be obtained from Albany and elsewhere. Services were evidently held with considerable regularity; and in each year, except four, there were more or less accessions to the membership. The average was about three each year.
The second pastor was Rev. Johannes Casparus Freyenmoet. He was educated in Holland, and settled in Minisink, in New Jersey. In 1756 he accepted the call of the united congregations of Kinderhook, Claverack, and the Livingston manor. His ministry of about twenty-one years was apparently blessed with several seasons of revival. He received one hundred and fifty-eight into the membership of the church; all but twenty-two of these by confession. He was buried under the old church; but when the present edifice was built his remains were reinterred beneath it.
The third pastor was Rev. Johannes Ritzema. He also was educated in Holland, and had been settled in New York, as pastor of the Collegiate church. His ministry here commenced when he was sixty-eight years of age, and continued ten years. During this period forty-two were added to the church. His remains are in the cemetery attached to the church.
Rev. Isaac Labagh, the fourth pastor, also labored ten years, and received one hundred and thirty-five into church fellowship. Until his time the preaching had been wholly in the Dutch language. He introduced the practice of having a part of the services in English. Up to nearly the close of his ministry, in 1799, the records of the church, covering a period of more than eighty years, are all written in Dutch.
The fifth pastorate, that of Rev. Jacob Sickles, D.D., was longer than any two others. It began with the present century, and continued thirty-four years. It was marked by many signal tokens of God's favor. The years 1807, 1821-22, and 1831, were times of peculiar mercy. As the result of the great revival of 1821 three hundred and two were received upon confession of faith in one year. And during his entire ministry it was his privilege to welcome eight hundred and eight to the communion of this church, six hundred and eighty-six of these being received on confession. The old church edifice having been in use some eighty or ninety years, and being considerably the worse for its age, it was resolved to build a new house of worship on the lot at present occupied by the church.
The second building, a plain but neat and substantial brick structure, was erected in the years 1813-15. It was dedicated Aug. 13, 1815, the sermon being preached by Rev. Gilbert R. Livingston, then of Coxsackie. This building, about fifty by sixty-five feet, as first built, was enlarged by the addition of about twenty-five feet in 1851. In December, 1867, it was destroyed by fire, the walls alone remaining.
The present edifice was erected on the same site, and has in part the same walls. Its dimensions are about fifty by ninety, with a chapel forty-five by fifty-five, forming a reversed L. Its cost was about forty-two thousand dollars. In elegance and completeness of appointments it is surpassed by few country churches anywhere. It was dedicated May 19, 1869. The sermon was by Rev. H. D. Ganse, then of New York; the dedicatory prayer by the Rev. Edward A. Collier, the pastor of the church when it was rebuilt.
The long and most successful pastorate of Dr. Sickles was terminated by his resignation, on account of the multiplying infirmities of advanced age. He was assisted a year by the Rev. Cushing; and the Rev. E. Van Aken, the sixth pastor, was his colleague about the same length of time. During the latter's ministry twenty-six were added to the church. Rev. Sickles closed his earthly life among the people he so long served Jan. 19, 1846.
The seventh pastor, Rev. Henry Heermance, labored zealously and most successfully for about one year. Owing to failing health he was then compelled to resign his charge. Forty-seven professed their faith in Christ during his brief ministry. His body rests among his people.
The eighth pastorate, that of Rev. John C. Vandervoort, continued five years. During his ministry one hundred and twenty were received into the church, all but twenty by confession. His sepulchre also is in the church cemetery.
The ninth pastorate, that of Rev. B. Van Zandt, began in the year 1842 and continued ten years. Forty-nine were received by confession and seventy-six by letter. During his ministry, and largely through his exertions, the church edifice was repaired and enlarged to its present size. The titles to the pews were at the same time placed upon a new and more satisfactory basis.
The ministry of Rev. O. Bronson, the tenth pastor, was one of signal ability. although his stay in the church was brief, his gentleness of spirit and his devotion to his Master' work will not soon be forgotten. He labored in the church about three years; received sixty-one to church fellowship resigned on account of poor health.
In 1857 the Rev. J. Romeyn Berry became the eleventh pastor, and continued the spiritual leader of the church until 1863. He received ninety-nine members on profession and fifty by certificate. In 1858, after the great revival, he received sixty-nine members on profession.
The pastorate of the Rev. Edward A. Collier began in 1864, and, with two exceptions, has continued longer than any of his predecessors. One hundred and fifty-eight communicants have been received on confession and eighty-four by letter. The aggregate membership of the church has been about two thousand, and at present (1878) numbers three hundred and thirty-five, belonging to one hundred and eighty families.
The church has contributed liberally to the formation of other societies, and is the parent of half a dozen churches of the Reformed denomination. Not a few baptized by her pastors have occupied positions of honor and usefulness in the varied walks of life. Martin Van Buren was an habitual attendant upon her services. Within her walls he was baptized, and thence was borne to burial. Among several sons given to the ministry, the most widely known is Dr. C. V. A. Van Dyck, the honored missionary in Syria, and one of the translators of the Arabic Bible.
It is not known when the first Sabbath-school was organized, but it was many years ago. There was also an efficient missionary society here, but its members have nearly all passed away and its records have been scattered.
The village Sabbath-school numbers at present about one hundred and thirty, with a library of three hundred and fifty volumes. It has for years supported a catechist in India.
Officers of the church: Pastor, Edward A. Collier; Elders, Christopher H. Wendover, Nicholas W. Harder, Jacob F. Platner, Manson Van Schaack; Deacons, Peter S. Hoes, James Mix, John H. Van Valkenburgh, William V. S. Beekman; Treasurer, William H. Rainey; Sunday-school Superintendent, J. S. Hosford. Several of these are descendants of the first recorded officers of the church in 1716-17.
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