The Reformed Church
By Captain Franklin Ellis417
It has been stated in another part of this book that the church at Albany extended its missionary work to the settlements along the Hudson before the year 1700. It is not improbable that the manor of Livingston may have been thus visited, but owing to the sparse settlements within its bounds no effort was made to organize a church until after 1720. As most of the lease-holders were very poor, the expense of building a church was cast upon Robert Livingston. It appears that the governor of the province, upon a representation of the case, thought it too great to be borne wholly by Mr. Livingston, but recognizing the importance of having a place of worship on the manor, he commended the purposed to the Christian public in the following certificate which authorized Mr. Livingston to solicit aid from those who were inclined to promote so desirable an object:
"TO ALL CHURCHES AND CHARITABLE PEOPLE WITHIN THE PROVINCES OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY, IN AMERICAN, GREETING:
"Whereas, Robert Livingston, Esq., sole Proprietor of the Manor of Livingston, hath proposed and doth propose to establish a church or meeting House, and to send for and call some able and pious Dutch Reformed Protestant minister from Holland, according to the Constitution and direction of the Reformed Church of Holland, agreeable to the discipline and government of the Dutch Church, as is established by the Synod at Dort, in the year 1618 and 1619, to officiate therein for the inhabitants and sojourners within the Manor, agreeable and suitable to the Vulgar language and education of the said inhabitants, which pious work, and the building of such church or meeting-house will require a larger sum of money than can be reasonably expected to be advanced by an one particular person.
"I, being willing and desirous to promote and encourage so pious an undertaking, have therefore thought fit to grant unto the same Robert Livingston leave and license to collect and receive the free and voluntary charity and contribution of any of the inhabitants within the said province towards carrying on and finishing the same; and for his so doing this shall be his sufficient warrant.
"Given under my hand and seal this 21st day of June, 1721.
"Capt. General and Governor of New York."
The appeal for help was not in vane. With the funds secured, and with a liberal share of his own means, Robert Livingston erected the first church in the southern part of Columbia county in the fall of 1721. It was first occupied for public worship Jan. 13, 1722, by Dominie Petrus Van Driessen, the pastor of the Albany church, who again held one of his occasional services in this locality. The house was a plain but very substantial frame, and stood on the site now occupied by the Memorial chapel, at Linlithgo. Beneath the church was constructed the Livingston family vault, which has been used by eight successive generations of the lord of the manor; and adjoining was a grave-yard for the use of the tenants. In the will of Robert Livingston, executed Feb. 10, 1722, he set aside forty acres of land, opposite the church, for a minister's home-farm, and sixty acres, farther east, to be used towards the minister's stipend. He also built a house, on twenty acres of land, east of the church-yard, which was bequeathed for the use of the clerk of the church, who was to combine with that office the duties of instructor of he youth of the manor.
These temporal provisions having been made, the organization of the church proceeded accordingly. It was effected July 4, 1722, by the selection of the following consistory: Elders, Robert Livingston, Jacob Vosburgh, and Cornelius Martense; Deacons, Tobias Ten Broeck, Robert Van Deusen, and Wilhelm Hallenbeck. In addition there were as members Johannes Sparr, Johannes Scherp, Andries Brussie, Jochem Radclift, Solomon and Mary Schutt, Alida Livingston, Doretha Vosburgh, Maritje Ten Broeck, and Cornelia Decker.
A month later Lendert Konyn, Jan. Decker, Johannes Cool, Killian Winn and his wife, Maritje, Lena Whitbeck, Johannes Spoor, Jr., and Peter Cool became members; and in 1723 Johannes Dyckman and his wife, Janitje, Dirck Hallenbeck, Christoffel Muldor, Claas Brussie, Andreis Rees, Conradt Ham, Cornelia Hogeboom, Johannes Shutts, Matthaus and Robert Van Deusen, Gysbert Osterhout, Jan. Vosburgh, Johannes Petri, and Peter Haver were added to the list. At a later period Johannes Spoor, Jacob Decker, and Philip Spickerman became members.
In 1755, the membership of the church aggregated one hundred and ninety-five, but as many had died, or left to join other churches, the actual membership was no more than fifty. The elders to this period were, in addition to those first named, Jeremias Miller Johannes Dyckman, Conradt Ham, Johannes Shutts, Johannes Cool, Abram Vosburgh, Rieger Schermerhorn, Jacob Schermerhorn, Samuel Hallenbeck, William Hallenbeck, Robert Van Deusen, Hendrick Smith, Hendrick Mesick, Jochem Van Valkenburgh, and Robert Livingston, Jr. The Deacons for the same period were Jan Decker, Lawrence Knickerbocker, Lendert Konyn, Jan Vosburgh, Johannes Cool, Jacob Decker, Johann Conradt Petri, James Gardner, Henry Mesick, Martin Ham, Michael Schmidt, Dirck Ten Broeck, Johannes Schaurman, Casper Ham, Johannes Ten Eyck, Hendrick Stever, Johannes Best, and Peter Vosburgh.
Dominie Petrus Van Driessen continued his missionary labors with the church ten or fifteen years, moderating at consistory meetings as late as 1834. His brother Johannes supplied the pulpit regularly in 1728; but from the organization of the church in 1722 till 1756 the church was dependent on ministerial supplies, and the ministrations were irregular,--weekly, monthly, quarterly, and often but once a year. Among those who served the church in this manner were Rev. J. W. Mancius, in 1748, and Rev. Theodore Frelinghuysen, in 1751.
On the 12th of September, 1756, Rev. Johannes Casparus Freyenmoet became the first regular pastor of the church, in connection with the churches of Kinderhook and Claverack. The terms of his engagement are given in a sketch of the latter church. He remained until 1770. From this period until 1779 the church was again dependent on supplies, Dominie Gerhard, Daniel Cock, and others serving in that capacity. Meanwhile, the events of the Revolution had forced the retirement of the Rev. John H. Livingston from New York to Albany. Sickness in his family there caused his removal to Livingston manor where the consistory secured him as their pastor. He accepted, conditioning his stay upon the close of the war, relief from sickness or a wider sphere of usefulness. He remained, preaching in English and German, until the summer of 1781.
In September of the same year the Rev. N. Lansing became the pastor of the church, in connection with those of Ancram and Taghkanic. On the part of the manor church a comfortable house on the glebe by the chruch was promised, and the other congregations obligated themselves to convey his reverence to and from his appointments, and give him ministerial entertainment: "Sic sullen verplicht zyn eenwarde to halen, met paest, wagen, oft slee, als by Kempt om to prediken; en vorzien, met bequam herbergen, verquicken ter tyd als zyn predich beust daar valt en vok wederum te huis bringen."
He continued his labors three years. Until Oct. 27, 1786, the church had again only occasional services; but that year the Rev. Jeremiah Romeyn commenced his pastorate on a salary which the society was too much weakened by the removal of members longer to pay than 1793. Then the church became connected with Red Hook, and in that relation retained Mr. Romeyn until 1804. The next pastor was the Rev. Herman Vedder, remaining from 1806 to 1814, and was the last to serve the church before its removal to Johnstown.
The old Manor church had become so dilapidated by the wear of nearly a hundred years that it failed to furnish a comfortable place of worship. A new house was demanded, but as the members lived principally in the eastern part of the town, it was decided to locate it at some point where they would be best accommodated. A very fine lot, in the eastern part of Johnstown, was selected, upon which, in 1814, was built a neat brick church, which was consecrated in November, 1815, and which was used until the present edifice took its place, in 1854.
In September, 1815, the Rev. A. N. Kittle became the pastor in connection with Red Hook, and continued until July, 1827. He was succeeded in October following by the Rev. E. Holmes, who remained until January, 1835. In 1833 the present parsonage was erected. From 1835 till 1841 the Rev. John H. Van Wagenon served the church conjointly with Greenport and from 1842 till 1846 the Rev. J. D. Fonda maintained the same relation.
In July, 1847, the Rev. C. E. Crispel entered upon a ten-years' pastorate, which was one of the most eventful in the history of the church. During his connection the present handsome edifice was erected. The corner-stone was laid July 13, 1854, and on the 22d of August, 1855, the house was formally dedicated by the Rev. Dr. Demarest. It is a very spacious two-story brick structure, finished in a plain but attractive manner, and will seat five hundred persons. The church, parsonage, and glebe lot of seven acres are estimated worth $20,000. Adjoining the house is a fine cemetery, and underneath it a vault of a branch of the Livingston family.
From March 5, 1858, till 1867 the pastoral office was filled by Rev. C. J. Shepard, who was followed the same year by the Rev. F. M. Kipp, Jr. His connection terminated in 1869, and since February, 1870, the present pastor, Rev. Thomas S. Dusinberre, has presided over the interests of the church. It numbers at present (1875) ninety-five families, who furnish one hundred and thirty-one communicants. From 1814 till 1870 the church supplied the neighborhood of Linlithgo as a preaching station; but that place became, in the fall of 1870, a separate work. The present consistory is composed of Elders James Ham, Alexander Patrie, Henry Allen, and Oliver J. Reeves; Deacons, Charles E. Bingham, George B. Walker, J. J. Harvey, and James Allen.
The church also maintains a good Sabbath-school, having seventy-five members, superintended by Myron Ham.