Olden Time - Chapter One
All About the First
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin. From the book entitled, "Ye Olden Time, as compiled from the Coxsackie News of 1889" written by Robert Henry Van Bergen, together with notations by Rev. Delber W. Clark, and edited by Francis A. Hallenbeck, 1935
All About the First Reformed Church and Its Pastors to the Present Day—Incidents Not Generally Known—A Minister Who Taught School.
The First Reformed Dutch church, in the town of Coxsackie, was built about the year 1738. *(Dr. Van Slyke corrects this date to 1733.) It was situated near Coxsackie Creek, on the north side of the highway leading from Coxsackie Village to the old King’s road. The land for the site *(The site is marked by iron fence and a line of cedar trees on the north side of Mansion Street in West Coxsackie near King’s Road.) was deeded by Petrus Van Bergen, the progenitor of Van Bergen family in Coxsackie.
The first dominie who officiated in this church was Michael Weiss, a native of Palatinate on the Rhine. He was followed by dominie Schuneman, who began his pastorate about 1752 and continued in service here for nearly forty years. Rev Jacob Sickles succeeded. He married a daughter of Judge Leonard Bronk, and preached some four or five years. *(First Reformed Baptismal Register, Oct. 1, 1797 reads: "From this date these records have been kept by the Rev. Jacob Sickles since his settlement in the united congregations of Coxsackie and Coeymans. Last Record spring of 1801.) During his pastorate this church, which had now been used some sixty years, was taken down and a new church erected.
This, the second edifice, was built on the south side of the highway, nearly opposite the old site. And it is now a matter of tradition that the principal timber used in construction of this building was drawn from the wood lands of Mrs. Margaret Vandenbergh. *(Mrs. Margaret Van Den Bergh, widow of Robert Van Den Bergh, daughter of Fredrick Brandow and Martytje Graat, baptised at Catskill, Dec. 17, 1758, died Nov. 10, 1849. She was the mother of Catreyntje, baptised at Coxsackie, Aug. 7, 1790; Mareytje, baptised at Coxsackie, March 3, 1793; Annaetje, baptised at Coxsackie, May 12, 1796. Mareytje married Anthony M. Van Bergen, and died Sept 4, 1823. She left two young children; Robert Henry Van Bergen, author of these sketches; and Maria. Catreytje brought up Maria, who became the wife of Dr. Nicholas Clute. Catreytje was the wife of Dr. Abraham Spoor. The author is making a delicate compliment to this grandmother.) This wood lot was some seven or eight miles distant in the Captain Bronk Patent. There were at the time thousand of acres of heavy timber near by, the owners of which did not think it worth while to give that much for church purposes. The site of this church was conveyed by Henry Van Bergen, *(Henry was a son of Petrus Van Bergen and Christina Costar. Was Captain in the Revolutionary Army.), who was the son of Petrus Van Bergen before mentioned.
It may be of interest to know that the grandsons (some living and some dead) of Henry Van Bergen were I. Curler Adams, Dr. Henry Adams. W. V. B. Adams, W. V. B. Heermance who was the first president of the Coxsackie Bank, Anthony Cottle, David McCarty, Peter Van Bergen and Anthony P. S. Van Bergen. The granddaughters, severally, married, Stephen Winans, Cornelius Vandezee, John Staats Hotaling, William Farmer, Walter Janes and Isaac Hallenbeck.
The next pastorate *(First Record of Rev. Henry Ostrander, October 25, 1801.) of the church was continued by Rev. Henry Ostrander up to about 1810. During this period he purchased of one of the Vandenburgh’s the place now owned by Winslow Case, *(House of Winslow Case now occupied by Charles Martin.) near the old Indian footpath. In the old stone house, which still stands there, as one of the numerous monuments of the past, Mr. Ostrander taught a select school, and afterward he also taught one in the Batterson house *(The Batterson House occupied the present site of the No. 3 Fire Company’s club house, at the corner of Mansion and Bailey streets in West Coxsackie.) in the Upper Village of Coxsackie, now owned and occupied by Mr. William Bailey. The school room was directly over what is now used as the harness shop. He taught Latin and Greek, and among his pupils was W. V. B. Heermance, Dr. A. D. Spoor, Henry M. Vanderburgh, Richard Wells, and others not remembered. After concluding his pastorate here Mr. Ostrander moved into Ulster county and preached in the Kaatsbane church, in the town of Saugerties. He continued there up to the time of his death, a few years since.
He would occasionally visit his old parishioners in Coxsackie; and it was always his custom before leaving the house of a family where he visited to make a prayer. At one of these occasions the narrator of this sketch, Mr. R. H. Van Bergen, was present, yet full-blooded Dutchman that he is and familiar with the conversational Dutch of the times, he was at a loss to understand the subject matter of the prayer which was offered in the pure Holland Dutch language. During Rev. Ostrander’s stay in Coxsackie. He preached twice each Sunday, alternately in Dutch and English. He was eminent in the Church and a popular preacher.
He was followed by Rev. G. R. Livingston, who, in the space of fifteen years, added largely to the membership of the church. Although not particularly remarkable as a preacher, his social qualities endeared him to his people and they were very unwilling to part with him.
But there was a waiting congregation in the city of Philadelphia, and the prestige of the name "Livingston" probably led them to give him a "call." He accepted their invitation, and some two years after removing to that city he was attacked by a cancerous affliction of the lip, which, after a time, seemed to be successfully eliminated and the wound healed. During the following season he visited Coxsackie and preached a sermon in his old church. Both the seating and standing room of the building was densely occupied by people anxious to hear his every word. This circumstance is mentioned only to show the intense devotion of the people to their old pastor.
The next and sixth pastor was the Rev. Jeremiah Searles, who continued his pastorate for twenty-five years, or up to 1851. He was followed by the Rev. Philip Peltz, and afterwards by Rev. Jacob Dutcher.
The next pastor was the Rev. Mr. Hastings from 1860 to 1870. During his incumbrance the second church was taken down and the present house of worship at West Coxsackie erected. As an incident connected with this church it may be of interest to the present generation to know that soon after the church was finished and had been accepted by the congregation, it was bunglarized and some damage committed by wary of removing a marble slab.
This slab, it seems, had been place over the front doors of the edifice by the building committee, which was composed of three gentlemen: Messrs. Peter Fitchett, Henry Whitbeck, and Matthew Spoor. The slab, which was some 4 x 2 feet and 3 inches in thickness, was placed there by this committee at their own expense and charge. They had had inscribed upon it the name and date of erection of the church, and below their names, as Building Committee.
All of the church people endorsed the propriety of the erection of the slab and the inscription upon it. Except the names of the committee, which they thought were out of place and highly improper. There was of course no personal feeling in the matter, for the committee were worthy gentlemen and good citizens.
The outcome of the whole matter was that upon a night in the fall of 1861 or 1862 the slab was taken down and carried into the yard in front of the church and there broken into many fragments. The building committee, as was natural, deemed this a high outrage and personal affront, and they sought in many ways to discover who it was that did the deed, but were not successful, and to this day, after the lapse of almost thirty years, the perpetrators of the crime (if crime it were) remains unknown. The space occupied by the slab is now furnished by a sash of glass. *(It was public opinion that R. H. Van Bergen broke the marble slab, and from the way he talked to me years afterwards, I thought so too. It stated Robert Van Bergen was the surveyor and James Roberts the architect. The broken fragments were beneath the church a few years ago. Note by Dr. Van Slyke.)
Mr. Hastings was followed by Rev. M. G. Hansen, who continued in the charge until 1881. After him came the Rev. B. B. Staats, who began his pastorate in1882, and is the present pastor, going in and out among his people in a very acceptable manner.