In 1701, some members of the Church of England formed a "Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts." Their Missionaries were required to report to the Society once a year, or oftener, the state of their several Missions. This volume contains so much of their correspondence relating to Hempstead as has been procurable: for which privilege the compiler is indebted to the kindly influence of the Rev. George Williamson Smith and the Rev. Dr. Drowne, and the obliging courtesy of Bishop Perry, the custodian.
This Venerable Society held its annual meetings in London, and published abstracts from the Reports of its Missionaries. Some of these letters seem to have been subsequently lost or mislaid; for in the collection made by the Rev. Dr. Hawks many letters used in making out the Society's Annual Reports are not now to be found. These printed abstracts are now, however, all incorporated in the present volume with the Rev. Dr. Hawks' unabridged transcripts; and they shed additional light on the obscurity of the early history of the Hempstead Church.
After the first selection of these letters had been printed, my generous publisher, Mr. Lott Van De Water, like a true son of the Church, allowed me to go over the field again for a second gleaning. Hence the letters do not follow in a chronological order; but as the topics are quite independent of each other this will cause little inconvenience.
Though Mr. Thomas served the parish over twenty years, all remembrance of him had so faded out that his name does not appear in the list of Ministers inscribed, in 1823, on a marble tablet in the church. Some extracts from his correspondence and that of the succeeding Missionaries were published for the fist time in 1841, by the Rev. Dr. Carmichael, in "The Rise and Progress of St. George's Church."
The Rev. Dr. Moore, the eleventh Minister of this ancient Parish, has for some years been gathering materials for a more connected, full and complete history of the Church, brought down to the present time, which it is hoped may see the light at no distant day.
ANTIQUITIES OF HEMPSTEAD CHURCH
Hempstead was settled in 1643, by Presbyterians and Independents, who built a house of worship and maintained a minister by a town rate. We cannot give a clear account of the early ministers. In 1651 Rev. John Moore styles himself "Minister of the Church of Hempstead."
In a letter of the Dutch ministers at New York (1657) it is stated that "At Hempstead there are some Independents; also many of the Dutch persuasion and Presbyterians. They have a Presbyterian preacher, Richard Denton, an honest, pious and learned man, who has in all things conformed to our Church. The Independents listen attentively to his preaching, but when he begins to baptise the children of parents who are not members of the church, they sometimes burst out of the church.
In 1657, July 15th, Gov. Stuyvesant, who favored the Presbyterian interest, visited Hempstead in hopes of settling Mr. Denton's continuance there, and says; "If he cannot be persuaded to stay, you must then look for another able and godly man; but as Mr. Fordham, sometime your minister left the place and exercise of the ministry without our wish or knowledge, and for little or no reason, we cannot admit of his coming back again."
The quarter's rate for Mr. Denton in 1657 was £17.10, being a levy of 3½ pence to the acre. In 1658 it was paid in wheat as 5s. per bushel, or oats at 2s. 6d.
In August, 1657, traveling preachers of the Society of Friends began to visit Hempstead, and by inveighing against paying money to "hireling priest's" in the course of time drew off many from the church.
1660, November 10. The town order a house-end to be set up to Goodman Pearsall's house, for the entertainment of young Master Fordham, and that the meeting-house be repaired and made comfortable to meet in.
In 1661, February 15th, some people of Hempstead write to Gov. Stuyvesant that "From the want of a minister, now so long continued, many of our children are yet unbaptised." The Governor sent (March 12th) Rev. Samuel Drisius to them, who preached and baptised forty-one children and an aged woman.
In 1662, May 16th, the town had voted a salary of £70 to Mr. Jonah Fordham, who had been one year amongst them; but the magistrates had to send to the Governor for a warrant against some that refused to pay the minister's rate.
1670, April 1st. By major vote the minister of the town is allowed to have free pasture for six oxen.
1671, April 25. The town-house or the parsonage lot is sold at £9 in corn.
1674, November 30. Some of the townspeople petition the Governor "to install such authority among us as may be means under God for upholding and maintaining the ministry, the worship of God and the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ amongst us, that the honor of God might be promoted and his Sabbaths observed, for th good of us and our posterity."
1678, January 7th. By major vote it was agreed to build a meeting-house forty by twenty-six feet, and twelve feet in the stud, with a leanto on each side.
1679, May 26th. Gov. Andros forbids Quaker meeting in Hempstead, but to no purpose.
1680, May 12th. The old meeting-house and the fort enclosing it were sold at outcry for £2.12 in meeting-house pay.
1682, May 6th. By major vote at town-meeting, Rev. Jeremy Hobart is called to be minister. A house eighteen by thirty-six feet is to be built for him to live in.His salary was by subscription, £70 in corn or cattle, and his fire wood brought to him at free-cost. Jeremy Wood is allowed 10s. a year for looking after the opening and shutting of the window-shuts of the meeting-house, and to look carefully after the hour-glass. Though the town had ordered a bell from Amsterdam as long ago as 1656, it seems not to have arrived, for Richard Gildersleeve, Sr., is hired, at 20s. a year, to beat the drum to announce the hours of worship.
1687. The people of Great Neck (then included in the town) complain that Hobart don't preach and visit amongst them. In 1682 they had built a church by themselves and hired Rev. Morgan Jones as pastor, but Hobart forbid his preaching there as being in his parish.
1690, Arpil 20. Samuel Sewall says, "I rode to Hempstead to hear Mr. Hobart, but he was at York. So I staid at Mr. Jackson's, read chapters, and Mr. Stoughton, my companion, prayed."
In 1690, December 4th, Mr. Hobart had to resort to the Court of Oyer and Terminer to compel the town to pay the arrears of his salary. In 2692 he was constrained to leave Hempstead, "by reason of numbers of the people turning Quakers and many others being so irreligious that they would do nothing toward the support of the Gospel."
In 1694-5, Mr. William Vesey is set down as an Independent minister here, the same who in 1697 became first rector of Trinity Church, New York.*
We no longer find the names of the ministers on record, but there must have been such. Roger Gill, a Friend, speaks of having among his hearers (August 3d, 1699) a candidate for the Presbyterian pulpit, who took notes of his discourse.
*"In the year 1697, Gov. Fletcher by his example and conutenance promoted the building of Trinity Church, in New York, by voluntary contribution, and placed in it the present incumbent, Rev. William Vesey, who at that time was a dissenting preacher on Long Island. He had received his education in Harvard College, under that rigid Independent, Increase Mather, and was sent from thence by him to confirm the minds of those who had removed for their convenience from New England to this Province; for Mr. Mather having advice that there was a minister of the Established Church of England come over in quality of chaplain of the forces at New York, and fearing that the Common Prayer and the hated ceremonies of ou Church might gain ground, he spared no pains or care to spread the warmest of his emissaries through this Province; but Gov. Fletcher, who saw into this design, too off Mr. Vesey by an invitation to this living, (Trinity Church), a promise to advance his stipend considerable, and to recommend him for Holy Orders to your Lordship's predecessor; all which was performed accordingly, and Mr. Vesey returned form England in Preiest's orders."-Address to the Bishop of London (about 1714) from Gov. Hunter's friends.
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Transcribed and Edited© by Linda Pearsall Harvey