Who was the Voorlezer?
Upon examination of the 1696-1790 baptismal record, nicknamed the Voorlezer's book,
we find that nowhere does the Voorlezer sign his name.
But he unwittingly disclosed himself in the recording of a baptism of 28 Sept 1698.
This was recognized in 1865 by our Rev. James Brownlee as he noted the touching entry of the baptism of his own child by Henderyck Kroesen.
Note all the baptisms are listed by date, except for one where the birth date is also listed -- by a proud father.
Between 1686 and 1717 our Old Dutch Church was served by Voorlezer Kroesen and Supply Ministers
He was was one of the foremost citizens of SI - property owner, office holder and ancestor of the well-known Cruser family of SI. That Kroesen was the mainstay of the church, and probably chiefly responsible for its continued existence, can be deduced from the established fact that he and his nephew Garret were the church and master builder and inscribed their initials on the cornerstone of the hexagonal church build in 1715. The stone was discovered in the north section of burial place and is now on display in the present church.
The Voorlezer's House Was Our Early Meeting Place 1696 to 1701
Built on an original 80-acre land grant from 1680, the Voorlezer's House was first called that in a deed written July 17, 1696 after the Dutch Reformed Congregation acquired an additional 271 sq. ft. parcel on which to build.
Voorlezer, a common title in Holland, was given to a layman chosen by the Dutch Congregation to teach school and conduct church services in the absence of a minister.
Our Old Dutch Church is the only one in New York City
headed by a 21st century Voorlezer,
Dr. Warren A. Mac Kenzie.
The Voorlezer's House most likely resembled this early 18th century house
at 62 Arthur Kill Road in Historic Richmond Town
The Dutch first built a School which they used for worship until they could build a Church.
While never officially consecrated as a place of worship, the Voorlezer's House was used as a meeting place only until 1701 because of its distance from the North Shore where most of the congregation had made their home starting in 1680 and began to hold worship service in a simple building. In 1715 a permanent Dutch Reformed Church was built on the site in the popular wooden octagonal style.
Despite the congregation's brief stay in Richmond, the Voorlezer's House presence led to Richmond's role as the civic center of Staten Island. A few years later, the county seat would be established there.
Children between the ages of 7 and 12, both male and female attended school.
Study would have been paid for by parents by subject, and probably taught in Dutch.
Subjects most likely included:
1. Reading. Students may have used hornbooks
but there were many textbooks from Amsterdam
available at the time, such as "Stairway of Youth"
which was 12 lessons that built on each other,
supplemented by "Great and Small ABC"
2. Writing. Many students may not have learned this.
3. Arithmetic. Important for both boys and girls to maintain
household and business accounts as adults.
4. Religion. Students were expected to memorize the 129
questions and answers of the Heidelberg Catechism,
which was used from 1563 until the 1800s.
5. Dutch history. This "new" subject would teach students
about the Dutch Independence War from Spain
A hornbook was a sheet of paper mounted on a board and covered with transparent horn.
It had a handle that the child held while reading which was perforated so that it might be attached to the child's belt.