The 18th Century Ends with Recovery and Reconciliation
Our Old Dutch Church Congregation, Patriots and Loyalists, found themselves on two sides of a political chasm. One side had clearly won and some among the winners were determined to punish the loosers, called "Loyalists." Others saw the necessity of reconciliation.
Only one thing was certain: They were citizens of a new nation without a place of worship.
Wealthy and prominent Gozen Ryerss had been the British Quartermaster. Joshua Mersereau, one of the five hero Mersereau brothers, had been Quartermaster for Washington's Continental Army.
Though passions still ran high, life had to go on, so
Gozen Ryerss and Joshua Mersereau teamed up to rebuild our Old Dutch Church.
Worship Services of the
Reformed Protestant Dutch Church resumed at various locations soon after
our 1717 wooden hexagonal church
was destroyed by the British
June 1785. "Our house of worship having been destroyed in the late unhappy war, it was resolved to build a new one of brick."
In the Spring of 1787 the Steeple Church, our third at our current site in Port Richmond,
The materials for this church were manufactured in a field a short distance west of its site.
Services finally began to be given
in English rather than Dutch
Pencil Drawing, Archives of Reformed Church
All this could not have been easy for the Rev.William Jackson,
minister of the united congregations of Staten Island and Bergen
throughout the Revolution 1757-1789.
Jackson served admirably until December 9, 1789 when, after meeting for three days, the Classis determined that his fits of mental aberration were sufficiently lamentable to justify the propriety and necessity of returning his "Call to the Congregation."
He said things from the pulpit somewhat disturbing to the devout feelings of the worshippers. One one occasion he continued his discourse to an unwonted length, despite admonitions. Under forfeiture of 500 pounds they instructed Jackson "not to preach or administer the sacraments" in either Congregation. In return he and his family could continue
to live in the parsonage and were supported by the Congregations, primarily the one in Bergen.
Jackson had endured four years in another country and two dangerous voyages to become ordained.
It is thought he contracted syphilis during these journeys.
Mrs. Jackson "also became deranged . . . [in a] condition even worse than her husband. Their oldest son died young, presumably from the same illness. The Jacksons were cared for and supported for the rest of their lives. The Bergen Consistory granted him the use of their parsonage to dwell in during his natural life unless he voluntarily moved out of it.
He remained in the parsonage 24 years until his death July 25, 1813.
They were years of war and social tension.
They were years marked by the unfortunate illness of a beloved pastor.
They were years of determined recovery, following the close of the Revolutionary War.
The Final Ten Years of the 18th Century
The two pastors who followed Jackson, taking our Old Dutch Church into the next century, were not able to collect on pew rents, add many new members, or raise new funds.
Church debt mounted, forcing the selling-off of lots and renewal of a note.
Peter Stryker 1790-1794
On September 15, 1794 the proceedings of the Consistory show that the Congregation had considerable difficulty in raising sufficient funds to fulfill its obligations to Rev. Peter Stryker.
It is recorded that Rev. Stryker purchased, then sold to Daniel Garrison ". . . one negro wench called Dinah and two negro children named Teen and Henry . . ." perhaps to raise funds.
Stryker told them he would have to accept an offer in Belleville NJ. Cornelius Cruser and Abraham Prall came up with 8 pounds and 50 pounds respectively for his back salary.
Thomas Kirby 1797-1801
Three years after the departure of Stryker, receipts show Rev. Thomas Kirby starting in 1795.
Among the receipts of interest,
"January 25, 1797 paid to Henry Klapp for nails, brandy and spirits drank at the digging of the well for the parsonage and carting wood for the minister ----- 2 pounds 17 shillings."
He remained a little over three years, then was suspended from the ministry for intemperance.
When Rev. Kirby left, the parsonage itself was rented out