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THE OLD FRENCH CHURCH D'ESPRIT.
New York, to visit for a moment all the friends, and the men carried with them a bag for the presents just mentioned. When this was filled they went home to empty it and start again. When calling upon a family it was customary to repeat, by way of salutation and good wishes, the following lines, of which we give merely a verbal translation:
Long may you live,
And we are acquainted with a hospitable Knickerbocker family where the savory cookies are still prepared and the pleasant salutation is still given by two visitors fond of the olden time.
New York was retaken by the Dutch in 1763, but was held by them only a few months. Their descendants, however, form the most stable and reliable part of our heterogeneous population. Having lost their political predominance on Manhattan we shall hereafter regard them more from a religious point of view.
The name of the Protestant Reformed Dutch Church is derived from its historical associations. The term Protestant was applied in the sixteenth century to the Reformers, and those who denied the authority of the Pope and rejected the unScriptural doctrines of the Church of Rome. The appellation was first used in 1529, when six princes of the German Empire formally and solemnly protested against the decrees of the Diet of Spires. But during the progress of the Reformation a difference occurred among the Prot
• We are indebted for most of our information concerning the Reformed Dutch Church to Dr. Dewitt's "Historical Discourse."
estants on some points of doctrine, as the real presence of Christ's humanity in the Lord's Supper. Those who held to it were, from their great leader, called Lutherans, and they who rejected it, Reformed. The Reformed Dutch Church was the branch organized in Holland, where they termed their houses of worship "Churches under the Cross," so great were the persecutions experienced at that time. It was from this Church, whose bosom was the refuge and the resting-place of the persecuted Hugue| nots, Waldenses, the Covenanters of Scotland, and the exiled Puritans, that the branch established in New Amsterdam soon after its settlement, derived its origin. Before tracing its history in New York, however, we shall notice the Huguenots and Lutherans of the colony in Manhattan.
At an early period the Reformed Dutch Church made provision for the Huguenots who emigrated to this country during the persecutions that preceded and followed the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Calvin, a native of Noyon, in Picardy, was protected by Margaret of Navarre, sister of Francis. The Christian Institutes of the great reformer were dedicated to the king, who was at one time desirous of uniting with the German powers against the Emperor Charles; but wishing to show the soundness of his faith, he caused one of his heretical subjects to be burned at the stake. The king was present on the occasion, and declared that if one of his hands were affected with heresy he would cut it off, and would not even spare his own children.
During the eighty-seven years in which the Edict of Nantes was in force, the Huguenots were allowed to practice their religion and educate their offspring, but after its revocation under Louis XIV. the churches were destroyed, children taken from their parents to be educated as Catholics, and at least five hundred thousand of the most industrious and peaceful citizens of France were banished from their country. Many of these French Protestants settled in the colony of New Amsterdam, and one of their number, Thomas Pell, purchased a large tract of land in Westchester.
Drisius was called to the church of New As early as 1652 the Rev. Samuel Amsterdam, as a colleague with Dr. Mega
polensis on account of his knowledge of dedicated in the year 1767. It stood the English and French languages.
In 1704 the old French Church D'Esprit, of which we give an illustration, was erected by this worthy class of Christians, many of the descendents of whom are still to be found in the city.
at the corner of Franklin and William streets, a section of the city which is still called the Swamp, and was then covered with trees and bushes in which birds built their nests. At this date the Park was "out of town." Six years before, as the record informs us, "that part of the high road to Boston, which leads [now Park Row] toward fresh water, extending from Broadway to the place where the Negroes were burned in 1741, and to which the gallows has lately been removed, begins to be regulated as a street, and a few houses have been erected."
An interesting fact is related concerning the first Huguenot settlers at New Rochelle, in Westchester County. Though toiling in the forest twenty miles from the town on Manhattan, their fervent zeal led them to unite with their brethren in New Amsterdam in the public worship of the Sabbath. Such was their reverence for that holy day, that after the labors of the week they would take up their march on foot in the afternoon of Saturday and reach New York by midnight, singing the hymns of Clement Marot by the way. Engaged in the worship of the Sabbath they would remain until after midnight, and then take up their march in return for New Rochelle, relieving the toil of the way by singing Marot's hymns.
At the time of the erection of the Church D'Esprit, in 1704, New York contained only about six thousand inhabitants. The celebrated wall, built as a defense against the Indians and the English, had been partly demolished, and the stones applied to the erection of the new City Hall, on the corner of Nassau and Broad streets. Broadway was not paved until three years later. The luxuries of tea and coffee were entirely unknown to the good people of the city. The docks and slips rented for twenty-five pounds per annum, and the corporation sold two hundred acres of land for twenty shillings the acre. The inhabitants of Harlem were permitted to erect one mill and no more, provided they did not "hinder the passage of sloops and boats round Manhattan Island." The city was lighted, "in the dark time of the moon in the winter season," by lanterns hung upon poles, projected from the windows of every seventh house, each of the seven paying an equal proportion of the expense. The city watch consisted of four sober men.
The first German Lutheran church in New York was VOL. XII.-36
During the occupation by the British the chaplains of the German regiments stationed in the city officiated by turns in the church for a considerable length of time, the Hessian soldiers assembling with the congregation for Divine worship. Several Hessian officers who received mortal wounds in the battle of Long Island were buried in the Cemetery. A number of coffins have since been disinterred containing the manes of these hireling veterans in full military costume, with their side arms, cocked hats, boots, and queues. The Lutheran Church was vacated in 1830.
The establishment of the Reformed Dutch Church in New York dates from the settlement of Manhattan. The first religious meetings were held in temporary buildings. In 1626" François Molemakee was employed in building a horse-mill, with a spacious room above to serve for a congregation, and a tower was to be added, in which the Spanish bells captured
of a new house of worship. He relates in his journal that, dining one day with Governor Kieft, he said to him, "that it was a shame that the English when they visited Manhattan saw only a mean barn in which we worshiped. first thing they built in New England, after their dwelling-houses, was a fine church. We should do the same." It was resolved that the new edifice should be within the fort (now the Battery) at its south-east corner. This continued to be their place of worship until the church in Gardenstreet was opened in 1693, and was then relinquished to the British government and occupied by the royal military forces for public worship until 1741, when it was destroyed by fire. When they were digging away the foundation of the fort in in 1790 to make way for the government house, built on the site of what is now the Bowling Green, a stone was found among the rubbish containing the inscription, "In the year of our Lord 1642: W. Kieft being director-general, has this congregation caused this temple to be built." This curious relic was removed to the belfry of the church in Gardenstreet, where it remained till both were destroyed in the great fire of 1835.
The Garden-street church was opened in the year 1693, the pulpit, bell, and several escutcheons having been removed to it from the old house of worship in the fort. The year after a baptismal basin was procured, on which was engraved a few ines of poetry, written by the domine Selyus, setting forth the important truth that the hope of freedom from condemnation cannot rest on merc water, but must be founded upon faith in the blood of Christ. This curious relic is still in use in a church on the Fifth-avenue.
When the new church, of which we give an illustration, was erected on the same site in Garden-street in the year 1807 it was suggested that the bell was too small. But as it had been brought from Holland, and was the first one used in this country, having often with its silver tones struck with admiration the ears of the native Indians, it was retained in the new edifice, whose fate it shared in the great conflagration to which allusion has been made.
as it was afterward called, the Middle Dutch Church, at the corner of Nassau and Liberty-streets. The old French church, of which we have spoken, was on the lot just east of Nassau, between Pine and Cedar-streets. The ground cost fiv hundred and seventy-five pounds, and the church was opened in 1729. At its first erection it had no gallery, and the ceiling was one entire arch without pillars. This building, now the New York Post-office, presents the exterior aspect of its early days, and calls up impressive remembrances in the minds of the Knickerbockers. Our quaint illustration of the remarkable edifice is the fac simile of a plate which was struck off in the year 1731, when, as appears from the dedication to the Hon. Rip Van Dam, the church was completed.
For some time after the opening of the house on Nassau-street the preaching was entirely in the Dutch language, a circumstance prejudicial to the Church, for the reason that the English inhabitants were constantly increasing in number, and many individuals and families were withdrawing to other denominations, especially the Episcopal. In 1763 it was decided to introduce preaching in English, although a large number resisted the innovation to the last, even to the extent of instituting a suit in the civil courts, which was decided against them, so blinded were the people of those times by prejudice. A pastor was called who could preach in both Dutch and English.
The old Garden-street church was the only house of worship for our Dutch ancestors until the erection of the New, or,
During the occupation of New York by the British forces, in the Revolution, several of the churches, especially where the congregations zealously espoused the cause of independence, were sadly desecrated. The Middle Dutch Church was used as a prison, and afterward as a riding-school for the British officers and soldiers, and became the scene of habitual ribaldry, profanity, and dissipation The whole of the interior, galleries and all, was destroyed, leaving the bare walls and roof. It is stated that a Mr. Oothout obtained permission from Lord Howe to take down the bell, which had been cast in Amsterdam in 1731, and in the preparation of whose metal a number of the citizens of that place threw quantities of silver coin. He stored the bell in a secure place until the British army evacuated the city When the church was reopened it was