Author: Brückbauer, Frederick, 1864-
Presbyterian Church of the Sea and Land (New York
Market Street Dutch Reformed Church (New York
The Kirk on Rutgers Farm
The Kirk on Rutgers Farm
Fleming H Revell Company
Men and Women
that the old church
might remain at
Market and Henry Streets
Transcriber’s Note: The original of this work did not include a table of contents.
The one given above has been inserted for the reader’s convenience.
It is evident that the preparation of this volume has been a labor of love.
Of the sanctuary which, for one hundred years, has stood on the corner of Market and Henry Streets, the author, like many others who have put their lives into it, might well say:
“Thy saints take pleasure in her stones,
Her very dust to them is dear.”
The story of “The Kirk on Rutgers Farm” is one of pathetic interest. In its first half-century it sheltered a worshipping congregation of staid Knickerbocker type, which, tho blest with a ministry of extraordinary ability and spiritual power, succumbed to its unfriendly environment and perished.
In its second half-century it became the home of a flock of God, poor in this world’s goods, but rich in faith, to whom the environment even when changing from bad to worse, was a challenge to faith and valiant service. Those of us who in our unwisdom said a generation ago that it ought to die judged after the outward appearance. Those who protested that it must not die, took counsel with the spirit that animated them, saw the invisible and against hope believed in hope.
Not the least impressive pages of this book are the pages which record the names of ministers and other toilers for Christ, who in this field of heroic achievement have lived to serve or have died in service.
The author has very skilfully concealed his personal connection with the history of which he might justly say: “Magna pars fui.” But for his wise and winsome leadership the chronicle would have closed a quarter of a century ago.
By putting in form and preserving the memories which cluster about the Church of the Sea and Land, he is performing a real service to the Christian community and earning the gratitude of fellow-laborers to whom it has been a shrine of their heart’s devotion.
|The Kirk on Rutgers Farm||Frontispiece|
|The Rutgers Mansion||15|
|Nathan Hale Statue||19|
|First Presidential Mansion||20|
|Tablet in Church Vestibule||22|
|North Dutch Church||24|
|Old Lecture Room Pulpit||30|
|Theodore L. Cuyler at Market Street||34|
|Theodore L. Cuyler later||35|
|52 Market Street||51|
|Hanson K. Corning||52|
|Christian A. Borella||61|
|Old Sunday School Room||69|
|Alexander W. Sproull||71|
|Col. Robert G. Shaw||72|
|Old Church Flag||78|
|John Hopkins Denison||81|
|52 Henry Street||83|
|Fresh Air Children||84|
|New Church Flag||87|
|Old 61 Henry Street||94|
|New 61 Henry Street||95|
|Staten Island House when bought||96|
|Staten Island House renovated||97|
|Kitchen for Cooking Classes||99|
|Back of Pulpit||107|
If there be one thing certain about New York it is that nothing remains unchanged. Not only do public works like the bridges change the face of things, but private activity effaces great structures to build up still greater ones. This march of progress is as relentless as a modern army, levelling all before it.
In other lands churches have been spared tho other buildings went down, but even these in New York have disappeared, whole districts being deliberately deserted because churches were no longer able to maintain themselves there financially. This is especially true of the great down-town section of Manhattan, the Old New York, in which only two churches remain that have stood unchanged for a century. Trinity church let old St. John’s go, and sixty churches have disappeared in forty years on the lower East Side alone. We lose much when old landmarks go, when we can not make history more vivid for our children by pointing out where the great men of another day worshipt, men of a day when other public assemblies were rare, and the church was the center that radiated influence. The old building is of value because of the living beings associated with it that were the life of the community.
New York has hardly appreciated what its great families have meant for it in the past. The members of the Rutgers family, for instance, always had a noble share in the day and generation in which they lived. Their ancestor came over in the early days from Holland, spent some time about Albany, and then came to New York, branching out till Rutgers bouweries and Rutgers breweries were found in more than one place.
A Rutgers was on the jury in the great Zenger trial that establisht the freedom of the colonial press,—”the germ of American freedom.” The Rutgers were Sons of Liberty and the Rutgers farm near Golden Hill was one of their meeting places. A Rutgers was a member of the New York Provincial Congress and also of the Stamp Act Congress. Alexander Hamilton was engaged in a famous case when a Rutgers defended herself against a Tory who had taken possession of her property during the Revolution.
It was a Rutgers who drained the marshes west of the old Collect Pond and so laid the foundations for the Lispenard fortunes: a Lispenard married a fair daughter of his neighbor Rutgers. That stream still runs into the Broadway Subway at Canal Street apparently uncontrollable.
One Rutgers fell in the Battle of Long Island, and while the old father died in Albany, the British revenged themselves on the younger brother by making a hospital of his fine house in New York. The owner kept on fighting for freedom during the whole Revolutionary War, distinguishing himself at White Plains.
This was Henry Rutgers, in whom culminated many of the finest characteristics of a noble ancestry. His breadth of view in an age not quite so broad, is well shown in his attitude towards churches and schools. When he decided to open up his farm in the Seventh Ward for building purposes he gave land at Oliver and Henry Streets, at Market and Henry Streets and at Rutgers and Henry Streets for churches, and there was more for the asking, tho only the Baptists, the Dutch Reformed and the Presbyterians took advantage of the offer. The Rutgers Street site became the birthplace of the Rutgers Presbyterian church, beginning May 13, 1798, in a frame building 36×64. In 1841 the present stone church was built, and in 1862, as did others, this organization moved uptown. A Mr. Briggs, who was holding the property for a Protestant denomination, finally tired of waiting and sold the building to the Roman Catholic church, in whose hands it remains.
In 1806 Rutgers gave the land for the second free school, and he succeeded Governor Clinton in 1828 as president of the Free School Society. Before that day education was not a state matter, but left to private enterprise, and the free schools then establisht were for the poor. Rutgers more than once paid salaries and other school bills out of his own pocket. He was a Regent of the University of the State of New York for twenty-four years, and a Trustee of Princeton.
Rutgers was not above mixing in with the political life of his time: he was a member of the legislature four times and took a prominent part in the election of Thomas Jefferson as President of the United States.
In 1811 he raised funds for the first Tammany Hall, then a benevolent organization.
During the War of 1812, Rutgers presided at a large mass meeting calling for the defense of New York when the port was blockaded and it seemed as if the British would attack it. He was a large contributor to the fund from which forts were hurriedly erected to keep the enemy out.
Rutgers was a member of a committee of correspondence formed in 1819 to check slavery. He lived to see the day, in 1827, when slavery was abolisht in New York State.
His services to the Dutch church and his munificence brought about a change of name of the college at New Brunswick from Queens to Rutgers College. It is true the sum given was only $5,000 and Rutgers was one of the richest men in New York. In our day when only billions seem to count we may well hark back to the days of simpler things.
For many years Henry Rutgers gave a cake and a book to every boy who called on him on New Year’s Day. The children gathered about his door and he made an address “of a religious character.”
Colonel Rutgers lived in “a large, superbly furnished mansion,” on Rutgers Place, “for many years a capitol of fashion, where met all the leaders of the day.” Here was given “the most notable reception of the time to General Washington and Colonel Willett,” after the latter’s return from his mission to the Creek Indians, the most powerful confederacy then on our borders. Here, also, in 1824, Lafayette was entertained “like a prince,” so the great Frenchman said.
The house was built in 1755 by the Colonel’s father, with brick brought from Holland. It stood on Monroe Street till 1865. But it was none too fine for the owner to give his fences for firewood one hard winter when fuel was scarce and trees in the streets were cut down to burn. Next summer the Rutgers orchard was said to have been safer than if the fence had been there.
“The well-beloved citizen” died February 17, 1830, in the mansion in which he had lived nearly eighty years. On February 28, a great memorial service was held in the Market Street church. Dr. McMurray, the pastor, whose tablet is opposite that of Rutgers in the church, preached the sermon, which was printed later, speaking of his “unimpeachable moral character, his uniform consistency,” and saying that there was “scarcely a benevolent object or humane institution which he had not liberally assisted.” Colonel Rutgers spent one-fourth of his income in charity, many of his benevolences being personal, gifts not only of money, but advice and sympathy.
Rutgers was a bachelor and on his death the bulk of his estate, over $900,000, went to the grandson of his sister Catherine, William B. Crosby. “Uncle Rutgers” had virtually adopted the boy when early left an orphan. Among the provisions of the Rutgers will was one that bespoke the testator: Hannah, a superannuated negress, was to be supported by the estate for the rest of her life. This while slavery was still legal in 1823.
William B. Crosby was a colonel in the War of 1812. He died March 18, 1865. A son of his was Howard Crosby, more than a generation ago one of the best-known preachers of New York, a man great physically and spiritually. He was moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly and one of the revisers of the Bible. He died in 1891. Another Crosby was in the State Legislature.
The direct line of the Rutgers family died out, but they were intermarried with about every prominent family of the city. The daughters were more numerous than the sons and appear to have had a reputation for good looks and good works. They were the wives of rectors, bishops, postmasters, mayors, secretaries of state, judges, and so on.
On November 25, 1816, Rutgers had deeded five lots for a Dutch Reformed church.
The neighborhood in which the Market Street church was to be located was redolent with historic associations. The British provost marshal hung Nathan Hale on “an apple tree in the Rutgers orchard,” the exact spot adjoining the church property. Nearby on Cherry Hill, in the Franklin House, the first President of the United States lived for a time, as did John Hancock and members of Washington’s cabinet on the inauguration of the Federal Government.
In the immediate vicinity was the Walton House, referred to in parliament as so richly furnished that the colonies needed no relief from taxation.
Nathan Hale Statue
Close by the church lands, on July 27, 1790, Rutgers on his own grounds paraded the militia before President Washington, Governor Clinton and visiting Indian chiefs, and thereafter he was Colonel Rutgers. Gilbert Stuart painted Washington’s portrait at that time and it was a prized possession in the Rutgers mansion.
Just north on the Bowery was the old Bull’s Head Tavern, “the last stop before entering town.” On the evacuation of New York, Washington and his officers rested here before re-occupying the city. In connection with it the Astor fortunes were laid, and Astor was not very popular with the other butchers either, because of his business methods.
In Cherry Street a hundred years ago a sea captain and his wife made the first American flag of the present type: thirteen stripes and an ever-expanding starry field.
First Presidential Mansion
At the foot of Pike Street,—the river then was nearer the church than now,—Robert Fulton built his first steamboat in 1807, and in May, 1819, just one hundred years ago, the Savannah docked in the same place, after the first steamboat trip across the ocean, made in twenty-two days.
Not quite so pleasant a memory is the fact that Market Street was the new name for George Street, of not very favorable repute, until the quiet Quakers built fine little houses there, surrounded by gardens, driving out denizens of a less sedate disposition.
A fine story is told of an old lady, who was advised not to go to the Market Street church because of the neighborhood it was in. She replied that Colonel Rutgers was going there “and where Colonel Rutgers goes any lady can go.”
In 1819 wolves were still killed on the “outskirts,” that being the present Gramercy Park.
After the establishment of the Franklin Street church in 1807, no further attempt was made by the Dutch church to extend its work until in 1817 the offer made by Henry Rutgers was taken up. About the same time the Houston Street and Broome Street churches were added.
Tablet in Church Vestibule
To make the Market Street building possible Rutgers gave a large sum, and he named the trustees “under whose superintendence” the building was to be erected. They were a noble group:
Rev. Philip Milledoler, D.D.; Rev. James M. Matthews, Peter Wilson, LL.D.; Isaac Heyer, Matthias Bruen, Peter Sharpe and William B. Crosby.
Dr. Milledoler was one of the great men of the time. He was born in Rhinebeck, September 22, 1775, and educated in Edinburgh. He was one of the founders of the American Bible Society, and Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the Presbyterian Church. In November, 1803, he became colleague pastor of the First Collegiate church, and in April, 1809, on division by Presbytery, sole pastor of the Rutgers Presbyterian church. He remained here until 1813, when he entered the Reformed Church. He was president of Rutgers College from 1823 to 1841.
Rev. James Macfarlane Matthews was professor “in the first theological seminary of which New York could boast.” It was considered Scotch Presbyterian.
Dr. Peter Wilson was professor of languages in the university, as was also Isaac Heyer.
Matthias Bruen was “one of the merchant princes of New York.”
Peter Sharpe was a “whip manufacturer” and William B. Crosby is listed as “gentleman.”
North Dutch Church
Nothing is known of the architect or builder, tho they were probably the same, as was the fashion of the time. The building was required by the deed “to be of brick or stone materials, and the whole building of a size not less than that of the Presbyterian church in Rutgers Street.” A hundred years have proven the substantial character of the Market Street church. The men of that day did their work well. Whether it was a simplified copy of the North Dutch church or not is not known. It looks much like it, tho the tower is simpler and the two rows of windows in the Fulton Street building become one row of great windows on Henry Street. But it has all stood the test of time. The old hand-hewn oak timbers still span the lofty ceiling, the glistening gray stone walls still stand four-square against all the winds that blow. The hand-made hinges and numbers are still on the pew doors, and the so-called slave galleries are still there, tho neither colored servants nor Sunday school children are consigned to them now. Hidden away, but still there are the hand-made laths, the shingles under the tin roof and the four-foot thick foundations.
The old tower is there, for many years untenanted, until the men came who worked and lived there, a place of seclusion in a busy time and neighborhood, and if the symbols on the rough walls have made their thoughts roam to the early Christian days the telephone brings them back