Words To Remember

"The truth is this--genealogy is our living, and we are busy every minute, [and we] could use more hours." --Jane Wethy Foley, 1942

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Conewago, Adams-York Co., PA, Reformed Dutch Church: Part 2

"Large numbers of families from Somerset County, NJ, towns of Millstone and Neshanic localities and from Bergen County, NJ, went to the vicinity of Gettysburg, Pa., prior to the Revolutionary War. Some of them later went to Plwasureville {sic}, Kentucky and then on westward. Some of the settlers traced back to the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, in France, and these people were Huguenots, who being persecuted, refugeed to Holland. These founded the Dutch Reformed Church in America. Later some of these people from New Jersey went to Pennsylvania and later some to Kentucky, after the Indians broke up the Conewago Colony, burned houses and murdered numbers of people. Some went to Mercer County, Kentucky, and others elsewhere." [Migration from New Jersey to the Conowago Colony, Pa., 1675-1771, by A. Van Doren Honeyman of Plainfield, NJ]

Route of the New Jersey Dutch to Pennsylvania
The following excerpts about the history of the Conewago Colony have been taken from a 30-page manuscript in the Ponna Archives {with which I am unfamiliar} and the manuscript, or parts of it, were published in The Star and Sentinel, Gettysburg, PA., 8 Jan. 1884.  The writer is unidentified but may have been J. K. Demaree, a descendant of one of the original colony settlers.

"The Church was called the "Reformed Dutch Church of Conewago." By that name it appears on the roll of the Classis of New Brunswick, NY....

"The Conewago Settlement...extended from a point two miles east of what is now Hunterstown...along a road running in a south-westerly direction to a point a mile or less across what is now the Baltimore Pike and down the pike to the Two Taverns. This road is still known as the Low Dutch Road, and is so called on the maps and in the text of the third volume of the Count de Paris’ History of the Civil War.

"The Dutchmen, and they who accompanied them, were farmers. Even the mechanics of their number--the Demarees were carpenters and painters, the Van Ardsdales blacksmiths--expected to obtain the most and best of their living from the soil. They did not found a town, therefore, nor were they ambitious in that direction, but the densest parts of the settlement were those nearest the two extremities.

Conewago Creek, Adams Co., PA

"The boundaries of the population...were marked by cemeteries...and one of them, the more northern, was in the near vicinity of the church....It was on a piece of land which had been patented, had a stone foundation, which some still living had seen, and had a spacious perhaps rather than airy spiritual superstructure of pine board, barn-like in style of architecture,...though its form had been much changed....The site of the church first was on what is now the York Pike, near the Duttera railway station, about a half mile from the cemetery.

The Conewago Church as it appears today
"A moss grown tablet in the Conewago Burial Ground bears this inscription:

In memory of David Demaree
Born in the East of New Jersey
In Bergen County, November 1731
and departed this life November 1808
aged 77

"The Demarees, Ackermans, Brinkerhoffs, Bogarts, Terhunes, Bantas, De Daum, De Motts, Voorhees, Brewers, Slegels and many others no doubt came from Bergen County, NJ. These names are still heard there with sufficient frequency. The Houghtalins and Cosines came from the West bank of the Hudson near Haverstraw. An Abraham Lott, perhaps a connection of the Lotts, was prominent in New York City about the time of the Revolution, holding office in both church and state. The Brokaws can be traced to New York. The Cassats and Montforts, two of the first comers, whose influence never became second to any of the later comers, had an earlier home in Somerset County, NJ, near Millstone, and an earlier still in New York, the latter family having settled there before 1640. The Van Dykes and Van Arsdales came from Essex County, NJ, near Patterson. The Benners, among the latest to arrive, came to this county from Berks {Co., PA}, having tarried on the way.
Cabin of Henry Banta Family at Conewago {Photo courtesy of Paul Briggs}
"It is certain that all the colonists did not arrive simultaneously. Some were on the ground as early as 1765. But there is no evidence that any were here earlier. At York, a deed of which a member of the Van Arsdale family was the granter, conveyed property in Straben Township, "adjoining lands of Henry Banta, George Sebring, William Love, David Hunter, and Francis Coserto." This is the oldest document preserved..., throwing light on the history of this colony. It was to cover debts contracted in 1765. The deed was given in 1768. On the other hand, it can be shown that the Demarees and Brinkerhoffs did not leave Bergen County before 1771, for the marriages and baptisms of some who subsequently appear at Conewago are recorded in the books of the Reformed Dutch Church of Schraalenburgh, NJ, up to that year.
"Chief among these is a bundle of tattered and age-stained leaves from the Baptismal Record of the Reformed Dutch Church of Conewago, beginning, it appears, with its organization and covering the best period of the continuance of the colony in Pennsylvania...The record had been handed down from Peter Montfort, one of the colonists, to his great-grandson, Francis. Francis had given it to his grand-nephew, Dr. J. G. Montfort,...of whom I shall now say that he has had the kindness to make a present of it to me. I hope to have the honor of securing, in due time, a final resting place for it in the archives of the Historical Society at Harrisburg.

"In addition to the Baptismal Record...several other papers {are found}, among the most interesting of which are a draft of the church, showing the location of the seats, the pulpit, and some of the church furniture and also a handful of fringed and yellow leaves from the Deacon’s book, showing collections and expenditures.

"The Baptismal Record of the church begins its entries with October 23, 1769. There is nothing to show or even make it probable that the church had an existence before that date.  The first baptism recorded is that of Antje, a daughter of _____ Ammerman and _____ Van Arsdalen (from this entry, unfortunately the Christian names are torn away). The Dutch were commendably methodical and careful with their records--a habit which is still a characteristic of the denomination. One of their churches in Bergen County, a church with which the Conewago Colony stands in some relation, has been to publish its list of communicants, with scarcely a break from the year of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes to the present. Probably the fact that on the continent of Europe down to the close of the eighteenth century, vital statistics--even for the use of the state--were generally obtained from the church, so that the church was depended on for them, impressed this valuable habit on the French and Dutch. 
"In the Fall of 1772, the Conewago congregation secured a pastor of their own, Rev. Cornelius Cosine. Dr. E. T. Corwin, in his Manual of the Reformed Church in America, says of him only that he was a pastor of the Conewago Church from 1784 to 1788. But, in the baptismal record, I find the sacrament was administered by him at stated times beginning October 11, 1772 and continuing until 1788. The fact of his death in that year or in the next I discovered from an examination of some papers at York. Nothing can be said as to where he obtained his education or by whom he was ordained. His wife, Maria Brewer, was the daughter of one of the colonists. She, upon his death went to Haverstraw, NY, where she married David S. Demarest, of Hackensack, NJ.

"Rev. Cosine was succeeded by Rev. George G. Brinkerhoff, who entered on his work in November 1789. So it appears in the Minutes of the General Synod: "The Licentiate Georgius G. Brinkerhoff presented a call made upon him by the congregation of Conewago, and at the request of that congregation and on account of the distance, this Reverand Body solemnly ordained Mr. Brinkerhoff to his office here in the Reformed Dutch Church." That session of the General Synod was held in New York, October 1789. And with this, minutes of the Baptismal Record correspond. No child was baptized from October 1787 to November 1789, at which time we find the first mention of Rev. George G. Brinkerhoff: "Volent Dee Minister of Conewago."
Rev. George G. Brinkerhoff was born in Closter, Bergen Co., NJ, in 1751. He must have been one of the first admitted to the ministry of the Reformed Dutch Church without credentials from beyond the sea. He was prepared for his calling in part at Pompton Plains, NJ, by Rev. Hermanus Meyer, a German, a graduate of Greeningen University, and in part at Hackensack, NJ, by Rev. Solomon Froelich and Rev. Theodore Romeyn.
"Before coming to Conewago, Mr. Brinkerhoff was what we should now call a "Home Missionary," having been sent by the General Synod "to the North"...to the early settlers in the northern counties of New York State. On leaving Conewago, he returned to Bergen County, NJ, and accepted a call to two churches, Kakiat (now New Hempstead) and Ramapo. To these, he ministered from 1793 to 1806. In 1796 he was borrowed, so to speak, from his churches for a year and sent as a missionary to Gennessee County, NY. In 1798, he came once more to Conewago to visit the congregation with which he had formerly so close a relation. In 1808, he became the pastor of a church at Sempronius, near Owasco Lake, NY. During this, his last pastorate, his health failed and, in 1813, he died at Sempronius.

"In Corwin's Manual, I find it said of Mr. Brinkerhoff that he was "mild and gentle in his temper, firm and resolute in his opinions and purposes." He was converted early in life, and his "spiritual exercises were deep and earnest." His last words were: "Why tarry the charriot wheels so long, oh, Lord?"

"These two pastors, Cornelius Cosine and George G. Brinkerhoff, were all the Conewago Church ever had. Mr. Brinkerhoff resigned in November 1793, on account of the breaking up of his congregation."
A long section of this manuscript gives a vivid description of the Conewago Colony and what the daily life of those early Dutch settlers must have been like. 
Dutch family at home
"Having at my hand the plan of the Conewago Church, with the seats all marked, each with the name of its occupant--I am sorry the paper is not dated, but judging from the names it bears, I shall not be far wrong if I assign it to 1780--I am able to form some definite idea of the community as it appeared on a Sabbath morning, that is to say, of the community as a whole. No better time could be chosen to take a view of this group, for nothing so certainly as a church service would bring them all together.

"Through the six secular days of the week, the good Dutch wives must milk the cows, bake bread, pies and cakes - savory pies I warrant, happily they were not much addicted to cakes, except to a certain form of doughnut, which, however, might well suffice - mind the children and sweep the house, only relieving their monotonous existence by occasionally going to a neighbors to "spend the day." 

"The men, it is likely, gathered in small groups on wet days around Van Arsdale’s charcoal fire, or at the carpenter’s shop, where Demaree and his boys were usually working, and most frequently at "the store"...where absolutely everything was exposed for sale, notwithstanding the stock was small, from books, for which, except prophetic almanacs, there was little or no demand, down through dry goods, boots and shoes, hardware, groceries, all the way to patent medicines--the horse powders and pain killers of the last century....

"The Dutch boys and girls were notoriously good. The young women behaved with a propriety which added a charm to the freshness and rosiness of their cheeks. And the elderly people in a Dutch community are always, as the world knows, very patterns of Sobriety and dignity. So, with occasional frolic and with much discussion of political and not infrequently religious subjects, fore-ordination and other strong meat of Calvinism being the most acceptable--discussions never resulting in a conversion, for generally all were agreed at the start, and happily the majority of the Dutch are born into the world with the right views, also there would be little hope for them--their hours of idleness and weekly congregation passed away.

"But only at the church...could you see the whole community. There they are, male and female, old and young, rich and poor, all who are not actually disabled, dressed in their best, and with that guarded and reverential demeanor, which is a true mark of refinement and nobility of spirit.

"Let us glance at the church. Unlike the Scotch-Irish, the Dutch had too much consideration for their personal comfort to dispense with stoves: a stove therefore is to be found on either side of the main entrance. The pulpit, very high, a wine glass in shape is opposite the door. There is a broad middle aisle, and there are two narrow ones at the side walls. Extending completely around the church is a continuous bench. The space before the pulpit is ample for the communion service, held once in three months, for the performance of the marriage ceremony, which, however, rarely took place at the church, and for baptismal administration, which were required with a frequency which now in Adams County we should consider extraordinary.

Dutch Church Interior
"As I look in the door, careful that there shall not be even the sound of a footfall--for the silence is absolute, most impressive, the ministers subdued solemn tone, unaccompanied with any demonstrativeness of manner, alone breaking it--I see the backs of a goodly number of thoughtful, earnest and saintly people...as worthy as any who have ever walked in this world.

"To my right, and nearest me--that ancient paper points out--sit the Brinkerhoffs; in front of them are the Demarees; and still beyond are the Van Arsdales and Conovers. On my left, I see the Cassats sitting about opposite the Montforts. The Van Dykes are far forewardon the same side, near the pulpit. The Bantas are, the most of them, in the corner of the church at the minister’s right--a quarter avoided now, but then, considered a 'high seat in the synagogue.'

"So, there they sit, these Elders. I believe I can portray them, though I have never seen them, you may be sure, nor ever heard them described. But they are the marked men in the community to which they belong, and the typical marked man in a Dutch community, a hundred years ago, was tall and spare. He had a face long from the hairline to the chin, clean shaven with strong, rather severe features, thin tight lips, blue eyes, and complexion inclined to sallow. His appearance was such, as you see him sitting in the Elders or the Deacons seat, you could not but think, if at any time you had business with him, he might have to be addressed twice before he would attend, you should probably find him absent-minded, but always a man of thought, a man of principle, a man of God.

"I am sorry I have not been able, at least as yet, to recover the names of any of the Elders of the Conewago Church. I am confident, however, but let the reader bear in mind that in this I speak without documentary evidence that Francis Cassatt, Peter Montfort, Jacob Brinkerhoff and David Demaree must have been among them.

"The names of some of the Deacons I can give from the still extant pages of their book. I should have said, there is rotation in the office of both Elder and Deacon in the Reformed Dutch Church. The following names I find: David Cossart, Garret Van Arsdalen, John Van Dyck, Henry Commingore, Isaac Van Arsdalen, Luke Brinkerhoff, John Cownover, Thomas Johnson and Ralph Brinkerhoff.

"The Dutch families emigrated from Adams County--or York County, as it was called until 1800--in two directions, westward and northward. The earliest removals were to Kentucky in 1781, to White Oak Spring Station on the Kentucky River, one mile above Boonesborough. Among the emigrants were Henry Banta, Sr.; Henry Banta Jr.; Abraham and John Banta; Samuel, Peter, Daniel, Henry, and Albert Duryee; Peter Cosart or Cozad, (Cassat); Frederick Ripperdam; and John Fleuty, (Yeury).

"The second, that to New York and the North in 1793, had a more immediate effect on those that remained behind. The departure in a body of the north-bound emigrants, all men of character--and at a time when the colony had already been so much weakened by removals--was a complete discouragement.
"The traditions of the emigration northward are...more numerous and better preserved, than those of the earlier...and more distant removal. On the records of the South (Dutch) Reformed Church of Schraalenberg,  H.J.ff (sic) is the marriage of "Lucas Demaree, of Conowago" dated August 26, 1789, and "Polly Demaree of Schraalenburg." Their names occur on the records of the Conewago Church, where they had a child baptized January 20, 1793.

"The circumstances under which the journey to the lakes was made are worthy of notice. The Aborigines of the North..possessed more vigor than those of the South. From 1755 to 1794, the most powerful confederacy of Indians in America was that of the Six Nations, who occupied what is now Ohio, together with large portions of northern Pennsylvania and western New York.

"The Massacre of Wyoming--of bitter memory--was by the Six Nations at the instigation of the Tories in 1778. Successes against this confederacy were few and of small consequence until after the massacre just named. That awakened a wide spread and fierce indignation, which could be satisfied only with such a penalty as was inflicted on the Indians by General Sullivan. He fought the bloody battle of Chemung about where the city of Elmira now stands in 1779 and, at the time, burned nearly 50 of their villages in the Genessee Valley. But not until the famous, crushing victory of General Wayne, Mad Anthony as the people called him, at the Maumee in 1794 was the Red Man’s power even so far east as the Susquehanna finally and forever destroyed.

"These two victories made the country about the lakes of New York safe and hardly was the way to it opened before some adventurous spirits of the Conewago Colony hastened to make use of it. They were among the very first to seek homes in that direction and the eventful century which has now almost intervened between us and them....

"The story of the emigration northward, along rivers and through forests to the lakes {was} told in a letter written by Mr. John Brinkerhoff, of Auburn, Cayuga County, NY...to his cousin Mr. J.G. Brinkerhoff of Hunterstown, PA:

Auburn, Cayuga Co., N.Y., Jan. 7, 1883

My dear Cousin:

I have always understood that we are descended from the family at Hackensack, N.J. I visited there in the summer of 1844, on the same farm which our ancestor Hendrick settled in 1660. It has been owned and occupied by his descendants ever since. 

You ask, can I give you the time when my father, with others, moved from your county to New York State. My father and mother, with seven children, my uncle Roeleff and my aunt Isabel with eight children and eight families besides which I do not know how many children, left Gettysburg April 30, 1793 and reached this county (Cayuga, N.Y.) July 4th of the same year, having been two months and four days on the way. 
I have often heard my parents and others tell the story of their long journey. The State of Pennsylvania had been engaged for some time opening a road through the wilderness to what is called the Gennessee Country, N.Y., and gangs of men were still working on different sections of it. Of course the road was rough, stumps of trees were still standing, and now and then a corduroy bridge over a swampy place. They came with tented wagons. Their progress was necessarily very slow. Sometimes they would reach the end of the road, that is they would come up with a company of men who had not finished their section, and they would send a few of their own men forward with axes to help through to the nest section. 
I assure you, they found no commodious hotels; but every settler who had so much as a log house would take in as many as his house would hold, the women and children sleeping on beds that would cover the floor, the men remaining in their tents. When night overtook them and no house was in sight, as often happened, the women would sleep in the wagons, and the men on the ground under the wagons. 
When they reached the place where the Chemung joins the Susquahanna, they were detained about two weeks on account of high water. From there they came to the Cayuga flats, where the village of Ithaca now stands, and afterwards still futher (sic) northward to this country. I do not remember having mention of a single case of sickness during all their journey.

Your affectionate cousin

John I. Brinkerhoff 

A second letter is as follows:

Auburn, N.Y., Sept. 28, 1885

Re. J.K. Demarest

Dear Sir:

You ask for further information in regard to the ten families who left Gettysburg April 30, 1793. They reached this country ten years before I was born. I have no written record of their names, but have often heard them mentioned. The male heads of the families were; my father Jacob Brinkerhoff, his brother Roeleff (Ralph) Brinkerhoff, Thomas Johnson, Abraham Bodine, Charles VanDine, Luke Brinkerhoff, James Dates, Isaac Parsell, Jacob Loyster, and Andrew Johnson. These ten families came in company. 

On reaching the south end of our country they found some cleared land or Indian fields. Here they concluded to stop and put some cabins for shelter. Having sowed some seed they took time to explore the country and decide where to make a permanent settlement. After two years, they purchased lands near the foot of Owasco Lake and got possession in the Spring of 1795. 
They organized a religious society in the same year in connection with the Reformed Dutch Church, and met for worship in their log cabins. But soon new settlers came in rapidly, and the summer of 1797 they built the first church edifice in the county. It was of logs 30’x 25’ with gallery on three sides. It continued in use until 1815, when it gave place to a larger and better. 
I should have said my uncle James Brinkerhoff, with his family came here from Adams County after the rest. I think in 1796, you ask if I can tell you anything of an emigration from Adams County to Kentucky. I can only say that I have often heard from my parents that several of their neighbors went to Kentucky about the same time they came here---I can only add that I am in my 81st year. I have reason to be thankful; my health is still good. Of course I cannot expect to remain long but I trust through Divine Grace to be prepared when I shall be called away.

Respectfully yours 

(signed) John Brinkerhoff

"As we have seen, it was to their church which had hardly more than entered on its existence the beginning of the end: the last pastor, Rev. George G. Brinkerhoff, resigning. From that time forth, the few Dutch families still on this ground ceased to keep themselves separate, and through intermarriage and various changes, became at last absorbed in the general population of the country."

1 comment:

  1. Hi Maddie .... I am one of your distant Low Dutch Cousin's ..... I just your fabulous work tonight! I have written two volumes (400 pages) tracing all the maternal lines branching off my Van Arsdale and Demaree lines; i'd love to connect up on this --- FABULOUS WORK, MADDIE!!!