The Reformed Dutch Churches of Paterson
By William H. Rauchfuss
One Hundred Years Ago
Our Reformed Churches
In 1735 the church members in the neighborhood mentioned appeared to have secured leave to erect a church edifice on land belonging to Henry Brockhost of Pompton, the lots being situated on what is now Water Street near Matlock Street; that is, about one hundred feet near this.
It was a quaint stone building, the roof rising steeply from all four sides to a point in the center, whereon was perched a square cupola, this being in turn surmounted by a gilded weathercock.
Both churches were under the one pastorate, but in 1756 the Rev. Dominie Marinus came. He preached half the time at Acquackanonk for which Acquackanonk was to pay him $48 and each of the other places $29, besides house, barn, well, garden, and six acres of land near the Acquackanonk Church, probably the parsonage of the first church at Acquackanonk. Previous to this time Marinus had lived on what is now Totowa Avenue near Jasper Street.
Building of the Church
Although the church was erected in 1755, it was not until 1762 that the trustees got a deed for the property from Henry Brockholst, the only consideration being “the good will I owe and the regard I have for the progress of the Christian religious, and especially the Manner of worship of the low Dutch Reformed Church of Holland,” and in consideration of four seats in pew number 1; by the way, has always been reserved for the accommodation of Mr. Brockholst and his legal representatives in the three different edifices in which the congregation has worshipped in the last one hundred and fifty years but not within the memory of man has it been occupied by any of its rightful owners.
The trustees of the church to whom the deed was made out, were: Cornelius Kip, Robert Van Houten, Cornelius Westervelt, Johannis Van Blarcom and Cornelius Gerritse.
The lot was an acre in extent: about 1795 a plot on the southwest side of Water Street was added for a burying-ground, wherein at one time laid the ashes of many of Paterson’s best citizens.
This old church was burned through an accident March 27th, 1827. However, I would have more to say about the old “Town Clock Church” an offspring of the First Dutch Church of Totowa.
The Old Town Clock Church
There was a strenuous opposition to the removal of the church from its ancient site, but on June 23, the male members of the congregation voted, twenty to eighteen, to build at the corner of Ellison and Hamilton Streets. Whereupon the dissatisfied members decided to withdraw and organize a new church. This embarrassed the others for a while, but on November 12th, 1827, the old congregation voted to build on Main Street near Ellison, and in February 1828, gave out a contract to Peter A. Merselis for the carpenter work for $2,400, and decided to have the masonry done by day’s work..
On March 15th, 1829, the new church was opened and dedicated by Rev. Mr.. Eltinge, who preached from Psalm 84:1: “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts!” The next day pews were sold to the amount of $8,000. The site of the old church on Water Street was disposed of, but the old burying-ground was not, and unfortunately it was sadly neglected, so that for many years it was an eyesore. Dominie Eltinge remained with the Totowa Church until December 10th, 1822, when he withdrew, and thereafter devoted his time to the Paramus Church until his death in 1862, having been pastor for Paramus for fifty-one years.
He was succeeded in the church at Paterson by the Rev. John C. Vandervoort, who remained from 1834 to 1837, when he was called to Kinderhook, N.Y. He was greatly esteemed, and gratifyingly successful while in Paterson.
The Rev. Ebenezer Wiggins, who had just been graduated from the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, was called to Paterson in 1837, and remained here for nineteen years. He was of the straightest sect of orthodox preachers, and therein was highly acceptable to the old people
His successor was Rev. Philip Pelts, who came here in 1857, and labored with excellent success for three years, when he was chosen corresponding secretary of the Foreign Mission of the denomination.
In the summer of 1860 the Rev. Alexander McKelvey was called, who remained until 1865, and soon after went to Coxachie, N.Y.
The next pastor was the Rev. John Steele, who was called in the fall of the same year, and who for twelve years filled the pulpit to the entire satisfaction of the congregation. It was during his ministry that fire for the second time visited the society, and on the night of December 14th, 1871, once more destroyed their place of worship.
The Division Street Church
There was a commodious lecture-room and Sunday School building on the corner of Main and Ellison Streets, which was raised by the new owner and converted into a fine house.
Dr. Steele having accepted a call to Cohoes, N.U., with the utmost reluctance the congregation agreed on June 25th, 1877, to the dissolution of the pastoral relations. The pulpit was vacant until 1879, when the Rev. A. a. Raymond, a young man of marked eloquence, was called, who filed it acceptably until the spring of 1881, when he accepted a call to Plainfield, N.J.
The Rev. J. Le Moyne Danner was installed as pastor November lst, 1881. About one hundred fifty members were enrolled at that time. The Rev. Thomas Powel Vernol came next, and he did excellent work there for a long time. He was succeeded by the Rev. Simon Blocker.
The Second Dutch Reformed Church
The new society at once set about the erection of a suitable place of worship at the northwest corner of Water and Temple Streets, which was opened Sunday, June 8th, 1821, the Rev. Jacob T. Field having been called from Pompton to the pastorate in the preceding April. There were forty-eight members in the congregation, and they worshipped meantime in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. The ministers who succeeded Mr. Field were the Rev. Isaac Cole in 1822; the Rev. John Liddell 1824; the Rev. John H. Duryea, who came to the pulpit of this church in February 1839.
The Rev. John H. Duryea served his people for a lifetime, and was for years the patriarch among the Paterson clergy, none being more generally esteemed and loved than he. During his pastorate the church grew and succeeded in every way.
Those who followed were the Revs. Miliken, Theodore Welles, W. H. Mains, William Lonsdale and the present pastor, H. Sluyter.
The Broadway Reformed Church
The expectation was that a fine church edifice would be built in a few years immediately adjoining the chapel on the west, but unforeseen circumstances prevented that for some years.
Mr. Holloway was succeeded in 1872 by the Rev. William H. Clark, who soon became one of the best known and generally liked pastors in this city. His departure in the summer of 1881 for a field that promised greater results in the future was deeply regretted in Paterson.
The Rev. Nathaniel Hicks Van Arsdale was installed as his successor on November 5, 1881. The church was successful under him. Its growth was at one time hampered by the location in the immediate neighborhood of the First Church. His successors were the Rev. E. W. Thompson, George H. Payson, James Martin and Simon Blocker.
In 1883 the present fine church building was erected which has served until very recently, when the members affiliated with the other branch of the family. And the two are called the Central Reformed Church
Church of the Covenant
It was the late Peter Quackenbush who had the idea deep down in his heart and he was the chief among them interested, giving of his time, money and prayers. And he had the honor of naming the church, it was said.
The Rev. Dr. William H. Vroom had charge of the preaching; later a student supply. Mr. Putnam officiated; after him the Rev. J. Collins Caton was called and he preached there until the World War, when he left for “over there.” Rev. F. J. Shields was the assistant pastor there for a while, then came the Rev. Ferdinand Wilson, who is still there. The church is in a thriving condition, spiritually, financially and socially. They recently dedicated a bronze war tablet to their boys of the church who went to war; a new organ was installed last year; and $18,000 was raised.
The Riverside Reformed Church
Other Reformed Churches
The Union Reformed, whose pastor died recently.
People Park; pastor, the Rev. Titis Hager.
The First Reformed on North First Street; pastor, Rev. A. W. De Jone.
The North Paterson Reformed, whose pastor is the Rev. Elias Van Arsdale.
Copyright © 2001-2009 Passaic County Historical Society