Built Of Logs, First in 1683,
First Church Of Stone 1717.
Called "Our French Church",
Precursor Reformed Church.
Religion in New Paltz
The original settlers
of New Paltz were French Huguenots who found themselves
living in a totally Dutch colony. The language was
Dutch, the customs were Dutch, the currency was Dutch
and the predominant religion was Dutch Reformed.
In establishing New Paltz
their motive was to create an enclave of purely French
Huguenots free to speak French, worship in their French
religion and raise their children with their French
traditions. They had continuing good relationships
with the Dutch, but they wanted an identity of their
own and the protection that isolation would bring.
The first public structure
they erected was their church. It would have been
located very close to where the current structure
stands and would have been quickly built of logs.
The church would also have served as their school,
the Huguenots believed firmly in the education of
their children, girls as well as boys.
By 1717 they had erected
their "permanent" church of stone. This structure
was not where the current reproduction stands, but
instead was located down on what is now the corner
of Huguenot Street and Front street, where a small
white house is located just a few yards to the north.
In practicing their
religion the Huguenot desired to speak French, yet there
was a complete lack of ordained French speaking ministers
in the colony. The solution was to hold their weekly
worship lead by various members of the community and
special services like baptisms, marriages and funerals
were conducted by a Dutch minister, or Dominie, coming
down from Kingston.
arrangement continued until 1753 when because of the
influx of Dutch speaking parishioners they accepted
having a Dutch minister and switched their services
to the Dutch language.
This may seem a little
odd, changing religions. But it really wasn't. The
beliefs of the Dutch Church are Calvinist as were
the Huguenots, so the change of language was of culture
and tradition, not of religion. The new arrangement
was that they continued as a Huguenot Church being
taught in the Dutch language.
Huguenot use of the original
stone structure lasted until they outgrew it's seating
capacity and in 1773 a new stone church was built
further north on Huguenot Street.
By 1800 they were holding
their services and keeping their records in English.
More importantly, somewhere in there they no longer
considered themselves as following the Huguenot beliefs
but had become Dutch Reformed. Their second stone church
was finally replaced by the new brick edifice in 1839,
the church now standing on Huguenot Street across from
the Abraham Hasbrouck House, the Dutch Reformed Church
of New Paltz. The cornerstone from the second stone
church was built into the base of the south side of
the portico of the new church and is visible there today.
In 1965 the Crispell
Family Association was formed and took upon the task
of reproducing the original stone church. Their Patentee
ancestor had not moved to the New Paltz settlement
so there was no house for them to take on as a project.
The church is a reproduction
of what the church probably looked like on the outside.
There is a contemporary drawing showing the original
church as being a square structure with a hip roof
crowned by a cupola and a door centered on the north
The interior of the
church has been reproduced as it most probably would
have looked. It is very spare with little decoration.
The upright pews would have held about 60 people.
was completed in 1972 after years of painstaking research.
The Crispell Family Association continues to work
with the Huguenot Historical Society in the maintenance
of the church and preservation of the associated graveyard.
Located in the basement of the Walloon Church is the
Huguenot Historical Societies archives. Individuals
can access the archives by contacting the Huguenot
Historical Society with a plan and research justification.
Huguenots - A very brief
The Huguenots of New Paltz
were French Protestants of the Calvinist Sect, Walloons,
from the north of France forced to emigrate by the
persecutions of the Catholic Monarchy. The Protestants
of France had a long and mixed relationship with the
ruling monarchy of France. The pendulum had swung
from intolerance to acceptance and back to intolerance.
Remaining in France threatened their fortunes and
The roots of traces back
to the 13th century and the Waldensians. Through the
ensuing centuries the dissatisfaction with the Catholic
bureaucracy grew until finally Martin Luther nailed
his 95 Thesis on the church door in the early 16th
His ideas spread quickly
through Germany and crossed into France. There Jean
Calvin resonated to the revolutionary concepts and
built his theories of religion which adopted much
of Lather's thoughts as well as expanded beyond them.
Central to his theory,
and our story, was what came to be known as "predestination."
This idea revolved around the belief that the success
of the Holy Commonwealth depended on God's Chosen,
or the Elect. The Elect would know by "manifest signs"
that they were the Chosen of God and could qualify
for Eternal Salvation.
His ideas captured the
French nobility and merchant classes as by achieving
success you proved to be one of the Elect. Unique
to Calvinism, and critically important to our story
and to France, was this draw directly into the monied
and trade classes of France. The flight of the Huguenot
from France dealt a crippling cultural as well as
economic blow to France because their numbers were
made up almost completely of nobility, merchants,
businessmen and tradesmen.
But not being Catholic
in late 16th and into the 18th century France could
prove to be a fatal disease. Very easily. With each
change of monarch or prime minister attitudes of tolerance
would swing from one side to the other.
In our history of New
Paltz the breaking point came in 1643 when Louis XIV
came to power with Cardinal Mazarin as Prime Minister.
In 1648 the Treaty of Westphalia was signed granting
independence and religious freedom to Holland and
giving the lands in the north of France, including
the provinces of Artios, Picardy and French Flanders,
to the Spanish Netherlands.
Now we all know how tolerant
the Spanish Catholics were..., the Huguenots of the
north of France were propelled into exile to save
Thousands fled into the
German Palatine and Dutch Holland where religious
freedom was not a question. The German Palatine actually
incentived the Huguenots to emigrate. From there many
then saw the opportunities of the New World and continued
their journey settling in communities in all the colonies
of America, leaving the intolerance of Europe far
Our particular collection
of Huguenot found themselves in Wiltwyck, a settlement
in the Dutch colony of New Netherlands, arriving as
individuals, not as a group. The Dutch religion and
Huguenot religion were both based on Calvin and his
tenents. So there was happy religious co-existance.
By the time of our band of Huguenots being in Wiltwyck
there were so many Huguenots that official records
were being kept in both Dutch and French.
Despite the religious
similarities between the Dutch and Huguenots there
were many differences between them. Primary among
them was their different motives for being in the
New World. The Dutch were mostly there to get their
hands on and grab the treasures of the colony, make
a fortune so they could return to Holland wealthy
men. The Huguenot had arrived, tho with the idea of
making a success based on their talents and experience
as merchants and business people, primarily as settlers
finding a new place to claim as their own and make
permanent homes for their families.
The final aim of our band
of Patentees was to acknowledge the Dutch, and later
the English, but in New Paltz to create a permanent
refuge where they could retain their language, their
customs and their religion. Until the late 18th century
they succeeded, then disappeared into the larger surrounding