J. McClusky Blayney.

History of the First Presbyterian church of Albany, N.Y.; lists of its officers, and a complete catalogue of its members from its organization online

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Online LibraryJ. McClusky BlayneyHistory of the First Presbyterian church of Albany, N.Y.; lists of its officers, and a complete catalogue of its members from its organization → online text (page 1 of 7)
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First Presbyterian Cliurch of Albany, N. Y.









1877. y




R 1909 L

[HE substanot' of tliis skctcli was dclivorod to the
congregation in a couple of discourses on Salihath,
the 25th of October, 187G, being theseventli anni-
versary of the pastor's instaUation. Its pul)lication lias been
delayed several months, in hopes that the Records of the old
Dutchess County Presbytery might be obtained, which would
doubtless furnish some facts concerning the organization of
the church nowhere else to be had. They were in posses-
sion of Dr. Johnston of Newburg, and his daughter writes
that at his death abont twenty years ago all Presbyterial
documents were passed into the hands of the Stated Clerk of
the North River Presbytery. Since that time no trace of
them appears. This fact is put on record for the beneiit of
any future historian of the church.
Albany, February 2od, 1877.



FIRST PPvESB YTE K L V \ C 1 1 1 1 a 1 I

Know THEREFORE THAT THE LOKO TIIV (i(»I», IIk is God, TIIK faitii-

ruL God, which keei'ktii covenant and jricucv with tiikm that


TiONS. Deut. 1: d.

HE faithfulness of our covenant keepiiiL^ dod is strik-
ingly illustraied in the lii.storv of every individual
church. The estabhshnient of a cluiicli in any
community is the working of God's providence tliere accom-
plishing the dechiration, "I will make known my words unto
you." Every soul added to any cliiircli tVom vcar to year,
and generation to generation, is in renu'inhruncr iA' the
Father's great covenant with the Son, '• A seed shall serve
him," ''Thy seed will I establish forever, and huikl thy
throne to all generations. Selah." God's care of all the
cono-regations of his people wlu>n they an- weak, ami in
times of trouble, and when errors abouml. is tiie fuliilling of
the promise concerning the church that - the gates of liell


shall not prevail against it." It is good for us, therefore, to
" remember the days of old," and " consider the years of
many generations," that we may behold in God's gracious
dealings with our fathers His never failing faithfulness to
his covenant engagements with His Son and His church.
In this spirit, let us to-day glance at the history of our own
church, and recall the way in which God has cared for it, and
led it on from the feeblest beginnings, building it up and mak-
ing it strong, until it has become the venerable parent of
churches in this community.

The city of Albany dates the beginning of its history back
to the 3'ear 1611 or 12,^ and next to Jamestown is the oldest
settlement in the United States. Its first settlers were Hol-
land traders, and for many years, indeed up to 1630, it
continued to be little more than a trading post of the Dutch
West India Company, named Fort Orange after the Pi'ince of
Orange, who at that time presided over the New Nether-
lands, — as the Dutch possessions of America were then
called. In 1629, a new charter was granted to this company
to encourage the settling of colonies in the New Netherlands,
ceding large tracts of land to any of its members who within
four years would plant a colony of fifty souls, and giving them
almost imperial authority over such colonies under the title

of" Patroon." The only condition required by this charter,

' Mather and BrockeWs Geography of JV. Y.

c c

< c

. t t


in order to the absolute acquisition of these hinds, was that
they should be purchased from the Indians, which usually
was done with but a few trinkets. Under the operation of
this charter, several of the members of the company hastened
to become " Patroons of New Netherland." Among this
number was Kilaen Van Rensselaer, a wealthy and enter-
prising pearl merchant of Amsterdam, and one of the
"Lords Directors" of the company. " In the year 1630, he,
through his agents, purchased a large tract of land on the
Hudson river comprising the greater part of this and several
adjacent counties, and the same year sent over a colony to
settle it; and thus by the terms of the charter became
" Patroon." This settlement was henceforth known by
the name of Rensselaerswyck, and the hamlet which was
gathered on the site of Albany, was called Beaverwyck.
Thus the infant city of Albany, and all the surrounding
territory, became the private property of one of the directors
of the Dutch West India Company ; which fact, to a great
extent, determined both the civil and religious history of the
settlement for well nigh a century.

In the year 1642,^ the Patroon sent over, at his own ex-
pense, the first Christian minister of the colony of whom any-
thing is certainly known, the Rev. Johannes Megapolensis,
a member of the Dutch Classis of Alkmaar, who the next

1 MunselVs Annals.


year oriianized a Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, which
is now the laro-e and influential First Reformed Church of
this city. Being the only congregation of the colony, it was
largely maintained from the public revenues, and even after
the British government acquired the possession of the New
Netherlands, public aid was allowed. After the incorporation
of the city in 1686, a grant of one hundred and fifty acres of
land lying westward was made to that church; and, as late
as the 3"ear 1786, an application was made for an additional
grant of two hundred and thirty-seven acres. This seems
to have been the occasion of a petition of the members of
our own church, which I find recorded on the first page of
the Book of Minutes of the Board of Trustees, asking for a
similar grant. From the wording of this petition of the
Presbyterians however, it would appear that it was designed
more to put a stop to such grants of the public domain to
particular denominations of Christians than to secure any-
thing for themselves. And possibly it is owing to this peti-
tion, or protest in effect, that we have not here now a
great religious corporation, owning a large proportion of the
ground covered by the present city.

Having for many years a monopoly of the religious privi-
leges of the settlement, the Dutch Church was slow to re-
cognize the rights of other Christian denominations. The
first of these, which claimed the right to exist here along


side of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Churcli, was the

At a \ery early period, tiiere seems to liave been a con-
siderable element of this persuasion among the settlers of the
colonj' ; but in all their attempts to organize a church of their
own iaith, they encountered the determined o{)position of the
dominant church pJirty. At first they were allowed no
privileges whatever. Parents were compelled to have their
children baptized in the Dutch Church, and declare their
belief in the doctrines of the Sjnod of Dort, contrary- to
their convictions. They were " permitted to worship in
their own houses,"^ although denied the privilege of assem-
bling in a public waj-. In the year 1G64, the province of the
New Netherlands came into the possession of the English
government, and British rule brought in with it full permis-
sion for the Lutherans to worship according to their own
predilections, — a proclamation to this effect having been
issued by Gov. Lovelace, Oct. 13, 1CG9. Sometime within
the next ten years, the congregation of the Lutherans was
organized (the precise date of which is not known), and it
has continued with interruptions to the present time, — the
Evangelical Lutheran Church on Pine street being its out-

I have already mentioned that in 16G4 the Dutch territory
^ MunseWs Annals. 2


of America passed into the hands of the English. The name
of Beaverwyck was then changed to that of Albany, that
beins; one of the titles of the Duke of York for whom the state
was called. With the change of government, the English
element was introduced into the little community. Early in
the next century, the place was first visited by missionaries of
the Church of England sent out to the Indians by the Society
for the Propagation of the Gospel. In the year 1708, there
was a chaplain of the Church of England at the fort who
conducted the ser-vices in the Dutch language, showing that
as 3'et there was a very small element of English speaking
people in the place. For seven years this congregation met
in a small Lutheran chapel, and in November 1716 the first
English church was opened for service. Soon after this the
Society for the Propagation of the Gospel withdrew its sup-
port, and the church ceased to have a minister till 1728.-^
This organization has its development in the venerable St.
Peter's Church on State street.

The next church organized in this city was the First
Presbyterian, known for many years as the " Presbyterian
Cliurch in the city of Albany."

I have thought fit thus to advert to the settlement of
the city, and the organization of its churches hitherto, in
order to sliow the religious condition of the community

' MunselPs Annals.


when Presbyterianism was introduced; and especiall}^ to
acconnt for what seems to some a remarkable fact, tliat,
although Albany is the second (jldest settlement in the
country, and long one of the most important, no Presbyterian
church should have been established here for so long a time
after Presbyterianism had gained a foothold in other parts
of the land. It thus a[)pears ; that this was peculiarly a
Dutch settlement, and had an established church of its own ;
that about half a century after the conquest of the colony hy
the English, there were not even then enough English speak-
ing people here to justify the chaplain in the fort in con-
ducting the services in the English tongue. Indeed, up to
the year 1776, there had not been an English sermon preached
in the Reformed Church, and not till 1782, were the services
of that church conducted in English.^ The settlement was
almost as thoroughly Dutch as Holland itself, and the people
were well nigh as universally identified with the Dutch
Church as in the mother country. The small English
element, which came in with the new government was of
course as naturally allied to the Church of England. But
now a new religious element is introduced into the commun-
ity. During the French war, which continued from 1751 to
17G0, several families from the north of Ireland settled here,
who had been trained up in the principles of the Church of
' MunseWs Annals.


Scotland. These brought with them then- attachment to .
their church and soon sought to have its worship established
among them.

The exact date and circumstances of the organization of
the Presbyterian Church in this city, I have not been able to
ascertain. The earliest mention I have found of Presbyte-
rianism in Albany, is in the Minutes of the Synod of New
York and Philadelphia, which, before the organization of the
General x\ssembly, was the highest judicatory of the Pres-
byterian Church. And to the fact, that the Synod then ex-
ercised many of the functions now regarded as belonging
exclusively to the Presbyteries, we are indebted for this inci-
dental notice of how Presbyterian ism here struggled into life.
In the records of that Synod, sitting in Philadelphia May 26,
17G0, is found this minute — ''A very pressing application
being made by the English Presbyterian gentlemen of Albany
for supplies, the Synod appointed Mr. Hector Alison to sup-
ply them till the second Sabbath of July, if it suits his con-
venience." Also, at the same session, Revs. Andrew Bay,
Wm. Tennant, Kettletas, Woodruff, Smith and Richards,
were appointed to supply at Albany on subsequent Sabbaths.
The following year, these appointments were reported as
having been fulfilled. The Rev. Hector Alison, therefore,
was the first Presbyterian minister, of whom we have any
information, that ever visited Albany : the time of his visit


was June and 'Ju\y of 1700. Tn nil tlic puMislicd iK)tico.s
I have ever seen of the organization ol" this cliurch, it is
uniformly set down as having occurred in the year 1763,
But this is probably a mistake ; and has grown out of the
fact, that in October of that year, a deed was executed by
the corporation of the city to John Macomb, David Edgar,
Samuel Ilolhiday, Robert Henry, Abraham Lyle, and John
Munro, as trustees of the Presbyterian congregation of Al-
bany, for a lot of ground on which to build a house of worship.

The organization of the chui'ch, however, was probably ef-
fected a year or more earlier. Among some old files of papers,
belonging to the Presbytery of Albany, and preserved in the
fire proof building of Union College, I found a brief manu-
script sketch of the history of this cliurch, which was pre-
pared by the Rev. John McDonjUd, the first pastor of the
church after the revolution, and reported to Presbytery in
1793. In this sketch it is stated, that the Presbyterian
families in Albany, "in 1762, associated themselves into a
religious society and solicited subscriptions for building a
church." It would therefore appear; that from June 1760,
there was preaching here by supplies appointed by Synod ;
and, that in l762, organization of some sort was effected, al-
though, as the church had as yet no Presbyterial connection,
that organization was not perfect as we now understand it.

The first Presbyterial relation of this church was with


the Dutchess Count}' Presbytery ; which was informally or-
ganized in October of 1762, and in the spring of 1763, was
recognized by Synod. Webster, in his history of the Pres-
byterian Church, refers to the manuscript Minutes of
the Presbyter^', and says that soon after its organization,
"they received the church in Albany under their care
with its minister William Hanna." But the reference
of this quotation is so vague, it is of no special value
in determining the exact date of the first connection of this
church with Presbytery. It serves, however to indicate that
somewhere about the latter part of 1762 or the early part
of 1763, this church came into Presbyterial relations. In
Ma}^, 1775, the church petitioned Synod to be transferred
from the Dutchess County Presbytery to the Presbytery of
New York ; which request was granted, and its connection
continued to be with the New York Presbytery till the erec-
tion of the Presbj'tery of Albany in 1790.


j iil.b£,JS FOVtiD/^.

(9) BLA7NEY.




1 Rev. William IIanna.

T is uiiifonnly stated tliat tlio Rev. Williajii Ilaima
was the firsty^rt-s/or (tftliis cliurcli. John McDoiimM,
in his sketcli to Presbytery in 1793, states tiiat
" William Hanna, a candidate for the Gospel ministry,
received a call from the congregation, and was ordained and
installed their pastor." Bnt this must be a mistake. The
name of William IIanna never appears in tlie roll of the
ministers of the Presbyterian church excepting in connec-
tion with the Dutchess County Presbytery ; and that he was
not ordained by that Presbytery, is evident from a minute I
find in the Records of the Synod for 17G<i. It is as fol-
lows : — '• The Dutchess County Presbyteiy reported tiiat
since their organization they had received Into flieir number
William IIanna and Mr. Duiilap, ordained Mr. Wheekr
Case, and licensed John Clove." Mr. IIanna, therefore,
was not ordained by that Presbytery, or the fact would
have been so reported along with that of the onliiiation
of Mr. Case; but he was "received" into Presbytery as
a regularly ordained minister from some other body.
And, that he was never regularly installed pastor of the


church is shown by the fact, that no report of his installa-
tion was ever made by Presbj^ter^ to Synod according to
the custom of the times. He, however, exercised all the
functions of the pastoral office during his stay among this
people, which lasted about two years. It was during his
ministry the first house of worship was built. Soon after the
termination of his connection with this church his labors as a
Gospel minister seem to have ended. -^

2. Eev. Andrew Bay.

The name of Andrew Bay first appears in the roll of Pres-
byterian ministers, in connection with the Synod of New
York in 1748. He had, therefore, been about twenty years
in the exercise of his ministry in connection with the Pres-
byterian church in this country, before coming to this city.
For several years after the removal of Mr. Hanna, the church
was left without the stated ministry of the word — the Synod
in response to applications from the church, sending them
occasional supplies. In 1767, it was reported to Synod that
many vacancies existed in the neighborhood of Albany ; and
Mr. Kennedy was appointed " missionary in those parts."
Dr. Ptodgers, also, in response to a request from Albany, was
appointed to take a journey " to Albany and adjacent
places" and supply. In 1768, the Synod appointed Mr.

' Jliniites of Synod of New York and Philadelphia for 1768.


Bay, a member of the New Castle Prcsljytery in IV-nnsyl-
vania, — who had previously been j^jpoiiited to make long
missionary tours throuiih Virginia, th(! Tarolinas, and
Georgia — to make a journey to the northward and "sup-
ply vacancies above the city of Albany for six Sal)haths."
It was probably during this missionarj' tour in the summer
of 18G8, that Andrew Bay visited the Albany churoh, then
vacant, and began his ministry in this place. The next
I can find of him, he appears in Synod at Piiiladelphia
in 1770 "from the church of Albany with his elder Robert
Henry." The church at this time made to Synod a state-
ment of their financial distress, and asked to be recommended
to the churches for help; which was done.

Mr. Bay continued his labors here for about five years ;
but he was never regularly installed pastor of the church, as
is generally stated, because at no time did he become a mem-
ber of the Presbytery to which this church at that time
belonged. After his removal from Albany, he labored some
years with the church at Newtown within the bounds of the
Presbytery of New York, and in the year 1776, because of a
decision of Synod against him, he solennily announced to
that body his determination to withdraw from their jurisdic-
tion, and his name disappears from the roll of the ministers
of our denomination.

From the departure of Mr. Bay till the close of the revo-



liitionary war, there was no regular minister with this church.
The people were supplied occasion all}^ with preaching by
missionaries journeying in this direction, and by special
appointments of Synod. Although without a pastor, it is
stated upon what I regard as trust-worth v authority, that
the meetings of the congregation for prayer were regularly
maintained during the entire period of the war; and, that it
was the only church in the city whose public services were
not all intermitted. No records of the church were kept
up to this time, or at least none were preserved. -

3. Rev. John McDonald.

The first regularly installed pastor of this church was
the Rev. John McDonald. He was a licentiate of the church
of Scotland, under the care of the Presbytery of New York,
when, on the 12 th of July, 1785, a call from this church was
made for his pastoral services. He w^as ordained to the
Gospel ministry and installed pastor of this people on the
8th of November, 1785. From this time forward the stated
ministry of the Word has been regularly maintained. About
eighteen months after the installation of Mr. McDonald, we
have the first intimation of the size of the church. The first
communion under Mr. McDonald's ministry was on the
15th of April, 1787. The number of communicants, who
partook of the Lord's Supper at that time, was one hundred

and sixteen. Since then the niunhcr of additions to the
church from time to time is re,<rnhirly given, and alter Sep-
tember, 1795, we have the names also.

The relative strength ol' tiie dillerent religious denonuna-
tions of this city, as represented to Presbytery by Mr. Mc-
Donald in 1793, was as follows : — •' Divide the citv into ten
equal parts. Of these the Dutch have at least four parts in
numbers, and in wealth a much greater proportion. The
Presbyterians will hardly claim full three parts in numbers,
and still less in real wealth. Two parts of the inhabitants
will be the full proportion of the Episcopal church; but in
real wealth they will reach higher. The Lutherans, German
Calvinists, and Methodists, will amount to no more than one
of these parts of the inhabitants, but not perhaps near that
proportion of the real wealth of the whole." Thus from this
estimate, it would appear that the Presbyterian church had
already outstripped the Episcopal and Lutheran churches,
which had the start by more than half a century, and was
ftist gaining on the progress of the Dutch Reformed Church
with the advantage of more than a centurv of a start. Li
the year 1790, the Presbytery of Albany was erected by the
decree of Synod, and held its first meeting in this city and
John McDonald was chosen its first Moderator.

The pastorate of Mr. McDonald continued till Septendjer,
1795, when Presbytery dissolved the relation, lie after-

wards preached a number of years in Albany, and gathered
about him the nucleus of what is now the United Presby-
terian Church, on Lancaster street. He died here, Septem-
ber 1st, 1821. He was a man of great power and popularity,
and lived and died with the esteem and affection of a large
circle of friends.

4. Rev. Dayid S. Bogart.

After the retirement of Mr. McDonald, the church was
again for nearly three years without a settled pastor ; although
a portion of this time it enjoyed the stated ministry of Mr.
David S. Bogart, then a licentiate of the Dutch Classis of
New York. All accounts make the period of his labors with
this people about two years, when in reality it was scarcely
one. He was supplying the Presbyterian church of South-
ampton, L. I., when on Sept. 27th, 1796, the call of this
church was made out for his pastoral services, " After much
consideration in his own mind, and consultation with judi-
cious friends,"-^ he concluded to accept this call and remove
to Albany, " where he arrived in the beginning of January,
1797."^ In August, of the same year, not yet having been
installed pastor, he signified to Presbytery his determination
to decline the call of the Albany church, assigning as his
reason in a letter to Presbytery, '' ill health, apprehension of

' Funeral Sermon of Mr. Bogart preached by Dr. DeWitt of N. Y.


inability to discharge the ddtics of the ollicc in such a tnaii-
ner as would be expected ol' him. and changed circuuistance.s
in the congregation." He returned to Soutlianiptoii in De-
cember of the same year he had lelt there.' He continued
in charge of that church for sixteen years, refusing a number
of calls to other places on account of the affection oC his [xo-
ple, and spending a long and most useful lii'e in the service
of that and several other churches in that region. He was
a man of the most scholarly attainments, and popular both
as a preacher and pastor, wherever he labored. He died in
New York, July 10th, 1830, in his seventieth year.

5. Kev. Eliphalet Nott, D.D., LL.D.

In August, 1797, Mr. Nott, a young man and a licentiate
of the Congregational Association of New London, was re-
ceived under the care of Presbytery. For about a year he
preached mostly to tlie congregation of Cherry Valley, occa-
sionally supplying at Albany. The Ibllowing year a call was
made by this church for his pastoral services, and on October
3d, 1798, his installation took place. Standing where we do
to-day — looking back over his spleiulid career as preacher,
educator and philanthropist — the tame of his name still re-
verberating through the land — it may seem strange tons that
any opposition should have been made to his settlement as

' Letter of his daughter.


pastor here. But the fact may here be stated ; because it
can now work no injury to his venerated name fortified
around with the record of his usefuhiess : and especially, be-
cause it serves to illustrate conspicuously how much better
it is for a minority in a church to acquiesce in the decision
of the majority lawfully expressed, accepting it as the will
of the Great Head of the church. The brief pastorate of

1 3 4 5 6 7

Online LibraryJ. McClusky BlayneyHistory of the First Presbyterian church of Albany, N.Y.; lists of its officers, and a complete catalogue of its members from its organization → online text (page 1 of 7)