- The story of our history begins in September 1609 with Henrick
Hudson's voyage on the Half Moon in search of a suitable trading
outpost on behalf of the Dutch East India Company.
- The Dutch West Indies Company was set up in 1621 and by 1623
they established Fort Orange as a trading post. The British took
over control in 1664 and renamed the place Albany.
- The perpetual land ownership system of Patroonships was established
by Dutch law in 1629 with the result that Kilean van Rensselaer
purchased almost all of what is now Albany and Rensselaer Counties
from Native Americans to be the "Colonie of Rensselaerwyck".
- The Patroon leased 160 acre tracts of land to immigrant farming
families (tenants). The costs of migration from Europe along with
some agricultural tools and some livestock were the initial
investments by the Patroon. The annual rent to be paid by the
farmers was a portion of the produce grown on the tract.
- Getting from the farm to the only Dutch Church in Albany was quite
an ordeal. Crossing the Hudson River in rowboats, on a small sail
powered ferry, or walking Winter's ice after riding on horse back to
get to the crossing location made for a long journey.
- The first groups of Rensselaer County members discharged from the
First Church in Albany to worship in their own communities were at
Schodack (1756), East Greenbush (1787), and Lansingburgh (1784).
1793-1842 The first 50 Years
- The Memorial Cabinet in the Parlor contains the roster that lists
the 77 founding members of the church (from about 15 families) who
were dismissed from the roster at First Church in Albany in 1793 to
form a church at Wynant's Kill. (Kill means stream in Dutch. Wyant is
the name of a person, Wyant Gerritse Ven Der Poel, who purchased half
an interest in a sawmill where waterfalls supplied power.
- The original church foundation was rock, about 3 feet wide, below
the frost line, with a size of 42 by 45 feet. The
original construction, present to this day, consists of five main
timber framing sections. Skilled craftsmen measured, mortised and
assembled the structure's main beams, which would have been cut,
drawn to the site by oxen or horses, and seasoned for at least a year
prior to being assembled. The closely fitted joints are held
together with stout tapered wood pegs measuring an inch or more in
diameter. Major intersections are braced by thick diagonal beams,
mortised and pegged into place. Sawmill boards were used for the
sheathing and roughing in the barrel vault ceiling. Hand-planed trim
and columns are still evident in the sanctuary. The first windows
were clear class, 24 panes, each 8" by 10", not at all fancy.
- Jacobus van Campen Romeyn served as the first Pastor. He also
presided at Greenbush Reformed Church.
- The procedure for paying the minister and for other expenses was by
money and farm produce. Pews were auctioned; each was numbered by
location and seat. Gallery seats were sold at public sales, one of
which was on January 2, 1798.
- An 1802 record and sketch of seating arrangements has places for
193 occupants on the sanctuary floor and about 50 on the gallery
(balcony) benches. The names on the sketch include male names for
the gallery benches. Thus, the practices of the Mother Church of
seating women, children and servants in the balcony may not have
been the local pattern.
The supply of immigrant ministers from the Netherlands was woefully
insufficient in the colonial period and early years of the Republic.
In 1803 the first Dutch Seminary in the United States was established
to overcome this issue at what is now Rutgers University.
- In 1815 land was purchased from Josiah J. Kinney on which was
constructed a parsonage first used by Rev. Ralph A. Westervelt. His
call specifies that he is to preach in English rather than Dutch, as
had been the prior custom, in deference to the needs of German
immigrants who did not wish to learn the Dutch language.
- In 1819 the "Reformed Protestant Dutch Church" was incorporated to
replace oversight from the Netherlands of congregations in the United
- The Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Wynantskill was
incorporated on May 17, 1824 on the same day as the True Reformed
Dutch Church Wynant's and Postenkill unsuccessfully attempted to
incorporate. At stake was control of the church building between
seceding members who wanted stricter enforcement of church rules
with respect to treatment of heretics and immoral persons. The
seceded members built a their church on Church Street at the site
of the present day Fire House.
- In 1836, two stoves were installed in the westerly corners of the
sanctuary to provide heat during winter. Until that time, the church
was not heated.
- In 1837, Lewes Fellows constructed the belfry and steeple.
1843-1892 Years 50 - 99
- The second fifty years were financially challenging in the wake
of the 1824 schism. Money to pay either settled or supply pastors
was hard to obtain. Maintaining the church property was even harder.
- The Civil War years were a turbulent period nationally. Sylvester's
History of Rensselaer County indicates that 67 soldiers from North
Greenbush served and four died. These included men from the
families of the congregation, although, there is no record that any
from the congregation died in battle.
- Statistics regarding Sunday School enrollment first appeared in the
records for 1843, followed by a gap, until 1860.
- Repairs to the parsonage were authorized at a well attended 1883
meeting held in the parsonage. During the meeting the floor gave way.
Several members who were unconvinced of the need for repairs fell
into the sauerkraut barrel and other food-stuffs. A new parsonage
was built in 1884.
- The heavy industrialization in Troy and associated population
growth is the likely source of a steady flow of new members and
baptisms toward the later part of the period.
1893-1942 Years 100 - 149
- In 1898, carriage sheds were built to provide more reliable
facilities than had been the case with shared use of sheds at
Whitbeck's hotel which was located on the opposite side of Church
- The church was raised up two feet higher on a taller foundation
because in 1903 the State raised and widened Route 66 leaving the
church in a hollow that flooded.
- The 1905 Sunday School class gathered funds to have a Good
Shepherd stained class window installed. Twenty other stained glass
windows were also installed at this time.
- The church was lighted by electricity for the first time in 1912.
Prior lighting was with kerosene lamps, which had replaced whale oil
- The church was raised up a second time in 1916 to have a basement
under the sanctuary large enough for a hot air furnace. An assembly
hall with two wood stoves for preparing church dinners was also added
in the basement space.
- The Summer of 1941 saw completion of a 26 by 26 foot annex that
now contains the kitchen and parlor spaces. At about the same time,
an oil fired steam boiler replaced the hot air heating system.
1943-1992 Years 150 - 199
- A week of Vacation Bible School became a yearly event. Sometimes
Methodist Farm at Crooked Lake was the site used for a combined
program offered by the area's Protestant churches.
- The church was used for the "Released Time" religious education
program associated with the public school system starting in 1946.
Youth from Protestant families were walked to the church on
Wednesdays for the last period of the day. The program was a joint
ministry with Third Presbyterian Church. (Released Time Religious
Education is a concept used in the
United States public school system wherein students enrolled in the
public schools are permitted by law to receive religious instruction
as long as classes are held off school grounds, no public money is
used to fund the classes, and students have parental permission.
The principle is based on the constitutional right of parents to
direct the religious education of their children.)
- The founding of the Fowler Camp and Retreat Center in 1954 brought
the opportunity for summer camp experiences for Church youth and
families. The Church participation has ranged from 10 to 25 persons
over the years.
- In 1955, a Church School building was added to the north east
side of the Sanctuary, the Sanctuary was extended eastward to provide
a new Chancel (altar) area, and an additional top story was added
above the parlor.
- In April 1958 the name of the Church was changed to The First
Reformed Church of Wynantskill.
- The present parsonage was completed in October 1964 and the prior
one, located at the front of the same lot, was demolished.
- A pipe organ was purchased and installed during 1968. The electric
organ being retired was sold to the A.M.E. Zion Church of Troy.
- In 1972, General Synod approved the ordination of women to be
Deacons and Elders. Mrs. Addie Ruth Timber was promptly elected at
Wynantskill, followed by many others, with current practice seeking
a pattern of leadership that is gender neutral.
- The ordination of women as Ministers of the Word was approved by
General Synod in June 1979, including reversal of a decision by the
Synod of Albany not to Ordain Rev. Joyce Borgman DeVelder.
- The addition of access for persons with handicaps, including an
elevator, and some office and classroom space was completed in 1988.
1993-Present Years 200 to Now
- In the Summer of 1993, Rev. Sophie Mathonnet-VanderWell becomes the
first woman called to be Pastor at Wynantskill.
- To learn more, read "History of the First Reformed Church of
Wynantskill" by Lee M. Bowman and John C. Hintermaier that was
published in 1993 as a part of the Church's Bicentennial anniversary.
Copies are available at the North Greenbush Library and the Church