Sunday, November 9, 2008
Posted by Thomas MacEntee
French Church (Crispell Memorial). Digital image. Historic Huguenot Street (http://www.huguenotstreet.org/assets/vt_fc.jpeg), Copyright© 2008 Huguenot Historical Society.
At the end of our tour of Huguenot Street in New Paltz, we came upon what is called the French Church. What you see above is a reconstruction done in 1972 of the original building constructed in 1717.
While the first congregation was formed in 1683, the first church was not erected until 34 years later and then replaced in 1773 with a larger structure. In 1839, the Dutch Reformed Church of New Paltz erected a large brick building further north on Huguenot Street which is still standing and has an active congregation even today.
The Crispell Family Association raised the funds for the 1972 building which is as true as possible to the original structure based on archival information.
Baptismal Pitcher and Bowl, New Paltz French Church. Digital image, taken Sunday, October 26, 2008 in New Paltz, New York. Privately held by Thomas MacEntee, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Chicago, IL. 2008.
Although I realize it was not the original church, the building which is situated on the location of the original produced feeling of awe as I entered and my eyes were immediately drawn to the windows on the far end. Sitting there was a large pewter bowl and pitcher which had been used to baptize many of my ancestors beginning with my 7th great-grandfather, Hugo Freer, Jr. who was baptized on October 17, 1691.
Freer Family Pew, New Paltz French Church. Digital image, taken Sunday, October 26, 2008 in New Paltz, New York. Privately held by Thomas MacEntee, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Chicago, IL. 2008.
As the tour guide explained to the group that the congregation had its roots in Calvinist tradition in that families sat in pews which faced each other and which could be rented for a yearly fee. As with any society, those who could afford to pay a higher rent, were able to have the front pews.
Needless to say, the Freer Family Pew is second from the last on the north end of the square church.
Pulpit, New Paltz French Church. Digital image, taken Sunday, October 26, 2008 in New Paltz, New York. Privately held by Thomas MacEntee, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Chicago, IL. 2008.
The church has been reconstructed entirely in wood and stone as you can see from the pulpit in the photo above.
One interesting note about the Huguenot church in New Paltz: having had a history of adaptability, the congregation merged with the much larger Dutch Reformed Church in the city. The Huguenots appeared to have no issue with eventually dropping their French language for the preferred Dutch language of the region. And with their religion, while they brought their Calvinist beliefs with them to these shores, they were able to meld them with those of the local Protestant church.