Guilford Dutch Reformed Church Records (1832-1930)

Finding Aid Completed by Eric Roth, March 19, 1998
Volume: 0.5 cu. ft.
Acquisition: Unknown.
Access: Unrestricted.
Copyright: Request for permission to publish materials from these records should be discussed with the Archivist and Director of the Huguenot Historical Society.

Administrative History

On February 15, 1832, a meeting was held at the home of Jonathan Westbrook for the purpose of starting a Dutch Reformed Church at Guilford, NY, which is now part of the township of Gardiner. In November a group of eleven residents of New Paltz and Shawangunk led by Jacob J. Schoonmaker and Philip Hasbrouck received the deed to the church property from Joseph and Jane Hasbrouck. The group then commenced construction of the new church building, which was finally completed in Autumn, 1833. They raised the necessary funds through holding pew auctions and by collecting subscriptions from the members of the congregation. The church was to provide nearby landowners living in the hamlets of Forest Glen, Kettleboro, Tuthilltown and Guilford with an alternative to the more distant reformed churches at New Paltz and Shawangunk. [1]

The Guilford Dutch Reformed Church was officially incorporated in 1833. The church formed a consistory (church council) made up of the offices of elders and deacons to handle the administrative business of the church. Such responsibilities included receiving, dismissing and suspending members; deciding cases of "immoral conduct;" delegating moneys to specific projects such as acquisitions, repairs and charitable causes; choosing pastors; and electing and appointing church officials. The consistory also appointed one of its members as delegate to classis, [2] to whom the delegate would submit a report containing statistical information (number of members, confessions, baptisms, dismissals, suspensions, etc.) and a "State of Religion" report, in which the delegate would relay the consistory's views on the spiritual and moral growth (or lack of growth) of the congregation. The first officers of the church were elected on July 20, 1833, and included John A. Schoonmaker, Robert Jordan, Peleg Stephens and Nathaniel Lefever as elders; and Homer Stone, Selah Schoonmaker, Jophet Hasbrouck and Jonathan Constable as deacons; Nathaniel Lefever as chairman and Selah Schoonmaker as secretary. Thereafter the church officials were elected annually in the Fall.

The first pastor of the church was Rev. William Brush for whom the parsonage and barn were built in 1835. Rev. Brush led the congregation until his resignation in 1852, after which he was succeeded by Rev. J.N. Jansen. Under Rev. Brush, the issues of the day included raising the membership, promoting temperance and "benevolence," and ensuring the morality of the congregation. In April 1837, the consistory found one woman guilty of immoral conduct and suspended her until she proved to them that she had sufficiently changed her ways. Likewise, in March 1845, another woman was charged with intemperance, although in this case the consistory found her innocent. And in May 1846, a couple pleaded guilty to charges of immoral conduct, whereby the consistory suspended them from the church "until good and satisfactory evidences be given to the consistory of their repentance & reformation." Lastly, in 1851 the consistory inquired into one church member's "almost habitual absence from the communion." The accused person answered that he was simply ignorant of his duties to the church in this matter, and the case was quickly resolved.

The reports to classis from this early period commenced a long-lasting trend of pessimism in the history of the Guilford Dutch Reformed Church. In 1847, for example, the delegate to classis filed a complaint about the "exceedingly low state of religion before us," a complaint that was to become very familiar to the classis throughout the rest of the nineteenth-century. The statistical report of 1847 claimed: 150 families in the congregation with 100 of those in full communion, 5 members received on confession, 5 certificates issued, 1 dismissal, 2 suspensions, 1 death, 12 infants and 1 adult baptized, 40 in catechism classes, 40 in bible instruction classes, 5 in sabbath school, and 5 scholars.

The church witnessed few changes during the tenure of Rev. Jansen (1852-1863). The consistory defeated a motion that sought to eliminate "Dutch" from their title in 1854, and continued to complain to classis about the "low state of religion in the church." In the 1860 report to classis, for example, the delegate began "It is with humiliation and sorrow that we present an annual report on the state of Rel. to Classis." The consistory also continued to hear cases of immoral conduct, including cases against Louisa Jordan, wife of Robert Johnston, concerning "illicit intercourse previous to her marriage, " in which she was forgiven, but publicly admonished, by the consistory.

The church also leveled charges against Cornelius Schoonmaker for use of profane language in 1858; barred M.C. Lake from communion for intoxication in 1860; and accused and later suspended Anthony Denton for "neglecting the regular ordinances of the Sabbath and habitually neglecting the Lord's supper" despite his argument that "I take it for granted that I have a right to go when & where I please & believe that there is no special command with regard to attendance at church." Denton also complained that "the church is improperly warmed" and that "the air is unpleasant on account of smoke from the pipes."

The church did witness some changes, however. In 1854, the consistory voted in favor of establishing parochial school and congregational, or pastor's library; formed the General Benevolence Association with the purpose of raising moneys for charitable causes in 1855; made structural changes to the church interior in 1858; repaired damage to the parsonage and passed a motion requiring the pastor to visit member families at least once in 2 years in 1860; and appointed a sexton in 1861.

Rev. Jansen resigned in 1863 and in the following year was replaced by Rev. Richard DeWitt, who was in turn replaced by Rev. C.E. Lasher in 1873. In 1867 the consistory developed a plan to raise more money for the church and the General Benevolence Association. "The plan is as follows: wait upon the pew holders & see how many will transfer their seats to the consistory, those that will give up their pews, try to buy them." This plan seemed to have failed to raise the necessary funds, however, since the consistory doubled the value of the pews in 1869, and raised taxes again in 1872 and 1873. By this time the trials of immoral conduct had ceased, and in 1870 the consistory delivered a rare report to classis that was unusually positive in comparison with past reports.

This new optimism wavered in 1877, however, when the consistory referred to the moral condition of the congregation as "deplorable." But the positive mentality briefly returned in 1880's despite the steady decline in attendance and membership. In 1885, the consistory reported that the congregation included 80 families, 192 members in full communion, 83 in catechism classes and 215 in Sabbath schools. This downward spiral continued throughout the remaining days of the church, particularly after the church burned down in 1908, and even more so after Rev. Lasher resigned in 1914. [3] It appears from the records that C.E. Lasher was the last official pastor of the church, although Rev. Joseph Millet preached to the congregation from time to time after 1914. On April 10, 1930, the Guilford Dutch Reformed Church was finally disbanded and its monetary assets disbursed to other Reformed churches in the area.

Collection Description

These records document the activities of the Guilford Dutch Reformed Church, a rural Protestant church in Ulster County, New York, from its creation in 1833 to its dissolution in 1930. The collection is fairly comprehensive, although lacking correspondence files. There are very few gaps in the records, the only exception being the Pastor's Register, which contains scattered entries from 1873-1886. The records are generally in good physical condition. The handwriting is legible in all of the records, although occasionally difficult to read. The handwriting should not pose any serious difficulties for most researchers. The collection is organized into five series:

1. Vital Records (1833-1930)
2. Consistory Meeting Minutes (1833-1930)
3. Pastor's Register (1873-1886 scattered)
4. Treasurer's Book, General Benevolence Association of Guilford, NY (1855-1863)
5. Miscellaneous (1832-1892)

The main strengths of the collection are twofold: 1) the well-documented administrative activities of the church found in the Consistory Meeting Minutes, and 2) the Vital Records which contain information useful for genealogical research. [4] The Minutes generally pertain to issues involving spiritual and moral interests of the consistory and congregation, as well as practical matters involved in the daily administration of the church. Of particular interest to researchers are the yearly statistical reports and "State of Religion Reports" that the consistory submitted every Spring to the classis at Kingston, NY. Also, the statistical reports contain membership information for the given year, including the number of families and individuals in the congregation and/or in full communion; the number of individuals who received confessions, baptisms and biblical instruction; the number of individuals dismissed, deceased, enrolled in catechism and Sabbath school classes; and those considered "scholars" by the consistory. The State of Religion Reports are extremely useful in determining the consistory's views of their church and its congregation, views which were often very negative and pessimistic.

Main topics documented in the minutes include charges against various individuals for "immoral behavior" such as intoxication, fornication, profanity and absence from church ceremonies (1837- 1863); the matters of electing church officers (elders and deacons) and appointing delegates to represent Guilford at yearly classis meetings; admitting and dismissing members; seeking replacements pastors; levying taxes on the congregation members; maintaining the church buildings & grounds; and the formation and dissolution of the church in 1833 and 1930, respectively. For more information concerning the Guilford Dutch Reformed Church, consult the vertical file maintained by the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection at the Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz, NY. A Bible used by Rev. Jansen is stored with the Huguenot Historical Society Bible Collection and is listed as Bible #57.

Series Descriptions

Series 1: Vital Records (1833-1930)
This series includes one bound volume containing four subseries: 1) Members in Full Communion (1853-1920), 2) Death Notices (1853-1916), 3) Baptisms (1835-1916) and 4) Marriages (1834-1911). The records in each subseries are filed chronologically. Transcripts of these records are available in the Huguenot Historical Society Library.

Series 2: Consistory Meeting Minutes (1833-1930)
This series consists of two volumes of minutes kept by the church consistory. Volume one contains records from 1833-1866, volume two contains records from 1867-1930. Records pertain chiefly to petitions for baptism, membership and dismissal; the elections and appointments of church officers such as elders, deacons, treasurers and sextons; the state of religion and statistical reports prepared for the annual classis meetings; and other administrative activities. Records are in chronological order.

Series 3: Pastor's Register (1873-1886 scattered)
Series contains one bound volume of records kept by Rev. Lasher while pastor at the Guilford Dutch Reformed Church. Entries include sporadic records of marriages and funerals performed, communicants received and sermons preached, as well a "Register of Miscellaneous Addresses."

Series 4: Treasurer's Book, General Benevolence Association (1855-1863)
This small account book contains entries for cash received by, and paid to, institutions such as the Board of Foreign Missions, the American Bible Society, the American Tract Society, the Board of Education, as well as to "Domestic Missions" and for "hospital clothing for soldiers" during the Civil War. This booklet also contains the association's constitution and a list of life memberships to the institutions mentioned above.

Series 5: Miscellaneous (1832-1892)
Includes one deed from Philip Hasbrouck and others to Levi Hasbrouck concerning the original purchase of the Guilford Dutch Reformed Church's property (1832), two copies of the Historical Sketch of the Reformed Church of Guilford, Ulster County, NY (1832-1890), "The 35th Anniversary of the Guilford Reformed Dutch Church" festivities program (1898), four undated postcards of the Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, Mass., one letter from the Ministers' Fund of the Reformed Church in America, New York, NY, to the Guilford Dutch Reformed Church (1928), and copies of unidentified newspaper clippings concerning members of the church and various religious matters (1892 and undated).


[1] Hasbrouck, Kenneth E. History of the Town of Gardiner (1978): p. 49.

[2] The term classis denotes an organization of pastors and elders within the Reformed Church which governs a group of local churches. The classis to which the Guilford Dutch Reformed Church Consistory reported was based in Kingston, NY, although they generally held their annual meetings in Rosendale, NY.

[3] After the fire, the congregation transferred their services to the Tuthill Chapel at Tuthilltown. (Hasbrouck, p. 50).

[4] The Huguenot Historical Society Library maintains transcriptions of the Guilford Dutch Reformed Church Vital Records compiled by Kenneth Hasbrouck in 1952.