Church History

First Reformed Church of Coxsackie

On February 25, 1732 a meeting, under the direction of Jan Bronck and Frank Salisbury, was held in someone’s home to form the Low Dutch Reformed Church.  Rev. George Michael Weiss accepted the call. He preached thirty Sundays in Katskill (Leeds) and twenty-two in Kochshakie.  For his services he was paid 50 pounds a year and provided a good saddle horse, firewood, land for a garden and a parsonage in Katskill. Three elders and three deacons were elected to a Consistory for one church with two sanctuaries and one minister

 Land for the sanctuary in Kochshakie was given by Petrus Van Bergen for a sum of five shillings on July 16, 1733.  It was to be for the purpose of public service and worship of God for a Neither Dutch Christian congregation, a protestant reformed religion according to the Profession of Faith, use and practice of the Reformed Churches in Holland. 

 Within one and a half years the first sanctuary, a humble structure, was erected (August 1733) along north side of street (Coxsackie Turnpike, now Mansion St.).  The first sermon was preached in Dutch on October 21, 1733. Rev. Weiss served four years. After that the church was without a pastor for seventeen years.

The second pastor, Rev. Johannes Schuneman served from 1753-1794. Rev. Schuneman was noted for his patriotism.  During the year 1775, he rode horseback through-out the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys getting signatures on “The Coxsackie Declaration of Independence”. He was the first signer of this document, dated May 17, 1775. 

In 1797 the original church separated into two independent churches, one in Old Katskill (Leeds) and one in Kochshakie.  During this Federal Period, there was a growth in population in Kochshakie and the original sanctuary began to look inadequate in size and condition.  The new sanctuary was located on the south side of Coxsackie Turnpike and nearly opposite the first sanctuary. This sanctuary was 70 feet square with a 50 foot steeple.  It was built to resemble an ocean lighthouse. Judge Bronck’s son-in law, served as the pastor of both the Kochshakie and Coeymans churches, preaching in both the Dutch and the English languages.  Around 1801 the Kochshakie Church broke ties with the Coeymans Church.

During the years from 1811-1826 there were great revivals with as many as 500 people joining the flock. On January 7, 1861 the consistory decided on the location for a new sanctuary about ¼ mile east of the old sanctuary.  On April 30, 1861 the cornerstone was laid. 

Except for additions and renovations the present sanctuary is the same as it was in 1861.  The church is a wood structure colonial style building.  It has a steeple with a silver dome.  There are ten beautiful stained glass windows (4 feet by 14 feet), nine of which are in memory of specific individuals.

Over the years, the Holy Spirit kept the church going through very trying times.  The church lived on during the Revolutionary War, First and Second World Wars, and the Great Depression. The 25 members of the clergy, serving from 1732 to 1982 did not always fare well.  Their salaries were often paid in food and farm produce since lack of ready cash was not unusual. At the 200th anniversary celebration in 1932 a bronze tablet engraved with the names of each of the pastors was imbedded in a granite monument in front of the church.

During the years from 1955-1969 Rev. John Van Heest served as the pastor. He was a visionary who encouraged the flock to build a new parsonage in 1967. He also had another dream of creating a Senior Citizen Village (Bethany Village) at the rear of the church.  This project became financially too big for completion by the church. So the community and government were asked to help complete it.

 In 1982 Rev. Frederick Musson (1975-1982) arranged to have Rev. Robert Schuyler come from California to be the guest preacher for the 250th anniversary celebration. There was not enough room in the main sanctuary to seat all who attended. Some were seated in Wolfe Hall.