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Old Bergen

Chapter XXXVII.

Daniel Van Winkle

Published 1902

Web version, edited by GET NJ
Copyright 2002

THE old parsonage, on the site of the present church, and before alluded to, being in possession of the Rev. William Jackson, in 1793 the consistory purchased the Sip homestead, in the town of Bergen, situated on the northwest corner of the Square. The house was of stone, of the antique model, long, low, and only one story in height, the window frames on the exterior being surmounted with ornamental brick work. Mr. Cornelisen occupied this building from the time of his marriage until his death. It was then raised to two stories in height, and otherwise improved. The lot on which it stood contained two acres, part of which is now the property of Mr. Geo. B. Wilson.

The care of this large parish, extending from Bergen Point to within three miles of Hackensack, a distance of eighteen miles, was soon found to be too much for a single clergyman, not only on account of its great area, but also because of the growth of both congregations. The duties of the pastor multiplied greatly, and it became evident that a separation must be effected. The interesting account of Prof. Demarest, of the conditions and experiences of the early congregations, is specially applicable here:

I would that I could give an authentic account of the church-going habits of these people (English Neighborhood, author's note) during their connection with the church of Bergen. Doubtless they were all in attendance, on every Communion Day, whether it were the Lord's Day or Monday.

They would make all their preparations on Saturday, or the day previous, so that they might start early in the morning, for the distance was nearly twenty miles, the roads not macadamized, the wagons spring less, and the farm horses not very fleet. Besides, it was desirable to have, after so long a journey, a half hour's rest before the service, for the good of body, mind and soul.

The proximity of the Inn to the church, customary in those days, was not an unmixed evil. Perhaps after the services, some Van Horn, or Van Winkle, or Van Riper, Van Wagenen or Vreeland, would insist on taking the company home to dinner, for nothing pleased the Dutchman of that day so well, as to have his table crowded on a Sunday, by people whom he respected. Sometimes very little of the day, especially in the winter, would be left after the close of public worship, for the Communion Service occupied hours; and then they would tarry till morning, and on the Monday wend their way homeward.

They were not so driven and hurried in their worldly business as men now are. Perhaps they often brought their lunch with them, and having been refreshed by it, started on their tedious journey for home, which they would not reach until after nightfall. We may well believe, too, that the forests through which they passed, in going to and returning from the house of God, were made to ring with the psalms of Marot and Beza.

From this time Mr. Cornelisen's labors were confined to Bergen, and he was obligated to perform his services in Dutch and English on alternate sabbaths. He was a man who enjoyed the full love and confidence of his people, and as was the custom in the olden days, his advice and counsel were much sought after and heeded. He considered the colored people under his charge (at that time slaves), as committed specially to his care and protection. He instructed them in religious truths, and a number were admitted to church fellow ship. During his ministry, the church services changed from Dutch to English. Singing in Dutch was first discontinued in 1809. Preaching in that language continued some time later. The history of his ministry is one of continuous growth, and great acceptability to his congregation. He died March 20, 1828, and Benjamin C. Taylor was called on the 26th of May the same year, and installed July 24.

Old Parsonage


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