The Dutch Reformed Church at Minisink

There are many references to Minisink and the Delaware Water Gap.

The "Minisink country" consists of the valley of the Neversink, west of the Shawangunk Mountains, and the Delaware valley, as far as the Delaware Water Gap. The first settlement of which authentic knowledge can be ascertained were made about 1690. . . .

    "Minisink Valley Dutch Reformed Church Records," Collections of the New York Genealogical Society vol 5, 1913, p. iii.

When our Dutch families of Esopus/ Kingston and old Ulster Co NY began their westward migration, they simply had to walk south down the Old Mine Road to the new lands at "Minisink" in the Delaware Valley, settling in the vicinity of Palingskill (Paulins Kil)l, Hunterdon (now Sussex) Co NJ and in Smithfield TWP, Bucks (now Monroe) Co PA. In truth, that's how the original settlers reached the Minisink country, inhabiting its environs for forty years before the government in Philadelphia knew they were there.

We know the Swartwout family was in Minisink by 1717 where Frederick Schoonmaker met his wife Eva.

Dutch Reformed Church at Kingston, Ulster Co NY: 2/6/1717
Frederick Schoonmaker, wid Annaatjen De Wit; 
Eva Swartwout, jd, liv Minisink.

And, we know the DeVoors made their journey from East Jersey to West Jersey, most probably by way of Kingston NY at the northern terminus of the Old Mine Road, arriving in Minisink sometime before 1723.

Dutch Reformed Church at Kingston, Ulster Co NY: 3/14/1723
Cornelis DEVOOR, j. m., born in N. Jour (New York);
Helena WESTVAAL, j. d., born in Minisink; both live there.

When researching families who migrated through the Delaware Valley during the Colonial Period, a reliable source is the many Dutch Reformed Church records from the Minisink Circuit beginning in the 1710s. Secondary sources for these records may cause confusion when referring to Minisink, Orange Co NY and Minisink, Port Jervis NY and the Church at Deerpark NY and the Machackemeck Church (church #1); and Minisink, Sussex Co NJ and Minisink, Montague NJ and simply, the Minisink Church (church #2); and Minisink, Walpack NJ and the Walpak Church (Church #3 also in Sussex Co NJ); and Minisink, Northampton Co PA and Minisink, Bucks Co PA and the Smithfield Church (church #4). 

Unbelievably, these are all appropriate descriptions for the four individual Dutch Reformed churches of the Delaware Valley during Colonial America. These churches were served by a succession of itinerant preachers who rotated through the distant locales in southern New York, northwestern New Jersey, and northeastern Pennsylvania. And as a researcher, the challenge is to identify the specific church and its location to match the records.

I wrote the following in response to a correspondent who wanted to know where Minisink was:

An appropriate criticism of any research is a lack of documentation and an inconsistency of dates. Through my research, I learned that many communities were serviced by itinerant preachers who rode a circuit. And, the official church records traveled with the preacher as opposed to residing at the church edifice. I found other Dutch records through one minister whose circuit included southern New York, the Hudson River, and the Delaware Valley. Marriages, christenings, and record keeping could wait for the arrival of the preacher. But, I doubt that births and deaths would wait. How often did the itinerant preacher fail to record one or two births or deaths which occurred in the interim?

Notes on the Reformed Dutch Church of Smithfield Twp:
In the mid 1700's there were four Dutch churches in the northern Delaware valley. Two, the Minisink Church and the Walpack Church, were in Sussex county, New Jersey, one, the Smithfield Church, was in Smithfield Township, Pennsylvania and one, the Mahackemeck Church, which was burnt in the Revolutionary war, was in Port Jervis, Orange County, New York. The four churches were united for the service of a single traveling minister. He [Rev. Johannes Casparus Fryenmoet, 1741 - 1756] visited each church in turn every 3 months until a full time minister was later found. In 1785 the Reverend Elias Van Bennschoten was noted as the preacher of the three congregations of Mahackemeck, Minisink and Walpack. [The Smithfield Church withdrew in 1753.] He continued his services till 1795. One half of his services were in Dutch, the other in English.

    "The Dutch Reformed Church," The Hissem-Montague Family, 22 July 2004 <> 3 January 2005.

So, let us de-conflict the many names for the four Churches:
1. The Mahackemeck Church was organized in 1743 and was located at Port Jervis, Orange Co  NY.
2. The Minisink Church was organized in 1737 and was located at Montague, Sussex Co NJ.
3. The Walpack Church was organized in 1741 and was located at Flatbrookville, Sussex Co  NJ.
4. The Smithfield Church aka the Old Log Church was built in 1725, organized in 1737, and was located about 2 miles north of Shawnee on Delaware, Bucks (now Monroe) Co PA. The Old Log Church fell to disrepair and the congregation migrated to the Old Stone Church, eventually converting to the Presbyterian faith.


This site is provided for reference only. Except where specifically cited, information contained is conjecture and should not be considered as fact.
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