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History of
The Reformed Church of Shawangunk

The Reformed Church of Shawangunk a congregation of the Reformed Church in America, the oldest Protestant denomination in America, with continuous ministry since 1628.

The earliest evidence of the existence of our congregation is in the records of the Old Dutch Church in Kingston, under the date of October 21, 1736, when Rev George W. Mancius baptized five children at “Schavegonk”. From this early date the Dutch, French-Huguenot and German settlers in this area began to look to the Kingston Church for pastoral care, because there was no formally organized congregation here at Shawangunk.

Nevertheless, in 1751, Isaac Hasbrouck purchased a six-acre site for a future church. Our parsonage was completed in 1751, and a Subscription List to finance a church edifice was drawn up. The 86 signers pledged 692.15.6 pounds in money and labor, and work on our present stone structure commenced in 1752, with the sale of pews in the completed church being held on December 26, 1755. According to tradition, the workmen were forced to construct a log stockade around the site to protect themselves from hostile Indians while the work proceeded.

Meanwhile the pioneer settlers had joined with the New Paltz Church to obtain the services of our first Pastor. Rev. Barent Vrooman. He began his work here in 1753, but remained only one year. On October 10, 1753, 23 members of the Kingston church were dismissed to create our formal organization as a congregation here at Shawangunk.

Our second pastor, Rev. Johannes Goetschius, served from 1760 until his death in 1771. He was buried beneath the pulpit, under the floor of the church. At that time the pulpit hung between the two windows on the north wall. The timber, which supported it, was discovered in 1968 and has been marked with a plaque in memory of Rev Gcetschius, and another early pastor, Rev. Henry Polhemus. who rests beside him. Our churchyard has tombstones from 1752, including those of 43 of at least 143 men in the congregation who fought in the Revolution War.

During the years 1794-1797 our church building underwent a series of modifications. The west windows were converted into doors to be used as the main entrance, and the pulpit moved to the east wall, the pews were then turned to face it. The present galleries (never used for slaves) were then constructed, together with the unique exterior staircase.
At the same time the 1 1/2 story parsonage was converted into a full 2-story dwelling. During 1833 and 1834 further work was done, and the 5 pillared portico was built to protect the stairs. The original entrance on the south wall was then closed in 1881. Our colonial-style pulpit and choir lofts were added in 1961.

The church hall, which was built in 1916, was enlarged in 1958 to provide a modern kitchen and bathroom wing, another addition was added in 1990 for much needed space.

In the course of our long history, this congregation has been the source of five other Reformed congregations in this area. New Hurley 1770, New Prospect 1815, Guilford 1833 - 1930, Wallkill 1869 and Gardiner 1890.

Two of our pastors have served as presidents of the Reformed Church. Rev. Ryniew Van Nest 1787 and Rev. Charles Scott 1875. By far our most illustrious pastor, he was called from here to serve Hope College, Holland, Michigan, as Professor from 1866-1877 and eventually President from 1881-1892 He is buried in our cemetery. A son of our church, Rev. John Van Vleck, was an early principle 1855-1859 of Holland academy, the forerunner of Hope College. Another early pastor, Rev. Abraham Wilson, became the founding pastor of the First Reformed Church established in the west Fairfield Ill in 1837. So our little church, in the valley of Shawangunk, has contributed much to the development of the Reformed Church of America.

Our church overlooks the beautiful Shawangunk Mountains. These mountains are known nationwide as the perfect spot for mountain climbing. In the fall the leaves are so beautiful that traffic is often backed up because of people from all over coming to enjoy the magnificent colors and views. We have a breathtaking view of them and it surely acknowledges one of God's Marvelous Works.

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