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French Huguenots in the Hudson Valley
Written by: Diana DiMuro, Tim Lo, and
Siobhan Gallagher
Page designed by: Jen Ko and Santosh Varkey

Huguenot: A derivation of an insulting Flemish or German phrase meaning, "House-worshipper" or "House fellowship". This term was used to describe an order of Calvinists in France in the Middle Ages. Calvinists were the devout followers of John Calvin, who created a branch of Christianity closely linked to Martin Luther's Protestants. Calvinists believed, much like the Lutherans, that the Catholic church had become too tangled in trappings and religious finery, and believed in a simpler way of worship. They did not build crosses, and they eschewed priests, holding the belief that a priest was only an unnecessary intermediary, and that the priests and crosses represented the Roman Catholic Church. They followed the Bible literally, denying thems elves dancing and card-playing. Alcohol was allowed, but there were no indulgences, icons, or pictures of Jesus allowed, as these were considered frivolous decorations reminiscent of the Catholic church. They believed in predestination, the notion that pa ssage to Heaven or Hell was decided before birth, but believed in living lives full of good works regardless.

The Calvinists were firm believers in education, and boys and girls alike were taught to read and write. They were primarily upper middle class (known as the "bourgeoisie"), hard workers, and their craftsmanship was of the highest quality.

However, these were the Middle Ages, and France was unofficially ruled by the Catholic Church. Every manor was a carriage ride from a church, and Catholics bought their way out of sins with indulgences sold by the Church. The Calvinists represented, to the Catholics, a blatant denial of what they believed to be the correct (and divinely mandated) way to worship God and Jesus. As a result of this, the Calvinists were the victims of abominable persecution.

Faced with severe religious persecution, the Huguenots, or French Calvinists, began leaving France in large numbers during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They first inhabited the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam during the 1640's. They populat ed the capital Duzine, meaning "New Village," -later know as Kingston- in peaceful coexistence with the Dutch. However, the Huguenots desired a place of their own to preserve the French language.

To acquire their own homeland, the Huguenots first went to the local Native American tribes to barter for the property. In 1664 when New Amsterdam was turned over to the English, becoming New York, the Huguenots went to the governor, Edmond Andros. He granted them thirty nine thousand acres of land south of Kingston which became know as New Paltz.

During the spring of 1678, 12 Huguenot households made the journey from Kingston to New Paltz by wagon. They lived the first fifteen years there in wooden houses. During the 1690's, these houses were replaced with the stone homes that remain there tod ay.

After about fifty years, the French language began to disappear due to the increasing number of Dutch and English inhabitants in the area. Having faced so much bloodshed in Europe due to religious persecution, the Huguenots had no desire to stand out. They were absorbed quickly into the Dutch culture.

Despite the briefness of their civilization the Huguenots had lasting effects on the Hudson Valley. The Huguenots brought hard work and perseverance to society. They displayed new farming methods and an equal opportunity education for both men and wom en. The traditional "dozeen" family was a form of government similar to democracy. Equal representation of each family met in the town hall to decide on issues affecting the people. The Huguenots, despite their frugality, were a material culture. Lace mak ers, clock makers, and furniture makers were just some of the artisans and craftsmen in their culture. A famous unknown Huguenot , Paul Revere, belongs to a long line silver smiths.

More Information on Early Europeans:

Animated Map
County Formations
New York
South Carolina Huguenots
Charleston Huguenot Church
Click to enlarge image
Huguenot Historical Society
Huguenot History

Jean Hasbrouck House
New Paltz NY
Dutch in the Hudson