The Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow
The following is taken from "History of the County of Westchester, From its First Settlement to the Present Time," by Rober Bolton, Jr., printed by Alexander S. Gould, N.Y., 1848, pgs 330-335.
The ancient Dutch Church is agreeably situated a short distance from the manor house, near the northern edge of the hollow. This venerable edifice, believed to be the oldest church now standing in the state, is built of stone and brick, the latter having been imported from Holland for the express purpose. Its antique belfry and hipped roof, present quite a picturesque appearance. The entrance was formerly through a porch on the south side; this has been recently changed to the western end facing the road.
On the north side of the doorway is inserted a stone tablet inscribed as follows:
ERECTED AND BUILT BY FREDERICK
PHILIPS AND CATHARINE VAN CORTLANDT
HIS WIFE, IN 1699.
The interior of the building has undergone considerable repairs and alterations, semi Gothic lights have supplanted the old fashioned square headed windows. The pulpit and Heilig Avondmaal (holy communion table) were like the bricks originally imported from Holland. The former being a capacious affair, surmounted by a sounding board. Like the church itself, we are sorry to say, the pulpit and canopy have not escaped the hands of modern innovation; we believe they are now spread piece meal throughout the country; but thanks to a few generous spirits, the communion table still remains unchanged, a venerable relic of a by-gone age.
The bell of this church was cast to order in Holland, and presented by Frederick Philips. It is richly ornamented, and bears the following inscription:
The western end of the building is surmounted by a curious vane, in the shape of a of a flag bearing the initials of the illustrious founder, Vrederick Felypsen.
At an early date, Mr. Felypsen of the city of New York, records the brand mark for himself and all his plantation in the county of Westchester, viz.
The communion service presented by the Philipse family, consists of two silver bekers, the first richly engraved with floriated tracery, bears the name of Fredrych Flypse, and stands about seven inches high. The second is also richly engraved with antique figures, representing angels, birds, fruits and flowers, beside, three ovals containing emblematic figures of Faith, Hope and Charity, near the top is engraved the name of Catharina van Cortlandt, this cup stands nearly six inches and a half high.
There is likewise a baptismal bowl composed of solid silver, eight inches and half in diameter, bearing the name of Fredrych Felypse.
These articles are rendered extremely valuable by the distinguished characters who have them, and well deserve the stranger's notice; they are at present under the care of the sexton who resides at Tarrytown. Catharine Philipse the liberal benefactress of this church, by her las will dated on the 7th of Jan. 1730, bequeathes one of the bekers, the damask table cloth and communion-table to her son-in-law Adolph Philipse, and to his heirs forever in trust for the church, in the following manner.
Item. I give and bequeath unto my son-in-law Adolph Philipse and to his heirs forever, a large silver beaker, on which my name is engraved, a damask table cloth, five Dutch ells and three quarters long, and tow and a half broad, with a long table, in trust to and for the congregation of the Dutch Church erected and built at Philipsburgh, by my late husband Frederick Philipse deceased, according to the discipline of Dort, which beker and cloth I will and direct shall be always kept at the mansion house of the said Adolph Philipse and his heirs, in that part of the manor of Philipsburgh, where-on the said church is erected, to and for the use of the said CHurch and congregation, and to and for no other use or purpose whatsoever, &c. Item, I give and bequeath unto the children of Paules Vanderhiders, the sum of L25 current money, &c. Item, I will and direct, that Matty and Sarah, my Indians or muster slaves, shall be manumitted and set at full freedom.* Item, all the residue and remainder of my whole estate, both real and personal whatsoever and wheresoever, I do give, devise and bequeath, to my brother Jacobus van Cortlandt, one-fifth, and to all the children of his deceased brother Stephanus, and the daughters of his eldest son Johannes, a fifth part, share and share alike, and other fifth part to the children of my deceased sister, Marietje van Renssalear, &c., another fifth part of my said estate to the three grand children of my deceased sister Sophia Teller, to be divided between her grandson Andrew, and the children of her son Oliver, deceased, the remaining fifth part and residue, unto the children of Philip Schuyler deceased, eldest son of my sister, Cornelia Schuyler deceased, and Oliver Schuyler, &c. - (Surrogate's office N.Y. No. XI. 85).
*It is a well known fact, that slavery existed in this county at an early period of its settlement, of which abundant evidence can be produced, but no record appears that native Indians were enslaved until 1705, when we find the following deed of gift executed by Elizabeth Legget, of Westchester, in favor of her daughter Mary: "I hereby give, grant and confirm, unto the said Mary, her heirs and assigns forever, my two negro children, born of the body of Hannah, my negro woman, of the issue of the body of Robin, my Indian slave. There are also several bills of sale recorded of Indian squaws being furnished by a dealer in New York, named Jacob Decay. Westchester Rec.
Tradition asserts that Catharine Philipse was in the habit of riding up from the city of New York on horseback, mounted on a pillion behind her favorite brother, Jacobus van Cortlandt, for the purpose of superintending the erection of this church; her husband was at this time a merchant in the city. These journeys were generally performed during moonlight nights. Who could relate the interesting conversations that must have passed between the affectionate brother and sister, as they thus sat on horseback pursuing their lonely route from the metropolis, and the joy of the latter when the glorious work was completed? This illustrious lady must certainly have taken a very active part, not only in the building, but in the procuring and subsequent settlement of the ministry therein, which plainly appears from teh ancient records of the Dutch church, where her name occurs, as first on the list of its members, in 1697.
"First and before all the right honorable, God-fearing, very wise and prudent, my lady Catharina Philipse, widow of the lord Frederick Philipse of blessed memory, who have promoted down service here in the highest praiseworthy manner." The Dutch church and its vicinity is thus described in the well known legend of Sleepy Hollow. "The sequestered situation of this church," says the author of the legend, "seems always to have made it a favorite haunt of troubled spirits. It stands on a knoll surrounded by locust trees and lofty elms, from among which its decent white washed walls shine modestly forth, like christian purity, beaming through the shades of retirement. A gentle slope descends from it to a silver sheet of water bordered by high trees, between which peeps may be caught at the blue hills of the Hudson. To look upon its grass-grown yard where the sunbeams seem to sleep so quietly, one would think that there that the dead might rest in peace. On one side of the church extends a wide woody dell, along which laves a large brook among broken rocks and trunks of fallen trees. Over a deep black part of the stream, not far from the church, was formerly thrown a wooden bridge; the road that led to it and the bridge itself were thickly shaded by overhanging trees which cast a gloom about it even in the day time, but occasioned a fearful darkness at night." (Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving)
"It was in this church that the never-to-be-forgotten yankee pedagogue, Ichabod Crane, in rivalry of the old dominie, led off the choir, making the welkin ring with the notes of his nasal psalmody. It was too in the ravine, just back of the church, that this redoubtable hero, Ichabod, had his fearful midnight encounter with the headless horseman and forever disappeared from the sight of the goodly inhabitants of Sleepy Hollow." (Barber's Hist. Col)