Search billions of records on

The Van Tassel Family History Homepage

"A Pedigree Partly Indian, Partly Batavian"


Three Hundredth Anniversary of Its Establishment.—Many Reminiscenses Center in the Quaint Little Building—The Old Parish Register.

(Special Letter.)
In the old Dutch church of Sleepy Hollow, N. Y., a memorable service was held on New Year’s eve.  It was a watch meeting to commemorate the three hundredth anniversary of the establishment of the church.  Everything contributed to the Sleepy Hollow watch night an atmosphere of weird picturesqueness.  There is no apparatus for gas or electric lighting in the old building; it was lighted for the occasion entirely by candles, as in the days of the fathers.  When the last hymn had been sung—the first of the new century—and the benediction given, it occurred to someone in the congregation that the candles used in that memorable service were worthy to be preserved as souvenirs.  The idea was taken up by one after another of the worshippers, and in the first hour of the twentieth century the darkness of the silent winter night was illumined by a long stream of impromptu candle bearers issuing forth from those historic doors.  The night, though seasonably cold, was still, and the candles remained lighted until those who carried them had scattered far and wide on the homeward ways.

A Valuable Relic

It is good to know that public interest has been thoroughly aroused to the importance of preserving the memories that cluster about this monument of a fascinating and important past.  Both Sleepy Hollow in particular and the people of New York in general owe much gratitude to Washington Irving for this, and after Washington Irving, to the various organizations which make it their business to rescue and preserve from oblivion the elements of national history that are connected with the few material relics of early American settlements.

As it is, the building itself is carefully guarded against decay; services are still held there in the summer, when the neighborhood of Tarrytown is filled with summer sojourners, and on special occasions like that of New Year’s eve.  Most important of all, the records of the congregation from its establishment in the reign of Charles II have been translated from the Dutch for publication by the enterprise of the Yonkers Historical and Library association.
The volume which the Yonkers Historical and Library association will publish in February will contain the only records of the kind now extant between New York city and Fishkill.  This alone would give it great value in the eyes of anyone interested in the history of the state’s origins.  Frederick Philipse—to use the modern Anglicised spelling—first appeared in New Amsterdam as a carpenter from Holland.  It seems uncertain, however, whether he was a Hollander or the child of Bohemian parents who had taken refuge from religious persecution in the low countries.  But whatever he may have been by origin, Philipse soon allied himself by marriage with the Dutch settlers, gaining worldly wealth as well as domestic happiness by the transaction.

Was Lord of the Manor.

In 1672 he made his first purchase of land north of the Harlem.  Twenty years later the manorial rights of the territory between the Harlem river and Pocantico creek were confirmed to him by the British crown—and in those days manorial rights meant a great deal, including the rights of advowson, or the appointment of ministers of the gospel, and the jurisdiction of courts baron and leet.  A lord of the manor in the seventeenth century was, in fact, a feudal potentate so far as his domain extended.  Established in these territorial privileges Patroon Philipse, having been left a widower with several children, married Katrina Van Courtlandt, a daughter of the patrician order in which he had now attained membership.  The biographers seem to be of two minds as to the religious proclivities of this first lord of the manor of Tarrytown; some represent him as a pious and orthodox member of the Reformed church of Holland, as constituted by the synod of Dordrecht; others say he was of a somewhat indifferent tendency of thought, and one of his political enemies, of whom he had scores, accused him of being a papist.  On the whole, whatever may have been the religious feeling of Frederick Philipse, the true foundress of the Sleepy Hollow church was his wife Katrina.  The patron himself sat with his family Sunday after Sunday on the throne, or seigniorial high seat , to the right of the preacher, thus giving the support of the temporal arm as it was manifest in those days to the ministrations of the spiritual.

The Early Records.

Less than two decades of the church’s existence have passed—it was erected soon after 1680—when, in 1697, these records began to be punctually kept by Dirck Storm, the parish clerk.  Master Storm was one of the earliest of American scholars.  He came from Holland to the New Amsterdam settlement in 1662, and was one of the first schoolmasters who taught the young Dutch idea to shoot in the then new town of Brooklyn.  He was, moreover, twon secretary, which was, presumably, an office something like that of recorder.  Later on he became clerk of sessions of Orange and clerk of Sleepy Hollow.  The parish register had in his day the benefit of a scholar’s hand for its keeping; later on the clerks of Sleepy Hollow were less clerkly, and the spelling of family names suffered frightful mutilations in consequence.  Further transmogrification of Dutch names through English spelling followed when English superseded Dutch as the written language of the Pocantico regions.

The parish clerk and his antiquarian brethren have acquired an astonishing power of detecting old Holland names under English disguises by frequent dealings with such records as these.  It would be interesting to discover a few Van Winkles and such names by the aid of these experienced name detectives, in the Sleepy Hollow register, but unfortunately for lovers of romance and of Washington Irving the only name of the Rip connection that occurs is Van Tassel.

*Aspen Tribune, Aspen, Pitkin County, Colorado, Mar 11, 1901.


Old Dutch Church Homepage

Back Home