Early Dutch Settlers

Their Tenacity As Shown By Love Of Their Church

A Tribute to the Worth of the Hollanders - The Reformed Church Should Have Kept the Word "Dutch" in its Corporate Title

Roelof Schenck, the eldest son of Jan Schenck and Sara Couvenhoven, his wife, had no real estate devised to him under his father's will, although he was appointed one of the executors. The reason of this was that he had acquired a large tract of land at and in the vicinity of what is now Bradevelt station, Marlboro township, then a part of Freehold township. The younger son, John, had doubtless remained at home working on his father's farm. He was 28 years old when he married Nellie Bennett. When his father's will was executed he was unmarried, while the eldest son, Roelof, had been married some thirty years, and had eight children and also grandchildren at this time.

His dwelling house stood near the site of the Brick Church, about two or three hundred yards south of the public road which now passes by the Brick Church, and about 500 yards east of the railroad track. The buildings are now all gone. The lands owned by him in this vicinity are now cut up into several large and valuable farms, some of which are still owned and occupied by his descendants on the female side.

Rev. Theodore W. Wells, in his memorial address at Brick Church, speaks of this Roelof Schenck , and states he was called "Black Roelof" and noted for his great physical strength. He was also the person who selected the site for the church edifice, where it has remained to this day, by carting the first load of building stones to the spot. On page 308 in "Old Times in Old Monmouth" are several references to this Roelof Schenck, who was quite a noted business man in his day and active in church work.

The first two Schenck brothers, Garrett and Jan, were among the first organizers and supporters of the Dutch church in Monmouth county. Their names appear on the early records both as elders and deacons.

The majority of their descendants down to the present day have generally sustained this church or the churches which have sprung from it.

They have been married, their children have been baptized and their funerals solemnized by the clergymen of the Dutch church. Many of them sleep their last sleep in the yard adjacent to the Brick church, as the tombstones show.

Rev. Theodore W. Wells has given us a full history of the successive pastors of this church, but the history of the congregation is yet to be written. When it is, the Schencks and their kinsmen among the Hendricksons, Vanderveers, Conovers and Smocks will occupy the most conspicuous places. And I assert without fear of contradiction that the progress and prosperity of the Dutch church in America is due to the stability and tenacity inherent in the Dutch character, rather than to any excellency in the church government or its polity and the ability of its trained clergymen.

In fact the clergymen of this denomination committed a great blunder when they dropped the name "Dutch" and called themselves the "Reformed Church." This name is applicable to the Episcopalians, Quakers or any other of the many Protestant sects, and has no particular meaning.

Instead of resisting the detraction, ridicule and abuse which originated in England, and was based on conflicting interests, commercial rivalries and national prejudices, which prevailed during the reign of Charles II, and which saturated all English literature of that period, they weakly yielded to it.

This denunciation of Holland, and the Republican government and citizens of that country, was increased through the bitter malice and rank partisan feeling which prevailed in England during the reign of William of Orange. As Macaulay in his history of England has shown, every effort was made by the adherents of the Stewart dynasty and the Papists to stir up English hate and prejudice, by denouncing and ridiculing the "Dutch" in order to overthrow their "Dutch King" and the Stadtholder of the Dutch Republicans.

This spirit was caught up by writers in America and eagerly imitated until the word "Dutch" became synonymous with all that was vile, cruel, brutal and cowardly. Instead of resisting these slanderous charges and falsehoods, and upholding the right and truth as could have been done, the "Shepherds of the Church" pusillanimously surrendered the old historical name, and the glorious past which belonged to it. A respectable body of the laymen of this denomination strongly objected to this change, but before the matter was fairly understood by the lay element, the "disgraceful deed was done." It has been the lay element of this denomination which has upheld and perpetuated this church in the United States, and their consent should have been obtained before the "standard" or "flag" was pulled down.

This fact is shown by the history of each separate church, for the history of one, in its general features, is the history of all which have come down for the last century.

Judge John Fitch has published an article giving an account of the old Dutch church at Schodack Landing, Rennselaer county, N. Y. Mr. Fitch is a lineal descendant of the colonial governor of Connecticut of the same name, and, I am informed, of unmixed English descent.

Like Macaulay and Motley he rises above the narrow predjudices (sic) and supercilious arrogance and self-righteousness which characterize so many English writers and their servile imitators in New England when they write of Holland or its people. We have had lately a specimen of this same spirit in the English papers when they speak of Paul Krueger and the Dutch farmers of South Africa, of Boors, as they so frequently call them. Judge Fitch does not hesitate to give others such credit as they justly deserve, even when it impairs the extravagant claims of the Pilgrim Fathers to all that is great and grand in the early history of our country. The following is a true copy of Judge Fitch's article:

"About the year 1637 the Dutch began the first settlement on the east side of the Hudson river, between the mouths of Kinderhook creek and a point about opposite the present city of Albany, then a mere trading post. The principal settlement was on the present site of the village of Schodack Landing. The first thing they did was to build a log church at the landing. It was located near the site of the present burying ground. This was the origin of the church now in existence at Mutzeskill, which is either the third or fourth edifice.

"It was regularly incorporated in 1788 by the name of The Ministry, Elders and Deacons of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church at Schodack. In 1810 the church edifice was removed back from the Hudson river about two and a half miles to Mutzeskill, where it still remains.

"The Hollanders were then, as their descendants are now, firm, reliable christians-few or no infidels among them. The descendants of these men are to-day more free from cant, hypocricy (sic) and isms than are the descendents of the English. Comparatively few if any of Holland descent stray away from the path of rectitude and virtue or the Protestant faith of their fathers; while the English become Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Catholics and frequently skeptics or religious reformers, which are other names for infidels or hypocrites. Such had been the experience of those who have observed the fate of the Dutch, Presbyterians, Methodists and Baptists of the vicinity of which I speak.

"One of the reasons why the Hollanders have so long retained and maintained their foothold and standing in the valley of the Hudson and also along the Mohawk, is because of their tenacity and firmly fixed moral and religious principles, temperate habits and homely and disinterested virtues. They do not run about, emigrate from place to place, and are not continually on the go, jump and run. They are not yearly movers, are not easily moved from their fixed residences, but are stable in all their ways.

" The residence of the Hollander can be very readily distinguished from that of other nationalities, because his residence once selected, the location becomes home and at once he sets to work to improve it. Buildings, fruit trees, gardens and shrubbery are put up, planted, looked after and cared for.

"The fences are in a still better condition, and the farm is more carefully cultivated than the farms of those who are moving from place to place, and who never, as it were, live anywhere long. The Hollander has been true to his country's principles of liberty and religion, and he has steadily adhered to the Reformed Dutch church here in the state of New York. The Protestant religion holds its own firmly imbued in the mind of the Hollander.

"It is a singular fact than when a Reformed Dutch church is established, it is there to stay. In very few instances has a Dutch church been abandoned when once fairly established in the valley of the Hudson.

"It lives, prospers and holds its own, although surrounded by Catholics, Methodists, Episcopalians and other persuasions. The Dutch church did more in spreading the cause of our Saviour from 1637 to 1785 than all the other persuasions in the colony of New York.

"Time has rolled on, but still the distinctive mark of the Hollander remains. The church at Schodack Landing may be said to be the mother church of the Dutch churches on the east bank of the Hudson river."

This account comes from a man whose judicial experience, associations and English descent place it above all suspicion of bias or partiality. By simply changing name of church and location, it is applicable to the First Dutch church of Monmouth county, as well as to other old churches in New Jersey of this denomination.

The same kind of people founded and sustained them, and the same results have followed. Our forefathers from Holland had real practical faith and trust in God. They believed he cared for them in the wilderness of the new world, surrounded by the fierce Mohawk warriors, the perils, diseases and hardships of their pioneer life, as he had in their memorable struggle of eighty years with Spain and the Popish hierarchy. This church of their fathers had been born amidst perils, tears and blood; its countless martyrs were subjected to all the cruelties and tortures Spanish malice, treachery and bigotry could inflict or the inquisitors could invent, and their deeds of courage, sacrifice and endurance have never been excelled in the annals of human history. The persecutions of the Puritans in England or of the Presbyterians in Scotland were but childs' play compared to the wholesale massacres and tortures of the Dutch people by that Spanish Nero, Philip II, and that fiend incarnate, the Duke of Alva. Instead of weakly yielding to the abuse, ridicule and detraction which had been heaped on the "Dutch," "The Shepherds of the Church" should have repelled with indignation the mere suggestion of dropping the historic name. Instead of being ashamed they should have gloried in their name, and with united hearts and voices raised to heaven Elihu Vedder's anthem:

    From out the sea, O Motherland,
    Our fathers plucked thy billowy strand;
      As from the deep
      Where treasures sleep,
    The pearl rewards the daring hand.

    And when far angrier billows broke,
    Of bigot hate and war's fell stroke,
      Our sires withstood
      This sea of blood,
    With hearts no tyrant's hand could yoke.

    The thrift that wrought, like Moses's rod,
    A path where man had never trod;
      That highway kept,
      By storm unswept,
    A land unpromised yet from God.

    A land where genius flamed with power,
    Where learning earned its glorious dower,
      Where commerce sped,
      With boundless tread,
    And art bloomed forth in beauteous flower.

    A land where knowledge grew for all;
    Where conscience knew no hyve or thrall
      Where exiled bands,
      From other lands,
    Bore truth, that made old errors fall.

    That land can well afford to be
    The theme of Irving's pleasantry;
      And toss the jest
      From off its crest;
    As off it tossed the mocking sea.

    Our hearts untraveled high expand,
    To read thy record strangely grand;
      With tongue aflame,
      We call thy name,
    And proudly own thee, Motherland.

Roelof Schenck not only owned the lands around what is now the Marlboro Brick church, but he lived and died in his dwelling house near this spot. He also married the daughter of Daniel Hendrickson, who was one of the principal organizers of the Dutch church of Monmouth county, and one of its earliest elders. His name and the name of his wife, Catharine VanDyke, appear among communicants of this church as early as 1709. Daniel Hendrickson came from Long Island and settled on the farm now owned by his great-great grandson, Hon. William Henry Hendrickson, at Holland in Holmdel township. He was the first person of Holland descent to hold the office of high sheriff of this county, and he was also an officer of the county militia. He was very active in all church work, and often conducted service on Sunday in the absence of any regular clergyman. The late Rev. G. C. Schenck had in his possession a sermon printed in the Dutch language which had been written and delivered by this Daniel Hendrickson.

Roelof Schenck and his wife, Geesie Hendrickson, together with their son, Hendrick Schenck, and his wife, Catharine Holmes, are all buried in the Scheck-Couwenhoven burying ground in Pleasant Valley, Holmdel township.

Source: Red Bank Register, Wednesday, March 30, 1898

More Early Dutch Settlers

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 1 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 2 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 4 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 5 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 6 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 7 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 8 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 9 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 10 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 11 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 12 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 13 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 14 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 15 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 3 Red Bank Register