The Huguenot Church on Manhattan island



This Church was established in 1628, and has been in continuous service ever since. It is now known as Eglise Francaise du Saint Esprit. The close affinity of Walloon and French, was responsible for the founding of New Netherlands and the beginning of New York. The early Church was of stone and stood on The Broadway, bounded by Nassau, Maiden lane, and Pine Streets. The burial ground, containing the mortal remains of the most important Walloons and Huguenots, has long since disappeared in the March of Progress.

Jean Dankerts was the first white man born on Manhattan island. The date was 1614. Verrazzano, a Florentine, who took the French name of Jean Verassen, was employed by Francis I., King of France. In 1521, Verassen discovered the land between the Chesapeake and Canada. Several French ships followed and entered New York Harbor. A trading station was established at Sheepshead Bay called Angouleine. In 1540, a fort was built near Albany. Meanwhile, the French built a fort at the tip of the Island, surrounded on the land side by a palisade. The Indians lived in a settlement called Norenbeque at the present site of City Hall. The coming of Captain Hudson is well documented. Suffice to add that he took back a large quantity of furs. The Dutch were not tardy in seeing the importance of this trade and also that the aggressive Huguenots were the ideal people to do it. Thus came Jean Vigne's father, a Huguenot, in 1613 from Valenciennes. Jean's mother was called Adrienne, also French. The leader in this colonization enterprise was Jesse deForrest, who came from Avesnes, but his ship, the Pigeon, unfortunately went to the mouth of the Amazon, where he died. The second boat, the Mackerel, landed in the Lower Bay. The real colonizing expedition sailed from Texal in March 1624 on the New Nederlandt, a name now almost a famous as the Mayflower. The Nederlandt sailed with 30 families only a few were Dutch the majority were Huguenots, the lesser Walloon. Among the settlers was George de Rapalie, whose wife Catherine Tricot, a Parisian, gave birth tot he first white girl in New Amsterdam. She was christened Sarah. By 1628, there were 300 inhabitants. There was no minister for the first four years. During this period, Sebastan Krol preached and administered to the sick. It is said that he carried a fried cake with him, which he often gave to the sick, and this is the origin of crullers, strong stomachs, those sick hardy Dutch and French possessed.

In 1628, the first minister arrived, Jonas Michaelius from Dieppe. Pierre Minnet arrived three years before, also a Huguenot from Wesel, in the Duchy of Cleves, on the Rhine. The two men coming from the same general background, exercised fine teamwork. A trading post was now to become an agricultural settlement. Manhattan island was purchased from the Indians for 24 dollars. Church services were held in a horse mill on Williams Street near Pearl. The millstones are still in the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas, the mother church of old New York. Michaelius preached long sermons in Dutch, as difficult to digest as Krol's crullers. The first erected church building was at 39 Pearl Street, built of lumber, it was a barn-like structure. The next church built in 1642 was within the fort and was called St. Nicholas Church. It cost $1,000, was 70 feet long, 52 feet wide, and was built of stone. it had a double gable roof and a spire, and filled one-quarter of the fort. It was lighted by candles. The pulpit was box-like. The deacon sat on a bench in front; the women in the center; the men and children on the sides. The deacon took the offering in a purse on a long stick, to which was attached a bell as a reminder.

Pierre Daille arrived in 1682. Born at Chatellerant, Poitu in 1649, he had been a Professor at the Reformed Huguenot Academy of Saumur. As a true Huguenot, always alert and seeing well ahead, he was reordained in the Anglican Church, by way of London. Calvin did not oppose the Episcopate, he simply maintained, "that it had been transformed beyond recognition into the unreformed church." Daille established churches at Hackensack, Staten Island, and New Paaltz.

A second Huguenot Church was organized in New York in 1688 at the site of the Produce Exchange (Bowling Green and Petticoat Lane). The minister was Pierre Peiret. In 1692, these two churches united. Daille took the circuit of churches; Peiret the city Huguenot Church on Petticoat Lane. The growth was phenomenal. The Church outgrew itself by 1704, and on July 1, 1704, Lord Cornbury laid the cornerstone of the new Church at Pine Street and a dwelling for the pastor.

In 1791, the French Church entered into an agreement with the Episcopal Church, "a step never to be regretted and mutually advantageous to both."

In the next half century, the Church was to grow and prosper inordinately. From Pine Street to Franklin Street; to 22nd Street; to 27th Street; and now at the beginning of World War I., 60th Street and Park Avenue. The present pastor, The Rev. John A.F. Maynard, is a scholarly and brilliant man, having caused a far-reaching spirit of interest to be developed. Centrally located for all five boroughs, the congregation comes from far and near.


Website: The History
Article Name: The Huguenot Church on Manhattan Island
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From my collection of books: The Huguenot Migration in Europe and America, Its Cause and Effect by C. Malcolm B. Gilman, M.D., ScD. Honorary President General, The National Huguenot Society; National Trustee, Sons of the American Revolution; Copyright: 1962 Publisher: The Arlington Laboratory For Clinical and Historical Research, Colts Neck, New Jersey.
Time & Date Stamp: