My visit to the Seward properties began in the New Hackensack Reformed Church building. Jim, a member of the congregation, met me in the side entry and took me on a tour of the church. I heard the sound of strings playing throughout the building and Jim explained that a musical society in the area rented the building for rehearsals and lessons. I thought of Philander Seward who played the violin and wrote his favorite tunes in a notebook.
The building the church uses now was built in 1989. Before then, the main chapel, first built in 1834, sat on land that is now the end of a small airport’s runway and next to the original church cemetery. The carved stone shown above, some of the chandeliers, and windows in the chapel were moved from the old building to the new.
Before this trip, I had not realized how intertwined the Seward’s lives were with the church. Besides Philander’s sister’s marriage to Rev. Barculo, Philander in turn named one of his sons Maurice Dwight Seward after another minister. Rev. Seward served as an Elder from 1807 to 1821. Philander also became an Elder in 1847. Philander’s second to youngest son James Adis Seward served as Deacon beginning 1878 and Elder beginning 1883 until his death in 1892, There is a plaque dedicated to James and his wife Mary hanging in the church today.
After the church bought the grounds along with the Seward House in 1964, pastors coming in were given the choice to either live in the old house or be housed in a more modern building. They have all chosen to live in the Seward House. I imagine that Philander and his children would have been quite pleased to know that their house would become a valuable contribution to their church community.
After viewing the church grounds, I went over to the the cemetery down the road that was originally the Reformed Dutch churchyard and now is called New Hackensack Cemetery. When Poucher and Reynolds created their survey publication Old Gravestones of Dutchess County in 1924, the cemetery was considered “in good condition.” Now there are some fallen and broken gravestones that look like they have been neglected for a while.
I am looking forward to coming back to New Hackensack later this year when the weather gets warmer and view some of the church’s own documents to learn more about the community’s history.
Helen Wilkinson Reynolds, Dutch Houses in the Hudson Valley before 1776, (New York: Dover, 1965).
J. H. Beers & Co, Commemorative biographical record of Dutchess County, New York (Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1897); digital images, Archive.org (https://archive.org/stream/commemorativebio00beers : accessed 23 July 2017), 347.
Maria Bockee Carpenter Tower, Editor, The records of the Reformed Dutch church of New Hackensack, Dutchess county, New York, reprint (Poughkeepsie, NY: Higginson Book Co., 1932), 140; digital images, HathiTrust (https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/010686592 : accessed 14 January 2019).
J. Wilson Poucher, Helen Wilkinson Reynolds, Old gravestones of Dutchess County, New York: nineteen thousand inscriptions, (Poughkeepsie, NY: Dutchess County Historical Society, 1924), 374-382; digital images, Issuu (https://issuu.com/jeffway/docs/dutchess_gravestones : accessed 18 Jan 2019).