New Netherland

Church and Sunday in Old New York,
page 8 of 16

That he should light his long pipe in meeting was natural enough, to keep warm; though folk do say that he smoked in meeting in summer too, —to keep cool. By the middle of the eighteenth century the Albany and Schenectady churches had stoves perched up on pillars on a level with the gallery, — in high disregard or ignorance of the laws of calorics; hence, of course, the galleries, in which sat the men, were fairly heated, while the ground floor and the vrouws remained below in icy frigidity. It is told of more than one old-time sexton, that he loudly asserted his office and his importance by noisy rattling-down and replenishing of the gallery stoves and slamming of the iron doors at the most critical point in the domine’s sermon. Cornelius Van Schaick, the Albany sexton, made his triumphant way to the stoves, slashing with his switch (perhaps his dog-whip) all the boys who chanced to be in his way.

The women of the congregation carried foot-stoves of perforated metal or wood, which were filled with a box of living coals, to afford a little warmth to the feet. Many now living remember the scratching sound of these stoves on the boards or the sanded floor as they were passed from warm feet to cold feet near at hand. Kerck-stooven appear on the earliest inventories, were used in America until our own day, and still are used in the churches in Holland. In an anteroom in a Leyden church may be seen several hundred for use in the winter.

It is stated of the churches in New York City that until 1802 services were held, even in the winter-time, with wide-open doors, end that often the snow lay in little drifts in the aisles,—which may have been one reason why young folk flocked to Trinity Church.

One very handsome church-equipment of he women attendants of the Dutch Reformed Church was the Psalm-book. This was usually bound with the New Testament; and both were often mounted and clasped with silver. Sometimes they had two silver rings at the back through which ribbons could be passed, to hang thereby the books on the back of a chair if desired. Sometimes the books had silver chains. Rarely they were mounted in gold. The inventory of the estate of nearly every well-to-do Dutch woman, resident of New York, Albany, or the larger towns, shows one, and sometimes half-a-dozen of these silver-mounted Psalm-books.


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