Historic Blooming Grove Church Gives Historic Background Prior to Anniversary Celebration
Historic Blooming Grove Church: From Colonial Meeting-House to Veterans’ Church
By Michael Matsler
(This is the second of several articles commemorating the upcoming 260th anniversary of the church.) Orange County was sparsely settled wilderness when the first Blooming Grove church was built in 1759. Back then Blooming Grove was part of the Goshen Precinct, Goshen itself being on the frontier just twenty miles west of the Hudson River along the King’s Highway, now Route 94. The land for the church was conveyed by deed dated November 20, 1758 by Jacob Blackwell of Queens County to the “Presbyterian Congregation of Blooming Grove” for the grand sum of five shillings, and soon after the stone foundations were laid. The original framed deed has a place of honor on the west gable wall.
The present building, resembling a New England meeting house with white shingled walls and arched Palladian windows, was constructed when James Monroe was President, to accommodate a growing congregation, incorporating the original foundation as well as the graves of three of its early pastors, now resting in the basement beneath the pews above.
The church interior is striking. The high ceiling seems to float above the original pine pews from 1823 on the sloping floor descending downwards to the pulpit. Hidden from view is an ingenious system of posts and beams above the ceiling, supporting the pitched roof above. The vast open space illuminated by the fifteen elegant windows and grand Hook-Hastings pipe organ impart an ethereal effect. The pipe organ was a gift in 1902 from native son David H. Moffat, who also funded the construction of the Moffat Library in Washingtonville, completed in 1887 at the cost of $25,000.
David’s grandfather Samuel Moffat III was one of the founders of Washingtonville, called Little York in the early 1800’s. Another great ancestor was Thomas Moffat – militia officer in the Revolutionary War, Orange County Clerk, and friend of once-famous French gentleman farmer, author and diplomat Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur. Moffat attended the church as did numerous other Patriots with names like Marvin, Strong, Howell, Woodhull and Brewster, just to name a few. Blooming Grove was a hotbed of Patriotic fervor, and the church along with Brewster’s Tavern sat at the nerve center of the revolution in the Hudson Valley, lying on the road between the Continental Army encamped in New Windsor and Newburgh, and Trenton and Philadelphia to the southwest. Church elder Jesse Woodhull, who was co-executor of Rev. Ayres’ estate, farmed 500 acres in Blooming Grove and served as county sheriff, militia colonel, and delegate to the patriot New York Provincial Assembly and Constitutional Convention. Another spy was Robert Townsend, whose uncle Peter lived in Chester and owned the Sterling Iron Works which forged the mighty chain across the Hudson at West Point to block the British navy.
Their descendants and many other parishioners over the ensuing decades answered the call to serve their country, as did those twelve brave young men whose names are etched forever in the beautiful stained glass window in the Blooming Grove Church, known as the Patriotism Window. It was installed in June 1918 in the midst of the Great War and stands today as a testament and testimonial of our local veterans who gave so much so that we may enjoy our freedom today.
The Blooming Grove United Church of Christ kicks off its 260th Anniversary festivities with a beautiful organ recital on Sunday, November 18, 2018 by Jonathan B. Hall, minister of music at the First Presbyterian Church in Goshen and professor of music at New York University, performing a selection of classical and modern works. The program begins at 4 pm sharp and all are invited. A goodwill offering will be taken. Church services are every Sunday at 10:30 am.
See this and other great stories and pictures in this week’s Orange County Post