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      [Editor's note: The early Baptists were hindered by local governmental restrictions in New York. The first documents are from 1715 to 1722 and demonstrate how difficult it was for Baptists to worship.]

Early Baptists in New York
A History of the Baptists, 1926
by John T. Christian

     The severity of the laws against the Baptists; the difficulties in which their houses of worship were licensed; the annoyances incident to their meetings; and the general difficulties attending their surroundings are all well illustrated by the documents here presented. These documents show the red tape and almost impossible legal barriers thrown around them. The following papers are taken from the Documentary History of New York:


     To His Excellency William Burnet Esquire, Capt Generall & Governor in chief of the province of New York & New Jersey and the Territories depending on them in America and Vice-Admirall of the same.

     The humble petition of Nicholas Eyers brewer a baptist teacher in the City of New York.

     Sheweth unto Yor Excellency that on the teusday of ffebry 1715 At a General quarter sessions at the peace held at the city of New York the hired house of Yor peticioner scituate in the broad street of this City between the house of John Michel Eyers and Mr. John Spratt was registred for an anabaptist meeting house with this City. That the peticioner has ti certifyed under the hands of sixteen inhabitants of good faith and credit that he has been a public preacher to a baptist congregacon within this City for four years and some of them for less. That (he) has it certified by the Honble Rip Van Dam, Esqr., one of his Majestyes Council for the province of New York to have hired a house in this City from him January first 1720 only to be a public meeting house for the Baptists, which he still keeps and as he has obtained from the Mayor and Recorder of this City an ample Certificate of his good behaviour and innocent conversacon. He therefore publicly prays

     May it please yor Excellency
     To grant and permitt this peticoner to Execute ministeriall function of a minister within this City to a baptist congregacon and to give him proteccon therein according to His Majesty's gracious indulgence extended towards the protestants dissenting from the established church he being willing to comply with all what is required by the Act of toleracon from dissenters of that perswasion in great Britain & being owned for a reverend brother by other baptist teachers And as in duty bound the peticoner shall ever pray, &c.

Nicholas Eyers.

     Those may Certify all whom it may Concern that Nicholas Eyers of this City of New York Brewer hired a House of me January ye 1st 1720 only to be a publick Meeting Place of the Baptists therein to Worship Almighty God and the sd Nicholas Eyres was their Preacher. In testimony whereof I have hereunto my Hand January 19, 1721 In the Eighth Year of his Majesties Reign King George, &c.
Rip Van Dam.

City of New York.

     These are to certify unto all whom it shall come or may concern that Nicholas Eyers brewer an inhabitant of the City of New York during all of the time of his residence in said City hath behaved himself well as becometh a good subject And that to the best of our Knowledge and understanding he is blameless and free from any notorious and publick slander and vice has gained himself the good name and reputation of his neighbors of being a sober just and honest man And is said to be an anabaptist as to his profession in religion In testimony whereof We the Mayor, Recorder & Aldermen of the City of New York whose names are hereunto subscribed have signed to these presents this thirteenth day of January in the eighth year of the reign of Our Sovereign Lord George by the grace of God of Great Britain ffrance and Ireland Defender of the faith &c annoq Domini 1721-2.
R. Walter. Davis Jamison. Wm Burnet &c.

     To all whom these presents shall come or may concern
WHEREAS Mr. Nich. Eyres Brewer and Inhabitant of ye City of New York pretending to be at present a Teacher or preacher of a Congregation of Anabaptists wch has had its beginning about five Years ago within this City and has so continued hitherto, and yt at quarter sessions of the Peace their House or Place of Meeting within this City has been Registered having a Certificate of his past good behaviour I have thought fit to grant unto said Nicholas Eyres that he may enjoy the Privilege, benefits and advantages which dissenting Ministers may enjoy in great Britain by virtue of a Statute made and Enacted at Westminster Ent an Act for Exempting their maties Protestant Subjects dissenting from the Church of England from the Penaltys of Certain Laws in the first Year of King Wm and Queen Mary Provided always that he shall comply with all the Rules and orders or directions mentioned & Expressed in the same statute with Regard to Anabaptists or such Dissenting Protestants who scruples the Baptizing Infants as far as can be and so long as he shall continue of the good behaviour towards (our) Lord the King and his Lege People in Witness &c dat ye 23d of January 1721-2.
W. Burnet. By his Excellencys Command
Is: Bodin D : Sec'ry.
(Ecclesiastical Records of New York, III. pp. 2187-2189).


     The First Baptist Church of New York was organized June 10, 1762. The year previous sixteen Baptists emigrated from England and, not securing religious liberty in Massachusetts, purchased Block Island and settled there. Through John Clarke and Roger Williams, Block Island enjoyed liberty through the charter of Rhode Island. The king granted "that no person within the said colony at any time hereafter shall be in any way molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question for any difference in opinion in matters of religion, and do not actually disturb the civil peace of the said colony."

     A Baptist church was formed in Warwick, in 1776, on the west side of the Hudson, fifty-four miles north of New York City, by the labors of James Benedict, of Ridgefield, Connecticut, who continued pastor till his death. From this church soon after several others were formed. Still further north on the east side of the river, in Dutchess county, there were Baptist churches at an earlier date than this. In Fishkill there was a church previous to 1745, which had a pastor by the name of Holstead. William Marsh, of New Jersey, in 1755, gathered a church in the township of Dover. He was succeeded by Samuel Waldo, who served the churches as pastor for thirty-five years. Simon Dakin, who had been a Newlight preacher, gathered a church in the northeast. On the eastern borders of the State still further north many churches were organized (The Christian Review, June, 1839. IV. P. 217).


[From John T. Christian, A History of the Baptists, Volume 2, 1926; reprint, pp. 117-119. The spelling and grammar are unchanged. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]

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