Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A rose among thorns: The legacy of Dutch rule in America

Presented to the Club by Albert E. Easton on November 23, 2009

The First Church in Albany was founded in 1642. The chancel of that church contains the seventeenth century pulpit and the hour glass that the pastors, who were called “Dominies” used to time their sermons. On the wall there appears a seal with these words: “Like a rose among thorns is my love among the daughters.” Those words, from what seventeenth century Calvinists called the book of Canticles, were chosen as a motto because Albany, in those days, was a tiny enclave of European civilization in what was perceived as a vast wilderness. The words, of course, are not in English, but in Dutch, a reminder that Albany was part of a Dutch colony, which made New York different in important ways from the other twelve original colonies. That fact had consequences for the state, and even for the nation that it became a part of. My purpose tonight is to explore those differences and how they came about.

The first step in understanding this is to review the history of England and the Netherlands in the seventeenth century. The political and religious aspects of that history were so deeply intertwined as to be almost the same thing. Elizabeth I, who had restored the Anglican church in England, died in 1603, and her successor, James I continued this tradition. The Anglican church in those days followed most of the rite and ritual of the Roman Catholic church, rejecting only the authority of the pope.

The Netherlands, along with a good deal of the rest of western Europe, were a part of the Hapsburg empire in the sixteenth century, ruled from Spain. In 1568, a revolt led by William of Orange broke out, and by 1579, the seven northern provinces, of which Holland was the largest, formed a union called the United Provinces of the Netherlands. The government of this new nation was a republic, an unusual form in the sixteenth century. This republic, while nominally Roman Catholic was tolerant of all religions, and this resulted in a huge influx of Calvinist and Lutheran believers, who were generally not welcome in those provinces that remained under Spanish rule.

Church and State: The wall of separation

Presented to the Club by Harold I. Salzmann on June 8, 2009. Illustration: Statue of Roger Williams in the U. S. Capitol Building.

“Freedom’s a thing that has no ending …”

As all of us know, this Monday Evening Club of ours was founded almost 140 years ago at the home of the grandfather of our recently deceased member, Thomas Plunkett. That founding took place on Wednesday evening, November 11, 1869. By an unrelated coincidence, my own congregation, Temple Anshe Amunim (“People of Faith”) was founded just a few days later, on a Sunday evening, November 14. I have been researching this latter history for some time – not incidental to our congregation’s similar observance this November of its 140th celebratory observance.

One of the intriguing questions that concerned me, at the outset of my inquiry into the beginning of our congregation here in the Berkshires was why our beginnings here were only in the middle of the 19th century. Our congregation is one of the oldest in New England. But American Jewish history goes back actually to the discovery of America itself, beginning with Columbus. Luis Torres, the navigator’s official interpreter, was a converso/marrano, the first white man actually to set foot on the soil of the New World. And there is a school of scholars – non-Jewish and Spanish at that – who have theorized that Columbus himself was of Jewish origins.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Club's historic membership roster, part IV: Members joining 1885-1900

This is the fourth post in a series on the historic membership roster of the Club. These posts may be updated as additional biographical information on the members is uncovered. Research by Martin C. Langeveld, incorporating research by Harold L. Hutchins for a paper given to the Club in 1993. The photo at left is of William Stanley, Jr., who joined in 1892.


Rev. Isaac Chipman Smart — 1859-1931; born in Shoreham, Vt.; graduated from Amherst College in 1881; editor of the Pittsfield Evening Journal, 1881-1882; graduated from Union Theological Seminary in 1885, ordained 1885 and became pastor of South Congregational Church, Pittsfield and served until 1906; became pastor of College Street Congregational Church, Burlington, Vt. in 1906; died in Burlington.


Harlan Hoge Ballard — 1853-1934; born in Athens, Ohio; graduated from Williams College in 1874 and became principal of the Lenox, Mass. High School; appointed principal of the Lenox Academy in 1880, where he founded the Agassiz Association, a national organization for the study of natural object that eventually had more than 1,000 chapters worldwide; became librarian at the Berkshire Athenaeum; authored books of poetry, novels and translations from Latin. One of his books, The Tiler's Jewel, a Masonic novel, is still in print. His mother, Julia Perkins Pratt Ballard (1824-1894) was a noted nature writer and author of popular science books for children.

Charles Edmund Hibbard — 1844-1922; born in Farmington Falls, Maine; graduated from Amherst College in 1867; studied law in Woodstock, Vt.; admitted to the bar in Boston in 1869; practiced in Tama, Iowa from 1869 to 1873 and in Boston from 1873 to 1881; opened a law practice in Lee in 1881 (lived earlier in Iowa City, Iowa); moved his practice to Pittsfield in 1887; first mayor of Pittsfield (elected 1891); served as district attorney for six years; served as delegate to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1917-1918; died in Pittsfield.

Henry Colt, Jr. — born in Pittsfield in 1856; graduated from Williams College in 1878 and from Harvard Medical School in 1881; physician, associated medical director of the Berkshire Life Insurance Company, medical examiner for Berkshire County, chairman of the medical and surgical board of the House of Mercy Hospital, trustee of the Berkshire Athenaeum, director of the Pittsfield National Bank and the Berkshire Loan and Trust Company; died in Pittsfield in 1931 (193 South Street).

Marcus H. Rogers — born in Mill River (village in New Marlborough) about 1835 (where he published a paper called the Rising Sun as a teenager; publisher and editor of the Berkshire Courier 1865-1879 and later the Berkshire County Eagle 1887-1889; spent more than 60 years in newspaper publishing; retired in Florida; died 1925 at the age of 90.

Rev. Orville Coats — pastor of the First Baptist Church; served later in Somerville and Lowell, Mass.