The early beginnings of  the Church of England in Dutchess County started in 1755 with the Rev. Samuel Seabury, Rector of  St. George’s Church, Hempstead, Long Island. At the request of a number of Church of England members in residence in Dutchess County,  Rev. Seabury rode to Fishkill on horseback, where he baptized one adult and ten children. Upon returning to Hempstead he reported his experience to the Venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in London. At the direction of the V.S.P.G. he returned as a missionary numerous times in the years from 1757 through 1762, visiting Poughkeepsie in 1759.  During this time he was mainly occupied with baptizing and sermonizing. The death of Rev. Seabury in 1764, highlighted the need for a resident missionary.

This led  the Rev. John Beardsley of Groton, CT, (at that time suffering from lapsed salary support from the congregations there) in 1764 to lead the effort to raise funds to purchase a glebe (farm) and to  purchase land for a church to be built in Poughkeepsie. This task was accomplished in early 1766. A group of seven Poughkeepsie churchmen then wrote to the V.S.P.G. in London for financial support, saying they “will raise Sixty Pounds … annually, for the support of  a minister of the Church.” They received a favorable reply, contingent upon them executing a bond guaranteeing their promise to purchase a glebe, and the paying of  30 pounds per year for John Beardsley’s salary.

In October 1766 sixteen churchmen representing “Poughkeepsinck, Rumboutt, Beekmans and Charlott" (old spelling) executed the bond, plus an agreement with Mr. Beardsley to allow him "40 shills a month in addition to his salary ‘till a house and glebe be provided for him." The first service celebrated by Mr. Beardsley took place in Beekman Precinct about a mile from Sylvan Lake, and equidistant from the other three congregations. After much discussion between the Fishkill and Poughkeepsie congregations, it was left to Mr. Beardsley to chose the location of the glebe, even though  he was serving both places. He chose the site of the Glebe House on the Ostrander farm, (present today on Main Street, Poughkeepsie) which was purchased in August, 1767. To settle disputes over the Ostrander acreage, a Grant of Incorporation was signed by King George III  in December 1771, giving the church rights to the land. It also urged that a church to be known as Christ Church be built as soon as possible. A copy of this charter document can be seen hanging the Rector’s office at Christ Church.

In the autumn of 1773  the foundation of the first church was laid on the Du Bois lot on the corner of present day Church & Market Streets. In the autumn of 1774 the substantial  brick church building was completed and consecrated, although pews were not installed until after the Revolutionary War. Services were suspended during the war, which virtually ended Mr. Beardsley’s rectorate in July 1776, somewhat due to the fact that he was an avid Tory. The Parish was part of the Church of England, and because of political tension between the Patriots and the Torys, the building was unused from 1776 to 1784, although a vestry met during this time. Post Revolutionary War, in 1787 the American Episcopal Church was formed, and its Bishops were consecrated by Church of England Archbishops at Lambeth. Conflict over these consecrations took a generation for it to be finally resolved.

The 1774  church was razed  in 1833 with great difficulty due to its two foot thick solid masonry walls. It was necessary to raze the original building to make way for a second larger church in 1834, to accommodate the expanding congregation due in part to area failed congregations and to an influx of Dutch Reformed Church members. This church building was later sold and our current church building was constructed in 1888 on Academy Street, the site of the “Old English Burial Ground,” on which the City had not allowed burials to take place since 1871. Once again the parish needed a larger church building, and this land was idle and considered a public eyesore.

A number of Christ Church rectors and priests have become well known! To whit:

Philander Chase – Rector Christ Church 1799 – 1805, Bishop Diocese of Ohio 1819, Bishop of Illinois 1835. Saint of the Episcopal Church

Rev. Alexander Cummins – Rector 48 years 1900 – 1946. Evelyn Cummings, his wife, composed the hymn “I Walk the Kings Highway” which appears in The Hymnal 1982.

Rev. James Pike - Rector 1948-49 - Bishop, California late 1960’s

Rev. Robert  Terwilliger – Rector 1950’s  – Bishop, Texas mid 1960’s

Rev. William G. Weinhauer  – Rector early 1970’s - Bishop, North Carolina mid 1970’s

Rev. Andrew Dietsche – Member of Christ Church & Canon for Pastoral Care for the Diocese of New York.  Elected Bishop Coadjutor,  NY Diocese in 2011.  Bishop of New York, beginning in February of 2013.

Compiled by James E. Bliss 12/2011,  from Reference: The Records of Christ Church, edited by Helen Wilkinson Reynolds, 1911


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