Church History in America
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THE CHURCH FAMILY IN AMERICA, 1630 - 1935
By Daniel J. Bornt
Of all the first families that arrived on America's shores nearly four hundred years ago, the Church family of New England takes a back seat to none in regards to pedigree resulting from involvement in founding the new country.
Emigrating from England with the earliest of the Puritan settlers, the Churches set about to establishing a long, distinguished lineage of descendants that were at the forefront of America's most brightest and esteemed citizens.
The putative first Church to step foot upon the new world was Richard Church from Oxford, England, (1608-1668) who arrived at the fledgling Plymouth colony in 1630 aboard the fleet with Winthrop; a carpenter, he built the settlement's first Puritan meeting house of worship.
His son, the renowned Col. Benjamin Church, (1639-1718) led the Massachusetts colonists' militia in the 1676 war against the Wampanoag chief King Philip (Metacomet, the son of Massasoit), ending the Indian uprising in the region, where raids on the frontier settlements destroyed many towns with captives taken.
Another Richard Church, (16-- - 1667) perhaps a cousin, arrived from England a few years after the first Richard, and migrated inland to become one of the original founders of Hartford, Conneticut.
Along the way, as the colonies struggled for freedom from England and to establish a new nation, the Churches were involved, although sometimes not in the most patriotic of circumstances!
Dr. Benjamin Church, (1734-1778?) graduate of Harvard, physician, poet, author and grandson of the illustrious colonel, was accused during the early days of Revolutionary hostility in Boston, of collaborating with the British; tried in a court-martial with General Washington presiding, he was sentenced to life in prison. (Perhaps Masonic brotherhood between Washington and himself prevented his hanging.)
Allowed by the Massachusetts Council to depart for the West Indies Dr. Church sailed from Boston about 1778, but his ship was never heard from again.
Then there was Angelica Schuyler, winsome daughter of Revolutionary General Philip Schuyler. Described as "beautiful and independent with a razor-sharp wit", she eloped with a Church (albeit not one of the American Church descendants) by climbing out the window of her family's Albany mansion.
A few years later, as her sister settled down as the wife of Alexander Hamilton, she became the object of Thomas Jefferson's affections while he was the American ambassador to France and she was still married to Church. His intimate letters to her have only recently come to light.
But all in all, the Churches have achieved prominence throughout the years by distinction in sober intellectual pursuits as men of education, the clergy, the law, and the fine arts.
Among other noteworthy Churches in the family line:
* Garret Church (1611-?), noted citizen of Watertown,
It is also interesting to note that four Church men on the Union side perished in the July 2-5, 1863 battle at Getttysburg.
Sources and their accompanying dates (or lack thereof) for this article include: "Dictionary of American Biography" (Scribners), "Encyclopedia of Biography," "Union Dead at Gettysburg," "Custer, The Life of George Armstrong Custer" by Jay Monaghan, "Genealogical Guide to the Early Settlers of America," "O Albany" by William Kennedy, and the Associated Press.
copyright 2001 by Daniel J. Bornt
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©2002 by Daniel J. Bornt, e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org