Van Bunsohooten, Elias

Van Bunsohooten, Elias a clergyman of the Reformed (Dutch) Church in America, son of a farmer, Tennis Van Bunschooten, was born at New Hackensack, near Fishkill, N.Y., Oct. 26, 1738. He was one of five brothers, none of whom ever married, although all of them lived to adult age. One of them, while on a voyage to the West Indies, was killed by mutineers, with all on board except a small boy. One of these mutineers named Anderson, after conviction in New York, was executed upon an island in the harbor, which has ever since been called Anderson's or Gibbet Island, where Gibbs and other pirates were afterwards hanged. There were also three sisters, all of whom were mothers of large families. Mr. Van Bunschooten was educated at Princeton College; graduated in 1768; studied theology with Dr. Hermanus Meyer, of Kingston; and was licensed to preach in 1773 by the "General Meeting of Ministers and Elders." He settled that year at Schaghticoke, N. Y., and remained until 1785, when he removed to the Kittatinny valley which extends from the Delaware to the Hudson, and became pastor of three united churches Minisink, N.Y.; Magagcamack (now Port Jervis), N.Y.; and Walpack,N.Y. During his ministry another Church was formed at the Clove in 1788 (Dutch Hoop, a valley cloven by a stream). At this place he ultimately located his home upon an extensive farm. In 1803 a plentiful revival blessed his faithful ministry. He withdrew from active service, on account of age, in 1812, and died Jan, 10, 1815. Mr. Van Bunschooten's ministry was pure and healthful in its influences. He was fond of books and of learning. He preached equally well in Dutch and in English, always from a careful analysis, but often with peculiarities of thought which were quite characteristic, and not always in good taste. His voice was full, but not loud, and his manner in the pulpit was earnest and impressive. He was very eccentric. He was about six feet high, erect and stately, and there was "something about him that reminded you of an Indian chief." His general manner was rather austere, although to intimate friends he could pleasantly unbend. Under his ministry the very primitive and uncultivated people of his extensive charge, which was fifty miles long, and in a newly opened wilderness region, greatly improved in mind, manners, education, and religious spirit, much of which is attributed to his influence. He was scrupulously exact in all his business transactions. His salary was about £100 per year. It is said that a defaulting deacon, who had collected his salary, mortgaged his farm to the dominion to secure his payment. After his ministry ceased this mortgage was foreclosed, and the place was given to the Church as a parsonage. He owned a mill, and once sent his negro servant on horseback after a creditor, who would not wait for three cents change, a distance of seven miles, to overtake him and pay his debt in full. He married a couple, whom he had been sent for to join in wedlock, while the Delaware River, swollen by a freshet and bridgeless, was running between him and the happy parties to whom he could not cross. In his marriage register he headed the date-column "time of execution." During his last illness he insisted upon paying every one of his neighbors who watched with him at night or by day a day's wages in silver, however unwilling they might be. This was his sense of exact justice and independence. Inheriting a handsome portion from his father's estate, and by frugal management acquiring a large property, in his old age he devoted an unusual proportion of his worldly goods to the cause of ministerial education. At the suggestion of his life-long friend Dr. John H. Livingston, who wrote him a memorable letter just when he was about removing from New York to take charge of the Theological Seminary in New Brunswick, July 31,1810 (Life of Livingston, p. 250-256), he donated a large fund, which has always borne the founder's name, to the trustees of Rutgers (then Queen's) College, to educate "pious young men who hope they have a call of God to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ." The nomination of incumbents must always be made by the General Synod. The manner in which this fund was given was perfectly characteristic of the donor. While the General Synod of 1814 was sitting in New York, the venerable and quaint-looking old man, with his broad-brimmed, round crowned hat in hand, walked calmly up the aisle towards the president's seat, bowing 'as he came up, and said, "Mr. President, I want to talk." Nobody knew him, and the president asked, "Are you a member of this body, sir?" "No, sir," was the reply, "but I want to talk." 'The president reminded him that none but members had a right to speak, when an aged minister, who had just come in, recognised him, and said, "I move that the Rev. Elias Van Bunschooten have leave to talk." It was carried, and then the old patriarch went up to the president's table, drew from his pocket a large roll of bank- bills and counted them $800; Then he took another package of obligations, amounting to 13,840, and counted this out, and, in a few well chosen words, donated them to the astonished synod, and asked a committee of conference to arrange the conditions. Subsequently, by will, he added other sums, the whole being allowed to accumulate until it reached $20,000. Such is the history of this endowment, which was, so far as is known, the first one, made in our country, and certainly the first made in the Reformed Church, for theological education. Not a dollar of it has been lost. The capital now amounts to over $20,000, while the interest has educated over one hundred and twenty-five young men for the ministry, some of whom have been; among the most eminent and useful in the service of the Church at home and in foreign lands. "And by it he, being dead, yet speaketh." In 1817 Mr. Van Bunschooten's remains were removed, by direction of the General Synod, to the graveyard of the ancient church in New Brunswick, where they lie beside those of his friend Dr. Livingston and other professors of theology. At the disinterment of his body, a respectable unconverted woman of his Church, who stood looking on, was so powerfully affected by the recollection of his faithful sermons and unheeded private teachings that, as she saw the coffin raised, she uttered a cry of anguish and became almost helpless from the rush of her feelings of sin and righteousness and judgment to come; she sank almost into despair, and it was nearly a year before she found peace in believing. The very singular and yet precise and pious terms of the formal bequest of Mr. Van Bunschooten, and which require it to be read at the regular meetings of the synods and classes of the Church, 'not for aggrandizement or self ostentation, but to be an humble pattern to others," were drawn up, doubtless at his suggestion however, by the Hon. Abraham Van Vechten of Albany, an elder of the synod and member of the committee of conference. The pattern" has been nobly "followed by other." See McClure, in the New Brunswick Rev. 1855; Dodd, Life of Rev. P. Labagh; Gunn, Life of Dr. J. 17. Livingston; Corwin, Manual of the Ref. Ch. in America, s.v. (W.J.R.T.)

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