First Reformed Church, Marion, N.Y.

Early Minutes (1870-1880)
Early Members (1870-1885)
Early Baptisms (1870-1893)
1897 Revised Membership List

The Marion First Reformed Church records were compiled from original church material by Harold DeBrine and completed in 1992. We are most grateful to Mr. DeBrine for granting us permission to post portions of his unique resource on this site. We will be posting the book's Introduction (below), Early Members of the Church, and the 1897 Revised Membership List. A copy of Mr. DeBrine's full work is available for viewing at the Office of the County Historian.


The minutes were translated from the Dutch language into English by Inge Boer, a Graduate Student at the University of Rochester, her home, Amsterdam, Holland. The translating required many hours to complete as the Dutch language has changed over the past one hundred twenty years. The style of penmanship was not always easy to decipher. No attempt was made to set the translation down in modernday English. As much as possible, the wording was kept as it was written. Obvious mistakes in grammar and/or sentence structure were not corrected. It is therefor a literal translation.

We cannot always be sure who wrote the minutes. A few, not many, of the church members, other than the pastor (Teacher), were well educated, well-versed in church and biblical terminology, as well as beliefs. The pastor always signed the minutes as president of the consistory, as did the secretary in his capacity. Did the secretary write the finished product or did he take notes during the meeting and the pastor write the minutes later from those notes? Very few held the position of secretary so it is probably that among the congregation there were only a few who were sufficiently educated. Many, in those early days, had not attended school in Holland before they emigrated. The pastors, on the other hand, were well educated and were fluent in both Dutch and English. In the Marion Church, there was a Secretary of the Consistory. In some Reformed Churches, at that time, the writer of the minutes, a layman, signed his name as "Scriba" (scribe). Obviously when Marion had no pastor, the minutes were written by a layman.

Names always present a problem. Many were not spelled correctly and the spellings varied as one proceeds through the minutes. Many brought transfers with them from their parish in Holland. Even then the names did not always appear spelled the same way. It seemed to be an area that did not receive a great deal of concern, even from the pastors. Many of the congregation, not being able to read, or write may have contributed to this. Regardless of the accuracy, the names are important. They show when people arrived in the area, and equally important, they give the maiden name of the wife, an item often difficult to find.

Perhaps surprising to some who will read this, the vast majority of the early members of the Marion Reformed Church were not true Dutch in the sense that their families had originated in Holland. Most, if not all, were descendants of Protestant refugees who had fled for safety from what is now France, during the religious wars of the Reformation period. Their ancestors had lived in that area for perhaps hundreds of years - and had attended Catholic churches there. When Protestantism came into being after Martin Luther posted his theses in 1517, many took the Protestant side of the argument. Most stayed where they were during the conflicts that followed until the late 1600's. 1685-1715 was the period of the greatest exodus. The ancestors of the Marion people moved just far enough north to get across the Dutch border. Holland was the first to grant religious freedom. Families were split, of course, with some members remaining Catholic. There was no need for them to move. They, later, may also have emigrated, from Belgium to America, almost always as Catholic, while those who had moved to Holland emigrated to Marion, for example, almost always as Protestants.

Assuming the year 1700 as an average date for the arrival of the refugees in Holland, most of the ancestors of the early Marion Reformed Church members were Dutch for around 150 to 200 years. In general, they had arrived in Holland penniless, the French having confiscated their land and personal property. During their stay in Holland, again most remained in the peasant class, working as laborers and household servants for the Dutch landowners. This may explain why there was not a lot of intermarrying between the two groups. When America opened up after the Revolutionary War, early Dutch immigrants, testing the waters so to speak in Western new York in the early to mid 1800's, reported back to relatives and friends in Holland about the opportunities here. The second exodus began around 1845, this time from Holland to America.

The attached maps will help one understand the geography. The area that the people had left and the area that they had moved to was once a small country (actually Duchy) called Flanders. During the 80-Years War, Holland, in 1604, captured the most northern part of Flanders now called Dutch Flanders, between the Belgium border and the Scheldt river. Consequently, by the time of the first exodus in 1700, these refugees were actually fleeing from one part of old Flanders to another. In a way, the entire area is still referred to as Flanders. The Dutch call this north part, Dutch Flanders, the Belgiums call the middle part (Belgium's two most western counties) East Flanders and West Flanders, and the French call the most southern part (Lille to Calais area), French Flanders. This can lead one to the conclusion that it is more accurate to say that we are of Flemish ancestry, perhaps not of tremendous importance but at least of interest. In moving from the old Flemish area to Holland, most kept their Flemish or French family name. Some, however, did not and upon arriving in Holland, assumed a Dutch name or more often changed their name to the Dutch name with the same meaning - One example Le Roi, in French "the King" to in Holland de Koning or De Konick, also "the King".

While it is easy to conclude that most of the early Dutch immigrants came to this area for economic reasons, the religious aspects of their migration are not as easy to sort out. Some actually did list as their reason for emigrating "seeking freedom of religion". The minutes show that most were ardent Protestants and were rather strict in their beliefs. There is evidence that some, at least, did not believe that the Reformed Church is Holland was strict enough. Those Seceders (Christian Reformed) who emigrated to Holland, Michigan and Pella, Iowa, in 1846 and 1847 emigrated for that reason. A few Seceders came to our area as such and stayed here. The minutes do not really throw much light on this question. One can only try to interpret. It does appear that they took a very strict approach to their religious beliefs and affairs.

The translation covers the first 10 years of the First Reformed Church of Marion. There was in existence, however, in Marion, a formally organized and incorporated First Reformed Dutch Society for the 10 years prior to 1870. One would assume that the Society kept minutes. There is nothing in the translated minutes shedding light on that subject. Perhaps this is what makes this and similar projects interesting. We never know it all.

Two pastors (Teachers - in Dutch, Leeraar) served the Church during its first 10 years: John W. Warnshuis 1871-1876 and Cornelius Wabeke 1877-1879. The Reverend Wabeke's term was cut short by illness which resulted in his death. The Reverend J.W. Warnshuis was an extremely competent individual and the church members must have recognized this when he, as a representative of Classis, visited them during the organizational period in May of 1870. After two "Calls" he came from Clymer, N.Y. to Marion. In the Historical Directory of the Reformed Church, Warnshuis is described "as possessing a magnetic personality, a broad spirit of brotherhood, a manner of speech which provoked not only the interest but the cooperation of all with whom he came in contact." He appears to have liked challenges. His career was composed of moving from church to church, getting each established and on firm footing before moving on to the next. The magnetism of his personality is illustrated by the fact that during the early 1880's, a group of the Marion members moved to Alton, Iowa where the Rev. Warnshuis was then the pastor. A few returned but most remained in Iowa.

Not all of the business of the church was recorded in the minutes. There were other account books, Deacons' books, and correspondence. At least what we do have gives us a better understanding of what went on in this particular church over one hundred years ago. My great-grandparents, Marenus and Mary De Smith Schoonerman, were charter members.

Harold J. De Brine
1400 East Avenue
Rochester, New York 14610
February 15, 1992

This material, copyright © 1992 to Harold DeBrine, may be freely used by non-commercial entities, as long as this full paragraph remains on all copied material. These electronic pages, with commentary and underlying source code, cannot be reproduced in any format for profit or other presentation, nor may this copyrighted original electronic text be used on any other site or CD-ROM.

Typed by Wayne County GenWeb Coordinator Allyn Hess Perry

List of Early Members of the Marion, N.Y. First Reformed Church, 1870 - 1885

1897 Revised Membership List of the Marion, N.Y. First Reformed Church, 1870 - 1885

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