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wanted to get a permanent place to board at sume private house, not wishing to board at a Hotel, deeming it an unsuitable place for a minister.
The Van Kleek House was then the most conspicuous Hotel in the county. The Court House had just been erected, and Poughkeepsie being the county seat, business centered there. Judges, lawyers and learned men, merchants, artisans, &c., located at Poughkeepsie. One of the most prominent men that lived there was Paul Schank, who engaged in the mercantile business. His customers came from far and near, north to what was then known as the Little Nine Partners, east to the Connecticut line, and south as far as New Hackensack and Beekman, which then contained a few settlers. The sturdy pioneers could be seen riding on horseback, with their frows seated on a pillion behind, trudging through Main street to Paul's store, the Christian name which his neighbors always called him by. Others again in their wagons would be wending their way to Paul's store to purchase articles of merchandise which the pioneers really needed. Paul owned several acres of land on the south side of Main street, east of the Dutch Church, adjoining the burying ground, where he had built him a house and store and was doing a thriving business. Paul's lot covered a part of what is now known as Cannon street, and extended east along Main street, opposite to where the Morgan House is now located. His family consisted of his wife, two sons, and his daughter Rebekah, and a number of negro slaves, for then slavery existed throughout the country.
In those days traveling through the country was
menced reading law in his office in the Autumn of 1762, and at the close of 1764, his health being a good deal impaired, in consequence of close application to reading and writing, he left Mr. Crannell's office.
After that he experienced a change of heart, and connected himself with the Dutch Church, and his health was in a measure recovered. He became impressed that he was called to preach the Gospel, and in May, 1766, he sailed for Europe, studied in the University of Utrecht, and returned in September, 1770, and became pastor of one of the Collegiate Churches in the city of New York.
Dominie Vannist had as yet no permanent place to board ; he had lived among his parishioners, preaching at intervals in New Hackensack and Hopewell, which now had become Missionary stations. His labors were now very arduous, and it was necessary that he should have some place where he could spend more time in his study. Often times he had been subjected to great inconvenience in preparing his sermons, and Paul Schank politely invited him to come and board at his house, which offer the dominie gladly accepted. Paul's dwelling was a stone structure, with low walls and steep roof. The entrance from the front door was through a box entry, with a stairs, which led to the garret. This entry communicated with the parlor, through a large door, and adjoining this was the sitting
Two bedrooms, which were separated by a partition from the sitting room, completed the first floor, excepting the kitchen, which projected from the east end of the main building, and was set apart for the negroes. A large fire place occupied one side of the
kitchen, with jambs of sufficient height to admit a tall man. Adjacent one of the jambs was a huge oven embedded in the walls, where the bread for the family was baked. In those days they had no knowledge of stoves, and their chimneys were so wide that one could drive through them with a cart and horses, with fireplaces of such immense wings that the consumption of wood was enormous. Two iron bars were fastened in the fireplace near the mouth of the chimney ; across these bars another one was laid, which held the trammels where the pots and kettles were suspended over the fire, in which the cooking was done.
But as yet the country was comparatively a wilderness, and the forests were in close proximity to every settler's cabin. The negro then was the only laborer, and he was owned by the Dutch pioneer, and a half a score or less were in every Dutch farm house. They helped clear the forests and enclose and cultivate their farms. When Dominie Vannist came to Paul's to board, he gave him the privilege to select which room he wished to occupy.
He selected one of the bedrooms adjoining the sitting room, and found it very convenient. Mrs. Schank had ordered it thoroughly cleaned. Fillis and Juda were set to work scouring the floors and the huge beams over head, for there were no walls over head, nor carpets on the floors, in the Dutch houses in those days. Rebekah was busily engaged arranging the furniture her father had recently purchased for Mr. Vannist's room. When his room was ready, he took possession, and was highly pleased with his new quarters, for Rebekah and her mother had prevailed on her father to get some nice furniture for his room
when he went to New York to buy goods. Paul was willing to comply with their request, for he thought a great deal of his dominie, and when in New York he purchased a book case, writing desk, and rocking chair, and they were luxuries in those days. The fireplace in Mr. Vannist's room was located in corner, and occupied less room than usual, and he was furnished with tongs, shovel and bellows, and Paul had instructed Sanco to fetch no wood, but hickory in his room. Mr. Vannist having now a place to study prepared his sermons with the greatest care.
The Dutch language was then the only one used in the Dutch churches, in fact it was almost the only language used in the county, especially in the western portion. Mr. Vannist always preached in the Dutch language, and his congregation used none other, but he understood both the Dutch and English languages, and could speak them fluently, but he always wrote his sermons in Dutch. Mr. Vannist had now become a popular preacher, and on every alternate Sabbath when he preached at Poughkeepsie, the people would come north from beyond Hyde Park, east to the center of the county, and south from New Hackensack and Beekman. Pioneers, in their large lumber wagons, seated on chairs taken from their houses, and their negro slaves squatted on bundles of straw in the rear of the wagon; young men on horseback, with their sweethearts behind seated on a pillion, clinging to their lovers, could be seen coming through Main street to the Dutch church. Wagons and horses would line Main street on either side beyond the churchyard to where Paul's store was located, during the time of service. Although there was occasion
ally preaching in Poughkeepsie then by the Rev. Samuel Seebury, an Episcopalian minister, they had not as yet erected a house of worship. Once in a month, perhaps, he would preach in the Court House. The interior of the Dutch church at Poughkeepsie then, when Mr. Vannist held forth, presented an impressive scene. He was only twenty-four years of age, tall, his height was six feet two inches, his appearance in the pulpit was prepossessing in the extreme For one so young, he was a fervent and eloquent speaker, and the pathetic appeals that fell from his lips when in the pulpit, and his winning manners among his people, all contributed to his popularity. Paul and Rebekah led the singing in Dutch, and the congregation joining: presented a striking contrast from the mode of worship at the present day. The sexton's labors in those days were not arduous, and as no fires were used in churches, there was but little to do. On Saturday preceeding the Sabbath that Mr. Vannist was to preach in Poughkeepsie, Paul would send Sanco to the church, who would open it and sweep the aisles and sand the floor, and then Paul would see if anything was wanting for the church. If a broom or sand was wanting, he furnished those items from his store.
Paul and his wife were two of the leading members of the church, having united during the ministry of the Rev. Benjamin Meynema, and they had the supervision of the church and parsonage. Rebekah was their only daughter, and when Dominie Vannist came there to board, she was twenty years of age, and she was the idol of her parents. Modest and unassuming in her manners, her sweetness of disposition, filial affection,