The floating Church lands in Harlem

Not all Churches are tethered to the ground.

On the 12th of October 1662 the Purmerland Church floated out to sea, leaving Amsterdam for the promising shores of America.  Benjamin Bartense was the ship’s captain and going along for the ride were my ancestors Isaac Vermeille, his wife, Jacomina Jacobs and their four adult children (including son Johannes, also in my direct line). They each paid 39 florins for the trip.

Ther Vermeille’s were used to moving. Isaac was likely born a foreigner in London, UK, moved to Leyden, Holland (before August 1629), moved to Manheim (after 1637), returned to Leyden only to sail off to America in 1662.  It is believed that Isaac may have been a Walloon from Belgium whose family escaped persecution by going to London (where Isaac was probably born).

The ship that left for America was called “Purmerland Church”. It was a haven, a place of religious freedom, and it was guided by the hand of God. It was God who would deliver them across the ocean to a new homestead, where they could practice their faith in the way the believed they should. It only makes sense that they would call their ship, their Church.

Once they landed in America in February 1663 they settled in what is now Harlem NY. They were immediately embroiled in a war with the Indians. The Indians of the Esopus tribe attacked the area on June 7th, 1663. They burned farms,  killed 12 men, 4 women and 3 children.  Also, four women and six children went missing. It was not a warm welcoming to the area. Immediately following this massacre, 40 local men were formed into militia companies. Isaac Vermeille was one of these men. He was issued a musquet for the purpose of being a local protector.

In 1665 Isaac Vermeille’s name is listed as a member of the Church at New Harlem. This is the oldest  Church in Harlem NY and it survives today as the Elmendorf Reformed Church. The original building was erected during the winter of 1665, at what is now the corner of First Avenue and 127th Street, Harlem NY. This  means that Isaac and his family were original members of this earliest Church. Rev. Hendick jansen Van Der Vim was the Pastor of this Church between the years 1664-1684.

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Published in: on 26 February 2009 at 2:47 am  Leave a Comment