72 The Old Parsonage

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In the previous blog, we told the story of the ghosts in the old church parsonage, including some tales and a firsthand account of the apparition's visits. In this blog, we look at the history of the same building. It’s a story almost as old as the village of Blawenburg.

Blawenburg Village’s 200-year history began with the construction of the Georgetown-Franklin Turnpike that ultimately became County Route 518. Following the path of old Lenni Lenape Native American trails, it extended from Lambertville to Kendall Park. Prior to the turnpike’s construction, this section of Montgomery Township was a collection of farms owned by Dutch immigrants with names like Voorhees, Covenhoven, Nevius, and Blaw.

The predominate land owner among these farmers was the Covenhoven family. They owned all the land on both sides of the turnpike between Mountain View Road and what became Great Road and Route 601. The first building to be built on this improved road was the Blawenburg Tavern, circa 1818. (See Blog 15). 100 acres were sold to John Covenhoven’s great-granddaughter, Catherine, and son-in-law, William M Griggs, Esq., keeping the land in the Covenhoven family.

Wanted: A Parsonage

When this picture of the old parsonage was taken for a postcard circa 1906, seven pastors had lived in it since it was first occupied in 1836. Note the veranda on the front, which was added in 1870 and later removed.

In 1830, the area residents built the Second Reformed Church of Harlingen, and they reorganized it in 1832 to become the Reformed Dutch Church of Blawenburg. (Visit Blog 23 to learn more about the church's beginning.) The first pastor of the new church was Rev. Henry Heermance, who served from 1832 to 1836. The Dominee (pastor) wanted to have a parsonage built on at least 10 acres of land instead of the church paying the $50 per year rental fee for him to live elsewhere.

Rev. Heermance was a negotiator. In the end, the church agreed to build a parsonage on five acres across from the church on Griggs’ property. It took far longer than expected to finish the parsonage, and it was over budget. The church had incurred debts of $684.45 and had to borrow $450 more, raising the total cost of the parsonage to $2,016.07. By 1836, Rev. Heermance had only lived in the parsonage a few months when he received a call from Kinderhook Reformed Dutch Church in Kinderhook, NY. Rev. James Talmage accepted a call to the Blawenburg Church on October 24, 1836 and was the first pastor to live in the parsonage for his full term at the church.

A Village is Formed

The tavern, church, and parsonage formed the nucleus of the village. In the decade from the mid-1830s to the mid-1840s, most of the historic homes in the village were built between the parsonage and the crossroad to the west. A general store, post office, blacksmith/wheelwright, and homes changed the former fields into a compact village, which would stay intact until more modern homes were built after the turn of the twentieth century.

Over the years, the parsonage has undergone many changes to accommodate modern conveniences. In 1836, the church seeded the parsonage lawn, perhaps to enhance the