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Heritage Facts Bundle #6

February 22, 2014

For 300 years the White Plains Presbyterian Church has been nurturing faith in our city. Heritage Facts, or snippets of  history, appear in our Sunday bulletin every week.  

Check the index for other posts.

September – October 2013

HERITAGE FACT: William and Charlotte Wiser, Presbyterian Missionaries.   Our congregation has always had a global view of mission. During the 1940s, we had a long term mission commitment to William and Charlotte Wiser, sending them an annual check for their work, along with the prayer of the congregation. The Wisers were American anthropologists and Presbyterian rural missionaries in North India, Uttar Pradesh. Both were trained at the University of Chicago, and from Cornell received a PhD in Agriculture (William) and a Masters Degree in Nutrition (Charlotte). William was first sent to India in 1915, and served continuously until retirement in 1959. Charlotte continued to provide social services until 1970. William’s account of rural life in the 1930s, Behind Mud Walls, is still read today. Their work together became a model for rural development programs in Northern India.


HERITAGE FACT: The Progressive Dinner, a Presbyterian Tradition?  Every wonder how far back some church traditions go? As we have organized progressive dinners over the last couple of years, so have I. The earliest progressive dinner I have been able to find was held in March 1943 at the homes of four of the members. It was organized by Marjorie “Tweet” Watkins, then Secretary of the High School Discussion Group. There were 23 participants.

HERITAGE FACT: Jacob Purdy (1739-1822) and His Family   The Purdy family name is synonymous with early White Plains history. Joseph Purdy was one of the original settlers, and in 1721 was named in the Royal Patent given to White Plains by King George II. Around 1730, a home built by Samuel Horton was purchased by Samuel Purdy, one of Joseph’s sons. Still standing, it remains the oldest house in our city, dating from before 1721. In time, Samuel Purdy passed this house on to his son Jacob, and it has been known as the Jacob Purdy House ever since.

The Purdy family is also important to our national history. Jacob joined the Westchester Militia in 1775, and once Independence was declared and war was upon us, Jacob offered his home to General George Washington to use as his headquarters, which he did both in 1776 and again in 1778. Washington received reports from his spy network in Jacob’s home. But like many families in our area, the Revolution divided loyalties. While Jacob and a few of his brothers were staunch Patriots, other brothers remained Loyalists, and when the war was over fled to Canada.

Jacob was active in the Presbyterian Church, serving on the original board of trustees, which was supposedly the first use of trustees in an American church. His wife Abigail was the daughter of The Rev. John Smith, the first Presbyterian minister to serve this congregation. Many of the Purdy’s including Samuel, Joseph and Abigail, are buried in our cemetery. Abigail’s headstone was recently restored by the White Plains Historical Society. Jacob’s headstone reads: “Softly my fainting head I lay on Jesus’ loving breast.  I died to enjoy my God.”



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