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Sabbath Day – Walk Rye History 1

July 2, 2017


My Sabbath was observed this week in short snatches over several different days. Finding myself in Rye for a pastoral visit last Friday, I made time to stop afterward at the Rye Historical Society. They are housed in “The Square House,” which was built in 1675 by a farmer named Jacob Pierce. The son of the Episcopal priest later ran it as an Inn and Tavern, starting in 1760. John and Samuel Adams stayed and drank here on their way to and from the Continental Congress in 1774.


Standing in the tavern, with cards and mugs on the tables and the bar in the corner I could think of nothing else than that I walked right into the set of TURN: Washington’s Spies. Does this not look just Rivington’s Tavern, run by Culper Jr., Robert Townsend, in seasons there and four? 


My interest in Rye history was already aroused because I’d recently re-read Charles Baird’s Chronicle of  Border Town: Rye, New York researching the history of my own congregation. White Plains and Rye were very nearly a single community until 1788, with families having members living and working in each community. It was founded in 1660, the same year that my former church in Setauket was founded. The Square House (known as The Havilland House) is also the first stop on the Rye History Walk, a set of twenty-one interpretive signs up through the town. I’m definitely going back for the long walk.

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In the meantime, I went back to Rye the next day to visit the Timothy Knapp House. This home was built about 1670 by my twelfth great grandfather’s cousin Timothy. It is the oldest home in Westchester county. The original large room was also used for worship before a first church was built in Rye. Timothy (and some of his sons) signed his name to the transaction with the ten native american leaders which gave the people of Rye the right to work and settle in White Plains between the Bronx and Mamaroneck Rivers. He and his sons help property here, and helped start the Presbyterian Church. I spent a very pleasant hour here with the town archivist, Daniel, who took me all around this beautiful house.  

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Across the street is the Milton cemetery, through which runs Blind Brook. Blind Brook was originally called Milton, after the blind poet of Paradise Lost.  I wonder why the name was changed? I found the cemetery filled with names I have read about and families who buried members in my own cemetery. On the far side of the brook, for example, lies the pre-Revolutionary war Purdy family cemetery. There several nicely sculpted ‘soul effigy’ here. 

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I’ve titled this post “Walk Rye History 1” because I will certainly be going back soon to make the full circuit of the signs. But my Sabbath hours (there being no Sabbath Day) were well spent as I was preparing a sermon on the theme “Presbyterians and Revolutionary Sentiment in Early New York” as part of our congregation’s observance of Independence Day. 


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