LANDMARKS PRESERVATION SOCIETY

of Southeast, Inc.
PO Box 308, Brewster, NY 10509
845-279-7429  
Postmaster@Landmarksse.org 
LandmarksSE.org

 

Old Southeast church - A Bit of Early History

 

Elisha Kent came to this area from his congregational Parish in Newtown, CT, in 1735 to organize the "First Church in Phillipse Patent", the vast privately-owned tract encompassing all of what would become Putnam County. The first log Meeting House was located along the Dykemans Road. Whether it burned or was outgrown, it was replaced close to today’s site in what was then the hamlet of Doansburg. The new church location was undoubtedly selected for the convenience of the pastor whose farm and home adjoined on the east. But it was there that Kent, "with sprightly genius, quickness of invention and readiness of thought," formed the first rural Presbytery in 1762, and for 42 years served what came to be called "Kent’s Parish." This included a second church, closer to Carmel (near the site of the present Lutheran Church).

 

Elisha Kent died on July 17, 1776, in the 75th year of his age, and is buried in Historic Old Southeast Cemetery, on Route 22 at 312. His first wife, Abigail Moss Kent, who died in 1751, is buried beside him. Hers is the oldest marked grave in Putnam County.

 

Their son Moss became a prominent lawyer instrumental in the establishment of the State Legislature. Moss Kent’s son, James, born in the familiar white house within sight of the church on old Route 22, became Chancellor of the State of New York. His earliest education was undoubtedly received in the Little Red School House in front of the church. Later, he attended schools in Danbury and Norwalk, and graduated, like his father and grandfather, from Yale. His Commentaries on American Law won him the name of "Blackstone of America."

 

In 1794 the Presbyterian church was rebuilt and enlarged to its present dimensions, the only later alterations being made after minor damage by fire in 1830. At that time the entrance was moved from the south side to the west end to face on the completed Croton Turnpike, forerunner of Route 22, and an important stage route. The vestibule was installed and the belfry added.

 

More than once at about this period the church changed between Presbyterian and congregational affiliation. As developing centers drew the population southward, the church saw diminishing use. In 1854 a Presbyterian church was built in Southeast Center (Sodom). In turn, this was succeeded in 1886 by the present Brewster Presbyterian Church in the village. After 1932 only occasional summer Vespers were held at "The Mother of Churches". After 1966 the building was unused and neglected. In 1969 it became the object of a restoration program undertaken by the Landmarks Preservation Committee of the Southeast Museum. With expert architectural guidance, restoration continues as funds permit.