A few months ago I visited a very interesting and historical church that was part of a "Walking Brooklyn" tours my friends and I took this past winter. Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims, located at 75 Hicks Street, in the Brooklyn Height neighborhood of Brooklyn , New York, was built in 1849. It was founded in 1847 by transplanted New Englanders who wanted a Congregational church like those in which they had been raised, with a simple order of worship, governed by the congregation.
The 21 men and women who founded the church in Brooklyn Heights called as their first pastor Henry Ward Beecher, who soon became considered "The Most Famous Man in America," through his powerful preaching and outspoken opposition to slavery. The preacher and abolitionist's church was also “the Grand Central depot” of the Underground Railroad. Beecher was also the brother of the author Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote the novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Published in 1853, it was the anti slavery novel that helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War.
An informational placard on the outside wall of the church. As you read, a piece of Plymouth Rock is in the adjoining building, which I will show you later in this post.
Many celebrated Americans became a part of Plymouth Church's history. It is the only New York City church that Abraham Lincoln worshipped in before he became president. Mark Twain spoke at Plymouth, as did many other famous writers and activists, including Clara Barton, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Horace Greeley, and William Thackery. In February 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached a sermon on "The American Dream."
The original organ inside the church, installed in 1847, was replaced in 1866 by what was then the largest pipe organ ever built in the United States. The casework and pipes visible today are part of that organ, made by E. and G.G. Hook of Boston. The present Aeolian-Skinner Organ is a four-manual, 59-rank, 4162 pipe instrument.
When fire damaged Plymouth's original church on Cranberry Street, a new red brick Sanctuary seating 2,800 was quickly constructed, fronting on Orange Street behind the ruined original. That first building, now called the Church House, was later rebuilt to house offices, parlors and Sunday School rooms.
It also houses a small museum in its arcade consisting of interesting artifacts from the church's history.
There hangs one of the last known portraits of Henry Ward Beecher.
Henry Ward Beecher made headlines by concluding many sermons with a mock slave auction where he would act as a fast-talking auctioneer in search of donations towards the purchase of slaves' freedom. Pictured above is Sarah, a 21 year old daughter of a white father and slave mother in Virginia who was going to be sold further south until Beecher heard about her situation and arranged for her to be brought to the church. The parishioners passed forth donations to raise her $1,200 fee and buy her freedom as well as a small house in upstate New York where she supported herself by keeping chickens and growing vegetables to sell..
One of the most notable slaves whose freedom was bought at Plymouth Church was a young girl named "Pinky." A parishioner placed a small gold ring in the offering plate for her and Beecher placed the ring upon the child's finger. Pinky, who was renamed Rose Ward, lived in Washington DC and became a school teacher. She returned to the church in 1927 to give thanks to the church , and to return the ring, which is now on display.
Photos of a slave pen in Virginia, a painting of President's Abraham Lincoln worshipping in Plymouth Church, and Ulysses S Grant, who visited the church following his Presidency.
A photo of Harriet Beecher Stowe and her novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and also a book of her letters and journals
In 1934, Plymouth Church merged with the neighboring Church of the Pilgrims, the first Congregational church in Brooklyn, becoming Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims. Organized in 1844, the Church of the Pilgrims had as its founding pastor Richard Salter Storrs, who served the Church until 1900. A piece of Plymouth Rock was given to the Church of the Pilgrims in 1840. It was placed here on a pedestal in the Plymouth Church building in 1940 after the merger.
A close up of the Plymouth Rock fragment.
The video above from Brooklyn Independent Television with more interesting information about Plymouth Church, including the first hymnal in the United States with words and music on the same page, that was invented by Henry Ward Beecher.
Tours of Plymouth Church are available by appointment Monday through Friday, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, and on Sundays after morning worship without an appointment. Please email Lois Rosebrooks, Director of History Ministry Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her by phone at 718-624-4743 to make an appointment.
I'm linking this post to the following blog events:
Our World Tuesday
Many thanks to the blog hosts of these events!