The church antedates the Declaration of Independence by nearly half a century. When it was organized, no one then thought of a separation from the mother-country, nor had it then entered into the minds even of the most visionary the astounding changes a century would make.
At this time the population of this entire county, outside of a few of the large towns in the southeast corner, was not more than one-fourth of that of Peekskill today. The country was sparsely settled. Many, perhaps most, of these hills were covered with forests. These roads were but bridle-paths. The saddle, which has since been superseded by the wagon, was then in vogue. The main road was called King’s Highway” and what is now known as Crompond Street was styled “Kingston Street”.
Then there was but one Synod in the entire American Presbyterian Church, while now they number 37; and four Presbyteries, while now there are 175 in the northern church alone. The General Assembly, with which we have become familiar by its annual sessions, did not exist until sixty years later.
The Yorktown Church has passed through all the periods of both church and state. It was born in colonial times, it passed through the fiery trial of the Revolution, and has remained to witness and rejoice in the 100th anniversary of our national birth. It lived under royal governors and it has enjoyed the beneficent rule of the republic. It began its existence when the divine right of kings was an established dogma, and it has lived to see accepted in profession, even by the tyrannical Sultan of Turkey, the fundamental principal of our national government, that rulers derive their authority from the consent of the people.
It was born in the slow-coach days of the sailing vessel and the saddle, and it has seen these give way to the wagon, the steamer and the railroad. At its birth there was going on in the American Presbyterian Church a conflict between the Old and New sides, which culminated in the Division of 1741….
The Church was the pioneer church in this region. There was no church of any denomination to the Hudson River on the west. The Bedford Church was the nearest neighbor on the east. The parish embraced Cortlandt, Yorktown, Somers and the lower portion of Putnam County…. A number of residents of Peekskill were members of this church. The Van Corltands who lived at the manor house north of this village attended service here. The people who resided near Red Mills made this their church home. Yorktown has, we may say, two children—The First Church of Peekskill and that of Red Mills.
Submitted by Dick Hunter