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Wrap-up of Liberty Weekend 2003
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New Utrecht Reformed Church

328 Years

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Friends of Historic New Utrecht
1831 84th Street                           
Brooklyn NY 11214       
Fax 1-718-256-7162                 

Liberty Pole Flag

Clarification: One person noted that Nathaniel Woodhull was stabbed "by a sword wound by a British officer (Dragoon) in that confrontation in Jamaica with the "Troop of Horse." General Woodhull['s] sword wound got infected causing a very long death while a prisoner. At that time, the church was also used a place for prisoners from the Battle."


BROOKLYN, June 2 - Liberty Weekend 2003, commemorating the 220th anniversary of the Liberty Pole, took place as scheduled May 30th - June 1st despite some wet weather. Both school kids and adults toured historic sites, visitors listened to poetry from Walt Whitman, concert goers listened to live music from the ISO Symphonic Band and many people attended an interfaith service, a tribute to a fallen general and a commemoration of the Liberty Pole.

On Friday, May 30th, the Civil War flag was raised atop the Liberty Pole, the sixth pole to be erected at
New Utrecht Reformed Church, as hundreds of kids from two city schools visited a Civil War encampment erected by the Brooklyn 14th Regiment - Company H, where reenactors would spend the next two nights sleeping in tents, despite rainy weather. Students took a tour of the church and parish house, learning its history, recognizing that, along with the 1654 cemetery, these are the last remaining witnesses of the old town New Utrecht, which was incorporated into the city of Brooklyn on July 1, 1894.

On Saturday, May 31st, Walt Whitman was in town celebrating his 185th birthday - but not before dozens of visitors took at tour of both the cemetery and the church sanctuary, both
historic landmarks and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. At 10 a.m. a tour of the cemetery, at 16th Avenue and Liberty Pole Boulevard (84th Street), was given by Dave Elligers, a trustee of Friends of Historic New Utrecht.

At 12:30 p.m. he also gave a tour of the sanctuary, which is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. He noted the origins of the town of New Utrecht as a farming community, its inclusion in the 1698 census, the first taken of Brooklyn, the founding of the original church (1700) as a simple, octogonal structure, and the occupation by the British during the American Revolution (1775-1783). He pointed out many historical items on display at the church, including a metal rooster, once placed atop the original church and later used for target practice by the British occupiers. Elligers showed the round bullet holes on the rooster. He went on to describe the history of the present church (built in 1828; first service held in 1829), how, in the early 19th century, before central heating was installed, parishioners on cold days would bring foot warmers and place them under the pews. He went on to explain the later history of the church, pointing out the Civil War era balcony, the stained glass windows (installed about 1915 and seen only from the pews), and the circa 1875 extension containing the organ (the present organ dates from the late 1940s).

Visitors to the church also toured the Parish House (built in 1892 and containing a Tiffany stained glass window), where they viewed a number of displays related to the history of New Utrecht and its prominent families and where they lunched on hot dogs and chips and washed it down with soda. Outside, men from the 14th Regiment - Company H fired a cannon, sending white smoke across the churchyard.

After the cannon firing, visitors returned to the sanctuary at 2:30 p.m. for an appearance by
Darrel Blaine Ford, a Walt Whitman impersonator. He gave a biography of Walt Whitman, describing how he grew up on on Long Island and became a teacher, editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and later a poet. He read many of his poems, especially works from the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, Whitman's masterpiece. Ford showed how Whitman's poetry was metaphysical, viewing the world as created by a higher power in an age of two controversial discoveries - the higher critical study of the Bible and evolution.

Rounding out the day's events was a Saturday evening concert in the Parish House by Brian P. Worsdale, conductor and co-founder of the
ISO Symphonic Band, which is composed of high school students. His performance gets better with each passing year, playing such pieces by such composers as George Gershwin and John Williams, and the band always gives a loud performance, delighting dozens of concert goers. The concert, as are all Liberty Weekend events, is for the benefit of the church's bell tower, which is in a dilapidated condition and in danger of collapse.

Rain and wind didn't keep the people of Bensonhurst away on Sunday, June 1st. At 11 a.m., the Rev. Terry Troia, the minister of New Utrecht Reformed Church, jointly celebrated with Chaplain George Munkenbeck in a
Liberty Day interfaith service. Speaking at the service was Muctarr Jalloh, one of two men who survived torture in Sierra Leone. He described how his hand was cut off by his torturers and how his uncle was forced to help them. He also described how, two years later, he confronted his torturer and forgave him. He was appreciative of the freedom he has in this country.

Afterward, a service in memory of General Nathaniel Woodhull was held in the Parish House because of the rain and wind. Chaplain George Munkenbeck of the 14th Regiment - Company H, who lead the service, spoke of the life of Nathaniel Woodhull and the sacrifices that he had made for his country, how he had wanted to remain on his farm on Long Island, not help hide foodstuffs from the British. When the British confronted Woodhull in Jamaica, Queens, during the Revolutionary War, they ordered him to say, "God save the King!" But Woodhull replied, "God save all men!" The British fired at General Woodhull and he was wounded. When the British knew he was about to die, they placed him in the town of New Utrecht. He died at the De Sille house, right next to the original church. He died, Munkenbeck said, at a place he didn't want to be and in a war he didn't want to fight. He paid the price for the cause of freedom in this country. Many succeeding generations of soldiers also paid the price on many a battlefield for liberty and freedom, Munkenbeck said. The wreath, dedicated to the memory of General Woodhull, was placed in the Parish House and will eventually be placed at the monument to Nathaniel Woodhull at the cemetery.

Liberty Weekend concluded with a ceremony in observance of the 220th anniversary of the Liberty Pole. Bob Buonvino, president of
Friends of Historic New Utrecht, spoke of how the children - the new generation - must be able to appreciate the history of the town of New Utrecht. He also thanked many people who made Liberty Weekend possible - Rose Lood, president of the New Utrecht Liberty Pole Association; Angela Sarro, coordinator of Liberty Weekend; Edward Paunetto, vice president, Friends of Historic New Utrecht; and many others. A representative from the Borough President's office issued a proclamation and presented it to Lood.

The New Utrecht Reformed Church is a historic landmark and listed in the
National Register of Historic Places. The church, established in 1677 and a member of the Reformed Church in America, is the fourth oldest church in Brooklyn. The Liberty Pole, first installed in 1783, is the sixth pole erected at the church and is the only remaining liberty pole in the U.S. Information of New Utrecht Reformed Church and its many activities may be found at http://purl.org/net/nurc or by calling 1-718-236-0678.

Contact: Vincent La Marca, Webmaster, New Utrecht Reformed Church at

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