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Jacobus De Rooy Collection



Biographical Note

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Series 1

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Jacobus De Rooy Collection, 1859-1870 | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

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Collection Overview

Title: Jacobus De Rooy Collection, 1859-1870

ID: COLL/064

Primary Creator: De Rooy, Jacobus (1812-1870)

Extent: 1.0 Box. More info below.

Arrangement: Folder level description

Subjects: Bechthold, A. H., Oostburg (Wis.) - History


Minister of the Baptist Church, the Reformed Church, the Presbyterian Church and the Christian Reformed Church. The collection includes a diary for the years 1869-1870, telling of his daily experiences and thoughts while living in Oostburg, Wisconsin; correspondence with A. H. Bechthold, 1860-1865; an incomplete letter; sermons; and a list of Bible passages on which sermons were based.

Biographical Note

Although Jacobus De Rooy served only one Christian Reformed Church as an ordained minister (Oostburg, Wisconsin, 1876-1884), he was active on the fringes of the denomination for three decades and he was the founder of the First Christian Reformed Church in Paterson, New Jersey. A barber by trade, De Rooy became religiously quickened during the revivals of the 1830s in the Netherlands, but he did not join the 1834 Seceders. Instead, he used his barbershop as a gathering place for religious discussions and devotional exercises. De Rooy conducted these services until he emigrated in 1851. However, shortly after arriving in America, he responded to the invitation of several friends in Cincinnati to conduct worship services for a number of Baptists in that place. He remained with them until 1855, when questions concerning the exclusive validity of adult Baptism caused him to abandon that church and resettle on the East Coast.

By 1856, De Rooy had moved to Paterson, New Jersey, where again several of his old acquaintances requested his services. Many of these folks had emigrated from Goeree, an island near De Rooy’s native Hellevoetsluis, and doubtless his reputation as the preaching "Hellevoets barber" was well-known among the Goereers who had requested his services in Paterson. They knew too that the self-trained De Rooy could not qualify for ordination in the Dutch Reformed Church and thus they organized an independent Holland congregation with De Rooy serving for a trial period of one year. By January of 1857 one of his parishioners reported, "De Rooy is so well-liked and he attracts so many people that he has now been permanently appointed according to the requirements of the Dortian Church Order, 1618-1619." Another of his auditors, who had sought spiritual sustenance without success in Michigan and New York, declared, "I have attended De Rooy’s church for three Sundays and this minister preaches orthodox truths...The people of his church are poor in Spirit and they fear God. Thus, I attend church twice every Sunday because I don’t dare stay home."

In a subsequent letter, De Rooy described the character of his sermonizing and his sense of inadequacy. "Sundays are my hardest days," he wrote, "my body and soul are being worn down by preaching, by the summer heat and indigestion. I am often exhausted from fear and doubt before entering the pulpit because I am unfortunate and wretched, without education or knowledge...when I enter the pulpit I begin to tremble, and I wait for the words which the Lord gives me to preach. Then, when all the eyes of the people are upon me, I feel the enlightening power of God’s spirit and, before I know it, the people are in tears—but not from words that flatter them."

The emotional zeal, which accompanied De Rooy’s sermons probably, accounted for his popularity, but also for the antagonism, he is reported to have inspired in one listener who plotted to kill the minister. This furious man hid under a bridge located along the path that De Rooy customarily walked, but when he noticed a companion walking with the minister, fear prevented him from executing his plan. Thereafter, this unwilling convert had a change of heart, and he came to De Rooy asking, "What must I do to be saved?" At the same time, he revealed his earlier plot to murder De Rooy and he asked who had been walking with the minister on that nearly disastrous night. When De Rooy answered, without hesitation, that he had no one with him, they realized that the Lord had sent His angel to protect both of them from evil. A minister whose character inspired tales of this sort must have been highly regarded, and it is clear that De Rooy was very popular in Paterson. Thus, in 1862, the church allowed him a leave of absence to visit his aged mother in Hellevoetsluis. However, after arriving in the Netherlands, De Rooy accepted a call from a church in Woerden that was affiliated with the Churches under the Cross. Since the founding ministers of this denomination were self-ordained lay leaders, De Rooy was readily accepted and ordained as the pastor of the Woerden Church. He remained their pastor until 1865 when he returned to America. Because the time of his absence far exceeded his leave, the Paterson church acquired a new minister who brought the Paterson congregation into the Christian Reformed Church in 1865. Thus, as his pulpit was filled when he arrived in New Jersey, De Rooy resorted to freelance preaching in the area until 1866 when he responded to invitations from Milwaukee to work among the Dutch immigrants there.

From Milwaukee De Rooy made contact with the aged Dutch Reformed Church minister Koene Vander Schuur, who had been serving the Oostburg, Wisconsin, church since 1856 and was facing emeritation in 1866. De Rooy took several turns at preaching for Vander Schuur and the congregation sought to call De Rooy as its second pastor, but because he lacked proper training and ordination, the classis would not permit this arrangement. Then, when the classis also prohibited him from preaching in the Dutch Reformed Church, De Rooy returned to this traditional practice of preaching in barns, schools, and homes.

De Rooy’s growing number of adherents decided to build a church for their worship services and they selected a site next to the Dutch Reformed Church. When the building was partially completed, a segment of the congregation refused to continue the construction until the church decided what denominational affiliation it intended to acquire. When the congregation agreed to affiliate with the Presbyterian Church the construction was completed. De Rooy served this group until 1875 when he developed misgivings about the union of "old" and "new" school Presbyterians, and thus severed his relationship with the Presbyterian denomination.

Reverting again to his customary freelance status, De Rooy preached throughout the region, but he was particularly well-received by the nearby Gibbsville Christian Reformed Church. This congregation did not have an ordained pastor, although J. Koopejan, a lay leader, had served the group for a time. Koopejan had a long history of overstepping the boundaries of his lay office and was an exceedingly divisive character.* Thus the popular and well-known De Rooy was an attractive alternative for the Gibbsville church. Before he could be declared eligible for a call, De Rooy needed classical approval, which he acquired with little difficulty before accepting the call from Gibbsville in 1876. He remained there until his death in 1884. During his pastorate the congregation relocated its sanctuary to Oostburg, which was more conveniently located for the loyal following De Rooy had acquired during years of work among the Dutch immigrants of varied religious persuasions. Thus, though he ended his career in the Christian Reformed Church, De Rooy’s parish was never contained by denominationalism.

* J. Koopejan had been refused ordination by Classis Holland in 1851 (p. 79) because he was incompetent and divisive. All his previous churches had been plagued by controversy. He appealed for ordination in the Christian Reformed Church in 1865 when he was serving a group of Dutch immigrants on Long Island. In this instance, the Synod wrote him and his congregation an admonition for their unlawful behavior. In 1866, Koopejan was active in Gibbsville where he administered the sacraments without being ordained. The unlawful baptisms, which Koopejan administered in Gibbsville, were rescinded by the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church in 1898.

Subject/Index Terms

Bechthold, A. H.
Oostburg (Wis.) - History

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1],

Series 1
Box 1
Folder 1: Diary.  Dagboek.  Partially translated --- 869-1870
Folder 2
Item 1: Correspondence with Beckthold.  Some correspondence translated. --- 1859-1865
Item 2: Ordination Program of A. H. Beckthold --- February 11, 1863
Folder 3: Dutch handwritten sermons:
Item 1: Psalm 92:13 -The Righteous Compared --- 1861
Item 2: I Cor. 2:15 -The Spiritual Man --- April 6, 1862
Item 3: Luke 19:5-10 -The Conversion of Zaccheus --- June 22, 1862
Item 4: I Cor. 2:3-5 -Farewell Sermon --- July 6, 1862
Item 5: Isaiah 55:13 -Sovereignty Displayed --- July 9, 1865
Item 6: Psalm 65:1, 2 -The Sinner Called --- June 6, 1865
Item 7: John 17:4 -The Father Glorified --- June 23, 1865
Item 8: Matthew 7:24-27 -The Two Builders --- July 7, 1865
Item 9: Genesis 41:46 -Joseph and Pharaoh --- October 25, 1863
Folder 4: Sermon records
Folder 5: Incomplete letter

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