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Our History

"...the people of Preakness, toward the close of the eighteenth century, began to feel the need of a consecrated building in their midst in which to hold religious worship."

In 1798, the original church in Preakness was erected on a spot chosen "...near the centre of the Valley, north, south, east, or west, - a spot moreover, which was as accessible to all the old Dutch inhabitants..."  Constructed of stone and mortar, clay and straw, the church had no vestibule or alcove, but it did have an immense semi-circular glass window above its large double doors, which opened directly into the worshiping area.

Labaw, George W. Preakness and the Preakness Reformed Church, A History, 1695-1902. New York:  Board of Publication of the Preakness Reformed Church in America, 1902.

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Church History
The first church established in Wayne Township, Preakness Reformed Church 
stands on an acre of farmland where the original church stood from 1798 to 1852. The
land, owned by Edo Merselis, was deeded to the congregation for twenty shillings on
June 7, 1799. By 1801, eighty-five families had organized into the Congregation of
Prakeness, which became incorporated in 1811 as the Dutch Reformed Protestant
Congregation of Preakness. In 1852, a new house of worship, constructed of red brick,
replaced the original stone structure to accommodate its growing congregation. In 1931,
following a devastating fire in 1930, the current church sanctuary was erected and still
includes the cornerstone from the 1798 building in its east wall. The church was
reincorporated as Preakness Reformed Church in 1961, and the congregation
continues to gather for worship, prayer, and service today.

Cemetery History
The Cemetery of the Preakness Reformed Church dates back to the late 1700s, and was used as a public burial ground prior to the building of the church. The original cemetery is located directly behind the sanctuary, and was expanded to the south in the mid-1800s. There is a small cemetery across the street known as the “Hinchman Burial Ground,” which was given to the church in 1945 in exchange for perpetual care. A columbarium was added in 1996, along with a scattering garden in 1997. The oldest tombstone, dated October 12, 1799, belongs to Edo Merselis, who deeded the church land to the congregation just before his death. Many of Wayne’s earliest residents are buried throughout the cemetery, including the Berdan,
Van Riper, Ryerson, Nellis, Ratcliffe, and Macdonald families. It remains the only active cemetery in the Township of Wayne. 

Early Pastors 1842-1927

1842-1843  Rev. John Woods

Domine Woods was the first to minister exclusively at Preakness, and while he only served the congregation for a term of six months, the church's Register of Births and Burials shows that he baptized four infants, married two couples, and buried four persons in that short time.  After leaving Preakness, he appears to have left the church altogether.

1843-1861  Rev. John A. Staats

Described as "a man of sterling character and integrity," Reverend Staats enjoyed a period of  great growth and prosperity while ministering at Preakness Reformed Church.  It was during this time that the parsonage, referred to as the Preakness Manse, was built for the young Domine and his family (1846).  Several years later, in 1852, the original church edifice was torn down and replaced with a larger building that could accommodate the growing congregation.

1862-1868  Rev. C.B Durand

Referring to his 6 years at Preakness, Rev. Durand wrote, "Could I live my life over occupy the old parsonage and the old church, not all the ox teams in Passaic County,
with all the ox teams in Passaic County, with all the members of Passaic Classis driving them, could pull me out."  Upon the formation of a Reformed Church in Boon
ton, the Classis of Passaic felt strongly that he should take charge of the new church, and thus his pastoral relation
ith Preakness was dissolved.

1868-1872  Rev. Solomon T. Cole

Rev. Cole was known to be "rather strict along temperance lines, "...too much so for some of his parishioners."  After serving
just shy of four years, Consistory reluctantly released him from his pastoral duties to heal the resulting divide amongst the congregation.

1873-1878  Rev. A.A. Zabriskie

The church's congregation grew significantly during Rev. Zabriskie's pastorate, to 79 families at its highest.  Notably, he was the first pastor to receive a hay allowance for his horse, a concession that had not been considered for his predecessors.  The custom of a collection being taken up at every regular church service began during his time here and continues to this day.  It was during his tenure that the Ladies' Sewing and Mite Society was formed, and considerable improvements were made via their efforts, including the painting of the church facade and the installation of bracket lamps and coal stoves to keep the sanctuary warm in the winter months.

1878-1884  Rev. B.V.D. Wyckoff

Following several months without a pastor and marked by irregular and infrequent church services, Preakness Reformed Church was pleased to receive Rev. Wyckoff as their new minister.  His five years were marked by a united and harmonious congregation before he received and accepted the call to serve at the Reformed Church of Readington, NJ.  It is noted in the Consistory minutes that they "hereby record that [Reverend Wyckoff] has been to us all that we could desire, both as pastor and friend."

1884-1887  Rev. J. Russell Verbrycke

The Rev. Verbrycke was born, raised, and educated in New Brunswick, NJ, and was said to come "of good old Holland stock."  Under his leadership, the congregation grew substantially by 30 members, primarily young people, a fact attributed to his interactions with them as the musical instructor for both singing classes and choir meetings.  Mrs. Verbrycke, the pastor's wife, organized the Woman's Missionary Society, which supported the mission efforts of the Reformed Church.  Rev. Verbrycke's pastorate at Preakness lasted for three years when he applied to Classis to dissolve the pastoral relation and took a position in Piermont, NY for four years before becoming pastor of the Gurley Memorial Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.

1887-1889  Rev. Theodore A. Beekman

Reverend Beekman was offered a short-term position as pulpit supply for a year and a half following the absence of a pastor after Mr. Verbrycke took his leave.  During his brief time here, the congregation continued to grow, as did their contributions to missions.  He and his wife created the Christian Endeavor Society, which was very well attended with weekly prayer meetings held at the parsonage.  He is also believed to have performed the first wedding ceremony in the "new" church, uniting Augustus Mowel and Sadie B. Vail in September of 1889, just prior to leaving Preakness Reformed and serving as pastor in several churches in New York and New Jersey.

1889-1927  Rev. George Warne Labaw

The beloved Dominie Labaw served the Preakness Reformed Church longer than any other minister in its history - 37 years.  The church prospered during his tenure and saw many modern upgrades, including a telephone line, electric lighting in both the church and parsonage and indoor plumbing in the house.  It is interesting to note that he was one of the first in the community to drive an automobile, and the first minister to receive an "auto allowance" (in place of hay for his horse).

1927 - 1930  Rev. Alexander T. Paxson

1931 - 1944  Rev. James C. Dykema

1944 - 1948  Rev. Roger B. Juckett

1950 - 1956  Rev. Dorr L. Van Etten

1957 - 1967  Rev. David Charles Van Sickle

1967 - 1986  Rev. Albert A Smith

1967 - 1971  Rev. Douglas W. Fromm, Jr.

1984 - 1988  Rev. Phyllis Palsma

1986 - 1987  Rev. Emrys Royden Weeks, Jr. (interim)


1987 - 1996  Rev. Timothy J. Mulder


1989 - 2021  Rev. Mary Markus

1997 - 2009  Rev. Dennis Lee TeBeest


2009 - 2011  Rev. Douglas William Fromm, Jr. (interim)

2011 - present  Rev. Eric Glenn Nichols


2022 - present  Rev. Kim Pavlovich

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