Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen   [1691-1747]

Academic/Scholar

Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen [1691-1747] was a Dutch Reformed minister who is remembered for his religious contributions in the Raritan Valley of Somerset County,New Jersey. He was the ancestor of the Frelinghuysens who later would form a political dynasty which is probably the longest dynasty to have reigned inWashington,DC. The dynasty served in both houses of congress, and lasted from the beginning of American independence until the present.

Theodorus was an immigrant who came over to theUnited Statesin 1720 to serve as a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church which was then still administered from theNetherlandsby the Classis of Amsterdam. The term Classis refers to a form of Synod in ecclesiastical terms. Prior to leaving his native country he was officially ordained by theAmsterdamclassis, although he had served as a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church for several years.

Theodorus was born inWest Frieslandin 1691 or 1692. The area where he was born is in or near theprovinceofGroningenin theNetherlands. The area is also known, then and now, as East Friesland which is inGermanyand West Friesland which is in theNetherlands. Some sources report that he was born in Lingen or Hagen both of which are located in either West orEast Friesland. The reason this distinction is important because some sources claim he was born inGermanywhereas if he was born inWest Friesland, as some report, then he is Dutch born. Whatever the location of his birth, he considered himself Dutch because he began his ministry in Dutch congregations in the northern part of theNetherlands. This clearly indicates that his native language was Dutch and not German.

Following his arrival in what is now theUnited States, thenNew Netherland, he became a strong revivalist, and strict enforcer of the Christian faith. He breached no variations of what he viewed as the proper way to live and what to believe. He also believed in excommunication for those who did not adhere to his views of the faith. As a result he was loved by some and reviled by others, who had a broader view how one can worship. Whatever your views are of him, he was and still is remembered by many as the great revivalist of his time period.

Shortly after his arrival in the new world he married Eva Terhune, a daughter of Jan Terhune and Margrietje van Sicklen. Both parents were as Dutch American as he was. Theodorus and Eva had seven children, two daughters and five sons. Each one of the sons would study for the ministry and would serve as ministers in the Dutch Reformed church. One even travelled back to theNetherlandsto prepare for the ministry. The two daughters could not become ministers but they could marry them which they did.

All but one of the four sons died in their twenties from various diseases. The one who lived a normal life lived until his seventies, an old age for that time. The son who was the father of the first U.S. Senator, Frederick Frelinghuysen, was one of the sons who died in his twenties.

Theodorus passed away in 1747 or 1748 inFranklinTownship,Somerset County,New Jersey. He was interred atElmridgeCemetery,North Brunswick,New Jersey. Without knowing exactly where he was buried a cenotaph was erected in the front of the cemetery, which now is at the back of the cemetery. The cenotaph has the following inscription:

Reverend TheodorusJacobus Frelinghuysen, born at Lingen,East Frieslandin 1691. In 1719 he was sent to take charge of the Reformed churches here by the Classis of Amsterdam. He was a learned man and a successful preacher. The field of his labor still bears fruit. In contending for a Spiritual Religion his motto was, ‘Laudem non-quaeroculpam non-timeo’. He died in 1747, and his descendants, humbly sharing in his faith, have erected to his memory this monument.

The cenotaph was erected in 1884. It is not clear where they got the information but the questions still remain as to the year of his birth, 1691 or 1692, the year of his death, 1747 or1748, and the location of his birth, East Friesland [Germany] or West Friesland [the Netherlands].

REFERENCES

Theodorus Frelinghuysen, Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of America, Biography, 1898.

TheodorusJacobus Frelinghuysen, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki

Edwards, Jonathan, THE GREAT AWAKENING, Edited by C.C. Goen, THE WORKS OF JONATHN EDWARDS, Vol. 4,New Haven:YaleUniversityPress, 1972

“First of the Frelinghuysens”, New York Times, May 11, 1884

 

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