Sands Street Methodist Episcopal Church (Congregation)

The first Methodist Episcopal congregation in Brooklyn. Early services in New York were conducted starting in 1766 by Thomas Webb, a captain in the British army. Webb also preached atBrooklyn, Newtown and Jamaica. Woolman Hickson, who conducted outdoor services in front of the site that would later become Sands Street M. E. He was the second preacher recorded in Brooklyn. Peter Cannon, a cooper who lived near the ferry, opened his shop to Hickson as a place of worship and in 1785 or 1786 Hickson was able to form a "class of several members". The first appointed preachers (1789) were Rev. William Phoebus and Rev. John Lee who jointly covered the entirety of Long Island. In 1793 Rev. Jospeh Totten and Rev. George Strebeek were appointed to the Long Island circuit, alternating between one month in Brooklyn and one month for the rest of the island.

On 19 May 1794 the Methodist church in Brooklyn was incorporated. Among the first trustees were James Garrison, Thomas Vault, Burdet Stryker, Stephen Hendrickson, Richard Everit and Isaac Moser, with Garrison serving as president and secretary. In September of the same year the congregation purchased a plot of land on Sands Street between Washington and Fulton Streets from J. & C. Sands. According to Stiles (1867), the new church was dedicated on 1 June 1794 [sic, possibly 1795]. The Brooklyn and New York conferences were combined in 1795, with Brooklyn as a separate station. In this year, the Brooklyn church had 23 white and 12 Black members and was under the direction or Rev. Totten.1 Black members were relegated to an end gallery in the original church.2

By 1804 the congregation had grown sufficiently that it needed to enlarge the church. In 1809 the church purchased addition property at the rear of the church on High Street for the construction of a parsonage. On 10 September 1810 the congregation elected to construct a new church. This new structure was 45' by 65' and had a capacity of 1,200 to 1,500 people. This church was referred to as the Old White Church.

For many years the church had a sizable Black membership, generally representing about one-quarter to one-third of the congregation. In 1798 there were 27 Black members (out of a total of 79 parishioners) and two Black exhorters, Peter Conger and James Titus. At its peak, in 1819, the Black congregants numbered 125 out of a total membership of 327.3  By 1817, the Black "members of the church had so increased as to create the necessity for a separate place of worship" (this probably refers to the capacity of the gallery for Black worshippers, which would have been a separate space at the rear of the church). The Black members, with the assistance of white parishioners, constructed their own church. This church was served by the preachers of Sands Street M. E.4 In 1819, board of Sands Street M. E. assessed the Black congregants $10 per quarter, perhaps to pay for the construction of the new church. This precipitated a secession among the Black congregants four months later all but 6 members "seceded in a body" to form a new, separate congregation.5   From 1820 forward, Sands Street continued to have Black members, but they were never again a sizable percentage of the congregation (there were only 12 Black congregants in 1829).Henry Reed Stiles, A History of the City of Brooklyn : Including the Old Town and Village of Brooklyn, the Town of Bushwick, and the Village and City of Williamsburgh, vol. 3, 3 vols. (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Pub. by subscription, 1867), 702.

By 1823 the congregation had grown further and elected to colonize a new church at York Street. In 1831, the Washington Street M. E. Church was organized out of Sands Street, and in 1836 the Hanson Place M. E. Church.

In 1843 the Old White Church was taken down and a new brick was constructed in its place. This building, along with the lecture room, classrooms and parsonage, was destroyed in the "great fire" of September 1848. The church was rebuilt, again in brick, using some of the walls from the 1843 structure, with a new lecture hall and Sunday school to the fronting on High Street and a separate brick parsonage next door to that.6

  • 1Henry Reed Stiles, A History of the City of Brooklyn : Including the Old Town and Village of Brooklyn, the Town of Bushwick, and the Village and City of Williamsburgh, vol. 3, 3 vols. (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Pub. by subscription, 1867), 699-701.
  • 2Henry R. Stiles, ed., Civil, Political, Professional and Ecclesiastical History of the County of Kings and the City of Brooklyn from 1683 to 1884 (New York, N.Y., United States: W.W. Munsell, 1884) Volume 2, 1030.
  • 3Henry Reed Stiles, A History of the City of Brooklyn : Including the Old Town and Village of Brooklyn, the Town of Bushwick, and the Village and City of Williamsburgh, vol. 3, 3 vols. (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Pub. by subscription, 1867), 702.
  • 4Henry Reed Stiles, A History of the City of Brooklyn : Including the Old Town and Village of Brooklyn, the Town of Bushwick, and the Village and City of Williamsburgh, vol. 3, 3 vols. (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Pub. by subscription, 1867), 702.
  • 5Henry Reed Stiles, A History of the City of Brooklyn : Including the Old Town and Village of Brooklyn, the Town of Bushwick, and the Village and City of Williamsburgh, vol. 3, 3 vols. (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Pub. by subscription, 1867), 702; Henry R. Stiles, ed., Civil, Political, Professional and Ecclesiastical History of the County of Kings and the City of Brooklyn from 1683 to 1884 (New York, N.Y., United States: W.W. Munsell, 1884), Volume 2, 1030.
  • 6Henry Reed Stiles, A History of the City of Brooklyn : Including the Old Town and Village of Brooklyn, the Town of Bushwick, and the Village and City of Williamsburgh, vol. 3, 3 vols. (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Pub. by subscription, 1867), 699-705.
Place type
Date
1794