Not long ago, the Wikipedia History page for Fairfield was subtly edited from “ The Dutch initially settled this area of the Passaic River Valley” to “The Dutch, including many acculturated French Huguenots, initially settled this area of the Passaic River Valley”. The latter statement is much more accurate because a significant percentage of early Fairfield Settlers were descendents of the French Protestants who fled their homeland because of religious persecution. Simon Van Ness and his eight Dutch Partners are often mentioned as Fairfield’s first purchasers of Native Lenape lands ( 1701 ). But soon after, the Dey and Francisco Families of Huguenot descent made similar land purchases as well. Simon Van Ness’s second marriage in 1700 was to Hester de La Mater (sometimes recorded as Le Maitre ). So all of Simon and Hester’s thousands of descendents ( now in its 12th generation ) have French Huguenot blood.
The Huguenot Cross came into general use amongst Huguenots as confirmation of the
wearer's faith. Huguenot Cross symbolism
In addition to the Fairfield Families already mentioned, there were the Demarest, Doremus, Hennion, Combee, and DeBaun Families. These were the male surnames that have been recorded over time, but those listed do not include various maternal Huguenot names ( baptismal records don’t always record the mother’s maiden name ).The French Protestant Clergy of New Amsterdam ( Manhattan ) hoped that congregants would marry among themselves, but over 40% of marriages were mixed with Dutch and English spouses prior to Fairfield’s settlement.
A few Fairfield Families who identified as Dutch may even have been of Huguenot descent, like the Jacobus and Kiersted Families. These surnames frequently appear as being of Huguenot origin. This confusion was not an intentional denial of their lineage, but rather because of the length of time these Families remained exiled in the Netherlands. Thus they were almost fully assimilated into Dutch culture, customs and language in the decades prior to remigration to the American Colonies.
“Seven to eight generations think that they are of pure
Holland stock, but the story of their French origin is to them
a new revelation” ------ D.D. Demarest 1886
As a whole, Fairfield’s Huguenot descendents accomplished a great deal in the early years of the Township’s formation. The Reformed Protestant Dutch Congregation that assembled in 1720 likely had Huguenot members. The French Reformed and Dutch Reformed Churches were both closely following the beliefs of esteemed theologian John Calvin ( a Huguenot in exile himself ).
Some Fairfield Huguenot highlights include :
“Faith in Almighty God, Freedom of Political beliefs, Freedom of
Religion, Liberty of thought and conscience, and separation of Church
and State” were their credo. ------ C. Malcolm B. Gilman MD 1962
A great debt of gratitude is owed to these kindred French devotees who found refuge with their Dutch Brethren, and contributed hugely to our Fairfield Community over the past 300 years.
It was my intention to shed some light on the influence and significance of Fairfield’s wonderful French Ancestors. My hope is that I accomplished this objective with only a few short pages. But there is great deal more to be learned about the history of the Huguenots and their many contributions that go far beyond our State and Nation.
To learn more you can control + click on article #1 below. Or if you prefer to read a comprehensive book on the subject, you can control + click on #2 below. ‘The French Blood in America’ written in 1906 by Lucian John Fosdick ( Google Books ).
“They who have worshipped here in bygone days can say to us from
experience – ‘More things are wrought through prayer than this world
dreams of.’ Their memory should spur us on to new Spiritual strength.
One cannot refrain from breathing a prayer to God asking that all our
spiritual faculties, resources, and powers may be released and freed
from all hindrances.”
------ Pastor Leyland H. Koewing Fairfield Reformed Church 1931
In 1924 a commemorative ‘Huguenot Half Dollar’ was coined ( and several postage stamps issued ) to celebrate 300 years of Huguenots in America.
Respectfully dedicated to all of Fairfield’s Huguenot Descendents. ..........Paul Pollio 1-28-2022
“Emigration of the Huguenots 1566” painted by Jan Antoon Neuhuys ( 1821-1905 )