Pastor David Rose by Thomas A. Bayles

Patriot Pastor of South Haven

Footnotes of Long Island History
Patchogue Advance, Sept. 21, 1950
by Thomas R. Bayles


        The Rev. David Rose, who was pastor of the South Haven Presbyterian Church from 1765 until his death in 1799, and also pastor of the Middle Island church from the time of its organization in 1766, was an interesting and important man in these early days.  He rode over his large parishes on horseback, his saddle bags filled with drugs, medicine and a Bible, and he combined the three most prized functions of that day, preacher, doctor and teacher.

            This many-sided man lived in the manse near the church and farmed the land, adjoining, raising foodstuff and cattle. In 1767 the earmark for his cattle was entered in the town records as being the one “formerly that of Justice Nath Woodhull at South.”

            It was this intensely busy man who wielded a great influence over the people in the southern and central part of Brookhaven town during the years of the Revolutionary war. He feared encroachment on personal liberties by a despot British government like all the Presbyterians who were so passionately devoted to the ideal of the freedom for the individual and were the descendants of those Puritans and independents of whom King James I once remarked, “ A Scottish Presbyterian agrees as well with an absolute monarchy as god with the devil.”

            He remembered only too well the effort of one English governor, Sir Edmund Andrus, who tried to the stamp out Presbyterians in New England and on Long Island, and how heroically the churches in Suffolk County defied him so that he accomplished nothing. He was acquainted also with the dispute in 1740 between the Presbyterian Church and the struggling young Anglican Church in which the latter demanded some of the towns land and patronage. In this dispute the Presbyterian Church was referred to as the “Decenting Party” and the Rev. Mr. Rose feared that should the British control too completely the affairs of the colonies. Presbyterians Congregationalists and independents might again be called dissenters, and lose the freedom for which their fathers had come to this land.

            Consequently, “Priest Rose”, as he was called led an active campaign to resist these encroachments on their liberties. He must have preached about it and talked about it a great deal during his visits to his parishioners. The people who listened to him took part in the rebellion in a courageous way, for he rode over his large parishes and some of them became the most renowned of the Revolutionary war’s participants.

            One of the outstanding examples of the way the members of the South Haven church declared their allegiances to the cause of liberty is found on the first page of “Onderdonks Revolutionary incidents”, which reads as follows:

            “At a meeting of the inhabitants of the parish of South Haven, June 13, 1774 William Smith, Moderator:

  1. It was voted and agreed that the act of parliament for blocking up the port of Boston is unconstitutional and has a direct tendency to enslave the inhabitants of America, and put an end to all property.

  2. And it is also the opinion of this meeting, that if the colonies all unite and strictly adhere to a non-importation agreement from Great Britain and the West Indies, and have no trade with them, we should have reason to expect, in a short time, a repeal of that oppressive act, and for that purpose we heartily desire that such an agreement may be entered into.

  3. And it is further voted and agreed that William Smith, Esq Col Nathaniel Woodhull, Col WM Floyd, Mr. Thomas Fanning, Capt. Josiah Smith, Capt David Mulford, and Capt Jona Baker be a standing committee for this place to correspond with the committee of correspondence of the city of New York and others and that they immediately communicate the above sentiment to them.”


On June 8, 1775 representative inhabitants of the town met and elected what they called a “Committee of Observation” which consisted of 16 persons. Three weeks later the committee met at Coram and drew up a set of resolutions.

      The more active work of the committee was seeing that no provisions from this area got into the hands of the British. The following year, at a town meeting held three months before the signing of the Declaration of Independence this committee became a “Committee of Safety”.

      At a meeting a James Fitch complained that he had his mare much abused and killed by being rode on the late alarm by Easthampton for which he demands pay of said committee. For such expense as this the committee applied to the provincial congress for money. It also sent men throughout the town buying all the guns that could be found for a price, not exceeding four pounds.

      The most important function of the committee was the search for Tories and others who might be secret agents of the British. The most successful method of discovering Tories was to get the people to sign an association, and in this pledge they resolved “in the most solemn manner never to become slaves, and do associate under the ties of the Religion, Honour and love of our country, to adopt and endeavor to carry into execution whatever measures may be recommended by the Continental congresses or resolved by our Provincial Convention.”

      “Priest Rose” signed two of these lists in his eagerness to be included among those who resisted the attempts of the British to assume too much authority over the colonists.

      The great contribution of the South Haven church to the patriot’s cause during the war was not only soldiers and money, but also statesmen. Among these were William Floyd, Nicoll Floyd, Judge William Smith, Col. Josiah Smith, under whom fought “Priest Rose”, John Brewster, John Bishop and others.

      Let no one forget that behind the development of this church, and its extraordinary power and influence those most important years in the American republic, stood the passion, that capable and courageous leader who gave over half his life to the service of it, Rev Mr. Rose.

      The Revolutionary War period was a hard one for the South Haven church. Rev Mr. Rose and his family fled to Connecticut for safety, the members of the church building scattered and the church building itself was desecrated by the British, who threw out the seats and used it as a barracks and stable.

      The history of the church during the war years was that of eastern Long Island, and of those brave people who sacrificed courageously that freedom might continue in this land.

      (Note: The material in this article has been taken from the Rev. George Bothwick’s history of the South Haven Church.)

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