John Henry Livingston (1746-1825) Biography

President of Queen's College NJ

The 20th Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans, Vol.6, p.456

LIVINGSTON, John Henry, educator, was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., May 30, 1746; son of Henry and Susan (Conklin) Livingston

Grandson of Gilbert and Cornelia (Beekman) Livingston and of John Conklin, and great grandson of Robert Livingston, the immigrant. He was graduated from Yale, A.B., 1762, A.M., 1765, and commenced the study of law, which he abandoned for the ministry. He was graduated from the University of Utrecht, Holland, in 1767, and with the degree of D.D. in 1770; was invited to take charge of one of the Reformed Dutch churches in New York, and was ordained by the classis of Amsterdam June 5, 1769.

Upon his return to New York city in September, 1769, he was made pastor of the Fulton Street Reformed Dutch church, and was instrumental in settling the dispute in the church between the Coetus and Conferentic parties. He was chaplain of the provincial congress held in New York in 1775 and upon the occupancy of New York by the British army in September, 1776, he removed to Livingston Manor, N.Y., serving as pastor at Kingston, in 1776; Albany, 1776-79; Lithgow, 1779-81, and Poughkeepsie, 1781-83, resuming his pastorate in New York city in 1783. He was at that time the only active Dutch Reformed clergyman in New York city, the three other collegiate churches being without pastors.

In 1784 he was appointed professor of theology for the church by the general synod upon the recommendation of the theological faculty of Utrecht, Holland, and upon the opening of a theological seminary at Flatbush, L.I., in 1795, he assumed charge, but closed the doors in 1797 for want of support.

He was president of Queen's college, New Brunswick, N.J., and professor of theology, 1807-25. He was vice-president of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the American Indians and was a regent of the University of the State of New York, 1784-87.

He was married to Sarah, daughter of Philip and Christiana (Ten Broeck) Livingston.

He is the author of: Funeral Service; or Meditations Adapted to Funeral Addresses (1812); and A Dissertation on the Marriage of a Man with his Sister-in-Law (1816). He was chairman of a committee appointed in 1787 to compile "Selection of Psahos for Use in Public Worship." He died in New Brunswick, N.J., Jan. 20, 1825.


The Beekman Family
He graduated from Yale in 1762 and then studied theology at the University of Utrecht, Holland. He became minister of the Reformed Dutch Church in New York City and President of Queen's College, afterwards called Rutgers College, at New Brunswick NJ and was the first President of the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Dutch Church.


Rev. Dr. John Henry Livingston was born in Poughkeepsie on May 30, 1746, the son of Henry Livingston and his wife Susannah Conklin. He was the great-great-grandson of another Rev. John Livingston, who fled to Scotland because he could not conform to the religious patterns of the day in Scotland. Rev. John's son Robert came to America and the Hudson Valley in 1674, and became the ancestor of the vast Livingston clan. Dr. John Henry Livingston was 7/8th Dutch, as all of his Livingston ancestors married Dutch women. His wife, 2nd cousin Sarah Livingston, daughter of Philip Livingston, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, was also 7/8ths Dutch, in the same way.

Dr. Livingston was graduated from Yale College in New Haven at the age of 16 and started the study of law in Poughkeepsie. He had some experiences that convinced him that God wanted him in the ministry. Having been brought up in the Dutch Reformed Church, and feeling he might be able to help in solving the internal problems between parties within the church which were for, or against, keeping close ties with the Mother Church in Holland, he chose this denomination. His theological education was in Holland as required at that time.

Only one year after his return from Holland, Dr. Livingston was able to assemble and lead a meeting between the two opposing parties which eventually resulted in approval of a plan of semi-independence for the American Church. This eventually became complete independence, after the Revolutionary War.

During the British occupation of New York City in the Revolutionary War, Dr. Livingston first moved to Kingston, then to Albany, and eventually settled at the Manor House on Livingston Manor. From there, he travelled and preached at the various Dutch Reformed Churches in the valley. He was pastor of the Reformed Church in Poughkeepsie from 1781 through 1783.

Upon his return to New York City after the war, in addition to his duties at the Collegiate Reformed Church and other churches,he was appointed as the Dutch Reformed professor of theology in 1784. He fulfilled this demanding position without association with any college for 26 years. In 1810, the General Synod of the Reformed Church decided to combine its theological training with its Queens College (Rutgers) in New Brunswick, N.J., and to make its professor of theology, Dr. Livingston, the president of the college as well. He continued his leadership both as professor and as president until the age of 79, when he died on January 20, 1825.

In view of Dr. Livingston's great efforts and achievements in the areas of theological education, church constitution, liturgy, psalms, missionary endeavor, and the unity of the church, as well as his great patriotism, he is still called "Father of the Dutch Reformed Church" in America.

(Based on the biographical article about Dr. Livingston by Herkman Harmelink III, in The Livingston Legacy, and used by permission of the author.)
Received from Stephen Thomas 1/15/2000

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