Rev. Jesse Fonda
Transcribed by Lisa Slaski
Note: this is Jesse Isaac Fonda, b. 27 Apr. 1786, d. 2 May 1827 (son of Isaac I. Fonda and Antje Bratt Vansantvoord) who married Susanna Yates Fonda (dau. of Jellis Abraham Fonda and Elizabeth Bratt Yates ). Montgomery actually refers to the town in Orange County NY; however, we feel that this article should have a home on line.
Source: "Historical Discourse Delivered at the Celebration of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the First Reformed Dutch Church, New-Brunswick, N.J., October 1, 1867," by Richard H. Steele, D. D., Pastor of the Church. Published by the Consistory, 1867, New-Brunswick, N.J., pages 106-109:
Rev. Jesse Fonda.
He was born in the town of Watervliet, Albany county, N.Y., April 27th, 1786. He made a profession of his faith in the Reformed Dutch Church of the Boght, and graduated from Union College, in 1806, in the same class with Dr. C. C. Cuyler and the Hon. John C. Spencer. His theological studies were pursued under the direction of ministers of our church, and he was licensed by the North Consociation of Hartford County. His first settlement was at Nassau, N.Y., where he labored with all the enthusiasm of a young pastor, and in which place his ministry is still remembered as one of great propsperity and usefulness. He removed to this city and commenced his labors in the month of November.
This church had suffered much for the want of pastoral supervision, Dr. Schureman's feeble health having prevented him from doing much active work in the congregation. Mr. Fonda found a large amount of labor upon his hands, and, blessed with a vigorous constitution and great energy of character, he gave himself fully to this ministry. He was systematic in his labors and intensely active. About this time an unhappy controversy commenced in the church in reference to the hour for holding the afternoon service on the Sabbath, which continued to disturb the peace of the church for a number of years, and was the ultimate ground of his removal. The pastor and city portion of the charge desired a change to three o'clock, but the more distant members of the congregation were in favor of the plan which had been the established usage of the church. At one time the difficulty had grown to such proportions that the plan of a new organization was proposed. The matter in controversy was carried before Classis, who recommended, through a committee, the formation of two new churches, one to be located at Three Mile Run, the second at Milltown or on George's road. It would, no doubt, have been to the interest of the denomination had this plan been carried out, and these churches organized in a spirit of harmony and with a desire to extend the Redeemer's kingdom.
But the existence of this controversy was not so absorbing as to divert the attention from spiritual interests. During the ministry of Mr. Fonda there was a healthy growth of the church, and at one communion twenty-eight persons made a public profession of their faith. The total number of communicants received into the church was one hundred and seven.
Mr. Fonda was dismissed from this congregation July 3d, 1817, in order that he might accept a call from the Reformed Dutch Church, of Montgomery - at that time, as at present, one of the most intelligent and flourishing congregations in our body. He preached his last sermon on the 28th of the month from the text, "Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you." By request of his numerous friends the sermon was published, and it exhibits, with great tenderness, the doctrine of "confidence in God in the day of trouble." It is inscribed to his personal friends Drs. Livingston and Schureman, and to the reverend clergy of New-Brunswick, "brethren who dwell together in unity."
Mr. Fonda continued at Montgomery in the faithful discharge of his duties until his death in 1827. Few ministers excelled him as a preacher. He had a full, sonorous voice, well modulated, and would draw attention by the pleasantness of his countenance. He prepared his sermons with great care, writing them out in full and then preaching from memory. He never paused for a word, but carried his hearers along in a train of rapid argument or pungent appeal to the close of his discourse. Dr. Livingston regarded him as one of our most finished ministers. It is said that he greatly excelled on extraordinary occasions. His ministry occupied the important period of our last war with England. The public mind in this section of the country was intensely agitated, and seizing hold of these important national occurrences he enforced with great power the lessons of religion as taught by "the signs of the times." His sermon, preached April 13th, 1815, on the occasion of the close of the conflict, entitled "Thanksgiving for Peace," produced a wonderful sensation. This large building was crowded to its utmost capacity, while he discoursed with great eloquence upon the passage, "Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The Lord hath taken away thy judgments." (Zephaniah 3:14, 15.)
In 1814, Mr. Fonda was chosen a member of the Board of Trustees of Queen's College; and at the annual meeting of General Synod in Albany, June, 1823, he was chosen the President of that body. He has left, in his work on the Sacraments, a very fair reputation for authorship, which deserves to be reproduced from the press and given a wide circulation.
Mr. Fonda left here in the summer of 1817.