I attended the 13th Annual EpiscoBuild concert to benefit Habitat for Humanity of greater Newburg on Sunday, January 5, 2020. Grace Episcopal Church in Middletown hosted the concert. The church dates to the same period as Harmony Hall having held its first church service on Christmas Eve, 1847.
As I sat and listened to the glorious music by choirs including St James Episcopal Goshen, St John’s Episcopal Cornwall, and St Mary’s Tuxedo, I thought of the legacy of devoted and accomplished musicians in the Sloat family.
These descendants served as organists, choir directors and musicologists in Sloatsburg and beyond.
Jacob Sloat (1860-1916), son of Henrietta Schultz (1846-1878) and Henry Ransom Sloat (1838-1905), was a sought-after organist. He was organist at St. Martin’s Church in Brooklyn, NY, Cathedral of St. John’s in Denver, CO, Sacred Heart Church, Suffern, NY, and was the personal organist for Mrs. Thomas Fortune Ryan at the private chapel in her Montebello home.
St. Francis Church, Sloatsburg, NY, was built upon the generosity of the Sloat family from its inception, from the land it was built upon to the interior furnishings and active service of family members during the entire life of the parish.
(Ed Note: If anyone involved with the deconsecration of St. Francis Church in the late 1970’s to become the Sloatsburg Library, knows what happened to the stained-glass windows donated by Sloat family members please reach out!. Bishop Paul Moore facilitated the removal of the St. Francis “Hamilton” narthex window to St. Peter’s Church in Chelsea, NY during the deconsecration process. This remains the
only known surviving St. Francis stained glass window.)
Sloat family members who were organists at St. Francis included:
Helen Sloat Johnson (c. 1925-1935), Mary Allen Bush (c. 1945-1955), Margaret (Peggy) Eastburn Rednour (c. 1955-1965). Peggy was a Julliard Graduate who was interim organist at St. John’s Ramsey for many years. She was one of many
noted musicologists who provided input on the Episcopal Hymnal in the 1970’s during a time of change in the greater Anglican community.
When Peggy retired to New Bern, NC, they both continued to stay active with music ministries at their new parish and in community theatre. “Peggy & Spike” were
founding members of Antrim Playhouse, Suffern, NY.
Village Historian, Founding President of The Friends of Harmony Hall and Sloat descendant Harrison O. Bush, Jr. was interim organist at St. Francis Church, Sloatsburg, Good Shepherd Ringwood, Nj, St. Johns in the Wilderness, Stony Point, NY. His younger brother William A. Bush was an accomplished clarinetist
in his youth.
The melodies and words of beloved hymns remain in my ears and heart thanks to the talents of family members who shared their gifts for music and song with dedication, passion and joy over many generations.