St. Andrew's Baptismal Font










The word ‘baptism’ comes from the Greek verb baptizein, which means to dip. Baptism is the water rite of initiation into Christianity established by New Testament precedent and precept. Based on the baptismal practice of John the Baptist and in continuity with first-century Judaism’s ritual bathing customs, converts to Christianity are initiated into Christ and the church by baptism, a ritual bath that eventually became based on the command of the risen Jesus himself to proclaim his gospel to all nations.

The Gospel According to Matthew concludes with the Great Commission. In Galilee, Jesus commissions the eleven disciples to go and “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). The message to be carried includes the historical events of the incarnate Christ’s life, specifically his crucifixion, his resurrection and ascension, and his second coming. The love that Christ poured out in his death and resurrection is the motive for proclaiming the gospel. Christ is the prodigious example of carrying out the Great Commission. He went about doing good, proclaiming his message of redemption, and seeking and saving the lost. The Great Commission is carried out by preaching and teaching, with accompanying good works extended to all peoples for the glory of God.

A font is a pool or basin that holds the water for the administration of baptism. The term ‘font’ comes from the Latin noun fons, meaning fountain or spring. Baptism is the sacrament of water and the Holy Spirit, in which we are joined to Christ’s death and resurrection and initiated into the church. While the Spirit is always and everywhere present, water needs a container to hold it. In the early centuries of Christianity, baptism was celebrated in natural bodies of water like rivers and lakes. However, due to persecution of Christians, by the second century, baptisms in North Africa and southern Europe began to be celebrated in bathing rooms and courtyard fountains of private homes and in public baths. The earliest baptismal font discovered by archeologists thus far is from Dura-Europos in present-day Syria. Founded by the Greeks in 300 B.C., Dura-Europos became a remote outpost of the Roman Empire until it was destroyed by a Persian army in the third century A.D. Dura-Europos lay buried until it was uncovered by British troops in the aftermath of World War I, when its religious sites, military equipment, tombs, and wall decorations were excavated.

St. Andrew’s baptismal font was a gift from members of the notable Aldridge family of the Hudson Valley. Daniel Aldridge and his wife Jane Edwards raised their children in Newburgh, across the Hudson River from Beacon. One of their sons, Thomas Aldridge, bought a large farm in 1853 that later became a successful brickyard in Dutchess Junction. Thomas owned two Hudson River sloops, the Commodore Jones and the New Jersey. He was a generous contributor to the Methodist Church. Elected a director of the Fishkill National Bank in 1871, Thomas remained a member of the bank’s directory until his death in 1892.

From the 1840s to 1930, there were several brickyards flourishing in the small community of Dutchess Junction where the Newburgh, Dutchess and Connecticut Railroad intersected with the Hudson River Railroad. Today there is scant evidence that Dutchess Junction ever existed. Most of Dutchess Junction is now part of Hudson Highlands State Park. A largely undeveloped preserve of nearly 6,000 acres, Hudson Highlands State Park consists of a series of separate parcels of land stretching from Annsville Creek in Peekskill to Dennings Point in Beacon.

Thomas Aldridge’s son Aaron was born in Newburgh in 1851. Working with his father at Dutchess Junction, Aaron became a leading figure in the U.S. brick industry. He was president of the Aldridge Brothers & Company Brickyard, which became the Thomas Aldridge Brick & Land Company after 1892. He was also vice president of the Greater New York Brick Company and a trustee of the Mechanics Savings Bank in Beacon. Aaron was prominent as a manufacturer and even more so as a selling agent in New York City. He had offices in the Times Square Building, from which he handled the output of many brickyards along the Hudson River. Aaron died in Beacon in 1925. Aldridge bricks have been found at the castle built by Francis Bannerman VI, the largest arms dealer in the world who purchased Polopel Island in the Hudson River to use as an arsenal in 1900.



Bricks Manufactured at the Aldridge Brickyard

Thomas Aldridge’s younger brother William married Jeannette Simpson. The couple had several children, including Thomas G. Aldridge. During the American Civil War (1861-1865), William enlisted in the United States service. Jeannette died before William left Albany on his way south to the front, leaving the children deprived of the care of both parents. After the close of the war, William returned home and resumed a role in the family’s successful brickmaking enterprise.


From left to right, Nathaniel Covert, Thomas G. Aldridge, Alida Covert, and Nettie Griffin, the daughter of Janette Aldridge Griffin.

Thomas G. Aldridge was born in Dutchess Junction in 1853. Only twelve years old when his mother died, Thomas secured employment upon a schooner that was engaged in the brick carrying trade between Dutchess Junction and New York City. After three years at this work, he made a practical study of steam engineering and at the age of eighteen was put in charge of a brick plant at Dutchess Junction. He held this position until 1892, when he formed a partnership engaged in a profitable grocery and meat business. Thomas was an earnest supporter of the Republican Party. In December 1880, he married Alida Covert, daughter of Nathaniel Covert and Catherine Jones of Ovid, New York. The firm of Aldridge & Covert was one of the leading merchants at Dutchess Junction. Thomas and Alida’s only child died in infancy.


St. Andrew’s baptismal font was created as a memorial to Ida Mae Jones Aldridge (1875-1899).


Bibliography

Tracy Nicole Dunstan. Fishkill Revisited. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2012.

Joyce C Ghee. Transformations of an American County: Dutchess County, New York, 1683-1983. Poughkeepsie, NY: Dutchess County Historical Society, 1986.

Frank Hasbrouck, ed. The History of Dutchess County New York. Poughkeepsie, NY: S.A. Matthieu, 1909.