To A Home in the Land of the Free
THE FIRST Waldensians in North America arrived in 1656. Having joined with recent Dutch emigrants who were settling “New Amsterdam,” these Waldensians were refugees from their native Piedmont after the terrible Piedmont Easter massacre of 1655.
Today there is inscribed on a plaque in Staten Island NY’s Borough Hall the words 1657 First Church Erected by Waldensians. Other witnesses are to be found at the Huguenot Church on Staten Island, where the names of Waldensian families occur in old inscriptions. One of these inscriptions records the work of Pastor David Jourdan de Bonrepos, who emigrated to America after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.
Due to the lack of documentation it is hard to reconstruct the Waldensian emigration to the New World during the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1850 Mormon missionaries in Italy persuaded 72 persons of the Waldensian valleys to emigrate to Utah. Today hundreds of Mormons in Utah, Arizona, and California have Waldensian names.
In 1875, a group arrived in New York from the Waldensian settlement in Uruguay. Having grown unhappy with the political situation in Uruguay, the group left for New York, where they were directed to Missouri by a pastor of the French Reformed Church. After several years this group affiliated itself with the Presbyterian Church, and in 1878 the Frisco Railroad Company gave the small congregation forty acres of land for a church, a parsonage, and a cemetery.
In 1887 new Waldensian families from the Valleys arrived in the Missouri colony (which had been named Monett). Today descendants of the first Waldensian colonists still live in Monett. The Waldensian Church and cemetery of Monett are in the National Register of Historic Places.