Peter Fish (1785-1788, 1810)
Peter Fish was the only minister of FPCN from Newtown. He was a direct descendant of Jonathan Fish, of England, who came to the village in 1659. Peter was the son of Nathaniel and Jane (Berrian) Fish. He was born on November 23, 1751 in a house on the shore of Flushing Bay.
Fish was converted at the age of thirteen. He was inspired by George Whitefield, an Anglican revivalist minister who preached at Newtown in 1764, when Simon Horton was pastor at FPCN. Fish graduated from Princeton College in 1774, and received his license to preach from the Presbytery of New York in 1779. Fish became the stated supply at FPCN (i.e. he agreed to fill the vacant FPCN pulpit temporarily) in 1785.
Fish's uncle had donated land to build an earlier church for the Newtown church. During a service in 1769, his father died during worship in that church. The record of this event is most curious: "This occurred very suddenly, while attending public worship in the church, March 3, 1769, in his 69th year. Retaining in his face the color freshness of health, his burial was deferred several days, but no change perceived, he was interred. It was a question whether he was really dead." He may have experienced a seizure.
Fish devoted his energies to erecting a church building for FPCN on the same site as the old church. The congregation might have considered building a new church since the British had practically destroyed the old building during the Revolution. Perhaps the unpleasant personal association of his father's death within the old building prompted Fish's efforts to tear it down. The new building he inspired became known as the Old White Church, where the HIP center now stands.
On June 30, 1785, he married Hannah Hankinson of Freehold, New Jersey. Eight children survived to adulthood.
Fish refused a permanent position at FPCN, some said due to ill health. After two years, his family left Newtown in November 1788. After moving to Connecticut Farms, New Jersey, he quickly accepted ordination and installation the following March. He ministered in New Jersey for ten years, then moved to upstate New York.
He remained in contact with Newtown during this absence, for in 1790, the congregation accepted Nathan Woodhull on Fish's recommendation.
His poor physical condition forced him into retirement when at the age of 40. Fish moved back to Newtown and purchased a home. After Woodhull died in 1810, he became the pastor of FPCN again at the congregation's request. Fish died five months later. His wife survived him by fourteen years.
The Fish family has served many years in both church and town affairs. Peter Fish was a relative of the Hamilton Fish family that has supplied a governor, a senator, and a series of Congressmen for New York State from the early years of this Republic to only a few years ago. Another relative married into the Stuyvesant family, and was given a townhouse in 1800 as a wedding gift. The townhouse got landmark status in New York and still stands on Stuyvesant Street. Peter Fish also had a relative named Preserved Fish.