Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

Palatine Church

Palatine Church is located on Route 5, between St. Johnsville and Nelliston. It is near Cochran farm, Fort Wagner, Fort Klock.

Many of the traditions of historic places are passed by word of mouth. Palatine Church is rich in local tradition. There are but few references to the church in books. Below is a reference found in History of Montgomery Classis; R. C. A. by W. N P. Dailey

The town of Palatine was formed March 7, 1778, and embraced all the county between "Anthony's Nose" and Little Falls, north to Canada. On January 2, 1804, a "St. John's Reformed Protestant Dutch church of Palatine" was organized (St. Johsville). What is popularly called the "Palatine Stone Church" (Lutheran) in the town of Palatine became a member of the Montgomery Classis on February 2, 1825. The transfer of this organization from the Lutheran Synod to the Reformed Classis was brought about by Rev. Domier, who was at the Stone Arabia Lutheran church from 1811 through 1826, and who had trouble at the Palatine Stone church toward the close of his ministry there. Rev. Douw VanOlida was called to the pastorate, but in February 14, 1825, it united with the old Canajoharie ("Sand Hill") church under one pastor. In 1830 the church is reported vacant and on February 7, 1832, Classis dissolved the organization. The property from the beginning had always been in the Lutheran body, and after the original organization there had been no efforts made to increase the membership or re-elect the consistory tho the congregation worshipped in the stone church. At Fonda is a record (1820) of the Canajoharie and Palatine church whoe trustees were Henry I. Frey, Alfred Conkling, Isaac Hees, John Garlock and George Getman. A Presbyterian church of Palatine was organized in 1823.

Here are a few local stories: The old Palatine Church stands in a place once known as "Fox's Mills" on the Caroga Creek. As you can see by the photo, it stands on a raised knoll where the Caroga Creek cannot touch it during the Spring when the creek overflows its banks.

Under the Domine Ehle, a simple log structure was built in 1729. During a period of peace and prosperity in the valley, the stone church was built at a cost of $3,500, through donations; principally from the Wagner, Nellis, Reber and Hess families. Instead of a church bell, a steel triangle two inches square and three feet on each side called the people to church. The sound carried for miles up and down the valley. The old weather cock still stands on the steeple, watching all the travelers as they pass.

The Revolution brought almost total destruction to the place. Fox's Mills was mentioned in the book "Drums Along the Mohawk" as the place where Lana was from and where she and Gil were married. Only the church and the tavern nearby were spared destruction. Hendrick W. Nellis and a grandson went to Canada during the war. During the war, when the raiders were about to shoot a flaming arrow into the steeple, one of the British officers stopped the act and said he promised his friend Nellis in Canada that the church would be spared. The Nellis family was planning to return to the area after the war. However, the war did not go the way it was thought and the Nellis lands from this branch of the family were confiscated and sold. The area is no longer referred to as Fox's Mills, but is just simply called "Palatine Church".

Many of the Nellis family served bravely and with distinction in the Tryon County Militia. Truly, this war brought neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother. Several from the Nellis family still live in this area and one farm has had Nellis family members living on the land for eleven generations.

On the grounds of the church, the Army of General Van Rensselaer encamped on the night of October 19, 1780, when in pursuit of Sir John Johnson and his army. You can read more about the battles which took place in the valley Schoharie & Mohawk Valley Raids 1780.

The building was renovated as were most old buildings, but in more recent years, it has been restored with an elevated pulpit and its sounding board. Many historical documents pertaining to the church are inside the building. It is locked, but certainly one can see the interior by peeking in the windows or by borrowing a key from a nearby house.

This is a photo of an original elevated pulpit and sounding board, which was a popular style in the early years. Photo is of the inside of the Fort Herkimer Church

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