Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

Thanks to Herbert R. Groff, typing volunteer!



Yellow Slip of Paper Bears the Signature of Rev. Abraham Van Horne and is Dated September 1st, 1796 ---Interesting Relic of Early Days in This Section

(From Johnstown Republican) Date unknown, 1908?

A Republican subscriber whose intelligent interest in things historic has led to his discovering a number of papers of historic value, recently brought to the Republican office an old printed receipt with written signature and old fashioned seal, given by the Caughnawaga Reformed Dutch church to one of its members, in payment of pew rent in 1796. The ancient scrap of paper is yellowed with age, and has been reinforced with slips of stronger paper, pasted on the back, to keep it from falling to pieces from age and repeated foldings.

The most interesting feature of the receipt is the printerís imprint, which shows that the slip was printed in Johnstown by a man named J. Dockstader, presumably a relative of some family of that name at present residing in this vicinity, The fact that it was printed in Johnstown instead of in Little Falls, Canajoharie, Schenectady or Albany, shows that Johnstown was able to offer facilities at that day as well as at the present time, equal to any in the printing business in the valley.

The lettering of the receipt is in the old style, with the letter "s" shaped like "f", similar to the modern German style. The wording, as may be seen from the text, printed below, is stiff and formal, showing that the churches, in the old frontier days, were taking no chances with his Santanic Majesty by using anything but watertight legal phrases.

The receipt reads as follows:

To all to whom these presents shall come, the minister, elders and deacons of the Reformed Protestant Dutch church of Caughawaga, in the county of Montgomery, send greeting:

Know ye, that we the said minister, elders and deacons, for the consideration of eight pounds, eleven shillings and six pence of lawful money of the state of New York, to us in hand paid by Peter Graff, the receipt whereof we do hereby acknowledge, have given and granted and by these presents do give and grant to the said Peter Graff, two sevenths of the Number 6 on the gallery, to the church aforesaid, to hold to the said Peter Graff, his heirs and assigns forever; subject to the rules, orders, and regulations of the church aforesaid. In testimony whereof we have caused our said minister to set his hand to these presents, and our common seal to be hereunto affixed, this first day of September, 1796.


On the margin is the printerís imprint as follows: J. Dockstader, Print.

The fact that the receipt is printed in English is interesting, as it shows that the Dutch tongue of its founders was even then being crowded out of existence.

The Reformed Dutch Church of Caughnawaga was organized about the year 1758, but the first church edifice was not erected until 1763, when with financial aid from Sir William Johnson, who was entirely non-sectarian in his benefactions, a stone building was erected, along the line of what is now the main street of Fonda, but in this eastern, or Caughnawaga district of the village. The village of Fonda proper, was not built till after 1830. The town Caughnawaga took its name from the old Indian village which had stood there. Fonda was named for Douw Fonda, one of the first settlers of the town, and a Revolutionary patriot.

The first pastor of the Caughnawaga church was Rev. Thomas Romeyn, who served the charge 22 years. He was succeeded by Rev. Abraham Van Horne, who was pastor 38 years and preached in both Dutch and English, as Dutch was then giving place to English, in the valley. With his pastorate, the use of Dutch ceased at Caughnawaga.

Some time previous to the Civil war, the old stone church passed in to private hands and was demolished. It is said the stone that composed the walls of this historic edifice was used in the building of cellar walls for some of the houses at present standing in Fonda.

Over the door of the old church, carved on a stone tablet, was an inscription in Holland Dutch, of which the following is a translation:

"Come ye and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord; to the house of the God Jacob, and He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in his paths."

The passage is found in the second chapter of Isaiah, third verse. A similar passage, almost identical in wording, is found in Micah, fourth chapter, second verse. In translating, the wording might be so altered as to make both passages read exactly alike, as the sense is the same, so that it is doubtful from which of the two passages the inscription was taken as no reference accompanied it.

It is safe to say that had the people of 1850 been as thoughtful of their historic treasures as the people of today are, the old stone church never would have been demolished. It would almost have been preserved under glass, if no other means could have been found for keeping it in tact.

The Caughnawaga chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution.

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