The Truth About Tthe DUTCH of The Mohawk Valley.

Recently an article appeared in The Courier Standard Enterprise claiming the Dutch were in the Mohawk Valley first and since the Klocks worshiped in a Dutch Reformed Church even though there were Lutheran Churches in the area, they must have been Dutch. The writer went on to say that since the Palatines were always Lutheran, these people must have been Dutch. Then he went on to state that the St. John's Reformed Church in St. Johnsville had no right to change the name of the church and deface the property. In his opinion, the church was supposed to retain the name of "St. Johnsville Dutch Reformed Church."

There has been a great deal of confusion about the Dutch roots of St. John's Reformed Church, some of which can never be totally cleared up because of the devastating fire in Albany many years ago which destroyed many historical records, plus the church records have several important pages missing which cover about 12 years of church history.

It is important to supply a bit of background information. The following are excerpts from Lou D. MacWethy The Book of Names 1933, W.N.P.Dailey, History of Montgomery Classis 1916 and Walter Allen Knitte, Early Eighteenth Century Palatine Emigration 1937. Klock was not Dutch, but Palatine and is found on the early Palatine ration lists from June 1710-September 1714. The list was copied from the original lists in London by Boyd Ehle, C. E. in 1931. Mr. Ehle lived in Fort Plain and wrote a book on his family genealogy, which can be found on the Three Rivers web site.

The Reformed Church was found in several countries; The Netherlands, France, Germany and in Switzerland. The Palatinate was a border province; the language and lines were a bit blurred and it was also the site of religious wars. Joshua Kocherthal became a Lutheran pastor and ministered to his fellow believers at a time when persecution, plunder, and pillage ravaged the Rhine countries and laid waste whatever had survived the horrible devastation of the Thirty Years' War. Louis XIV of France began his marauding expeditions for the purpose of extirpating the heretics. Destructive raids laid waste the Palatine countryside, and this ruthless pillage continued until 1668 when the French King himself entered the land "to make it a wilderness." The villages, towns and farms of the Rhine regions were pillaged and burned, their inhabitants tortured, ravished or slain. Few escaped the country, and those who survived were spared further horrors when, in 1705, England, Holland, Sweden and Prussia intervened and threatened reprisals unless this inhuman carnage ceased. At last there was peace but the countryside was a long way from being productive. Added to the devastation of war, there came further to harass the unfortunate Palatines, the unusually severe winter of 1708-09. Vineyards and orchards were blasted by the cold, birds froze on the wing, fires failed to warm the shivering populace. Furthermore, oppressive ecclesiastical regulations made still more unbearable the life of these "poor Palatines." Kocherthal's powers of resistance to oppression and his influence over the sorely tried people of his own faith must have been considerable. But their circumstances had become intolerable, and their only salvation lay in migrating to other lands. Rev. Joshua Kocherthal had long entertained the idea of leading a group of his co-religionists to lands across the sea. He is said to have gone to London as early as 1704 for the purpose of negotiating such a transportation of Palatines. In 1706 he published a pamphlet in which he recommended South Carolina as a favorable site for German Colonization.

Kocherthal went to Frankfort-on-the-Main in January, 1708, to obtain from a Mr. Davenant, a British resident, passes and money for a trip to England, Davenant made the consent of the Elector-Palatine a condition of such assistance, and when his permission was not forthcoming, Kocherthal, with some 50 to 60 Germans, left in March for London by way of Holland. Queen Anne was apprised of their extreme poverty and granted them each a shilling a day toward their subsistence. This royal example of benevolence inspired others to come to the aid of the refugees and soon their physical needs were sufficiently satisfied. Pastor Kocherthal was beginning to evince his great abilities as a colonizer and as a born leader of this distracted company of exiles. He now petitioned the Queen to permit them to sail for one of the British colonies in North America. "We humbly take leave to represent," he writes to the London Board of Trade, "that they are very necessitous and in the utmost want, not having at present anything to subsist themselves; that they have been rendered to this by the ravages committed by the French in the Lower Palatinate, where they lost all they had." This request was eagerly entertained and discussed by the royal counselors and the London Board of Trade.

England desired to extend her frontiers in the New World, and there she also sought for raw materials with which to fit out her royal Majesty's ships. Concluding, therefore, that these homeless and distressed, though "honest and laborious" Palatines might profitably be engaged in the manufacture of naval stores, such as ship masts, tar and pitch, the Board of Trade resolved to transport them to the islands of Jamaica and Antigua. However, after more mature consideration, it was determined to send them to New York.

On April 28, 1708, permission was granted Kocherthal and his 53 Palatine refugees to sail for America. They were to be naturalized as British citizens before their embarkation, and they were to make the voyage with the newly appointed Governor of the Province of New York, Lovelace, on her Majesty's transport "Globe." Negotiations dragged on into the summer. On June 22, 1708, Queen Anne signed an agreement according to which her government would supply the colonists with foodstuffs for one year and with the necessary agricultural implements. In addition to these provisions her Majesty granted Pastor Kocherthal twenty pounds sterling and 500 acres of land toward the endowment of a German Protestant church. On August 25, 1708 the Palatines were made "denizens of the kingdom" by a special act of naturalization.

Finally, about the middle of October, the "Globe" was ready to cross the Atlantic with the first Palatine refugees on board, a voyage of no less consequence to the colonization of the future American Republic than that of the Mayflower 88 years before. Religious fanaticism was stirred to ceaseless activity and wanton cruelty by unscrupulous Jesuits who gained the ear of such tyrants as France's Louis XIV and John William, Elector of the Upper Palatinate. Lutherans and Calvinists both longed for peace, liberty and self-expression. In a new world (and they were ready), heart rending as it might be to tear themselves away from all that had meant home and fatherland to them. They left their homes in order that they might live in peace, establish homes and families, worship God unmolested and enjoy benevolent government, at least, to a degree unknown in Europe. On such a quest Kocherthal and his compatriots crossed the mighty ocean. For eleven long weeks the "Globe" was at the mercy of wind and wave. Yet the Palatines were comforted and encouraged by good Captain Congreve and their faithful pastor. The latter preached to them and administered the sacrament. He baptized the babies who were born on board ship. He counseled with Governor Lovelace concerning the administration of the future colony and the division of the land. In this official the Palatines possessed a warm friend. Four waves of Palatines came to America during the early 1700's.

The arrangement with England did not prove to be profitable for either side and eventually the people spread over the Schoharie and Mohawk Valleys. After 1713 Rev. Kocherthal journeyed across the Catskills or by way of Albany to the Palatine colonies in the Schoharie and often Dominie Haeger of the Reformed faith undertook the trip with him. Here, too, he held services, administered communion, baptized infants, catechized the young, and united in marriage those who sought his pastoral services. His church records which have been preserved, testify to the genuine piety, the customary German thoroughness, the conscientiousness and sincerity, the scholarship and orthodoxy, which distinguish this true servant of God and friend of man. During the times Kocherthal was unable to attend to his people, the Reformed minister took over the duties and then entered the names in the record books. Sadly, Rev. Kocherthal died young, in 1719.

Another misconception by the writer of the newspaper article is that Rev. Petrius Van Driessen (Dutch) was the first one to establish churches in the Mohawk Valley, he was supposed to start a "missionary effort". Apparently this did not happen.

Here is an excerpt from Sir William Johnson's Indian Journal, dated January 26, 1762. "We formerly gave a piece of land to a minister, on condition he should build a church for us, which was never done. This minister whose name was Van Driessen deceived us. We are now without any persons to instruct us in the Christian Religion, excepting three or four visits in each year from the Rev. Mr. Ehle; and we are informed that Van Driessen being dead, his heirs have sold the land which we intended for so good a purpose. If the clergy are thus to deceive us, who can we rely on? If he performed his promise we should now have been better people and our children would become good Christians, but as it hath fallen our otherwise, we beg you will take this likewise into your consideration, and procure us justice therein."

According to The Book of Names by Lou D. MacWethy the Palatines came in several migrations and were classified by religion. Of 6,520 people who came to America, the religions were thus: Lutheran 562. Reformed 692. Catholic 523. Baptist 10. Mennonite 3. Note: only the head of the household is mentioned. In other words, one head of household might have six in his family and would be counted as one. I consider this book to be solid because the names were copied from the records at the British Museum in London, England by Boyd Ehle. You can see that many of the Palatines were not Lutheran at all. In the local paper the writer stated that the Klocks had to be Lutheran since they were German.

To bring this closer to home, the first settled pastor at St. Johnsville, NY, (though the area was not called St. Johnsville) was Rev. John Henry Dysslin. He was a Swiss, born in Burgdorf, Canton Berne, of the nobility. Gathering his "goods" together he left home, was shipwrecked and lost all but his life which he vowed to God if saved from the sea. Brought to New York City, he then returned home, was educated for the ministry, and came back to New York and served the German churches at St. Johnsville and Manheim (1788-1812). (Quote from W.N.P.Dailey, 1916 History of Montgomery Classis.) The church has the original records written in Dominie Dysslin's handwriting in GERMAN, the sermons were in German. The records written by Dominie Dysslin are on-line and can be viewed. The Klocks are recorded therein, generations of Klocks, along with many of their Palatine neighbors.

During one of my research trips to Albany, I looked for evidence of the German Reformed Churches in the Mohawk Valley. All the churches in New York State sent a report of their history to the state. The New York State Library in Albany has a book in the collection titled The Reformed Church In America. Pages 102-117, "Struggle For Eccesiastical Independence" (1708-1792) describe the German Reformed Church history and how the German churches joined the Dutch Reformed denomination. It was a process which took many years and caused disruption and controversy.

St. John's original church records are stored in the vault at Margaret Reaney Memorial Library in St. Johnsville. The good Dominie Dysslin had a mild way of protesting the lifestyles of the early Germans in the valley. When a child was born too soon, he would turn the paper topside facing down and record the child's birth. Then he would turn it right side up and resume the record.

The Reformed Calvinist Church of The Upper Part of Palatine in The County of Montgomery, this is the historical name of the church. The Dutch were compassionate towards the Palatines along with having religious tolerance. Canajoharie, Manheim, Stone Arabia and St. Johnsville all had German Reformed churches which became part of the Dutch Reformed Church. Some of the old, historic churches in the area had Dutch roots, for instance the Albany and Schenectady churches. W.N.P. Dailey, 1916 History of Montgomery Classis states: "While the Holland Dutch first came to the New World in 1609, and at once established their church and school, it is noteworthy that all elements of the Reformed Churches of the American continent-from France and Switzerland, and the German Palatinate-the churches of the Reformed faith established in Virginia (at times meaning the Atlantic coast lands), and Maryland, and Pennsylvania-all turned to the Classis of Amsterdam (Holland) for men and money."

Dailey further states: "Prior to February 11, 1829, St. John's church was an independent German Reformed body, tho served by a member of the Classis of Montgomery, which Classis had installed Mr. DeVoe over the churches of St. John's of Oppenheim and of St. Paul's at Manheim (received by Classis in 1822)." He was received by the Dutch classis in 1822 and apparently the church joined the classis a few years later, in 1829. By this record we know that around 1829, St. John's became part of the Dutch demonination. The German Reformed Church was not as supportive of their American churches and the German Reformed churches found they increasingly called ministers from the Dutch Reformed Church. In time it became much easier to simply join the Dutch flavor of the church. Originally the Dutch churches were governed in part by the church in The Netherlands, but it became difficult to send people to The Netherlands for school and ordination. In 1754 (some place the date at 1800) an assembly declared itself independent of the Classis (i.e., governing body) of Amsterdam, and in 1792 a constitution was adopted. The denomination was then known as the Reformed Protestant Dutch in America. As time went on, the word Dutch became somewhat of a deterrent to the growth of the church. The present name (Reformed Church in America) became official in 1867.

The brick church in St. Johnsville was built in 1881, fourteen years after the name of the denomination was changed, replacing the 1804 wooden church and the still earlier log church, so it seems unlikely the word "Dutch" was used on a plaque in 1881.

Article by Joyce Berry

Copyright 1998, -- 2004. Berry Enterprises. All rights reserved. All items on the site are copyrighted. While we welcome you to use the information provided on this web site by copying it, or downloading it; this information is copyrighted and not to be reproduced for distribution, sale, or profit.

Return to Opening Page for St. John's
Table of Contents for St. John's
Search Engine for Three Rivers web sites
Opening Page for Three Rivers~Hudson~Mohawk~Schoharie web site