History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY 1883
Volume I, Page 276.
Other Churches.-The pioneer settlers in and contiguous to the Mohawk valley at an early period in several places, organized church associations, and in some instances they had erected houses of worship without foreign assistance. As already shown, the Palatines of German Flats, had a church which was destroyed with their village in 1757, which is believed to have been erected in 1749. In its stead the stone edifice yet standing on the south side of the river, a little distance below the first, is said to have been completed a one story edifice in 1767: and in 1801 another story was added with a steeple like the one on the Caughnawaga church. It is known as a Reformed church, and is called the Fort Herkimer church, it having been situated hardly a quarter of a mile from Fort Herkimer, the last vestige of which fort was destroyed for the Erie canal enlargement. Domine Abram Rosencrantz, is said to have officiated in the first church, and Rev. John P. Spinner, the first pastor of the second, after 1801.
Stone Arabia, Churches.-As early as June 2, 1729, the Palatines, who settled Stone Arabia, some of whom were Calvinists and others Lutherans, set about getting a glebe of 50 acres of land for church purposes; and William Copernoll then obligated himself under a penalty of £100, to convey a desired lot to Andreas Fink and three others, by the 9th of April 1731. The indenture was completed May 9, 1732, when the said Copernoll granted the 50 acres (on which the churches are now situated), to Andreas Fink, Werner Digert, Johannes Schnell and others, for the sum of £20 New York currency. On this land and where the Reformed church now stands as believed, a log building was erected, in which, for a time, both denominations alternately worshiped. Just when the church organizations took place' where the first rude edifice was erected, cannot be determined: but it is believed those events transpired as early as 1735. In 1744, this church glebe was divided and two churches erected, the Lutherans being represented in the transaction by Martines Dillenback, John Keiser, Harris Empie, John Schuls, Jacob Shuls, Stovel (Christopher) Shuls, Lutrick Kaselman, Nicholas Stemfell, Andreus Besiner and William Nellis; and the Calvanists by Jost Schnell, Leverinus Deigart, Peter Suts, William Broner, Johannes Krems, Dirk Loux, Hendrick Loux, Harris Schnell, William Copernoll, Andreas Fink, Nicholas Horning and Peter Deigart. The first Schoharie ministers are said to have been among the earliest to officiate in Stone Arabia. In 1873, Rev. W. B. Van Benschoten, who was officiating in the Reformed church of Stone Arabia, searched the church records and reported the result of his labors in the Fort Plain Register, from which the above facts are derived.
The Reformed Dutch Church of Canajoharie, was erected on "Sand Hill," nearly a mile to the westward of Fort Plain, in 1750. Its first pastor was Rev. Mr. Rosencrantz. It was a wooden structure of good size and was burned by the enemy in, 1780, at which time Domine John Daniel Gros, was its pastor; after which he preached in a barn on the present William Lipe farm, until the war closed. Another structure of wood, large, and with a steeple, but no bell, took its place at the close of the Revolution, which was demolished after the congregation erected a brick edifice in Fort Plain village. Some incidents Some incidents connected with the second "Sand Hill church," in the long ago, have been communicated to the writer. Our Washington died December 14, 1799, and funeral orations and eulogistic sermons were delivered all over the land, and the event in this church was solemnized, it is believed, as it was in few, if any, of the churches westward of Albany. A long procession passed in review of a great multitude of people, in which was led a caparisoned horse with its empty saddle adorned with holsters and pistols, and a pair of boots. The church, on the occasion, as I was assured by John Arndt, then a boy present, was beautifully draped in festoons of evergreens and craps; and a packed audience listened to an eulogy from the Rev. Isaac Labaugh, then pastor of the church. The merchant, Conrad Gansevoort residing near this church about this period, had the only cushioned pew in it--even the pulpit which seated but one person had no cushion. Jacob Matthias, a wealthy member of the congregation was a remarkably large man, and rode to the church in a chaise, the only one at that time in the town. He was always unattended, as he filled the seat alone, his family coming in a wagon.--Williarn H. Seeber.
The Caughnawaga Church, a massive stone structure, was erected in 1763. It fronted east with its gable to the street. Its entrance was by a double door, and on a tablet over it copied in Low Dutch from Isaiah 2 : 3, was the following sentence: "Komteyea, laett ons op gaen tot den bergh des Heeren, to den huyse' Des Godes Jacob ; op dat hy ons leere van syne wegen, ell en dat wy wandele in syne paden." "Come ye, and let us go to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob ; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths." The steeple, as I was assured by Major Isaiah Depuy, who worked upon it, was built in 1795, and was on the north end from the road. It was graced with the dinner bell of Sir William Johnson, brought hither from Johnson hall. The bell weighed about 100 pounds and bore this inscription: "S R William Johnson Baronet 1774. Made by Miller & Ross in Eliz. Town." Its first pastor was Rev. 'Thomas Romeyn, succeeded in 1795, by Rev. Abram Van Horne, a graduate of Queen's College, New Jersey; whose pastorate was the following 38 years. He died suddenly in 1840, at the age of 75 years. During his ministry, he is said to have united about 1,500 couples in wedlock, for happiness or its counterpart. This church was furnished with a gallery upon three sides: the fourth or west side contained the pulpit, which was directly in front of the door. The seatings of the church was in square pews, except at the north end under the gallery, which was furnished with benches without backs, for the occupancy of Indians and slaves.
Some persons have supposed this church was palisaded and fitted for the defense of the inhabitants in the Revolution, but such was not the case. Penelope Grant, a Scotch girl living in the family of Mr. Douw Fonda, leaving the old gentleman to his fate on the morning of Sir John Johnson's invasion in 1780, assured me that she ran past this church to join Mrs. Romeyn, who fled from the parsonage in the absence of her husband to the hill for safety, cumbered with several small children. The approaching Indians saw them, but made no demonstration to injure them, except by giving a few extra whoops, which caused Mrs. R. to stumble and fall with two children in her arms, to the great merriment of her dusky foes.
The Rev. Douw Van O'Linda, who was the first pastor in the new Reformed church at Fonda after the Caughnawaga church was abandoned for religious service, became the owner of the old one, and fitted it up for a classic school, to be known as the Fonda Academy. Its first term as such began in 1844, with J. A. Hardenbergh as its tutor, but it failed of success and was converted into a private dwelling. In 1866 the owner of this ancient landmark tore down its substantial walls, which were used for other purposes. Every one who makes our colonial history a study, will ever regret the necessity which impels the destruction of its primitive structures; and especially so of this one, endeared to memory by so many thrilling events. Before a similar fate overtakes another edifice of equal interest, it is to be hoped an effort will be made among the people to purchase its ransom.
The Cost of a Bride.-The following anecdote, too good to be lost-which was told the writer by Mrs. Henry S. Gardinier, about the time of Domine Van Horne's death-she having been present on its occasion-will serve to convince the reader that he did not get rich on marriage fees. During much of his active life the legal marriage fee was one dollar; but the stipend has usually been left to the liberality of the donor. On a cold winter's night, as far back as 1815 or 1820, a wedding came off in one of the best families at Fort Hunter, Domine Van Horne officiating. It was good sleighing, but very cold. After the marriage ceremony was over, and a feast of good things was disposed of--with something stronger than tea or coffee to settle it-as the domine was preparing to go home in his cutter, the happiest man in the crowd inquired what he must pay him. That, said the prelate, I usually leave to the generosity of the groom, and the latter handed him a half dollar. The domine, after turning it over a few times in his hand, observed that the night was a cold one, he had come some distance, and he thought the fee looked rather small. The groom once more delved deep into his pocket, and laid an additional quarter of a dollar ill the awaiting palm. "Well, well," said the domine, scanning the still small fee, as he passed the six shillings into his pocket, "perhaps that will do," and soon he was facing the cold west wind in a five miles' ride, what clergyman of Mfontgomery county would like to find his own conveyance, and go five miles on a cold night to get a marriage fee of 75 cents? If any there are speak out, and the chance shall be yours.
The Palatine Stone Church.-A Lutheran church was erected in 1770 on the river road, in the westerly part of the present town of Palatine. It was a good stone edifice-indeed, is today, for it is yet standing-and was built for the accommodation of the inhabitants on both sides of the river. Its pastor was usually the settled minister of the Lutheran church of Stone Arabia, five or six miles distant, which had been erected many years before. It has long been known as the "Palatine Stone Church." Its entrance was on its northerly side toward the road, and over its door was the following inscription in
German: "ERBAUET im Yahr Christi, 1770, Den 18 ten Aug. Erected in the year of Christ, 1770, the 18 day of August."
Here is a copy of the original subscription list for its erection, kindly given me by the late Gen. Peter C. Fox, nearly 30 years ago.
record made of the time of building the Lutheran Stone church in Palatine,
which was erected August 18, 1770. The names of the proprietors, and the sum
by each paid, is as follows, to wit:
Peter Waggoner, paid. £100
Andrew Reber, paid. 100
William Nellis, Junr., paid. 60
Andrew Nellis. Paid 60
Johannes Nellis, paid. 60
Henry Nellis, paid, . 60
Christian Nellis, paid. 60
David Nellis, paid . 60
Johannes Hess, paid. 60
£620 Equal to $1,550
"And William Nellis, the father of William, Andrew, Johannes and Henry Nellis, paid for the making of the spire, etc., to the steeple of said church. This information having been derived of Johannes Hess, one of the original proprietors, as above stated, and recorded by the subscriber on the 28th day of August, 1823.
"PETER C. FOX."
upon the back of this statement is the following memoranda:
"Be it known, that the deed given by Hendrick W. Nellis for the ground which the Lutheran Stone church now stands on, was to be eighty feet front and rear, and sixty-four in breadth, and to be parallel as the church now stands. Deed says to commence at the southwest corner of said lot by a certain stone put down marked by letters C. N. W., etc. Recorded by me, the subscriber, this 20th day of Jan., 1842.
"P. C. FOX."
The interior of this church having been remodeled-its gallery removed, its front door closed and two doors opened at the easterly end-June 18, 1868 it was rededicated; the sermon for the occasion coming from Rev. Dr. G. A. Lintner, of Schoharie, who, when young, preached his first sermon in it. His text at the dedication, from Haggai was: "The glory of the latter house shall exceed the former, etc." Some eight or ten Lutheran clergymen were present, several of them taking a part in the interesting exercises; one of whom was Rev. Nicholas Wert, then its pastor, who was mainly instrumental in regenerating the old edifice.
On Thursday August 18, 1870, the centenary anniversary of its dedication, a celebration took place to commemorate its one hundredth birthday. The exercises were two-fold, that is, part of them were in the church, and part of them under shade trees on the old Newkirk-Edwards place, 30 rods distant from the church. The former consisted of a historical address by Rev. Charles A. Smith, who had been a pastor of the church 40 years before whom we remember as having administered the sacrament of the Lord's Supper in our presence, to the members of this church in the German language. The other exercises in the building were participated in by Rev. P. Felts, of .Johnstown: Rev. V. F. Bolton, of Scaghticoke, and Rev. N. Geortner, of Hamilton College. The music, a part of which was prepared for the occasion, was rendered by the orchestra of the Canajoharie Lutheran Church, led by Haney Dunckel, Esq. Mrs. Benj. A. Smith fingered a melodeon, while the the tones of a bass-viol, two violins, an octave flute and a brass horn also mingled their tones with the voices of the choir, almost lifting the old rafters to let the harmonious sounds ascend to heaven. The address of Mr. Smith, a historical and exceedingly interesting one, was listened to with great pleasure by that part of the crowd which could gain admission to the church. After epitomizing the coming hither of the ancestry of its early German worshipers, of an 100 -years ago, and passing in review his own early reflections upon the scenery and surrounding circumstances, he observed:
" Some of yon remember the old steeple. Tall, graceful and admirably well proportioned; as an object of beauty it was far in advance of the one that has succeeded it. But the weather was hard upon the lower timbers, and the fear came that it would be blown down some day: so a wise precaution removed it. The only mistake was, that in making the new one more safe, it was thought best to make it less symmetrical. The weather-cock [a gilded chanticleer], that was perched on the very pinnacle, though it never crowed, yet always breasted the storm, and looked bravely in the face of every wind.
"Some of you also remember the church as it was internally, before the hand of improvement was laid upon it the first time, [meaning when he was its pastor]. You remember the pulpit, as it was modeled a hundred years ago, and where it stood [in front of the entrance door]; and the old queer pews, with their high straight backs, that made sleeping in church a very inconvenient luxury. The pulpit, you remember, was shaped like a goblet, stem and all; and it had a sounding-board over head, which was intended to arrest the preacher's words in their upward flight, and fling them back upon the ears of the worshipers. The pulpit, you remember, was slate colored, and the pews wore a dress of Spanish brown. That was the prevailing taste a hundred years ago-for the dwellings had the same tints-Spanish brown outside and slate color within. The first time the church was repaired, the entire cost was not much more than $800. The pulpit gave place to one of more modern construction. The square side pews were left unaltered, save that they had a new dress within and without. The entrance remained where it was, on the broadside of the church; only a vestibule was erected within, to keep out the fierce wintry wintry winds. The organ cost $400, and was considered at the time of the purchase, a very valuable appendage; but it had in truth more power than sweetness, and not much of either.
"The bell supplemented the repairs, and tells its own story to-day, in tones as sweet as those it uttered when for the first time it called the worshipers to prayer. But it does not tell the story of its predecessor. For there was a bell before the present one and yet it was not a bell, for it had neither the shape nor sound of a bell-it was a sort of non-descript, triangular in form, and in tone-like nothing else on earth, or in air. Some modern inventor had contrived it as an economical substitute; but its periodical tinkling was only a burlesque and annoyance. It was really worse than nothing, for it hung in the way of something better. Now, it so happened that I said, one day, to the carpenter, who was just then at work on the stepple-or else I said to myself in his hearing-for I am inclined to think at this distance of time, that I was at least half soliloquising-' the loss would not be great if that triangle should fall.' The uttered words were probably the audible end of a long train of reflections that had been passing, for the most part silently, through my own mind. It must have beep a mere coincidence; but the next morning, while the gentleman alluded to was still at work on the steeple, down came the triangle upon the solid rock, and lay scattered in pieces. Just previous to the accident, I have been told that two eyes were seen peering over the balustrade; and from some playful hints that were dropped into my ear afterwards by the possessor of those eyes, I suspect he was looking to see whether anyone was under.*
From the church the multitude-to the music of brass bands from St. Johnsville and Fort Plain-marched to the field-stand, near to which a dinner was served, and after the repast the people were drawn to the hill-side in numbers fairly estimated at 5,000, to listen to an address from the valley orator, Hon. Horatio Seymour. The venerable Hon. Peter J. Wagner, president of the day, with the speaker and one or two others, took their position in a wagon, from which the great audience was addressed in an oration remarkable for its historical truths. I am not aware that a full report of this address was ever published, but it was a remarkably happy supplement to the theme introduced by Mr. Smith. The latter near the close of his address, said: "There is one condition on which I would be glad to see such a change as would not leave one stone upon another" of this old building. "If the moral wants of this community should become so urgent, and its numbers should so increase as to render this edifice too small to meet those ends, it would be the best proof of your regard for the zeal of your fathers, and the most gratifying result of their self denial, were you to remove these walls and enlarge these accommodations, etc."
Upon the theme of destruction, Gov. Seymour spoke as follows: "Before closing my remarks, I wish to say a few words
* This bell was a triangle of two inch square cast steel, its angles some three feet long, and weighing between 50 and 100 pounds, and hung In such a manner as to be rung with a hammer. It was an Invention of about 1825. At that period there was one In the Canajoharie academy and another in the .Johnstown court house. But as Mr. Smith said, they were poor substitutes for bells.
contrary to something said by our worthy and eloquent friend in the old church this morning. If the religious requirements of this community should ever demand a larger place of worship, build anew and on some other spot. For the sake of your fathers, whose memories and deeds we cherish, for the sake of yourselves and your posterity, I beg of you not to tear down that old landmark. Let it stand as a monument to the love of God and the religious liberty of its builders. When God, in His own good time, sees fit to put it back to the dust from whence it sprang, He will do so; but don't, let me beseech of you, tear it down." At the close of the address, the president, in a few appropriate remarks, proposed six cheers for the speaker, which were never more heartily accorded in the Mohawk valley.
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