Excerpt from: The History of Montgomery Classis RCA
By W. N. P. Dailey, Recorder Press, Amsterdam, NY 1916
St. Johnsville Reformed Church

The first parsonage

St. Johnsville was, doubtless settled as soon as Stone Arabia of which it was originally a part, that is in 1725. For a long time the place was called "Timmerman's" after the first settlers. Simms said the present name comes from Alexander St. John, a pioneer surveyor, but this is conjectural since the church was called "St. John" long before the village was named St. Johnsville.

The date of the organization of the church has always been placed as 1770, but inasmuch as a church was here as early as 1756 (N.Y. Doc. Hist.) We are inclined to give the date as 1750, while there is no reason to think that the Germans who settled here in 1725 did any different from those who settled at the same time at Stone Arabia or German Flatts who organized the church as soon as they settled. We are indebted for much of this history of St. Johnsville to the orderly type written transcript of the church records by R. W. Vosburgh, archivist of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, who has illuminated the story by research in the county and state records concerning the same. St. John's church was within the limits of the Palatine (Stone Arabia) district of Montgomery county, a part of which in 1838 became the town of St. Johnsville. The Francis Harrison patent of 12,000 acres was obtained of the Indians in 1722, and a year later the entire tract was partitioned off, the first church having been built on Lot No. 13, owned by George C. and Jacob Klock (cf Bk. Deeds 48, 213).

There are traditions that both Christian and George Klock built the first church in 1756. The Capitol fire destroyed priceless historical documents which would verify and illumine much of the history of the Mohawk valley churches. This George Klock is often mentioned in the Sir William Johnson correspondence but always for his interference with the church services and work, and particularly for his inimical attitude toward Domine Lappius, and his deceit toward the Indians.

The earliest written record extant of the church is in the form of a receipt bearing date of January 4, 1805. Jacob G. Klock who gave this receipt was the son of George Klock the elder, owner of lot 16 in the Harrison patent, thro which Klock's Creek flowed.

Letters of administration of this George Klock were granted October 19, 1795 to his two sons, Jacob G. and George G. Klock. What is known as "Klock's Church," probably erected in 1786 in the Klock private burying ground, was the work of George Klock (the son of George Klock, the elder) and Col. Jacob Klock. It was built after in Indian raid of 1780, the church being incorporated March 13, 1787, the title being, "The Reformed Calvinist Church."

The burying ground of this so-called "Klock's church occupied the central portion of the eight acre lot shown on the map dated 1842. Undoubtedly the first services at St. Johnsville were conducted by the nearby pastors, Schuyler of Stone Arabia and Weiss and Rosencrantz of German Flatts (cf). The usual belief is that the first church was built in 1770, but we know of the 1756 building, probably the initial structure. The first settled pastor at 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). Local tradition says that Mr. Dysslin was buried (died in 1812) beneath the pulpit of Klock's church, but this can hardly be since the Klock church was taken down long before Mr. Dysslin's death, and had not been used since the organization removed to the village. About a hundred graves are still visible in the old cemetery, and last internment taking place in 1847. One stone is supposed to mark the grave of Hendrick Klock, the pioneer settler who died in 1760, aged ninety-two. Rev. John Taylor mentions the church in recounting his missionary travels in 1802, and speaks of Mr. Dozly (Dysslin) as the German pastor. For the first two years Mr. Dysslin's salary was $117, with use of glebe lands, etc. The third year he was paid $119, and a receipt dated June 12, 1810, shows that for two years they paid him $120. Additional payments were in wood, wheat, and labor in plowing the land. Mr. Dysslin married a daughter of Col. Jacob Klock, by whom he had five daughters and two sons whose descendants will live in the community, among who are the Dysslins, Beekmans, Klocks, Bauders, Nellis, et al. (Webmaster's note: According to records, Mrs. Dysslin was Col. Klock's granddaughter.)

St. John's church in St. Johnsville is one mile west of Klock's church site. The old church was torn down in 1818. Originally there was a glebe land of seven acres connected with the present property, the burial grounds of the church being the westerly end of this glebe and extending on both side of Timmerman's creek. References to this church land at Fonda are plentiful. The land originally belonged to Jacob Zimmerman (written also Timmerman), and as far back as 1792 payments were made on it. The work had not progressed on the new church in the village until 1803, at which time John L. Bellinger became treasurer. In 1804, the seats were sold, among the buyers being W. I. Walrath, Andrew Zabriskie, Wm. Shaver, Fredk. Bellinger, Jacob J. Failing, Fredk. Getman, Peter Storms, Conrad Hellecoos, John Euker, Henry Beekman, Catharine Windocker, John C. House, Peter Kels, and John Kring. The church was completed June 1, 1804, during the pastorate of John Dysslin (who was also the pastor at Canajoharie Castle (Indian Castle). The first parsonage stood near the center of the glebe lot, and Rev. De Voe was the first pastor to occupy it, Mr. Dysslin remaining at the Klock church parsonage, or house, which Mrs. Dysslin had inherited from Col. Jacob Klock. 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). After Mr. Dysslin's death the church was supplied for a while by Rev. John J. Ack (CF "Sand Hill") who was then at Stone Arabia. Rev. David DeVoe came to St. John's in 1816 and remained until 1830. Mr. DeVoe joined the Montgomery Classis in 1813, and preached at Beaverdam and Middleburgh. While pastor at St. Johnsville, Mr. DeVoe organized churches at Fayette, Seneca county, and at LeRoy, Jefferson county. His last work was at Columbia (CF) and Warren (Herkimer county) during 1834 thro 1837, tho he did some missionary work in Lewis county (Turin) until 1841. He died in 1844.

Rev. Abraham H. Myers came to St. Johnsville in August 1830, from the seminary and remained a year. He also supplied Manheim (CF) later (1848-1852). Rev. Herman B. Stryker was the next pastor who came in February, 1833, remaining thro May, 1834. On his graduation from the Seminary in 1822 he had done some missionary work at Johnsburgh and Warrensburgh (Warren county). He was also in the Union church, Amsterdam (1827-1832) from which he went to Glenville. After a retirement from the active work for twenty years, he died, December 11, 1871, following a decade of work at the Huguenot church of Staten Island. Rev. James Murphey succeeded, remaining from June, 1834, to July, 1837, when he went to the dual pastorate at Herkimer (CF). He died while supplying Frankfort (1854-1857). Rev. A. H. Myers returned for a second pastorate and remained seven years (1837-1844). He died at the age of eighty-five in 1886 and was buried at Port Ewen.

Rev. Joseph Knieskern came next in May, 1845, and remained until September, 1872. In 1848, $2,000 was spent in repairs on the church. Mr. Knieskern also supplied Manheim and Indian Castle. For some years after leaving this field he supplied the Virgil Presbyterian church. A cold caught at the funeral at St. Johnsville so affected his voice as to render him almost unfit for pulpit service. He died at Cortland, September 7, 1895.

Rev. Edward Lodewick was the eighth pastor, remaining a little over three years (1872-1875). He was ordained by the Montgomery Classis. His next charge was in the Pascack, N. J. church. He died at Bound brook, N. J., September 14, 1909. During this pastorate the glebe land was sold, several acres, on both sides of the creek, for $6,025. The church debts were paid and the rest of the proceeds went into the new parsonage which cost $3,400. The bodies were removed from the glebe land to the village cemetery. Rev. George Van Neste came in September, 1875, and remained a little more than three years. He died in 1898. He had been pastor at Lodi (CF) for a dozen years. Other pastorates followed this field at Kiskatom and Flatbush, and one at Pottersville, N. J. He was the father of Elder Abram Van Nest who gave Van Nest Hall to Rutgers College. He was of the seventh generation from Peter Van Nest, who came to Long Island from Holland in 1647.

The pulpit was next filled by Rev. Albert Dodd Minor (1879-1888), who when next to Mohawk (CF). During Minor's pastorate the present church was built in 1881. Mr. Minor preached an historical sermon, as did he successor, Rev. Philip Furbeck, who gave a great deal of study to the old documents. We have been unable to locate either of these investigations. Mr. Furbeck came in 1888 and remained thro a part of 1893. His brother, George died October 18, 1851, the year of his graduation at New Brunswick Seminary. Rev. Furbeck's first charge in the Classis was at Fonda (CF). Rev. Charles W. Kenney took up the work in 1893 and left in 1899 to become pastor of the Hobart Presbyterian church. He was later in the Mohawk church (CF). Rev. Orville J. Hogan was next called. He had been at Rocky Hill, N. J. when he came to this field in 1899 and remained here ten years, going to his present charge at Closter, N. J. The present pastor, Rev. Frederick Perkins was already in the Montgomery Classis at Lodi, when called to this field in 1909.

Three churches were continuous and collegiate with St. John's at St. Johnsville, the pastors of the latter preaching statedly at Youker's Bush, Canajoharie Castle ("Indian Castle"), and "Snell's Bush (Manheim). Of Youker's Bush it is sufficient to say that it was organized by DeVoe in 1821, and from 1830 to 1887 was collegiate with St. Johnsville. The building was erected in 1830 and stood about a mile and a half east of Crum Creek, and half a mile north of the county line. The spot is two and a half miles north of Upper St. Johnsville church, tho never mentioned in the minutes of Classis. In 1857 a new church was built, a mile and a half east from the first Youker's Bush church, and is about three miles north by east of St. Johnsville, and was controlled by the Dutch Reformed church. It paid $225 of Van Neste's salary, and $150 of Minor's salary. About the year 1887 the Reformed services ceased, and later the Grace Christian church of St. Johnsville assumed direction of the services.

The Canajoharie Castle church was the present Indian Castle church (CF) now standing in the town of Danube. It was erected in 1769 by Sir William Johnson who is said to have personally paid for the whole cost of the same, which was $1,147.50. The church was built for a church of England mission to foster religion among the Indians of the Upper Mohawk castle. Thro the years the Dutch Reformed and German Reformed and Lutherans and Presbyterians have all held services here. The Reformed Dutch church of the Castle was incorporated about 1800. The Snell's Bush church called now the Manheim church (CF), is situated in the town of Manheim, midway between St. Johnsville and Little Falls, Before the revolution Suffrenus, Peter, Joseph and Jacob Snell of Snell's Bush gave seven acres for church and twelve acres for school purposes. A church was built but burned during the revolution, and later rebuilt. It stood until 1850 when it was taken down and the present church built.

Note from the webmaster: The church carriage house is still standing and is used as a house. When the house was remodeled, the old barn beams were clearly visible along with some old horse manure!

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