Inter-Centenary Celebration of Saint John's Reformed Church (1920)

Before reading this article, please refer to the official history of St. John's, found in the History of Montgomery Classis. According to the history, "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)."

So many wrongly label this church as organized originally a Dutch Church; it was German. After 1829, it was aligned with the Dutch Reformed Church as a matter of convenience since it had been using their ministers. Please keep this in mind when reading the article. For a full history of the church, please check here. St. John's

Thanks to Betty Hoagey for donating this booklet for use on the web site. It contains many interesting details which were not included in the later church history. Just selected portions of the booklet will be used. Note too that there were a lot of typos in the booklet and it is difficult to know which is correct. If you don't recognize your family name, that might be the reason. ajberry, webmaster.

Inter-Centenary Celebration of Saint John's Reformed Church
History of the Church
Compiled from Original Church Records by Helen E. Horn.


See the Gospel Church secure,
And founded on a Rick!
All her promises are sure;
Her bulwarks who can shock
Count her every precious shrine;
Tell, to after-ages tell.
Fortified by power divine,
The Church can never fail.
Charles Wesley. Scriptural, Psalm xlviii. St. 9.

The history of the old Dutch Church is closely interwoven with that of our own state. For as soon as the Dutchmen had established themselves on the island of Manhattan they built a church of the Reformed faith near to the Bowling Green. As the settlements ascended the Hudson valley, so came the church. When English rule was proclaimed the people had to pay toward the State Church of England, as well as that of their own faith. In 1722 we find Petrius Van Driessin, who served the first church at Albany for nearly a quarter of a century, applying to the crown to establish a mission among the Mohawks. This was granted to him and in 1732, the three tribes of the Mohawks, Bear, Wolf and Turtle, because of their love and in appreciation of the labors of Petrius Van Driessen and Johannes Ehl, gave a considerable grant of land on the North Bank of the Mohawk. Ehl was co-missionary with Van Driessen, and the Ehl family are yet residents of Palatine district.

Early Days.

From such a beginning sprang the established Reformed Church in our midst. As early as 1756 a church is said to have stood one mile east of the village. French's New York State Gazetteer, page 417 as well as New York Documentary History establishes this fact. By whom it was built is a matter of discussion. Some claim by Christian Klock or some other member of the Klock family, but as so many records of valley history were destroyed in the Albany capitol faire, it is hard to settle the question. Some claim it was built as a mission for the red men, other asserted that it was used by the white as well and also that school was held there. One can picture the rude church, no doubt made of logs, standing on the little rise of land, overlooking the Mohawk where the Indian paddled his canoe, and not far from the highway which the settlers used as their means of communication. According to the church records, the church became an organized body in 1770. Its pulpit was supplied by ministers from nearby towns. Abram Rosenkrantz being one who came often to them. In 1787, it became a regular incorporated body taking the name of Reformed Calvinist Church. Its first board of trustees was comprised of the following: Jacob, Klock, Jacob G. Klock, Christopher Fox, Peter Schuyler and Jacob Failing. In 1788 Johann Henrich Dysslin was called to be the first pastor. He was born of the nobility at Bergdorf, Canton Berne, Switzerland. Starting for the New World, he was shipwrecked. Then it was that he made a compact with the Creator that if his life was spared it should be dedicated to the service of God. He returned to his native land, was educated for the ministry, came back to America and was called to serve the Upper Church of the Palatines. Rev. Dysslin served the church from July 13, 1788 to 1812, the second longest pastorate in the church's history. He served the congregation of Manheim and Canajoharie Castle as well. Children from all along the valley were brought to him for baptism as the old records bear witness. The first baptism entered on his books is that of John Fred'k, son of Christopher and Catherine Hess Fox, christened July 13, 1788.

The Reverend gentleman married Anne, daughter of Col. Jacob Klock, by whom had had five daughters and two sons. After the death of Rev. Dysslin, his widow became the wife of Henry Beekman. Rev. Taylor in his missionary trip through the Mohawk and Black river countries, in 1802, mentions Klock's Church (as it was called) and its pastor, Rev. Dysslin. It was also called by the same name in the accounting of Jacob G. Klock when he turned over the monies to the Reformed Dutch St. John's Church on January 4, 1805. It was during Rev. Dysslin's time that the church was moved to the present village. Jacob Zimmerman, a Revolutionary soldier, and a zealous church man was desirous that the new church should be built near his home at Timmerman's or Zimmerman's Creek, as the little hamlet of a few homes was called. He offered 7 acres of land and this was paid for by a note given by the trustees and dated March 5, 1792. This note was purchased by John L. Bellinger and charged off by him in his accounts of money expended toward the new church.

Removed to Present Site.

At that time the only road leading from the north to the village was what is now known as Church street. The Zimmerman home stood near the center of the present village and his mill was near the old woolen mills of the late Sidney Smith. It was not until 1803 under the treasurership of John L. Bellinger that the new church gained headway. In January, 1804, a meeting was called at "the New Church", but it was not until June, 1804 that it was really opened. Pews were then sold. What Rev. Dysslin's salary had been before this time we are unable to say, but we know for the first two years in the New Church he received $117 per year and donations of wheat, wood and a fund for ploughing glebe lands. In his earliest receipt the church is given as Reformed Dutch St. John's Church and there is hardly a doubt that when the village received its new name it was taken from the church. The building was a wooden structure, standing on the site of the present church, but facing the east. It had a gallery around three sides.

List of Subscribers in 1804

Following are the list of contributors to the New Church of Upper Palatine District:

Some curious items are revealed by the perusal of the Old Church records pertaining to the erection of the first church on the St. Johnsville site. This was in 1804. We find entries as follows:

Black Ned for work, .37 1-2.

Boarding 3 hands 1 wk. $3.75

Boarding in New York and expenses coming and going $14.18 1-2.

Nathan Christy to bringing paint, etc. from Albany, $1.

Entered under the title of "Chief Workman" appears the names of James Wright, Jerard Barnes, J. Gillianad and Adam Bowers. Doubtless to this quartet we owe the actual construction of the 1804 church which lasted for nearly three quarters of a century, but was remodeled in ???8.

An entry appears acknowledging contributions from the church in Fort Plain and also from "persons in New York, Albany, Schoharie, etc."

From things purchased for the church it appears that Andrew Zabriske must have kept a general store, as shingles, nails, rope and treasurer's book were purchased form him.

John L. Bellinger settled his accounts with the trustees on March 11, 1806 at which time most of the debts of the church had been paid.

Rev. Dysslin did not live in the village near the new church, but remained on the farm, east of the village which his wife had inherited under the will of Col. Jacob Klock. There he died and was buried near on the spot where the pulpit of Klock's Church had formerly stood. The first pastor to occupy the parsonage was Rev. Daniel DeVoe, his predecessor, Rev. John Jacob Wack having acted as supply after Rev. Dysslin's death.

Sermons in Two Languages

Rev. Daniel DeVoe was called in 1816 by St. John's Church in Oppenheim (St. J.) and St. Paul's in Manheim to preach two-thirds time in St. John's and the remainder in St. Paul's and in each year to preach twice a Sabbath for the space of five months, and further he was to preach half of the sermons in English and half in German.

This call was signed July 9, 1816.

Jacob A. Walrath, Jr., and George G. Klock, Jr. Deacons of St. John's; Conrad Hillegas and John F. Bellinger, Elders, of St. John's.

Sufremas Snell and Peter B. Snell, Deacons of St. Paul's. Lorence Simmerman and John Rasbach, Elders of St. Paul's.

Rev. DeVoe's pastorate lasted until 1830. He made note that during this time he married 165 couples. The first one recorded is that of Joseph Hail and Sally Young, both of Manheim, Montgomery. It was solemnized May 3, 1816, before Rev. DeVoe was regularly called.

Early Bookkeeping

One of the entries in his book is as follows:

An account of the wood which is bought for the stove in the meeting house January 7, 1817.

Joseph G. Klock......(Load)1
Jacob Walrath brought...... 1/4
Adam Walrath................1/4
George G. Klock.............1/2
Coonrod Hillegas............1

Church stove pipe lent to Dr. Colwell.

Rev. Devoe a Builder

On November 28, 1821 Rev. DeVoe organized the Second Reformed Church of Oppenheim (Youkers Bush). He is also mentioned as doing missionary work while preaching here.

He organized churches in 1822 in Seneca and Jefferson counties. On this trip he preached 58 sermons, visited 143 families and traveled 1254 miles and was paid for his services $120, according to report of committee on missions, in minutes of General Synod 1822. He was succeeded in 1830 by Rev. Abram H. Myers; he in 1833 by Rev. Herman B. Stryker; he in 1834 by Rev. James Murphy and in 1837 the Rev. Abram H. Myers became pastor of the church for a second time.

A peculiar wedding entry occurs during his time.

Dec. 22, 1842, Obadiah Flander of St. Johnsville to Elizabeth Hess of Oppenheim, Married at Parsonage, 70 Persons Present at Donation Party.

Longest Pastorate Under Rev. Knieskern

In 1845 Rev. Joseph Knieskern became pastor of the church. His was the longest term of any minister in the church, lasting until 1872, twenty seven years. During this period he officiated at nearly 350 weddings at one of which he made entry: "a multitude were witnesses." No doubt it was a social event. From the books of Mr. Knieskern and his predecessors we gain an idea of the town. We find references made to weddings taking place at taverns of Aaron Smith, P. W. Saltsman, Christopher Klock, David House, Mr. Simons, Abner Powell and R. R. Depot in the village and at inns of Mr. H. Roof and Mr. Shaffer at Upper St. Johnsville. It was during the time of Rev. Knieskerns that the church of 1804 was remodeled. It was turned to face Main street and greatly enlarged and refurnished.

Lists of Subscribers in 1848.

A complete record of the subscribers to the 1848 improvement is available and as the names are so intimately interwoven with the development of the community as well as the list. This subscription paper was headed as follows:

We the subscribers, promise and agree (each for himself) to pay George Timmerman, George Chawgo and Jonas Snell in behalf of the Consistory of the Dutch Reformed St. John's Church, situated in the village of St. Johnsville, the sum set opposite our respective names, on or before the first day of September next to enable the Consistory of said church to repair the same, as they may think proper.

St. Johnsville, NY; March 4, 1848.

Total Amount ......... $1,828.50

The following persons subscribed for lowering the roof and putting six feet in the rear of the church:

In 1853 a church organ was purchased at the cost of $500.

We find that the church festival was already established for one is recorded in 1853 netting $85 and another in 1856 netting $96.

It is in Mr. Knieskern's time also that the largest number of people have united at one time upon confession of faith. In March 1859, 40 united. Rev. Knieskern was followed by Rev. Edward Lodewick, December 10, 1872 to February 23, 1875. In 1874 the glebe lands were sold and funds used to liquidate debts of the church and erect the new parsonage. The lowest bidder for building the parsonage was John H. Knieskern to whom the contract was awarded July 13th, 1874 amount $3,387.

Rev. George J. Van Neste followed and served from 1875-879.

The next in succession was the Rev. Albert Dod Minor, who was instrumental in building the present church.

The Present Edifice

Although the present church edifice was not erected until the time of Rev. Minor, yet it was under consideration as early as 1877. Rev. Minor was called in 1879 and the question of a church edifice to meet the present day demand was given great prominence. At the meeting of the Consistory held in September, 1880, Elijah Bauder and John P. Kneeskern builders, were appointed a committee to see if it was advisable to repair the old building. They reported that it was not worth repairs. So on October 25th, 1880 a building committee consisting of Alvin Salesman and Nelson House and Morris Klock were appointed. Later the name of Wm. Saltsman, Wesley Allter, Oliver Snell and Jacob Markell were added. Some were in favor of building along the old lines, but it was due to the efforts of these men backed by the Consistory and the able advice of the pastor that the present up to date edifice was erected many claiming in style of architecture twenty years ahead of its time. The architect was Albert Fuller and the builders Hall Brothers. The Consistory at the time was composed of the following:

Elders: George Timmerman, Nelson House, James Bellinger, Amos Hayes, Elijah Bauder, Oliver Snell.

Deacons: Stephen J. Duesler, Morris Klock, Jacob H. Markell, Wesley Allter, Clark H. Markell, Horatio Bellinger.

The work of demolishing the old church was begun March 28, 1881 and on May 1st 1882 the new structure was dedicated for service. The building and equipment had cost about $13,000 of which $10,000 had been raised at time of dedication. The ladies had contributed about $1100. In 1886 the pastorate of Rev. Minor ended and Philip Furbeck was called. During his time the Christian Endeavor Society which was a wonderful developer for Christian Service in the young was formed. Rev. Philip Furbeck's work here was terminated in 1892 and on January 27, 1893, Rev. Charles Kinney became the pastor. Many members were added to the church. The Christian Endeavor was especially active and on July 19, 1898 W. Earl Youker and Eugene Flander appeared before the Consistory asking permission, in behalf of the C. E. Society to re-fresco the church. This request was granted. Rev. O. J. Hogan was called in 1899 and for ten years labored zealously in the field. Due in a great measure to his efforts we have the beautiful Bellinger Bartle Memorial Organ given January 28, 1909 by Mrs. Catherine Bellinger and Mrs. Elroy C. Bartle in memory of their departed. Rev. Hogan's ministry was followed by that of Rev. Frederick Perkins. The revival under Rev. E. E. Davidson, which resulted in many accessions to the different churches of this village was during this ministry.

The next in line of succession was Rev. H. C. Ficken, the present pastor. Under his supervision the work of the church has been stimulated.

The old church has had a glorious past and it is for those of the present generation to see that with God's help, her future shall be even greater. Let us remember William Prince of Orange whose coat of arms is the insignia of the Reformed church in America. The mottoes on the shield when translated mean this: "Without God nothing is possible." "Union makes strength." And so laboring together with God may this old church be what it has been for over a century, a beacon light of God to the community.

Succession Of Pastors

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