Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

St. Johnsville United Methodist Church

The settlers of the Mohawk Valley and the bordering hills were early visited by Methodist circuit riders. These ministers appeared on the Herkimer circuit, which included our area, as early as 1791. After some years this territory was a part of the East Canada Creek circuit, and finally, on July 2, 1853, of the St. Johnsville circuit.

Existent Herkimer records list services by the circuit rider at "Fort Plane" in 1794 and at Indian Castle in 1796. By 1801, the records show services at Little Falls, and by 1814 at Palatine Church.

The impetus for Methodism here grew from a settlement in southern Oppenheim and northern St. Johnsville, a settlement known by the preachers as Storms' Neighborhood. The Storms family was personally and vitally interested in establishing Methodism, and are known to have housed and fed as many as forty members on the occasion of a quarterly meeting.

As early as 1800 there were Methodists in the Crum Creek region. Their interest increased until they built a church building, which was dedicated on January 1, 1852. The first trustees were John Storms, Jr., Peter Zimmerman, Chauncey Hyde, Hyram Ingersoll, and Silas Goodale. This church was used until 1890, when it was sold to the Grange. It is still used as a Grange Hall.

The parsonage which housed the ministers of the St. Johnsville circuit was located on the east side of North Division Street, in St. Johnsville. The building was sold in 1879 and the proceeds given to the Board of Trustees of the St. Johnsville Methodist Episcopal Church to help defray the cost of the newly built church edifice which was to be dedicated later in the year.

The records of the Montgomery County Court show that on July 30, 1833, the male members of the religious society of the Methodist Episcopal Church in St. Johnsville met in the school house and elected five trustees to "take charge of the estate and property belonging to said society." The trustees elected were David Lasher, John Failing, Jr., Henry Walrath, John Dysslin, and Joseph G. Klock. The certificate of incorporation on file lists the name as "Trustees of the Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church of St. Johnsville in the town of Oppenheim", since St. Johnsville did not become a township until 1838.

Since the first settlers in this locality were of German extraction, they had already firmly established themselves and their church at the time when Methodism was in its infancy. For this reason, the Methodists and other small religious groups (Lutherans and Universalists) banded together and formed the Union Church Corporation. Cooperatively they built the Union Church Building in 1849 (now St. Paul's Lutheran Church). On the first Board of Trustees for this Union Church Corporation, Leonard Winegar represented the Methodists. Other Methodist names appearing on the Union church records are Allen, Booth, Churchill, Crouse, Ellison, Fry, Fisher, Higbe, Klock, Mosier, Rogers, Van Slyke, Sheffield, and Dysslin.

During these years the Methodist Society was served by circuit preachers, assisted by local preachers and class leaders from among the lay members. The first appointed pastor of the St. Johnsville charge, Rev. Ralph L. Fraser, was employed for $385.00, but gratefully received on $332.00 as his salary. Two local preachers assisted him, Samuel Northup, a deacon and Jacob Snell. Other on the Official Board were the stewards: Leonard Winegar, recording steward, Joel Dempster, John Storms, Henry Yauney, John Mann, John McLauchlin, and Peter Zimmerman. Class leaders were George Sheffield, John Storms, John Vedder, William Kegg, Samuel Barker, William bolster, and Daniel Clemmons.

At the annual conference of 1879 the Rev. Francis Kingsley Pierce was sent to St. Johnsville with the special objective of building a new church. The society purchased as its site the Lewis Snell brick mansion with its spacious grounds in the heart of the village. With bricks obtained (at $4.50 per thousand) from the Esterbrooke brickyard just north of present Monroe Street, the church society was able to lay the cornerstone November 11, 1879 and complete the building for dedication on December 16, 1880.

When the church was first constructed, there were two rows of supporting posts in the sanctuary, and only a pit for the wood-burning furnace in the cellar. Among the most impressive changes and improvements through the years are the removal of the posts (whose duty was taken over by trusses) and the paneled ceiling, both of which were done by Frank Belding, a master builder and member of the church. Other changes include the excavation and construction of the vestry and kitchen, the installation of memorial windows, the building and installation of a new pipe organ in 1952 by Robert Rowland, the northerly addition for the Southerland Memorial Room, furnace space, stairs, back exit, and toilet facilities. A new hot water oil heated system was installed and the church renovated during the late sixties.

St.. Johnsville Methodist Pastors

Ralph L. Fraser 1853
Daniel Austin 1854
John V. Ferguson 1855-1856
Thomas W. Thurston 1857
William I. Richards 1858-1859
Whaley P. Hall 1860-1861
Oliver P. Pitcher 1862
Benjamin F. Wood 1863-1864
Josiah Zimmerman 1865-1866
William S. Chase 1867
Joseph De Larme 1868-1871
Munson G. Wadsworth 1872-1873
John w. Simpson 1874-1876
Hiram Nicolls 1876
Isaac B. Van Valkenburgh 1877-1878
Francis K. Pierce 1879-1880
Adam G. Markham 1882-1884
Willmot W. Van Dusen 1885-1886
John V. Ferguson 1887-1891
George W. Wood 1892-1896
William F. Brown 1897
Myron G. Seymour 1898
Florello L. Knapp 1899-1900
Henry W. P. Allen 1901-1903
Willis A. Haven 1904-1908
Frank E. Arthur 1909-1914
Benjamin G. Miller 1915-1919
Clarence E. Hastings 1920-1922
John D. Poppe 1923-1925
Clark A. Robinson 1926-1927
Royal B. Fishbeck 1931-1934
C. Frederick Miller 1934-1944
L. Alden Smith 1945-1947
Frederick A. Wood 1947-1948
Leland W. Webster 1949-1952
Roger F. Williams 1953-1954
Frederick W. Cook 1955-1957
John H. Pressey 1957-1958
Charles G. Montgomery 1958-1967
Durward K. Winner 1967-1970
William J. Davis, Sr. 1971-1977
S. Bowen Hawkins 1978-1981
Paul Berkeley 1981-1982
Douglas Cowburn 1982-1984
James Fletcher 1984-1988
Alvin Mayo 1988-1993
Wayne Grow 1993-1995
Mike Yerzierski 1995-

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