Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The History of Montgomery Classis, R.C.A.
by W.N.P. Dailey,
Recorder Press, Amsterdam, NY 1916
To which is added sketches of Mohawk Valley men and events of early days, the Iroquois, Palatines, Indian Missions, Tryon County, committee of Safety, Sir Wm. Johnson, Joseph Brant, Arendt Van Curler, Gen. Herkimer,
Reformed Church in America, Doctrine and Progress, Revolutionary Residences, Etc.


The town of Ephratah was formed from the town of Palatine on March 27, 1827. The first settlers of the town came in 1765. Before the Revolution among the settlers were, Fredk. Getman, Jacob Empie, Jacob Snell (all living near the village) and Nickolas Rector, Henry Herring, Wm. Smith, Philip Kreitzer, John Casselman, Jacob Fry, William Cool, Johannes Winkle, Zacariah Tripp, Henry Hart, Peter Schutt, and Mr. Dussler. Most of these men were Germans, and some of them came from the Schoharie valley. Sir William Johnson erected the first grist mill, near where Wood's tannery was located. This was burned by the Tories during the war. William Cool was in the mill at the time and was killed and scalped. The miller was taken a prisoner and carried away captive. He had hidden his money in the walls of the mill, and on his return found it.

Johannes Winkle settled before the Revolution where James Yauney later lived, and built a grist mill where Yauney's mill now is. When this mill was burned it was later rebuilt by Mr. Shulls (Shults). Still later Henry Yauney bot it and built a woolen mill. In 1808 Henry Yauney built a saw mill where Levi Yauney's mill now is. Henry Yauney was a captain in the 1812 war and later major of the New York militia. In 1803 he bot a 100 acres of land, embracing the village site, and laid it out. Fredk. Empie settled where John F. Empie later lived. In 1815 Peter Schram built the first inn. In 1810 Thomas Benedict kept the store in Ephratah. Richard Young and Richard Coppernoll, two soldiers of the Revolution settled down where later Hiram Lighthall lived. Aaron C. Whitlock of Ephratah was a brigader-general in the New York militia. He was also one of the three commissioners to locate the Court House and jail at Fonda.

Nickolas Rector, a Revolutionary captain of militia, lived near where Chauncey Snell later lived. He and his family were attacked by the Indians but all escaped alive. Mrs. Rector went toward Stone Arabia. On the way she came across the body of a settler who had been killed by the Indians. She removed his boots and wore them the rest of the way. One boot it was said was almost filled with blood when she got to Stone Arabia.

The first church of which we have any record at Ephratah was a Presbyterian organization of 1823. On March 17th of that year a number of persons living in the northern part of the town of Palatine met in District No. 9 schoolhouse. William Lassells was the chairman of meeting and Christopher Getman was the clerk. They decided to call the society "The First Presbyterian Church and Society of the Town of Palatine," and selected these trustees, Peter G. Getman, Thomas Davies, Joseph Getman, Philip Kring, William Lassells, Jonathan Selter, Timothy Riggs, Chauncey Hutchinson, and Caleb Johnson. The record at Fonda is dated March 24, 1823.

Rev. Caleb Knight was the first supply of this church. It does not appear from the minutes as if he was ever installed. He began work on June 1, 1823 and continued till July 1, 1826. According to the receipts recorded the salary ranged around $275 a year. The last meeting (recorded) of this Board of Trustees was the annual meeting September 25, 1826, but no business was transacted.

The next efforts toward an established church at Ephratah is found in the county clerk's records at Fonda, where is recorded the incorporation of "The Dutch Reformed and Presbyterian Church of Ephratah. The record is dated June 1, 1829. At this time (1805-1828) the Rev. John Wack was the supply at Stone Arabia, and, without doubt, he looked after the religious work at Ephratah, when there was no pastor there. A good many of the Ephratah folks were in the habit of attending the Stone Arabia church, while a few also went occasionally to the Tillaborough church (cf). The trustees of this 1829 church at Ephratah were John Rickard, Philip Kring, Harmanus Shaver, Christopher Getman and John Y. Edwards. Notice that Christopher Getman was the clerk of the original organization in 1823, and Philip Kring (whose name appears in connection with the Tillaborough church in the Stone Arabia records) was a trustee of the original church. Between the dates of 1835 and 1851 there are no minutes recorded of any election of trustees for this church, and in 1859 it was formally disbanded. No name of any minister is recorded in connection with this "Dutch Reformed and Presbyterian Church."

Under date of February 10, 1831, there is a record at Fonda of the Incorporation of "The St. John's Reformed Church of Ephratah," whose trustees were, Aaron C. Whitlock, Adam Hart, John Beck, and Frederick Empie. Nothing further is known of this work. In 1832, according to the same records, a "Union Society" was formed at Pleasant Valley (Rockwood) in the town of Ephratah. Rev. William Thomson was the pastor, and the trustees elected were, Joseph Deans, Rose Simmons, Dutec Joslin, Robert Weaver, Chauncey Orton, and Azel Hough. It was at Ephratah and Oppenheim that the first settlements were made in what is now Fulton county. These were in 1724, while that of Johnstown was about 1764 when Johnson Hall was built by Sir William Johnson. It was just beyond Ephratah that the Battle of Johnstown was fought between seven hundred Tories and Indians, commanded by Ross and Butler, and the forces under Col. Marinus Willet. In this engagement Walter Butler was killed by an Oneida Indian.

At a meeting of the Montgomery Classis held on July 2, 1832, a "Reformed Protestant Dutch Church" was organized at Ephratah, which was later incorporated (April 14, 1851). At this time and thro the year 1840 the clerk of the consistory frequently refers to the "Dutch Reformed and Presbyterian Church," and calls the consistory meetings "sessions," but all this is manifestly wrong because Rev. Isaac S. Ketchum was called in 1833 and Rev. Benj. B. Westfall in 1837, both Reformed Dutch ministers, and at the time preaching in the Dutch church at Stone Arabia.

Altho the church at Ephratah was organized in 1832 the first record of any members uniting with the church is made in November, 1841, when Ashbel Loomis was received by Rev. John Robb, the stated supply. On May 21, 1842, Josiah and Mrs. Elisabeth Williamson were received, and this is the last record until January, 1845, when twenty were received on confession. However, we find the names of fifty-two members in the register under date of 1845. In the rear of the old record book is a long list of the names of those who were pew renters or other subscribers to the church expense, but this is not a complete list. The date of this record begins in 1834 and runs thro 1837.

The first installed minister at Ephratah was Rev. Isaac Ketchum (1833-1836), who was also, pastor at Stone Arabia (cf). The second pastor was Rev. Benjamin B. Westfall (1837-1838) who was also at Stone Arabia (cf). The pulpit seems to have been supplied for several years, the Rev. John Robb's service extending from 1841 thro 1843, following which another vacancy occurs for a year, tho it is likely that the pastor at Stone Arabia looked after the field. Rev. Charles Jukes was the pastor from 1841 thro a part of 1850, for whose history see Stone Arabia, where he was a pastor at the same time. There is not much of record concerning the first pastorates of the Ephratah church, the work being tributary to the older and stronger organization at Stone Arabia, in whose records there is much recorded concerning the churches at Ephratah and Tillaborough.

Rev. John C. Van Liew began his pastoral work in 1851 and remained thro 1856 (cf Stone Arabia). He was followed by Rev. John P. Westervelt who was a licentiate of the "Wyckofite" church, stationed thro 1845-1855 in the Independent churches of Mayfield and Johnstown at the close of which pastorate he became a Presbyterian, and for two years (1858-1859), he supplied Ephratah. Mr. Westervelt died in 1879. Westervelt not only knew Greek and Hebrew and Latin, but could speak fluently in German, French and Dutch. Rev. George Hewlings supplied the pulpit during 1861, and Rev. Miles T. Merwin, a Presbyterian minister, thro 1862. Mr. Hewlings died in 1872 and Mr. Merwin in 1865.

Rev. William H. Smith became pastor in 1866, remaining two years. He also preached at Tillaborough occasionally. Rev. Smith was a Union College '63 man, who had allied himself at first with the Methodist church. Examined at Ephratah for ordination in the Reformed church, the classis vote stood, -- For: Two ministers and five elders; against: Five ministers-thus evidencing the power of the eldership. Leaving the Ephratah church in 1 868 Smith entered the Presbyterian ministry. He died in 1900.

Rev. James M. Compton came in 1868 and remained two years, tho he continued at Stone Arabia two years longer. He was succeeded by Rev. William B, Van Benschoten, who also preached at Stone Arabia (cf) while acting as pastor at Ephratah (1872-1878). In 1877 eighty-seven members were added at one communion. Rev. Peter Quick Wilson was the next pastor, coming from a stated supply of Blue Mountain where just prior to leaving he received seventy-five persons into the church, remaining from 1882 thro 1885. His first charge was at East Greenbush (1861-1866), while his list work was at Cranesville. A good deal of his ministry was spent in supplying Presbyterian and Reformed churches. He died at Easton, February 26, 1902. Rev. Rufus M. Stanbrough, who had been at Manheim in 1861 and at Columbia in 1876, supplied Ephratah during 1881-1884. Next came Rev. William W. Whitney, who served the Ephratah church four years (1886-1889). He also preached some at the Tillaborough church. He came into the Classis from the Methodist church. He had other pastorates after leaving Ephratah and died at Eminence, Schoharie county, in 1903. Rev. Charles L. Palmer assumed the joint congregation of Ephratah and Stone Arabia in 1896 and staid with the congregation thro 1899, going to Shokan on leaving this church, and in 1903 to Kingston. Mr. Palmer's present charge is at Marlboro, N. J.

Mr. Palmer was the last settled pastor that either Ephratah or Stone Arabia had until the coming of Rev. Royal A. Stanton to these churches in 1914. Mr. Stanton had supplied these fields during the three previous summers, when a student in the Western Theological Seminary, and came to the fields to take up the work of reviving and strengthening the work, which he has done in a most successful way. During the long interval between the pastorates of Rev. Palmer and that of Rev. Stanton the church at Ephratah was supplied for longer or shorter periods by a few men, as Charles S. Lewis who was nearly three years with the congregation. Nothing is known of his ecclesiastical connections. Rev. E. J. Meeker was here for a year's supply. Then during certain summers the students from the seminary supplied the pulpit. In 1911 the Classis having appointed a Classical Missionary, Rev. W. N. P. Dailey, the work of preparing for a new pastorate was begun. At first preaching services were conducted, then the church repaired, and, finally, the way was opened for a pastorate over these two churches. The first printed report of the Ephratah church is in the Minutes of Particular Synod of Albany, 1835, which gives 225 families, 105 members (perhaps these two numbers were reversed ajb), and a congregation of 1,200. Rev. Ketchum must have taken in the whole town of Ephratah and part of Palatine to get such a congregation.

The first church was built in 1833. This was extensively repaired in 1890-1891 at a cost of $1,000, which included new pews, pulpit, and carpet. In 1901 the church was moved down from the top of "Church Hill" where it had been built in 1833, to its present site in the village. In 1913 the church was again given a thorough renovation, at a cost of about $1,700, which included new ceiling, electroilers, heater, windows, pulpit rails, side walls, etc. This last work was undertaken by the Ladies' Aid Society and Young People, under the direction of the Classical Missionary, Rev. W. N. P. Dailey. The cost was almost entirely raised at the rededication in February, 1914. Since Mr. Stanton's coming the church dining room has been built and furnished. The present consistory is, Daniel Burdick, Daniel Duesler, Charles Gray, Elmer Lighthall and Alpha Christman, elders, and Clark Dockstader, Seymour Snell, Adam Swartz, John J. Saltsman and Frank F. Tittle, deacons. The trustees are, James H. Yauney, Norman Saltsman, and Jacob I. Christman. Levi Yauney gave to the church in 1911 thro his will, $500. Daniel Duesler has been the chorister since 1875 and Mrs. Ella Christman Lighthall the church organist since 1895.

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