History From America's Most Famous Valleys
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.
FONDA REFORMED CHURCH
The village was named after Douw Fonda who came from Schenectady and settled here in 1751. The former name for the village of Fonda was "Caughnawaga," the meaning of which is "stone in the water" or "at the rapids." The Caughnawagas of Tribes Hill were a family of the Wolf Tribe of the Mohawks, to which tribe Brant's mother belonged. In 1669 the Jesuits built a chapel here, called St. Peter's of logs on the Sand Flats of Caughnawaga. Here in 1676 the Iroquois maiden, Te-ga-wi-ta, the white lily of the Mohawk, the now canonized saint of the Romanists, was baptised by James de Lamberville. The town of Caughnawaga originally embraced all that part of Montgomery county lying north of the Mohawk and east of a line extending from the "Nose" to Canada. In 1793 it was divided into Amsterdam, Broadalbin, Johnstown and Mayfield. As early as 1659 Arent Van Curler held a conference with the Mohawks at Caughnawaga, renewing the treaty of 1643. Douw Fonda came into this section in 1751, and after him the village was named. When Fonda had come to his eightieth year, on May 22, 1780, he was killed at his home, and two of his sons, John and Adam, were taken captives to Canada. There is a story current that the renegade Tory, Walter Butler, killed the old man who had been a great friend of Sir William Johnson.
The Reformed Protestant Dutch church of Caughnawaga, its title until 1867, when the term "Dutch" was dropped (Caughnawaga bring changed changed to Fonda in 1872), was organized in 1758 by a Low Dutch element, the first building being erected of stone in 1763, to which was added a steeple in 1795. In the destruction of the village by the Johnsons in 1780 the church was about the only unburned building and this was due to the fact that it was built on the Butler estate land and was supposed to belong to the Butler family. This church was in what was called East Fonda and was used up to 1842, when, at the close of Rev. Fonda's pastorate, the old church and parsonage, the glebe lands, the old bell, and all were sold, the congregation going into the village and erecting a new church which was dedicated in 1843. Then the old church was transformed into a dwelling house, parlors, bedrooms, and kitchen taking the place of pulpit, pews, and aisles. There was a small wooden church erected near the Uppper Mohawk, where the Fort Hunter (Queene Anne's chapel) missionary preached at times. The bell of this church, similar to that on Queene Anne's chapel, was stolen by the Indians and carried away into Canada. At first the church was supplied by the pastor of the old Dutch church at Schenectady, the Rev. Barent Vrooman. From the year 1772, when the first settled pastorate began, the church at Fonda had had but twelve pastors, Excepting the twelve supplies, who served altogether about eight years, the pastorates have averaged twelve years, that of the Rev. Van Horne being the longest, thirty-eight years. Then, Romeyn twenty-two years and De Baun seventeen years. The preaching in Dutch ceased with Van Horne, who had had a record of twenty-three hundred baptisms and fifteen hundred marriages. The Classis of Montgomery was organized in the old Caughnawaga church on Wednesday, September 2, 1800 (cf Note), and the pastor of this church, Rev. Thomas Romeyn, Sr., became the first Stated Clerk of Classis, as he was the first installed pastor of the church. He died while pastor in 1794. A parchment subscription list, dated July 24, 1790, refers to Romeyn's failing strength and calls for an assistant pastor. Eighty-eight names are on the list (pub. in Fonda "Democrat" of January 21, 1915). His son, Thomas, a member of the first class at Union College (1797) was a pastor at Florida (cf). There have been ten members of the Romeyn family in the ministry of the Reformed church. A brother of this first pastor, Dr. Dirck Romeyn, while pastor of the Dutch church in Schenectady, founded Union College. He died in 1794 while pastor, aged sixty-five (cf DeBaun's Mem. Address in "Democrat" of November 22,1894). A writer in the "Christian Intelligencer" (August 14, 1859), describes the "old church as made of rough limestone, gable roofed, two windows on the end, and two more on the east, with the door between, all having the Norman arch above." The spire put on in 1795 had disappeared by this time (1859), leaving but a remnant of a tower. In 1868 this old stone church was demolished, most of the stone being used in the wall enclosure of the Mills' place at Fonda. Its only bell was from the confiscated sale of Sir John Johnson's property, held at Tribes Hill, and was formerly Sir William's dinner bell. It weighed a hundred pounds and has on it the inscription, "Sir William Johnson, Baronet, 1774, made by Miller and Rosa in Eliz. Town." After the sale of the church the bell began its old work of calling the hungry to eat on the farm of Mr. Shull at Stone Arabia. It has been recast and the owner added his name to the inscription. Over the door of the old church was a stone tablet containing these words, "Komt laett ons op gaen to den Bergh desfeern, to den hmyse des Godes Jacobs, op dat by ous leere van syne wegen, eu dat my wand ele in syne paden." Micah 4.2.
In 1854 the Rev. Douw Van Olinda who was pastor at Caughnawaga from 1844 thro 1858 conducted the Fonda Academy in the old building, Jacob A. Hardenburgh, a Rutgers man was the principal. He was New York Senator for two terms (1870-1873).
The successor to Romeyn was Rev. Abraham Van Horne (1795-1833). The consistory elected April 15, 1801, was Henry B. Vrooman, James Lansing, Cornelius Smith, and John Prentiss, elders, and John Dockstader, Barent Martin, John C. Davis, and John Stauring, deacons. During the last two years of Van Hornes pastorate the pulpit was supplied by Rev. Isaac S. Ketchum (cf Stone Arabia). The father of Van Horne was a commissary in the American army and when he resigned in 1783 the son was appointed in his place. Rev. Van Horne preached in both Dutch and English. He died in 1840, aged seventy-five. Rev. Robert A. Quinn was the third pastor (1833-1835). He died at Snug Harbor in 1863 while serving his eleventh year as chaplain of the sailors' work there. Rev. Jacob D. Fonda came in 1835 and remained thro 1842. After several other pastorates he died in 1856 while pastor at Schaghticoke. Jeptha R. Simms, the historian, was active in the church at this time, playing a flute in the choir. During the years 1842 and 1843 the pulpit was supplied by Rev. Andrew Yates of Union College, Schenectady (cf Chittenango). Dr. Yates died in 1844 and is buried at Schenectady.
The new church building, dedicated in October, 1843, cost $3,500. It was located on the corner of Railroad avenue and Centre street. During Rev. Boyd's pastorate (1866) this building was moved from that site to its present location, and eleven thousand dollars spent in repairs and improvements. On the dedicatory program were Revs. 1. N. Wyckoff of Albany, Stevenson of Florida, and Robb of Canajoharie. In 1844 Rev. Douw Van Olinda came to the church and remained here until 1858, the year of his death. Van Olinda spent more than twenty years in the Montgomery Classis (Auriesville, Canajoharie, etc.). Rev. Philip Furbeck (father of Revs. George and Howard Furbeck) was the next pastor (1859-1862). Mr. Furbeck had an active ministry of forty years in the Reformed church, another charge in this Classis being at St. Johnsville. He died in 1899. Rev. Washington Frothingham, a retired Presbyterian minister living at Fonda, supplied the pulpit during 1863 and 1864. He died in 1914. He was popularly known in the literary world as "The Hermit of New York," an eccentric man of fine character and noble attainments. Rev. John C. Boyd came in 1865 and remained thro 1870 when he entered the Presbyterian church. He spent his last years, however, at Fonda, supplying for a number of years the church at Auriesville (cf). He died in 1901. He was admitted to the bar in 1857 and practiced law a few years. The pastorate of Rev. Thomas W. Jones was from 1870 thro a part of 1882. A great revival marked this ministry at Fonda. During this pastorate also a parsonage was secured and $10,000 spent on organ, repairs, etc. On February 10, 1863, the Board of Trustees of the church was incorporated, patterned after the incorporation of the Madison Avenue Reformed church of Albany. After two short pastorates in the west and a long one at Bedminster, N. J., Mr. Jones died at Brooklyn in 1909. he supplied his old pulpit during 1900 and a901. Rev. John A. DeBaun was with the church from 1883 thro a part of 1900 and died on the field. He was tendered a professorship at Hope College while pastor here, but declined the same in favor of the church. Rev. J. C. Boyd filled the pulpit for a while after Dr. DeBaun's death. Rev. J. Collings Caton spent three years on the field (1901-1904) going next to the 12th St. Church of Brooklyn and in 1915 becoming pastor of the First Paterson (N. J.) Church. Rev. Wm. J. Lonsdale followed Rev. Caton and remained until 1910. He is now pastor of the Second Paterson (N.J.) church. Rev. Henry C. Cussler, the present pastor, was formerly of Buffalo.
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