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.
HERKIMER REFORMED CHURCH
The history of the Herkimer church and that of Fort Herkimer ("German Flatts") is to be read together at least from about the coming of Abram Rosencrantz to the field in 1752 down to 1841, the time of the cessation of the dual pastorate. Some thirty years ago Rev. Henry M Cox then pastor of the Herkimer church wrote an interesting history of Herkimer and of the Palatine migration to this country, of which we speak in detail in a separate chapter herein. The number, however, who came with Rev. Joshua Kochertal in 1708 numbered fifty-one-not forty, as Cox writes. In our story of Fort Herkimer we show, also, that the date 1767, found roughly cut in a store on the west side is not, necessarily, the date of the building of the church, as Cox sails, since record books still extant show that the subscriptions were begun as early as 1740, and the building was started as early as this, if not earlier, and while a second appeal was made in 1746 for more funds, the entire sum sufficient was raised and the church was used for services (as well as a means of refuge by the settlers) as early as 1751. Mr. Cox says that there is no record of any sort to show the religious condition of the community (Herkimer,originally called "Stone Ridge"), until 1757. He refers to a will made by Nicholas Feller in 1734 in which a bequest is made of the testator's seat in his church,--but whether this church was in what is now Herkimer or was at Fort Herkimer, Mr. Cox cannot say, tho he is inclined to think it was in the church of which he was the pastor at Herkimer. However, the name of the legatee, Han Nicholas Crisman, is among the pew holders and members of the German Flatts congregation. We have shown in our Fort Herkimer history that Rev. George M. Weiss was the first known pastor at German Flatts, being there as early as 1736. Mr. Cox makes no mention of Weiss but refers to a Lutheran minister as the first pastor at Herkimer. Weiss came to America about 1720, and then returned to the Palatinate on the Rhine, to come back for permanent residence here in 1727. But he was a "Minister of the Reformed Palatinate Church" (as he signed himself) and not a Lutheran. Undoubtedly Weiss often supplied the Herkimer congregation, if, indeed, there was any congregation during the decade (1736-1746) that he was settled at German Flatts. It is not known when the original church was built at Herkimer, which was burned in 1757 by the French, but it is represented on an old sketch as being octagonal in form with the traditional rooster a weather vane and throughout of typical Dutch architecture, It also not known when the church was rebuilt or the services resumed, but on the return of Johan Jost Petri, who had been carried a captive into Canada, at the time of the French-Indian raid in 1757, he took steps to re-deed the land to the church for a new building. This was in 1770, but it is not at all likely that the church was rebuilt until some years after this, since the Indian depredations continued for a decade or more.
To turn now to the ministry of the Herkimer church, we again refer to the pastorate of George Michael Weiss at German Flatts (1736-1746, cf), with the natural supposition that he also supplied any congregation at Herkimer, and then, to the coming of Abram Rosencrantz' brother to the field which date we have from the correspondence of Rev. Wernig of Stone Arabia with the Coetus of the Dutch church and with the Classis of Holland. Rev. Abram Rosencrantz' ministry at German Flatts began immediately upon the death of his brother (1752). A receipt for salary is shown under Fort Herkimer, bearing date of April 10, 1761, signed by Rosencrantz. Both men were buried under the pulpit of the German Flatts church. Of Rosencrantz we have spoken in the Fort Herkimer church record and also in that of Stone Arabia, where he also preached for some years. Rosencrantz took up a permanent residence at German Flatts in 1765 and the same time supplied the "Sand Hill" (Canajoharie) church. The work at Herkimer, owing to the unsettled conditions of the country, was very small, but whatever attention was needed was given by Rosencrantz to it. He lived until 1796, but in the last few years of his ministry he was aided in his pulpit work by Rev. Fish, Rome of Oneida Co., who doubtless, also preached during these years to the congregation at Herkimer. The statistical records of the church during these years were well kept by Rosencrantz, as well as the financial and consistorial minute books. In the old register are to be seen the names of many who were conspicuous in the work of the church in those days as well of note in the civic and military service of the state.
Rev. "D. Christian Andreas Pick, V. D. M." (so he signed his name) succeeded Rosencrantz in the ministry both at Herkimer and German Flatts, between which churches a formal contract was now entered into for a dual pastorate, which prevailed until 1841, or over a period of forty years. Pick was to preach alternately in these two fields. His ministry, however, was brief (1798-1801). We have spoken in detail of his work under Stone Arabia (cf). Rev. John P. Spinner came to the church at Herkimer (and also of German Flatts) in 1801 and remained for forty-four years. Excepting the brief stay of Pick these two fields had had but two pastors in about a century, a most remarkable record. The call was moderated by Rev. Isaac Labagh, at the time preaching at Stone Arabia and Canajoharie. At the beginning of Spinner's ministry (1804), a large church was built on the original site--probably the first substantial church building since the burning of the other in 1757. Another church had been built to take the place of the one destroyed in 1757, since the call to of Pick these two fields had bad but two pastors in about a century, a most remarkable record. The call was moderated by Rev. Isaac Labagh, at the time preaching at Stone Arabia and Canajoharie. At the beginning of Spinner's ministry (1804), a large church was built on the original site-probably the first substantial church building since the burning of the other in 1757. Another church had been built to take the place of the one destroyed in 1757, since the call to Pick refers to both the German Flatts and Herkimer church building, while Rev. Taylor's journal of 1802 speaks of the "new meeting house which lacked all improvements." In these days Herkimer was a German settlement, and the preaching was in German, though the pastor kept his records in Latin, and it is said he could speak five languages fluently, and knew quite a bit about three more. The church built in 1804 was burned in 1834, and in 1835 was replaced by the present brick edifice which has now been used as a house of worship continuously for four score years. In 1813 Spinner reported three hundred and sixty-four members, about fifty more than at German Flatts.
With the coming into the village of many English speaking families a desire for English service was urged. This caused a division in the church with the result that a Second Herkimer church was organized in 1824 (cf under extinct churches) and ran along for some twelve years, when it was merged into the original church. Neither church prospered during these years, but with the building of the new structure, Rev. Spinner continued to preach in the German and Rev. James Murphey, who at the time was pastor at Manheim, began his work in the Herkimer church, preaching in the English language. In 1841 Spinner resigned from the Herkimer church, giving the rest of his ministry to the church at German Flatts. Rev. James Murphey began his work, as we have said, at Herkimer in 1836, following an eight year pastorate at Scotia, N. Y. On Spinner's resignation he became the pastor, and continued so until 1842, at the time supplying the churches at Frankfort and Mohawk, which lie organized. In 1842 he resigned the field and went to Coeymans, but was recalled to the Herkimer church for a seven year pastorate (1843-1849). It was during this last pastorate that a revival occurred in the church which resulted in the addition of great numbers to the church. Mr. Murphy on resigning from this pastorate in 1849, supplied the churches at Frankfort and Columbia. He died in 1857.
Rev. Cornelius S. Mead was the next pastor coming from the 1st Rotterdam church and spending a decade in the Herkimer church (1849-1859). He had one other pastorate at Chatham, N. Y. During the last years of his life he supplied the churches of Ghent, Stuyvesant Falls, New Concord, etc. He died June 26, 1879, at Chatham, N, Y., and was there buried. Rev. Hugh B. Gardner next came to the church in 1860 from Coeyman's and New Baltimore, and was here for four or five years (1860-18641). He re-entered the Presbyterian ministry and died July 23, 1874, at Brooklyn. He was succeeded in tile latter part of 1864, by Rev. Jeremiah Petrie, a native of Herkimer, and a Presbyterian pastor, who supplied the pulpit for several years (1864-1868), preaching also at Ilion, which church was organized at this time and he is the only known pastor. He died in 1910 in his 85th year. He compiled an excellent record of the Petrie family. The next pastor of the church was Rev. Ganesvoort Consaul, who tho licensed by the Schenectady Classis in 1861, did not receive ordination from the Montgomery Classis until June 23, 1868, after he had supplied Fort Plain several years, and while preaching at Mohawk. His ministry at Herkimer began in 1869 and ran thro 1877. While traveling abroad, where for a year he supplied the American church at Geneva, he was allowed to demit the ministry, April 15, 1879. It was during his ministry that the interior of the church received its handsome decoration of black walnut, and the imported English windows were put in. For a number of years Mr. Consaul was engaged in mercantile business in Watertown, N. Y. On August 30, 1898 he was accidentally and fatally shot while on a hunting expedition. Following Consaul the Rev. Ralph W. Brokaw was called to the pastorate and was ordained by the Classis of Montgomery in 1877, and remained with the church for five years, going in 1882 to the Springfield (Mass.) Congregational church, for a pastorate of similar length. In 1898 he became the pastor of the First Presbyterian church of Utica where he still abides in his strength. Rev. Henry M. Cox succeeded Brokaw in 1882 and resigned in 1890. Leaving Herkimer he spent twenty years in two pastorates in New York City, and since 1911 has been in the Harrington Park, N. J. church. Rev, John G. Gebhard next came to the church and served it for nine years (1891-1900). During this pastorate a commodious stone chapel was built in 1894. On leaving Herkimer Mr. Gebhard became the Secretary of the Board of Education of the Reformed Church which he has most acceptably filled ever since. Three short pastorates next ensued. Rev. Chalmers P. Dyke (1900-1903), who went from Herkimer to the Hamilton Grange church of New York City for a four year pastorate, since which time he has been in the Lowell (Mass.) Congregational church. Following in the work at Herkimer Rev. Jacob Dyke (brother of his predecessor), was pastor for thirteen months (December, 1903- 1905), having come to the field after a few years in the Episcopal church of Iowa and South Dakota, tho he came into the Classis from the Congregational church. On leaving Herkimer he supplied the Mayfield Presbyterian church for a couple of years, and, later, was in the pulpit of the New Salem Reformed church, tho a member of the Presbyterian body. At present he is serving the East Moriches (L. I.) Presbyterian field. Rev. Charles F. Taylor who had been a Presbyterian missionary in New Mexico, and for a couple years previous to coming to this field was engaged in special evangelistic work, was the pastor during 1905 and 1906, going next, after a year's interim, to his present pastorate in the West port (Ct.) Congregational church, and since 1913 has been pastor of the Greenwich, Ct. Congregational church.
Rev. B. E. Fake, who has frequently supplied churches in our Classis, a Lutheran minister, supplied the Herkimer pulpit from June, 1907, to September, 1908. The present pastor, Rev. J. Howard Brinckerhoff, after supplying the pulpit for two months, was ordained by the Classis and installed over the church in February, 1909. During this pastorate most extensive interior improvements have been made, a new organ secured, and the church has been greatly strengthened along all its lines of work.
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