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 First Reformed (Dutch) church of Syracuse was organized by the Classis of Cayuga on March 10, 1848, the same year that Syracuse obtained its first charter, and was incorporated March 25, 1848. Among the original members both Salina and Syracuse (joined by the charter) were represented, while others came from the Dutch churches of Chittenango and Geneva, and a few from the First and Park Presbyterian churches of Syracuse. The services at the very beginning were held in Market Hall where the magnificent City Hall now stands. The services, however, were transferred to a frame chapel which had previously been used by the Baptists, Congregationalists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Unitarians. Here the Reformed congregation worshipped for two years. In 1850 the church bought its present site and built a fine frame edifice which served them until February, 1878, when the church was burned. The original site and church cost $16,000. W. B. Van Wagenen and B. C. Vroman, elders, and Peter Burns and S. V. A. Featherly, deacons, made up the first consistory. After the burning of the church, plans were set on foot for rebuilding, with the result that the present beautiful and enduring stone church was dedicated in February, 1881. This church cost $60,000. At first the church was in the Cayuga Classis but was transferred to Montgomery in 1889. Rev. James H. Cornell was the first pastor (1848-1851), installed November 9, 1848. His father was Rev. John Cornell a student of Livingston, his mother being Maria Frelinghuysen, daughter of Gen. Frederick Frelinghuysen. After leaving Syracuse the had short pastorates at Raritan, N. J., and Coeymans, N. Y., spending his last years in this latter place. He died in 1899. Dr. Cornell is best remembered by the church at large as a good Secretary of the Board of Education, as well for his personal efforts and gifts which increased the Seminary endowment at New Brunswick for upwards of half a billion of dollars. It was during Cornell's pastorate that the first church was built, being dedicated July 16, 1850. In May, 1851, the consistory unanimously resolved to approve the action of the Classis of Cayuga which had officially and solemnly decreed that every minister that joined their body should thereby attain the degree of "Doctor of Divinity." Rev. J. Romeyn Berry followed Dr. Cornell (1851-1857). At this time the church reported a hundred and twenty members and at the close of his ministry a hundred and forty-nine. Dr. Berry was President of General Synod in 1890. He was a grandson of Rev. J. V. C. Romeyn and a great grandson of Rev. Thomas Romeyn (cf Fonda), whose four sons were in the Reformed church ministry. Dr. Berry had several pastorates; after leaving Syracuse, including one of eighteen years in the Montclair, N. J. Presbyterian church. His last charge was at Rhinebeck where he died in 1890. Following Dr. Berry, Prof. J. B. Condit of the Seminary at Auburn, supplied for a while. Rev. T. DeWitt Talmage came to the Syracuse church in 1859 from his first charge at Belleville, N. J. and remained thro the larger part of 1862. General Synod met in the church in 1861, and again in 1885. From Syracuse Dr. Talmage went to the Second church of Philadelphia for an eight year pastorate. The church had called him the year previously but he postponed going for a year. In 1869 he became the pastor of the Central Presbyterian church of Brooklyn, which church in 1870 became the "Brooklyn Tabernacle." Here he was pastor until 1894 when he went to the Presbyterian church of Washington, D. C. He died in 1902 in this pastorate. He was a preacher of worldwide reputation and influence. The late Rev. Frank Talmage was his son.

Rev. Joachim Elmendorf, who had already served the Reformed churches of Ithaca and Saugerties, was called to the church in 1862, and resigned in 1865. Leaving Syracuse Dr. Elmendorf became the pastor of the Second Church of Albany (1865-1872) and later of the Second Church of Poughkeepsie (1872-1886), leaving in the latter year to enter the Harlem Collegiate Church of New York City in which pastorate he died in 1908. Dr. Elmendorf was Press Agent of General Synod in 1872 and was a Rutgers trustee for nearly forty years. Rev. Jeremiah Searle was the succeeding pastor whose father of the same name, studied theology under Prof. Yates of Union College while pursuing a course there and whose brother, Rev. S. T. Searle, was the father of Rev. Dr. J. Preston Searle, President of the Faculty of New Brunswick Seminary. Leaving Syracuse Rev. Jeremiah Searle became the pastor of the Calvary Presbyterian church of Newburgh in 1873, and served this church for forty years, or until 1913, when he died. In the interim of the pastorate the pulpit was again supplied by Prof. Condit of Auburn Seminary. Rev. Martin Luther Berger was the sixth pastor of the Syracuse church, during whose time some two hundred were added to the membership. At the close of a seven year's work (1869-1875) he entered the Presbyterian church at San Francisco. He died in 1910. Prof. W. P. Coddington of Syracuse University supplied the pulpit until the coming to the field of Rev. Evert Van Slyke who was called in July, 1876, and remained nine years. It was during his pastorate that the church was burned, February 3, 1878, and the new present stone structure erected. Dr. Van Slyke left in April, 1885, and had later pastorates in Catskill and Brooklyn. He died in 1909. The church had no settled pastor now for about three years. Rev. Dr. Coddington of Syracuse University supplied the pulpit thro 1886-1888 when Rev. H. D. B. Mulford of Franklin Park, N. J. was called and came in 1889. He remained until 1897. During his pastorate and thro the efforts of his Christian Endeavor Society the Second church of Syracuse was organized in 1895. Two hundred and twenty additions to the church membership are recorded during Rev. Mulford's pastorate. Mr. Mulford next went to Rutgers as Professor of English. In 1912 he became the pastor of the Upper Red Hooke Reformed church. In November, 1897, Rev. Dr. Philip H. Cole became the pastor and remained ten years. Dr. Cole has been pastor since leaving Syracuse of the First Presbyterian church of Rome. Following Dr. Cole came Rev. Dr. John F. Dobbs (November, 1908) of Mott Haven, who remained until May, 1915, when he was dismissed to the Woburn (Mass.) Congregational Conference. Rev. Ulysses Grant Warren succeeded Dr. Dobbs, coming to the church from the Brooklyn Congregationalists in September, 1915. Hon. Nathan F. Graves, who endowed a Missionary Lectureship at the Syracuse University and another at New Brunswick, was a member of this church, and one of its officers for many years. Rev. Maltbie D. Babcock and Rev. Willard King Spencer (Auburn '79) were also in membership here.

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