OUR RELIGIOUS ROOTS
Oppenheim

  

Written and kindly contributed by Oppenheim Historian,
Hector Allen.

Mr. Allen has written a recent book based upon Oppenheim's history and has graciously allowed us to post a chapter concerning the area's local church history. Please note: This text is based upon his "DRAFT" - it is NOT a final version of the book and may vary from the final printed edition.

Many thanks to Linda Darling Rood for typing this detailed chapter of history.


 
Along with the creation of public schools, the early settlers of the Town of Oppenheim created churches. Churches had been established down in the Valley some years prior to settlement reaching up to our territory. The Palantine Church as Fox’s Mills had been built in 1770, the Indian Castle Church in 1767, and the Ft. Herkimer Church even earlier. Before the actual buildings were erected church services were held in private homes, one-room schools and even taverns.

The first church to be built in the present Town of Oppenheim was on the site of the current Oppenheim Methodist Church at Oppenheim Center. However, there was organized religious activity in Oppenheim several years before this church was built.

In the early years of the 19th century the Methodists became a very active group, and their churches sprung up all over our new nation. Nelson Blake, in A Short History of American Life, says:

Most remarkable of all was the growth of the Methodists. This new denomination, which had only 15,000 members in 1785, became the largest Protestant body in Pre-Civil War America. With 1,068,000 members in 1844, the Methodists outnumbered their nearest rivals, the Baptists, by over 400,000. In part the Church’s success resulted from its democratic Arminian doctrine, promising salvation to all who would believe. More important was its ceaseless activity. During the forty-five years of Bishop Ashbury’s American ministry, his travels over rough trails and roads were scarcely interrupted.

I found this comment to be very interesting because Bishop Ashbury was here in July of 1809. He visited Green’s Bridge, (soon to become Brockett’s Bridge and later Dolgeville), that year. Two years later, on February 2, 1811, a meeting was held at Abram Spofford’s tavern on our side of the creek to create a Methodist Society. This society would eventually build on the west side of the creek, in Herkimer County, but they began on our side. (The Oppenheim side)

There was religious activity in our township even before the visit of Bishop Ashbury. The Moffet family history, Homeplace, tells that John Moffet, a Revolutionary veteran from Western Massachusetts, came here in the late 1780’s. He was an itinerant Methodist preacher. In those days before church buildings were constructed these itinerant preachers, also called “circuit riders” if they really had the calling and worked fulltime at it, would meet for prayer and preaching just about anywhere. I don’t know where John Moffet lived; almost all of his family left here for Ohio a few years after his death in 1810. He is buried in the Hewitt Cemetery and in 1990 we had a ceremony to place a DAR plaque and an American flag on his grave. He could have been the first preacher in the present Town of Oppenheim, arriving about 1788.

For the remainder of this chapter we will deal with each religious group in its turn, beginning with the Methodists.

 

THE OPPENHEIM METHODIST CHURCH

In 1936 the Oppenheim Methodists wrote a Centennial history of their church here in Oppenheim Center. This booklet, written by church members James Dennison and Kenneth Maddox, told the history of this congregation. They were assisted by Rev. A. B. Corbin, Dewitt Ward and Rev. Roger Williams. The minister of this church in 1936 was Rev. A., Leslie Potter. Their comments about the beginnings of organized religion in Oppenheim follows:

The first religious light to enter the Town of Oppenheim was borne by a Dr. Romeyn, whose regular church was in Stone Arabia. Fortnightly meetings were held in an old wagon shed, the exact location of which cannot be determined. There is a report that Rev. Jacob Trisband held services in the town about 1800, and was the first minister to reside in the town. The first Union church in the village was erected about 1820 and was occasionally occupied by different denominations. Due to the inability of the different factions to agree on methods and manner of completion, the original building was never entirely finished. The building was sold, torn down and moved away.

This statement raises some questions. Where did the Rev. Trisband live in our township? Where was this mysterious “wagon shed” that pops up in various sources? They mention “different denominations” that could not agree on constructing the new church in the 1820’s, but they do not identify these denominations; later the Methodists and Baptists would share in the church being built in the 1830’s, but were there other congregations such as Lutherans or Dutch Reformed involved? Finally, they do not identify the site of the 1820’s church. I always assumed it was the site of the present church, bit it might not have been.

Another comment on early religious practices here in Oppenheim is found in Beers:

The first church (Union) built here was erected in 1820. It was occupied occasionally for several years, but was never fully completed and was finally sold and removed. The present Union church was built in 1834. It is of wood, about 30 x 40 feet in size. The Methodist Episcopal Society hold meetings here regularly once in two weeks. Meetings were held at an early day in a wagon shed which is still standing in the village. The Rev. Jacob Trisband held the first religious services in the town about 1800.

Before we go much farther, I should explain that many of our early churches were built by two or more different denominations and were then called “Union” churches. These “Union” churches all reverted to the control of the larger or dominant denomination over time. The Oppenheim Methodists shared a building with the Baptists for several years, but in the end it became strictly Methodist. The Crum Creek Lutheran Church also began as a “Union” church, but over time became exclusively Lutheran.

The 1936 Methodist Centennial History goes on to say:

The building which now stands was built in 1834. It has several times since been repaired and improved. The minister at the time the church was built was Elder Alfred Beach, and he lived in the house which is now the home of Miss Theresa Sullivan. (This house was on Route 29, about 300 yards east of the Belding’s Corners Road, on the north side. In the 1960’s one wall still stood, but it is all gone now).

No Board of Officers was elected until 1861. In that year Peter B. Claus, John P. Swartwout, Daniel A. Sherwood, John D. Robinson and Cyrus D. Dean were elected to the first Board of Trustees. The last named was designated Clerk of the Board. The number of Baptists at that time was sufficient to warrant their using the church in alternation with the Methodists. However, for some years the church has been used only by the Methodists. In 1885 the Methodists united with Lassellsville, forming a joint charge. In 1888 a parsonage was built by the society in Lassellsville.

Washington Frothingham, writing in 1892, had this to say concerning the church at Oppenheim Center. This was only fourteen years after Beers’ book:

...for the past fifteen years the Methodist Episcopal denomination has used the church almost entirely as the members of the Baptist and other denominations have diminished in number, some by death, while others have moved from the vicinity. The Methodist Society of Oppenheim was on the charge with St. Johnsville for a number of years, and afterward transferred to that of Dolgeville, but since 1884 it has formed a joint charge with Lassellsville, and regular services have been held each Sunday afternoon by the pastor. A parsonage, located at Lassellsville was erected by the society four years ago. The Oppenheim church has an active Sunday School, of which Byron Leavitt, a member of the Methodist Episcopal Society, is Superintendent. Mrs. Julia Barker, who lives about three miles north of the village, is recording steward of this charge. The present Trustees of the church are M. E. Barker, William S. Hess, Watson Turner, Nathan Cross and James H. Cline.

The Baptists probably left this church by 1880. They had built a very nice stone church at Inghams Mills in the 1840’s and that, plus the declining population of the area probably led to their departure from Oppenheim Center.

As population decline and economic problems for small farmers took place in the latter years of the 19th century, our Methodists sought to unite with other Methodist churches. First they united with St. Johnsville, then with Dolgeville and later formed a joint charge with Lassellsville. Never having a parsonage here, it was difficult to attract ministers unless they were shared with another congregation. Our Methodists have been united with Dolgevillle since 1920, and the minister lives in the parsonage in that community.

From surviving pictures, the old Oppenheim church looks impressive. There were two doors in front, and it was much larger than the present Methodist church. The Centennial History has this to say about the interior of the 1830’s church:

Originally the present building differed from today (1936) only in this respect: The pews faced the front of the building and were entered through small doors swinging into the aisle. The pulpit was on a raised dias between the doors entering from the vestibule. The balcony was used as a choir loft. At the rear of the building where the pulpit and dias now are, were crude benches accommodating such friendly Indians and colored servants as cared to attend the services.

I wonder about the “friendly Indians.” When this building was completed in 1836 there probably weren’t any real Indians anywhere near here. Colored farmers did own and work land in our township, and I have some material on them for future chapters.

I was told by Mr. & Mrs. Lloyd Brown that there were long stovepipes about eight feet off from the floor, leading from the wood stove in the front of the building to the chimneys in the rear. These pipes were purposefully long in order to conduct as much heat as possible as this building was said to be very cold in the winter. It was so cold that sometimes services would be held in a large room over the Oppenheim General Store in the winter.

Our church at Oppenheim Center continued along through the rest of the 19th century and half-way through the 20th without major changes. The Methodists were in sole possession toward the end of the 19th century although the available records do not indicate when or how this happened. Sunday Schools were conducted and pastors continued to preach, either in conjunction with St. Johnsville or Dolgeville or as part of an agreement with Lassellsville. It is not noted in the material I have seen why these changes took place. At the present time the Oppenheim Methodist Church is affiliated with Dolgeville and the Lassellsville Methodist is affiliated with St. Johnsville.

An active Ladies Aid Society existed in the Oppenheim Methodist church in the 19th century and was still active as late as 1922. Mrs. Lloyd Brown told me that they were an energetic group, and she lent me a picture of them on a porch of a home on the Belding’s Corners road probably taken in the 1890’s. Unfortunately none of the people in the picture are identified.

Budd Claus once told me that a Mr. Clemons who used to preach at the old Methodist Church drove to services in a surrey. He used to pick up Budd when Budd was a young boy and take him to church. The church then still had a shed to shelter six or seven teams. Budd also remembered a Rev. Griffith, and he and Lelah were married in the old church by a minister named Carter. Bud and Herb Bowers both told me that the Ladies Aid Society used to hold Ice Cream Socials, and they made their own ice cream with hand-cranked, large, wooden ice cream makers.

In addition to the Ladies Aid Society, there was something called the Eckworth League. This was an organization for young Christians. They would have meetings and suppers at the church years ago.

By 1941 the Oppenheim Methodists were ready to build a new church, next to the old one and on the west side. The “Evening Times” of January 17, 1941 stated that: “The Oppenheim Methodists are planning a new 28’ x 35’ church. Guy Barker and Guy Stowell are donating standing timber for this project.”

On June 10, 1941 there was a ground-breaking ceremony led by Rev. Charles A. Carter. Apparently the construction took a long time, perhaps because of the shortage of building materials caused by World War II which we entered about six months after the ground-breaking ceremony. The old church would continue to be used for services and also, as I have pointed out in Chapter VI, for classrooms when the new Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School District was formed in 1941. That was evidently an exciting year for Oppenheim, with a new church being started, a World War breaking out and a new school district being created.

Four years after the war ended, in June of 1949, the new church was ready to be dedicated. The “Evening Times” said:

The newly completed Methodist Church building in Oppenheim is ready to be dedicated. The building was begun seven years earlier, but not completed because of the shortage of building materials.

A few years later a small hall would be added to the east side, after the old church was demolished. In October of 1952 Raymond Perry bid the highest of three offers for the old building, $401. A “Times” article said that: “According to the terms of the sale, the purchaser has until June 1, 1953 to remove the edifice from the land, title to which remains with the church.”

I don’t know who in the congregation promoted the building of a new, smaller church and the destruction of the 1834 building. I do know that the old building had a LOT OF CLASS; it was quite impressive, with two doors in front, a large belfry and double sets of windows, one of which let light into a large loft or balcony. Too bad.

My predecessor as Town Historian, Mrs. Marian Mang, wrote the following in her records in 1954:

The new Methodist Church which was dedicated in 1950 has a membership of 26. Rev. Robert Belbin is the Minister, Mrs. Elsie Keller the Superintendent of the Sunday School and Miss Bertha Voorhees is the Organist. Old Home Day was celebrated this year with a large attendance.

The Oppenheim Methodists are doing well. In the early 1980’s they built a belfry and installed a bell and shortly after that they constructed a handicapped access ramp. They have also made improvements to their parking lot. Fall Harvest Dinners, chicken barbeques and ice cream socials continue to be regular events, as well as Vacation Bible School. They no longer make their own ice cream with the large, wooden mixers however; that practice is long gone.

 

THE OPPENHEIM BAPTISTS

As I have mentioned, Oppenheim had a Baptist congregation in the early 19th century. This group would be instrumental in building the first church at Oppenheim Center around 1820, and also in building the second church in 1834. Not very much survives in regards to this group.

A mention of the Baptist Society is found in the Methodist Church Centennial Booklet:

Mr. Guy Barker and Mr. Edgar D. Barker have been helpful in that they have found the names of the men associated with the building of the old Baptist Church, (never completed). They write: “Free Communion Baptist Society of Oppenheim, Montgomery County, N. Y. held a meeting on May 27, 1820 and recorded April 23, 1821. Nathan Perkins was appointed Moderator, Josiah Brown was also appointed a Moderator and Ezra Watson was appointed Clerk.” The first Trustees were:

Benjamin Lyons Abner Wright
James Lyons Peter Cline
Josiah O. Brown

Most of these men seem to be expatriated “Yankees” from New England who came into this area after the Revolution. Peter Cline would be the only exception to this.

The Baptists would share the church building with the Methodists for many years. One of the last notations I have connecting the Baptists to the church at Oppenheim Center came recently from a Ms. Linda Brown of Castleton, NY. Doing research on the Peter Brown family, she found that the Rev. Alg. W. Harvey was the Pastor of the Baptist Church at Oppenheim Center in November, 1865 when he married Ira Brown and Martha June Hoover of Jefferson County.

By the 1840’s the Baptists at nearby Inghams Mills had a nice, stone church building. It was noted in material from Mr. Guy Schaff during the Town of Manheim Bicentennial a few years ago that the Inghams Mills Baptists sometimes worshipped in a school building in the Town of Oppenheim, and later at the church in Oppenheim Center. Eventually the Baptists from Oppenheim gravitated down to Inghams Mills, probably at some time after the Civil War, leaving the building to the Methodists.

 

YOUKER’S BUSH

The present Youker’s Bush church was finished in 1857. However, for years I have heard of another church in that neighborhood about a mile or so to the west. Finally in 2002 Mrs. Marguerite Finch gave me some material documenting this early church.

In June, 1955 a celebration was held in the present Youker’s Bush church to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the meeting held to initiate the building. The speaker was the Rev. Ernest Crouse who was the Pastor of the Reformed Church in St. Johnsville. Here is what he said, taken from the “History of St. John’s Reformed Church, Book I”:

The church in which we meet today had its beginning in the year 1821 when the Rev. Daniel DeVoe, pastor of the St. Johnsville Reformed Church organized this Church under the name of the Second Reformed Church of Oppenheim. That was simply an organization without a meeting house, or a Church building, and it is presumed that Church services were held in the various homes of the people who were members of it. Church services may also have been held occasionally in the Free Communion Baptist Church of Oppenheim, which organized in June, 1822. From 1830 to 1887 the Youker’s Bush Church was connected with St. John’s Church of St. Johnsville, and appears to have been under the control of the St. Johnsville Consistory. Members of the Consistory on January 1, 1834 included Jacob D. Flanders, Joseph J. Klock, John A. Walrath and Jonas Snell.

Rev. Crouse continued on, pinpointing the date of the creation of the first Reformed Church in our township:

Members of the Lutheran Church united with the Second Reformed Church of Oppenheim and together they erected a Church building at Youker’s Bush which in the Lutheran articles of incorporation is referred to as being “new” in the year 1830. Thus the approximate date for the creation of that Church is obtained. That Church building was located about a mile and a half from Crum Creek, and a half mile north of the town and county line, as it is at present, and which separates the towns of St. Johnsville and Oppenheim. The spot is about two and a half miles north of Upper St. Johnsville and southeast of Twin Church Hill. The site of this Church was on the Dievendorf farm. The cemetery adjacent to this Church property is still in existence and is kept in fairly good condition. According to the records of the history of St. John’s Reformed Church, the ownership of this Church building was vested in the Lutheran trustees, although it is probable that members of the Dutch Reformed Church were represented on the board. The St. Johnsville Consistory (Reformed) was equally divided between Youker’s Bush and St. Johnsville until January 1, 1839. The Lutherans seemed to have been the dominating influence over the first Youker’s Bush Church.

At some point in time the first church (we) have just described would be abandoned and a new one built a few miles east at the intersection of the Mill Road and the Youker’s Bush Road. No description of the first church exists, but it likely was a wooden framed building, and perhaps relatively small. Mrs. Edna Brown thought that part of it may still exist as a wagon shed on Dave Hayes’ farm but I am not sure.

The next Church in Youker’s Bush would be built between 1855 and 1857. I have received extensive material on this church from Mrs. Marguerite Finch who lives nearby. According to Mrs. Finch, in material taken from an old record book, the first meeting to establish this church was held on March 12, 1855. This meeting was held “in the schoolhouse,” the District #5 building which still stands next to the church. Henry House was elected Chariman of the meeting and Christopher Bellinger was elected the Clerk. Augustus Smith, Henry J. Haise, Benjamin Groff, David Duesler and Christopher Bellinger were on the Building Committee.

At this meeting it was determined that the church building to be erected would belong to both the Lutheran and Dutch Reformed Congregations, with the time allotted to each congregation in the church to be determined by the amount subscribed or paid by each. In other words, it was the old “Golden Rule,” in which Gold rules! Here are the words of that resolution, made in March of 1855:

We the subscribers promise and agree to pay to David Duesler, Augustus Smith, Christopher Bellinger and Christopher Flanders the sums set opposite our respective names one half on or before the first day of May and the remaining half on or before the first day of September next for the purpose of building a church edifice on a lot of land now belonging to Daniel Flanders near the schoolhouse. Said church to belong to the Reformed Dutch and Lutheran denominations. The time in which it shall be used in proportion to the amount subscribed by each and precedence shall be given as to the time of worship morning or afternoon to the denomination which subscribes most.

Oppenheim, Feb. 12, 1855

The building was completed two years later, in 1857. The first Annual Church Meeting was held the first Saturday of January, 1858. The first Pastor was Rev. Joseph Knieskern. He was followed by Rev. Edward Loadwick, Rev. G. J. VanNeste, Rev. Ernest Gutweiler and Rev. Albert Dodd Minor.

The Sunday School was organized on May 16, 1875, twenty years after the decision to build the church. Oliver Smith was its Superintendent and Daniel D. Walrath was his assistant.

In 1882, during the pastorate of Albert Dodd Minor, the Dutch Reformed services at Youker’s Bush came to an end. Rev. Minor apparently felt that members of the church would attend the Reformed Church in St. Johnsville only a few miles away. The St. Johnsville church had just completed a new building, and probably Rev. Minor, also the Pastor there, wanted to fill the pews. This apparently did not happen right away. The following comment is taken from the Youker’s Bush Church records, written on July 8, 1903.

The house (Church) was occupied for a number of years by the Dutch Reformed Church and at one time was a strong and prosperous church. In the year 1885 under the labor of Rev. Minor, the church was closed, endeavoring to persuade the congregation to worship in the Dutch Reformed Church in St. Johnsville. This many refused to do. Much of the time, the Church was closed, being supplied part of the time by Methodist or Lutheran clergymen.

I believe that the official Reformed Church connection with Youker’s Bush ceased in the 1880’s and did not resume. However, the Church was still going, and in 1904 experienced a revival of sorts. In the previous summer, 1903, a church committee had met with Rev. W. Parkinson Chase who was the Pastor at the Grace Church in St. Johnsville. Rev. Parkinson then came up to preach during the summer months. He was said to be quite successful, and meetings were held to reorganize the church as the “Youker’s Bush Christian Church.” A pamphlet found by Mrs. Finch tells more of the story:

On June 3, 1904 at the New York Eastern Christian Conference held at Hartwick, Otsego County, the Committee on Churches made a partial report as follows:

We, your committee on Churches, would recommend as follows: 1st, that the Christian Church of Youker’s Bush be received as a member of this conference.

The motion was carried and the above named church was received. Nise Snell was the Delegate, Rev. W. P. Chase was the Pastor, and Youker’s Bush had 15 members. The estimated value of the church property was $3,000 and the amount paid the Pastor was $150. The Church Clerk was William Flanders, C. Yale Flanders was Sunday School Superintendent and Miss Cora Shuster was Sunday School Secretary.

The report goes on to say that by the end of 1904 the Church Sunday School had 7 officers, 6 teachers and 50 pupils enrolled with an average attendance of 32. There were six conversions, and Sunday School was in session for 11 months.

This good start apparently didn’t last. According to the records I have seen the Youker’s Bush Christian Church ceased operating around 1910. It would start up briefly in 1948 when it was reopened as the Youker’s Bush Union Church. Rev. Frederick Wood, Pastor for the St. Johnsville Methodist Church provided the services. This too didn’t last.

Another revival of this Church occurred about 18 years later. The “Evening Times” reported in July of 1976, that “The first service of the year at Youker’s Bush Church will be on August 1 at 2:30 P.M. The service will be conducted by Rev. Leonard Lum, Pastor of the Rockwood Pilgrim Holiness Church.”

I don’t know how long Rev. Lum continued to preach in Youker’s Bush, but I do know that the building remained idle for several years in the 1980’s. In the mid 1990’s another group from Dolgeville did a lot of work on the church, painting and fixing windows and the like. However, after a few years this effort ceased and the church stands vacant again.

I suppose that the proximity to St. Johnsville, now that the roads are all paved and plowed in the winter, ensures that this church will not prosper in the near future. Despite the population growth that our rural areas have experienced in the past three decades, it appears that our residents would rather drive to an established church in the Valley than go through the trouble and expense of re-starting the one in Youker’s Bush. Too bad, because it is a nice looking building.

 

CRUM CREEK CHURCHES

At one time there were two churches in Crum Creek, practically across the road from one another. One of these remains a function church, while the other became a Grance (Grange) Hall around 1890.

The 1868 map lists the current Grange Hall as a “Methodist Episcopal Church,” and the current Lutheran Church as a “Union Church.” Crum creek is not much of a community; at one time it had a Post Office, and of course the two churches. There wasn’t much of anything else, no stores, no taverns, blacksmith shops or other aspects of community life. I believe that the presence of two churches in this little hamlet was due to the dedication and will of some of the inhabitants and not really a product of necessity.

THE CRUM CREEK METHODISTS

In 1976 the Village of St. Johnsville appointed a committee to write a history for the national Bicentennial celebration of that year. The Chairpersons of the committee were Mary Galuski and Betty Bilabrowka, both teachers in the St. Johnsville Central School. Two other St. Johnsville teachers were also on the committee, Doris Rockefeller and Agnes Moore. With all those English and History teachers on the committee, it is no wonder that they produced a fine booklet. On page 19 they deal with the Crum Creek Methodist Church:

The impetus for Methodism here grew from a settlement in Southern Oppenheim and Northern St. Johnsville, a settlement (known by the Preachers as Storm’s Neighborhood. The Storms family was personally and vitally interested in establishing Methodism, and are known to have housed and fed as many as forty church 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 Bicentennial booklet has a list of Methodist Pastors from St.Johnsville. Since the Crum Creek Methodist Church had no parsonage, and since it did have a connection with St. Johnsville, only about 4 miles away, we can assume that the St. Johnsville Pastors also served Crum Creek. Sharing Pastors was common in those days, and is still a practice today with our smaller, rural churches. The Methodists had 19 Pastors in 37 years according to the Bicentennial booklet. The average tenure was less than two years.

I don’t know what was going on in Crum Creek church politics, but I believe that the Methodist church there had some problems. The following was filed with the Fulton County Clerk in 1879:

According to previous notice the members of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Oppenheim met at the Church on the 19th of March 1879 for the purpose of reorganizing the Society according to the statutes of the State of New York. John Storms and William C. Northrup were chose chairmen and the following were elected Trustees – John Storms, William C. Northrup, Chauncey Hyde, E. G. Storms and John Swackhammer.

It was voted that this society be known and called by the name of the 1st Methodist Episcopal Church of Oppenheim. Then the regular business in order the trustees were classed by lot as follows – John Storms drew for term of 3 years, William C. Northrup drew for two years, Chauncey Hyde drew for 2 years, David Bellinger drew for John Swackhammer 1 year and E. G. Storms drew for 3 years. E. G. Storms was chosen Clerk, minutes read and Approved.

Adjourned Chairman W. C. Northrup
Clerk E. G. Storms

The reorganization apparently didn’t work. In only eleven years the church building would be sold to the Grange and the Crum Creek Methodists were just a memory.

 

THE CRUM CREEK LUTHERAN CHURCH

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Crum Creek is still functioning. In April, 1977 the Little Falls “Evening Times” printed an article detailing much of the history of this church. The building had been constructed in 1853, only one year after the Methodists across the road completed theirs. Was there competition? I suppose so, but over 150 years later we will probably never know the details. The original Lutheran Church in Crum Creek was established as a Union Church, but I don’t know what other denominations used if in conjunction with the Lutherans.

The “Evening Times” said this about the Lutheran Church at Crum Creek:

When the Rev. John W. Young organized a Lutheran Church in Crum Creek in 1882, these members, (Benjamin, Lany Ann, Christian and Mary Groff ), came back to strengthen the local church. The Rev. Young served churches at Inghams Mills and Crum creek from Oct. 3, 1886 to April 30, 1899. On May 20, 1882 the Lutheran Church at Crum Creek was formally incorporate as the “Franckean Evangelical Lutheran Church of Crum Creek, Fulton County, New York.”

The Rev. Young helped to build up the Crum creek church into a dynamic organization. It merged with the Lutheran Church at St. Johnsville in 1900 when Rev. W. F. Wittaker became Pastor of both churches.

During the summer of 1906 the church building was moved nearly 40 feet to the West and placed on a basement foundation and encased with brick. The cost of this improvement together with a slate roof, steel ceiling, new plastering and paper, wainscoting, furnace, memorial window, painting and new furnishings was $3,035.00. The cost was oversubscribed by the day of its rededication, March 29, 1907. In 1905 the congregations of Crum Creek and St. Johnsville secured, by joint ownership, a parsonage. These congregations continue in joint ownership in the present parsonage.

The congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church has always laid emphasis upon missionary and Sunday School work. In 1927, the Evangelical Lutheran Church was on the Honor Roll of Synod as being one of eight congregations which gave more money to benevolence than was devoted to home use, the proportion being 6 to 5 in this church. Missions and Sunday School continue to be strong in the life of the Evangelical Lutheran Church today.

The present Lutheran Church Women is an outgrowth of the Woman’s Missionary Society organized May 26, 1889 with 9 charter members. This society has been an active force in the life of this congregation. The Lutheran Church women welcome new members.

A new ceiling was installed in 1972, the stained glass windows were repaired in 1974 and the sanctuary was repaired in 1975. New steps and railings were completed last summer.

Worship services are held at 1:30 P. M. Everyone is welcome. Sunday School is at 12:30 P. M.

According to Marian Mang’s records, Rev. Herman Briele was the Pastor in 1954. Herbert Handy was the Sunday School Superintendent and Miss Anna M. Allen was the organist.

An “Evening Times” article in November of 1970 detailed the departure of Rev. Henry K. Johnson. Rev Johnson was the Pastor for Crum Creek, St. Johnsville and St. Paul’s at Starkville, and he left to become Pastor of a Lutheran Church in Gloversville. Another “Times” article from Feb. 15th, 1972 reported on the annual Congregational Meeting. The meeting received reports and elected Trustees and other officers. Herbert Handy was elected to the Board of Trustees, David Hayes and Keith Handy were elected to the Board of Deacons, Lester Mosher was elected Synodical Delegate and several committees were set up. The President of the Luther League was Norma Shuster, and the Luther League Advisor is Mrs. Donald Shuster. The President of the Lutheran Church Women was Janice Handy. Apparently the Crum Creek Lutheran Church was still a very active organization in the 1970’s.

In 1982, the Crum Creek Lutherans celebrated their centennial. After an 11:00 A.M. service in the church, the congregation and friends went to the Masonic Temple in St. Johnsville for a banquet. The Pastors at that time were a couple, Rev. David Ellis and Rev. Devie Ellis. They were joined at the dinner by three former Pastors, Rev. Franklin Schweiger, Rev. Clifford Butterer and Rev. Richard Clark.

The Lutheran Church in Crum Creek is well-kept and looks to be in fine shape today. The current Pastor is Rev. David Johnson. However, as with many rural churches, there is always the possibility of closure as the financial burden becomes too much for too few families. Crum Creek is, as I have said, only four miles from St. Johnsville and there is an active Lutheran Church there. We hope that this church survives, as Crum Creek would not look the same without at least one functioning church, remembering that once they had two.

   

On to part two of "Our Religious Roots"

   


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