The pamphlet of the history of Old Fort Herkimer Church was contributed to our site by Faith Lustik. No date appears on the pamphlet. As Lou D. MacWethy, editor, published other pamphlets and articles in the 1930s, it may have been written a few years prior to World War II. Dr. W. N. P. Dailey's book "The History of Montgomery Classis R.C.A.", mentioned below, was published by Recorder Press, Amsterdam, New York, in 1916.
History of the Old Fort Herkimer Church German Flatts Reformed Church 1723 By W. N. P. Dailey, D. D. Published by the St. Johnsville Enterprise and News Lou D. MacWethy, Editor, St. Johnsville, NY, Price 35 cents Post Paid (on cover)
Old Fort Herkimer Church Historical Stetch of the German Flatts Reformed Church at Fort Herkimer, NY. In the Beautiful Mohawk Valley Organized in 1723. Land given 1730 and 1773. Present Edifice begun About 1730. A Story of the Palatine People and Their Early Struggles. Many Names of First Settlers.
Names of First Settlers in Herkimer County
In the Office of the Secretary of State at Albany are some seventy original land papers that have to do with what is now Herkimer County, and its first settlers, names familiar to the community, as Herkimer, Petri, Rickert, Staring, Edick, Helmer, Bellinger, Staley, Garlock, and others. These papers are of the calendar vintage 1721, 1722, and 1723. Gov. Burnet, under date of Nov. 21, 1722 writes, "I have given them (Palatines) leave to purchase land of the Indians...between Fort Hunter and Canada Creek....as far as the settlers wished." John Conrad Weiser, one of the finest of all the Palatine emigrees, obtained a deed from the Indians, July 9, 1722, for twenty-four English miles on both sides of the river from Little Falls west. But he forced by the Governor to take land three miles back from the river. In 1723 a warrant for the survey of this land was given to Johan Jost Petrie, the leading spirit among the settlers on the north side. The dispersion of the Palatines began in 1720, after Governor Hunters tar fiasco on the Hudson. The (Schorie) lands were the immediate mecca but Governor Hunter favored the land barons of the country, and influenced Governor Burnet to do the same so that one third of the Palatines were driven out of the Schorie and these entered the Mohawk Valley in 1721-1723, after whom came many more including four Herkimers on the Palatine ship that reached New York October 27, 1722. And old extant deed dated Sept. 24, 1730, gives an acre of ground in which a school had already been erected, for the building of a church. There is no question it seems to us, to the religious customs of these people, who like the Dutch in the eastern end of the valley, always set up their alters along with their schools, often doing this before they built their permanent homes. The Fort Herkimer and the Herkimer Churches were for more than a century and a half a double charge. We are persuaded that the work and church on the south side was begun first, but the need for similar work on the north side was soon apparent. The name of Burnetsfield was applied to both sides of the river. The founder of the Christian church in these localities, the transplanters from the Palatine this section of the valley of the Reformed faith were sufficiently satisfactory predecessors of our church of today, and unless we do much better than they, the past has failed to instruct us as it should. Reading the records of the fathers of these two churches through their two hundred years have kept we recognize their failings common to all mankind, but their faults are no disgrace to them nor to us that succeed them.
A Story Not Often Told
Strange to say the story of the Fort Herkimer Church has not often been told. Doubtless in the nineteenth century there were sketches now and then appearing in the local press of both of the churches, and in the histories of the County of Herkimer one reads considerable about them. In 1886 when Rev. Henry M. Cox was pastor of the church, he preached three historical sermons bearing on its early history, that of the Spinner pastorate, and the ensuing fifty years. There is a copy of the Nicholas Feller will of May 28, 1734, in which the testator bequeaths his church seat to Hans Nicholas Crisman, his son-in-law, but whether it was the church on the north or south side it is impossible to determine by the will. Nicholas Welleven, who sold the acre of land for the church on the south side, was son-in-law of Nicholas Feller, while Nicholas Crisman was a member and pew holder in the German Flatts Church.
Early Church Papers
The contract between the two churches, dated August 4, 1798, calls for a collegiate pastorate; the second call given Rev. J. B. Spinner dated July 19, 1802 (through the salary was to begin July 4, 1801); action of Montgomery Classis on this call, dated May 28, 1805; and a brief mortuary record, in the Latin, of Rev. Mr. Spinner, dated May 12, 1829. Another effort to tell the history of these two churches is to be found in the "History of Montgomery Classis" by Rev W. N. P. Dailey.
In the spring of 1920 the New York Biographical and Genealogical Society typewrote the records of both churches, their archivist, R.W. Vosburgh, affording a very fine piece of work. Bound volumes of this work are to be found in the Herkimer Reformed Church. All three of these men were handicapped by the absence of documents that have since come to light, the last, discovered by the writer of this history, being the old deeds, whose existence of their dates, were being questioned. These are the deeds to the church land at German Flatts, one bearing date of September 24, 1730 and the other that of April 26, 1773.
First Settlers were the Palatines
The first settlers of this section of the Mohawk Valley, the pioneers who blazed their ways through this virgin wilderness and first upturned the soil of the lowlands, were the Palatines who for a decade and more were coming to America under the patronage of England. These were the men and women who formed the nucleus of the membership and congregation of these two churches, many of whose descendants are still dwellers in Herkimer County, and not a few of whom are allied with the Reformed Churches of this and the adjacent country. The Burnetsfield Patent to John Jost Petri and Conradt Rickert, and ninety other patentees, is dated April 30, 1725, but the Council had the petition of the Palatines to buy lands hereabout as early as Sept 9, 1721 and decided on this date to allow them to buy, and these lands were purchased in 1722, for the Council meeting held in New York, Jan 17, 1723, refers to the sale by the Mohawks of the land to Petri and Rickert and other patentees.
One can hardly believe it was characteristic of these Palatines, after the Hudson valley experience and their treatment by the land grabbers of Schoharie, that having both this Mohawk valley tract in 1722, at the latest, they would have waited for any time to elapse before starting for their "promised land". We are persuaded that the Palatines began to settle at once the land they bought in 1722. And, as always and everywhere customary with them, they erected their school houses and planned for their houses of worship
The Remsen deed, establishing the Glebe for the German Flatts church, from which the minister was to receive the rents, dated Sept. 18, 1965, is in the possession of the Herkimer County Historical Society. After the death of Peter Remsen, in an appeal to the Legislature of 1797, the legality of the Glebe rents by virtue of the transfer of the trust of the heirs of Peter Remsen, was reposed in the consistory of the German Flatts Church. The heirs at the time were: Simon Remsen of Queens County, Abraham Brinckerhoff and Dorothy, his wife, and Sam Remsen, of New York City. It is not in the province of this history to go into detail in the matter of the trials and tribulations, the law suits and land sales, and a multitude of legal and land tangles that ensued from this glebe land trust. These are all followed out in the typed records of the churches, as revealed by the court records. The boundary line between the Vaughan Patent and the Staley Patent, the later land lying to the north and west of the former, was so indefinite that when the dispute was settled finally, the German Flatts Church discovered that they had given a lease for eighty-six acres of land in the Vaughan Patent, which they believed belong to ot No. 47 of the Staley patent. The church was forced to buy this land of the owners of the Vaughan Patent, in doing which liabilities were incurred that provoked certain law suits and in defense a goodly share of their own glebe was lost forever.
Official Title of the Church
Turning back to the Session Laws of the State of New York for 1797 we find the official title of the church on the south side to be (at least since 1797), "The Minister, Elders, and Deacons of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in the town of German Flatts in the County of Herkimer." Running through the records of the Herkimer Reformed Church one will find a great many comments about that church and its ministry on the south side. Because there were as many settlers in the very beginning on the Fort Herkimer side of the Mohawk as there were on the north side, and because of the greater increase of the population there, not to speak of the post that was later established where many soldiers were quartered from the time of its building, nearly, we have always been persuaded to believe that the religious conditions and needs were paramount with the same on the Herkimer side of the river, and that from the original settlement by the Herkimers and others, religious services were begun and conducted as early as 1723, if not the year before, when the Palatines began to come into the upper Mohawk Valley.
In an address by the late Hon. Robert Earl, Chief Justice of the New York Court of Appeals, who was a life long resident of Herkimer, and whose people at first were attached to the Dutch church there, and who continually was researching he history of Herkimer County, he said, (may 11, 1880) speaking to the Oneida Historical Society, that "in the settlement of the upper Mohawk Valley of the Palatines built their first church on the south side of the river." He quoted Smollet (vol. II, 163) showing that the land carriage at Little Falls and the road up the valley was on the south side. This fact gave the settlers there a certain vantage and caused the south side for many years to be larger in population than the north side, where the Palatines, at the very beginning also, built their village.
Patentees on North Side
The Patentees on the North side of the river (Herkimer) were Mrs. Eva Staring (wife of John Adam), who secured a 100 acres of woodland at Astenrogen, then following westward John Jost Temouth, Mary Beerman, Augustines Hess, Johannes Poenradt, Gertruy Poenradt (wife of Johannes) Henry Hegar, Elizabeth Hellmer (wife of Lendert Hellmer), Hendrick Spoon, Jr., Johan Adam Staring, Lodwick Pares, Johannis Beerman, Philip Helmer, Frederick Pell, Anna Mary Pell, Mary Catherine Koens (widow), Melgert Ffols, Johan Veldelant, Adam Michael Smith, Johan Jurgh Kast, Jr., John Adam Helmer, Nicholas Feller, Jacob Wever, Johan Jurge Smith, Johan Jost Petre, Hendrick Mayer, Thos. Shoemaker, Anna Catherine Lant(widow), Johan Adam Bowman, Godfree Reele, Nicholas Wever, Tedrigh Temouth, Jurgh Dacksteder, Lodwick Rickert, Johannes Pellinger, Lendert Helmer, Johan Jurgh Kast, Peter Pellinger, Frederick Staring, Gertruyt Petrie (wife of Johan Jost Petrie-"lying in ye middle of ye great Flatts, is called ye Stone Ridge"), Johannes Velden Staring, Elisabeth Edigh, Margaret Pellenger (wife of Peter Pellenger), Catherine Rickert, Anna Veldelant, Frederick Helmer. Even before the survey was made it was decided by the council that each of these persons was to have a hundred acres of land, and the tract extended from Astenrogen on the east twenty-four English miles west, on both sides of the river. These forty-six persons, with their families formed the nucleus of the Herkimer Church, as the 46 others who obtained lots on the south side made up the congregation of Fort Herkimer Church. At least three acres of the fifty lowlands was to be cultivated in three years and the hundred acres was subject to an annual quit rent of two shillings and six pence. Provision was also made for roads.
Patentees on South Side
The names of the Patentees for the lands on the south side of the Mohawk, nucleus of the Fort Herkimer Church, were as follows: "Jacob Bowman, Christopher Fox, Johannes Reslaer, Nicolas Kaslaer, Anna Dacksteder (wife of Jurgh Dackstader), Johannes Miller, Nicolas Staring, Joseph Staring, Conradt Orendorf, Hendrick Orendorf, Peter Speis, Lawrence Herter, Frederick Pellinger, Conrady Ryckert, John Michall Edigh, Hendrick Spoon, Johannes Hess, Nicolas Welleven, Lodolph Korsing, Anna Mayor, Catherine Pears, Margaret Pellinger (wife of Johannes Pellinger), Jacob Edich, Micheal Editch, Hans Conradt Ffelmore, Christina Ffelmore, Lodolph Shoemaker, Mary Feller (wife of Nicholas Ffeller), Jacob Wever, Junr., Mark Petrie, Odelia Koring (wife of Ludolph Koring), Anna Margaret Helmer (wife of Johan Adam Helmer), Andries Wever, Godfrey Reele, Junr., Ephraim Smith, Elisabeth Speis (wife of Peter Speis), Appolone Herter, Mark Rykert, Marte Smith, Jacob Fols, Lodwick Kones, and John Velde Staring, Junr."
The Staley Patent
Another large tract of land that was granted the Palatines was called the "Staley Patent" and consisted of 34,000 acres on the south side of the river, in lying just back of the Burnetsfield Patent. The Indian deed in dated September 24, 1724, granted to "Rudolph Stekle, Jurch Bender, and other distressed Palatines" and includes land on both sides of the river. When the patent was finally granted the land was all on the south side, but the patentees mentioned are Rudolph Staley and Johan Jost Herckheimer, Junior, and the license was granted May 8, 1752. There were 16,000 acres of woodland in the tract but the deal was not consummated so in another petition they asked for 34,000 acres and in the Indian deed on May 18, 1754 they were granted 45,000 acres for 295 Spanish dollars which was the equivalent of 118 pounds of the currency money of the Province ($295.00).
Church and Fort During War (1754-60)
After the French and Indian War the villages on both sides of the river prospered for a quarter of a century. In 1756 Col. Wm. Johnson stockaded Fort Herkimer and 1,000 troops at one time where posted there. In the Documentary History of New York is a description of Fort Herkimer by a French spy. Benton's History and Lossing's Field Book have a view of the fort in 1756. It has always seemed singular to us that directly after the devastation of the Palatine village on the north by the French that a spy of that nationality could go up and down the river unmolested. He described Fort Hunter also but placed it on the wrong side of the Schoharie. He does not mention the church at German Flatts; he was more interested in forts than in churches; he does not mention a school house, nor does the 1756 view of the fort show a school house, but there must have been one for that large a population. I there was an uncompleted church edifice naturally that would not be mentioned. The French spy called the place Fort Kouari, which is said to mean "a bear".
Historic Events at Fort Herkimer
It was from German Flatts or Fort Herkimer that Col. Charles Clinton (father of Gov. George Clinton and grandfather of DeWitt Clinton) marched in the summer of 1758 to the capture of Fort Frontenac from the French. One of the first liberty poles in the valley, if not the first, was here. Sheriff White came all the way from Johnstown, accompanied by a body of militia and cut it down. In 1772 Gov. Tryon was here inspecting the troops. The Massachusetts military records state that Col. John Brown, who lost his life in the Battle of Stone Arabia, was here with a Connecticut military company from April 1, 1776 on for a year or more. Col. Willett assembled his troops here Feb. 7, 1783, for the capture of Fort Oswego from the British. In the following April Capt. Thomas set out from Fort Herkimer to carry to fort Oswego, news of the treaty of peace. Preliminary articles had been signed Jan 20, 1783, but Col Willet did not know this. In 1783 Gen Washington was at Fort Herkimer and, of course, was in the Old Stone church. In 1785 the Oneida and Tuscororas met here and ceded to New York all the territory lying between the Chenango and Unadilla rivers.
The oldest extant record concerning the German Flatts Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, which is the corporate title, minus the names of the officers, is dated September 24, 1730. This original deed, lost for a great many years, was turned over to the Herkimer church in June 1922, after being Photostatted and copies placed with the Fort Herkimer Church and another in the State Library at Albany, New York. Mr. Dailey, to whom the deed came, gives the following abstract of the deed:
(Note: the following sections contain unusual punctuation and spelling, and are as in the original pamphlet.)
Description Of Church Land
Nicholas Woolever "in consideration of the sum of fifteen Pounds Currant Money of the Province of New york" conveys to the eleven grantees "all That Certain Toft ov Lot of Ground Beginning at a Certain Marked Pole standing in the Division Line of him the said Nicholas Woolever and Rodolph Coring near South End of the Swing Gate which stands near the Mill of Frederick Pellinger and runs from thence South Twenty four Degrees West Three Chains and Twenty five Links Thence South Sixty Six Degrees East Three Chains and Twenty five Links Thence North Twenty four Degrees East Three Chains and Twenty five Links, Thencewith a Straight Line the place where first began Containing nearly the One half of a Rynland Morgan or One English acre and Nine Rodd" to have and to hold forever "To the Intent and Purpose That the said Lot and Toft of Ground shall be for the Use of a School and a Church if at any Time hereafter The Partys above mentioned shall be Inclined to Eredt a Church upon the Same near the School now thereon standing" said church to be built at the expense of the company. One twelfth of the lot reserved to Nicholas Woolever for the uses aforesaid, who warrants and defends the title. The deed is witnessed by Ed Collins and Tho. Martin, Grantor signs, "Nicholas Wohllaben". On the back of the first sheet is a receipt dated Sept. 24, 1730, for the purchase money 15, signed by "Nicholas Wohllaben". The deed is indorsed "Indenture Between Nich. Woolver & ffrdk. Pellinger in Compy. The word "company" does not occur in the body of the deed, the names of the eleven grantees being repeated each time that it is necessary to repeat them. Undoubtedly the Palatines of the south side used the school house mentioned in this deed as their first place of worship, thus putting in the beginning of the church back to the original settlement in 1723. The original deed, dated Sept. 24, 1730, granted to Nicholas Woolever and eleven others, an acre and more of land for church and school purposes. This deed is a conveyance of this same land by the "company" to the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of German Flatts. Some of the words of the deeds are illegible thru deterioration of the paper by age.
Quaint Wording of 1773 Conveyance
This Indenture made and Concluded this Twenty Sixth day abrill in the Terthenth Year of the Reingn of our Sovereign Lord King George the thirth, of Great Britain France and Ireland Defend: of the Faith &: and in the Year of our Lord Christ one Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy three, between Diedrich wohllaben, Peter Bellinger, John diedrich Steahl Johan Jost Hercheimer Thomas Schumacher Augustines Hess Nicklas Spoon johan Mickel Ittig Frederich Arrendorff Nicklas Staring Henrich Heager of Burnatsfield in the County of Tryon in the Province of New yorck Yeomans of the first part, and the Reformirth protestant Church and School on the South side of the Mohawk River at the Same Place of the other part witnesseth that the Said Partners Diedrich wohlleben Peter Bellinger Johan Diedrich Steal Johan Jost Hercheimer Thomas Schumacker Augustines Hess Niclas Spoon Mickel Ittig Frederich Arendorff Niclas Staring Henrich Heager for a good Lofe..C..Sch Currnad and Lawfull Money to them in hand paid before the enselling and livery thereof for a parcel of land, by the said Reformirth protestant Church and School the Receibt thereof, and is Situate lying and being at Burnatsfield on the South side of the Mohowks River and is known and Distinguished by the Name of Loth N. Thirty as by a certain Certificate (bearing date) thei Said Partners and Every one of them aforesaid Diedrich wohlleben Peter Bellinger Died: Steahl Joh: Jost Hercheimer Thomas Schumacher Augustines Hess Niclas Spoon Johan Mickel Ittig Friedrich Arendorff Niclas Staring Henrich Heager doth hereby acknowledge their Selves therwith fully Contented and paid, and thereof and of the aforesaid Parcel of Primes thereof do Exonerate and Discharge the said Reformirth protestant Church and School (forever) for Every by these presents, thei and Every Partner of them, hat therefore given grandet Bargained, Sold aliened Released and Confirmed, and by these Presents doth give Grand Bargain Sell alien Release and Confirm unto the Said Reformirth protestant church and School for their and ther onlt Proper use for Every (forever) by these presents, the Certian Lot of Ground beginning at a Certian Marked pole Standing in th edivision Line of the Said Loth No. thirty Near the south end of the gate in the Kings Rothe which stands near the house of Friedich Fucks on the East Site, the Runce from thence South twenty four degrees west Three Chains and Twenty five Links, thence South Sixty Six degrees East three Chains and Twenty fife Links, thence North Twenty four degrees East Three Chains and Twenty five Links thence with a straight Line to the place wher it first begun Containing Nea one acre nine Rots Now in the Possession of the Said Reformirth protestant Church and Schul Together with all and Singular the Houses and Buildings and Gardens and pastur ground any Propper use and benefit belonging unto the Said Reformirth protestant Church and Schul, or in any wise hereby Bargained appertaining to the Said premiss or parcel of ground and the Said protestant Church and School Schall bee for Ever and absolutely Called a Reformirth protestant Church and School and the Said Cchurch and School Shall and may from time to time and at all times fo Ever her after free by virtu of these Presents, Lawfully Peacably and quietly hav hold use occupy possess an Enjoy Said granded and Bargained Premised, with the appurtenances Free an Clear exonerated and discharged, of and from all Manner of former Gifts grants Bargains Sales, Releases wills Incumberances and Troubles (first page of the deed ends here) what So Ever herafter the Said Parteners Diedrich wohlleben Peter Bellinger Diedrich Steahl Jost Hercheimrr thomas Schumacher augustines Hess Niclas Spoon John Ittig Michel Ittig Fredrich arendorff Niclas Staring Henrich Heager for ther Selfs and Heirs, do Convenand and agree with the Said Reformet Protestant Church and School, and lastly the Said Parteners aforesaid and ther heirs and assigns the above Bargained parcel of Land or Primisses with its and Every of its appurtenances all Persons Shall and will for Ever by these Presents warned and defend and the Said Parcel of ground formerly is Sold from niclas wohllegen unto the above Mentioned Parteners for a Church an School, and the Said Perteners do Execute the Said Primes unto the Present Revrd Minister Abraham Rosenkrantz and the Present Church warters which are Peter Bellinger and Diedrich Steahl and Jacob Boshroorn and Max Rasbach and their Successors from time to time and for Ever by these Presents. In witness thereof the Said Partners has hereunto Interchangable their hans and Seals the Day and Year first above writhen.
In the Presence of Rudolph Schumacher, Johann Christ Schell, Nicklas Kessler.
The Palatine settlements in the Burnetsfield Patent, as noted, extended from Little Falls to Frankfort, comprising about 9,618 acres. Among the hundred acre lots on the south side were those of Jurgh, Madalana, and Johan Jost, and Catharina Erghemar. The first two were the parents of Johan Jost who was the husband of Catharina. They settled in 1722 at what is now Fort Herkimer. General Nicholas Herkimer was their son, born in 1728 at Fort Herkimer, in what was probably the original Herkimer home, given up in 1740 for the large stone house, that in 1756 became Fort Herkimer. This house was occupied by the Herkimers for a hundred years.
Source: This digital presentation of the original booklet was prepared and contributed by Faith Lustik. Faith tells us "I am researching the WARN family that lived in Herkimer County, NY. Philip WARN born 1808 married Laura Brown born 1816. Their children were Elias born in Mohawk February 24, 1841, Mary born 1849, Calvin H. born 1852, John born 1854. The family moved later to Oswego County, NY. Also, I am researching the MYERS family of German Flatts. Peter MYERS born 1796 married Catherine born 1797 both in Herkimer. Children were: Jerome born 1826, Mary born 1833 and Franklin born 1835 (given the age span I am sure there were more children). They also moved to Oswego County but Peter and Catherine moved back to Herkimer County by 1850. Jerome MYERS married Eleanor Whaley, daughter of George WHALEY born 1800 and Lydia MCINTYRE born 1803. George born in Schyler, NY. Any information about any of these lines would be greatly appreciated." Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Last Updated: 7/16/98
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