Rev. John Spinner
Town of Herkimer
Herkimer County, NY

Contributed by Kathleen Teague

Source: from Nathaniel S. Benton's "History of Herkimer County" Albany, NY: J. Munsell, 1856.
Page 407

Town of Herkimer:
The Rev. John Spinner emigrated to the United States, from Germany, in 1801, and landed at the city of New York, on the 12th day of May, after a long passage of 63 days. He was born at Warback, a market town in the Electorate of Mentz, January 18th, 1768; was early in life dedicated by his parents to the clerical office, and when only 11 years old, entered the gymnasiun at Bishopsheim, where he remained three years, and was then transferred to the university of Mentz; remained in that celebrated institution of learning until 1788. In the term of his six years collegiate probation, he passed through a thorough course of studies, in philosophy, mathematics, history, languages, ancient and modern, divinity, jurisprudence, medicine. He was then admitted to a Romish Clerical seminary, and in 1789 was consecrated to holy orders, in the Roman Catholic church. He assisted in celebrating the funeral obsequies of two German emperors, in accordance with the grand and imposing rites of the Romish communion. The emperor, Joseph II, died February 20th, 1790, and Leopold II, March 1st, 1792. He officiated eleven years as priest, confessor, &c., and about the year 1800, he embraced the Protestant faith and form of worship. On the 18th January, 1801, he married Mary Magdale Fedelis Brumante, a native of Loire on the Maine. She accompanied her husband to this country, and is yet living, at the residence long occupied by the venerable and deceased subject of this notice. Mr. Spinner, soon after he landed in New York, was called to the spiritual charge of the German congregations at Herkimer and German Flats, and commenced his pastoral functions in September, 1801, and his connection with these churches continued about 40 years. He was engaged about 18 months of this period, however, as a teacher in the High School, at Utica. He conformed the dicipline of the Dutch Reformed church, but the first settlers of the valley, and the ancestors of the people, who composed the principal part of his congregations, were German Lutherans. His services, during the long period of his ministry, were not confined to the two churches, under his special charge; in that time, he preached to congregations in Columbia, Warren, at the Indian Castle, Esquawk, Manheim and Schuyler, in Herkimer county, Deerfield, Oneida county, Manlius, Onondaga county, and Le Ray, Jefferson county, in some of which places, German emigrants had settled, when they first came into the country, and in others., were found the descendants of those Palatines, who had made their first resting place in the Mohawk valley. He was the third minister in permanent succession called to supply these two churches, after their first organization in the German Flats.

His predecessor, Mr. Rosecrants, died a few years before 1801. The interim was probably supplied with the temporary services of clergymen of other congregations, or by those who were engaged only for short periods. He was tall in stature, dignified in deportment, and polished in his manners, accomplishments, not rarely found among the priesthood of the Romish church. He possessed a capacious and vigorous mind, which had been embellished by a thorough and systematic education in German schools, under the instruction of learned and experienced masters. With the ancient, and most of the modern European continental languages, and especially the French, Spanish and Italian, he was quite as familiar as with his own native German, but from the slow progress he made in acquiring an accurate and easy pronunciation of the English tongue, in the course of twenty-five years, he must have been unfamiliar with it when he came into the country. The younger members of his charge, were in a rapid state of transition. The German schoolmaster, abandoned his desk and ferule to the English teacher, whose language was spoken by a majority of the people, and in which the business of the courts was transacted.

It was apparent this change must take place, and it was expedient not to delay it. Mr Spinner applied himself with all the ardor of a young and ambitious man, to keep pace with the times; and preached alternately, in the German and English to suit the elder and younger members of the congregations. From long use and by diligent study, aided by a profound knowledge of Latin, he had mastered the English language in all its significance, but, he could not pronounce the words of it accurately, and with facility. His English sermons were often able productions, and sometimes eloquent. The words were well chosen and appropriately applied. I have alluded to this matter, which to strangers may not seem pertinent to the subject in hand, because it was a cause of some disquiet, but not of repining to him while living. Mr. Spinner died at his residence in Herkimer, on the 27th of May, 1848, aged 80 years 4 months and 9 days. He was kind and affectionate as a husband and a parent, and active and zealous in the discharge of his pastoral duties. He exerted a happy influence over the German population of his charge, by whom his memory is cherished with devotion and respect. Within three weeks of his own death, six members of his former charge went to their final rest, the aggregate of whose ages was more than 480 years. An average of 80 years to seven persons dying within the space of 21 days, is an event of no common occurrence. The Rev. James Murphy was inducted, as associate minister of these two venerable congregations, by many years the oldest in the county, before the Rev. Mr. Spinner's connection was dissolved. Dr. Murphy, I understand, has no longer any ministerial charge of them.

The passage about early Town of Herkimer Rev. John Spinner was typed by Kathleen Teague, who is researching her area Butler ancestors. For details on Kathy's Butler line, check out our acknowledgement to Kathy at the bottom of the Town of Russia 1824 Gazetteer section.

Neither Kathy nor I own a copy of Benton or have any further information about the events or places mentioned in the excerpt above. For more detailed information request Nathaniel S. Benton's original 1856 'History of Herkimer County' through interlibrary loan at your local library, or contact the Herkimer County Historical Society.

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Recoded 10/5/03
Copyright © 1998 Kathleen Teague
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