The pamphlet of the history of Old Fort Herkimer Church was contributed to our site by Faith Lustik. No date appears on the pamphlet although there is reference in Part 3 that this book was being written in 1923. 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.

  By Rev. W.N.P. Dailey, D.D. author History of the Montgomery Classis R.C.A.

Part 4

Ministerial Duties Cover Wide Field

Following in the path beaten by Domine Rosencrantz, Rev. Mr. Spinner's field of activity was of wide extent in the valley. Glancing thru his well kept records, except now and then his caustic comments, there are baptisms and marriages and funerals from the section farthest west down beyond Fort Plain. A list of his visits and ministrations would include Warrentown, Danube, Frankfort, Columbia, Minden, Fort Stanwix, LaRay, Little Falls, Oswegatchie, Boonville, Madison, Schuyler, Richfield, Deerfield, Whitestown, Litchfield, Otsego, Turin, Norway, Manheim, and Richfield, besides the more immediate fields of Herkimer, Fort Herkimer and the adjacent country. In keeping the church records Mr. Spinner adhered almost wholly to Latin forms. He was a linguist of the highest type but the English language seemed to be a forbidden speech with him. With the ability to master languages he could have easily acquired the English in a short time, for records and preaching, but to the very end he clung tenaciously to the Latin in the church registers and to the German in the church services. The same thing happened in the Hudson river and New York churches, to retard their development forever, the insistence of the old folks, and the ministry, often, that they could not worship save in the Dutch language. It is still the case in the American churches of today where foreign languages, untelligible to many worshippers, are employed. There probably was no period in all his ministry, from the very beginning, when the English language services might not have been employed to great profit for the community and to the sure development, of the churches. In Mr. Spinner's records one meets the agricola (farmer), ambo (both), ast (however), avuncula (aunt), filius and filia (son and daughter), caelibus and conjugisi (unmarried and married), gemelli (twins), Maritus and uxoris (husband and wife), negri coloris (negro), natus (born), judica (chaste), vidna (widow), etc.

Mr. Spinner's first appearance before the Montgomery Classis was on the first Tuesday of May 1802. Elders John Frank from Fort Herkimer and Peter F. Bellinger of Herkimer were also present. Prior to this Rev. Dr. John D. Gros of the "Sand Hill" church and Rev. John H. Dysslin of the St. Johnsville church had heard his recantation, and recommended him to the church at German Flatts and Herkimer and they had extended him a call. All this was ecclesiastically out of order, so Mr. Spinner appeared a second time before the Montgomery Classis, July 7-8, 1802, was examined, made a second recanation, and was admitted into membership in the classis, and arrangements made for his installation later on Ascension Day of 1803. On April 20, 1803 the call was approved and a committee appointed to install. A second call was brought to the classis on May 28, 1805 and approved. It is to be found in the Cox History. The salary was two hundred pounds ($500) a year, in semi-annual payments, and thirty bushels of wheat. Herkimer was to pay eighty pounds and fifteen bushels of wheat and German Flatts the rest. The call is signed by Wm. Clapsattle, Nicholas Casler, Christopher P. Bellinger, Lawrence Shoemaker, Nicholas Steel, John Aasbach, and Conrad Hess for the Fort Herkimer church, and for Herkimer it is signed by John N. Hilts, Thomas Bell, Henry I. Klock, Stoffie Bellinger, Jacob G. Weber, Peter F. Bellinger, Melchert Thumb, Philip Herter, Christian Shelbach and John M. Smith. Domine Spinner's first residence was on the south side in a house on the glebe of the church where Mohawk is now, corner Main and Columbia streets. This house was burned Feb. 8, 1802, about a fort night after the birth of the minister's first son, Francis E. Spinner, who became Secretary of the Treasury under Lincoln. Mr. Spinner next moved to a house a mile east of Herkimer but shortly afterwards he bot a three acre plot of ground at the foot of Prospect Street in the village which he made his home the rest of his life.>/p>

Domine Spinner's Family Record

To show the individualistic way that Domine Spinner had of recording vital statistics, we present his records of the birth of his four sons. "'January 21st, 1802 Thursday, in Germanflatts, about four o'clock in the morning, in the sign of the Virgin, (two days and twelve hours before the full moon), was born Francis Elias, legitimate child, first born of John Peter Spinner, pastor of Germanflatts and Herkimer, and Maria Magdalena Fidelis, born Brument, the sponsors being the uncles of Francis Spinner....both residing in Germany. Their places were supplied by William Clapsattle, Colonel, in the same. A destructive fire occurring on the 8th destroyed my pleasing project and under pressure of necessity William Clapsattle alone acted as sponsor in the house of the widow Schumacher on the 12th of February, 1802." The domine records the births of the second son, John Daniel, as taking place "August 23rd, 1803, in Herkimer at 11:45, noon, in the sign of the Scorpion (the sun entering the Virgin two days and three hours before the first quarter of the moon)." The third son, John Peter Benedict, was "born May 16, 1805, in the sign of the archer, the third hour after breakfast." A fourth son, Jacob William, "was born October 27, 1808, at 3:30 a.m. in the sign of the water carrier (Aquarius), the moon being full."

Rev. Spinner's financial troubles at German Flatts were unceasing, while at Herkimer the question of English preaching would not down. For two years Domine Spinner (while at German Flatts) preached at Riemensnyders Bush. Rev. Ketchum organized a rival church both at German Flatts and at Herkimer. The Herkimer church was burned in 1834, and Mr. Spinner withdrew from it May 1, 1841. But there are no records kept by him up to the time of his decease almost, May 27, 1848.

The records do not show that any final settlement was ever made of the arrears of salary owed him. Domine Spinner was a really great man; there was a humanness about him common to all; perhaps his records, while complete yet caustic in severe condemnation of his enemies, were meant to be a private diary in keeping with priestly customs; our Christian charity will overlook much but our sense of justice will ever lead us to appreciate the unwritten story of his Christ and the Herkimer and Fort Herkimer Churches. Classis on May 18, 1842, directed that supplies be sent to the church to preach in English, and out of glebe rents $75.00 was recommended to pay for the same. Rev. Mr. Spinner at this time was receiving $100.00 a year, and the consistory was even at that behind in his pay. Consistory agreed to this arrangement, the same to begin in May, 1843. On April 14, 1844, the consistory voted to call Rev. Jedehiah L. Stark to preach in the English language. Classis approved the calls on Mr. Stark from German Flatts and Mohawk on April 16, 1844, and he was installed the third Wednesday in May. Mr. Spinner presided at the meetings of Consistory at German Flatts until Sept. 21, 1845. From April 19, 1846, Rev. Stark signed the minutes as President of that body. Until the decease of Mr. Spinner, 1848, the statistical reports of the Classis of Montgomery carried the names of both men as co-pastors at German Flatts. Mr. Stark was the last settled pastor at Fort Herkimer. After a ministry of nearly a decade he left the church but returned to it for two years' service in 1862 and 1863, in which latter year he died. In the interim the church was supplied by nearby pastors. The statistical records for 1865-1885 are missing. An old subscription list show that Rev. Stark gave a year's salary toward repairs to the church. Later this same thing was done by Rev. John H. Brandow and Rev. C.W. Kinney. These men were entitled to the glebe rentals but when they were collected and paid over to them, they in turn, paid them back for said repairs. Rev. Jeremiah Petrie, a native of Herkimer and living there at the time, supplied the pulpit through 1864-1865. He was present at the Consistory meeting April 20, 1863 and Rev. Mr. Gardiner of Herkimer was present March 12, 1863.

Successive Pastors

Following Rev. Petrie came Rev. John J. Quick, who had been at Currytown and Mapletown in the same classis. Mr. Quick's name appears in consistory records from Oct. 29, 1866 through 1867. Rev. G.D.W. Consaul, then of Mohawk and later for several years at Herkimer, supplied the church from 1869 through 1872. After Mr. Consaul came Rev. Wm. N. Todd, who was later Presbyterian pastor at McAllisterville, Pa., and Rev. Wm. Hoffman later in the Deckerville, Mich. Presbyterian church, and Rev. Mr. Johns, a Methodist minister who died in 1885. After 1875 and for five years the pulpit was supplied only in the summers, and by seminarians. Rev. Dr. John G. Lansing, pastor at the time in the Mohawk church, and later Professor of Hebrew at the New Brunswick Seminary, supplied the pulpit frequently during the years he was in Mohawk (1876-1879). Then came Rev. Daniel Lord, M.D., whose great-great-great grandfather, Rev. Benj. Lord, was for sixty-seven years a pastor of the Congregational Church of Norwich, Conn. Dr. Lord was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (1844) and of New Brunswick (1847). He came to the church at Henderson, built in 1829 (now extinct), in 1851 and was there through 1856. After an absence of four years he returned to Henderson and remained until 1864. During 1873 thru 1878 he was head physician in the South Side Dispensary of Chicago. For a third time he came to Henderson, in 1879, and supplied Henderson, Columbia and Fort Herkimer. While preaching in the Jordanville church on Sept. 10, 1899, Dr. Lord was suddenly called home to his Lord. He had spent nearly thirty years of his life at Henderson and Jordanville (1851-1856; 1860-1864; 1878-1899).

Rev. John Brandow, pastor at Mohawk, supplied the church during 1886 and 1887, and Rev. Albert Dodd Minor, Mr. Brandow's successor at Mohawk was here from 1888 through 1891. Succeeding him came Rev. Ira Van Allen from 1892 to 1896. He was pastor at the time in Mohawk and since leaving there has lived in Syracuse, and for many years has been the stated supply at the Owasco Outlet Reformed Church, near Auburn. Mr. J. Abrew Smith, a layman, supplied the church from 1893 thru 1899. It was during his work there that the platform pulpit was built below the high pulpit and other changes were made. Rev. E.J. Meeker of the Mohawk church next filled the pulpit through the years 1900 to 1903. Mr. Meeker filled other pastorates in the Montgomery Classis. He died recently. During his short pastorate at Herkimer, Rev. Jacob Dyke preached occasionally at the church, and supplied regularly for a year beginning June, 1905. From 1909 through 1911 the Rev. Charles W. Kinney preached here. Leaving the Mohawk church Mr. Kinney went to the Schuylerville Reformed Church where he is still the pastor. In 1912, following work done by the Classical Missionary, Rev. W. N. P. Dailey, now of New York, the property was conveyed to the Montgomery Classis whose trustees administer the same. With the aid of Rev. J. Howard Brinckerhoff, at the time the pastor of the Herkimer Church, the church rights in the glebe rentals were successfully guarded, and for some of the old church records rescued from private hands. For several years previous to 1917, when he resigned the pulpit of the Mohawk church, the Rev. Oscar E. Beckes supplied the pulpit at Fort Herkimer. The next pastor at Mohawk, Rev. Arthur B. Boynton, had the oversight of the pulpit and after him, his successor at Mohawk, Rev. Francis P. Ihrman. In order to perpetuate the character of the edifice it was thought best to secure it to the Classis that the religious purposes of its founders might be sustained through the years to come. While there is opportunity to aid in preserving the old stone church on the part of the patriotic and historical societies of the valley, still the spiritual and social needs of the community are of paramount importance and the people who live in the environs of this nearly two hundred year old edifice may well take pride in their personal support of the same. We close the chapter with the ardent hope that for generations to come this sacred edifice that represents the prayers and longings and labors of a host of men and women through the centuries past may stand to inspire and encourage the people of the Mohawk Valley for the undiscovered futures that lie ahead.

That completes the first part of the book. Faith's transcription continues with notes and other items from the second half of the book.


The Burnetsfield settlement was on the extreme western frontier of the Province of New York. Gov. Burnet's idea in placing the Palatines there was to form a human barrier against the incursions of the French. He wanted them to go further into the Indian country but the Palatines strongly demurred so the Governor compromised on the upper valley of the Mohawk. There is not very much documentary evidence regarding the locality after the people had taken up the land. Excepting missionary work among the Indians at Fort Herkimer and in some degree, perhaps, at the other two castles, the German Lutherans and the Dutch were the only religious bodies working in the valley. Rev. John Jacob Ehle, the ordained Episcopal clergyman frequently preached in the other churches and in his reports to the English Society (1730) refers to his work among the Palatines in their two settlements on the Mohawk for which he received thirty pounds a year, which, by the way, in comparison, was much better support than the London society gave him and his family. His headquarters was at Nelliston, opposite Fort Plain, and the old stone house is still standing, Ehle's original dwelling being erected in 1729. The earliest reference to a church building at Herkimer is in the will of Nicholas Feller, dated May 28, 1734, in which he bequeaths his seat in the church to Hans Nicholas Crisman (his son-in-law). The will does not show which church was meant, on the north or south side of the river. Nicholas Feller had lot No. 7 on the north side but his wife, Mary Feller, had lot No. 16 on the south side. There is no "Crisman" among the original patentees. Nicholas Welleven, who sold the acre of land to the church on the south side, married a daughter of Nicholas Feller. The name of Crisman appears later among the pew holders in the church on the south side. We do not know which church the Nicholas Feller refers to. There was not likely any substantial church edifice on either side of the river by 1734.

About the time that Rev. Spinner came to German Flatts the Rev. Caleb Alexander, a Congregational Missionary, made a trip through this part of the valley. In the latter part of the year 1801 he was in Norway, Fairfield, and Salisbury, ministering to the people there. He quotes the population of these towns as 3,606 and says the County of Herkimer had a population of 14,503. He writes that there no ministers in Herkimer "excepting illiterate Baptist preachers". This is an error since Domine Spinner began his work on Herkimer on July 4, 1801. He visited the village on the south side and also Little Falls and refers to the new octagonal church in the latter place. He says that the Dutch minister at the stone church (Fort Herkimer) preaches in it every other Sunday. It was this Rev. Caleb Alexander who founded Fairfield Academy and remained there until 1812.

Rev. Mr. Spinner brought to the Montgomery Classis, Sept. 30, 1818 from Fort Herkimer a third call for its approval. It's recorded in the Records of Incorporation of Herkimer County. The salary was to be $750, of which Herkimer was to pay $400. There was a vacation of six Sundays. There seems to have been some misunderstanding about the obligations involved in this call on the part of the consistories and it was nearly two years before Classis and the churches were able to adjust matters satisfactorily to both parties. But the ghost of trouble would not down, and what with the land problems on the south side, and the increasing burden of debt there, and the north side the persistent agitation over the German and English services, the domine was overwhelmed with financial and congregational trials. To ease the burden somewhat he turned toward Manheim and became the first Reformed church pastor in the old "Yellow Church", alternating with Rev. Domier, who preached for the Lutherans. The Reformed-Lutheran Union Church continued until about 1861 when the Lutherans entirely controlled. During the years 1827 and 1828 Mr. Spinner was forced to engage in extra work in order to "make ends meet".

The bill finally presented for salary arrears was $1325.10. We remember seeing a paper among the old documents of German Flatts which showed that the minister offered to cut it in two if the churches would settle for half. The clerk of the consistory then recorded the debt as but half, $661.05. Mr. Spinner taught languages in the Utica High School for upwards of two years, the services being conducted in the meantime by a Rev. F. Snyder, (nephew of Gov. Snyder of Pennsylvania) but (Mr. Spinner writes) with decreasing audiences. Montgomery Classis (Mar. 6., 1829) called the domine to account for leaving his pulpit but in later conference they decided he was justified in so doing, and by counsel with the churches smoothed the way for his return. Rev. Mr. Snyder, cooperating the English services to which the minister had to yield in some degree.

There is an interesting map data of these two Palatine villages, Herkimer and Fort Herkimer. Mitchell's 1755 map shows German Flatts on the north and "Fort Herkimer" on the south; the Johnson map of 1768 has the same markings except it is "Harkemar" on the south; the "Crown" map of Albany County (no date but supposed to be about 1756) shows "Burnets Field or German Flatts" on the north, and a church mark, and "Fort Herhemans" on the south; Pfister's map of N.Y. Province, same as above but no church (destroyed in 1758); Abercrombies's map (1758) has German Flatts on north and "Fort Herhemans" on south; "Crown" map of New York to Montreal has Fort Herkimer on south and nothing on north (this was a road map and the road was on the south side); "Crown" Albany-Oswego map shows German Flatts on the west side of Canada Creek, "Burnets Field Precinct" on the east side of Canada Creek, the "Hercheimer House", separate from the Fort, on the south side and a little west of the Hercheimer house is shown the "Col. Vrank" house and still further west "Tolmer's Kill," and west of this but across the river, "End of Burnetsfield"; Montressors's map (1775) shows "Burnets Field or German Flatts" on the north and the mark of a church, and on the south, "Fort Herchimers Flatts" is shown marked clear across the Mohawk; Otten's map (1755) shows only Schenectady and Burnetsfield in the whole valley.

In the year 1788 Elkanah Watson, who was interested in the water development of the State and was, perhaps, the moving genius of the Erie Canal, made a tour of this part of the country. He describes it as a "beautiful land, surrounded by majestic hills, a rich agricultural region, a land flowing with milk and honey." He says German Flatts had long been settled but the people have suffered terribly from the ravages of the Tories and the Indians, evidence of which could be seen everywhere. Many block houses, built for protection, were still standing. Wherever he went he had to listen to tales of barbarism for the enemy spared not even women and children, let alone helpless old men. He was shown over the Oriskany battlefield and saw the tree from which Gen. Herkimer, though mortally wounded, directed the conflict. He writes that the ground was still covered with the bones of the fallen. It is a well known fact that the killed in the battle of Oriskany were not interred.

It was to this place, Fort Herkimer that Walter Butler, most infamous of the infamous of the enemy, came, after the Battle of Oriskany to urge the people to take sides with the British. He portrayed the union of the forces of St. Leger with those of Burgoyne and Clinton and the sure defeat of the independents. And there were those in the valley who were weary with the continuous savagery of the enemy and ready to compromise with the enemy for the sake of peace. Butler was arrested and convicted as a spy, and sentenced to death. Through certain influences he was confined at Albany from which imprisonment he soon escaped to wreak his diabolic vengeance on the men, women, and children of the Mohawk Valley. What a saving of life and of untold sorrow and suffering, let alone loss of property, if Sir John Johnson had been made a prisoner at Johnstown, instead of being allowed to break his parole,-if Brant had been summarily dealt with at Unadilla when he decided on rapine and bloodshed,-if Walter Butler had been held at Fort Herkimer until the execution of his sentence! But that's a backwards glance at these fields incarnate, with the foreground agleam with the hope and patience and mercy of the Palatines.

Considering the murderous raids in the valley under the direction of Sir John Johnson here is a most remarkable evidence either of full forgiveness or of utter forgetfulness. In the consistory records under the date May 23, 1825 is the following minute:

"Resolved, that our heartfelt thanks Shall be Sent in the Name of our Congregation to his Lordship the free Baronet Sir John Johnson of Lower Canada for his Great and Liberal Donation to our Church in our present pecuniary embarrassment and that our Minister shall and is hereby requested to Communicate our thankful feelings to his Lordship as Likewise to make the same Donation known to the Congregation at Large from the pulpit in order that our Members may take and keep his Lordship & noble family in their prayerful Remembrance". The amount given by Sir John Johnson is not stated. Lossing says that the "German Flatts church was erected under the auspices and by the liberal contributions of Sir William Johnson." Others, also, think that most of the churches built in the valley before the baronet's death were erected in part or in whole by him. But Lossing is mistaken for Sir William aided only churches erected by the Church of England. The only exception we know of is that of the First Presbyterian Church of Schenectady and the reason for this subscription may be due to the fact that the Presbyterians used the Episcopal church for a while for services.

Numerous raids were made against German Flatts and the surrounding territory after the devastation of the village on the north side, Nov. 12, 1757. In 1758 Nicholas Herkimer was made a lieutenant in the Schenectady (Mohawk Valley) militia and as such led a company in repulsing an attack by a French and Indian war party. In July, 1776 he was instrumental in the formation of the Tryon County Militia, and was made the "chief colonel" in the same year of the militia. Herkimer and Brant were friends when the latter lived at Canajoharie in the Upper Mohawk Castle. At the Unadilla conference in 1777 Gen. Herkimer was most patient with the Indian chieftain and hoped to gain his influence in the interest of peace, but in vain. The raids began to be very bitter after that conference. The August, 1778, raid on German Flatts had usually been ascribed to Brant's leadership, yet the Canadian archives say it was directed by Captain Garnett, who, with forty men destroyed the place. There was no resistance on the part of the people. But the Canadian records are wrong in saying the place was destroyed. Brant led the raid of 1780, accompanied by 150 Indians and 300 Tories and he also led the raid against the settlement in 1782. The escape of the people in both villages in the September, 1778, raid was due to the timely warning of John Adam Helmer [Note: Adam Helmer rests in the Helmer Cemetery, posted on the Cayuga County NYGenWeb site.] One does not have to go to New England and listen to the story of Paul Revere's pleasant April morning ride to save a few army stores (which he did not save) for a tale of heroism. Here in the upper valley of the Mohawk occurred the midnight ride and foot race of John Adam Helmer in September, 1778, warning the settlers and dwellers all along the way of the approach of the bloodthirsty Tories and demoniac savages, arriving half hour ahead of them with torn garments, and bloodshot eyes and bleeding hands and feet, but he saved hundreds of lives from the tomahawk and the torch. Or go the other end of the valley and read the story of the midnight ride of Simon Schermerhorn, his family killed and himself wounded by the "praying Indians" of the Jesuits, when Schenectady was burned February 9, 1690,- to Albany by the longer road, past Niskayuna, that he might warn the settlers there, to arrive at the Albany gates of Fort Orange exhausted, his charge dropping dead. And the militia, essaying to aid the people and punish the French and Indians, could not reach Schenectady because of the depth of the snow through which Schermerhoorn rode.

On Feb. 7, 1816, the German Flatts Consistory resolved to ask the Chancellor's Court at Albany to allow them to sell certain church lands in order to meet their indebtedness, then amounting to $1500. Court convened Feb. 23, 1816 and permission was granted. Another Chancery Court case was that of the church at Warren, filed April 29, 1825, in which that consistory sought a revisionary interest in German Flatts glebe. The petition was denied on May 13, 1826. The Warren Church is now called Columbia and was formerly called, Coenradstown. In the answer of the German Flatts consistory it is said that the "Church, Congregation, & Society...was first organized in the year 1753, at which time a building was erected and dedicated at or near the spot where the present church now stands". There is nothing in this statement to prove that there was no religious society prior to 1753. The consistory was referring to an organization that they could prove in court. The present stone church might well have been built far enough for use, and dedicated, to be completed in 1767. The Herkimers, John Jost and his son, Nicholas, had built substantial stone and brick houses, the former in 1740 and the latter in 1764, and it seems reasonable to believe that the congregation would not have gone out into all the surrounding country seeking funds wherewith to build either a log church or one that would last but a decade, if the present structure was begun, say about 1764. Again, it does not seem possible that the large and increasing population on the south side, to which was added the soldiers at the fort, would have waited thirty years before either organizing a church or beginning to erect a substantial one, especially since they had been interested enough to buy the land as early as 1730, on which was already a school house wherein their first worship undoubtedly began.

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:

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