The History of Otsego County, New York


D. Hamilton Hurd

Published by Everts & Fariss, Philadelphia

Church Histories



The LUTHERAN church of Hartwick Seminary. 
Rev. John C. HARTWICK, the founder of Hartwick  seminary, was the pioneer preacher of the gospel in that  portion of New York State which is now known as Otsego County. Mr. Hartwick was a native of the dukedom of Saxe-Gotha, in the province of Thuringia, in Germany; and, according to his own account of himself, was "sent hither, a missionary preacher of the gospel, upon petition and call of some Palatine congregations in the counties of Albany and Dutchess."
The precise date of his arrival in this country is not given. He was born Jan. 4, 1714, and, it is presumed began his active life here as soon as he was able after his studies were completed. The first few years of his labors were divided between New York, Pennsylvania, New  Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and New England; and his restless spirit seemed to have no settled purpose, save the preaching of the gospel, until about the year 1750, when he bought from the Mohawk Indians a tract of land containing about thirty-six square miles. For this he paid L100; though, from some defect in the transaction, he never  realized any benefit from this purchase. This tract was  situated on the south side of the Mohawk river, and extended towards Schoharie and Cherry Valley.
Mr. Hartwick, however, was not discouraged by this failure; and, as the sequel shows, did not give up the  intention of becoming an extensive land-owner. Four years later, in 1754, he obtained a deed for the tract which  includes the present town of Hartwick, Otsego Co., N.Y. For this he also paid L100. It is not worth our while to discuss his motives in making these purchases; his version of the matter is that he wished to colonize the tract, to preach the gospel to the savages, and by education and religion to raise up barriers to the encroachments of tyranny and infidelity. This we know, that at his death he left all his worldly effects for the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom. From the proceeds of the sale of the estate was established the institution which still bears his honored name. It is our purpose to notice only such events as pertain to the preaching of the gospel here; the facts in connection with the establishment and progress of the seminary may be found on another page of this work.
Though for many years the church and seminary were almost identical, yet the church has a history peculiar to itself. After the death of Mr. HARTWICK, which occurred July 17, 1796, Rev. John Fred. ERNST was appointed by the executors "to preach for the inhabitants and to assist in the education of their youth, with the intent to ascertain whether the land in the patent would prove an eligible spot for the seminary." He labored here till about the year 1800.
For fifteen years from this time affairs were very unsettled. The question of the location of the new seminary was continually agitated. Sometimes it was almost settled that it should be at Schoharie, then at Cooperstown, New York, and Albany, where the foundation was actually begun. Meanwhile the preaching of the gospel was largely neglected. The question of location at length being finally settled, the foundation of the seminary was laid on the present site in the year 1812, and the building was completed in the following year. On the 15th of December, 1815, Rev. Dr. Ernest Lewis HAZELIUS opened the school. From this time dates the regular and continual preaching of the word to the students and to those inhabitants who were willing to avail themselves of the privilege. Dr. HAZELIUS labored here until 1830, when Rev. Dr. George  B. MILLER was elected as his successor in the institution. Dr. MILLER continued the work till 1839, when he removed to Dansville. Although we have not been able to discover any account of the first organization of the church, yet we find as early as Sept. 28, 1817, an entry of this kind: Resolves of the Vestry. Resolved, That henceforth every  Lord's day a collection shall be made, as in other churches, for the wants of the room we meet in, which resolve was published by me October 5th. Ernest L. Hazelius, Pastor pro temp.
Another entry, bearing the date of December 15, in the same year, says, "It being deemed improper that the election of church officers should be held on the day of sacrament, it was resolved by the vestry to hold our election for  church officers on January 1st, and so on for time to come."
From these extracts we conclude that the organization was effected about the same time that the seminary began its operation. Drs. HAZELIUS and MILLER were both members of the "Evangelical Lutheran Synod of New York" (afterwards called the New York Ministerium), and the congregation sustained the same synodical relations. On the resignation of Dr. MILLER as principal of the seminary,  in the year 1839, the institution suspended operations for one year, during which time the buildings were enlarged and improved. Measures were taken, however, to secure the preaching of the word, and an item in the church record, in the handwriting of Rev. J. D. LAWYER, informs us that he "received a call from the Evangelical Lutheran church of Hartwick," and that he accepted the same, and entered upon his duties there on the 1st day of May, 1839.
Another record says, "Pursuant to previous notice, the male members belonging to the Lutheran church convened in the chapel of the academy in Hartwick for the purpose of organizing the church by choosing officers, and of incorporating the church under the statute. The meeting was held on the 10th of August, 1839. Br. John D. LAWYER, the pastor, presided. . . . Bros. Clark DAVISON and  John RICH were elected elders; and Bros. William DAVISON, Philip MICKEL, and ---- SWACKHAMMER, deacons.: Messrs. DEWEY, ELDRED, DERBYSHIRE, ROLINSON, and GOWEY were elected trustees, and steps were taken toward having the church incorporated. The act of  incorporation bears date of Aug. 10, 1839, and was verified before the late Judge Samuel NELSON, of Cooperstown. On July 25 following, the discipline of the Franckean synod was adopted. During the summer they erected a house of worship, and Rev. N. Van Alstine, president of the Franckean synod, dedicated it to the service of God. The contract for building the church was let at $1400, and that amount was raised by subscription to discharge the debt. By some mismanagement, however, when they came to settle accounts they found the cost to be $1800, which, of course, left $400 unprovided for. For this amount a mortgage was given; and this, as is so often the case with church mortgages, became a source of great annoyance to them. When it became due, there being no funds to meet it, the church was locked, and it was only after considerable trouble and contention that it was again opened for worship. In order to liquidate this debt, a sinking fund society was organized, and it held monthly meetings until it had raised not only enough to discharge the debt on the church building, but also contributed a  similar amount for the other expenses of the congregation. The society afterwards reorganized into a "Foreign Missionary Society," and for many years contributed yearly a handsome sum for that department of Christian benevolence; indeed, it continued its operations until the death of its guiding  spirit, the sainted Lottie MILLER.
Rev. J. D. LAWYER continued his labors about four years -from 1839 to 1843. In 1840, Rev. W. D. STROBEL, D.D., was elected principal of the seminary. Believing that his call to the institution also required that he should preach to the students, he felt called upon to perform his obligations to the letter. Mr. LAWYER, having a call from the congregation, held stated services in the church, and Dr. STROBEL preached to the students in the chapel of the seminary. For a time, therefore, there was rival preaching, and it can easily be imagined that this state of affairs was not calculated to foster a kindly feeling. In 1844, Rev. Henry I. SCHMIDT, D.D., was elected principal of the seminary, and Rev. G. B. MILLER, D.D., professor of  theology. Rev. Mr. LAWYER having left the previous year, the congregation was virtually without a pastor for the next five years, though preaching was maintained by the professors. In 1849, Dr. SCHMIDT resigned; and following this event we find an item on the church-book to the effect that on Dec. 15, 1849, the congregation "unanimously invited the Rev. Dr. MILLER to become their pastor." He accepted the relation, and continued the same until his death, which occurred April 5, 1869.
Although we can find no official record of the act by which the congregation resumed its synodical connection with the New York ministerium, we learn from the minutes of the synod that the congregation, after the resignation of Mr. LAWYER, again contributed as before to the various benevolent enterprises of that body, and from the time that Dr. MILLER became the pastor it is regularly enrolled as a part of the synod. This connection continued until the formation of the present New York synod, when it followed its pastor, Dr. MILLER, into that body.
Rev. Wm. N. SCHOLL, D.D., succeeded Dr. MILLER as pastor, and continued the relation as long as he was principal of the seminary. In 1871, Rev. T. T. TITUS, A.M., was elected principal, and also pastor of the church, but on account of physical weakness was unable to preach. Rev. James PITCHER meanwhile performed the pulpit duties, and continued to do so till October 1, 1873. Mr. TITUS died Feb. 15, 1873. On Nov. 7, 1874, Rev. P. BERGSTRESSER, A.M., the newly-elected professor of theology, was invited to assume the pastoral relations with the church.
It will be seen that during its history, except during the four years when it was served by Mr. LAWLER, the  congregation has been served by professors in the seminary. Its present active membership is only about twenty-five. Adding to this fifteen whose names still stand on the church- book, the number is forty-small, indeed, but when we take into account the fact that the duties of the pastors have been chiefly confined to the seminary, their legitimate calling, it is an indication that a much large congregation could have been gathered by a pastor whose labors could have been given entirely to the interests of the society.
CHRISTIAN church of Hartwick was founded on Jan. 9, 1814, by Elder Jonathan NEWMAN and others.
Be it remembered that we, whose names are underwritten, on this 9th day of January, A.D. 1814, do unite ourselves in a church of Christ, by the name of the Christian church, and take Christ for our head and the Bible or New Testament  for our law, and extend our charity to all that are born of  his spirit, and open our arms of love to receive all true Christians to our communion and fellowship, praying God our Father to help us to adorn the doctrine of God our  Saviour, by a holy life and godly conversion for Christ's sake, Amen. Jonathan NEWMAN, Jonathan FISK, Eunice FISK, Benjamin ROSE, Judith ROSE, Nathan FISK, Eleazer BLISS, Jr., Jesse BLISS, Clarissa BLISS, Anthony WEST, Eunice MAIN, Ruth CLARK, Mary SIMS, Sarah BLISS, Sally HEDGES, Lydia FISK, Rachel WINSOR, Daniel WINSOR, Geo. BISHOP, Mary BISHOP, Hannah WEAVER, Samuel WHALEY, Jas. STEERE, Mehitable FISK, Louis CHURCH, Elizabeth CHURCH, Dorcas HAWKINS, Mary BARNS, Phebe WINSOR, Ira STEERE, Lucy STEERE,  Patty BARNEY, Anna RANFORD, Nathan FISK, Jr., Jesse SQUARES, John PRICE, Julius BISSELL, Hannah  CORNWALL, Mehitable PRICE, Lydia WELLS, Mary STEERE, Lucinda COMSTOCK, Martha HAWKINS,  Hezekiah BOWEN, Sabrina WOOD, Cynthia BUTLER,  Smith STEERE, Polly ROBERTS, Celia LIPPITT.
The first church building was erected in 1830. Here the society worshiped until the present church edifice was built and ready for occupancy in 1843. It was dedicated on the first Saturday and Sunday in September of that year; Elder John SPOOR, John ELLIS, John COOK, and others were in attendance. The church cost $1100. Present officers: Deacons, Hosea WINSOR and Edward PAINE; Trustees, John M .HACKLEY, Walter WOOD, and Delos STEERE; Ministerial Committee, E. KNOWLTON, E. R. CARR, and  C. R. STEERE; Treasurer, Wm. WOOD; Librarian, F. J. STEERE. The church is at present in a prosperous condition, and is under the pastoral care of Rev. John Scott COOK.
BAPTIST church. This church is one of the oldest in the  county. May 20, 1795, a few scattered individuals of the Baptist denomination in this region held a conference-meeting in a school-house, at which Rev. James BACON was chosen moderator and John BOSTWICK clerk. This conference met several times until Aug. 19, 1795, when the church was organized, and consisted of twelve members. The first pastor was John BOSTWICK, who commenced his labors immediately after the organization of the church. He was soon after ordained, and served the church for a period of thirty years. The first deacon was Josiah MAPLES. In 1809 Zilba NEWLAND was chosen deacon.
Elder BOSTWICK resigned the pastorate in 1830, and was succeeded by Elder ROBERTSON, who remained  about three years. In 1835, Rev. Nathan BUNDY became pastor, and remained as such about five years. The next pastor was J. N. ADAMS, who officiated until 1846. He was succeeded by Rev. E. H. BAILEY, who officiated  four months, and met a melancholy fate by drowning himself in a well in a fit of mental derangement. Rev. J. B. PIXLEY became pastor in 1847, and was followed by Rev. Jacob GRANTS in 1850, who remained nearly two years, when Mr. PIXLEY returned to the charge, and officiated until 1859. It was during his pastorate that the church edifice was erected. The following-named persons have officiated as pastors and supplies from 1859 to the present time, viz., Rev. J. W. HAMMOND, Russell SPAFFORD, A. MAYNARD, H. FITCH, H. H. FISHER.
The CHRISTIAN church at Hartwick Village was organized by Rev. Samuel B. HAYWARD, assisted by Rev. Stephen HITCHCOCK, on the first day of February, 1853.
The following were the first members, viz.,  S. HARRINGTON, Dana F. HARRINGTON, Elisha  ROBINSON, Daniel TULLER, Gordon PIERCE, Lucitta GARDNER, Thirza M. MOREHOUSE, Fanny HARRINGTON, Hartwick TULLER, Hannah MAPLES, Polly HARRINGTON, Mary MATHEWSON, Eliza POTTER, M. L. HARRINGTON, Sally JOHNSON, Waity B. HARRINGTON, Samantha JOHNSON, Sophrona JOHNSON, Lucinda WELLS, Mary E. GARRETT, Lydia HEAD, Ruth SHERMAN,  Rocena ADAMS, Liberty PIERCE, and Caroline GREEN. The first clerk chosen by the society was Dana F HARRINGTON. The first trustees were S. HARRINGTON, Benjamin DOWNING, Elisha ROBINSON, Amasa ALDRICH,  Alanson LYNN, and Harvey MAPLES; first deacons were D. F. HARRINGTON and E. ROBINSON.
The first pastor settled over the church was Rev. Samuel B. HAYWARD. He was followed by Rev. J. D LAWYER, who was succeeded by Rev. A. DAMON. Mr. DAMON was succeeded in the pastoral office by Rev. C. E. PEAK. The next officiating clergyman was Rev. H. BROWN, who was succeeded by Rev. D. L. PENDELL. The present pastor, Rev. Scott M. COOK, has served the society nearly two years. The following persons have served the church as supplies, viz., Revs. T. TAYLOR, A. HAYWARD, and  W. H. HUMPHREY.
Prior to the erection of the church edifice, services were held in the Presbyterian and subsequently in the Baptist church.
Immediately after the organization of the society a  movement was started for the erection of a church building, and on the fifth day of the following July the present structure was raised. It is 34 by 44 feet, and cost about $2200. It was dedicated Nov. 24, 1853, by the Rev. John ROSS, of Charlestown Four Corners, Montgomery Co., N.Y.,  assisted by Revs. John COOK, Stephen HITCHCOCK, G. WALKER, and S. B. HAYWARD.
This church since its organization has numbered in its membership 385 persons. It is now in a prosperous condition, and has a membership of 174.
The present organization of the church is as follows: Rev. Scott M. COOK, pastor; Mumford ALDRICH, A.  HOLLISTER, and H. S. BRADLEY, trustees; E. ROBINSON and Reuben TALBOT, deacons; S. D. WILLIS, J. H. NORTHRUP, M. ALDRICH, R. ALGER, and H. S. BAILEY, ministerial committee; Mumford ALDRICH, treasurer;  H. S. BAILEY, clerk.
The CONGREGATIONAL church of Hartwick, N.Y., was organized May 30, 1800, by the Rev. Jediah BUSHNELL, a missionary from Connecticut. The constituent members were sixty-eight in number, twenty-four of whom presented letters of dismission from other churches, and forty-four united by profession of their faith. For six years the church had no regular pastor. In 1806, Sept. 26, the first pastor, Whiting GRISWOLD, was installed, who continued his labors nearly five years, when, on account of ill heath, he was obligated to request a dissolution of the pastoral relation.
In 1811 a second pastor, Rev. Henry CHAPMAN, was chosen. He remained with the church from Nov. 18, 1811, until his removal by death, Aug. 30, 1823. His labors were attended with marked success. About one hundred and sixty were added to the church on profession of their faith during his charge.
In 1824 the church selected their third pastor, the Rev. John H. PRENTICE, who labored from Dec. 30, 1824, to Dec. 25, 1829.
From this time until the settlement of Rev. Benjamin Gilbert RILEY, on Feb. 25, 1840, the church employed stated supplies.
Mr. RILEY remained until 1844, when he was succeeded by Rev. Mr. SPENCER, the last installed pastor, who served the church until 1848. During two or three years after the close of Mr. SPENCER's pastorate the pulpit was supplied occasionally by Rev. Chauncey LEE.
The church building was erected in 1810, at a cost of $250; size, 40 by 48 feet.
The following served this church as deacons: David WILLARD, Oct. 17, 1800; Daniel POTTER, June 19, 1802; Jonathan SEYMOUR, July 14, 1812; Sylvanus WEST,  Dec. 18, 1812; Jacob BLISS, Oct. 11, 1817; Daniel BEEBEE, Aug. 31, 1826; Prentice BROWN, March 31,1837; Rufus C. SWIFT, March 31, 1837.
----- M. E. Church at Toddsville was organized in 1865 by the Union society, with twenty-five members. It was first under the  pastoral care of the Rev. H. V. TALBOT. The church edifice was erected in 1865, at a cost of $2300.

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