In earlier columns, I have written about about the histories of the Dutch Reformed, Lutheran, and Presbyterian Churches in the town of Schaghticoke. The Dutch Reformed Church was the first in town, founded around 1715. The Presbyterian was the first church in the new village of Schaghticoke, founded in 1803. It was followed by the Methodist Church in 1820. According to a history of the church written by Mrs. C. H. Edwards in 1952, the first Methodist meeting was held in the Travis Tavern in the year 1820. Meetings were held in private homes for a few years. The first church was in a small building, behind the current car wash in the village of Schaghticoke. It had been a blacksmith shop. After its official incorporation in 1831, the congregation outgrew the site, and built a new church in 1834 at the corner of 5th and East Streets. According to Sylvester’s History of Rensselaer County, it was built by a Mr. Mann, whose father built the first Presbyterian Church in 1803. Among the 40 or so subscribers to the building fund were “many benevolent citizens not Methodists, but willing to help in any religious work or public improvement.” This church was only used for about twenty years. In 1852 a lot was purchased on Main Street, where the car wash is now, from Amos Briggs and Betsey Hart for $250. A new church was erected at a cost of $3,300. At this time, the congregation split from the one at Schaghticoke Hill, just down Route 40, where there was also a church building.
The records of the church now extant date from 1864. In that year, the church applied to be separate from the other “charges” (churches) in its circuit, at Schaghticoke Hill and “Junction” (Melrose). This implies that one minister would have ridden circuit, serving the several churches, but that the Schaghticoke church felt it could support a full-time minister on its own. This first minister was W.H. Hughes, whose records are full of praise for God and the generous members of his congregation. There were 68 full members and 16 probationers. Member Bloomfield Usher and his wife Asenath Ann donated a lot for a parsonage the next year, and a parsonage was erected at a cost of about $2500. It was later used as the Presbyterian Manse after the union with that church. Mr. Usher and two other members each gave $300 toward the parsonage, with donations from about 30 other people, and the proceeds from attendance at three lectures adding up to $1808. $200 more was earned from selling the church at Crandall’s Corners. That is the intersection to the north on Route 40 where one turns to go to Borden’s Apple Orchard. So within just a few years, the church spent over $5000 on new buildings, and became an independent entity. Despite this promising start, from 1869-1872 “the church flourished but poorly, and at least once the prospect of its existence seemed doubtful.” It went back to sharing a pastor, this time with the Valley Falls church, which was much larger. The loyalty of several members and the appointment of a couple of more charismatic pastors improved the situation, and the church went back to having its own pastor. In general, the pastors stayed about two years each after that, and the records fluctuate between joy at the revival of interest in the church and concern that financial obligations are not being met. Periodically, pastors were shared with either Valley Falls or Schaghticoke Hill. In 1877 the congregation “engaged in a Murphy Temperance Reform, which was a complete success.” In 1888, the first females appeared in the list of stewards of the church, “sisters Baker and Ackart.” The church was completely remodeled in 1892.
As with the Presbyterian Church, there were societies or committees within the church for specific purposes: the Willing Workers, the Ladies Aid, and the Epworth and Literary Leagues, the Temperance, Tract, Missions, and Freedmen committees. Of course there was also a Sunday School and a choir. In 1893, the Epworth League had 48 members and a Junior League conducted by Miss Olmstead, Miss Tarbell, and Mrs Baldwin. “They have instructed in catechism and in scripture, and Mrs. Baldwin has introduced a drill with dumb bells, a pleasing and healthful exercise which pleases the children very much.”
Also like the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist church was damaged by the periodic explosions at the Powder Mill in Valley Falls. In 1904 the windows in the auditorium were repaired “by a Boston expert at the expense of the Powder Company,” and a new “Belgium lamp” was purchased to be used “in place of the lamp thrown down and damaged by the last powder mill explosion.” In 1913 “matters” were settled with the Powder Company for $200, but it was suggested retaining a lawyer if there were future damages to obtain a better settlement. In 1923, Pastor Jenkins reported damages to the parsonage by the Powder Mill explosion.
The minutes of the Quarterly Conferences over the years reveal constant need for fund raising, repair to the church or parsonage, efforts of the Sunday School or one of the organizations, generous donations of time and/or money by members, arrival and departure of ministers, organists, and sextons. The 1906 minutes give this list of the sexton’s duties: sweep, dust, clean the kitchen, mow the lawn, sweep the walks and steps, shovel the same, keep lamps filled and lit and put out, their wicks trimmed as needed, build fires as needed, tend fires, ring the bell, adjust ventilation at meetings, maintain decorum around the church, undo any extra decorations for services. In case of an event at the church where admission was charged, the sexton would get an extra dollar. For this, the sexton, this time Delbert Seymour, would receive $100 per year. In the 1905 census, Delbert Seymour, a 25-year-old who lived with his grandmother Cinthia Knickerbocker, was listed as owning a blacksmith shop. So being sexton was by no means his full-time job.
Apparently in 1931, the church property at Schaghticoke Hill was sold. In 1932, the pastorate began to be shared with Melrose and in 1950 with Valley Falls again. After much discussion, the church joined with the Presbyterian Church across the street in 1960, leaving its building. The new church’s name was the Presbyterian United Church. The former Methodist Parsonage was used for the minister. That home, almost opposite the Schag-a-Val diner on Main Street, was sold a few years ago. The Methodist Church building was sold to the “Schaghticoke Sun” newspaper, with the proceeds to be used for improvements to the Presbyterian Church building. A newspaper article in the “Sun” in 1961 reported that “the (church) building is under reconstruction to make room downstairs for the workshop of the “Schaghticoke Sun. Upstairs the Hoosic Valley Fife and Drum Corps are remodeling the rooms to be used as their headquarters. They will use these rooms as a meeting hall and also for their weekly drills.” The church burned in 1980, and is now the site of a gas station and car wash. Unfortunately, most of the only surviving back issues of the “Sun”, dating to about 1885, were lost in the fire.
As with the Presbyterian Church, we can enjoy learning about the ins and outs of an active community congregation thanks to preservation of at least some of its records. If you would like to read more, my transcription of the records is online at http://www.townofschaghticoke.org, Click on History at the left side of the page.