The Evangelical Lutheran
By Capt. Franklin Ellis373
From a sketch by the pastor, Rev. S. A. Weikert.
The early records of this body are vague and unsatisfactory, and, prior to 1825, consist mainly of the record of the baptism of two hundred and twenty-nine infants, many of whose names cannot be deciphered. But from contemporary memoranda, it appears that prior to 1775 several Lutheran families resided in this vicinity who had occasional preaching by ministers from Rhinebeck and Germantown. In consequence the organization of a church followed, without, however, having their own house of worship prior to 1801. That year, in consideration of repairs made by the Lutherans, a half-interest was obtained in the Dutch Reformed meeting-house in Squampamock, the transfer of which was dated Dec. 5, 1801, and signed by John C. Lawrence, Johannes and Bartholemew Hogeboom, Daniel Pultz, and John Tator. This joint ownership of the church property was continued more than forty years.
The church being too weak to support a pastor of its own, the pulpit was supplied at stated times by the Revs. Frederick Quitman, of Rhinebeck, Augustus Wackerhagen, of Germantown, and Rev. Uhl, of Churchtown.
Their ministry was attended by many additions to the membership of the church, and the baptism of a large number of infants. The names of many of these are yet recognized in the families of the present citizenship of Ghent, though somewhat modified by the changes of time. The early services of the church, as well as the intercourse among the people, was in the German, and were continued as late as 1825 in that language.
Oct. 12, 1815, a joint meeting of the Lutheran and Dutch Reformed church was held to devise measures to erect a new house of worship. Having determined to build, the contract was awarded to Ephraim Baldwin, who began work in the spring of 1816. The house was reared on the site of the old building, on the southeast corner of the present Union cemetery, in spite of a determined effort to secure its erection in the western part of the town. It was a frame, forty-five by fifty-five feet, and cost $4550. The dedicatory services were performed in the spring of 1817, by the Rev. Dr. Quitman, of Rhinebeck. On the 8th of November, 1818, the church was incorporated, under the laws of the State, with the following council: Trustees, Henry Shufelt, David Cookingham, and John Rossman; Elders, Jonathan Traver and John Y. Tator; Deacons,, John M. Pultz, Frederick Traver, Henry Tator.
The congregation continued to be supplied with preaching by other churches until Oct. 5, 1826, when the Rev. Jacob Berger was installed as the first settled pastor by Dr. Wackerhagen, president of the synod of New York. Rev. Berger was a graduate of Union College, a profound theologian, eloquent to an unusual degree, and possessed of deep personal piety. He was a power in the pulpit and out of it. He served this church, in connection with those of Churchtown and Valatie, during his entire ministerial life, extending over a period of more than seventeen years. He died in his field of labor, March 11, 1842, aged forty-five years, and was interred at Churchtown. His pastorate was very prosperous: one hundred and seventy-three were added to the church,--one hundred and forty-two by confirmation,--and four hundred and twenty-five children were baptized. The largest number of communicants reported was in 1841,--one hundred and and twenty. Of the eighty who celebrated the Lord's Supper the first time after his settlement, Mrs. Hannah Groat, now eighty-seven years old, is the only survivor.
About 1827 a parsonage was built conjointly by the Ghent and Churchtown societies at Mellenville, which yet remains as the property of William Thompson.
A vacancy of ten months followed Mr. Berger's decease, when the Rev. E. Deyoe became the pastor. During his three years' ministerial connection the church passed through one of the most remarkable epochs of its history,--the separation from the Dutch Reformed church, and the building of a house of worship owned solely by itself. This step was necessitated by the rapidly-increasing membership of both churches, which demanded more frequent worship than before, each requiring the exclusive use of a house. By the terms agreed upon, the Lutherans sold their interest in the house, with a stipulation which permitted them to use it until June 1, 1845. A committee was accordingly appointed to select a site for the new church, which reported Oct. 4, 1845; and of the five places suggested, it was decided to build on the lot offered by Dr. Pugsley, and which is now occupied by the meeting-house. In consequence of this determination, twenty families living in the southern part of the town withdrew from the church, but subsequently most of them reunited. Jacobus Harder, Michael I. Waltermire, George W. Deniger, George D. Pultz, and Jacobus Van Hoesen were appointed a building committee, under whose supervision the house was commenced in the fall of 1845. It was completed the following summer, at a cost of $5000, and was consecrated by the Rev. Dr. Pohlman, of Albany, with the corporate name of "Christ's Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghent."
Rev. E. Deyoe closed his pastorate in 1846, to accept a call in New Jersey. He was an earnest, practical preacher and a faithful pastor, whose connection with the church was promotive of its good. Sixty-six were added to the membership, forty-seven by confirmation. From 1846 to 1866 the church had a gradual growth, and nothing worthy of note occurred except the pastoral changes. These were Rev. Geo. W. Lewis, form March, 1847 to 1850, who was deposed form the ministerial office for irregularity of conduct; Rev. John Rugan, from Sept. 18, 1850 to Dec. 1, 1852; Rev. J. D. English, from Feb. 1, 1853 to June 1854; Rev. N. H. Cornell, from July 1854 to February 1861; Rev. Peter Felts, from Sept. 1, 1861 to 1870.
While he was pastor, in the summer 1866, the meeting-house was enlarged from its original dimensions, forty by fifty feet, to its present capacious size, and otherwise improved, at a cost of $2700. It is now a very neat and attractive structure, and reflects credit upon the committee charged with making the alterations. This was composed of Cyrus Groat, Michael I. Waltermire, and Wm. Stupplebeem.
Mr. Felts' successful pastorate was closed March 1, 1870, and from that period until Jan. 1, 1871, the pastoral office was vacant. Then the Rev. A. S. Hartman came and filled it two years. A year's vacancy followed, when the Rev. J. A. Tomlinson became the spiritual guide of the church for a period of thirteen months. The present pastor, the Rev. S. A. Weikert, assumed charge July 11, 1875. During his three years' pastorate the membership of the church has been increased by the addition of 50 persons, 36 of whom were received as a result of the revival in the winter of 1876. The church at present (1878) numbers 75 families, 165 communicants, and is in a prosperous condition.
Substantial improvements have lately been made on the church property and parsonage, putting them in excellent condition. The official board is composed of: Trustees, Jeremiah Kittle, Albert S. Winn, and William Geary; Elders, Sylvester Melius, Cyrus Groat, and Henry Shults; Deacons, Charles Arnold, Levi Laik, and Martin Stupplebeem.
A Sunday-school was organized by the Rev. Berger in the early part of his pastorate, which, excepting a few years, has always been superintended by Sylvester Melius. It now numbers 115 members.