Early History of the Lutheran Churches in Northern Columbia County, NY
Submitted by Carol B.
This area of Columbia County was settled by the Dutch from Holland and the Germans from the Rhine River area. The Lutherans of Squampamock, the Native American name for Ghent, meaning “meeting of the waters” were organized before the Revolutionary War. Their occasional worship service was conducted by Pastors of the churches in Germantown and Rhinebeck.
In 1775, the first church, a Dutch Reformed Church, was built in the area known as the Hogeboom section of the Squampamock Flats. The next year, members of the Dutch Reformed and Lutheran congregations formed a union church at New Claverack in the town of Hillsdale, “The Reformed-Lutheran Unity Church of Hillsdale” or for short “The Krum Church.”
The number of Lutheran members declined so that by 1800 the Lutheran branch of Krum Church no longer existed. The Reformed Church offered the Lutherans a half share in their building if the Lutherans would form a congregation and repair the building. The next year on June 1, 1801, the roots to Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church were started with the Lutheran Church of Squampamock. Circuit riders, pastors who covered many churches, but did not live in the community, served the Church for many years.
From old records we learn that on October 12, 1815 congregations from both the Lutheran and the Reformed churches met and decided to build a new church for the use of both congregations. On November 7, 1818, the Lutheran Church got its charter. The new joint church was built at the location of the original church, the southeast corner of what is now the Ghent Union Cemetery.
Most pastors called to The Ghent Lutheran Church did not stay very long, but in 1825 Ghent called Reverend Jacob Berger to its ministry to be its first pastor in residence. He may have stayed longer than others because he married a local girl. In 1826, Rev. Berger helped members of his congregation start a mission church, St. Luke’s in Millville (now Valatie). In 1827, a parsonage was built in Mellenville, a joint effort for Ghent and Churchtown. The Pastor also supplied services to Churchtown and Valatie. Reverend Berger’s pastorate lasted seventeen years, sadly ending with his death.
The Ghent church continued to grow. On June 25, 1845, the consistory of the congregation of the First Protestant Reformed Dutch Church of Ghent sent a letter of mutual need for each denomination to have a church of its own. The October 4, 1845 decision to build the church in Lower or Old Ghent was not accepted by all the members. Twenty families withdrew, but most came back later. On March 19, 1846, the Lutherans transferred the title to their half interest in the Reformed Church to the Reformed congregation. On May 30, 1846 they elected trustees and incorporated as “the trustees of the Lutheran Congregation of Christ Church of the Town of Ghent, Columbia County, New York. The Lutherans of Ghent worshipped there for the next seventy five years.
A few decades later, the Reverend AS Hartman DD, the pastor in Ghent, did much to aid the organization of the Emmanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chatham. He left Ghent June 1, 1873 and headed to Brooklyn. The Ghent mission church in Chatham was founded November 6, 1874 with eleven charter members. For several years Ghent supplied pastors for Chatham. Then on July 30, 1894, the Reverend JW Lake resigned from Ghent to “take up mission work in Chatham” and actually became Emmanuel’s full time pastor. At this time, Emmanuel is put on the Mission board..
Squampamock: A Bicentennial History of Ghent, NY, 1976.
Christ Lutheran Church Celebrates 200 Years of Mission, 2001.
The information for the 200th— Bicentennial—– of the USA in 1976 came from the old records at Christ Church, as researched and summarized by Pastor Walter Bielitz. Rev. Bielitz, Ruth Dunham (Aunt to Ken Wilber), and Kathleen Beiswenger (wife of Rev. Beiswenger who was serving the church at that time) collaborated to write the history which appeared in the “Squampamock” commemorative booklet. It was very well and thoroughly done.