1994 Town of Knox Comprehensive Plan: Churches

From Knox, NY - a Helderberg Hilltown
Revision as of 01:01, 1 December 2013 by JElberfeld (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)

Jump to navigation Jump to search
Back to 1994 Town of Knox Comprehensive Plan


The early churches, which followed our pioneer forefathers into the wilderness, were powerful forces in the lives of those early settlers. The familiar, comforting rituals of religious services assumed an even greater importance for the men and women from the isolated farms and dwellings scattered among the hills.

The early churches also provided meeting p laces for secular, social gatherings. And out of those gatherings, whether held for worship, social pleasure, or the discussion of common problems, grew the associations and ties that bound the people of the upland wilderness into communities.

The Luthe ran Church was the first to be organized in Knox. The first church (and schoolhouse), a building of approximately 20 feet square, was erected about 1750. It was moved to a new location and remodeled around 1810, and then, replaced by a new church in 1828 - 29. In 1839, the Reformed members withdrew and built a separate church at Secor's farm, which they called the Second Berne Reformed Church. The Lutheran Church was more fully reorganized as Zion's Lutheran Church at Knox by the Rev. Adam Crounse. In 1850, a Lutheran Church building was erected at a cost of $1,200, and during 1868 and 1869 the parsonage was completed(2). From 1884 through the 1900s, the Lutheran Church was vigorous and active. The church burned in 1930 and was not rebuilt.

There were th ree Methodist Churches in Knox. Reverend William Brown, said to have been the first Methodist preacher, was a circuit rider who for many years rode the wilderness trails to Knox, Berne, Reidsville, Middleburgh and Schoharie, with his bible in his saddlebag s. He was known throughout the hills by the affectionate nickname, "Old Saddlebags, the Circuit Rider."

Arthur Gregg, in Old Hellebergh , relates that Reverend Brown was summoned to the manor of the patroon, Stephen Van Rensselaer, to account for his failu re to meet the payments of his rent. "Old Saddlebags" appeared before the expensively - dressed patroon clad in his homespun coat, leather breeches and high boots, and asserted that his delinquency was a consequence of his calling, which was to preach God's word to scattered groups of Christians who were themselves so poor that their contributions were insufficient for his rent.

The wealthy patroon could not believe that the uncouth bumpkin standing before him was in truth a preacher, and he seized upon the occasion to expose this rough - hewn tenant, and to also provide comic entertainment for his friends. Accordingly, he invited Reverend Brown to preach a sermon in the big two - steepled Dutch Church at Albany. But the man who had ridden the long miles of his circuit, carrying the Word to small congregations, was not so easily discomfited, and "Old Saddlebags" rose to the occasion. For the text of his sermon to the elegant congregation he chose Matthew 19:24: "It is easier for a camel to go through the needle's eye than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven." The patroon was deeply impressed and when the service had ended, approached the horseback preacher and said: "Tomorrow, we shall fix the deed - a valid deed - free from rent forever." The Rev erend William Brown and his wife and child were buried in a tiny plot on a farm on Knox Cave Road(4).

The first Methodist Church, which stood about a mile east of the Hamlet of Knox, was torn down and replaced in 1851 by a new church in the Hamlet that st ood until 1932(5). Another Methodist Church was built in Township(6); it was used by an Apostelic Church congregation from 1960 - 1963. During the years after 1850, the Methodist Church was a vital force in the affairs of the community. On November 20, 18 84, the Knowersville Enterprise (the present Altamont Enterprise) reported a centennial meeting at the Methodist Episcopal Church.

For a period of time, beginning in 1917, the Methodist congregation formed a federation with the Dutch Reformed Church. In t he absence of written records it is assumed that the community was unable to provide funds for the support of two congregations; however, each congregation is said to have maintained separate records and accounts. It has been reported that "insurmountable problems" beset the unusual federation, and that it survived at all was due in large measure to the resourcefulness and character of the first pastor, Alfred V. Patton.

Some of the older members never fully accepted the federation and when, on the night of January 5, 1932, the Methodist Church burned to the ground, "many members felt that this was an Act of God." The Methodist Church was never rebuilt and the Dutch Reformed Church, which is now the only church in the Hamlet of Knox, absorbed the remaining members. The old Methodist Church was located on the lot east of the Knox Museum(5).

According to Parker's Landmarks of Albany County , the Reformed Church of Knox had its origin in the Presbyterian Church which was organized in 1825. The New England set tlers who came to Knox from Connecticut agitated for a Presbyterian Church and sporadic services were held until the first regular pastor, Rev. J. Judson Buck, was installed in 1825. The church was described as an unadorned wooden building which stood app roximately 195 feet northeast of the present church.(7) Tenney and Howell state: "It was a plain wooden building of the uninviting kind, called God's barn." However, the membership dwindled, funds grew scarce, and the Dutch Reformed settlers in the villa ge increased in number and influence. Reorganization under the Dutch Reformed persuasion was much discussed and finally, the 31 members of the original Presbyterian congregation were dismissed and the church was reorganized to form a new Dutch Reformed co ngregation. Incomplete records suggest that a "new" Reformed Church at Knox was built around 1850.

An 1890 issue of the Enterprise yields the following description from a letter of Emmet Willard. "The high pulpit looked down into square pews that were as high as an ordinary mans head, a veritable box or as they were called 'Sheep pens'." Probably the high "pens" were designed to block the icy drafts that swept through the church and to retain the meager warmth of portable heaters, either the pierced metal boxes which held hot coals, brought by affluent members, or the heated soapstones used by those of lesser means.

The Knox Reformed Church was moved to its present location(8) in 1902 by local people under the supervision of Edward Evans, an Albany contr actor; hay jacks, rollers, and one team of horses were used. During the same year, contributions of money and lumber made it possible to raise the church hall.