Oak Hill Dutch
Reformed Church
1794-1832

Introduction, Church History and Pastors

Original transcript of these records undertaken by Royden W. Vosburgh, Archivist of the New York State Genealogical and Biographical Society, November 29th, 1920.


Copy of records taken from the New York State Library in Albany by Sylvia Hasenkopf and transcribed by Arlene Goodwin


Introduction.

 It has been alleged that the Oak Hill was organized in 1787. This date cannot be substantiated, because the earliest records (if any ever existed), are lost. Probably, Oak Hill was a member of the Classis of Albany, prior to 1800, and the early records of the Classis are likewise lost.  It is my opinion that if any religious services were held at Oak Hill as early as 1787, that the settlement there was merely a preaching station within the bounds of the congregation of either Catskill or Coxsackie.  The watercourses and contour of the land would favor Catskill rather than Coxsackie. But in either event, the clergyman ministering to their wants would have been Dominie Johannes Schuneman.  Although at an advanced age, the Dominie remained active in his parish, up to within a few weeks of his death.  He died May 16, 1794.  The earliest date which appears in the Oak Hill church record is July 7, 1794, when the Rev. Petrus Van Vlierden received members.  It is evident that this date marks the beginning of keeping the separate records of the preaching station, though there is no evidence of the formal organization of the congregation. *(The date given on the fly leaf of the church record is 1798). The fact that this date so shortly followed the date of the death of Dominie Schuneman is of peculiar significance.

The church record contains no evidence of the organization of the Consistory until the pastorate of the Rev. Peter Labagh.  In the month of August 1800, church officers were elected in the place of others whose terms of office had expired. The two year term of Consistory officers, carries the date of the organization of the Consistory back to at least 1798. The minutes of the Consistory of the congregation of Catskill state that the Rev. Mr. Labagh was called to Catskill and Oak Hill, on Feb. 20, 1798.  I know of no existing copy of his call.  Some, who are familiar with the regular form of procedure in the Reformed Dutch Church, may believe that there must have been a duly organized Consistory to execute the call.  But Dominie George Michael Weiss, the first pastor of the Catskill and Coxsackie, was called by individuals, inhabitants of those places, before the Consistory was organized.  The reader may not be able to form any definite conclusion from the statements above set forth,  however, in my opinion, the evidence as it exists to-day is sufficient to prove that the Oak Hill congregation was not fully organized until 1798.

The records of the several Classes to which the congregation of Oak Hill belonged in its earliest days have not been available for consultation.  In September 1800, when the Classis of Ulster was organized, Oak Hill was transferred to it form the Classis of Albany.  Oak Hill for a time, may have been in the Classis of Ulster, but more than likely remained in the Classis of Albany, if they had any representation at all.  Oak Hill was a member of the Classis of Albany, in 1820.  In 1826, Oak Hill was transferred to the newly organized Classis of Schoharie; and in 1834, it was assigned to the Classis of Greene.  At the organization meeting of the Classis of Greene, on June 2, 1834, Oak Hill was noted on the roll as a member, but was not represented at the meeting.  A committee was appointed by Classis to visit the church of Oak Hill and devise measures for their benefit. On July 23, 1834, the Rev. Jeremiah Searle of the committee, reported that the church at Oak Hill was very low and that scarcely its remnants could be found.  The Classis resolved to take no further action in the matter. On Apr. 28, 1835, another committee was appointed to visit Oak Hill and to spend a few days in preaching and visiting the people.  The Classical report state that a renewed attempt will be made to revise the church at Oak Hill, which is nearly extinct.  On Oct. 9, 1833, the committee on Oak Hill asked for further time and thereafter the name of the church disappears.

 Church Records.

The church record  which is herewith transcribed, originally contained up-wards of four hundred pages.  At present, a considerable number of pages have been cut or torn out from the record.  However, in my opinion, the pages removed were used for other purposes, after the church ceased to exist, and I do not believe that any part of the original church record, as written, is now missing.  The last page in book as it now stands, is page 323, which has been transcribed on page 61.  The pages of the original record measure 8 x 6 ¼ inches; the paper is of excellent quality and is in good condition.  The book is bound in full calf skin, which is somewhat worn. It was obtained on June 9, 1920, at Oak Hill, from Mr. P. T. Hoagland, and was returned to him in the month of November, 1920.

Pastors of the Church.

 1.      Petrus Van Vlierden, 1794 to 1797?  He supplied Oak Hill, while pastor at Katsbaan. There is no evidence in the church record that he was at Oak Hill, 1792-1794, as stated in the Reformed Church Manual.  The first evidence of his labors at Oak Hill, was when he received members on July 7, 1794; see page 52.  His first baptisms in the congregation were administered on Aug. 7, 1794.  It is not possible to determine from the data available when his labors came to a close, as his handwriting does not appear in the record.  He received members for the last time on July 16, 1796.  In the absence of information to the contrary appearing in the record of baptisms, it may be assumed that his last baptisms were administered on Feb. 18, 1798.

2.      Peter Labagh, Mar. 2, 1798 to May 21, 1809.  Called by Catskill and Oak Hill, Feb 20, 1798. Received members at Oak Hill, Mar. 2, 1798. Commenced his regular ministerial labors in May, 1798. Dismissed, May 21, 1809.

3.      Cornelius D. Schermerhorn, November 1809 to May 21, 1818.  These dates appear on page 1.  During this pastorate Mr. Schermerhorn was in a peculiar position.  He was a member of the Classis of Montgomery and the Oak Hill congregation was probably a member of the Classis of Albany.  He was pastor of Schoharie Kill, Blenheim and Dyse’s Manor, neighboring churches in the Classis of Montgomery, beginning in the year 1802. He took his dismission from Blenheim, Apr. 17, 1807; from Schoharie Kill, Nov. 27, 1809; and from Dyse’s Manor, Jan. 1, 1814. Because his salary was not settled, the Classis of Montgomery did not approve the dismission for these charges, until Sept. 24, 1816. At the meeting of the Classis of Montgomery on May 6, 1817, it was : “Ordered the Revd. John F. Schermerhorn install the Revd. Cornelius D. Schermerhorn in the congregation of Oak hill before the next meeting.” The fact that the had not been regularly dismissed from his charges had prevented his installation before. His dismission from Oak Hill was approved by the Classis, on May 29, 1818.

Thereafter, the congregation was supplied by Winslow Paige, Jacob Van Vechten, Peter Van Zandt, Abraham Fort and possibly, others.

4.      Stephen Ostrander, Feb. 12, 1824 to Mar. 1, 1831.  At first, he supplied the church as Missionary  from the Missionary Society of the Reformed Dutch Church. He presided at a meeting of the Consistory on Feb. 12, 1824, when a Consistory was elected and ordained the members in office, on the 29th. He made an agreement with the Consistory to serve the church, in the month of March.  He states in his own handwriting that he was called in April; see page 1.  The minutes state that the call was made out, presented and approved, on June 3, 1824; see original page 241. He was installed Pastor, on Sept. 9, 1824. Mr. Ostrander’s entire pastorate at Oak Hill was attended with severe labor and great hardship, owing to the small congregation and correspondingly meager salary.  The minutes appear to indicate that Mr. Ostrander had to work hard all the week (probably at farming) to support himself.  Several times during this pastorate, an effort was made to establish another church in adjacent fields, in order to obtain more financial support.  On Sept. 25, 1824, a committee was appointed to secure a lot of land and erect a hose of worship in the southern part of the town of Durham.  On June 25, 1825, the committee reported that they had agreed on the site, obtained the ground and raised nearly four hundred dollars.  It was recommended that the new church (when built) be united with Oak Hill and be under the care of the same Consistory.  On Feb. 9, 1828, it was decided to circulate two subscriptions lists, as alternative proposals.  The first for the continuation of the whole of the regular services at Oak Hill. The second to have half the services at Oak Hill and the other half at Potter’s Hollow, Preston Hollow, or in the town of Durham, depending upon which of these three subscribed the most.  The largest of the two subscriptions was to be accepted.  On Apr. 7, 1830, the Consistory found that they would be unable to support the whole of the Gospel service, for the ensuing year. A committee was appointed to confer with Westerlo as to the prospects of a union. On May first, the committee reported that Westerlo had made other arrangements.  It was resolved to circulate a subscription amounting to $84.00, for twelve Sabbaths, in the year commencing April 19th. On Mar. 1, 1831, Mr. Ostrander was dismissed after a friendly settlement of accounts.

5.      Peter Stryker, June to August, 1832, Supply.  He was engaged for three months, from the second Sunday in June.  He administered baptisms on June 24th and July 1st.

Certification of Copy
State of New York   }
                                
:    S S :
County of New York}

Minnie Cohen, of the City and State of New York, being duly sworn says that she is the official stenographer in the employ of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society; that s he copied the following record of the Reformed Dutch Church in Oak Hill, in the town of Durham, Greene County, N. Y., from the original Church Record thereof , when the said original record was in the possession of the Society, and that the within copy is a correct and accurate transcript therefrom the whole of the Vital Records in the said original record, to the best of her knowledge, information and belief. 

Sworn to before this                                Minnie Cohen (signature)
29th day of November, 1920
Alex Yorstim?

I, Royden W. Vosburgh, of the City and State of New York, Archivist of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, hereby certify that I have compared the within copy of the Vital Records in the Church Record of the Reformed Dutch Church in Oak Hill, in the town of Durham, Greene County, N. Y. with the original Church Record thereof, when the said original record was in the possession of the Society, and that I have found the same to be a correct and accurate transcript therefrom, and the whole of the Vital Records in the said original record.

In TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the seal of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, this 29th day of November, in the year of our Lord, one thousand nine hundred and twenty. 

                                                                      Royden W. Vosbugh (signature)

                                                                             Archivist.

Church Register belonging to the Congregation of Oak Hill 1798

1798     The Congregation of Catskill and Oakhill gave a Call to the Rev. Peter Labagh which was accepted and he entered upon his Ministerial labours in May   he continued the pastoral Care do the Church until 21st May 1809  when upon receiving a Call from Harlingen New Jersey he obtained his dismission. May the Great Shepherd protect and supply this flock.

1809        The  congregation of Oakhill gave a call to the Rev. C. D. Schermerhorn which was accepted and he entered upon his ministerial labors in Nov. and continued until May 21st 1818 at which time he took his dismission. May the great Shepherd protect and supply this flock.

The Consistory of the reformed Dutch Church at Oak Hill prosecuted a Call on the Rev. Stephen Ostrander in the month of April 1824. Which he accepted and was Installed as Pastor on the 9th day of Sep. 1824.


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