Berne Area Church Detail

Berne-Beaverdam Reformed Churches

Founded: 1765  -  Status: Inactive
Contact: Pastor Bob Hoffman  -  Phone:
  No image available
Photo by: Barbara Boltster-Barrett
The Reformation began in 1517 with Martin Luther in Germany. The beliefs were brought here with our forefathers, many of whom came from Germany and Switzerland. In 1628 the first Reformed congregation was organized in Albany. A Dutch Reformed Church was organized in Schoharie soon after the Schoharie Valley was settled by the Palatine refugees in 1712. Some of the Reformed families settled in Beaver Dam about 1740, having come from Albany, Greene County, or Schoharie. The names include: Weidman, Bassler, Zeh, Ball, Dietz, Knieskern, Hochstrasser and Shultes. For the first quarter century the Beaver Dam settlers traveled to Schoharie on foot to attend services at the Reformed or Lutheran churches there. In 1765 The Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Beaverdam (Dutch was spelled Deutsch, meaning German.) was organized and a simple log church was built near the bank of the Foxenkill where the Church farm was later located. The site of this church is shown on Wm. Cockburn's 1787 survey map of the West Manor of Rensselaerwyck owned by Stephen Van Rensselaer III. This was the first church in Albany County outside of the city itself. The new congregation shared a minister, Rev. Johannes Schuyler, with the Reformed Dutch Church in Schoharie until his death in 1779. Early records are written in German and are quite interesting reading. The old log church was replaced with a frame building in 1786. It was constructed on the knoll where the Berne and Beaverdam Cemetery is located and was made of rough wooden boards twelve inches wide with a ceiling of knotty pine timber. A single, small stove, placed in front of the pulpit, was used to heat the building. The pastor from 1785 to 1789 was Rev. George W. Schneyder. Stephen Van Rensselaer deeded a 143 acre farm to the Church in 1791. It was located next to the Church on Switzkill Road. In 1825 a house was constructed for the minister and in 1857 another parsonage was purchased in Berne. The land was rented out until 1930, when it was sold. The Church sent out a call for a minister of their own in 1811. Rev. David Devoe was called to serve. The congregation had sent representatives to the church synod in 1806 to say that they would like a pastor who could deliver the service in German, as they couldn’t get anything out of a service given in any other language. They requested that Mr. Devoe be licensed as a preacher and waited for him to finish his study and examinations. When he left the post in 1816, the church was serviced by missionaries once again. In 1830, the congregation of 305 families outgrew its buildings and two separated buildings were constructed: The First Reformed Dutch Church of Berne, located in Berneville and The Reformed Cutch Church of Beaverdam, located in West Berne. They solicited money in a community effort and razed the old building. The Berneville Church received exterior parts of the church and Beaverdam retained interior parts to incorporate into the new buildings. The Berneville location is the one currently in use. In 1831 in the Berneville church, Rev. Abraham Meyers asked for a resolution to abandon the old German Bible and purchase an English Bible and Psalm Book. This was a big change. 1835 saw the joint congregation become two congregations. The church in West Berne retained the original name, and the Berneville church became "The First Dutch Reformed Church of Berne." The congregation was divided by a geographical boundary. The churches seemed to have memberships of about the same size. They continued to share a minister until 1982 when the two churches combined under one roof in Berne. The present parsonage was purchased in 1865 and in 1907 a Church Hall was acquired. The new Friendship House was built in 1958. A more detailed history can be found in 200 Years of Church Discipleship: A History of the Berne-Beaverdam Reformed Churches by Rev. John H. Meyer 1965 and its Addendum from 1990 by Deborah Misenhimer. Both are available through the Church and are the basis for this synopsis. TAKEN FROM: OUR HERITAGE Town of Berne Bicentennial Commission Hope Farm Press Cornwallville, New York 1977 Elvena Williamson, Doris LeBuis, Ruth Flagler, Barbara Cross Pages 71-73 Berne and Beaverdam Reformed Churches In 1829, a new building was felt to be necessary and inasmuch as there appeared to be many difficulties in the way - such as "fixing on a site" - the necessity of a church which would accommodate a total congregation of 1,710 members, representing 305 families - and it must be remembered that these families were scattered all over the top of the Helderberg's, thus there was a great need to ease the work of the minister. It must be remembered, also, that this was a time of great prosperity among local industries and many prosperous farms.There was a real prospect in the future. Consequently, the decision was made that two churches be built, and on September 30, 1830, the old building was taken down and was salvaged between the two churches. The Bernville (East) Church received the main timbers and the window frames with glass and sash. The Mechanicsville (West) Church was allotted the stove, the spire, "the iron dogs and all the nails of said church." Referees came over to oversee the division, and in order to rectify a mistake, later gave the Bernville Church 1600 feet of the ceiling. About this time,the Simmons Axe Factory erected a fourth building and it is said that some of the materials used in its construction were from the old Reformed Church. The cornerstones for the new churches were laid in May of 1830. The church is in possession of a newspaper clipping, dated Tuesday, May 25, 1830, that describes the event. It reads: "NEW CHURCHES - The Congregation of the Reformed Dutch Church of Berne, are engaged in erecting two new edifices for public worship in that town. On Tuesday last, the ceremony of laying the corner stone was performed at the site of each of these buildings by the Hon. Stephen Van Rensselaer, assisted by the Rev. Messrs. Ludlow and Ferris of Albany. The site of one of these edifices is at Bernville, and that of the other at Beaverdam, three miles from the former, and in the same congregation. We witnessed the ceremony in laying the corner stone of the former, but as we did not attend the latter, and have not been furnished with an account of the ceremonies etc. we are unable to give the full statement of the proceedings there. We presume, however, that they did not vary materially from the former. The corner stone of the church at Bernville was laid by Mr. Van Rensselaer, and an appropriate prayer offered by the Rev. Mr. Ludlow, followed by an able address to the people, by the Rev. Mr. Ferris. Closing prayer by the Rev. Mr. Weidman. In an excavation made in the corner stone, was placed a small leaden box, in which were deposited a Bible and a slip of paper containing the following inscription: "This build is to be devoted to the worship of the Triune God, The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to be styled the Reformed Dutch Church of Bernville. The corner stone was laid May 25, 1830, by the Hon Stephen Van Rensselaer Sen. assisted by the Rev. John Ludlow, D.D. and Rev. Isaac Ferris of Albany." "Officers of the Reformed Dutch Church of Beaverdam, who erected this house for said congregation, etc., Pastor - Rev. John H. Van Wagenan; Elders, Jacob Settle Jr., Johan Jost A. Deitz, Frederick Bassler, Jr., James Canaday; Deacons, David Weidman, Jacob Kniskern, John Ball, Peter Schultes Jr., Building Committee: Jacob Settle Jr., John Jost A. Deitz, Frederick Bassler Jr.; Architects, Ephraim B. Russ, David F. Heldredge." "This Church, we understand, is to be completed without the aid of Rum, or spiritous liquors of any kind. This is as it should be." Until the churches were completed in 1831, services were held in the schoolhouse. As of January 1, 1976, the membership at Beaverdam is 71, representing 53 families. The Berne church was 171 members, representing 103 families. These figures do not include baptized non-communicants. On Sunday, Sept. 19, 1976, Rev. Robert Hoffman was installed as the 35th minister of the Berne and Beaverdam Churches. These historical facts and many others add together in this year of our Lord 1976 to form a continuing history of the Berne-Beaverdam Churches located in Berne and West Berne. Elvena Willamson Doris LeBuis Ruth Flager Barbara Cross
Following is a personal history of the Beaverdam Reformed Church, excerpted from the obituary of Frederick Bassler who died on the 5th of November, 1851 at Berne, Albany Co., NY, in the 99th year of his age. Mr. Bassler lived in the Town of Knox, two miles north of the village of Berne. The church stood on a knoll half way between what is now the villages of Berne and West Berne, now the site of the Beaverdam Cemetery [Harold Miller]. "In 1771, in consequence of the great distance that many were obliged to travel for the purpose of attending divine service and catechetical instructions, the congregation of Schoharie was divided and a new church organized, styled the church of Beaverdam. For the spiritual advancement of this portion of the Master's vineyard, a log house of worship was immediately erected two miles west of Mr. Bassler's residence, where the services were conducted in the German language, affording many a far more easy access to religious ordinances than they had previously enjoyed. Yet these were emphatically times of trouble. While fearing the attack of foes there was no less dread of the cruelty of enemies rising up from among them. The tribes of the Lord go up to his temple for worship, bearing with them the instruments of death. The clangor or arms, and the thoughts of war and bloodshed are mingled with the sacred duties and devotions of the Sabbeth. The communicant carries with him his musket, as indispensible requisities to his attendance upon the ordinances of religion. Being at any moment liable to an attack, it was necessary at all times to be in readiness for defence. But after the lapse of years, these difficulties subsided, and the hearts of the faithful were encouraged to the performance of a more vigorous service. [This was in 1786.] Now this crude and ancient building is removed, and a more convenient, large and comfortable edifice is erected in its stead. Here for many years Mr. Bassler met and communed with the people of God." But when in process of time this second temple grew old and dilapidated, and the village of Beaverdam on the west [West Berne], and Berne on the south were increasing in population, it was deemed expedient to abandon the old church ground and erect a new house of worship in each of the above villages. Accordingly, this project was entered upon, and both of these houses were commenced and completed in 1831. Mr. Bassler being set off, identified with the First Reformed Dutch Church of Berne. In 1789 his name is enrolled as a member of consistory, and from that time until disqualified for the active duties of life by the weight and infirmities of age, he was an active, efficient and exemplary member, and much of the time a ruling leader in the church of God. When the old church of Beaverdam was originally formed from a portion of the congregation of Schoharie in 1771, Mr. Bassler constituted one of its members. Since then, that entire body have fallen asleep. This aged father in Israel survived them all. He was the last living member of that organization. That then active branch of our beloved Zion is now numbered with the things that were. What a thrilling comment upon the evanescence of all sublunary objects! Life, however protracted and years, however multiplied, must speedily be brought to a close.The time is at hand when it shall be said, - They were but are not.