German Immigrant Ancestors
in Syracuse and Onondaga County, New York

Immanuel's Church of the Town of Clay /
Immanuel Lutheran Church of Clay

Immanuel Church, Clay
Immanuel Church, Clay.
"Oldest German church in the county"
First church in the county founded by Germans, 1831-32
[Photo appears on Geschichte der Deutschen, page 197.]

Historical excerpt from Geschichte der Deutschen, pages 236-240.

Below on this webpage:
History of Dutch Settlement and Immanuel Lutheran Church
A Timeline and Some Past Members
Article: "Old Clay Church to Be Torn Down," 1915
Links - for more information

History of Dutch Settlement
and Immanuel Lutheran Church

The following historical summary of the church, put together by Michelle Stone, is drawn mainly from material appearing in Immanuel’s Scrapbook 1823-1998: Proudly Celebrating 175 Years of Ministry in Clay, New York, published by Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church, Dorothy Heller, historian (1998), and is offered here with permission (and thanks).

The Township of Clay, established in 1827, is the largest (54.6 square miles) and northernmost township of the 19 in Onondaga County today. Its area includes the Village of Clay (on route 31 between Baldwinsville and Bridgeport) and part of the Village of North Syracuse. The Oneida River forms most of its northern boundary and the Seneca River forms its western boundary, meeting with the Oswego and Oneida Rivers at a point known as Three Rivers, long a favored fishing and picnicking spot.

Before the arrival of white settlers the Three Rivers area was the site of numerous Indian councils and served as the center of the Iroquois Confederacy. Oak Orchard Reefs and Caughdenoy Reefs had been fishing and fording areas used by the Iroquois. Legend tells of a massacre of the Indians by the French or English at Oak Orchard, where a large Indian burial site was located.

Settlers in significant numbers, drawn by the natural springs there, began to arrive in the area following the Revolutionary War. Among them was a distinct population: the children and grandchildren of refugees from the part of Germany known as the Pfalz (or, in English, the Palatinate), whose families had emigrated through England in 1709 and 1710 to the Hudson Valley and then to the Schoharie Valley (
more history). These hardy pioneers eventually made their way in the early 1800’s to today’s Clay Township and gathered in what became known locally as the "Dutch [i.e. Deutsch] Settlement" because of the prevalence of German language and customs there. It was said (by Rev. John W. Kisselburgh, Clay town historian) to be the only Palatine community in this area of Central New York.

The history of this "Dutch Settlement" (today sometimes also referred to as Youngs) is, for the most part, a history of the Young (Jung) family. In the early 1800’s a group of eight Youngs—five brothers and three sisters—migrated into the northeast portion of the present township. To the sisters must go the credit for giving the settlement its first great spurt in population, for each sister had 14 children (a total of 42)! All of those Youngs traced their ancestry to Jerg Hans Jung, whose widow, Elisabeth, left for America with her five children in 1709.

Jerg’s son, Johann Mattheus Jung (who married Anna Veronica Mancken) and their son, Peter, continued the line. Between the births of his fifth and sixth children Peter moved his family to Carlisle, New Rhinebeck on the Schoharie River, leaving behind the miserable conditions of the Hudson River Valley encampments. His son, Matthias Jung, was the first white child born in that district, known as "The Rock." Peter and many of his relatives and fellow Palatines were active participants in the Revolutionary War.

Peter Jung’s son, Jeremiah, was the father of the eight Youngs who settled in Clay. Other families with the same historic lineage and background followed them to the Dutch Settlement, among them the Beckers, Van Hoesens, Shavers, Bellingers, Shells, Devendorfs, and Ver Planks.

In 1810 Jacob I. Young built a small sawmill on what is today known as Guy Young’s Creek. The sawmill didn’t prosper, but the extended Young family flourished on their nearby farms. In 1812 Jeremiah’s son, Peter, died while felling trees in the forest and is believed to have been the first white person buried at Pine Plains Cemetery. Peter Young’s farmhouse, one of the first of the Palatine homes built in Onondaga County, survived into the 20th century and would later be known as the John Shepard homestead. It was condemned in 1965 by Niagara Mohawk to make way for a power installation and the farmhouse burned down the night before it was to be demolished. All that remained of the Young house by the year 1988 was a weed-covered foundation.

For five generations, the Youngs’ farms continued to prosper, while new immigrants, most of them German, continued to move into Dutch Settlement (the vicinity of today’s intersections of Caughdenoy Road with VerPlank [sometimes spelled Ver Planck] and Mud Mill Roads). Immigrants also came to live and work in the nearby hamlet of Cigarville (named for its cigar factories of the late-1800’s, its name was changed in 1902 or 1903 to Clay). By 1933 the cigar factories were gone and a sauerkraut factory, utilizing local harvests of cabbage, provided employment. The post office which served Cigarville was called Clay Station (so named by the New York Central Railroad); the post office that served Dutch Settlement was called Young Station and was housed in one of the Young households about one-half mile north of the village.

Some of the original eight Young siblings were Lutherans and some were Reformed. They and their neighbors in Dutch Settlement began worshipping together in each other’s homes. Around 1823 they organized what would turn out to be the oldest Lutheran congregation in the county, to offer "the services and consolations of the church to an outpost people." There were 40 members in the original congregation. Among the founders of the church (according to old church records) were Jeremiah’s children: Mathias, Isaac, Christian, Jacob, Anna (Young) Becker, and Abraham and Mary (Young) Weller, along with their spouses, cousins, other relatives, and other Palatine Germans in the area.

Their first (missionary) pastor was Rev. J. Senderling. The records of the church today are sketchy for certain periods because the services of a regular pastor were not constant and many baptisms, marriages, and deaths were never recorded. There were times when the congregation was served by itinerant preachers or by ministers of other denominations. When they had no preacher, they held prayer meetings. For a time worship services were held in the local one-room schoolhouse next to the creek (famous as "the little red schoolhouse" or District 14 school, erected on land donated by the Youngs, and which was still standing in 1988 at the corner of Mud Mill and Caughdenoy Roads).

In 1833 the congregation incorporated and set to work building Clay’s first house of worship on land donated by Jacob Young (near the corner of today’s VerPlank and Caughdenoy Roads). Early histories of Onondaga County mistakenly labeled the church in the northeast part of the Town of Clay a Dutch Reformed church—because it was located in Dutch Settlement. The church was actually Immanuel Lutheran Church of Clay, which has now been in existence for over 175 years, serving residents in its area including church members who lived on Horseshoe Island.

During the Civil War Immanuel became a member of the Frankean Synod, whose avowed aim was to do everything in its power to topple the support of slavery.

Immanuel’s original church building remained in continuous use until 1915 when the congregation had over 100 members (see article below). An historical marker on VerPlank Road today marks the spot where it once stood.

In 1916, under the guidance of Rev. Reichert, a new church building was completed for Immanuel Lutheran Church at its present site on Route 31 in the Village of Clay, on property donated by the Weller family. The new church was intended to be "closer to the Hamlit and its people and businesses." The old bell given by Jacob I. Young to the original church in 1876 still sounds from the steeple of this second church building, along with an electronic carillon given by a descendant of Jacob’s, Cecile Young Perry. The original pews, pulpit, and some furnishings were also preserved and used in the construction of the present church building (but the pews have since been replaced). The Kisselburgh educational building was added in 1967, named in honor of the Rev. John Kisselburgh, beloved pastor of the church from 1931 to 1978.

A Timeline and Some Past Members:

1823 - 1828 - Rev. J. Senderling licensed to preach by the Hartwick Synod, sent to Clay to do missionary work. Stayed till 1828. Services held in schoolhouse.

1831 - 1837 - Rev. William Ottman sent to Clay as a missionary, had charge of the church till 1837, when he was sent to Wayne County as a missionary.

1833 - Dutch Settlement people built their church and dedicated it. "When the church was completed, they called a meeting and elected their church officers as follows: John Becker, Henry Becker Jr., and John Walters, as Trustees, and Richard Heller and Jacob Ottman, Elders. At this time the church was given the name of Immanuel Lutheran Church of the Town of Clay, Ononaga Co. and State of New York."

List of members up to 1836:

Jacob Ottman
Abraham I. Young
Jacob I. Young
John Becker
Henry Becker
Richard Hiller
Christina Ottman (Mrs. Jacob Ottman)
Christina Young
Isabel Young (Mrs. Jacob Young)
Christina Becker (Mrs. John Becker)
Miss Margaret Young
Miss Lydia Empie
Miss Caty Wise
Mrs. Henry Sommer
Mrs. Adam Becker
Mrs. Joseph Young
Miss Maria Canada
Mrs. John Ainsley
Mrs. Conne
Miss Mary Becker
Miss Eva Young
Miss Giddy Ann Walter
Miss Margaret VanDeWerken
Mrs. Richard Hiller
David Becker
Adam Becker
Andrew Becker
Lucy Kithum
Nicholas Sommer
John Empie
Mrs. Elizabeth Ketchum
Miss Mary I. Young
Miss Elizabeth Young
Miss Polly Kocher
Mrs. David Shafer
Mrs. David Shafer
Mr. Rulof VanDeWerken
Mrs. Margaret VanDeWerken
Mr. Stewart Scott
Mrs. Catherine Scott
Mr. Nicholas Sommer
Mr. Daniel Empie
Mr. Solomon Lemm
Mrs. Mary Sommers
Mrs. Merits
Miss Sally Cook

A little later in the records these names appear:

Adam Anthony 1843 - Confirmation
Miss Dorcas Van Hoesen - 1847 Baptism
Mrs. Henry Nash
Mrs. Catherine Nash - 1848
Mr. Peter Schell
Mr. Hiram Schell
Mrs. Elizabeth Schell
Miss Charlotte Young - 1853
Jacob Coughtry
Mrs. Catherine Coughtry
Mrs. Mary Weller - 1855

Later names among the church records include:

and others

1837-1838 - Rev. Benjamin Diefendorf called by the Lutheran Church of Clay and served there.

1839 - 1861 - Rev. William Ottman returned, preached for 22 years, retired for reasons of poor health in 1861.

1862 - Rev. Benjamin Diefendorf served as a supply preacher for one year.

1863 - 1866 - Rev. G. Hemperly called, preached at Clay and Cicero.

1866 / 1867 - Rev. Levi Schell accepted a call, stayed one year.

1867 - 1876 - Church had supply preachers from other churches, including Methodist and Dutch Reformed.

1872 - 1874? - Rev. Emmonds

1876 - Extensive repairs made to church, including new seats, pulpit, and newly built orchestra, new organ and carpet ($1,500 total). Jacob I. Young presented a bell to the church, still hanging in the belfry of the present-day church building in Clay.

1876 - 1878 - Rev. D. Lawrence accepts call to church; resigns.

1882 - 1886 - Rev. H. A. Strail was pastor, helped organize the Ladies’ Aid Society.

1887 - Rev. B. E. Fake

1890 - 1902? - Rev. G. Harsh

1896? - Rev. E. Jarvis? On 2 Dec. 1896 a marriage between William Van Epps and Matie Schell took place, with certificate signed by Rev. Edward Jarvis, pastor of 'Clay Lutheran Church' (but this pastor’s name was never in the church’s records).

1904 -1906 - Rev. Gilbert Strail

1906 - Congregation repaired the church. Tore out the orchestra, changed the doors, put in new seats, new stoves, new carpets and organ. Ladies’ Aid contributed $400, including $100 for repairing the sheds.

1907 - 1909 - Rev. Paul Ledin/Ledihen came as pastor, resigned in 1909.

1912 - 1914 - Rev. Ethelbert Davison, followed by Rev. Arthur Hardy (resigned Sept. 1914).

Sept., 1914 through 1915 (to 1916?) - Rev. Henry M. Schroeder serves as supply pastor from St. Peters Evangelical Lutheran Church, Syracuse.

1914 - Movement started to build a new church on its present site in the Village of Clay.

28 June 1915 - Farewell service held in the old church, attended by a large crowd.

19 Sept. 1915 - Cornerstone for new church laid.

4 June 1916 - New church building dedicated.

1916 - 1921 - Rev. J. C. Reichert called and served.

1922 - 1923 - Rev. J. W. Girard

1924 - 1927 - Rev. William Redcay, D.D.

1928 - 1931 - Rev. William Harding

1931 - 1978 - Rev. John W. Kisselburgh

July, 1979 - 1992 - Rev. Craig Herrick; went on to First English Lutheran Church, Syracuse.

1993 - 1994 - Rev. Doreen Brown, interim pastor

1994 - 1995 - Rev. K. Dorkof, interim pastor

1995 - 1997 - Rev. P. Hoh

1997 - 1999 - Vacancy Pastor - Rev. D. Whalen

1999 - present - Rev. Mark Wm. Allert

"Old Clay Church to be Torn Down"

The following is a transcript of an unidentified Syracuse, N.Y. newspaper clipping, with penciled-in date of June 28, 1915.

Immanuel Church, Clay, 1915
"Edifice used by Lutherans, where Farewell Service
was held yesterday"

Old Clay Church to Be Torn Down
Farewell Service in Old Lutheran Edifice Draws Large Congregation
Speakers Tell of History
Rev. Carl Zinsmeister, Missionary, Superintendent of Synod, Presides—
Many Other Clergymen on the Programme.

More than 500 persons, 536 to be exact, found sitting or standing room inside the doors of the little Lutheran church near Clay yesterday afternoon, when farewell services were held in the edifice, which is soon to be torn down and replaced by a large building a mile away in Clay village. When one considers that the seating capacity of the house is little more than 200 it will be understood that the ushers were busy persons while the congregation gathered.

Outside in the grass covered yard dozens of automobiles were parked, and in the cars were seated at least fifty persons who could not get into the church. A large number of these vehicles came from Syracuse, and many more from towns near Clay, bringing persons who wished to see for the last time one of the oldest churches in Onondaga county.

In the church things had been made festive for this last big service the building was to hold. Gardens for miles around had been shorn of their splendor in the way of roses to decorate it. There were potted plants from the homes of the church members, branches of evergreens, field daisies and wood fern everywhere.

Organ Buried in Bloosoms [sic].

The little organ was literally buried in masses of blooms, the two stoves, placed in opposite corners for heating the room in winter, were banked with greens studded with flowers; every window ledge was hidden, and the oil lamps, which have served so many years for lighting, were concealed beneath garlands of bright-hued flowers.

Many prominent Lutheran clergymen were seated with Rev. Carl Zinsmeister on the platform, and these all spoke a few words of praise for the good work done in the old building and wishes for the success of the new house of worship, the building of which is to begin next month. Rev. Mr. Zinsmeister, who is missionary superintendent of the synod of New York, was master of ceremonies.

Among the speakers were Rev. Henry M. Schroeder, pastor of St. Peters Evangelical Lutheran Church of this city and president of the western synod of New York. Rev. Mr. Schroeder has supplied the pulpit at Clay since the former pastor, Rev. Arthur Hardy, resigned last September and since when the chuhch [sic: church] has been without a pastor.

Other Clergymen Present.

Rev. Dr. H. G. Dattan, pastor of Zions Evangelical Lutheran Church of this city; Rev. Julius Paetznick, pastor of Mount Tabor Lutheran Church; Rev. John Wittekind, pastor of St. Johns Lutheran Church; Rev. Frederick Ellerman, pastor of St. Pauls Lutheran Church; Rev. F. V. Chryst, pastor of the Church of the Atonement; Rev. Mr. Davis of Clay; John M. Luther, president of the Lutheran Brotherhood of Syracuse, and A. E. Oberlander of this city were also among the speakers.

Musical numbers were given by the choir, by the men’s chorus of the Brotherhood, by William Kramer and Walter Wisehoon, the two latter giving solos.

A history of the church was Mr. Oberlander’s contribution to the programme. He told how, as far back as 1810, a little band of Lutherans settled at Clay and held services, although they had no church building then. A congregation was organized in 1825, and for these the present church was built. Beginning with a congregation of forty, the church membership now numbers more than 100.

None of the charter members are living, but among the olders ones still on the roll who attended the services yesterday was William A. Young, who has been a member seventy years.

Other Clergymen [sic: Members?] Present.

Others among the older members or former members present were Mrs. J. K. Harris, G. T. Young of Mexico, Dr. A. A. Young of Newark; Mrs. J. J. Young of Syracuse, Mr. and Mrs. P. W. Schell of North Syracuse, Mrs. William Miller of Syracuse, J. H. Carlysle, P. H. Heusen, Mr. and Mrs. O. C. Deman and Mr. and Mrs. Allen Gilmore of Clay.

After the service the old bell in the tower was rung, while the congregation sang, "God Be With You 'Till We Meet Again."

Three services were held in the church yesterday. Preparatory services were at 10 o’clock, followed by holy communion at 11 o’clock. The farewell service was preceded by a children’s service at which three infants received the sacrament of baptism.

There will be at least one more service in the old church before the work of demolition begins. Next Sunday Rev. Alfred H. Miller, who is one of the candidates for the pastorate, will come from New York to conduct services. After that services will be held in Weller Hall, Clay village, until the new church is ready to receive its people.

Building space has been given the church by Mrs. L. A. Weller and her children. The lot is located centrally in the village, which will give the new church advantages over the old, which is nearly a mile from the village center.

Building to Cost $3,000.

The Building Committee has under consideration a structure to cost $3,000. This amount is to be raised by subscription, or such part of it as may be necessary. The material in the old church will be used as far as possible in constructing the new.

The new house will have a capacity of 700. It will be built after the same plan as the one to be destroyed as far as architectural lines are concerned, but will be thirteen feet longer and there will be a basement for Sunday school purposes.

Links - for more information:

Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church, Clay, New York; current link:

Source: Past and Present of Syracuse and Onondaga County, by The Rev. William M. Beauchamp. NY: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1908, pp. 353-356.

Source: Onondaga; or Reminiscences of Earlier and Later Times, by Joshua V. H. Clark. Syracuse: Stoddard and Babcock, 1849, Vol. II, pp. 190-194.

Palatines to America; a brief history of their move to New York

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