Annual Meeting of Drowned Lands Historical Society

Nov 13, 2011, at 3PM: At the office of John Ruszkiewicz, on Gurda Lane, Pine Island, NY. Enjoy refreshments and a tour of historical artifacts from the Society. Hope to see you there! All are welcome.

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Discover a Mid-1800s Black Dirt Region Home

Jul 28 | Drowned Lands Mid-1800s Home Close-Up | 6:30PM
A summer fund raiser hosted by John Ruszkiewicz at his home located on the corner of Liberty Corners Road and Gurda Lane. The event will be catered and start at 6PM. We will be asking for $10 a person. This event will look closer at the history of John’s mid 1800’s home.

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Learn Local Geology on July 21, 2011

Join the Drowned Lands Historical Society: Local Geology, at 6:30PM
This is a free event being held at the Pine Island Park.The topic will be local geology presented by Brian Pahucki. This is a family friendly event and we encourage that people come with rocks and questions.

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St Peter’s Lutheran Church to Mark 65th Anniversary

This  is a transcription of an article published in The  Warwick Advertiser – “ 20 Years of Progress Edition”,  dated July 1965. 2010 Transcription by Terry Hann

The  roots of the congregation of St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Little York Rd., Pine Island, reach across the sea to Saxony, Germany.  The 18th century was filled with religious war and strife, with devastation, hunger and war the daily fare of the people.  Their country was overrun by the armies of Austria-Prussia for  seven  years, during the period of 1756-1763.

A  manifesto was issued July 22, 1763, inviting the German people to  come to the Volga district, assuring them of religious freedom,  freedom from military service, their selection of a place of  settlement and professions.  Traveling expenses and self-government  were assured and a return ticket was given them in case of  dissatisfaction.

Between  1764-1767 more than 8,000 families left the Fatherland to follow the  call of freedom and happiness.

As time went on, Revolutionists filled Russia with hatred of the church  and government.  German life, customs, and, above all, the Bible religion of Luther was more than in danger.  There was no future for the youth of the Volga German, except to become a slave Russian.

Rumors  reached the colonies of a new land where freedom reigned, where all  were given a chance to work out their own destiny, keeping their  traditions, customs, languages and religion as they pleased.  The choice had to be made whether to become Russian or emigrate a second time. They  sold their property and left their homeland again under God’s  guidance, for New York.  Some settled in Pine Island, N.Y., Kansas,  Canada, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Washington and Wisconsin. Konrad Luft,  the first settler in Pine Island, helped with the beginnings of the Congregation in 1886 before moving to Wisconsin.

Now,  after more than 75 years, the descendants of these immigrants have  become English or Americanized in speech and in manner.  Some of the  older folks still remain, and until a year ago, a regular German church service was provided for them.

The  first church building was begun but not completed until 1901, for  lack of funds. Rev. Drechsler conducted services here as early as February 17, 1895. After his death, the group succeeded to get Rev.  S. Keyl, Lutheran immigrant missionary, residing on Staten Island, to preach once a month.  Thus the Congregation came in the Missouri  Synod sphere.

Rev. Kaestner completed the church during his ministry and a cemetery was  added to the property.  This building burned on Christmas Eve, 1917,  and a new edifice was erected in 1918, at a cost of $12,300. Rev.  Albert Menkens then served followed by Rev. Luecke, Rev. Emil Listman  and the Rev. Martin Kuegele who served from October 1929 until April  1948.  Dr. E. F. Miller then became pastor, serving from August 1948  until September 1963.

The  Congregation also maintained a Christian Day School for 35 years and  was closed on April 30, 1933.  This was served by the pastor, called  teachers and candidates.

Welcome  New Pastor
The  congregation was without a pastor for nearly a year.  Many calls had  gone out, hopes were fading and fears mounting.  A call went to Pastor Elwood E. Mather, Jr., then serving a new congregation,  Trinity Lutheran, at New Milford, Conn.  St. Peters’ was overjoyed  when news reached them he accepted the call.  Pastor Mather was  installed May 24, 1964, and with his wife and five children moved to  Little York immediately.

Among  various organizations and committees functioning, is the Ladies Aid,  organized in 1929, and serving St. Peter’s faithfully since.  At  present 50 ladies are active.  Most are English speaking but they are  still proud of a number of German-speaking members.  The ladies have  recently purchased office equipment,  among which are a mimeograph  machine, an electric typewriter, also new altar paraments. The ladies  sponsor a Sauerkaut Supper each year serving homemade kraut and rye  bread.

The Altar Guild is supervising the purchase of new Altar Paraments and  care of the Altar.

New  Youth Choir
A  new Youth Choir has been organized and sings regularly.  It is hoped  that a number of youth organizations will be functioning soon.

The church council is active and includes the following members: Martin  Schmick, John Paffenroth, III, Harold Schmick and Henry Nielson; Trustees:  Harvey Paffenroth, Walter Youngman, Kurt Walthers, Henry Daubert and Henry Cook, Jr. Deacons: Peter  Leinweber, Samuel Paffenroth, Herman Scheuermann, Howard Banker, Clayton Ochs and  George W. Yungmann.

Among  recent memorial gifts to the church were tower chimes, played during  1964 Christmas season for the first time and now herald the opening  of services every Sunday morning.

Future  plans call for a new heating unit at the Parsonage, an office in the  church basement, a rear entrance and God-willing new Sunday School  rooms.

St.  Peter’s was privileged to celebrate its Golden Jubilee on September  9, 1951, with Rev. F. Miller and a 60th anniversary celebration June  4, 1961, also with Rev. Miller.

Church  records now show 200 communicant members, 76 enrolled in Sunday  School and Bible Class and 15 on the Nursery Roll.

Since  May 24, 1964, Pastor Mather has had two weddings, 10 Baptisms, 21  confirmands or transfers, a current class of five confirmands and 12  to  be confirmed next year.

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Bones of an 11,000-year old

Moose Elk exhibited in Pine Island
from Warwick Advertiser

Pine Island – A highlight of the Drowned Lands Historical Society demonstration of ancient artifacts in Pine Island last week was an almost complete set of bones of a Moose Elk, carbon-dated at 11,000 years old, that were found in the Black Dirt three years ago.

They were discovered sticking out of the soil by Rich Van Sickle, when he was at work at M & M Produce on Pulaski Highway in Pine Island. A collector of arrow and spear heads and prehistoric relics, he has a keen eye.

“I was working on the tractor,” he recalled, “and saw some bones in the ground.”When he dug into the soil he found the second most complete set of Moose Elk bones yet found. “It’s only missing a femur and a pelvic bone.”

The demonstration of local historical items, including arrow heads and other Indian artifacts, was arranged by John Ruszkiewicz, president of the Drowned Lands Historical Society, and held at the Pine Island Pavilion.

Ruszkiewicz gave a demonstration of an early onion seeder and a corn planter, both dating back to the early 1900’s.A piece of pink granite from Pochuck Mountain, a snow-shoe for horses, used to enable them walk in the soggy Black Dirt, and an electric marshmallow toaster from 1918 were on display.

The oldest item was a fern fossil, also brought by van Sickle, who said it was about 300 million years old.

To join or donate to the Drowned Lands Historical Society, a 501 © (3) organization, contact John Ruszkiewicz at 845-258-4359 or

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Historic Home is Venue for July 22 Social

The Drowned Lands Historic Society will hold a cocktail hour social on Thursday, July 22, at the beautiful and historic  home of Tom and Robin Sobiech  off County Rte 1 on Merritt’s Island.

The event, which is open to the public, will be from 6.30 PM – 8.30 PM. Hors d’ouevres and drinks will be served.  The $10 a head charge will be taken at the door, but reservations are required for planning purposes. Call (845) 321-3522 (and leave a message) or email

The house was built in the late 1700’s by William Wickham, but he never  lived in it. His son George sold the house and farm in 1836 to John Wilcox whose family owned the home until the 1950’s when it was sold to the late Vincent Kosuga. For information about the DLHS contact John Ruszkiewicz, the society President, at

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Arrow Heads Demonstration at July 15 Meeting

Families, including young children, were invited to attend the meeting of the Drowned Lands Historical  Society in Pine Island on Thursday July 15 when there was a demonstration of arrowheads from the region. The DLHS President John Ruszkiewicz also showed antique agricultural equipment once used on Black Dirt farms.

The meeting was held at the family-friendly hour of 5 PM, and held at the pavilion in the Pine Island Park, Treasure Lane. Snacks and refreshments were served. For information about the DLHS contact John Ruszkiewicz, the society President, at

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