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.