Christ's Lutheran Church in 1878

[ The old church ]

Pastor William Sharts, conducting services in the newly renovated third church building, which, like the second one, was known as the "Church on the Rocks," because it sat on a rocky ledge overlooking the Sawkill (about ¾ mile east of our present location--that is, north of present-day Route 212, across from the country club). (To enlarge the picture, just click it.)

[ Beer's Atlas map of Woodstock ]

Above is a map of the Woodstock village, published during this year, showing the Church on the Rocks on the east side of town, just north of current Route 212 (known then as simply Saugerties Road) and north of the Sawkill. It is identified simply as "LUTH. CH." (To enlarge the view, click it.)

It was about this time that the Bible School became a vital part in the church life, under the tutelage of Eveyln Cramer.

According to historian Mark Anderson, there was probably little to distinguish our services from the typical services of other Protestant sects in America. The basic pattern was: scripture reading, hymn, prayer, Gospel reading, hymn, prayer, sermon, prayer, hymn, and benediction. Four times each year there would be a communion service; the service the week before would be a service of preparation for the communion.

In addition to the detailed and meticulous minutes that Pastor Sharts entered in the pastoral record book, he also maintained a separate record of all the texts he based each sermon on, where he preached, what the weather and road conditions were, and an idea of the attendance. This record seems to indicate that he did evening services not only at the Pine Grove Church but also at the schoolhouse known variously as Herrick's and Overlook.

[ Pine Grove Church ] In January, Pastor Sharts wrote the following entry concerning the satellite Pine Grove Lutheran Church, which had separated from Christ's Church ten years earlier and now wanted the Christ's Church pastor to preach on a regular basis at Pine Grove (the picture above is the church, the one below a detail of one of the windows; to enlarge either picture, click it):(1)

From Anderson, Mark J., For All the Saints: Christ's Lutheran Church, Woodstock, New York, 1806-2006 [Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2006], p. 64, citing the pastor's notes and Hartwick Synod Minutes of the Fiftieth Annual Convention [Lutheran Publication Society, 1880]. (Close)
Published at Pine Grove that an election of officers will be held in four weeks. The business of my call postponed until after the election of officers.
A month later, the pastor wrote:
The Pine Grove congregation elected Elders and Deacons today … the congregation consists of 25 members in good standing.
[ Detail of the window in the Pine Grove Church ] And still another month:
Installed church council in the Pine Grove Congregation.… The name of the church is "The Evangelical Lutheran Christ's Church of Pine Grove of the Town of Saugerties." The church book and papers are in the hands of the clerk W. T. Braby.
The following is from the minutes of the Hartwick Synod in May:
By letter dated May 15, Rev. W. Sharts informed me that he had taken charge of the Pine Grove church and that the harmony and peace were fully restored to same. It is to be hoped that the distractions which have so long hindered the prosperity of this charge are now forever at an end.
And then again from Pastor Sharts's notes in October:
Communion in the Pine Grove, full. Collected for Synodical purposes in this congregation $5.00 [$88.30 in 2006 dollars].… Pastor's expenses $1.80 [$31.79]. No part of the proceeds of the Festival held Augt 14, was given to the Pastor, some of the congregation objected, altho' his salary is very much in arrears.…
Annual fairs and festivals continued, as did the poor attendance at communion the pastor complained about.

Eudora Genevieve ("Dora") Sharts, daughter of the pastor, was the church librarian.

The Woodstock Region in 1878

Prospectors were exploring the Woodstock area for coal, oil, and gas.

Regional historian Alf Evers cited the recollections about local Woodstock life at this time of Byron "Bide" Snyder, whose father had a store in town, including a telegraph office, operating the line running from the West Hurley railroad station through Woodstock and on up to the reopened Overlook Mountain House(2):

Excerpted from Evers, Alf, Woodstock: History of an American Town, Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1987, p. 271, citing Snyder, Byron, recollections in the Woodstock Weekly, 1924. (Close)
The church donation was an important social event. Theoretically the members of the church were to meet at the parsonage, donate food etc. and hold a public supper. The money taken in from the supper, to be presented to the minister. The way it worked was something like this: the hungry crowd would eat up all the stuff they brought and everything else in the house. Then the young folks would romp and play games in every room, leaving the house, furniture, beds etc. a tangled mess of wreckage that took days to straighten out. What little money was taken in for supper would not pay for the damage.

Prohibition-crusading ladies and clergymen were busily closing down tavern after tavern in Woodstock.

The Kiersted brothers of Saugerties, tanners and land speculators, rebuilt Woodstock's alpine hotel, the Overlook Mountain House, on the foundations of the original hotel that had burned down 3 years earlier. Colonel James Smith of Poughkeepsie was manager. The dining room was staffed by young ladies described as

buxom, rosy and amiable farmer's daughters and school teachers.(3) Quoted from Evers, Alf, The Catskills: From Wilderness to Woodstock, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1972, p. 477, citing the Kingston Journal, August 7, 1878, reprinted from the New York Herald. (Close)

A New York Herald reporter wrote the following about his stagecoach trip from the Ulster & Delaware Railroad (the U&D) railroad station in West Hurley to Woodstock on his way to the Overlook Mountain House:(4)

Quoted from Evers, Woodstock, op. cit., p. 262, citing the Kingston Journal, August 17, 1868, reprinted from the New York Herald. (Close)
The view from West Hurley is very pretty… on the way to the hotel you pass Woodstock, a sleepy little village, and the road meanders through pleasant farms, abounding with corn, beans and potatoes on every side. You pass old weather-stained farmhouses and rugged, ancient and horny-handed farmers as gnarled as their trees, and little brown children, with great straw hats completely encasing their heads, picking beans and good-naturedly offering you an apple as you pass by. The driver stops occasionally to leave an express package of groceries or other necessaries at a farmhouse and when the homespun farmer's wife asks him how much she owes him "for his trouble" he slyly chucks her under her chin and stealthily squeezes her hand but does not decline the quarter or half dollar [$4.42 or $8.84 in 2006 dollars] which emerges, after much slow and hesitating fumbling from her capacious pocket.…

Charles L. Beach, 69, proprietor of the commodious 55-year-old Catskill Mountain House, the becolumned Greek Revival temple hotel near Kaaterskill Clove, was asked by another Herald reporter if he would support cog-railroad access to his place. He replied that such a railroad

would bring a great many people here who wouldn't be desirable and whom I wouldn't care to have.(5) Quoted from Evers, The Catskills, p. 478, citing the New York Herald, July 16, 1878. (Close)
The undesirables apparently included the poor and the near-poor of the sort who used the U&D Railroad and perhaps were able to be guests at the Overlook Mountain House. He probably also had Jews in mind, although he did not explicitly say so.

Commenting on the old-fashioned, forever unchanging ways of the Catskill Mountain House and its proprietor, the New York Herald observed that "Rip Van Winkleism" was "rampant" there.

The United States in 1878

[ Rutherford B. Hayes ]

Rutherford B. Hayes (Republican) was President. The 45th Congress was in session. (The midterm elections that year would elect the 46th Congress.) A dollar in that year would be worth $17.66 in 2006 for most consumable products.

Immigrants from the British Isles and western Europe (especially Great Britain, Ireland, and Germany)--the so-called "Old Immigrants," most of them boasting a comparatively high level of literacy and accustomed to some level of representative government, who were either Protestant (most of them) or Catholic, were arriving during this decade at an average annual rate of 159,300. The "New Immigrants," those from southern and eastern Europe (especially Italy, Austria-Hungary, and Russia), largely illiterate and impoverished, who tended to be either Catholic, Orthodox, or Jewish and who had little experience with representative government, were arriving at an annual rate of 18,100--11% of the Old Immigrants' rate. The New Immigrants huddled together in large cities, such as New York City and Chicago.

Debtor farmers of the agrarian West and South, the "cheap-money supporters," the Greenbackers, disappointed in the passage of the Specie Resumption Act 3 years earlier, which had authorized the resumption of specie payments in gold coins for all greenbacks in circulation by 1879, were now looking for relief to another precious metal: the "sacred white metal" silver. New silver discoveries in Nevada and other areas of the West had been shooting silver production up and forcing silver prices down. Unfortunately, Congress had formally dropped the coinage of silver 5 years earlier with the Fourth Coinage Act, which these debtor groups and Westerners from silver-mining states labeled the "Crime of '73." They were demanding a return to the "Dollar of Our Daddies"--essentially a call for inflation to make debts easier to repay.

Of course, "sound money" Republicans resisted this call, advocating gold money exclusively. Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury was accumulating gold stocks against the 1879 deadline for resumption; coupled with the reduction of greenbacks, this policy was known as "contraction" and it worsened the effects of the continued economic depression from the Panic of 1873.

Congressman Richard Parks "Silver Dick" Bland, 43, of Missouri and Senator William Boyd Allison, 49, of Iowa secured passage of the Bland-Allison Act, instructing the Treasury to buy and coin between $2 million and $4 million ($35.3 million and 70.6 million in 2006 dollars) worth of silver bullion each month. The Treasury steadfastly stuck to the minimum number, however, disappointing the hope of the inflationists. Deflation essentially continued.

In May, the Democrat-dominated House of Representatives created an 11-member special committee, chaired by New York Congressman Clarkson Nott Potter, 53, charged with investigating the allegations of fraud in the 1876 presidential election. The Potter Committee could not uncover any evidence of wrongdoing by the President, however.

Meanwhile, the New York Tribune published a series of coded telegrams that Democratic Party operatives had sent during the weeks following the 1876 election, revealing attempts to bribe election officials in states with disputed results. Samuel J. Tilden was declared innocent by the Potter Committee, however, in spite of efforts to implicate him in the scandal.

In the midterm elections, the Greenback Labor Party polled over a million votes and put 14 members into Congress.

Through fraud and intimidation, solidly Democratic white supremacists were regaining political power all over the South. Black plantation owner Blanche K. Bruce from Bolivar County in Mississippi, who had even been elected 3 years earlier to the U.S. Senate, continued to serve the remaining 3 years of his term; he was the second (and last) black to do so from that state, but otherwise the notion of blacks holding political office was now a relic of the dead Reconstruction era.

The economically dependent blacks who even tried to vote would be facing unemployment, eviction, and violence. Blacks (and poor whites as well) continued being forced into sharecropping and tenant farming; former slave masters were now bosses and landlords. Through the "crop-lien" system, the serflike small farmers could get food and supplies from storekeepers by agreeing to a lien on their expected crops, a lien they would never be able to fully pay off.

In the South, the daily discrimination against blacks grew increasingly oppressive. Blacks were continually assaulted by harsh reminders of their second-class citizenship, and Southern white supremacists dealt brutally with any black who dared to violate the customary racial code of conduct.

Several thousand blacks, called "Exodusters," from Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas surged into Kansas in search of better opportunity.

Larvae of the gypsy moth (Porthetria dispar) continued to spread from Medford, MA, where French naturalist Leopold Trouvelot had brought the insect from Europe 9 years earlier with hopes to start a silk industry in New England. The moth population was exploding and defoliating American woodlands.

Milton Bradley, 41, reorganized his 14-year-old Milton Bradley & Company firm in Springfield, MA, producing school materials and games, under the name Milton Bradley Company.

The sons of publisher Charles D. Scribner, who had 28 years ago founded with Isaac D. Baker the Baker and Scribner publishing house in New York City, incorporated Charles Scribner's Sons.

William Marcy "Boss" Tweed died in prison at the age of 55.

The 16-year-old Homestead Act, designed to stimulate the family farm and to encourage a rapid population growth in the West, authorized any U.S. citizen, or any alien intending to become a citizen, to take 160 acres of Western land for just a $10 registration fee ($176.60 in 2006 dollars), provided that he make certain improvements and that he live on the tract for 5 years. Alternatively, the settler might acquire land after only 6 months of residence for a nominal price of $1.25 per acre ($22.08 per acre in 2006 dollars). Either way, the land acquired was to be exempt from attachment for debt.

Of course, the act augmented immigration. Tens of thousands of settlers applied for homesteads each year, a third of them actually receiving land. During this year, nearly 3 million acres of public lands were legally transferred to private ownership.

Unfortunately, most landless Americans were too poor to become independent farmers; the expense of moving a family from the East to the ever-receding frontier was prohibitive, and the subsequent costs of equipment, fencing, and housing was formidable for most. Industrial workers were ill-suited to transform themselves into farmers; most of the homesteaders were already farmers and were situated close to the frontier anyway.

Also, the standard quarter section was typically inadequate for raising livestock or for the kind of commercial agriculture that was suitable on the dry Great Plains; approximately two-thirds of the homesteaders eventually surrendered in their struggle against draught. Cynics joked that the government had put up the 160 acres against the $10 registration fee in a cruel bet that the settlers would not last the requisite 5 years. Notably, about five times as many families purchased their land from the states, the land companies, or the railroads.

Congress had attempted to address the problem with its 5-year-old Timber Culture Act, which permitting individuals to claim an additional 160 acres if they agreed to plant a quarter of it in trees within 10 years. This law was helpful to farmers in Kansas, Nebraska, and Dakota Territory, but raising seedling trees on the plains was difficult; fewer than 25% of those who took land under this law ever obtained final title.

The Homestead Act and similar laws spawned considerable fraud: Settlers often swore that they had "improved" their claim by erecting a "twelve-by-fourteen" dwelling, which actually measured 12 by 14 inches. Wealthy speculators used the law to obtain large tracts. Unscrupulous corporations bribed aliens with beer or a little cash to become a "dummy" homesteader so that they could snatch properties containing oil, minerals, and timber.

Congress now passed the Timber and Stone Act, which allowed anyone to claim 160 acres of forest land on the slopes of the Rockies for $2.50 an acre ($44.16 per acre in 2006 dollars) if it was "unfit for civilization." Lumber companies took advantage of this law to obtain thousands of acres by hiring dummy claimants whom they marched in gangs to the land offices, paying them a few dollars for their time in claiming and then signing over their claims. Essentially an acre cost the companies less than the value of one log as yet unfelled.

Cattle drives on the 700-mile-long Chisholm Trail from San Antonio, TX, to Abilene or Ellsworth, KS (two "cow towns" on the Kansas Pacific Railway, where cattle could be transported to Chicago), continued on a large scale, hundreds of thousands of steers driven north on the "Long Drive," moving at an average 12 miles per day through open, unsettled country.

Drought continued on a good part of the cattle range in the West.

Active prospecting for silver, begun the year before, continued at the exhausted 19-year-old placer gold mines in Oro City, Colorado, where metallurgist A. B. Wood had 4 years earlier recognized silver-lead ores in material rejected by gold miners. Prospectors changed the name of the village to Leadville.

Thousands of Chinese immigrants were fleeing the disintegrating Chinese Empire and coming to the United States, at an annual rate during this decade of 12,320. Most were men (the ratio was 21 males for each female). Some came with money pooled by their families back home, but most were desperately poor and in debt to Chinese middlemen, which they would need to repay in cruel conditions of indenture for years. The indenture business was known ignominiously as "pig selling." Chinatowns were springing up in railroad towns, farming villages, and cities, where the immigrants could speak their own language and seek safety from prejudice and violence. Many organized themselves into tongs (secret societies).

Canadian-born entrepreneur James Jerome Hill, 40, in association with Donald Alexander Smith, 58, and George Stephen, 49, purchased the St. Louis & Pacific Railroad, which had become bankrupt from the Panic of 1873, wresting it from Dutch bondholders by floating new securities. He renamed his purchase the Great Northern Railway.

This is a placeholder for information on the United States during this year. The information will come soon. The footnote at the end of this sentence is also a placeholder; please don't click it.(4)

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The World at Large in 1878

The Canadian Pacific Railway was complete as far west as Winnepeg, but this was hardly fast enough for the public. British Columbia threatened secession if the line were not promptly completed. This situation led to the fall of the government of Alexander Mackenzie, who had been overseeing construction on a piecemeal basis. Sir John Macdonald, who had been forced to resign 5 years earlier, was reelected to the post (and would serve for the next 13 years, until his death).

English religious leader William Booth's 13-year-old social organization, the Christian Revival Association, adopted the name Salvation Army.

The coffee rust (Hamileia vastatrix), which had appeared in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) 9 years earlier, was spreading throughout the Orient and the Pacific, wiping out coffee plantations and causing coffee prices to soar.

This is a placeholder for information on the world at large during this year. The information will come soon. The footnote at the end of this sentence is also a placeholder; please don't click it.(5)

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