Christ's Lutheran Church in 1879

[ 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 in 1878, 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.

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

Three weeks of services were canceled this year during the spring muds and otherwise bad roads.

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.

Annual fairs and festivals continued, as did the poor attendance at communion the pastor complained about. Pastor Sharts made, hung, and painted ten pair of blinds on the parsonage. He also built a fence in back of the house, purchasing the lumber himself.

Former Pastor Thomas Lape, who had served the Woodstock congregation for three pastorates, died in Athens, NY, at the age of 77. He had earned a reputation as a

clear, methodical preacher … instructive … gentle, amiable, cheerful and faithful pastor; a good husband and father; a humble Christian, and a sincere friend. He stood well among the Lutheran clergy of the State. He was one of the founders of the Hartwick Synod, has been its president, and filled other offices of trust and responsibility in this body, having remained connected with it for forty-seven years, and until his death. Our departed brother used his pen effectively, as well as his voice, for the cause of Christ. He compiled the Theological Sketch Book, in two large octavo volumes, which had a large sale. He was the author of a work on Infant Baptism [A Manual of Christian Baptism, 1866], which has for many years been circulated in the church. About twenty-five years ago [ca. 1854] he prepared a work on the Atonement [The Manual of the Christian Atonement], which was published in New York. He was the author of a Prize tract on the Statistics of Intemperance [1867], which was published by the National Temperance Society. He also published books entitled, "The Mourner Comforted," and "The Early Saved." Some of his sermons were published in the Lutheran Preacher, and some in the National Preacher. He also wrote for our church papers and for the Quarterly Review.(1) Here Anderson (For All the Saints: Christ's Lutheran Church, Woodstock, New York, 1806-2006 [Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2006], draft) is citing the 1879 tribute presented by Rev. P. A. Strobel, of the Hartwick Synod obituary committee. (Close)

The Woodstock Region in 1879

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. Snyder mentioned the last stand of the primeval Woodstock forest to remain close to the business center of town(2):

Excerpted from Evers, Alf, Woodstock: History of an American Town, Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1987, p. 272, citing Snyder, Byron, recollections in the Woodstock Weekly, 1924. (Close)
Just back of the cemetery was [the] Judge's woods. The giant pines and oaks grew so thickly that it seemed like twilight. Not a trace of those dark, solemn grand old woods is left [in 1924].
The woods of Judge Jonathan Hasbrouck stood at the edge of his 500-acre tract.

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

Prohibition-crusading ladies and clergymen had been busily closing down tavern after tavern in Woodstock. During this year the sale of liquor was prohibited throughout the town. (Some wanted to go further and outlaw tobacco, coffee, tea, and perhaps even salt, pepper, and pickles on moral grounds.) Colonel James Smith of Poughkeepsie, manager of the year-old revived Overlook Mountain House that was owned by the the Kiersted brothers of Saugerties, plainly indicated his intention to comply with the new ordinance. There was no bar in the hotel, and Colonel Smith boasted that any careful father could send his young daughter to the hotel in full confidence that her morals would not be corrupted. A playground was provided for the children of guests. 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)
The English Sunday, with Protestant preachers and lots of hymns, was strictly enforced, much to the dread of continental European guests. In the meantime, though, guests could bring to the presumably dry hotel their own liquor bottles, consume the contents as they wished on the premises, and buy replacement bottles from bootlegging hotel staff.

Charles L. Beach, 70, proprietor of the commodious 56-year-old Catskill Mountain House, the becolumned Greek Revival temple hotel near Kaaterskill Clove, shared his feelings with a writer for Lippincott's Magazine about any railroad approaching his romantic, old-fashioned hotel:

Let not the Catskills be made more accessible; they are accessible enough. We want no more railroads, no improved means of transportation to transform pleasure-paths and byways into highways. The old lumbering stagecoach [is] the vehicle best suited to mountain roads.(4) Quoted from ibid., p. 462, citing "Catskill and the Catskill Region," in Lippincott's Magazine, vol. 24, no. 9, pp. 279-80. (Close)

Austin Corbin announced that he was barring all Jews from his Manhattan Beach Hotel on Coney Island and he was forbidding their use of the beach. Many boardinghouses in the Catskills followed Corbin's bigoted example, but Jews were still guests at both the Overlook Mountain House and the Catskill Mountain House.

The United States in 1879

[ Rutherford B. Hayes ]

Rutherford B. Hayes (Republican) was President. The newly elected 46th Congress was in session. A dollar in that year would be worth $19.48 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.

The value of manufactured products in the U.S. was $5.3 billion ($103 billion in 2006 dollars), a 61% increase in just a decade, a nearly threefold rise in 20 years.

At the beginning of this year, the Specie Resumption Act of 4 years earlier was accomplished. The U.S. Treasury could now redeem the embattled paper greenbacks, at last through the "contraction" policy brought up to their full face value, with specie payment in gold coins. Few greenback holders bothered to exchange the lighter and more convenient bills for gold, however.

Debtor "soft-money" farmers of the agrarian West and South, joined by Westerners from the silver-mining states, continued to look 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 6 years earlier with the Fourth Coinage Act, labeled the "Crime of '73." The "soft-money" advocates had secured passage of the Bland-Allison Act the preceding year, requiring the Treasury to buy and coin between $2 million and $4 million ($39 million and 78 million in 2006 dollars) worth of silver bullion each month. But when the Treasury stuck to the minimum number, the advocates were disappointed, deflation essentially continued, and debts remained difficult to repay.

Pennsylvania political economist Henry George, 40, who had settled in California, published his bestselling Progress and Poverty, arguing that a sizable portion of the wealth created by social and technological advances in a free-market economy is captured by land owners and monopolists through economic rents, and that this concentration of unearned wealth is the root cause of poverty. Why was private profit being earned from restricting access to natural resources while productive activity was being burdened with heavy taxes?

The wealthy class is becoming more wealthy; but the poorer class is becoming more dependent. The gulf between the employed and the employer is growing wider; social contrasts are becoming sharper; as liveried carriages appear, so do barefooted children.(5) Quoted in Bailey, Thomas A., Kennedy, David M., and Cohen, Lizabeth, The American Pageant: A History of the Republic, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998, p. 536.(Close)
Such a system, he argued, was equivalent to slavery. He saw the appropriation of oil royalties by magnates of petrol-rich countries as an equivalent form of rent-seeking activity: Since natural resources are given freely by Nature rather than being products of human labor or entrepreneurship, no single individual should be allowed to acquire unearned revenues by monopolizing their commerce. George advocated the abolition of all taxes save those on land value. The state could thereby avoid having to tax any other types of wealth or transaction.
We must make land common property.

Through fraud and intimidation, solidly Democratic white supremacists had regained political power all over the South. Black plantation owner Blanche K. Bruce from Bolivar County in Mississippi, who had even been elected 4 years earlier to the U.S. Senate, continued to serve the remaining 2 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.

As they had done the preceding year, several thousand blacks, called "Exodusters," from Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas continued to surge into Kansas in search of better opportunity.

Some 7,000 miles of railroad track had been laid in the South since the end of the Civil War.

Larvae of the gypsy moth (Porthetria dispar) continued to spread from Medford, MA, where French naturalist Leopold Trouvelot had brought the insect from Europe 10 years earlier with hopes to start a silk industry in New England. The moth population was exploding and defoliating American woodlands.

The Chautauqua Normal School of Languages was started by the 5-year-old Chautauqua Assembly, on Lake Chautauqua, NY, which had developed into a traveling tent show of lecturers to bring culture to small towns in America.

Henry Clay Frick, 30, now a millionaire through his control over the previous 6 years of the ever-more-valuable coal and coke land around Connellsville, PA, near the Pittsburgh steel mills, was offered a general managament in the operations of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, 43. Frick orgainzed the Carnegie Company, whose basic unit was the Homestead Works.

John Green sold his Hot Springs, AR, Mountain Valley Mineral Water Company to St. Louis entrepreneur W. N. Benton, who began promoting the product with testimonial health claims as a cure for Bright's disease, torpid liver, dropsy, and dyspepsia.

The 17-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 ($194.80 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 ($24.35 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, more than 2 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 6-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.

The year-old Timber and Stone Act allowed anyone to claim 160 acres of forest land on the slopes of the Rockies for $2.50 an acre ($48.70 per acre in 2006 dollars) if it was "unfit for civilization." Lumber companies were taking 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.

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).

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The World at Large in 1879

The coffee rust (Hamileia vastatrix), which had appeared in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) 10 years earlier, was spreading throughout the Orient and the Pacific, wiping out coffee plantations and causing coffee prices to soar.

American ex-pat painter Mary Cassatt, 35, was now included among the Impressionists.

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