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A tale of twin churches

Concerned citizens consider Crum Creek church’s future

May 3, 2009
By RICHARD NILSEN, The Leader-Herald

OPPENHEIM - The last active service for the Crum Creek Evangelic Lutheran Church was in December 2007, at the funeral of Evelyn Groff Thode and her brother Gerald Groff's mother.

A meeting at the church last Sunday afternoon included Evelyn Thode, Groff, former members of the church and interested people from the community who were there to determine the fate of the church, which is set to officially dissolve in September.

"The Synod doesn't want the building on its rolls anymore," Thode said at the meeting.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald, Richard Nilsen
Fulton County Historian Peter Betz and Oppenheim Historian Hector Allen discuss the fate of the Crum Creek Evangelic Church April 26.

She said the meeting, attended by about 20 people, was to see how to preserve the historical structure, attain non-taxable status and still be able to use the building for weddings, funerals and a general community gathering place.

"It's a beautiful, solid brick building," Fulton County Historian Peter Betz said. "Places like this are the backbone of America."

Patsy Glista, representing the Upstate New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America said once the dissolution is completed in September, the building and property will "no longer be a church, per se."

Former members who were still being carried on the rolls of membership were told their membership would automatically be transferred to the St. Johnsville Lutheran Church unless they requested otherwise.

According to the ELCA Web site, the last official tally for the Crum Creek Evangelic Lutheran Church was in 1998. At that time 19 baptized, confirmed members were listed with an "average attendance of nine."

Oppenheim Historian Hector Allen said the church was moved "about 40 feet" to its present location in 1906 before it gained its brick facade. He said it had been a "twin sister" to the Methodist Church across the road, both of clapboard and painted white. That building became a grange hall in 1889.

In his "Oppenheim Chronicles," Allen wrote:

"At one time there were two Protestant churches in the hamlet of Crum Creek, practically across the road from each other. A large hill a few hundred yards northeast of the churches is still called 'Twin Church Hill' on our maps. At one time the two churches in Crum Creek were very close to each other, of similar size and painted white, hence the name Twin Church Hill.

The 1868 map lists what is now the Grange Hall as a Methodist Episcopal Church, and the present Lutheran Church as a Union Church. Crum Creek isn't a very large community, but in the 19th century it was at the center of a prosperous farming area.

As far as I know, this hamlet never had a store or a tavern, although for several years it did have its own post office."

Even the Mapquest Web site shows "Twin Church Road" where it crosses County Highway 331 at Crum Creek as the name of the road, also known as County Highway 108.

Allen said the grange hall had been privately purchased and he didn't know it's future purpose.

According to Allen's book, the Lutheran Church building was constructed in 1853, a year after the Methodist Church across the road. In May 1882, the Lutheran Church in Crum Creek was formally incorporated as the Franckean Evangelical Lutheran Church of Crum Creek which merged with the Lutheran Church of St. Johnsville in 1900.

In 1853, the church was called the Oppenheim and St. Johnsville Union Society and Benjamin Groff, ancestor of Evelyn and Gerald, was one of the five listed trustees.

In 1977 a Little Falls "Evening Times" article said the church received a new ceiling in 1972 with stained glass windows and sanctuary repaired in 1974 and 1975.

Various possibilities for the Lutheran church were put forth at the meeting last Sunday.

Stan DeVoe of Willie Road, Johnstown, cited the Peck Lake Schoolhouse historical group who have regular school tours with a nature trail, performing arts and ice cream socials that can all be events as well as fund raisers.

"The most difficult thing will be to get a board of directors to agree," DeVoe said.

As for the historical significance, neighbor Keith Handy of Handy Hill Farms said foundation stones for the church were likely taken from local quarries.

"The stone for our barn was cut from our own quarry on the property," he said.

Betz noted that the dedication names on the stained glass windows were likely the founding families of the church. He suggested old records from the church be preserved as well.

"The records of meetings are usually more interesting than births, deaths and marriages," he said.

Handy offered a prayer at the end of the Sunday meeting. As a seventh generation Groff, one of the founding families of the church, he said he would very much like to see the church preserved along with its history of spiritual guidance.

"In thinking of the breakdown of culture, we need a light in our community," he said. "In our broken world we look to buildings like this in the future."

Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at



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