Click on the hyper-linked words below to read a local 4th graders “A Historical Place in My Town” report. We are delighted to post it on our website for all to enjoy!
A Historical Review & Perspective by Former Pastor Steve Miller
In November of 1941, Ida Alpaugh delivered the address at the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Pottersville Reformed Church. She had witnessed the founding of the congregation and the building of the sanctuary as well as the entire first half of the church’s existence. There were current members present at her address who have witnessed the church’s second half. Two long lifetimes encapsulate the 145 year history of the congregation. In that same span 41 pastors have served the church.
The village itself began taking shape in the mid-1700s with the presence of a grist mill and by the early 1800s had become a center for light industry. Sering Potter, Sr. was the proprietor of two mills and also served as postmaster for nearly 40 years. In 1880 the town consisted of a half dozen businesses and fifteen dwellings.
With a growing population in the village and the surrounding farms there was a growing need for religious education and church services. A Sunday School was organized in 1857 with 42 enrolled. On occasion, a nearby pastor would preach a sermon following one of the Sunday School meetings giving residents the opportunity for public worship. A meeting of residents on August 12, 1865, resolved that a church should be organized in the village and the preference of those present was that it should be a Reformed Church. In November of 1865 the church was organized with Sering Potter, Sr. as president of the consistory.
One week after the organization of the congregation, a building committee was formed. The following spring, work was begun on the building by the men of the community, with the cornerstone laid in May, 1866. The sanctuary was dedicated the day after Christmas that same year. The attention of the church was then turned to the selection of the first pastor with Thomas Jones, a student from New Brunswick Seminary, chosen. His ordination and installation occurred in June of 1867.
The choir, accompanied by a melodeon, initially sat in the balcony. The first organ was purchased in 1873 when the melodeon wore out, but the new instrument could not be raised to the balcony. The organ was then placed in the current area in the front by the pulpit.
Pastor Jones accepted another call in the fall of 1870 and was followed by two other short pastorates of Vernon Carroll and John Davis. The church, however, was growing, with membership swelling from 30 to 136 in the first ten years. In the spring of the eleventh year, 33 people joined the church on a single Sunday. But just as things looked promising the seeds of decline were sown. People began moving on to better opportunities; light industry was not very profitable, and small farms were being sold to large landowners. Financial problems would plague the church for a long time to come.
By the twentieth anniversary of the church, membership had declined from 140 to 86 and the Sunday School was down to 93 from 135. To add to its difficulties, a tragic event occurred in 1887: Someone poisoned the ice cream at a church festival leaving many people deathly ill and for one person the poisoning was fatal.
The railroad came to Pottersville in the late 1880s creating a boon for the industry and agriculture of the area. When the area suffered a severe blight in the peach orchards, however, farms were sold and the foundry moved, and the railroad stopped running in 1915.
In 1890 and again in 1893 the church was struck by lightning. The new steeple was rebuilt at a height twenty feet lower than the former steeple. In 1915 the church acquired the school building across the street to be used as its all-purpose building. The building was destroyed by fire but rebuilt in 1924.
The mid-1920s also began an era in which most of the pastoral leadership was supplied by student pastors of which there were fifteen between 1924 and 1959. By the 1940s the membership had declined to about 40 members.
The arrival of David Muyskins as pastor in 1959 began a new era of full-time pastoral leadership. In 1960 and 1961 the Community House was expanded and by the mid-1960s about thirty new members had joined the congregation.
Following David Muyskins there were three short pastorates but with the arrival of James O’Connell in 1981 another new era began, the era of longer tenures. Three of the last four pastors have been the three longest tenured pastors in the church’s history. While this has added some stability, the chronic struggle of the small size of the congregation remains.
The congregation stands ready for new leadership and vision to write the next chapter of its history.