When asked to speak about the history of Fort Herkimer Church, Donald Fenner said he decided to clear up some misinformation people may have about it.
One thing, he said, is the idea that the church is the second oldest in the state.
“[It may be the oldest] in the Mohawk Valley. That’s probably true. But the second oldest in the state, that’s not quite true,” he said before listing several other churches that date before 1767, including St. George’s Episcopal Church in Schenectady and Sleepy Hollow Reformed Church in Tarrytown.
“We’re actually sixth in line, which isn’t bad,” he said during Saturday’s commemorative celebration of the historical church.
Fenner also talked about how there is no record that Gen. George Washington visited the church in 1783, though it is likely he was at least on the grounds at some point.
The Northern Frontier Project organized Saturday’s event at Fort Herkimer Church, which including Fenner and historian James Morrison, to communicate the importance of local history.
“Our goal is to preserve, promote and protect our heritage,” said Susan Seleway, chairman, before the start of Saturday’s service.
Seleway said the Northern Frontier Project has been coming to Fort Herkimer Church for events over the past few years, including the commemorative celebration and the town of German Flatts’ annual Living History weekend, which takes place next to the church the last weekend in September.
Seleway thanked those who attended Saturday’s event for their interest in history.
“Someone asked me this morning why we do this ... It’s because it’s a treasure,” she said. “Our treasures, unfortunately, are disappearing in this country. We have to do all we can to preserve it.”
Morrison, president of the Northern Frontier Project, talked about the significant events that happened locally 236 years ago, when Gen. Nicholas Herkimer rounded up a militia and marched to Fort Schuyler after he had received word the fort had been seized. Morrison detailed the days before the ambush of the Tryon County Militia, which is now known as the Battle of Oriskany.
Fenner, chairman of the board of commissioners at Fort Herkimer Church, also talked about the church’s renovations over the past 35 years, from its pillars to the pulpit restoration which was done last year. He also read from some personal histories written by local individuals, who talked about their relatives’ history with the church, showing “the strong feelings” people have about it.