History of Altamont Reformed Church

The Reformed Church in America is a transplant from Holland through the Dutch settlers of New Netherlands (New York). As settlement continued, churches were established throughout the Hudson and Mohawk valleys. The congregation at Albany was formally organized in 1642, followed by Schenectady in 1680.

Dutch settlers from both of these places were the first to inhabit the “Hellerbergh” area between 1700 and 1750. Traveling west on the Schoharie Plank Road, many settled at the foot of the magnificent escarpment because of the rich soil, abundance of timber, and water power from the numerous streams.

At about that time, a small, log meeting house for a local Dutch Reformed Church was erected along the Black Creek near present-day Osborn’s Corners. Services were conducted whenever a clergyman or “Dominie” traveled out from Albany, Schenectady, or Catskill.

In 1788, a new church building was erected on the original site and the congregation was formally organized as “the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of the Helderberg.” The first permanent pastor, Rev. Harmanus Van Huysen, was installed in 1794 to serve the united congregations of Helderberg (Guilderland), Salem (New Salem), and Jerusalem (Feura Bush). By 1834, the growth of this area resulted in the erection of a new church edifice at Osborn’s Corners. Seating 500 persons, it was soon filled as the revival spirit swept the country.

The coming of the Delaware & Hudson Railroad in 1863 spurred a rapid growth in the Knowersville (Altamont) area. Residents began holding services in an open-air pavilion at the foot of the mountain and organized as their own congregation in 1885.

The new Altamont church building was dedicated on Oct. 3, 1888 as the “Second Reformed Church of the Helderberg.” As a collegiate church, it shared the services of the pastor with the “mother church” at Osborn’s Corners. The Altamont Reformed Church was constituted as an independent body by ecclesiastical action of the Classis of Schenectady on April 21, 1896 and a parsonage was erected in 1897 to house “our own” pastor.

The Laurel Band, a women’s Sunday School class begun in 1906, was chartered in 1911 and remained a mainstay of church life until the denomination encouraged restructuring of all church groups in the late 1950s.

The Fellowship Hall and Sunday School rooms were constructed in 1926, replacing the original hall, which burned in 1911. Extensive redecorations were made to the sanctuary in 1950, followed by a complete rebuilding and enlarging of the original pipe organ in 1952. Further improvements were made to the Fellowship Hall and classrooms in 1960.

No review of our church history would be complete without a mention, however brief, of the Altamont Fair Restaurant. Begun in a tent in 1950 as a building fund project, it remained for about 25 years a major contributor to both the financial and congregational life of this church and did much to further the ecumenical spirit of the village congregations.