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HISTORY

St. Johns Evangelical Lutheran Church
1675 Coates Avenue
Holbrook, NY 11741

 

 

St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church has been a part of the Holbrook community since 1904.
The Old Church has an even longer history, dating back to 1865.

 

On the East side of Coates Avenue, in Holbrook, just south of the main line of the Long Island Railroad, stands a small Colonial-style church building. It has been there since 1865. The land on which the building rests was originally held by the Secataug Indians. It passed through the N.Y. “Patents” to the Nicoli “Patents” in the year 1840. In the 1850’s Hugh and Anna McCotter became the owners and passed it on to Alexander and Francis McCotter.  The House of Worship was sponsored by the Presbyterian Mission Society of New York, after a plot of ground had been donated by Alexander and Francis McCotter, on August 25, 1864. A local group formed the Presbyterian Mission Church of Holbrook, naming as trustees - Ephram DuBois, Robert Everett, W. Wilson, Sidney Jung, and Samuel Fleet. The parcel given was sixty feet wide and one hundred twenty feet deep. An adjacent plot to the south, was also donated stipulating its use for a parsonage and in the deed it stated that the McCotters retained permission to cultivate the plot until a parsonage was built.

Construction of the building began in 1865 and was completed in 1866. It was twenty-six feet wide and forty-two feet deep, having just enough space to seat one hundred Worshippers. The building was "Carpenter-style-Gothic," that is, the design and ornamentation was derived from the Carpenter's handbook of the period, which illustrates columns, pilasters, cornice brackets, steeple and the pointed head windows and moldings. The side walls were eighteen feet high, the ceiling height - fifteen feet. The exterior covering was clapboards (still in good condition); the interior had been plastered; the original floor boards were of wide pine planks. The framing members, of spruce (portions of the framing had been fastened with eight inch long pine pegs). In the steeple hangs a large bell on a heavy metal support; the bell-mouth is thirty inches across and the ball-height is twenty-six inches. The bell is actuated by a pull rope riding over a six foot diameter bell wheel. The lighting system consisted of kerosene oil lamps and wall sconces. A log-burning stove stood in the northeast comer of the room.

In 1866, Holbrook was a thriving community. The Long Island railroad (construction started in 1844) had laid the single track through Holbrook, which later became the boundary line between the Town of Brookhaven and the Town of Islip, and built a station here. The station was the distribution point for the farm products and manufactured goods, the cut cord wood and greenhouse flowers from the north and south shore communities. A number of roads led to Holbrook. Among them, Smith Road, Patchogue-Holbrook Road, and others. A road on railroad property went from Patchogue-Holbrook Road to Ronkonkoma (before Railroad Avenue was constructed). Coates Avenue and Grundy Avenue were opened to Furrows Road to the south. A stage line operated between Patchogue and Holbrook along Patchogue Road during the 1870s. Later this stage operated from Patchogue to Waverly, to Selden to Port Jefferson. Another stage line started in 1875, went to Bohemia and Sayville (this line advertised that it preferred light-weight people and that the horse's name was "Dell").

Hugh and Hannah McCotter and Alexander and Francis McCotter had purchased large tracts of land in the towns of Islip and Brookhaven in the 1850's and laid out streets and lots which they sold to buyers from maps. These lots were seldom developed into home sites. Elizabeth, a daughter of Francis McCotter, and the McCotters, persuaded the Board of Church Erection Fund of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church to sponsor a project for a church building in Holbrook. They donated the site for the church and the parsonage. The structure was completed, but we find that on June 20, 1871, it was sold at Public Auction in response to an action by William Robinson who was owed $703.48 as a lien upon the property and assessed to the Trustees. The lien was paid through the court action and an H. Parsons was the highest bidder. The property was transferred on October 1872, upon a payment of $800.00, to Elizabeth McCotter (now Wilson) who acted as the creditor of the church body. The property was deeded back to the Presbyterian Mission on November 28, 1876. Additional parcels of land were added to the church property at this time, making an area of 15,000 square feet.

Just north of the church building, across the railroad tracks several factories and warehouses had been built. One factory, called the Newins and Griswald Cigar Factory, had been in operation since 1877, and during the first five months, made 631,925 cigars and paid an excise tax of $3,791.00. They had planned to roll two million cigars a year. About 1880, Newins and Griswald, disturbed by the unionization of the employees, and an attempt to raise wages stated that they were a first class employer and felt hurt that the workers were unhappy. After a short period of discussion, they fired all employees and closed the factory. This had an adverse effect on the Presbyterian Mission Church, as most of the members had been employed in this factory. Other places of employment closed, the stage line ceased operations and Holbrook Station lost a place as a transportation center to the newly built stations at Patchogue and Sayville along a new Montauk line of the Railroad.

Once again, in 1904, a mortgage held by Elizabeth McCotter for $1000.00 was foreclosed and upon the order of Judge Jeter Hand, was sold at the Riverhead Court House, to the highest bidder, the newly formed Holbrook Lutheran Church of Holbrook in the name of the Board of Trustees – Charles Gehring, Charles Flubacker and Claus Baack for the sum of $350.00. When the Presbyterians abandoned the church building, one item of interest was left. It is the Pulpit Bible which contains the inscription: "To the Presbyterian Church at Holbrook, L.I. from Mrs. H Ferguson, October 9th, 1866." This Bible was printed by the American Bible Society of New York in 1857.

The Holbrook Lutheran Church, now renamed the St. John's Evangelical Church of Holbrook, was founded in 1904 by the Lutherans in Holbrook. A very small group of Christians, 29 in all, established the church and from 1904 to 1906 held worship services in the members’ homes. It must have been an exciting two years for these people. The abandoned church they had bought was in utter disrepair. Many hours of hard labor must have been spent repairing, scrubbing and polishing before all was ready for the first service in their own church. The church building was repaired, inside and out, adding brick foundations in place of the settled locust posts, patched and painted the plaster walls and installed a metal ceiling.

The first spiritual leader was Rev. Herman Zoller. He organized the Holbrook Lutheran Church as a missionary station and led the new congregation until 1915 when he accepted a call to Emanuel Church in Patchogue. Hard times followed. It was difficult and sometimes impossible to find a visiting pastor. Attendance dropped and interest began to fade.

From 1920 to 1922 Rev. Adolf Meili served the two Lutheran churches in Sayville and Holbrook. He was succeeded by Rev. Otto Graesser. Again hard times plagued the small congregation and attendance dwindles and the offerings could not cover the expenses. The twelve years from 1915 to 1927 must have been very frustrating for the tiny congregation. It must have seemed to be a hopeless situation. Their great faith in God, the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit made it possible for them to continue their quest, a Lutheran Church in Holbrook.

Their prayers were answered when Rev. Albert Beyer accepted a joint call from Holbrook Lutheran Church and St. John’s of Sayville. When he arrived in 1927 a new era emerged for the congregation. Pastor Beyer was eager to rejuvenate the congregation. He called on the Baacks, Bliemillers, Flubachers, Heines, Harrisons, Kopplemanns, Schneiders, Steidels, Ulrichs, Wehrenbergs, Yerks, and others to rededicate themselves and to attend services regularly. Repairs, both inside and outside, of the church were begun. Heating and lighting were installed. A Sunday School was reinstated and a Council was initiated. The service was revised to follow the Hymnal. The final change was the church name, The Holbrook Lutheran Church became St. John’s Lutheran Church of Holbrook.

Once again dedicated Lutherans took an active part in their church and community. In 1928 St. John’s began keeping its own records. Previously all records of baptisms confirmations, marriages, etc. were kept in St. John’s of Sayville. A fire destroyed all records. As a result none are available prior to 1928.  In 1932 Pastor Beyer was taken by his Lord to his heavenly home. It must have been a sad day for the congregation of Holbrook and Sayville. What a tremendous legacy Pastor Beyer left.

Visiting preachers served St. John’s until Rev. Louis H. Martin was installed on January 15, 1933. Pastor Martin consoled and comforted the fledgling worshippers in the trying years of the depression and in time, was to see many accomplishments in the growing community. A new Sunday School wing enlarged the Church complex; a new organ raised its voice in His praise. Although Pastor Martin served both Sayville and Holbrook, his presence and example was a source of encouragement and growth. A long-deserved retirement of Reverend Martin in 1959 was the final factor that spurred St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church to the vibrant activity that is ours today.

A call was sent to Reverend William K. Roser at Utica, South Dakota, and he accepted. Pastor Roser was installed as resident minister on February 28, 1960; his acceptance and success in the community was overwhelming. A second worship service, improvements and revision in services, Bible studies – all contributed to a closeness of congregation.

 

More to come
 
under construction

 

 

 


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If anyone has old pictures or history on the old church please send them to me stogdale@verizon.net

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