One of the earliest Lutheran congregations in western New York was founded in Yates County about 1810 by a group of ethnic Germans from eastern Pennsylvania. Among these was Jacob Shuman, supposed to have been a Hessian soldier in the Revolution who was captured and never returned to his native country, Nicholas Hetchler and Frederick Deutsch. The latter was a physician, born in Germany, who emigrated in his 20s, married Barbara Hetchler in Pennsylvania and then came to the northeastern corner of Potter. The area was known as the Dutch Settlement, either after him or prompted by the usual corruption of the German word "Deutsch" into the more familiar "Dutch."
Most of the early Lutheran congregations in this part of New York dwindled as the members went west, but this one survived because of an influx of new congregants beginning in the 1820s. These were people from the then-French province of Alsace, who were German-speaking Lutherans. They seem to have been related already to one another by marriage when they arrived, and were certainly intermarried once they settled here. The same names appear over and over, in variant spellings, as the members of the Congregation were baptized, married and died.
The records of the church, known then as Christ Church and later as the Elsasser Congregation because of the vast preponderance of Alsatians among its members, were kept in German, in the old-fashioned Gothic handwriting which many of the congregants used also to sign legal documents. The records begin in 1842, and are here transcribed through the end of the 1880s. The church building itself was built in 1850, as it is known that a meeting was held in December 1849 in Benjamin Schweickard's house to consider its erection, and the first annual meeting held in the church itself in October 1851. The corporate name was changed to St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church of Potter in 1866.
The records were transcribed into regular Roman letters, and then from German into English. This work was done in the early 1980s. Posted here are the vital records only, though the book also contains many lists of congregants and the record of confirmations. Apparently the dialect was a difficult one, as there are some gaps in the reading, which are noted in the text.
The name indexes posted with the records refer the researcher to a number, which is the only addition made in posting these records. They are not quite in chronological order, nor of course are they in alphabetical order, so this seemed the easiest method of reference. In the case of marriages, the bride and the groom are indexed, in the case of deaths only the decedent. In the case of baptisms, which is by far the largest of the record sets, both parents are indexed (the mother under her maiden name, if mentioned as it usually is), as well as the person baptized.
|Death records||Index to deaths|
|Marriage records Not on Line||Index to marriages|
|Baptisms 1842-1850||Baptisms 1851-1860|
|Baptisms 1861-1870||Baptisms 1871-1879|
|Baptisms 1880-1888 Not on Line||Index to baptisms|