The new "semester" of  Z.U. starts Monday,  September 19th at 7:00PM, and will be held in the Fellowship Hall. 

About "Ziegenfuss University"

 Since 1996, on Monday evenings, an adult Bible study and discussion group led by Pastor Mark, and affectionately known as “Ziegenfuss University,” has met.  Topics discussed include: The Da Vinci Code; Biblical archeology; the Book of Revelation; the Dead Sea Scrolls; The Book of Concord; the works of Martin Luther; The Apocrypha; Church, Sect and Cult; Paul’s Epistles; Reformation History; American Church Denominations; the First and Second World War; Islam and The Koran, etc.  This free wheeling forum provides interested adult learners with an opportunity to ask hard questions and to receive college level teaching on vital issues and topics of the day. 

Ziegenfuss” means “goat-foot” in German.  Ziegenfuss University” was founded in September 1992, by the Rev. Mark D. Isaacs while he served as pastor of Third Evangelical Lutheran Church in the village of Rhinebeck.  From 1996 to December 1999, while Third and St. Paul’s were a part of a two-point parish, “Z.U.” met in joint session for all interested parties.

After Pastor Mark resigned from Third Lutheran and the ELCA on December 31, 1999, Ziegenfuss University continued to meet at St. Paul’s.

Ziegenfuss University” is named in honor of the Venerable Rev. Henry Lafayette Ziegenfuss, D.D., (November 3, 1844 – February 8, 1894), the First Archdeacon of Dutchess County.   The Rev. Dr. Henry L. Ziegenfuss was born at Kresgeville, Monroe County, Pennsylvania.  His parents were Lutheran.  In 1862 he was matriculated at Pennsylvania College [now Gettysburg College]. 

In June 1863—with the invasion threat of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army—he enlisted in an emergency militia unit; i.e., the 26th Pennsylvania Volunteers—a special regiment under the command of Col. W. W. Jennings, made up of Pennsylvania College students. 

On June 30, 1863, Ziegenfuss and the fellow members of his pick-me-up regiment of college students “fought” in a strange encounter on the Chambersburg Pike, a few miles west of Gettysburg.  The 26th  The Confederate veterans, fresh from their triumphs at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.  A few were wounded, a few were captured, and their shoes and boots were confiscated by the Rebels.  All were disarmed, and a few of the lads fled as far as Harrisburg, where they sat out the Battle of Gettysburg [July 1-3, 1863]  A small granite marker along highway 30 commemorates the spot where this historic encounter took place.  Ziegenfuss survived the battle and graduated with honors from met advanced units of the battle-hardened Army of Northern Virginia.


The Venerable Rev. Henry Lafayette Ziegenfuss, D.D., (November 3, 1844 – February 8, 1894) is buried in the Rhinebeck Cemetery. 

 Pastor Mark teaching adult study classes for Ziegenfuss University.  This has been an ongoing class, meeting once a week for 18 years!

 After college, Ziegenfuss went to Mt. Airy Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.  He graduated and was ordained on Trinity Sunday in 1869.  Rev. Ziegenfuss came to Third Evangelical Lutheran in Rhinebeck, in 1869.  While serving Third he was also Professor of Chemistry in the DeGarmo Institute which stood at the present site of the Third Lutheran Parish Hall on Livingston Street, in the village of Rhinebeck.

                  The Ziegenfuss window in the Triune Lodge in Poughkeepsie. 


   On August 29, 1872, The Rhinebeck Gazette reported that, “Rev. H. L. Ziegenfuss, pastor of the Lutheran Church in this village, will return from his play-spell [vacation?] on Friday or Saturday.  Services will be held at his church on Sunday at the usual hours 10:30 AM and 7 PM.”  During this “play-spell” he must have been praying about an important decision.  In the early fall of 1872, Rev. Ziegenfuss resigned his pastorate at Third Lutheran.


On October 3, 1872, he became a candidate for Orders in the Protestant Episcopal Church.  From Rhinebeck, he went on to serve as a lay reader, then Deacon at St. Margaret’s in Staatsburg.  For six months, after his ordination to the Priesthood—April 20, 1874, he served as Rector of historic St. James Episcopal Church in Hyde Park.  In his book Historic Old Rhinebeck (1905), Howard H. Morse states that, “Two ... [Third Lutheran] pastors selected Rhinebeck girls for wives.” The “two” included Rev. Ziegenfuss and “Rev. Archibald E. Deitz who married a daughter of H. N. Secor.”  On June 11, 1874, Rev. Ziegenfuss married Ella Van Vliet—the only daughter of Isaac F. Van Vliet, M.D. (1822 - February 23, 1876).  The ceremony was held at the Church of the Messiah, with the Rev. Dr. A. F. Olmsted officiating.

Edward M. Smith reports that Rev. Reuben Hill (who served Third Lutheran from 1866-1868) “was succeeded by the Rev. Henry L. Ziegenfuss, who left the Lutherans for the Episcopalians, after a very short Lutheran pastorate, and is now the pastor of a strong Episcopalian church in the city of Poughkeepsie.”

In 1875, at the age of thirty, Rev. Henry L. Ziegenfuss became Rector of Christ Church in Poughkeepsie.  In 1888, Pastor Ziegenfuss presided over the construction of the magnificent—and current—Christ Church building.  He faithfully served Christ Church until his sudden death in 1894.  During this time Rev. Ziegenfuss also served as the first Archdeacon of Dutchess.  Hence the title: “The Venerable Henry Lafayette Ziegenfuss.”  In addition, during his tenure the people of Christ Church built their present building.  He was awarded an honorary S.T.D. degree by Hobart College in 1890.

Among other things, in 1882, Rev. Ziegenfuss organized the Christ Church Guild.  The purpose of this Guild was for “social and literary gatherings.”  At Guild meetings Rev. Ziegenfuss led discussions and directed readings on such topics as theology, philosophy, and astronomy.  Dr. Ziegenfuss’s “Guild” is not unlike our own “Ziegenfuss University.”

Rev. Ziegenfuss was well qualified to head such an eclectic “Guild.”  According to The Records of Christ Church Poughkeepsie, edited by Helen W. Reynolds, in addition to theology, Rev. Ziegenfuss had a strong “interest in science,” ranging from chemistry to biology. In addition, he “read and spoke German with ease and fluency, which gave him direct and early access to the world of thought in the foreign universities.”  When Rev. Ziegenfuss died he had a library of over 3,000 books. 

The Record reports that during his career Dr. Ziegenfuss became, “one of the best known of the clergy of the Diocese of New York, honored and esteemed by his associates in the ministry... and widely loved by the laity.”

This high opinion was seconded by another book called The Eagle’s History of Poughkeepsie”1683-1905 by Edmond Platt.  This book states that Dr. Ziegenfuss, “was greatly beloved by his parishioners.”

Dr. Ziegenfuss is described as an author [he wrote at least two books 1874 and 1882 and a host of articles on topics such as fly fishing!].  He was a “distinguished student of theology,” an “able preacher,” an “indefatigable worker” and a friend and pastor to all including, “high and low, rich and poor, Episcopalian, non-Episcopalian, in Poughkeepsie, throughout Dutchess County.”

They add, “there has probably never been a minister in Poughkeepsie more generally popular, among all Churches, and all classes, than he; but it was not for his learning that this esteem was accorded, nor was it by the exercise of any tact or diplomacy that it was won. The essence of the great power of his personality might be defined as its humanness.”

According to The Record “the circumstances of his death were peculiarly touching.”  Mrs. Ellen Ziegenfuss was “for many years an invalid and unable to bear the care of a home.”  During this time the couple lived in the Hanson House.  This landmark Poughkeepsie hotel was later used by Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt during his various political campaigns.

In the winter of 1894, her illness grew worse.  She died on January 23, 1894.  “Fatigued by the unceasing care he had given her, Dr. Ziegenfuss became ill with grip, and, a few days after his wife’s funeral, he was removed to Vassar Hospital.  A heart weakness, the knowledge of which he had long kept to himself, proved the bar to his recovery, and in his sleep, on Thursday evening, February 8, 1894, he died.”

In addition to being a great pastor and churchman, Henry Lafayette Ziegenfuss was an active Freemason.  He was raised in Rhinebeck Lodge in 1869, and he was a charter member of Triune Lodge in Poughkeepsie, New York.  (See picture on left)   His memory was honored by his Masonic brothers with a beautiful stained glass window which can still be seen in the lodge room in the Poughkeepsie Masonic Temple.   A few years ago the Rev. Dr. Mark D. Isaacs delivered an address to the Royal Arch Masons in Poughkeepsie on the life of Henry Lafayette Ziegenfuss.

Clearly, Henry Lafayette Ziegenfuss was a great Christian man and a great pastor.  The question is, would Dr. Ziegenfuss have approved of us calling our Monday night adult Bible Study “Ziegenfuss University?”  I think he would have smiled and said, “That sounds like my own ‘Christ Church Guild of 1882!’“  Thus, in the spirit of Dr. Henry Lafayette Ziegenfuss, we gather on Monday evenings at St. Paul’s to discuss, to read, and to study important topics and issues. 

“The coming of moving pictures, radio, and television,” wrote Elizabeth McR. Frost in 1960, “in a sense crowded these activities out, and stopped the constant gathering of the church members.  Despite these many distractions, St. Paul’s (Wurtemburg) continues to offer a wide range of programs and organizations that are tailored to minister to the wants and the needs of today’s members.