The History of Otsego, NY 
Middlefield Churches

CHAPTER XLVIII

TOWN OF MIDDLEFIELD - Continued

Ecclesiastical History -- Early Methodism - Methodist Churches - Presbyterian Church, Middlefield Centre - Baptist church, Clarksville.

"We felt that we were fellow-men,
We felt we were a band
Sustained here in the wilderness
By Heaven - s upholding hand.

And when the solemn Sabbath came,
We gathered in the wood,
And lifted up our hearts in prayer

To God, the only Good."

W. D. Gallagher

EARLY METHODISM

The pioneers of Otsego manifested much zeal in religious matters, and the clearing was scarcely made, and the rude cabin erected, ere measures were adopted enabling them to hold devotional exercises. These gatherings were usually held at the house of some settler, who generously opened his doors to the neighborhood but often, "when the solemn Sabbath came, they gathered in the wood," and there amid the monarchs of the forest, raised their voices in solemn supplication.

The following interesting sketch of early Methodism in this vicinity was compiled mainly from the writings of the late George Peck, D.D., who was born in Middlefield, Aug. 8, 1797.

In 1802 the Rev. William Colbert was appointed presiding elder in the Albany district, at the conference in May. March 19, 1802, he preached at a school-house in Pittsfield, and on the following day rode to Cooperstown, and, after a brief stop, rode on to Daniel McCollum - s, in Middlefield, where a few people were waiting.

Daniel McCollum - s house was the regular preaching-place, and the place of the public prayer-meetings when they was no preaching.

The Middlefield society was a strong society in those days, but still only at intervals enjoyed the labors of the traveling preachers on the Sabbath.

Sept. 21, 1803, Mr. Colbert rode to Joseph Blair - s, in Middlefield. "Thursday, 22," says he, "we spent at Middlefield (Centre), and at night Samuel Budd preached, and I spoke after him. In this place there appears to be a very happy society."

November 12, quarterly meeting for Otsego circuit was held in Middlefield, and on this day Mr. Colbert records his arrival "at Joseph Blair - s, cold and weary about two o - clock, and found that the quarterly meeting, for convenience - sake, was held at our friend Isaac Green - s, in the neighborhood, but, as we supposed the meeting would be ended before we could get there, we kept the house. At night we had a tedious conference. May the Lord restore peace to the societies."

"Sunday, 13," says Mr. Colbert," we had a blessed love-feast and sacrament this morning.

"Monday, 14, spend at Joseph Blair - s, and in the evening a few assembled to hold a prayer-meting.

"Several of our sisters wee carried away with ecstasies of joy. I cannot but make mention of the sorrows o Sister Green, on account of her hardened daughter, Sally. Never did I see a mother in such agony for the salvation of a daughter. She prayed for her until she fell four or five times; and all this, with all the awful warnings and loving entreaties of others, brought not this stubborn mortal on her knees.

"Aunt Green, as we used to call her, was a woman of great zeal and of unrivaled tenacity of purpose. Her hardened daughter Sally was like her mother in unyielding firmness. She was an independent thinker, and acted upon her own responsibility. Her will was stronger then her sympathy. But Sally Green had another side to her character; she was generous and frank. A blunt refusal to make a religious effort with her simply meant - let me alone until I get ready, then I will start in my own way, - and so she did. She embraced religion, was baptized, and united with the church." She married Mr. David lent, of Mendon. Mr. and Mrs. Lent and children are all dead.

Jonathan Newman was born in the city of New York in1770. At sixteen years of age he learned the tailor - s trade, at which he continued to work until after the close of the Revolution, except three years that he was in the American army and served as a soldier.

Soon after he was ordained by the New York conference, and continued to travel and preach until he located in Hartwick, Otsego County. He was very much esteemed by his friends and brethren, and honored by all who knew him for the love and attachment that he manifested towards the cause of Christ, and particularly for the untiring zeal and steadfast integrity that he exhibited to the world.

As the facilities for a traveling minister in those days were very limited, he labored under a great disadvantage; often times he was obliged to travel by marked trees through the woods, and to endure all kinds of weather, as the country was thinly settled. He continued his philanthropic course until old age put an end to his traveling, which was a cause of much grief to him the remainder of his day.

After he had been located a number of years he was seized with a fatal disease, which confined him to his bed but six weeks before he died.

He had his senses until the last, and appeared calm and composed, willing to die, and with but a faint struggle, he resigned his spirit. Thus ended the days of a venerable father and a useful minister of Christ.

He was buried near Hartwick village, on Otego creek, and has a beautiful monument erected at his grave, purchased by the church and his neighbors.

In 1804 Mr. Bidlack was stationed on Otsego circuit with John P. Weaver. In 1811 he located, but after an experiment of three years he found worldly occupation interfering, he left off preaching. In 1815 he offered himself again to became so infirm that he superannuated.

He removed his family to Middlefield, and occupied a parsonage which was built, perhaps, for his special account. But such a parsonage as it was! The location was in a field, at a distance from any road, in a most isolated and unfrequented locality. At the east wre stretched out fields, and a few frm-houses were visible at the distance of one or two miles. At the west lay a deep gorge in a steep slope of the hill, across which was the old "grave-yard." At the south a deep dell, covered with a growth of large white pine and hemlock trees, through which murmurs Red creek, and at the north and northwest, two houses within a quarter of a mile.

The parsonage mentioned above was built of large pine logs, slightly hewed on the inside, with openings between them "chunked" and plastered with mud. It was roofed with boards and slabs, and about 14 by 16 feet in size. Her remained the preacher - s family alone during his long absence upon his circuit.

Mr. Bidlack was something over six feet, erect, full chest, broad shoulders, and powerful limbs. His black hair, slightly sprinkled with gray, hung upon his shoulders, and large open features bore an expression of gravity and benignity, mingled with cheerfulness, which at once prepossessed on in his favor. His voice was harmonious and powerful. He was an effective preacher though not a profound thinker. His sermons were fine specimens of native eloquence. He died Nov. 27, 1845.

MEMOIR OF REV. GEORGE PECK D. D.

He was born in Middlefield Centre on Aug. 8, 1797; was converted, and became a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1812; licensed as an exhorter in 1815; the next year took a circuit under the presiding elder, and in June of that year, 1816, was licensed to preach, and recommended for admission to the annual conference. Being received by the "Old Genesee," he was appointed to the Broome-circuit, and thenceforward filled the most important appointments in his conference until 1835, when he was elected principal of the Oneida conference seminary. During the three years he remained there he gave great satisfaction, but in consequence of domestic affliction was obliged to resign. After the lapse of several months in the pursuit of health, he resumed the work of an itinerant, serving the Susquehanna districts as presiding elder until 1840. From the minutes of the Wyoming annual conference, held at Homesdale, Pa., April 1`1, 1877, we make the above and following extracts:

"The senior member of our conference, the Rev. George Peck, D. D., left the church militant for the church triumphant at Scranton, Pa., on the 20th of May, 1876.

"There is some little alleviation in the fact that his demise was preceded by no great amount of physical suffering, but rather by a gradual decay of a once strong and vigorous organism. Life with him was not wasted, but worn out in just such work, as a good man might like to perform. Years before he reached his majority he devoted himself to a life of toil in the Great Master - s vineyard, and he neither south abatement nor allowed diversion until he could say, with that Master, "It is finished!"

The Methodist church at Middlefield erected a house of worship in 1832, at a cost of about $2,000.

BAPTIST CHURCH

The first sermon preached in the vicinity of Clarksville was by Elder Benjamin Sawin, who visited the place as missionary in 1806. Regarding the spot as promising for a religious centre, and being encouraged by a number of Baptist, he visited them, frequently preaching in barns and private houses. In 1807 a conference was formed, which was considered a branch of the Worcester church. The members constituting this conference were Pomeroy Wright, F. Hodges, L. Pitts, N. Wickham, H. Belknap, P. Boyce, T. Pitts, B. Pitts, M. Wickham, Metsey L. Eggleston,--four males and six females.

In the summer of 1807 a school-house was erected, principally by the enterprise of a Mr. Pinney. This building stood nearly opposite the present meeting-house, and was used for a house of worship for nearly twenty years. This school-house was the birthplace of many souls, and the presence and power of the Holy spirit was frequently manifested. Here Christians wrestled with God in earnest prayer; sinner wept, and new-born souls rejoiced in the forgiveness of sin and the blessings of salvation. It was with mingled feelings of joy and sorrow that the little band left this sacred spot to occupy their present edifice, in September, 1826.

Elder French, residing in Westford, preached occasionally, and administered the ordinances until September, 1808, when a council was called, and ordained Benjamin Sawin as pastor. He held this office for the succeeding twenty-five years, and was greatly beloved by the people of the community; his fruit still remains, and his memory is fragrant. The names of Elder Bostwick, of Hartwick, Elder Gregory, of New Lisbon, and Elder Wright, of Maryland, appear as members of this council.

Soon after the ordination of Elder Sawin, one of the most wonderful revivals ever known in this region commenced. It extended over period of ten years,. Conversions were frequent, and almost every month some were received by baptism. Sister Pinney, one of the constituent members of the church, says, "It was God - s work; the instrumentality employed was of the weakest kind, and yet the result was marvelous." As the fruits o this revival, one hundred and three were baptized, most of whom remained faithful until death.

In September, 1810, the number of Baptists having increased to forty, they were recognized by a council as a regular Baptist church. Elder Richmond, of Milford, preached the sermon on the occasion, from Matt. xvi 28, and the pastor, in taking lave of them in 1833, and, "Praised be His adorable name; the promise has thus far been verified."

The first entire list of members to be obtained (owing to the fact that no records were kept) is in 1821, when the number of one hundred and forty-two. The discipline of this period was faithful and thorough. Absence from the regular meetings of the church, errors in doctrine, disrespect of the pastor, or a disorderly walk, were considered deserving of punishment. The exclusions on record are sixteen, and the history of the church for twelve years is rich with Christian love and united labor for Christ and souls.

In March, 1833, Elder Sawin closed his labors, after a pastorate of twenty-five years. From 1832 to 1852 the records are missing, and we are obliged to glean from other sources what little can be known of its history.

The following pastors have served this church from 1832 to the present time: Revs. W. Green, E. Spafford, G. ridge, E. Pimberly, Francis Prescott, H. J. Smith, S. W. Furgeson, I. Powers, J. M. Berry, J. Smith, J. W. Lamoine, H. O. Rowland, D. F. Leach, E. D. Clough, A. C. Babcock, S. P. Way (present pastor).

The present officers of the church are ass follows: Deacons, J. Follett, J. Lane E. Knapp; Clerk: N. Smith, M. D.

PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

The Presbyterian Church of Middlefield Centre was organized Nov. 19, 1821, with the following first members, viz.: Samuel Huntington and wife, John Parshall, Phoebe Parshall, Desiah Parshall, Holden Rice, Mary Campbell, Johanna Dutcher, Roxey Lotheridge, Joseph White and wife, Rebecca Gordon, Addison Hubbell, and John Burrett. The first pastor was Rev. Andrew Oliver. The following persons have served this church as pastors from its organization to the present time: Revs. Andrew Oliver, three years; Robert Brown, John Smith, teo years; Alvin Parmalee, fourteen years; Alfred North, four years; Alonzo Weldon, four years; Alfred Ketchum, four years; Alvin Parmalee, two years; Philander Griffin, four years; Chauncey Francisco, four years; and Rev. Walter Fry (present pastor).

The first church edifice was erected in 1806 or 1807, and the present one in 1843. The present membership of the church is eighty-nine.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

Original website created by Debbie Axtman

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