The History of Otsego, NY
Churches - Schools - Societies.
In the year of 1772 two members of the Baptist church of Warwick, N. Y., came to the present town of Morris, and after making clearings returned, and in the following year took up their abode in the wilderness, bringing with them their families. A prayer-meeting was immediately held, and this prayer-band increased with the settlement. The War of the revolution broke up the settlement, and the inhabitants returned to their eastern homes. After an absence of five years they returned to the forest, rebuilt their dwellings, and re-inaugurated their prayer-meetings. They were now assisted by Mr. Solomon hatch, a Baptist licentiate and lay preacher.
In 1787, Rev. Mr. Comstock, the Baptist pastor on Cooper - s patent, visited the settlement and organized a church, which, however, in consequence of his death, occurring soon after, became extinct. In 1793 the church was organizes with ten members, five males and five females, and this town at that time being a part of Unadilla, it was called the First Baptist Church of Unadilla, and the council, through J. Craw, moderator, and Captain Elisha Craw, clerk, gave the right hand of fellowship to the little church, Aug. 28, 1783.
Increase Thurston was the first deacon, Captain Craw the first clerk, and Reuben Ellis second deacon. At the first meeting of the Otsego association the church reported 17 members. The first regular pastor was Rev. John Lawton, who received $100 per annum.--$20 in money, and the balance in the "necessaries of life." The first church edifice was erected in 1818, and was located about two miles southeast of the present house, near what was then the centre of population. It cost about $^00, and was occupied twenty-three years. The second cost about $1,000, and was occupied twenty-eight years, and the present house was erected at a cost of about $16,000.
The Rev. Charles Ayer says, "The Baptists have the honor to have been the evangelical pioneers in this valley. The first prayer in this valley was offered by a Baptist church member, no Christian being within sixteen miles of his closet. The first soul converted was in a Baptist family. The first sermon preached was by a Baptist minister, and the first pastor resident here was John Lawton, and the first notable blessing of the Holy Spirit here enjoyed was upon that pastor - s preaching. The following persons have served the church in the pastoral office from its organization to the present time, viz.: Revs. John Lawton, R. Adams, J. Wright, J. Amner, L. Casler, E. H. Bailey, E. Baldwin, C. B. Post, S. A. Douglas, L. E. Spafford, S. P. Brown, H. A. Sherwood, N. Ripley, E. M. Blanchard, J. Jones, Charles Ayer, L. B. Ford, A. W. Clark (supply), A. S. Hobart, present pastor.
The organization of Zion Church (Morris) is identified with the very early history of Otsego County. In 1793 the first clergyman of the Protestant Episcopal Church began itinerant labors in this county. His name was Rev. Ammi Rogers. Even prior to this the service of the Episcopal Church was maintained by early settlers, first among whom were Ichabod B. Palmer and Elnathan Noble, who came from Connecticut to make a home in what was afterwards known as the Butternuts Valley. The first church organization grew out of the services held in the house of Mr. Palmer, and the subsequent work of the early ministers, who wrought in a genuine missionary spirit as they traveled constantly from place to place establishing regular divine worship at various places. The first clergyman to be really recognized as a permanent pastor was the Rev. Daniel Nash; familiarly known then, and spoken of now, as "Father Nash." His first ministerial labor was performed in 1797, when, immediately after his ordination as a deacon in the sacred ministry, he came, accompanied by his faithful wife, to this county, and began his work here and in Exeter. After the year 1800 he extended his travels to Cooperstown and Unadilla, and other places in this and in the adjoining counties. During this ministry of his di-co-ate, and just as he was about to be ordained to the priesthood, the first church edifice was erected in this parish. It was called "Harmony Church," and stood on what is now known in the town of Morris as the Old Church burying-ground. This is said to have been the first Episcopal Church built in Otsego County. It was the year 1801. This church building was never formally consecrated, and at a later time was sold to one H. T. McGeorge. Father Nash continued to officiate here regularly every month until the year 1814. He was then joined in the care of this parish by the Rev. Russel Wheeler, who, in the year 1818, became the officially recognized rector of the church in Butternuts. In the spring of the year 1818 the corner-stone of the present church edifice was laid, and in the November following the building was fully completed and paid for. Total cost, $6,000.
At about this time., it was resolved by the organization to change the name from Harmony Church to that of Zion Church; and under this new name the new structure was consecrated to the worship of Almighty God by the Right Rev. John Henry Hobart, bishop of New York, on the 22d day of November, 1818. On the following day the rev. Russel Wheeler was formally instituted as rector of the parish by Bishop Hobart, and remained as honored and most useful pastor of this church for eighteen years.
In 1836, the Rev. Osamus H. Smith succeeded Rev. Mr. Wheeler, filling an acceptable pastorate of two years. In the year 1838, the Rev. Amos B. Beach was called to the rectorship of Zion Church. During an administration of seventeen years, Mr. Beach was most abundantly successful in awakening new life in the parish, and in promoting its advancement in active work and permanent strength. Under his supervision a rectory was built, a school-house erected, and a flourishing parish school organized, and an organ place in the church. The first Sunday-school was also established during this time.
Following his pastorate, so well remembered for its efficiency and its substantial results in the interest of the church, came the Rev. Wm. H. Hill, who remained during a rectorship of a little more than four years. Mr. Hill is often spoken of as having been in those days a most forcible and very eloquent preacher,--an indefatigable worker. His missionary zeal and labor made him widely and well known throughout the county, while his parish reaped large benefits from his pastoral visitation from house to house.
In 1855, the Rev. Wm. J. Alger became the minister, remaining about two years. In 1858, the Rev. Wm. J. Early ascended to the rectorship, remaining also about two years. In 1860, the Rev. George L. Foote became the rector, continuing until, some two years later, he was incapacitated for further duty by paralysis.
Succeeding the ministry of Mr. Foote, the Rev. Daniel S. Tuttle, was called, first as assistant minister, and upon the death of Mr. Foote was elected to the rectorship of the church.
While rector here, Mr. Tuttle was distinguished for great zeal and faithfulness in the discharge of ministerial duties; and in the spring of 1867 he was elected missionary bishop of Montana, Utah, and Idaho, to which field of increased responsibility and honor he took his departure soon after.
The successor of Bishop Tuttle was the Rev. Nelson S. Rulison. Under his rectorship the parish found a fitting successor to the vigorous administration of the rector whom they had given up to the episcopate.
The congregation increased to still larger numbers, and grew in prosperity. During the two years and a half of Mr. Rulison - s pastorate a fine stone chapel was completed, having been built by the members of the Morris family as a family memorial, and for the benefit of the neighborhood about the old General Morris - estate. A movement was also made which resulted in the complete renovation of the old parish church, enlarging it by the addition of a large recess chancel, with organ-room on one side, and robing-room on the other; removing the side-galleries, replacing the old windows with stained glass, and bringing the interior of the church, with the alterations and new furnishings, to compare favorably with the best churches in the county. The expense of the work was something above ten thousand dollars.
Upon the resignation of Mr. Rulison, to accept a rectorship of a new and important church work in Jersey City, the Rev. F. N. Luson became the rector for a few months resigning his place in august, 1870.
In December of the same year, the Rev. Thomas H. Cullen accepted a call and entered upon his duties as rector, and remained until June, 1872.
In August of the same year the Rev. Charles T. Coer, then in deacon - s orders, entered upon the duties as officiating minister in the parish, and in March of the following year was ordained in Zion Church to the priesthood. Upon his advancement to this "degree," - earned in an energetic and faithful discharge of the many duties of a busy pastorate,--he was elected to the rectorship of the parish; and in May of the following year (1874) tendered his resignation, returning to his previous charge of the chapel of the Good Shepherd, Binghamton, N. Y.
In June of the same year the Rev. Hobart Cooke, having succeeded in the rectorship, entered upon his duties, and remains now in the fourth year of a successful pastorate.
In the spring of 1875 the church received from Mrs. Jonah Davis a beautiful and costly marble font, to be placed in the church as a memorial of her late husband, Jonah Davis. And in the fall of the same year a fine organ, costing over three thousand dollars, was also presented the church as the gift of one of her generous-hearted communicants.
The present condition of this time-honored organization, so identified with the growth and the interests of the old town of Butternuts and the present town of Morris, is that of a strong and prosperous church, nearly three hundred communicants, and active in the many and varied good works which have likewise distinguished it in the long years of its history.
The Morris Methodist Episcopal Church ws in all probability formed in the year 1828, and constituted a part of the Chenango circuit. The Rev. Joshua Rogers was then preacher in charge on said circuit. Meetings were first held about one mile from "Louisville," now Morris, sometimes in a private swelling but more frequently in a district school-house. In the year 1838 the appointment as changed to the village school-house in Morris. In the year 1845 the Butternuts and Morris societies were set-off from the Chenango circuit, and served by two ministers, alternating between the two appointments. It was during this year-1845-the Morris society built them a church at the probable cost of $2,000. In 1847 Morris became a separate charge. In the year 1870 some $7,000 was expended for additional ground, sheds, enlargement of church basement, steeple, and bell.
Seventy-five of these have been added to the church thus far this present conference year, and indications foreshadow that the church is yet to grow in numbers and temporal and spiritual strength. Old debts - the running expenses of the church in part for the past two years - have been satisfied this year, and an old church indebtedness, amounting now to $700, has been fully provided for; and it is but justice to say that the names of William Davis and Jonathan Hollister will long live in the memory of this church, for their devotedness to it in her days of weakness as well as in her days of prosperity, each having given $1,000 for repairing and clearing the church of its indebtedness. Many others have given liberally, and at all times shown their devotedness to all its interests, whose names space would not permit us to mention.
Rev. A. E. Daniels was licensed by this church to exhort in the year 1832, and in 1833 received local preacher - s license. In 1834 he was received into Oneida conference, and is now on the superannuated list and located at Morris, his native town. As a preacher he is widely known for his marked ability as a theologian, as a sound reasoner, and his fidelity in all the past and present to the doctrine of the church of his choice, and his great success in his ministerial calling; and although at the present seventy-three years of age, retains in an eminent degree his faculties, and as ready now to labor for Christ as in the past, and looking only a little way on for the glorious crown for which he so nobly fought for a long life, and which is in waiting for him.
Also five others of the Morris church have become ministers. Two - namely, Joel Davis and E. D. Thurston - joined the Oneida conference. The former, a few years since, went from us to the Protestant Episcopal Church. The latter is now an effective minister in the Central New York conference. Geo. W. Green joined the New England conference, and was both acceptable and useful for many years, but has now, I think, passed to his reward. B. P. Ripley, who was sent out by this church, is now at Laurens, Otsego Count, an effective laborer in Christ - s vineyard.
Wm. R. Lynch was also licensed here. He was a devoted and successful worker, earnest in all his labors. He died Feb. 25, 1871, having labored in the church seventeen years.
Transcribed by Holice B. Young
Original website created by Debbie Axtman
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