Ontario County Organized Churches
History of Ontario Co., NY
Religious Denominations and Church Statistics
Published 1878 Pg 60 - 63
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Kindly transcribed by Deborah Spencer. Pictures are compliments of Ron Hanley.
DENOMINATIONS AND CHURCH STATISTICS
in name, but a unit in purpose, missionaries from the eastern churches
traveled the hills and plains of Ontario to recall members to their
duty, to organize societies, and to augment their ranks from skeptical
neighbors by powerful revivals. Ontario was long a great missionary field, yet the erection
of meeting-houses is almost cotemporary with the earliest settlement.
By legislative enactment, of date April, 1804, any religious
denomination was authorized to appoint trustees, and form a body
corporate capable of legal transactions.
The history of a church generally dates from this action.
Yet, in general, a deserted log house, a school-building, the
open air, and the private dwelling witnessed many an act of adoration,
resounded with many a cry for mercy and shout of gladness.
Religious toleration has been a notable feature of Ontario
churches. Union churches
were erected and amicably occupied.
A Presbyterian society is cheerfully invited to occupy a
Methodist church, pending the erection of a building; and an Episcopal
society invites a Methodist to become their rector, and he, complying
with their forms, accepts and serves them.
The erection of buildings and the payment of salaries were great
difficulties encountered by feeble organizations, and it is interesting
in church histories to note the patience shown, and success resultant in
a generality of instances. A
new country was a crucial test of genuine religion.
There were many infidel in belief; there were those who,
professedly pious in the east, left their religion behind them when they
came west; and there were many devoted men, with heroic wives, whose
self-denying labors for the support of the gospel could, in recital,
recount a chapter excelled by no other cause.
In the histories of towns and villages is found the individual
church record, while here is attempted but an outline of denominations
and a summary of churches, value of property, membership, and other
matters calculated to embody evidences of growth and strength, and
furnish a basis for a future comparison.
Canandaigua Methodist Church Victor Methodist Church
CHURCHES - are
numerous, wealthy, and prosperous.
Early in the field, their faithful circuit-riders rode
everywhere, and while there were no organized churches, there were bands
scattered all through the community.
The division of the society was into classes, societies,
quarterly conferences, circuits, districts, and annual and general
conferences. Wherever a few
Methodists came together they were formed into a class, and a leader
appointed. When a class
became sufficiently strong, it was organized into a church or society.
The quarterly conference consisted of official members of the
church, who were the class-leaders, stewards, and trustees.
The presiding elder acted as chairman.
A circuit consisted of several charges, to which, generally, two
ministers were assigned for two years.
A district composed several circuits, over which a presiding
elder was placed for a term of four years.
An annual conference was composed of all the ministers of a
designated number of districts, over which a bishop presided.
The general conference was made up from all the annual
conferences in the United States. The
Genesee conference embraced all the territory from Ontario lake to one
hundred miles south of Elmira, into Pennsylvania, and from Cayuga to
Buffalo. The Ontario
circuit was of vast extent. Joseph
JEWELL was presiding elder in 1805. Among the pioneer preachers were David DUNHAM, Benjamin
BIDLACK, Smith WEEKS, and Roger BENTON.
The last-named recently deceased at Newark, Wayne county. In 1808, Rev. James HERRON was presiding elder, Wm. B. LACEY
and James MITCHELL, preachers. The
first quarterly conference was held July 9, 1808, at Boughton, town of
Bloomfield, where the following-named were present: Elder HERRON, Revs.
Wm. B. LACEY, Jas. MITCHELL, Smith WEEKS, Abijah WRIGHT, John BAGGERLY,
Stiles PARKER, William SMITH, Moses HALL, Jonah DAVIS, Ambrose PHELPS,
Isaac VAN ORMAN, Nathaniel JENKINS, Nathan LOUGHBOROUGH, and John ROSE.
Petitions were presented,---Palmyra asking that an exhorter's
license be granted to Abram ALBRIDGE; Canandaigua praying that Moses
HULL, of Farmington, be licensed to preach the gospel; Penfield asking
license for Eli WALKER, and one from Victor, for Parker BUELL.
All were granted. The
conference adjourned to meet at Charleston, near Lima Corners, in 1809. The meagre salaries and the weakness of the society
financially is shown at this meeting, where the presiding elder received
$4, Rev. B. LACY, Ex., $2, quarterage, $16, and Jas. MITCHELL, Ex.,
$1.50, quarterage, $16.89. Total,
$40.89. Proceedings show a
rigid discipline to sustain the church in purity, with a kindly effort
at reclaiming those who fell below the standard.
Rev. Gideon DRAPER was appointed to the district.
The preachers on the circuit were Revs. LACEY, HENRY, MONTEATH,
and John KIMBERLIN. The
first quarterly meeting was held at Pittsford, second at Norton's (now
Honeoye's Falls), the third, Phelpstown, and the fourth, near Sulphur
Springs (Clifton). In 1810
the Genesee conference was formed.
The meeting was held near Lyons village, in Squire DAVY's barn.
Rev. G. DRAPER still continued in charge of this, the Susquehanna
district. Revs. George
THOMAS, G.W. DENSMORE, and Noah BIGELOW were preachers.
The next quarterly conference was held at the house of
Esquire ROOT, at "Number Nine," and the public services in his
barn. People crowded
to these assemblages, and the barn or the grove were the only places to
February, 1811, the officers of the circuit were classified as follows:
Reverends HALL, JENKINS, and Abel WHITE; circuit stewards, N.
LOUGHBOROUGH and R. ROOT; class-leaders, Levi FERGUSON, Thomas POWERS,
Levi WOOD, Peter BAGGERLY, S. BOOTH, and Isaac MARSH; exhorters, six;
class-leaders, ten. Total,
twenty-six. In 1811-12,
Thomas WRIGHT, Joseph KINCAID, and Peregrine HOLLETT were the circuit
arraignment during this year of a local preacher "for drinking
spirituous liquors to excess," his present acquittal and subsequent
revocation of license for repeated offense, evidence the decided
position taken by the Methodist Episcopal church in the cause of
style of preaching adopted was augmentative and exhortatory.
Strong appeals were made to the heart.
Abijah WRIGHT so preached in a barn in Victor, that a horror came
upon the unconverted. Some
fell, others leaped into the bog and fled away fearing to remain.
It is related that people left their hay uncut, their ripe grain
unharvested, when it was known that "preaching" was to be held
in the neighborhood.
1816 the eccentric but devoted Lorenzo DOW visited Ontario, and filled a
series of appointments at various points.
The young regarded him with fear, and the old with curiosity, and
crowds attended his meetings.
1821 there were six hundred and twenty-one members in the Ontario
circuit, and in 1865 there were over three thousand members upon only a
part of this territory. There were long discourses in those times, as it is recorded
that one Peiffer preached three hours from Isaiah v., 3, 4.
As numbers increased, the circuit was divided and sub-divided
until the present status has been reached.
1837-38 a dissension arose regarding the word episcopal in some
localities, and a branch was formed which was known as Methodists.
the winter of 1842-43, came the disorders engendered by the Millerite
excitement. Certain men, studying the prophecies, concluded that the time
for Christ's second advent was the spring of 1843.
Lecturers traveled and taught the doctrine. Ministers, thinking to utilize the idea, gave it their
support, and there ensued a wild, universal excitement injurious to the
church,---a warning for all coming time.
Up to 1865, there had been in the district, since 1805, twenty presiding elders. There had been eighty-one different ministers on one charge, for periods of a year or so each. The strength of the Methodist Churches in 1875 is given as follows:
Canandaigua Episcopal Church
WESLEYAN METHODIST - denomination
was formed in May, 1843, from the Methodist Episcopal church.
This organization differs from others by rejecting the official
classification of ministers as bishops, elders, and deacons.
The church at Farmington reports the value of church, $2000; real
estate, $1000; seats, 200; attendance, 50; members, 26; salary, $200.
localities where sparse population and remoteness prevents strict
denominational societies, Union churches were formed.
Two of these at present exist; one in Phelps, the other in
Canandaigua at Academy. The statistics will be found in the summary.
Canandaigua United Presbyterian Baptist Church Victor Presbyterian Church
CHURCHES - had
their origin in the ephemeral but still primal organization effected by
Rev. John SMITH, about 1792, at Canandaigua.
The Lord's Supper was celebrated, and the little society of
pioneers, called from remote clearings and unacquainted, probably never
met again. The church in
East Bloomfield, organized in 1796, and again in 1799, became the source
from which those of Victor, North Bristol, and West Bloomfield had
origin. The name of
Jedediah CHAPMAN is given as that of the first Presbyterian minister
resident of western New York. He
settled at Geneva in 1800, and alternated in church and missionary work
until his death, in 1813. The
Congregationalist, of one heart, and nearly of one mind, cordially
united with the Presbyterian, and their early history is closely
commingled. The presbytery
of Albany, in 1802, was divided into three presbyteries, and in 1803 was
constituted the synod of Albany. In
1805, one of the presbyteries, that of Oneida, was divided and the
Geneva presbytery was organized, and then embraced the entire State west
of Oneida and Chenango counties. The
ministers were Rev. J. CHAPMAN, Geneva; John LINDSLEY, Ovid; Samuel
LEACOCK, of Gorham, and J. CHADWICK, of Milton.
There were, at the time, eight churches in the new presbytery, of
which Geneva and Gorham were two. Twelve
years rolled away, and the church had grown to twenty-nine ministers,
seven licentiates, and forty-five churches.
A meeting was held February, 1817, and the presbytery of Geneva
was divided into four presbyteries, named Bath, Niagara, Geneva, and
Ontario. The church greatly
prospered after this division. A
large number of settlers were coming in, and members, churches, and
ministers were greatly increased. In
1819, Niagara presbytery had grown from seven to thirty-two churches,
and from three to ten ministers. Ontario,
from thirteen had twenty-three churches, and her nine ministers had
increased to twenty. Geneva,
from seventeen had increased to twenty-three churches, and its ministers
ten to seventeen. The year
1799 was characterized as that of the great revival.
Bristol, Victor, Bloomfield, and other parts of Ontario were
swept by the holy influences; people crowded to hear preaching, and four
hundred persons congregated at one place. Each
of the years from 1822 to 1827 were marked by revivals under
circumstances the most memorable. In
1831, an extensive and powerful revival swept through the United States;
the presbytery of western New York received thousands of hopeful
conversions. Many of those
converted were of persons old and young, attending Bible-class and
Sunday-school. To secure
interest, no questionable expedients were employed; the name
"protracted meetings" was given to exercises----consisting of
preaching, with pointed, severe application, exhortation, and prayer.
Preachers most qualified for revival work were called
evangelists; conversion of sinners was their one object.
The first of this class in western New York was Rev. Chas. G.
FINNEY, about 1826, and again in 1831; Rev. Jedediah BURCHARD was such a
preacher in 1833-34; Augustus LITTLEJOHN was famous among the people,
and meetings attended by many. He
was deposed March 18, 1841, and excommunicated for acts opposed to
Christian conduct. The
Genesee Missionary Society had its origin during January of the year
1810, at where now Phelps village is located.
The first suggestions were received from Deacon Abiel LINDSLEY,
of Prattsburg, to Rev. James N. HOTCHKIN, at the semi-annual meeting of
the Ontario association, relative to raising funds for the distribution
of Bibles and tracts to the destitute.
A society was formed, a constitution adopted, and officers were
elected. Rev. CHAPMAN, of
the Geneva presbytery, was elected president of the society, which was,
later, legally incorporated.
Among other organizations having their origin in the necessities of the people and the cause of religion was that of the Western Education Society at Utica, in 1817. It was confined to no one church, but the Presbyterians were its principal supporters. Its object was the education of indigent young men for the ministry. Rev. A.G. BALDWIN and Colonel Robt. TROUP, of Geneva, were vice-presidents. During 1817, Rev. Henry SMITH was made agent for solicitation of funds. He obtained from Ontario three thousand two hundred and thirty-seven dollars and eighty-nine cents. Sabbeth-schools have been early instituted and maintained with interest. A Sabbeth-school Union was formed at Rochester in 1827, and comprised thirteen counties. In the next year a county union was formed. Most ministers of the Presbyterian church early became supporters of the temperance cause.
As an evidence of growth and present prosperity of the Presbyterian church within the limits of Ontario, we present the following statistics, derived from the census of 1875:
Canandaigua Congregational Church
CHURCHES - were
the first established societies in the county.
Rev. Zadoc HUNN organized a church of this order in East
Bloomfield during the year 1796. Elisha
WADE instituted public service in West Bloomfield during the same year,
but died before the organization of the church, three years afterwards.
In December, 1796, John Rolph and Rev. HUNN formed a church at
South Bristol. The church
in Richmond dates 1801, and prior to this, in 1799, three churches had
origin,---Victor, Canandaigua, and North Bristol. In 1800, Middletown, now Naples, was formed, and Augusta
(Rushville) in 1802.
church at Bristol was the first house erected for worship in the Genesee
country. It was of round
logs, and had a gallery. The society became the largest and most promising in western
New York. Accessions of
population brought a percentage of professors of religion, and those of
Congregational faith harmonized and labored with the Presbyterians,
making their early history synonymous.
The Ontario association was the oldest ecclesiastical body in
western New York. In 1804 its ministers were Joseph GROVER, John ROLPH, Reuben
PARMELE, Timothy FIELD, Eleazer FAIRBANKS, James H. HOTCHKEN, and Abijah
WARREN. The association was
composed of ten churches.
January 10, 1810, Canandaigua church seceded and became independent.
In 1812 the association discussed the subject of a union with the
presbytery of Geneva, and on May 25, at Prattsburg, formally dissolved
and connected themselves with that body.
For a number of years no Congregational organization of churches or ministers existed in the State west of the east line of the military tract. About 1817, Rev. John TAYLOR located at Mendon, then in Ontario. He was a talented and influential man, and a rigid Congregationalist. By his efforts Congregationalism resumed its individuality, and the Genesee consociation was organized in 1818. The churches of this religious order in Ontario are partly unassociated; others belong to the Ontario association. The following statistics exhibit present strength:
THE FRIENDS - or Quakers, have, since, 1827, been separated into two distinct branches, known generally as Hicksite and Orthodox. The former have a general meeting for the Republic and for Canada. This is divided into yearly, quarterly, and monthly meetings. New York State is embraced within the New York and Genesee yearly meetings. In New York there are seven quarterly and thirty-one monthly meetings, and of the Genesee two quarterly and eight monthly meetings. The Orthodox branch in New York have one half-yearly, fifteen quarterly, and forty-three monthly meetings. The quarterly meetings in Farmington, this county, were established in 1810, and the number of monthly meetings is five. The first meeting within New York was established in 1656 at Oyster Bay, by Richard SMITH and others, who had been banished from Boston. The pioneer Friends were primarily disowned, but received back in 1794, organized a meeting which was long the only one west of Utica, and erected a meeting-house. The Hicksites' church property is valued at four thousand three hundred dollars. Seating capacity of one building, two thousand five hundred; of the smaller, two hundred. The attendance is about one-third the membership, which is about one hundred and sixty. The Orthodox branch have a house valued at three thousand dollars, seats for four hundred, and a membership of one hundred and forty-five. The Friends are proverbially peaceful and temperate, and the county has no class whose lives better illustrate their practical faith.
Victor St. Patrick's Catholic Church Canandaigua St. Mary's Catholic Church
Canandaigua, St. Mary's Convent
ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCHES - develop a growth late but vigorous. The societies have had harmonious co-operation and constant progression. The student of history has been attracted by the migration upon the same lines of the population westward. The void left by the removal of families has been filled by those from farther east, and with these changes has come in a class faithful to the Catholic church. The order has grown in numbers and as will be seen, holds a strong position in regard to wealth:
In addition to their values, the denomination have school property of value not less than twenty thousand dollars, and the future has much of promise.
THE BAPTIST CHURCHES - of Ontario County have an origin not as early as some others, but their record is honorable, and deserving of full expression. The earliest records, dating towards the commencement of the century, embrace the result of councils convened for purposes of organization. So far as has been learned, the leading pioneer minister of the order was Elder Daniel IRISH, whose presence is invariably noted in the assemblies for church formation. As soon as the "two or three were met together," and services had been held, the advisability of constituting a society was mooted. The council was held, and the project received sanction. The church of Bloomfield, organized June 13, 1796, with seventeen members, has priority. A church was built in 1803. The church of Bristol was organized February 7, 1805, with Solomon GOODALE, elder; and a second church of Bristol originated in 1821. At the re-establishment of the First Baptist church in Phelps, during 1808, references are made which confirm the impression that a society there had been formed among the first. The society lived up to the religious spirit of the age, and kindly reproof was invariably bestowed upon the erring. The earliest and most interesting history of the society is lost in obscurity: that period which indicates trial and effort, the attempts to build houses of worship, and the succession of ministers. Gradually, as time went by, these diffuculties have been met, the seed has taken root, and the growth has been a permanence. The fifty-first annual report of the Baptist Missionary Convention, of date October, 1858, gives the date of organization of the denomination in Ontario at 1814. The church is then credited in this county with nineteen societies, as many ministers, and one thousand five hundred and forty-four members. The statistics of 1875 are as follows:
THE UNIVERSALISTS - have several societies in Ontario County. The statistics of the denomination are thus shown:
is a Christian church located at Naples, whose church property
has a valuation of four thousand two hundred dollars; a seating capacity
of two hundred, with forty members.
Minister's salary, four hundred dollars.
EPISCOPAL CHURCHES - early effected a lodgment, and not without the trying experiences of other denominations. The Rev. Davenport PHELPS located at Geneva at a primitive period of settlement, and was the first clergyman at that point. The history of Hobart College and the excellent records kept by the churches require no further mention in this connection than the tabular statement given:
STATISTICS for Ontario churches in 1865 gave as follows: The number
of churches of all sects, 75; value of churches and lots, $382,150;
other real estate, $32,870; seating capacity,
29,078; number attending, 13,480; number of members, 9,152;
salaries of clergymen, including use of real estate, $36,780.
We give the summary of 1875:
We give the summary of 1875:
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