Ontario County Organized Churches

from 1878  History of Ontario Co., NY      




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Kindly transcribed by Deborah Spencer.



History of Ontario Co., NY  

Published 1878

Gorham Churches  pg 155 - 156

The present town of Gorham contains six churches, divided among the various denominations as follows: one Presbyterian, one Orthodox Congregational, two Baptist, and two Methodist. 

THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH was organized February 26, 1828, by Reverends Henry AXTELL, Henry P. STRONG, and Ansel D. EDDY.  It was composed of 24 members, taken for the purpose from the church of Hopewell,--eight were males.  The following are their names: Jacob HOVEY, Peter C. FIERO, Abraham C. FIERO, Orin CRITTENDEN, Levi SAWTELLE, James ROBINSON, and John BREZEE.  Of the women were Jane ROBESON, Alada BRIDGMAN, Mary W. HOVEY, Hannah FIERO and her sisters Elizabeth and Mary, Canadice CRITTENDEN, Mahitabil SOULE, Sarah NEWMAN, Sarah SAWTELLE, Silva FITCH, Hannah GROESBECK, Mary SNYDER Sabra CRITTENDEN, and Abigail WISE.  The church was taken under the care of the presbytery of Geneva shortly after its formation.  In 1832 it numbered 102 members; in 1836, 128; and in 1846, 68.  The first elders were Jacob HOVEY, Orin CRITTENDEN, and Peter C. FIERO.  They were set apart to their office by Rev. Joseph MERRILL on March 8, 1828.  Orin CRITTENDEN was the first clerk of the session.  The first deacons were Levi HATFIELD and Mason SAWTELLE.  From the period of its organization till 1830, temporary supplies were furnished by different individuals.  Rev. Chester HINMAN supplied for one year, under the direction of the American Home Missionary Society. Rev. Flavel GAYLORD was pastor from 1830 until the close of 1839.  Rev. Hosea KITTREDGE supplied from July, 1841, to the same date of the following year.  He was followed by Rev. Alva LILLY, who officiated for two years, and was succeeded by Rev. Charles MERWIN, who was installed pastor on April 16, 1845, and dismissed from his charge May 6, 1846.  Rev. Robert FINLEY was stated supply one year, and Rev. William ROWLATT was pastor for a brief time.  The Mission Society gave considerable aid to support ministers.  Under the ministry of Rev. GAYLORD, a revival was enjoyed in 1831, and some 40 persons were united to the church.  The original church edifice stood about 1 Ĺ miles from Reedís Corners.  In 1843 a new meeting-house was erected at Gorham, then Bethel, and a separation took place between those desiring to worship at the former place rather than at Gorham.  The question at issue was simply geographical, and when the division took place, the body politic of the church maintaining the Presbyterian faith worshipped at Gorham, while the others erected a church at Reedís Corners.  The old society has had a prosperous and peaceful growth, and at present numbers 103 communicants.  Its present pastor, Rev. N. S. LOWRIE, also officiates as minister of the Congregational church at Rushville,--a good evidence of the friendly feelings between the societies. 

THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH, at Reedís Corners, is an offshoot, as above noticed, from the Presbyterian society at Gorham.  The building used is the old meeting-house of that body.  Those of the members who remained after the division found themselves with a house and without a minister.  It became imperative to occupy the old church, to hold it; as it was articled, that if not used for church purposes, it should revert to the original owners.  They tried in vain to secure a preacher, and, in a strait, invited a Baptist minister, who was preaching in the neighborhood, to hold his afternoon services in their church.  The request was acceded to, and the property thereby retained.  Finally, a clergyman of the Dutch Reformed persuasion was invited to preach, and accepted.  He presented his views so effectually as to induce the people to accede to them, and they became known as a Dutch Reformed society.  The Rev. PIERSON was the first settled minister of the new organization, and following him, Rev. Israel HAMMOND.  In time the old church was removed to Reedís Corners, and another theological change took place.  This time the church emerged as Congregational.  The Rev. Warren DAY was engaged to supply the pulpit in this connection.  No settled pastor has been engaged.  The policy seems to be to employ its clergymen from year to year--the Rev. N. S. LOWRIE, of the present church at Gorham, acting as pastor.  When a man becomes a Christian, he does not cease to be human; and it is an honor to the persons early composing various societies that the questions which originate the increased population and local claims have been so amicably settled. 

BAPTIST CHURCHES  - The first Baptist society of Gorham was formed prior to 1812, yet for some time they were without a place of worship, and services were held in the houses of members and in school-houses.  A church was erected on lot 29, district No. 5.  The members worshiped as one society until 1841.  At that time a proposal was made by the Middlesex Baptist church, at Rushville, to unite with them and build a house at Bethel.  The majority of the society accepted the proposal, and the new church was completed and dedicated in December, 1842, as the ďBethel Baptist Church Society.Ē  The first settled minister was Rev. Abraham ENNIS.  The first deacons were Henry DOUGLASS, J. W. VAN ARSDEL, and Abraham WATKINS.  In the mean time, that part of the society which had remained with the old society concluded to remove to Reedís Corners, and this was done.  Their pastor, Rev. John G. STEARNS, accompanied them.  This society, which was the original Baptist body, constitutes the present Reedís Cornersí Baptist church. 

THE METHODIST CHURCH AT RUSHVILLE dates its origin from 1821 to 1823, when preaching by Methodists began in this vicinity.  There was of course no meeting-house, and in the homes of the brethren was set up the altar of worship.  The first baptism connected with this church took place on April 30, 1825.  The original members of the society were named as follows: Ebenezer STREETER, wife, and mother, Jesse C. BOARDMAN, Hannah PRATT, John A. PEABODY, Samuel WHITMAN, James PEABODY, and George B. TURNER.  When we see a small party, in this instance but nine in all, banding themselves together for worship, the thought arises, To what extent has its influence been felt in local and general welfare and prosperity?  Through the efforts of Rev. Ira FAIRBANKS, some time in 1830, the building of a meeting-house was started; work was pushed rapidly and it was soon completed.  It was dedicated on June 25, 1832, by Rev. John COPELAND, then minister of this church.  The church building is a large, handsome edifice, built of brick.  The society has a membership of 200.  A revival, in 1833, was general, and resulted in adding many to this church. 

THE FIRST METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH - The early records of this society are now lost; but from the annual minutes of the Methodist Episcopal church, and the recollection of aged members, we glean the following historical facts.  As early as 1796, Arming OWEN and Jefferson HAMILTON, members of the Philadelphia Conference, visited the sparse settlements of this region, and Gorham received her share of their ministrations.  The primal services were held at the log meeting-house 2 Ĺ miles east of Gorham, in the town of Seneca.  In 1817, a revival under the labors of Thomas EWING, a local preacher, added to the young church; and so many of these new members resided in the hamlet, and the meetings so abounded in spiritual excellence, that Rev. P. HOLLET, a settled pastor form the Methodist itinerancy, proposed the name Bethel (House of God) to the rising village.  Meetings were held east of the village, in a log house nearly opposite the present dwelling of J. M. PULVER, Esq.  From this time regular preaching was established in Gorham, in one of these two school houses of the village, but generally on the west side.  In 1828, Abner CHASE being presiding elder on the Ontario district, and Dennison SMITH preacher of the Benton circuit, to which these classes were attached, they were encouraged to build a hose of worship in Gorham.  

A society was organized, called "The First Methodist Episcopal Society of the town of Gorham, New York," and their firs trustees were John Q. GROSBECK, O. F. RICE and Seaman TOMPKINS.  They still remained an integral part of the Seneca society.  Poverty cramped their efforts, which finally resulted in a full payment of their indebtedness, in 1832, by a bona fide sale of their slips.  The house is supposed to have cost a thousand dollars.  It stood between several charges and for 10 or 12 years, pastors and relation to the church cannot be fixed.  Revivals were enjoyed under the labors of Revs. SMITH and Zina J. BUCK, both attached to the people of this society.  These clergymen died here, and were buried in the old cemetery on the west side of the village.  Rev. SMITH died August 22, 1832.  In 1842 preaching was transferred from the log meetinghouse to Bethel, where it has since remained.  The name Bethel was adopted, with Rev B. ATCHISON, a local preacher, as supply.  Among preachers not named up to this time, were Benjamin BIDLACK, Charles GILES, Lawrence REILEY, W. B. LACEY, Benjamin G. PADDOCK, Gideon LANNING, Allen STEELE and Calvin COATS.  The following are the names of familes connected with the society:  The STOKES, PHILLIPS, COGSWARDS, RICES, ARNOLDS, SCHUYLERS, HANLEYS AND RUNYANS.  The HERSHEYS and others were supporters of the church, but not members till years later.  Since 1842, the following pastors have served the church: In 1843, Levi B. CASTLE succeeded ATCHINSON; in 1844-45, S. PARKER; 1846-47, Albert PLUMLEY; 1848, Philo TOWER, 1849, A. G. LAMAN. M.D.; 1850 J. L. S. GRANDLIN; 1851-52, J. L. EDSON; 1853, Ashbel PARCEL; 1854-55, J. H. BLADES; 1856, J. K. B. CLAYTON; 1857-58 A. G. LAMAN, H. M. BOARDMAN, Sup.; 1859-60 E. EDSON; 1861-62, J. CHAPMAN; 1863-64, H. WISNER; 1865, W. A. RUNNER; 1866-67-68, A. D. EDGAR; 1869 - 1871, J. h. DAY; 1872-1874, T. Leslie WEAVER; 1875, N. A. DE PEW, present minister. 

In 1868 the church was remodeled and enlarged at an expense of over $2,000.  During the last 25 years, the society has raised for pastors' support and benevolent objects, exclusive of incidental expenses, over $17,000.  Three thousand dollars of this had been given to charities.  Prior to organization, the few Methodists had united with the Presbyterians in Sabbath school effort; but the general conference having, at its session in 1828, formed a Sabbath school society, the Gorham church organized according to the plan, and elected A. HILL superintendent.  He was followed by John CAYWARD for a brief time, them Mr. HILL continued till 1852, when M. A. SQUIER was chosen, and is now in his 24th year of service in this office.  In 1863, the school began its existence as continuous all the year round.  Periodicals supplant library.  "Berean Leaves" are used and the church and school are abreast of the times. 




History of Ontario Co., NY     Published  1893 

GORHAM  CHURCHES    pg 398 - 401

On the Gorham side of the village the generally called public institutions are the cemetery and the M. E. Church property, while the Congregational church is south of but very close to the line.

The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized about the year 1821, the original members being from Gorham, Potter and Middlesex. The first church edifice was begun in 1830, and finished and dedicated in June, 1832. The society has a large membership, numbering about 200 persons, and is at present under the pastoral care of Rev. M. J. Wells, who also supplies the pulpit of the M. E. Church at Vine Valley.

The Congregational Church at Rushville has among its members a number of residents of Gorham, who are prompted by convenience in their attendance there rather than at the church of the same society at Reed's Corners. The present pastor of this church and society is Rev. HOVER, who officiates in the same capacity at Reed's Corners.

The Roman Catholic Church at Rushville extends its parish into this town. Its present pastor is Rev. Father DOUGHERTY.

At Gorham Village .....  and the churches, the Methodist, built in 1828; and the Presbyterian and Baptist, both built in 1842-43. 

In the vicinity of Reed's Corner are the Congregational and Baptist Churches, both of which are offshoots from older societies in the town. Neither has a resident pastor, the supply of the former being Rev. HOVER of Rushville, and of the latter Rev. ROSE of Gorham village.

Referring briefly to the churches of the town, it may be noted that as early as 1796 religious teaching and preaching was conducted in Gorham. Revs. OWEN and HAMILTON of the M. E. Church were missionary workers in the region at that early day; and the result was the organization of "The first M. E. Society of the Town of Gorham," which was the parent of Methodism in the town. In 1842 the society made a permanent lodgment at Bethel (Gorham). where the church has ever since been maintained. It is a joint station with Stanley and is now under the pastoral care of Rev. 0. D. DAVIS. In this connection also we may mention the organization of the M. E. Society at Reed's Corners, which was incorporated in 1856 by John TURNER, Jacob W. LAMB, Abram ARNOLD, Moody WYMAN and Hiram F. WILBUR, trustees.

The Presbyterian Church of Gorham was organized February 26, 1828, with twenty four members. The first meeting-house was erected near Reed's Corner, but in 1843 the society was divided and the Gorham village church formed. Thereafter the Congregational Church at the Corners was organized and the edifice built by former members of the mother society.



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