Ontario County Organized Churches

from 1878  History of Ontario Co., NY      




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Kindly transcribed by Donna Walker Judge & Deborah Spencer



History of Ontario Co., NY  

Published 1878



The pioneers of Farmington were mainly Quakers, or Friends, whose emigration was disapproved by the society, and when they persisted in removing to the Genesee country they were formally disowned. It was an established custom that any families which contemplated so important a step as a journey and residence in a wilderness should consult the society and abide by its decision, but in this instance they saw fit to act on their own judgment, and, although denied by their former associates, acted with firmness and independence, and secured unexpected advantages so far as concerned the Friends in Massachusetts. Some of the Quakers came west to attend PICKERING’s treaty, held at Canandaigua, in 1794, and found their former brethren on the high road to prosperity, and visited them. At the next yearly meeting the embassy reported in favor of taking the western Friends back into the society. A united opinion was expressed, and they were taken back, and constituted members of the Saratoga monthly meeting, in which they remained till 1803. Their preparatory meetings were held at the houses of Abraham LAPHAM and others. Their first “monthly meeting” was held on the 21st day of the 4th month, in accordance with the following minutes from the “Quarterly Meeting:” “At a quarterly meeting of Friends, held at Easton, on the 16th of the 2d month, 1803, three of the committee appointed to visit the preparative meeting of Farmington, on account of a proposal for a division of Saratoga monthly meeting, report that they are united in believing a usefulness would arise from a monthly meeting being allowed them agreeably to the proposal of Saratoga monthly meeting, which, claiming the entire attention of the meeting, is united with, and they are allowed to hold a monthly meeting for one year, to be united with, and they are allowed to hold a monthly meeting for one year, to be held on the 5th day preceding the last 1st day in each month.” At this, the first monthly meeting, Stephen ALDRICH was chosen clerk for one year, and was continued some time as such. At this period assemblies took place in a house of worship built of logs, near where the sheds of the Orthodox church now are. The structure was what was known as a double-log house, and one apartment was used for school purposes, and the other for societary assemblies. This log church, erected in 1796, was the first house of worship west of Clinton, Oneida county. This pioneer edifice was burned in December, 1803, and the meeting on the 26th of the 1st month, 1804, was held at Palmyra. A new framed church was built by the society in 1804. It was covered with clapboards made from split cedar, cut in four-foot lengths, shaved to a proper thickness, and fastened with wrought nails. Sawed lumber was then very difficult of purchase, and building was done with the means at command. No attempt at ornament was made in the interior, and boards took the place of seats. Their first public Friend, or, as other denominations say, minister, was Caleb MCCUMBER, whose death took place about 1850, at an advanced age. The increase of the society in numbers was very rapid and encouraging. The membership at organization was too large to permit an enumeration here. Over half the society belonged in Macedon, Wayne county. There were about thirty families in Farmington, and forty-five in Palmyra, at the date of their first meeting on January 26, 1804.

It was at this time that the subject of the meeting-house was broached and acted upon. Dimensions were to be forty-four feet by thirty-two, and twenty-feet posts. Cost was estimated at one thousand three hundred dollars, of which eight hundred and fifty dollars was raised by subscription. The building committee were N. HERENDEEN, C. MCCUMBER, Stephen ALDRICH, John SPRAGUE, Nathaniel WALKER, N. COMSTOCK, Hugh and David POUND, Isaac WOOD, H. ARNOLD, and Jesse ALDRICH. The first meeting was held October 26, 1804. On May 24 of this year Nathaniel WALKER and Benjamin HANCE were appointed elders, the first recorded since organization. On the 22d of February, 1816, the growth of membership caused an inconvenience to all from the limited capacity of the place of worship, and it was concluded to enlarge it; but after due consideration this was dropped, and a new building resolved upon and built within the year. It was erected on the west side of the road, opposite the old one, at a cost of two thousand two hundred and fifty dollars. The committee in this instance were not so numerous as the one preceding, and was composed of S. PATTISON, Darius COMSTOCK, Ira LAPHAM, N. ALDRICH, and W. HERENDEEN, under whose supervision the work was carried to completion. The society worshiped in concord until the spring of 1828, when Elias HICKS, a very able speaker, came among them, and presented new doctrines subversive of former teachings and contrary to the ideas of many.  Quite a body of the Friends accepted the new doctrines, and as a result separation took place on June 26, 1828, and the two branches became known as Orthodox and Hicksites. The latter occupied the new church, and the former, considered to be the rightful and authoritative society, opened the old meetinghouse, which had been out of use for some time, and therein held meetings until it was burned down. This society has recently completed a very neat edifice for worship. Dimensions, thirty-six feet by sixty; framed, and costing four thousand dollars. It has a basement constructed of stone. The building is being handsomely furnished, and when completed will have cost five thousand dollars. The service of dedication was performed June 11, 1876, and was attended by eminent members of the Society of Friends, among whom were Thomas KIMBER and wife, of Philadelphia; Elwood SCOTT, of Iowa; and Mary S. KNOWLES, Mrs. Lorenzo HATHAWAY, and Jarvis M. RIDER, all recorded as speakers. The society of Friends have a house in the southeast part of the town, wherein preparative meetings are held.


A general movement for the establishment of schools for instruction, in its influence, was felt by the Friends, who concluded that it would be advantageous to found and maintain a school where manual labor would go as payment for tuition and other expenses, and so enable indigent young men to obtain an education. Accordingly, March 19, 1838, the movement was set on foot by a conveyance to the society by Daniel A. ROBINSON, Isaac HATHAWAY, and Asa B. SMITH of twelve and fourteen-hundredths acres of land for that purpose. Gideon HERENDEEN, Asa B. SMITH, and Jonathan RAMSDELL were appointed trustees, and a school was opened in a building which stood on the premises. It was designed that both instructors and scholars should take part in the work. The property thus bequeathed to the society was conditioned to remain common possession in the event of a division. “If a split should occur in the society, the property was to be held by those who adhere to our ancient doctrine as found in BARCLAY’s Apology, and in the testimony of the society of Friends issued at Philadelphia, in 1827. Should a deficiency of means occur, it was to be supplied by voluntary contributions.” The school was subject to the immediate control of the Farmington monthly meeting. Its existence was brief, and we have no knowledge of teachers or attendance, course of study, or duration and number of terms. Its creation is of value here as showing an educational and benevolent spirit on the part of the prominent citizens of the town.





Pub 1893    pg 391 - 392

As we have already stated, the original purchasers and pioneer settlers of Farmington were of the once extensive Society of Friends; earnest, honest, faithful and patient Christians and workers, whose everyday walk in life was in full accord and keeping with their religious belief and teachings. From the time of their first settlement, beginning in 1790, the Friends held regular meeting services, and although wholly devoid of display or demonstrations of any sort, the members were none the less zealous or devoted. Ostentation was foreign to their characteristics and repugnant to their doctrines; and it is a serious question whether these sturdy plodders were not the first settlers in the county to hold and conduct religious services, although the Friends themselves made no claim to this honor, as it did not become them to do so. When they came as pioneers to the Genesee country their action was disapproved by the body of the Friends' society in the east, and being without consent and approbation, the emigrants were for a time cut off from the parent society; but when, a few years later, representatives from the east made a visit to Ontario county and discovered the happiness and progress everywhere discernible in the Farmington colony, the errors and faults of the former separatists were condoned and forgiven, and the factions became united. Throughout several of the towns in this part of the State there dwelt families of the Friends, and by them regular meetings were held at various places. In Macedon there were many families of the society; in Farmington about thirty families, and in Palmyra about forty-five. In 1796 the first Friends' meeting-house was built of logs in the north part of Farmington, near the hamlet called New Salem. In December, 1803, the building was destroyed by fire, and in 1804 was replaced with a larger building, of frame construction, but perfectly plain in exterior and interior finish. The first speaker of the Friends in this town was pioneer Caleb MC CUMBER, who died in 1850. From its first humble beginning the society increased in numbers, influence and usefulness for a period of about 25 years, when, in 1828, Elias HICKS, an able and eloquent speaker, was moved to so teach and preach sentiments not at all in harmony with previous usages, and the result was in a division in the society, a large number of the people flocking to the standard of the new doctrinal expounder, and thenceforth the seceders were called Hicksites, while those who remained faithful to their old allegiance at the same time became known by the name of Orthodox Friends. About the year 1816 the society had erected a new meeting house of greater proportions than the older structures, the building committee comprising Darius COMSTOCK, S. PATTISON, Ira LAPHAM, Nathan ALDRICH, and W. HERENDEEN. The Hicksites took possession of the new building, and the Orthodox members returned to the old meeting-house, still standing in the same vicinity. The committee charged with the erection of the meeting-house of 1804 was comprised of pioneers Nathan HERENDEEN, Caleb MC CUMBER, Stephen ALDRICH, John SPRAGUE, Nathaniel WALKER, Nathan COMSTOCK, Hugh and David POUND, Isaac WOOD,  H. ARNOLD, and Jesse ALDRICH.

In the course of time the house of meeting occupied by the Orthodox Friends was burned, and to replace it the members built a neat and commodious modern structure, the first services therein being held in June, 1876 In addition, it may be stated that another Friends' meeting-house was built in the southeast part of the town, between lots 21 and 22, in which preparative meetings, were for many years conducted.

Having due regard for the educational and physical welfare of their children, the Friends established what has been called a Manual Labor School, in which the youth of the town might acquire necessary education, and pay therefore in manual labor on the lands connected with the institution. On March 19, 1838, Daniel ROBINSON, Isaac HATHAWAY, and Asa SMITH conveyed lands to the extent of 12.14 acres to trustees Gideon HERENDEEN, Asa B. SMITH, and John RAMSDELLl, in whom the management of the school was vested. It must be said, however, that notwithstanding the worthy character of the institution, it failed to produce desired results, and therefore enjoyed not more than a brief existence.

As must be seen from what is stated in this chapter, the majority of the early settlers and nearly all the pioneers of Farmington were Friends, and as such, possessing distinguishing traits and characteristics, they made their spiritual life a part of the temporal by erecting houses for meetings, and giving strict attention to attendance and discipline; and although a century has passed since their work in the town began, the present generation of inhabitants seems to possess much of the old and worthy spirit of their ancestors, and still remain a majority in the town. However, many of the later of the early settlers were not of the Friends' religious convictions, and when their numbers became strong enough they established churches of their own denominations. As early as 1817 a Presbyterian society was organized in Farmington, under the fostering care of the Geneva Presbytery, but its members were few and it passed out of existence after about 15 years of vicissitudes.

The Farmington Wesleyan Methodist Church and society was organized January 12, 1846, and enjoyed a prosperous life of about 40 years. The first trustees were Lewis LUMBARD, William POUND, Benjamin HAIGHT, William PLUM, and Rufus HOLBROOK, and the first pastor was Thomas BURROWS. The church edifice was built at New Salem, on property originally deeded to the trustees by Joseph C. HATHAWAY. The parsonage property was the gift of Miss Fanny ROBSON, and the cemetery lot was deeded to the society by Benjamin SOULE and wife. Notwithstanding these and other benefactions, the society was destined to dissolution, but not until within the last three years did it finally cease to exist. The church edifice was sold to the trustees representing Farmington Grange, Patrons of Husbandry, who took possession of the property in 1892.


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