Yates County, New York

Churches for the Town of Benton

From the History of Yates County, NY
published 1892, by L.C. Aldrich

pg 366- 369


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Church History of Benton 

It has been said, and with much show of truth, that Benton is the mother of churches in Yates County.  The only locality that had a church prior to Benton was that occupied by the Friends, and theirs was but a primitive log building.  More over the Friends were a sect that colonized in the region, worshipping in peculiar form and manner, not recognized by the established churches or religious denominations then extant, and one that proved not to be founded upon substantial basis and without perpetuity. 

The Methodist Church in Benton had its inception in the missionary preaching's held as early as the year 1792 in Levi BENTON’s barn, at which time and period Ezra COLE was a local preacher and organizer.  In1793 he organized a Methodist class, among the members of which were himself and his wife, Matthew COLE, Lois COLE, Delilia COLE, Eliphalet HULL and wife, George WHEELER Jr. and wife, and Mrs. Sarah BUELL, Eliphalet HULL was the first class leader; George WHEELER the second.  At that time Benton was in the Seneca Lake circuit, and so remained until 1806. A Genesee conference was formed in 1809, and a Crooked Lake circuit in1814.  The first meeting house of the society was erected in 1807, on the farm now of M. L. BALDWIN, about a mile south of Benton Center.  Except that of the Friends, this was the first meetinghouse erected in what is now Yates County.  George WHEELER Jr., furnished the land for the building.  

The first twenty years witnessed increasing strength in the class and society, but misfortunes and some successions worked injuriously until about 1826, when are vial re-established its strength.  In1828 the Benton circuit was formed, including the several classes in the town, with result in the erection of a house of worship west of the Center at Havens Corners.  Five years later a parsonage was built near the church.  The Center did not become a station until 1841, and for all the prior time such services as were held were conducted either by local preachers or circuit riders.  The church at the Center was built in 1855 and substantially remodeled and repaired in 1859. 

The Methodist Church at Bellona is but a branch or offshoot from the mother society of the town.  The first services were held in 1805 in the log schoolhouse and in 1809 such interest had come to be shown that a regular place for preaching was established. The class at Bellona was formed the same year, among its members being Benjamin BIDLACK, Henry OXTOBY and wife, Jacob WOOD and Wife and John DAVIS and wife.  In 1810 a meeting house was commenced and enclosed during the first year, but it was not until 1820 that it was fully completed.  It stood on the hill just north of the village. 

In 1841, under the direction of H. R. COLEMAN, Summers BANKS, J. D. WOOD, George WAITE and Charles COLEMAN, as building committee, the new centrally located church edifice, 36 x 56 feet in size, with steeple and bell was erected.  Two years later, in 1843, Bellona was made a separate change, and Seth MATTISON was its first preacher.  In1866 extensive repairs were made to the church edifice, making it, when completed an attractive and commodious house of worship. The committee in charge of the work were Charles COLEMAN, Summers BANKS, George H. BANKS, J. H. HUIE, C. LAZENBY and George BROOKS.  

The Baptist Church and society of Benton Center, and in fact of the town, had their origin in the meetings and service that are said to have begun as early as 1797,although there exists no tangible proof to show that any organization took place prior to 1800, when Elder John GOFF was appointed and ordained to the charge of the society.  David SOUTHERLAND and Moses FINCH were elected deacons.  At that time it was know as the Vernon Church. Elder GOFF was pastor of the church for thirty-six years, and is remember particularly on account of the great length of his discourses at regular church meetings, funerals and wedding celebrations. In 1836 he emigrated to Michigan. 

The first church edifice of this society was erected in 1818, and stood not at the Center, but on the road next east and leading to the north.  At that time there were a number of Universalists in the town, and they contributed toward the fund with which the church was built. In 1848 the commodious church edifice at the Center was erected. The trustees, Samuel G. GAGE, George R. BARDEN, James SOUTHERLAND, John CHURCH, and Charles GILBERT acted as building committee. The parsonage property was purchased in 1856, costing $1,200. 

Elder GOFF began his pastorate in 1800 and served thirty-six years.  Next, after a vacancy of two years, Elias BUCK was called, remaining two years.  William H. DELANO came in 1840 and served four years. John W. WIGGINS was called in 1845, and Daniel LITCHFIELD in 1847, the latter serving four years.  Elder Almon C. MALLORY, was ordained in 1851, and continued in charge of the church twenty-four years.  Subsequent tot he pastorate of Mr. MALLORY the elders in charge have been T.S. HILL, Albert MARTIN, V. P. MATHER, and S. D. WORKS.  

Among the earlier members of the Baptist Church at Benton Center can be recalled the names of Samuel BUELL, Moses FINCH, David SOUTHERLAND, David RIGGS, William GILBERT, Benjamin FOWLE, Francis DEAN, Simon SOUTHERLAND, Smith MAPES, Isaac LAIN, Elisha BENEDICT, Ephraim KIDDER, Isaac WHITNEY, Buckbee GAGE, Benjamin DEAN, Samuel RAYMOND, Robert WATSON, Jonathan and Jesse BROWN, Stephen WILKINS, David KIDDER, David HOLMES, David TRIMMER, John L. SWARTHOUT, Stephen COE ,Charles and Joel GILLETTE, James SOUTHERLAND, Heman CHAPMAN, Jacob WATSON, Henry NUTT. 

The Presbyterian Church of Benton, the mother of several other societies of that denomination in the county, was organized through the efforts and influence of pioneer Stephen WHITAKER.  He was a Presbyterian and laid the foundation of the society in the prayer and conversation meetings held at his own house as early as the year 1802. On the 7th of November 1809, Rev. John LINDSLEY organized a society at a meeting held at Mr. WHITAKER’s house. The original members were Stephen and Mary  WHITAKER, John and Susannah ARMSTRONG, John and Sarah HALL, George and Elizabeth ARMSTRONG, John and Sarah MC LEAN, Solomon COUCH, William READ, Rebecca BOYD, Terry OWEN and wife, and William ROY. The first ordained elders were Stephen WHITAKER, John HALL and Solomon COUCH.  The society had no regular pastor until 1820, when on September 13th  Rev Richard WILLIAMS was installed. 

In 1816 the full organization of this church was effected, and the name “TheFirst Presbyterian Congregation of the Town of Benton,” was adopted.  The first church edifice of the society was erected in 1821on the southwest corner of lot No. 12.  Here, services were held until January 1839, and then transferred to the church then recently acquired at Bellona.  Here they have since been continued, but a good proportion of the old membership and their descendants became united with the church at Penn Yan. In fact, it was considered that there was a virtual removal of the old church to the county seat.  

The church building occupied by the Benton Presbyterian Society on its removal or transfer to Bellona village was the same formerly occupied by the society of the Dutch Reform Church.  The latter had its organization in 1833, and the church edifice was built the same year at the individual expense of John PEMBROOK and Jacob MESEROLE; but the sale of pews nearly made good the amount expended by them. The society continued only about six years, and the building was sold in1839 to the Presbyterian Church and society. The latter absorbed the former congregation. 



History and Directory of Yates County, Volume 1, by Stafford C. Cleveland, Pub.1873  pg 345 - 359




Ezra COLE was a local preacher of the Methodist faith, when he first came to Benton, and held meeting in the barn of Levi BENTON, in the summer of 1792.  the Philadelphia Conference of 1795, framed a district with four circuits, Northumberland, Wyoming, Tioga and Seneca Lake, Valentine COOK, Presiding Elder.  Seneca Lake circuit extended from Onondaga county to Canandaigua Lake, and from Lyons to the head of Seneca and Cayuga Lakes.  Ezra COLE attended the Philadelphia Conference of 1793 and on his return, a class was organized, consisting of himself and wife, Eliphalet HULL and wife, George WHEELER Jr. and wife, Mathew COLE, Lois COLE, Delila COLE and Mrs. Sarah BUELL, mother of David H. BUELL.  Eliphalet HULL was the first class leader, and George WHEELER Jr., succeeded him.  James SMITH was the preacher on the Seneca Lake circuit.  The second and third Quarterly Meetings of the circuit were held in the log house of Eliphalet HULL, who then lived on Flat street, near the present residence of Orrin SHAW.  This class was the first Methodist Society of western New York, and after the Friends, the firs religious organization within the boundaries of Yates county.  Meetings for preaching and prayer were held at the house of George WHEELER Jr., and quarterly meetings and other large gatherings in his barn.  Rev. William COBERT visited Seneca Lake circuit in November 1793.  In his journal he says: "Nov. 18, I preached in Geneva, at the house of Mr. (M)ANNING.  Nov 19, SMITH, COLE and myself were well used at the house of Mr. MANNING, where we lodged last night."  This was James SMITH, in charge of the Seneca Lake circuit and Ezra COLE.  Mr. COLE did not long continue a preacher.  The iron strictness of early Methodism did not agree with his views of life, and he gradually fell away from the faith.  In 1794, Afterward WHITE was preacher on Seneca Lake circuit, and Thornton FLEMING, Presiding Elder.  This Jerusalem, afterwards, Vernon church, was part of the Seneca Lake circuit till1806.  The preachers were in 1795, Joseph WHITBY, John LACKEY; 1796, Hamilton JEFFERSON, Anning OWEN; 1797, Anning OWEN, Johnson DUNHAM; 1798, Jonas STOKES, Richard LYONS; 1799, Jonathan BATEMAN who located the next year and married Delila, daughter of Ezra COLE; 1800, David DUNHAM, Benjamin BIDLACK; 1801, David JAMES, Josiah WILKINSON; 1802, Smith WEEKS, John BILLINGS; 1803, Griffin SWEET, Sharon BOOTH; 1804, Roger BARTON, Sylvester HILL; 1805, Thomas SMITH, Charles GILES.  The Presiding Elders during this time were Valentine COOK, Thomas MOORE, Freeborn GARRETSON, William MC LANAHAN, William COLBERT and Joseph JEWELL Jr.  May 1796, at George WHEELER Jr.'s,  Rev. Valentine COOK held a quarterly meeting.  It is said that on these occasions every board in the floor of the house accommodated a lodger, and "field beds" probably little more than the floor itself, were offered for their repose.  The people flocked to these meetings from long distances sometimes 30 to 40 miles.  At this meeting in 1796, Polly and Anna CHAMBERS, aged respectively 14 and 16 ears, came from Bath on foot, traveling the Indian trail along the lake.  They reached a log tavern at the place now known as Keuka  Landing, just at dark, and were there overtaken by their brother.  They were kindly entertained, the mistress of the house being an acquaintance of their father.  The next night they stayed at the house of Robert CHISSOM, after crossing the outlet at the foot of the lake on floating logs and fallen trees.  Anna CHAMBERS afterward became the wife of David BRIGGS, and the mother of William S. BRIGGS, the present judge and surrogate of Yates county; and Polly CHAMBERS became the wife of Alexander NICHOLS.

In1797, Rev. William COLBERT preached in this region and his public journal speaks of a quarterly meeting and love feast at the house of David BENTON, in Seneca, and of being entertained at the house of Ezra COLE, also at Squire PARKER'S and at the Townsend schoolhouse.  He relates that in riding from Elijah TOWNSEND'S to Michael PEARCE'S in Middlesex, he encountered a thunder storm that was truly alarming.  The wind and rain were so blinding  he could not see the trees falling around him.  The Lyons circuit was formed in 1806,and Lawrence RILEY was the preacher in charge, followed the next year by James KELSEY the preacher in charge, followed the next year by James KELSEY and George MC CRACKEN.  In 1807, a meeting house was erected on the corner of the farm of George WHEELER Jr., now owned by Mason L. BALDWIN, one mile south of Benton Centre.  This was the first meeting house erected within the boundaries of Yates county, after the log meeting house of the Friends, near City Hill. A Genesee conference was formed in 1809, and a Crooked Lake circuit in1814.  The preachers until 1825 included such names as Benjamin BIDLACK, Benjamin G. PADDOCK, George HARMON, Palmer ROBERTS, William SNOW, James GILMORE, Reuben FARLEY, Jasper BENNETT, Ralph LANNING, Loren GRANT, John BAGGERLY, William J. KENT and Robert PARKER.  Reuben FARLEY became a dissenter from the Trinitarian creed, and joined the Christians.  He was a man of talent and wielded so much influence, that the Methodist society at the Centre was greatly weakened.  But preaching was kept up, and in the winter of 1825-6,there was a revival, and Dr. John L. CLEVELAND, and Joseph GUTHRIE and wife joined the class.  In 1828 the Benton circuit was formed, and by the joint efforts of the class at the Centre, the class at Voak's and another in the southwest part of that town, a meetinghouse was erected at Haven's Corners, one mile west of the Centre, which became an important appointment.  A parsonage was bought a little north of the church, in 1833.  The trustees of the Church in 1833, were  William SCOFIELD, Hubbell GREGORY, Henry COLLIN, Martin BROWN and William RECTOR.  The preachers from 1825 to 1833were Denison SMITH, Nathan B. DODSON ,Jacob EARLY, Jonas DODGE, R. M. EVERTS, C. STRONG, Israel CHAMBERLAIN, Calvin S. COATS, Ira FAIRBANKS, William JONES and Allen STEELE.  

The church at Benton Centre was built in 1855 with a steeple and provided with a bell.  After this were was no more preaching at Haven's corners. 

The circuit preachers and presiding elders until 1841, when Benton Centre became a station, were Ira FAIRBANKS, Orrin F. COMFORT, William OSBAND, Friend DRAPER, Jonathan BURTON, Asbury LOWREY, Zenaus J. BUCK, Abner CHASE, Joseph JEWELL, James HERRON, Jonathan HEUSTIS, George LOW, Robert BURCH, J. HEMMINGWAY. Manley TOOKER, J. W. NEVINS, David NUTTEN, F. G. HIBBARD, Moses CROW, J. H. KELLOGG, J. K. TUTTLE, A. SOUTHERLAND, J. G. GULICK, T. B. HUDSON.  Among the preachers since that time have been Robert PARKER, Asa ADAMS, Nathan FELLOWS, James DURHAM, E. LATIMER, Ralph CLAPP, Luther NORTHWAY, E. H. CRANMER, J. M. BULL, Delos HUTCHINS, A. S. BAKER, D. LEISENRING, Charles Z. CASE, and Samuel MC GERALD, now serving.

A notable camp meeting was held on the Benton Centre charge in 1855, commencing September 12th.  On the 14th and 15th it rained nearly all the time. Saturday, the 17th was a pleasant day, followed at night by a memorable thunderstorm.  The rain fell like a deluge, the lightning kept up a constant and terrific blaze, and the thunders echoed with an unceasing roar.  The scene was at once awful and sublime.  As the storm rolled past, the light of four burning buildings kindled by lightning, could be seen from the campground.  The next day being Sunday, the camp ground was thronged by an immense crowd of people.  On Monday, while all was still, a large oak tree fell a few rods from the camp; where, had it falled the day before, it would have crushed a number of teams, and probably persons.  From the 14th to the20th, it is said the volume of water that fell, was 2 feet in depth, making frightful floods and raising the lake and streams almost beyond precedent.  

In 1859 the church was remodeled and much improved.  Dr. Wemple H. CARNE, George B. STANTON and Homer MARINER, serving as building committee.  The latest board of trustees is Ebenezer SCOFIELD, Homer MARINER, George B. STANTON, Harrison HYATT and Daniel MILLSPAUGH.  The board of Stewards is Ebenezer SCOFIELD, Homer MARINER, Edwin LAMPORT, William BEST, Dr. W. H. CRANE, James CARROLL, George B. STANTON, Oliver P. GUTHRIE and Gaius TRUESDELL.





Henry OXTOBY invited local ministers of the Methodist faith to preach at Bellona, in1805, and they held meetings in the log school house.  In 1809, a preaching place was established there and Benjamin BIDLACK and Samuel ROWLEY, preachers of the Lyons circuit, Susquehanna district, visited them, and preached in their regular rounds, each one in four weeks.  Mr. BIDLACK was a preacher of note, who, previous to his conversion was an intemperate man.  He was a fine singer and aided in starting the tunes at the meeting, sometimes when too much intoxicated to stand on his feet. He was converted under the preaching of Rev. Anthony TURCK, and became himself an efficient pioneer preacher.  He was a tall, strong, broad-shouldered man, of large proportions, and a man of great physical energy.  He died in 1843, at the age of 87 years.  He formed the first class at Bellona in 1809.  Henry OXTOBY, Jacob WOOD, John DAVIS and their wives, E. MATHER, William PETTIT and others were members of this class and Jacob WOOD was the first class teacher.  His successors have been Thomas GRISWOLD, James HITCHCOCK, William WATKINS, Oliver PETTIBONE and Henry A. COLEMAN.  In 1810 a meeting house was raised and the frame enclosed 28 by36 feet in dimensions, on the hill a little north of the village.  For some years the society worshipped in this house without any regular floor or desk, with slab benches for seats and a carpenter's bench for a pulpit.  The house was finished in 1820.  The preachers who served at Benton Centre, also preached at Bellona, until each was made a separate charge.  In 1841,a new church was erected, 36 by 56 feet on the ground, surmounted by a steeple and furnished with a fine toned bell.  This was centrally located in the village.  Henry R. COLEMAN, Summers BANKS, J. W. WOOD, George WAITE and Charles COLEMAN were the trustees and building committee.  In 1843, Bellona was made a separate charge, and Seth MATTISON was the first stationed preacher. The subsequent preachers have been, E. HITCHCOCK, D. F. PARSONS, D. FERRIS, A. PLUMLY,  J. EDSON ,A. E. CHUBBUCK, D. CROW, Ralph CLAPP, J. E. HYDE, A.G. LAMAN, E. LATIMER, Nathan FELLOWS, J. H. DAY, James LANDRETH and Charles L. BROWN.  In 1866 the church was much enlarged and a fine stone basement placed under the entire building, which was finished in an elegant and attractive manner, making it a neat commodious church.  The building committee were Charles COLEMAN, Summers BANKS, C. LAZENBY, J. H. HUIE, George H. BANKS, William BARNES and George H. BROOKS.

The most efficient contributor towards the erection of the first church edifice in1810, were Henry OXTOBY, John COLEMAN and Joshua DUNBAR, a colored man. Robert PATTERSON was the builder.  This society has had numerous and marked revivals during its history, and it has a strong and flourishing organization. 





Deacon Samuel G. GAGE, who had a special taste for historical accuracy, and authentic records, was clerk of the Baptist church at Benton Centre, about 18 years, beginning in 1847.  He made a careful and studied research into the origin of that church and stated that there was good reason to believe it was constituted in 1797, but that there was no extant record of a date earlier than1800.  the first record that remains, is an account of the ordination of Elder John GOFF, which took place on the 12th of November , 1800.  Elder GOFF had previously lived in Frederickstown, now Wayne, and had visited the people at Benton Centre, then Jerusalem, and preached for them.  A council was called consisting of Elder Ephraim SANFORD, from Frederickstown , John TRIMMER form Canandaigua, elder Jonathan FINCH and Jeremiah MC LOUTH from Farmington, Abner HILL and Abram SPEAR from Palmyra, and Jesse WARREN from Phelps.  The meeting was held in the log schoolhouse at the Centre, and the ordination sermon was preached by Elder FINCH, from Farmington.  The same evening, Elder GOFF received the unanimous call of the church to become its pastor, an office he filled for 36 years.  At the same time, two of the members, David SOUTHERLAND and Moses FINCH, were elected deacons.  David SOUTHERLAND was also licensed to preach, and served as a minister within the circuit of his acquaintance in various neighborhoods as opportunity offered, and his public and private cares permitted.  During the month following his ordination, Elder GOFF held meetings at the house of Anna WAGENER, the Friend, in Jerusalem, which resulted in an number of conversion, including Mrs. Martha COLE, the mother of Mrs. Samuel C. CAGE.  In 1801, this church passed are solution adopting the Bible as the only standard of faith and practice. In 1802, after a faithful effort at correction, they expelled Mrs. Phebe SMITH, for intemperance.  Elder Simon SUTEHRLAND was licensed to preach by the Benton, then Vernon church in 1803.  There were numerous revivals under the preaching of Elder GOFF during his service with this church, and it is believed that he baptized not less than 300 persons, although there is a record of but158 in existence.  He was a plain, faithful preacher, and sometimes held his congregation during a discourse of three hours, an evidence of remarkable patience on the part of his hearers.  His honesty and sincerity of character gave him a strong hold upon the people, not only of his church, but the community at large.  No doubt his unaffected goodness of heart, and genial social qualities added to his popularity.  He married a widow JOHNSON, old enough to have been his mother; indeed his mother attend the first wedding of Mrs. JOHNSON, carrying her son in her arms, a mere infant. Roxana GOFF, their only child, married Henry ANDERSON of Benton and emigrated to Michigan.  Elder GOFF continued his ministrations at Benton Centre until1836, when he moved to Michigan, where he continued to preach for many years and died in 1861, upward of 90 years.  He remarked on leaving Benton, that he had done all the good he could there.  "I will go" said he, "into a new country, collect a flock and preach to them as I have done here, in barns, log dwellings and log schoolhouses."

He was very firm in the technical faith of his church, and remarkable for the prolixity of his services. His funeral discourses were usually two hours in length, and marriage ceremonies were extended to 45 minutes.  And at a nearly day when clergymen were few and far between, he had many calls to join the living in wedlock and bury the dead.  It may well be admitted that all joined heartily in his final Amen.  

After the departure of Elder GOFF, the church was two years without a pastor, and in1838, elder Elias BURDICK was called to that position, and held it two years; William H. DELANO in 1840, and served four years; John W. WIGGINS in 1845 and served two years; Daniel W. LITCHFIELD in 1847, and was the pastor four years.  In 1851, elder Almon C. MALLORY was constituted the pastor of the church, and has held the position 19 years, still serving with great acceptability.  During the 73 years since the organization of this church, it has been 6 years without a pastor, 3 years of which time were the first years of its existence.

Among the earlier members of the church were Samuel BUELL, grandfather of David H. BUELL and Samuel BUELL, now citizens of Benton, Moses FINCH, one of the first deacons, William GILBERT, David RIGGS, David SOUTHERLAND, a minister and a deacon, and an eminent pioneer of Augusta, now Potter, Benjamin FOWLE, Dennis DEAN, an early school teacher, Isaac LAIN Sr., Simon SUTHERLAND, Joseph SOUTHERLAND, Smith MAPES, Isaac WHITNEY, Elisha BENEDICT, and Ephraim KIDDER.  The first appointment of delegates to an association was in 1803,but there is no record of the name of the association, nor the place of its meeting.  David RIGGS was elected deacon in 1805.  Among the prominent members after 1810, were  ...... was elected deacon in 1819, and served until his death in 1841.  He was also elected clerk in 1822.  He was the father of Deacon Joseph WATSON, and has three sons, one daughter, and seven grandchildren, including Robert Telford, now a missionary in Siam, who are respected and useful members of this church.  After 1820, among the leading members were Stephen COE, David HOLMES, David TRIMMER, John L. SWARTHOUT, Heman CHAPMAN, James SOUTHERLAND, Joel JILLETT, Charles JILLETT, Jacob WATSON, Henry NUTT. David HOLMES was elected Deacon in 1822 and filled the office for 19years.  He is spoken of as an estimable man.  He died in 1841. Jacob WATSON was elected clerk in 1833.

After1830, we find among the more efficient members of the church, Foster S. WATSON, Horace KIDDER, Daniel LOVEJOY, Charles ANGUS, Martin GAGE, John W. MC ALPINE and Joseph WATSON.  Martin GAGE was elected deacon in 1838, Charles ANGUS and John W. MC ALPINE in 1841, and Joseph WATSON in 1849.  After 1840, among the prominent members are Samuel G. GAGE, George R. BARDEN, John CHURCH, James SOUTHERLAND, David S. CROZIER, Charles and William BECKER and since 1850, David SPRAGUE, James H. NEWCOMB, Zadoc B. ST. JOHN, William D. SWARTHOUT, James BALLS, Peter OAKLEY, John TRUESDELL, Walter W. BECKER, James S. WILLIAMS, Walter S. MARBLE and David ARMSTRONG.  Samuel G. GAGE was elected deacon in 184 1and James BALL, in 1856.

In 1828, a resolution was adopted by this church, requiring all their brethren who were connected with the Masonic fraternity to withdraw there from and refusing to fellowship Masons, unless they renounced the institution.  This rule had a strong influence on the church for many years.  Under the preaching of Elder Elias BURDICK there were 77 baptisms in the church; 160 by elder William H. DELANO, and 76 by Elder Daniel W. LITCHFIELD. The clerks of the church in the order of their service, have been: David SOUTHERLAND, David RIGGS, Jesse YOUNG, William GILBERT, Stephen COE, James WILKINS, Jacob WATSON, Horace KIDDER, Samuel G. GAGE and David S. CROZIER.

The first house of worship was erected in 1818, a short distance north of the East Centre road on the next road leading north, eastward of Benton Centre.  The Universalists contributed towards the construction of that building and for sometime held occasional meetings in it.  The present church edifice at the Centre, was built in 1848, by J. L. VAN WINKLE, of Moscow, Livingston county, NY; and the lumber was brought from that town.  The large timber was brought over by land and the smaller timber and lumber came by water to Earl's Landing at the mouth of Kashong Creek.  The cost of the lot, house an fixtures was about $4,000.  The building committee were the trustees of the church, Samuel G. GAGE, George R. BARDEN, James SOUTHERLAND, John CHURCH and Charles GILBERT.  A parsonage house and lot was bought in 1856 at a cost of $1,200.  A fine toned steel composition bell was present to the church in1861 by Deacon Samuel G. GAGE.  The number of members in 1865 was 205, in1869,208.  The present trustees are David S. CROZIER, James S. WILLIAMS and Walter W. BECKER.





The father of the Presbyterian church in Benton was Stephen WHITAKER who, within two or three years after his first settlement in the town, and as early as 1802,commenced holding prayer meetings and induced his neighbors to meet and listen to the reading of sermons.  Occasionally a missionary would visit them, John LINDSLEY, organized a Presbyterian church of 16 members, in Stephen WHITAKER'S log home, Nov 7, 1809.  The members were Stephen WHITAKER and Mary his wife; John ARMSTRONG and Susannah, his wife; John HALL and Sarah, his wife; John A. MC LEAN and Sarah, his wife; George ARMSTRONG and Elizabeth, his wife; Solomon COUTH, William ROY, Terry OWEN and wife, William READ and Rebecca, wife of Robert N. BOYD.  Five days later Stephen WHITAKER, John HALL and Solomon COUCH were ordained elders, and the following members were added:  Jonathan A. HALL and Ann, his wife; Ephraim MALLORY and Ruth, his wife; Waitstel DICKINSON and wife; David MORSE and wife; Mr. WINNANTS and Mr. MC MULLEN. For several years they had no preaching except by missionaries.  In 1815, Rev. Ebenezer LAZELL began to preach as a stated supply, but no pastor was installed till Sept 13, 1820, when Rev. Richard WILLIAMS became the first regular pastor of the church.  The community of Presbytery met the day before at the house of William BABCOCK, in Penn Yan, and it was constituted as follows: Rev. John EVANS of Canandaigua, Rev. Henry AXTELL of Geneva, Rev. Joseph MERRILL of Gorham, Rev. Samuel BRACE of Phelps, Rev. Moses YOUNG of Romulus, and Elder Moses HALL of Geneva.  Mr. WILLIAMS preached half of the time in a log house near the spot where the church was afterwards erected, and the other half in a dilapidated school house in Penn Yan.  In 1821 the society commenced the erection of a house of worship on the rising ground east of Spencer's Corners, which they occupied about 15 years, when they purchased the Dutch Reformed church edifice in Bellona, which the enlarged and improved and still occupy.  This church was taken under the care of the Presbytery of Geneva in 1825.  In 1825 it numbered 55 members; in 1832, 125; in 1843,179; in 1846, 168.  Rev. Richard WILLIAMS officiated as pastor till 1825,when he was a succeeded by Rev. Alfred E. CAMPBELL.  In 1827, he was succeeded by Rev. William TODD, since a missionary in India.  In 1830, Rev. Stalham CLARY succeeded as a stated supply, and preached until his decease in1831.  Rev. Michael CARPENTER followed as pastor in 1832, and continued one year.  He was followed by Rev. Mr. INGERSOL, and he by Rev. William JOHNSON, who served from 1834 to 1837.  He was followed by Rev. William W. BACKUS, who continued until late in the year 1839.  Rev. Alfred EDDY followed and was installed pastor in 1841, remaining about 10 years. Rev. Benjamin M. GOLDSMITH was settled as pastor of the church in 1852, having preached two years previously as stated supply, and he is the pastor still, maintaining a strong hold upon the respect and confidence of his congregation, and all who share his acquaintance.

There was a revival in this church in 1826, which added quite a number it its connation.  Another in 1831 added about 30.  In 1837, 23 were added by another revival, and 42 more by a revival in 1840.  It has always been a self supporting church and is now a wealth and influential organization. It has been the mother of two others, one at Penn Yan and the other at West Dryden.  

The congregational organization of this church was effected June 17, 1816. After due notice, "a meeting of the male members" was held on that day in the house of Stephen WHITAKER at which, three trustees were elected and a name adopted, " The First Presbyterian Congregation of the town of Benton."  The trustees chosen were Jonathan WHITAKER, William ROY and Waitstel DICKINSON.  the certificate of organization was acknowledged before Judge John NICHOLAS, July 8, 1816, and recorded the 8th of April1817.  

The initial steps for a church edifice were taken at a meeting held January 25,1821.  It was decided to circulate subscriptions "to obtain funds to build a Presbyterian church on the height of ground north of the road, opposite to John JOHNSON'S barn."  The location thus specified was in the lot now known as the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, on the southwest corner of lot 12  of No. 8.  The work was begun in less than one month.  Niram CRANE was the builder, and the church members and other citizens lent such aid to the work by their labor and other contributions as their means and liberality prompted.  The house contained 40 pews on the ground floor and 28 in the galleries.  the date of its completion is not clearly ascertained. The regular services were transferred to the Bellona church in January1839.  The latter edifice was enlarged, and the whole interior remodeled in1850.  The ruling elders of the church since the first chosen in 1809 have been: William ROY and Jonathan A. HALL, chosen in 1817; John HATMAKER MD, Henry SNAPP, Amzi  BRUEN and Josiah JACOBUS in 1821; Jonathan WHITAKER, Moses MUNN and Silas LACEY in 1825; Cornelius HOOD, Henry L. BUSH and William L. MITCHELL in1838; Eli WOOD, Ashael CLARK MD, Philip RUPERT and Horace B. TAYLOR in 1840; James M. POW*, in 1841; Squier B. WHITAKER*, Hiram ANSLEY, John K. CROMWELL* in1856; Alexander B. SLOAN M.D. *, Augustus T. BARNES*, Jacob I. DENMAN and Christopher SPINK in 1869. (* members of the Session at the present time).  It will be noted that the continuity of Stephen WHITAKER'S influence has not been broken for the first, in this church.  Its pious founder in the pioneer period, he has been worthily represented in its labors and its councils by his son, Jonathan WHITAKER and by his grandson, Squier B. WHITAKER, now one of its ruling elders.  Rev. Andrew OLIVER, Rev. James SOUTHWORTH and Rev. Prince HAWES, are mentioned in the records  as transient missionary laborers with this church in its earlier years.  Its average membership for 30 years has been upwards of 150.  The old Cemetery connected with the church has been set apart as a public  burial of the dead.  Many of the older residents have been interred there.






In1833, Rev. Mr. MANDEVILLE of Geneva, organized a church of the Dutch Reformed denomination at Bellona, of which the original members were Jacob MESEROLE and wife, William BLOOMER and wife, A. J. BATTEN and wife, Alexander HOLIDAY and Mrs. John L. BUSH.  Jacob MESEROLE and John PEMBROKE built the church at their own expense in 1833, for which the sale of the pews nearly reimbursed them.  Hubbell GREGORY of Benton Centre, was the builder.  Mr. PEMBROKE withdrew and Lodowick BUSH took hold in his place.  The deacons and elders forming he Consistory were Messrs. MESEROLE, BATTEN, BLOOMER and HOLLIDAY.  The church numbered over 100 members at one time, and about 60 when the organization was broken up.  The first pastor was Rev. Charles WALK of Pennsylvania, who remained about four years.  Rev. Mr. IVISON was his successor and remained two years. In 1839, the church edifice was sold to the Presbyterian church of Benton, and the members and congregation were chiefly merged in that organization.  When the building was afterward enlarged, it was mainly at the expense of Mr. MESEROLE, who was again reimbursed by the sale of the pews, 16 of which were added by the enlargement.  Charles V. BUSH, of Penn Yan, was the builder. 

It will be seen by the foregoing sketch of church history in Benton, that he Methodists, with their admirable system of itinerancy, were the first to sow the seeds of religious thought among the log cabins of the pioneers.  Their preachers were men adapted to their work.  They made the wilderness ring with their admonitions and exhortations, by which the people were greatly swayed, and the church enlarged.  Their ablest men penetrated to thermo test recesses of civilization.  Men like Valentine COOK and William COLBERT, were no common characters.  They were men of ability, learning and eloquence and they had many colleagues in their work, of whom as much could be said.  Their glowing earnestness was imparted to their adherents, and Methodism was everywhere known as the religion of zeal and enthusiasm. Their classes were large, their meetings fervent.  Camp meetings were every popular with the Methodists of the early time, and were occasions of great interest.

The Baptists made a very early beginning in Benton and have held their ground with great success.  The same may be said of the Presbyterians of East Benton.  The Free Will Baptists had many early adherents, but no organization in that town of which any record remains.  The Christians, who could perhaps be more sharply defined as Unitarians, had some strength for a time, and disorganized other denominations, especially the Methodists, to a considerable degree, have passed away from Benton, and left but little impress.

Levi BENTON, the first settler of the town was a Universalist, and was forward to promote the fortunes of that faith, which has had numerous adherents in that town, as well as still more liberal forms of free thinking.  The Universalist society of Vernon organized in 1808, had among its trustees the celebrated George HOMSER of Hartford (now Avon), the father of the poet, William. H. C. HOSMER.  He was a leading lawyer of his day, and a judge of Ontario county.  Other leading men in the various towns of the broad old county of Ontario were numbered among its trustees.  But Levi BENTON was evidently its leading spirit and among the people of his town Universalism had a stronghold.  They had frequent meetings and among their earlier preachers were Dr. Michael COFFIN, Rev. Mr. MURRAY, Rev. Mr. FISK and others, able men.  The leaven of this influence is still palpable in that town. But for some reason, men that have a hell to shun work with more zeal and efficiency for the advancement of their faith, than those who see no terrors beyond the grave.  The consequence has been that the Universalists have nothing in the form of church organization to show as the fruit of their early start and large advantages at an early period in Benton.  The ground is occupied by those who preach a radically different faith.  



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