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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ChurchHistory of Benton 

Ithas been said, and with much show of truth, that Benton is the mother ofchurches in Yates County.  The onlylocality that had a church prior to Benton was that occupied by the Friends, andtheirs was but a primitive log building.  Moreover,the Friends were a sect that colonized in the region, worshipping in peculiarform and manner, not recognized by the established churches or religiousdenominations then extant, and one that proved not to be founded uponsubstantial basis and without perpetuity. 

TheMethodist Church in Benton had its inception in the missionary preachings heldas early as the year 1792 in Levi BENTON’s barn, at which time and period EzraCOLE was a local preacher and organizer.  In1793 he organized a Methodist class, among the members of which were himself andhis wife, Matthew COLE, Lois COLE, Delilia COLE, Eliphalet HULL and wife GeorgeWHEELER Jr., and wife, and Mrs. Sarah BUELL, Eliphalet HULL was the first classleader; George WHEELER the second.  Atthat 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 ofthe society was erected in 1807, on the farm now of M. L. BALDWIN, about a milesouth of Benton Center.  Except thatof the Friends, this was the first meetinghouse erected in what is now YatesCounty.  George WHEELER Jr.,furnished the land for the building.  

Thefirst twenty years witnessed increasing strength in the class and society, butmisfortunes and some successions worked injuriously until about 1826, when arevival 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 HavensCorners.  Five years later aparsonage was built near the church.  TheCenter did not become a station until 1841, and for all the prior time suchservices as were held were conducted either by local preachers or circuitriders.  The church at the Centerwas built in 1855 and substantially remodeled and repaired in 1859. 

TheMethodist Church at Bellona is but a branch or offshoot from the mother societyof the town.  The first serviceswere held in 1805 in the log schoolhouse and in 1809 such interest had come tobe shown that a regular place for preaching was established. The class at Bellona was formed the same year, among its members beingBenjamin BIDLACK, Henry OXTOBY and wife, Jacob WOOD and Wife and John DAVIS andwife.  In 1810 a meeting house wascommenced and enclosed during the first year, but it was not until 1820 that itwas fully completed.  It stood onthe hill just north of the village. 

In1841, under the direction of H. R. COLEMAN, Summers BANKS, J. D. WOOD, GeorgeWAITE and Charles COLEMAN, as building committee, the new centrally locatedchurch 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, whencompleted 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.  

TheBaptist Church and society of Benton Center, and in fact of the town, had theirorigin 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 placeprior to 1800, when Elder John GOFF was appointed and ordained to the charge ofthe society.  David SOUTHERLAND andMoses FINCH were elected deacons.  Atthat time it was know as the Vernon Church. Elder GOFF was pastor of the church for thirty-six years, and is rememberparticularly on account of the great length of his discourses at regular churchmeetings, funerals and wedding celebrations. In 1836 he emigrated to Michigan. 

Thefirst church edifice of this society was erected in 1818, and stood not at theCenter, but on the road next east and leading to the north.  At that time there were a number of Universalists in thetown, 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, JohnCHURCH, and Charles GILBERT acted as building committee. The parsonage property was purchased in 1856, costing $1,200. 

ElderGOFF began his pastorate in 1800 and served thirty-six years.  Net, 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 LTICHFIELD in 1847, thelatter serving four years.  ElderAlmon C. MALLORY, was ordained in 1851, and continued in charge of the churchtwenty-four years.  Subsequent tothe pastorate of Mr. MALLORY the elders in charge have been T.S. HILL, AlbertMARTIN, V. P. MATHER, and S. D. WORKS.  

Amongthe earlier members of the Baptist Church at Benton Center can be recalled thenames of Samuel BUELL, Moses FINCH, David SOUTHERLAND, David RIGGS, WilliamGILBERT, Benjamin FOWLE, Francis DEAN, Simon SOUTHERLAND, Smith MAPES, IsaacLAIN, Elisha BENEDICT, Ephraim KIDDER, Isaac WHITNEY, Buckbee GAGE, BenjaminDEAN, 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, HenryNUTT. 

ThePresbyterian Church of Benton, the mother of several other societies of that denomination in the county, was organized through the efforts andinfluence of pioneer Stephen WHITAKER.  Hewas a Presbyterian and laid the foundation of the society in the prayer andconversation meetings held at his own house as early as the year 1802. On the 7th of November 1809, Rev. John LINDSLEY organized asociety 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, WilliamREAD, Rebecca BOYD, Terry OWEN and wife, and William ROY. The first ordained elders were Stephen WHITAKER, John HALL and SolomonCOUCH.  The society had no regularpastor until 1820, when on September 13th Rev Richard WILLIAMS wasinstalled. 

In1816 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.  Hereservices were held until January 1839, and then transferred to the church thenrecently acquired at Bellona.  Herethey have since been continued, but a good proportion of the old membership andtheir descendants became united with the church at Penn Yan. In fact, it was considered that there was a virtual removal of the oldchurch to the county seat.  

Thechurch building occupied by the Benton Presbyterian Society on its removal ortransfer to Bellona village was the same formerly occupied by the society of theDutch Reform Church.  The latter hadits organization in 1833, and the church edifice was built the same year at theindividual expense of John PEMBROOK and Jacob MESEROLE; but the sale of pewsnearly 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. 



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




EzraCOLE 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.  thePhiladelphia Conference of 1795, framed a district with four circuits,Northumberland, Wyoming, Tioga and Seneca Lake, Valentine COOK, PresidingElder.  Seneca Lake circuit extended from Onondaga county to CanandaiguaLake, and from Lyons to the head of Seneca and Cayuga Lakes.  Ezra COLEattended the Philadelphia Conference of 1793 and on his return, a class wasorganized, consisting of himself and wife, Eliphalet HULL and wife, GeorgeWHEELER 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, andGeorge WHEELER Jr., succeeded him.  James SMITH was the preacher on theSeneca Lake circuit.  The second and third Quarterly Meetings of thecircuit were held in the log house of Eliphalet HULL, who then lived on Flatstreet, near the present residence of Orrin SHAW.  This class was the firstMethodist Society of western New York, and after the Friends, the firs religiousorganization within the boundaries of Yates county.  Meetings for preachingand prayer were held at the house of George WHEELER Jr., and quarterly meetingsand other large gatherings in his barn.  Rev. William COBERT visited SenecaLake circuit in November 1793.  In his journal he says: "Nov. 18, Ipreached in Geneva, at the house of Mr. (M)ANNING.  Nov 19, SMITH, COLE andmyself were well used at the house of Mr. MANNING, where we lodged lastnight.:  This was James SMITH, in charge of the Seneca Lake circuit andEzra COLE.  Mr. COLE did not long continue a preacher.  The ironstrictness of early Methodism did not agree with his views of life, and hegradually fell away from the faith.  In 1794, Alward WHITE was preacher onSeneca Lake circuit, and Thornton FLEMING, Presiding Elder.  ThisJerusalem, afterwards, Vernon church, was part of the Seneca Lake circuit till1806.  The preachers were in 1795, Joseph WHITBY, John LACKEY; 1796, HamiltonJEFFERSON, Anning OWEN; 1797, Anning OWEN, Johnson DUNHAM; 1798, Jonas STOKES,Richard LYONS; 1799, Jonathan BATEMAN who located the next year and marriedDelila, daughter of Ezra COLE; 1800, David DUNHAM, Benjamin BIDLACK; 1801, DaivdJAMES, Josiah WILKINSON; 1802, Smith WEEKS, John BILLINGS; 1803, Griffin SWEET,Sharon BOOTH; 1804, Roger BARTON, Sylvester HILL; 1805, Thomas SMITH, CharlesGILES.  The Presiding Elders during this time were Valentine COOK, ThomasMOORE, Freeborn GARRETSON, William MC LANAHAN, William COLBERT and Joseph JEWELLJr.  May 1796, at George WHEELER Jr.'s, Rev. Valentine COOK held a quarterlymeeting.  It is said that on these occasions every board in the floor ofthe house accommodated a lodger, and "field beds" probably little morethan the floor itself, were offered for their repose.  The people flockedto these meetings from long distances sometimes 30 to 40 miles.  At thismeeting in 1796, Polly and Anna CHAMBERS, aged respectively 14 and 16 ears, camefrom Bath on foot, traveling the Indian trail along the lake.  They reacheda log tavern at the place now known as Keuka  Landing, just at dark, andwere there overtaken by their brother.  They were kindly entertained, themistress of the house being an acquaintance of their father.  The nextnight they stayed at the house of Robert CHISSOM, after crossing the outlet atthe foot of the lake on floating logs and fallen trees.  Anna CHAMBERSafterward 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 thewife of Alexander NICHOLS.

In1797, Rev. William COLBERT preached in this region and his public journal speaksof 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 andat the Townsend schoolhouse.  He relates that in riding from ElijahTOWNSEND'S to Michael PEARCE'S in Middlesex, he encountered a thunder storm thatwas truly alarming.  The wind and rain were so blinding  he could notsee 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 JamesKELSEY the preacher in charge, followed the next year by James KELSEY and GeorgeMC CRACKEN.  In 1807, a meeting house was erected on the corner of the farmof George WHEELER Jr., now owned by Mason L. BALDWIN, one mile south of BentonCentre.  This was the first meeting house erected within the boundaries ofYates 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 fromthe Trinitarian creed, and joined the Christians.  He was a man of talentand wielded so much influence, that the Methodist society at the Centre wasgreatly 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 wifejoined the class.  In 1828 the Benton circuit was formed, and by the jointefforts of the class at the Centre, the class at Voak's and another in thesouthwest part of that town, a meetinghouse was erected at Haven's Corners, onemile west of the Centre, which became an important appointment.  Aparsonage was bought a little north of the church, in 1833.  The trusteesof the Church in 1833, were  William SCOFIELD, Hubbell GREGORY, HenryCOLLIN, 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 andAllen STEELE.  

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

Thecircuit preachers and presiding elders until 1841, when Benton Centre became astation, 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. ManleyTOOKER, 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 preacherssince that time have been Robert PARKER, Asa ADAMS, Nathan FELLOWS, JamesDURHAM, E. LATIMER, Ralph CLAPP, Luther NORTHWAY, E. H. CRANMER, J. M. BULL,Delos HUTCHINS, A. S. BAKER, D. LEISENRING, Charles Z. CASE, and Samuel MCGERALD, now serving.

Anotable camp meeting was held on the Benton Centre charge in 1855, commencingSeptember 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 andterrific blaze, and the thunders echoed with an unceasing roar.  The scenewas at once awful and sublime.  As the storm rolled past, the light of fourburning buildings kindled by lightning, could be seen from the campground.  The next day being Sunday, the camp ground was thronged by animmense crowd of people.  On Monday, while all was still, a large oak treefell a few rods from the camp; where, had it falled the day before, it wouldhave 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, makingfrightful floods and raising the lake and streams almost beyondprecedent.  

In1859 the church was remodeled and much improved.  Dr. Wemple H. CARNE, GeorgeB. STANTON and Homer MARINER, serving as building committee.  The latest boardof trustees is Ebenezer SCOFIELD, Homer MARINER, George B. STANTON, HarrisonHYATT 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.





HenryOXTOBY invited local ministers of the Methodist faith to preach at Bellona, in1805, and they held meetings in the log school house.  In 1809, a preachingplace was established there and Benjamin BIDLACK and Samuel ROWLEY, preachers ofthe Lyons circuit, Susquehanna district, visited them, and preached in theirregular rounds, each one in four weeks.  Mr. BIDLACK was a preacher ofnote, who, previous to his conversion was an intemperate man.  He was afine singer and aided in starting the tunes at the meeting, sometimes when toomuch intoxicated to stand on his feet. He was converted under the preaching ofRev. Anthony TURCK, and became himself an efficient pioneer preacher.  Hewas a tall, strong, broad-shouldered man, of large proportions, and a man ofgreat physical energy.  He died in 1843, at the age of 87 years.  Heformed the first class at Bellona in 1809.  Henry OXTOBY, Jacob WOOD, JohnDAVIS and their wives, E. MATHER, William PETTIT and others were members of thisclass and Jacob WOOD was the first class teacher.  His successors have beenThomas 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 someyears 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.  Thehouse 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 steepleand furnished with a fine toned bell.  This was centrally located in thevillage.  Henry R. COLEMAN, Summers BANKS, J. W. WOOD, George WAITE andCharles COLEMAN were the trustees and building committee.  In 1843, Bellonawas made a separate charge, and Seth MATTISON was the first stationed preacher. Thesubsequent 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 placedunder the entire building, which was finished in an elegant and attractivemanner, making it a neat commodious church.  The building committee wereCharles COLEMAN, Summers BANKS, C. LAZENBY, J. H. HUIE, George H. BANKS, WilliamBARNES and George H. BROOKS.

Themost 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 markedrevivals during its history, and it has a strong and flourishingorganization. 





DeaconSamuel G. GAGE, who had a special taste for historical accuracy, and authenticrecords, was clerk of the Baptist church at Benton Centre, about 18 years,beginning in 1847.  He made a careful and studied research into the originof that church and stated that there was good reason to believe it wasconstituted 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 ofElder John GOFF, which took place on the 12th of November , 1800.  ElderGOFF had previously lived in Frederickstown, now Wayne, and had visited thepeople at Benton Centre, then Jerusalem, and preached for them.  A councilwas called consisting of Elder Ephraim SANFORD, from Frederickstown , JohnTRIMMER form Canandaigua, elder Jonathan FINCH and Jeremiah MC LOUTH fromFarmington, Abner HILL and Abram SPEAR from Palmyra, and Jesse WARREN fromPhelps.  The meeting was held in the log schoolhouse at the Centre, and theordination sermon was preached by Elder FINCH, from Farmington.  The sameevening, Elder GOFF received the unanimous call of the church to become itspastor, an office he filled for 36 years.  At the same time, two of themembers, David SOUTHERLAND and Moses FINCH, were elected deacons.  DavidSOUTHERLAND was also licensed to preach, and served as a minister within thecircuit of his acquaintance in various neighborhoods as opportunity offered, andhis public and private cares permitted.  During the month following hisordination, Elder GOFF held meetings at the house of Anna WAGENER, the Friend,in Jerusalem, which resulted in an number of conversion, including Mrs. MarthaCOLE, the mother of Mrs. Samuel C. CAGE.  In 1801, this church passed aresolution 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 theBenton, then Vernon church in 1803.  There were numerous revivals under thepreaching of Elder GOFF during his service with this church, and it is believedthat he baptized not less than 300 persons, although there is a record of but158 in existence.  He was a plain, faithful preacher, and sometimes heldhis congregation during a discourse of three hours, an evidence of remarkablepatience on the part of his hearers.  His honesty and sincerity ofcharacter gave him a strong hold upon the people, not only of his church, butthe community at large.  No doubt his unaffected goodness of heart, andgenial social qualities added to his popularity.  He married a widowJOHNSON, old enough to have been his mother; indeed his mother attend the firstwedding of Mrs. JOHNSON, carrying her son in her arms, a mere infant. Roxana GOFF, their only child, married Henry ANDERSON of Benton and emigrated toMichigan.  Elder GOFF continued his ministrations at Benton Centre until1836, when he moved to Michigan, where he continued to preach for many years anddied in 1861, upward of 90 years.  He remarked on leaving Benton, that hehad 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 donehere, in barns, log dwellings and log schoolhouses."

Hewas very firm in the technical faith of his church, and remarkable for theprolixity of his services. His funeral discourses were usually two hours inlength, and marriage ceremonies were extended to 45 minutes.  And at anearly day when clergymen were few and far between, he had many calls to join theliving in wedlock and bury the dead.  It may well be admitted that alljoined heartily in his final Amen.  

Afterthe 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 andserved two years; Daniel W. LITCHFIELD in 1847, and was the pastor fouryears.  In 1851, elder Almon C. MALLORY was constituted the pastor of the church,and has held the position 19 years, still serving with greatacceptability.  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 yearsof its existence.

Amongthe 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 firstdeacons, William GILBERT, David RIGGS, David SOUTHERLAND, a minister and adeacon, and an eminent pioneer of Augusta, now Potter, Benjamin FOWLE, DennisDEAN, an early school teacher, Isaac LAIN Sr., Simon SUTHERLAND, JosephSOUTHERLAND, Smith MAPES, Isaac WHITNEY, Elisha BENEDICT, and EphraimKIDDER.  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 itsmeeting.  David RIGGS was elected deacon in 1805.  Among the prominentmembers after 1810, were Benjamin DEAN, Buckbee GAGE, Robert WATSON, SamuelRAYMOND, David KIDDER, Jesse BROWN, Jonathan BROWN, and Stephen WILKINS. Robert WATSON was elected deacon in 1819, and served until his death in1841.  He was also elected clerk in 1822.  He was the father of DeaconJoseph WATSON, and has three sons, one daughter, and seven grandchildren,including Robert Telford, now a missionary in Siam, who are respected and usefulmembers of this church.  After 1820, among the leading members were StephenCOE, David HOLMES, David TRIMMER, John L. SWARTHOUT, Heman CHAPMAN, JamesSOUTHERLAND, 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 ANGUSand 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, JamesBALLS, Peter OAKLEY, John TRUESDELL, Walter W. BECKER, James S. WILLIAMS, WalterS. MARBLE and David ARMSTRONG.  Samuel G. GAGE was elected deacon in 1841and James BALLS in 1856.

In1828, a resolution was adopted by this church, requiring all their brethren whowere connected with the Masonic fraternity to withdraw there from and refusingto fellowship Masons, unless they renounced the institution.  This rule hada strong influence on the church for many years.  Under the preaching ofElder Elias BURDICK there were 77 baptisms in the church; 160 by elder WilliamH. DELANO, and 76 by Elder Daniel W. LITCHFIELD. The clerks of the church in theorder of their service, have been: David SOUTHERLAND, David RIGGS, Jesse YOUNG,William GILBERT, Stephen COE, James WILKINS, Jacob WATSON, Horace KIDDER, SamuelG. GAGE and David S. CROZIER.

Thefirst house of worship was erected in 1818, a short distance north of the EastCentre road on the next road leading north, eastward of Benton Centre.  TheUniversalists contributed towards the construction of that building and for sometime held occasional meetings in it.  The present church edifice at theCentre, 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 wasbrought over by land and the smaller timber and lumber came by water to Earl'sLanding at the mouth of Kashong Creek.  The cost of the lot, house andfixtures was about $4,000.  The building committee were the trustees of thechurch, Samuel G. GAGE, George R. BARDEN, James SOUTHERLAND, John CHURCH andCharles 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 andWalter W. BECKER.





Thefather of the Presbyterian church in Benton was Stephen WHITAKER who, within twoor 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 listento the reading of sermons.  Occasionally a missionary would visit them,John LINDSLEY, organized a Presbyterian church of 16 members, in StephenWHITAKER'S log home, Nov 7, 1809.  The members were Stephen WHITAKER andMary his wife; John ARMSTRONG and Susannah, his wife; John HALL and Sarah, hiswife; John A. MC LEAN and Sarah, his wife; George ARMSTRONG and Elizabeth, hiswife; Solomon COUTH, William ROY, Terry OWEN and wife, William READ and Rebecca,wife of Robert N. BOYD.  Five days later Stephen WHITAKER, John HALL andSolomon COUCH were ordained elders, and the following members were added:Jonathan A. HALL and Ann, his wife; Ephraim MALLORY and Ruth, his wife; WaitstelDICKINSON 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 wasinstalled till Sept 13, 1820, when Rev. Richard WILLIAMS became the firstregular pastor of the church.  The community of Presbytery met the daybefore at the house of William BABCOCK, in Penn Yan, and it was constituted asfollows: Rev. John EVANS of Canandaigua, Rev. Henry AXTELL of Geneva, Rev. JosephMERRILL of Gorham, Rev. Samuel BRACE of Phelps, Rev. Moses YOUNG of Romulus, andElder Moses HALL of Geneva.  Mr. WILLIAMS preached half of the time in alog house near the spot where the church was afterwards erected, and the otherhalf in a dilapidated school house in Penn Yan.  In 1821 the societycommenced the erection of a house of worship on the rising ground east ofSpencer's Corners, which they occupied about 15 years, when they purchased theDutch Reformed church edifice in Bellona, which the enlarged and improved andstill occupy.  This church was taken under the care of the Presbytery ofGeneva 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 wassucceeded 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 oneyear.  He was followed by Rev. Mr. INGERSOL, and he by Rev. WilliamJOHNSON, who served from 1834 to 1837.  He was followed by Rev. William W.BACKUS, who continued until late in the year 1839.  Rev. Alfred EDDYfollowed and was installed pastor in 1841, remaining about 10 years. Rev.Benjamin M. GOLDSMITH was settled as pastor of the church in 1852, havingpreached two years previously as stated supply, and he is the pastor still, maintaininga strong hold upon the respect and confidence of his congregation, and all whoshare his acquaintance.

Therewas a revival in this church in 1826, which added quite a number it itsconnation.  Another in 1831 added about 30.  In 1837, 23 were added byanother revival, and 42 more by a revival in 1840.  It has always been aself supporting church and is now a wealth and influential organization. It hasbeen the mother of two others, one at Penn Yan and the other at WestDryden.  

Thecongregational organization of this church was effected June 17, 1816. After due notice, "a meeting of the male members" was held on that dayin the house of Stephen WHITAKER at which, three trustees were elected and aname adopted, " The First Presbyterian Congregation of the town ofBenton."  The trustees chosen were Jonathan WHITAKER, William ROY andWaitstel DICKINSON.  the certificate of organization was acknowledgedbefore Judge John NICHOLAS, July 8, 1816, and recorded the 8th of April1817.  

Theinitial steps for a church edifice were taken at a meeting held January 25,1821.  It was decided to circulate subscriptions "to obtain funds tobuild a Presbyterian church on the height of ground north of the road, oppositeto John JOHNSON'S barn."  The location thus specified was in the lotnow known as the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, on the southwest corner of lot12  of No. 8.  The work was begun in less than one month.  NiramCRANE was the builder, and the church members and other citizens lent such aidto the work by their labor and other contributions as their means and liberalityprompted.  The house contained 40 pews on the ground floor and 28 in thegalleries.  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 havebeen: William ROY and Jonathan A. HALL, chosen in 1817; John HATMAKER MD, HenrySNAPP, Amzi BRUEN and Josiah JACOBUS in 1821; Jonathan WHITAKER, Moses MUNN andSilas 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 ChristopherSPINK in 1869. (* members of the Session at the present time).  It will benoted that the continuity of Stephen WHITAKER'S influence has not been brokenfor the first, in this church.  Its pious founder in the pioneer period, hehas 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 rulingelders.  Rev. Andrew OLIVER, Rev. James SOUTHWORTH and Rev. Prince HAWES,are mentioned in the records  as transient missionary laborers with thischurch in its earlier years.  Its average membership for 30 years has beenupwards of 150.  The old Cemetery connected with the church has been setapart as a public  burial of the dead.  Many of the older residentshave been interred there.






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

Itwill be seen by the foregoing sketch of church history in Benton, that heMethodists, with their admirable system of itinerancy, were the first to sow theseeds of religious thought among the log cabins of the pioneers.  Theirpreachers were men adapted to their work.  They made the wilderness ringwith their admonitions and exhortations, by which the people were greatlyswayed, and the church enlarged.  Their ablest men penetrated to theremotest recesses of civilization.  Men like Valentine COOK and WilliamCOLBERT, were no common characters.  They were men of ability, learning andeloquence and they had many colleagues in their work, of whom as much could besaid.  Their glowing earnestness was imparted to their adherents, andMethodism ws everywhere known as the religion of zeal and enthusiasm. Their classes were large, their meetings fervent.  Camp meetings were everypopular with the Methodists of the early time, and were occasions of greatinterest.

TheBaptists made a very early beginning in Benton and have held their ground withgreat success.  The same may be said of the Presbyterians of EastBenton.  The Free Will Baptists had many early adherents, but no organizationin that town of which any record remains.  The Christians, who couldperhaps be more sharply defined as Unitarians, had some strength for a time, anddisorganized other denominations, especially the Methodists, to a considerabledegree, have passed away from Benton, and left but little impress.

LeviBENTON, the first settler of the town was a Universalist, and was forward topromote the fortunes of that faith, which has had numerous adherents in thattown, as well as still more liberal forms of free thinking.  TheUniversalist society of Vernon organized in 1808, had among its trustees thecelebrated 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 Ontariocounty.  Other leading men in the various towns of the broad old county ofOntario were numbered among its trustees.  But Levi BENTON was evidentlyits leading spirit and among the people of his town Universalism had astronghold.  They had frequent meetings and among their earlier preacherswere Dr. Michael COFFIN, Rev. Mr. MURRAY, Rev. Mr. FISK and others, ablemen.  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 andefficiency for the advancement of their faith, than those who see no terrorsbeyond the grave.  The consequence has been that the Universalists havenothing in the form of church organization to show as the fruit of their earlystart and large advantages at an early period in Benton.  The ground is occupiedby those who preach a radically different faith.  



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