The History of Otsego County, New York


D. Hamilton Hurd

Published by Everts & Fariss, Philadelphia

Church Histories



The FIRST PRESBYTERIAN church of Gilbertsville. The first meeting  for the purpose of considering the feasibility of organizing a church at this place was held on May 2, 1797, of which Agar NASH was moderator and  Timothy DONALDSON scribe. The moderator was instructed to invite  the Rev. Mr. GILBERT, of Ballston, to attend and organize a church.  Accordingly, on Sept. 3, 1797, Mr. GILBERT formed the church, consisting  of nine male and twelve female members, as follows: Nathaniel COYLE  and Bridget, his wife, Samuel SHAW and Mary his wife, Timothy  DONALDSON and Abigail his wife, Amos GEORGE and Betsey his  wife, Azar NASH and Rhoda his wife, William SHAW and Hannah his  wife, William SHAW, Jr., and Lydia his wife, Edward PETENGILL and  Sarah his wife, Stephen WOOD and Chloe his wife, Lydia HAINES,  Catherine DONALDSON, and Elizabeth SHAW. These persons were all  from New England, and the church was named the First Congregational  church of Butternuts. Strong Calvinistic articles of faith were drawn up--twenty-three in number--and subscribed to by all the members; and Samuel SHAW was chosen deacon, and Timothy DONALDSON scribe of the  church. None of the original members are now living. Mrs. Abigail SHAW, the last one, died May 13, 1854, aged ninety-nine.
The church was too feeble at first to enjoy a settled pastorate, but was supplied at intervals by various ministers, some of whom were missionaries preaching to neighboring churches. This was then missionary ground, and the church was indebted to home missionaries for an occasional supply; but it does not appear that the church ever received missionary aid. Meetings were held in Timothy DONALDSON's barn, and in a barn which is now standing on the BREWER farm. Previous to the organization of the church, there were occasional meetings in Abijah GILBERT's barn.
Among the ministers who supplied the church in these early years  were Rev. Messrs. STONE, WOODWARD, KIRBY, GRISWOLD,. HARROWER,  WILLISTON, BRAINERD, CHAPMAN, and BULL. The latter was an  eccentric Englishman, an old bachelor, celebrated for long prayers and for longer sermons. It was no unusual thing for him to occupy an hour in public prayer, and still more time in preaching, his sermons ranging freely through the entire Scriptures. On one occasion, he held a meeting in the Brewer barn, commencing in mid afternoon; he did not cease preaching until it was so dark the last hymn could not be sung without candle-light. Many years afterwards, he was calling upon Prof. WHITE, of Union theological seminary. The doctor happened to be in a hurry that morning, so he said, "Brother BULL, will you lead us in a short prayer?" "Pray yourself," replied the old man, bluntly, "and pray as short or as long as you please."
June 12, 1801, Reuben CADY and Amos GEORGE were chosen  deacons, and Charles THORP was elected to the same office in 1806.  In September, 1805, the church united with the Susquehanna Congregational Association then in session at Great Bend, Pa.
In about the year 1805 the first meeting-house was erected, across the valley, on a farm then owned by Timothy DONALDSON, and now the  premises of J. R. BLACKMAN. It was quite an imposing structure for  those days, being two stories high, with a deep gallery in the interior. It seems that the gallery was not completed on the day of dedication, and a ladder temporarily took the place of a flight of stairs leading to the upper auditory. The question arose how to get the ladies into the gallery by means of this ladder. It was then that the genius of Daniel ROOT, who was a carpenter, came to the rescue. At his suggestion, the ladder was nailed upon boards, and thus the ladies ascended with due propriety and gracefulness.
The pews were square, with high backs, and the pulpit was literally a work of high art. It was of a circular form perched upon a single pedestal, presenting the appearance of a vast goblet. This lofty throne was ascended by means of a back flight of stairs. Directly over the pulpit was a canopy, also circular, painted blue, containing the sounding-board, --the whole suspended from the ceiling by an iron rod.  "Often have I thought when a child," said one of the members, "now if that rod should break and the canopy should fall, how nicely the minister would be boxed up." The house was provided with no means whatever for being warmed, but the women brought little foot-stoves and their big muffs, while the male portion of the congregation came clad in heavy "box coats," as they were then called. The singing in those days was good, as the ROCKWELLS, the HUNTINGTONS, the MORGANS, the HALBERTS, and the DONALDSONS constituted a choir then famed for its excellence.
June 5, 1808, Joseph T. GILBERT, afterwards known as Deacon  GILBLERT, 'united with the church, and on the 26th of June, 1811, was  elected deacon and continued to serve in that capacity with great ability until his death which occurred July 13, 1867.
It is proper in this connection to make honorable mention of Mrs.  Elizabeth HESLOP, who joined the church in 1809. She was long known  as one of the most active and consistent members. She was distinguished  for force of character, piety, and liberality, giving in her last years nearly all her surplus income to benevolent objects. She was, indeed, a mother in Israel,--one of the excellent of the earth. Mrs. HESLOP left the communion of this church to join the church triumphant, March 24, 1846.
In the year 1808, Mr. Isaac GARVIN, a licentiate of the Hampshire  South Association, accepted a call, and on the 28th of September of that  year he was ordained and installed as the first pastor of this church, by a council consisting of clerical and lay delegates from the churches of New Windsor, Jericho, Franklin, Hartwick, Burlington, and Oxford.  The pastoral relation thus consummated was continued for twelve years,--and was productive of results at once the most happy and the most unhappy, as the sequel will show. It is not stated what salary Mr. GARVIN received at first, but in 1815 the society voted to give him $150. For several years the church seems to have had rest and prosperity. The records are occupied principally with accounts of additions, infant baptisms, and cases of discipline. The discipline of the church must have been very thoroughly administered in those days, as Mr. DOUBLEDAY observes in his historical sermon, "We must conclude that either those early days were  much more fruitful in crime than the present, or that the church now is  culpably negligent."
In the winter of 1816-17, the church enjoyed the first general revival of religion. A remarkable feature was the number of heads of families that were converted, the number being estimated by Enos S. HALBERT of as many as fifty. As one result of the revival, over sixty persons were added to the little church, of whom, as far as I can ascertain, only two survive in this place,--Enos S. HALBERT and Jared COMSTOCK. As another result, the society raised the salary in 1817 to $300, one-half to be paid in money, the rest in grain. The prosperity continuing, in 1818 the Sunday-school was organized. In the same year the society, in addition to continuing the salary at the advanced figure, felt rich enough to have the meeting-house cleaned for $1.87 1/2; and voted also that it be swept once in two months by Joseph CHAPIN, Jr., for which he was to receive two dollars for the ensuing year.
At this time the church was united, happy, and prosperous, but, alas! a storm was coming that was to widely scatter many sheep of the fold, and to threaten to sweep the fair work of years out of existence.  About this time a school was organized, called an academy, which was held in the red school-house till that was burned, when a stone house was built for it, now occupied by a marble-shop. It was a flourishing school, taught by Levi COLLINS, and turned out many who consequently became ministers of the gospel, among them the two PATENGILLS, the two FOOTS, ADAMS, SCOTT, STODDARD, and the celebrated Baptist evangelist,  Jacob KNAPP.
On July 4 1820, this academy held an exhibition in the church, consisting in part of dramatic representations, some of the performers being dressed in costume. This exhibition, and the fact that some of the members of the church attended it, gave great offense to many, and particularly to Mr. GARVIN, who declared he would never preach in the church again,--a promise he faithfully kept. "Why, brethren, " said he, "if I should preach there again those walls would all be hung with images!" The church members who attended the exhibition afterwards made confession, and both the Union association, with which the church was connected, and the Northern Associated presbytery, of which Mr. GARVIN was a member (both of which bodies convened to consider the case), voted that the confession was as full as the gospel requires, and the church also voted satisfaction. But Mr. GARVIN declared that no acknowledgment would ever satisfy him, and he persisted in his request to be dismissed from the church. The result was the pastoral relation which had existed so long and so happily was dissolved by the Northern Associated presbytery and Mr. GARVIN withdrew from the church, taking a large number of the members, probably over one-half, with him. It is proper to state, that there were other and more private grievances which influenced those members in their final decision to separate from their brethren who remained. They first united with the church at Otego, and subsequently had an organization here, Mr. GARVIN still preaching for them. Then ensued times of great wrath and bitterness on both sides, varied by many, yet unsuccessful attempts at reconciliation. Finally, after three years, the council, by advice of the Otsego presbytery, commenced a process of discipline with the withdrawn members on the charge of breach of covenant. It was continued for over two years, during which time forty-four were excommunicated, some of whom again returned to the fellowship of the church; others joined sister churches, and still others united with the Episcopal church of this place, which was organized about eight years afterwards. In 1825, Mr. GARVIN was suspended from ministry by the Northern Associated presbytery for promoting schism, and he finally entered the ministry of the Episcopal church.
I have barely touched upon the trouble that sorely distracted and divided the church for many dismal years. I have done so, not to tear open a grievous wound long ago healed, but simply for the purpose of history. It is easy to see, after a lapse of over half a century, that neither side could lay claim to exemption from all blame, and it has never ceased to be a matter of devout gratitude to Almighty God that the spirit of Christian toleration and reconciliation finally prevailed, and the church was permitted to resume her ever-afterwards united and prosperous career.
Soon after the dismissal of Mr. GARVIN the polity of the church,  which hitherto had been purely Congregational, was modified, taking on  some of the form of Presbyterianism. In 1821 a committe (sic) of nine  was chosen for twelve months, under the name of a "ruling committee."  In 1822 the church voted, whilst retaining the old name, to "govern  themselves for three years by a committee who may be styled ruling  elders, which committee shall consist of six brethren."
The duties of this committee were essentially the same as those of  ruling elders in the Presbyterian church, with two exceptions: persons were admitted to membership by a vote of the church, and any person who  declared himself a Congregationalist, in case of discipline, might be tried by the church instead of the session. In the same year the church, which in 1811 had transferred its ecclesiastical relationship from the Susquehanna to the Union association, again transferred itself, uniting with the presbytery of Otsego, on what was known as the accommodation plan. From this time, for many years, the committee were called the session, and by vote of the church transacted their business according to the Presbyterian directory, with the two exceptions just noted.
After Mr. GARVIN's dismission, the church was without a settled  pastor for more than two years until January 30, 1823, when Rev. Horace  P. BOGUE was installed, and remained until January 10, 1830, when he  was succeeded by Rev. George SPAULDING. Mr. SPAUDLING remained  until 1832, and was followed by Rev. Chauncey E. GOODRICH, who  continued in the pastoral office until 1834, when he resigned to become  the chaplain of the insane asylum at Utica. The Rev. Calvin WATERBURY  was the next pastor, and remained until 1840. It was during his pastorate that the present academy building was erected, and not the least of his many good works here was the very prominent part which he took in that important enterprise. Mr. WATERBURY was followed by Rev. Jefferson WYNKOOP, who remained until 1846. The next was Rev. T. T. BRADFORD, from 1846 to 1849. During the summer of 1850 the pulpit was supplied with much acceptance by the Rev. Edward CONE, of Gilbertsville.
In November of 1850 commenced the ever-memorable ministrations of  Rev. Wm. T. DOUBLEDAY, which were continued for ten years, and were then only terminated by his increasing ill heath. In 1853 the organ was  purchased, and placed in its present position, by the generosity of a few friends. The same year the house was remodeled within, and made much  more comfortable and attractive. In 1855 the society purchased the  present parsonage,--one of the most commodious and attractive places of  residence in the village. The first parsonage still remains, being the little brown house just above the residence of Mr. HESLOP. The second  parsonage was the house in which Lewis BRYANT, Esq., now resides.
The pastorate of Mr. DOUBLEDAY was an important era to the  history of the church. He succeeded in bringing hundreds within the fold of Christ, and is remembered with feelings of reverence by the church  people and the inhabitants generally, by whom he was universally esteemed.
In the autumn of 1860, the Rev. Samuel J. WHITE commenced his  very able ministrations among the people, and continued them for a period of eight years. Dr. WHITE was succeeded by Rev. C. M LIVINGSTON,  who came in 1868, and remained until the autumn of 1870.
In September, 1871, the present efficient pastor, Rev. S. H. MOON,  assumed control of the church. In 1872 the church was changed to the  "First Presbyterian church of Gilbertsville," and the following chosen as elders, viz.: Isaac BLORE, Enos S. HALBERT, Daniel S. MUSSON,  Rufus EGGLESTON, Henry N. COE, and Thos. K. COPE. These were  afterwards duly ordained to the office of ruling elders, and continue to  serve as such, being re-elected as often as their term expires. The church is now in a prosperous condition, its membership numbering 240 souls.
----- The BAPTIST church of Butternuts, located at Gilbertsville, was organized Oct. 15, 1806, at a school-house on Gregory Hill, in the town of Butternuts, by a council consisting of delegates from the following churches: Third church, Burlington, Elder Joseph PHELPS; First church, Norwich, Elders Simeon CAMP and Benj. PEARCE; First church, Butternuts, Elders Zacheus TOBEY, Zora TOBEY, Nathan JOHNSON, Wm. HITCHCOCK;  Second church, Butternuts, Elder Ashbel HOLCOMB and Brethren  Benjamin TANNER, Jason LEE, John HATCH, James SAXTON; Oxford  church, Elder Orange SPENCER, Deacons Philemon LEE and Elijah  FORD; Franklin church, Abijah SEELY, Daniel BUCKLEY, Elisha  LATHROP. The first officers were as follows: Walter L. PATCHEN,  deacon; Joseph BECKWITH, clerk; Moderator, Elder Simeon CAMP;  Clerk, Joseph PHELPS. Elder HOLCOMB and others supplied the  church until Elder Samuel WAKEFIELD settled in the town and became  the first pastor of said church in the year 1809.
The first members were Geo. PATCHEN, James MYRICK, Nathan  GREGORY, Walter PATCHEN, Isaac ADAMS, Silas NASH, Joseph  BECKWITH, Anna MOREHOUSE, Esther MYRICK, Polly BEDIENT,  Mary BEDIENT, Elizabeth PATCHEN, Dimmis ADAMS.
The first church building was erected in 1832, at a cost of $1500.  Size, 40 by 60 feet. Professor Sears, of Hamilton theological seminary, preached the dedicatory sermon. 
The following have served this church as pastors from the organization to the present time, embracing a period of seventy-one years: Elder Samuel WAKEFIELD, sixteen years; Elder Joseph WRIGHT, three years; Elder David CRANE, one year; supplies from Hamilton theological seminary, two years; Elder Wm. T. BOYINGTON, six years; Elder Charles FOX, one year; Geo. C. WALKER (ordained here), one year; Elder Truman A.  JUDD, six years; Elder J. N. ADAMS, eight years; Elder F. O. A. SPINNING, six years; Elder Jesse EVANS, five years; Elder Charles AYRE, two years;  Elder D. B. JUTTON, about two years; Elder S. C. MOORE, two years;  Elder E. HOBROYD, two years.
The present pastor is Rev. F. P. SUTHERLAND, who has officiated  for this church about two years.
The church edifice mentioned above was enlarged and improved in 1866. The exterior was beautified by the erection of a new steeple, while the interior was improved by the addition of a new desk and new furniture. The seats were cushioned, aisles carpeted, a bell hung in the tower, the whole at a cost of $5000, which sum was paid at the dedication of the church. The sermon was preached by Elder EVANS, a former pastor.
Previously to these repairs, a lecture-room was built in connection with the house. In the month of June, 1875, this holy and beautiful house, where their fathers had worshiped was destroyed by fire, the work of an incendiary. A movement was soon after started for the erection of a new church building, and in March, 1876, the present neat and substantial church edifice was dedicated. It is a brick structure, 40 by 80 feet in size, divided in porch, audience- and lecture-room, finished in chestnut and black walnut a neat and tasty manner. It was erected at a cost of $10,000.
The present officers are as follows: Deacons, R. S. MUSSON, William  MUSSON, and Wm. M. NEWMAN; Clerk, John WATKINS; Treasurer,  Benj. B. MUSSON. The church is now in a prosperous condition, and  has a membership of 220.
----- CHRIST church, located at Gilbertsville, was organized in about the year 1833. The first pastor was Rev. Mr. JUDD. The records of this church  are so scanty as to render it impossible to give a detailed history. It has passed through the intervening years with moderate success. Early in 1877 it was placed under the care of Rev. Hobart COOKE, rector of Zion church, Morris, by its vestry, and is now giving considerable promise of renewed life, activity, and growth. There is a fine church edifice, which was erected in about the year 1834, and a good rectory connected with it.
----- The FIRST M. E. church, of Gilbertsville, was organized Nov. 28, 1831,  by Thomas STRONGTHAM, Joseph CUNNINGHAM, Cyrenus  WOODWOTH, and Walter BEDIENT. The first trustees were Walter  BEDIENT, Joseph CUNNINGHAM, Francis WALKER, Cyrenus  WOODWOTH, Wm. TUCKER, Humphrey HOLLIS, Fisk BURLINGAME.  The first minister was Wm. BOWDISH. The first church building was  erected 1832. Size, 40 by 50 feet. It was dedicated Dec. 29, 1832.  Previous to the erection of the church the services were held in the school-house and shop of Joseph CUNNINGHAM. Present officers: Trustees--
James K. BRIGGS, Daniel E. BARRETT, Richard TURNER, E. B.  KELLOGG, Wm. BEALS, A. D. JACKSON, D. K. BEDIENT, John A.  BEDIENT, D. O. HARTWELL; present minister, Rev. B. B. CARRUTH.  Number of present membership, about 150. The church was rebuilt in  1862, and twelve feet added to the length, and also a steeple.


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