The History of Otsego County, New York
D. Hamilton Hurd
Published by Everts & Fariss, Philadelphia
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,
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
The BAPTIST church of Butternuts, located at Gilbertsville, was
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
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:
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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