The History of Otsego County, New York


D. Hamilton Hurd

Published by Everts & Fariss, Philadelphia

Church Histories



The first religious organization in this village was of the Presbyterian order and faith, and was formed in the year 1786. By whom it was organized, who composed its membership, who ministered to it, where it held its meetings, how long it existed, what it accomplished, and what was the cause of its dissolution, no one, probably, this side of  the eternal world, knows. Its history has perished with those who were identified with it.
But not withstanding the failure of this church enterprise the people were not discouraged in their attempts to supply themselves with the means of grace, nor could they long remain content to be deprived of the privileges of the preached gospel. So, uniting with the people of the  adjoining town of Schenevus, they made application to the  classis of Albany, a judicatory of the Dutch Reformed church, for the ministry of the word among them. In response to this application the Rev. Abraham VON HORNE, with Mr. Nicholas QUACKENBOSS, elder, proceeded to  Schenevus on Saturday, Jan. 24, 1800, and preached his introductory sermon from Acts xvi. 9, "And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. There stood a man of Macedonia, and  prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia and help us." And on the next day, the Sabbath, the 25th, he preached two sermons at the house of Mr. Frederick BROWN, of  this place, after which he proceeded to organize a church in due form, ordaining as elders John HOUGHTALING, Henry SCRAMLIN, John VAN DE WERKE, James DEITZ, and as deacons, William MERENESS, David SCRAMLIN, Aaron BARNES, and James QUACKENBOSS. About 1805, preparations were made for the erection of a house of worship. A large part of the timber necessary for the frame-work of  the building was delivered near the spot where the present edifice stands, but through the inability of the church to go on with the work which had been so auspiciously begun, the enterprise failed, and the entire bill of lumber rotted on the ground. In the meantime services were held in the barn of Mr. Frederick BROWN, who lived upon the premises now occupied by Mrs. Harriet FORD, and who afterwards-in the year 1821, Jan. 16-deeded to the trustees of the church, to be used for a church and burial purposes, all that portion of land embraced within the old cemetery and the present church-grounds. In 1815 materials for a church building was again collected, and in the following year this house of God, in its original form, was raised and inclosed, and in it, as it was in its unfinished state, with a work-bench for a platform and rough boards for seats, the people worshiped until such time as their means enabled them to complete it (which was not until some seven or eight years later), and to-day it stands as a monument of the sacrifices and Christian zeal of that resolute and sturdy people. This second organized church of Presbyterian order, extending over a period of more than twenty years, has left behind it no written record beside the bare fact of its organization, two or three changes in its board of elders and deacons in the years 1802 and 1804, and a list of its infant baptisms, together with the names of some of the ministers by whom the rite was performed. The first official act of Rev. Abraham VAN HORNE in connection with this church, and which occurred the day after its organization, was the baptism of Maria, infant daughter of George and Elizabeth SHELLMAN; and during the first seventeen years of the church's existence no less than 290 children were publicly given to God by baptism, upwards of 150 of whom were baptized previous to the year 1808, and all these 150 children were born within the pale of the church and congregation within a period of eight years. Those were days that would have encouraged the hearts of Sabbath-school superintendents, and days when this sacrament of the church was better observed than at the present time, and when even the world's people desired the seal of God to be set upon their children.
This record of baptisms, with the names of some of the  officiating ministers, gives us the only clue we have of the men who served as pastors of the church, and in this list we find, during the first six years after the organization of the church, the names of Rev. Abraham VAN HORNE, G. MANDERVILLE, Thomas KIRKHAM, W. PRAFFLE, John TOLL, and Cornelius SCHEMERHORN. To these may be added the name of Rev. Alexander CONKEY, who is the only other minister known to have been set over the church.
For reasons at present unknown, this society, after some twenty years' existence, became broken, disorganized, and enjoyed no regular administration of gospel ordinances. A remnant, however, was left, who, in conjunction with others who had never been connected with any Christian body,  desired to organize a new church. An invitation to a meeting of conference on the subject was accordingly sent to Rev. William FISHER, who lived and preached at Meredith Square. The meeting was held and the subject discussed. Rev. Wm. FISHER and Rev. Abel CALDWELL were present. Nothing definite, however, was arrived at, but the expressed desire of a number to be formed into a church whose membership would consist of those, and those only, who had been made savingly acquainted with Christ and could give a reason for the hope that was in them. There is perhaps presumptive evidence in this expressed desire of those few Christians that many had been received into the old church who had never met with a change of heart, and that it was this irreligious element in the church that proved its ruin. However this may be, a second meeting was held at the home of Frederick BROWN, Dec. 21, 1822, at which were present Rev. John MORSE and Rev. Wm. FISHER, and, after the examination of a number of persons respecting their experimental and doctrinal knowledge of religion, the meeting adjourned, to be held at the same place, Jan. 18, 1823. On that day (Jan. 18, 1823) the following fourteen persons, viz., James DEITZ, Lawrence SWARTZ, John YOUNGS, Henry COUSE, Joseph YOUNGS, Anna SWARTZ, Margaret  YOUNGS, Elizabeth VAN WHORT, Lany VAN WHORT, Mary MARENESS, Catharine BROWN, Catharine BREWER, Elizabeth YOUNGS, and Polly MARENESS, having been  examined relative to their experimental and doctrinal knowledge on religion, and having adopted the confession  of faith and covenant drawn up by the Northern Associated presbytery, were constituted a Christian church by the name of the Second Presbyterian church of Milford.* Rev. Wm. FISHER and Rev. Abel CALDWELL were present, and  effected the organization.
*The town of Oneonta was organized about seven years later, April 17, 1830
To the church thus organized, Mr. FISHER, the first  minister, who continued to live at Meredith Square, preached once in four weeks. During that same year sixteen more were added to its communion, making in all a membership of thirty at the end of the first year. On the 30th of August, Lawrence SWARTZ, Nicholas SIGSBEE, James DEITZ, and Joseph YOUNGS were ordained as elders, and the two latter were also set apart to the office of deacons.
Mr. FISHER remained two years, and was succeeded by Rev. Augustus LITTLEJOHN, an evangelist, the result of whose labors was an extended revival. Prominent among the fruits of this revival were two names well known to the people of Oneonta. The one, that of Timothy SABIN, who united with the church Aug. 4, 1833, was made an elder two years later, has ever since been a pillar, first in that organization, then in this, and who is still spared, though at an advanced age. This venerable patriarch is held in high esteem by all who know him, and his long and active career has ever been marked by a truly Christian spirit. The other, that of Eliakim R. FORD, who identified himself with the Baptist church, and who to the day of his death did noble and generous service for the Master there; whose precious memory is still fresh in the minds of a large circle of friends and  relatives; whose children not only, but the children of  multitudes of others, rise up and call him blessed.
From this date until 1849 the following served the church as pastors: Rev. William CLARK, Charles GILBERT, Joseph W. PADDOCK, Gains M. BLODGETT.
On Feb. 24, 1849, the present church organization was effected, consisting of the following persons, viz.: Hezekiah, Hannah, and Louisa WATKINS, Cornelius and Laura BROWN, Timothy and Harriet SABIN, John and Rebecca DILLINGHAM, Frederick DERBY, Luman S. OSBORN, John CUTSHAW, Lydia FRITTS, Cynthia MANN, Sophia AVERY, Eunice and Elizabeth BRONSON. Of these four only still remain with us,-Timothy SABIN, Luman S. OSBORN, John CUTSHAW, and Lydia FRITTS. Hezekiah WATKINS, John DILLINGHAM, and Luman S. OSBORN were chosen and ordained elders. Hezekiah WATKINS, L. S. OSBORN, and Tunis SWART were chosen trustees for the term of one, two, and three years, respectfully, and the society became incorporated as the  First Presbyterian society of Oneonta.
A second meeting was held on Saturday, March 17, at which the church received four more accessions, two of whom were Timothy WATKINS and Mrs. Harriet HUNTINGTON.
The following have served this church as pastors and supplies from its organization to the present time, viz., Rev. Eliphalet M. SPENCER, William B. CHRISTOPHER, John B. KING, William BALDWIN, Geo. O. PHELPS, E. Vine WALES, and Horace H. ALLEN, the present incumbent of the pastoral office, who commenced his labors November, 1869.
The church edifice was enlarged and beautified in 1868, and on April 23, 1869, was rededicated. In 1868 the society was the recipient of a gift of $1000 from Collis P. HUNTINGTON, Esq., of New York, with which was purchased an organ. The church is now in a prosperous condition and annually extends its sphere of usefulness.
This church was organized in 1830 by Rev. George HANNOR, who was the preacher in charge of the circuit which included Oneonta Plains, who at the solicitation of David T. EVANS, of Oneonta, came to this place and formed a class, of which David T. EVANS and David T. CLARKE were leaders. Among the members of this class were Elias  BREWER, D. T. EVANS and wife, D. T. CLARKE and wife, Jacob DEITZ, Esq., and wife, and Caleb POTTER and wife.
The first preacher who officiated for the new church was Rev. George HANNOR, and his assistant, Rev. George ELLIOTT, was the pastor in charge when the first house of worship was erected in 1844. This building was erected at a cost of $1500.
The first settled pastor was Rev. W. C. McDONALD. Rev. Edwin DENNISON was pastor in 1849 and 1850. Under the pastoral charge of Charles ROBINSON, in 1854, a gracious and extensive revival prevailed, which was the beginning of a new era of prosperity. He was succeeded by W. G. QUEAL, since the close of whose pastorate the following have served the charge, in the order names, viz., S. M. STONE, D. L. PENDELL, G. PARSONS, P. T. HUSTOR, Mr. VAN DUSEN, R. W. PEEBLES, A. GRIFFIN, I. N. PARDEE, and W. B. WESTLAKE, the present incumbent.
During the pastorate of Rev. Mr. VAN DUSEN, in 1865 or 1866, a movement was started for the erection of a new church building, which resulted in the erection of the present substantial edifice, which cost, together with the lot, the sum  of $10,000. The building was erected in 1868 and 1869, during the pastorate of Rev. R. W. PEEBLES. The building committee consisted of George REYNOLDS, J. P. VAN WEST, and D. J. WAGER. The church was dedicated to the worship of Almighty God, June 3, 1869, by the Rev. W. N. COBB, the services being under the direction of that energetic worker, Rev. B. I. IVES.
The present (1877) officers of the church are as follows:
Trustees.-George REYNOLDS, Henry WICKHAM, Ezra McDOUGAL, M.D., M. H. BISSELL, and Reuben REYNOLDS.
Class Leaders.-George REYNOLDS, M. H. BISSELL, and Joseph MASSET.
Stewards.-George REYNOLDS, T. K. MUSIER, William EDWARDS, Randall RICHARDS, C. C. STEWART, John YOUNGMAN, and Henry NASH.
Sunday-School Superintendents.-T. O. ADAMS and E. R. WALDO.
The church is now in a prosperous condition, and has a membership of two hundred and ninety-six persons.
FIRST BAPTIST church of Oneonta, N.Y.
Much of the early history of the church cannot be written. Many an interesting incident has gone down to the grave with those who were participants. The scanty and meagre records that were kept of the doings of the early years of the church hardly afford anything of value to the historian. The immediate influences that led to the organization, the anxiety consequent, and also the gladness of "the little flock," are among the  records, written only on hearts that have ceased to beat.
The church was organized on April 24, 1833, by a council consisting of delegates from the following churches: Milford, Huntsville (now Otego), West Meredith, Franklin, and Laurens. On that occasion the Rev. Alexander SMITH, of Franklin, was moderator, and Rev. Mr. KINGSLEY, clerk.
The church was constituted with a membership of eighteen, of whom, as far as is known, only two are living, viz., James SLADE and Nathaniel EDMONDS. The first officers of the church were: Deacons, James SLADE,  David YAGER, and Hiram McCALL; and the first clerk  was Ira BABCOCK. Rev. D. B. CRANE was the first pastor.
Names of the constituent members are as follows: James SLADE, David YAGER, John S. YAGER, Jacob YAGER, Peter YAGER, Solomon YAGER, Henry L. MILLER,  Nathaniel EDMONDS, Ira BABCOCK, Polly YAGER, Samantha SLADE, Sally YAGER, Emily YAGER, Catharine MILLER, Catharine MILLER (2d), Phoebe BABCOCK, Maria MILLER, Catharine YAGER.
The first church building was erected during the year of 1834. It was built upon the location now occupied by the church, and though remodeled, has never been entirely rebuilt. The cost of the building is not now known, neither does the record show what services were held, nor who participated when the church was dedicated.
Previous to the building of the church religious services were held in what was known as the "old red school-house," which stood on what is now the corner of Broad and Main streets.
The different pastors and the time served by each, are as follows: Rev. D. B. CRANE, who was pastor about two years; Rev. John SMITH, who became pastor December,  1835, and served the church until March, 1848, having remained something more than twelve years; in June,  1848, Rev. Homer CLARK became pastor of the church, and served the church for less than a year, being dismissed March 11, 1849. From March until the middle of August the church was without a pastor. On August 18, 1849, the Rev. A. B. EARL became pastor, and served in that connection for nearly four years, or until March 27, 1853. From March, 1853, until January, 1854, the church was  again without a pastor. January 7, 1854, Erastus WESTCOTT became pastor, and so served until July 12, 1857. From July until February, 1858, the church was supplied by the Rev. C. M. PATTENGILL. Rev. John SMITH became the pastor of the church for the second time Feb. 13, 1858, and so remained until March 11, 1865. Rev. A. REYNOLDS became pastor June 11, 1865, and served the church until Sept. 25, 1870. After the resignation of Rev. A. REYNOLDS, the church was supplied by Rev. Mr. DORWOOD, ROGERS, and others. Nov. 1, 1871, Rev. G. R. BURNSIDE became pastor, and served until April 12, 1874. April 19, 1874, H. BROTHERTON became pastor, and remains so up to date.
During the existence of the church there have been, among other seasons of much special interest, four quite extensive revivals of religion. In 1834, Rev. Lewis RAYMOND assisted the pastor in a series of meetings, and, as the result, twenty-nine were added to the church. In 1841, Rev. John SMITH, pastor, Rev. Chancellor HARTSHORN, assisting, quite an extensive revival occurred, and, as the  result, forty-nine joined the church. In 1849, during the first year of Rev. A. B. EARL's pastorate with the church, another extensive revival took place, and sixty-seven joined the church. In 1865, Rev. A. REYNOLDS, pastor, eighty-eight joined the church.
The present officers of the church are as follows: James SLACK [SLADE], Samuel DERBY, D. W. FORD, and A. A.  WHITCOMB, deacons; D. W. FORD, clerk; Sylvester FORD, treasurer. The church is in a prosperous condition, and has a membership of two hundred and eleven.
ST. JAMES church.
The first Episcopal services in this village were held by Rev. Andrew HULL, then in deacon's orders, in the year 1839, under a missionary appointment to Oneonta and Otego. These services were held on alternate Sundays in the village school-house of Oneonta, until a chapel was built by the liberality of Mr. R. J. EMMONS and other members of the congregation, aided, no doubt, in its need, as the congregation has ever since been, by the ready gifts of their fellow-citizens. The chapel was of small size, and so planned as to be conveniently altered for a rectory as soon as a church could be built on the vacant part of the lot. A few months from this time, however, the mission became vacant by the resignation of Mr. HULL, and the chapel, which was private property, passed out of the hands of the congregation, and was used for other purposes. In was in 1870 the property of Mr. E. R. FORD, and occupied part of the site of the Central Hotel, fronting the street leading to the depot of the Albany and Susquehanna railroad.
Bishop WAINWRIGHT, of the diocese of New York, visited the mission in 1853, and also in 1854, but no  confirmations, if any took place, are recorded. In 1855 the Rev. Stephens PARKER officiated for a few months. Ten years later the Rev. Daniel S. TUTTLE, rector of Zion church, Morris, held occasional services for two consecutive years-1864 and 1865. In the latter year Oneonta was included in the Otsego County mission, in charge of the Rev. E. N. GODDARD, who officiated one year. In 1866 and 1867 the Rev. Mr. FOOTE officiated, in connection with Otego, and in the same year the Rev. Mr. FERGUSON held services. The four last clergymen mostly officiated in the house of worship kindly lent to them by the Free-Will Baptist congregation.
On Friday, March 5, the bishop of Albany made his first visitation to the mission, and confirmed three persons.
The congregation was organized as a mission, under the canons of the diocese of Albany, by the name of St. James' church, on the 7th day of April, in the year of our Lord 1870, the bishop's consent having previously been given, and the following officers appointed by him to serve one year: Mr. John COPE to be warden, Dr. Meigs CASE to be treasurer, and Mr. James COPE to be clerk.
The Rev. Mr. LIGHTHIPE was missionary, in charge from April 3 to December 3, 1870, and on the last-named day the bishop of Albany made his second visitation, and confirmed one person. The Rev Mr. FITZGERALD, deacon, had charge of the parish, after its incorporation, from July, 1873, to February, 1874, under the direction of the Rev. Mr.  GODDARD, archdeacon of the Susquehanna, who took it under his own care after the following Easter. The Rev. James H. SMITH then became the resident missionary, and continued his services until August 1, 1874, when the charge was again resumed by the Rev. Mr. GODDARD, who resigned December 31 of the same year, and was succeeded by the Rev. Mr. FITZGERALD, who continued in charge until a short time before the call of the present rector.
In April, 1871, the congregation was incorporated into a parish, according to the laws of the State of New York, by the name and title of "The Rector, Church-Wardens, and Vestrymen of St. James' Church," and was received into union with the convention of the diocese of Albany, on the 4th day of January of the present year.
The number of confirmations on record by various bishops is as follows: In 1839, presented by the Rev. Mr. HULL, 3; in 1865, by the Rev. Mr. GODDARD, 4; in 1868, by the Rev. Mr. FERGUSON, 5; in 1866, by the same, 3: in 1870, by the Rev. Mr. LIGHTHIPE, 1; in 1871, by the Rev. Mr. WASHBON, 10; by the Rev. Mr. JOY, 1; in 1874, by the Rev. Mr. SMITH, 2; and at the last visitation of the bishop, by the present rector, 4: the whole number being 35, of whom 32 were presented since 1864, and but three during the  thirteen previous years. [only totals 33 in book]
The rate of increase in communicants during most of these years can now be accurately known only from the files of the annual conventional journals of the diocese of New York, or the private registers, if they have been preserved, of the clergymen who have had the mission in charge. In the journal of the diocese of Albany of 1875, 39 were reported by the Rev. Mr. GODDARD; in 1876, by the present rector, 48; and 58 at the end of the last conventional year, showing a steady increase.
The Rev. Robert WASHBON was the first rector of the parish. He resigned Feb. 16, 1873, and to him and the clergy of Otsego County mission the erection of the present church edifice is chiefly due.
The second rector, the Rev. Mr. FITZGERALD, who first opened the church for divine service, resigned July 17, 1875, and was shortly afterwards succeeded by the present rector, and from that time the morning and evening Sunday sessions have been regularly held.
The estimated cost of the church property, in the unfinished state in which it now is, including the value of the lot, which was given by Mr. John COPE, has been, as nearly as it can now be reached, about $10,000.
The SECOND FREE-WILL BAPTIST church of Oneonta is located in the eastern part of the village of Oneonta, on the  corner of Maple and Main streets. The society was organized Aug. 11, 1856, and on Feb. 25 of the same year a council,  consisting of Rev. A. WING, Rev. D. GREEN, Rev. O. T. MOULTON, Joseph JENKS, and Henry MACKEY, organized a church of sixteen members from the Oneonta Plains Free Baptist church, now called the West Oneonta Free Baptist church; which was done in accordance with a resolution passed by the latter granting those members the privilege of forming a new society.
The first pastor of the church was Rev. O. T. MOULTON, who entered upon his pastorate in the spring of 1856, and remained about three years. During his pastorate the society erected a house of worship and a good number were added to the church. The next pastor was Rev. Palmer STRICKLAND, who was succeeded in 1864 by Rev. Ezra CROWELL, who was pastor about three years, during which time, through his efforts, three of the other churches in the village united with his church in holding union services once a month alternately with the four churches, which friendly association still continues (1878), and in this way all are becoming better acquainted with each other's ways and views. In the fall of  1867 the Rev. G. P. RAMSY became pastor, and preached until 1871, when the Rev. O. T. MOULTON again became pastor, officiating as such two years and six months, during  which time a parsonage was built. In the spring of 1875 Rev. M. C. BROWN commenced his pastorate, and closed his labors with the church Dec. 2, 1877.
The church joined the Otsego quarterly meeting of Free- Will Baptists, and is one of eight churches that constitute  that quarterly meeting. The members of the church at present number 68. Number attending Sabbath-school, 90.
The FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH of West Oneonta was organized march 13, 1877, with a membership of 33, Rev. Alanson THOMAS was the first pastor. The trustees were E. R. WHITMAN, I. G. NORTHRUP, and Albert ROUSE; deacons, A. W. BENTLEY and E. R. WHITMAN. This church was recognized by council as a separate Baptist church June 20, 1877.
The FREE-WILL BAPTIST church of WEST ONEONTA was organized in about the year 1807, at Oneonta Plains, by Rev. Gideon ELLIOTT, who became the first pastor. Among the early members of the church were R. LAWRENCE, John VAN WORT, Jane R. RICHARDS, Joseph HODGE, Ezra GATES, A. GATES, and G. BABCOCK. The first church edifice was erected in 1840, at Oneonta Plains, and in 1866 was removed to its present location, at a cost of about $800.
The following have served the church as pastors from its organization to the present time, viz.: Revs. Gideon ELLIOTT, two years; Mr. ROWLAND, two years; Mr. ELDRIDGE, two years; L. CRANDALL, one year; Mr. LAGREYE, one year; B. A. RUSSELL, one year; A. WING, six years; Wm. HUNT, one year; M. SMITH, one year; E. C. DODGE, twenty years; P. SCRAMLING, two years; H. BELDIN, one year; G. MEEKER, two years; W. JOY, two years; T. A. STEVENS, present pastor. The present officers are as  follows: Robt. COOK and Harman HURLBURT, deacons, and J. S. SMITH, clerk. The church is now in a prosperous condition, and has a membership of seventy persons. Mrs. RICHARDS, one of the first members of the church, died  in 1877, and was buried on what would have been her one-hundredth birthday.

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