Sunday, November 19, 2006

History of the Churches - by N. Cowen

(From the Waterville Times dated 16 September 1948)

History Given of the Churches In Waterville

Presented Before The Canvassers of the Census
Which Was held at the Presbyterian Church, Sept. 15, 1948
by Norman Cowen

The first settlers of Waterville were Nathan Gurney and Benjamin White in 1789. In 1793 Judge Sanger built the first saw mill. In 1796 Mr. White erected the first grist mill. The first Post-Office in 1806. In 1808 Waterville was the name chosen as being more dignified than "The Huddle" which in 1806 had 32 dwelling houses and 200 inhabitants. For many years the east branch of the Oriskany Creek furnished power for many mills. For many years Waterville was the hop center for the industry and today corn, wheat, potatoes, picking beans and peas are the main crops. Dairying has increased rapidly in the late years.
It is not known who were the first Baptists or the year they came to the Town of Sangerfield. But we have reason to believe that Baptists were here previous to the year 1798. There were but a few of the Baptist denomination at that time. For a time they met with the Congregationalists and later they met at the home of White Osborne, which later was the home of William A. Cleveland now the home of Philip Schwender at the foot of Edward's Hill. On the 14th of April, 1798 eight persons met. On Dec. 19th 1798 a council was called and held at the home of Benjamin Whites, (the house is still standing between the Amos O. Osborne's brick house and the Candee Block). Churches sent delegates from Fairfield and Palatine, Whitestown Paris Church, Hamilton and Augusta.
The Council voted to recognize the 17 members as a gospel Church. The first Pastor was Elder Joel Butler on a salary of $65.00 one half of the time to be paid in produce at the market price to be increased $5.00 each year until it amounted to $100.00. August 9th, 1800 a contract was signed for the erection of a meeting house to be finished by the 1st of December, 1800. The site of the Church had been granted them by Benjamin White for a meeting house and other Church purposes. It was a triangular plot starting at the point by the bank and east up Main Street to Stafford Avenue South to White Street and West to the point at White and Main Streets.
In the tower of the Church is the Town Clock. The original Church stood south east of the present Church. It was 40 feet by 50 feet and the posts were 23 feet long. There were 30 windows composed of 8 by 10 inch glass twenty-four lights in each. Galliers on two sides and one end.
The contract price was $400.00 to be paid in produce and each workman was to receive one and one-half gill of rum a day. The Church was not finished on Contract time, as there is no record of a meeting being held in it until June 19, 1801 and was not wholly completed until 1815. Some of the Church records were burned in the Stanton Parks distillery in 1812, so there are now no records to show why the Church was not completed before.
The work was progressing and the steeple was raised when the news came that a treaty of peace between England and the United States had been agreed upon and while the Village was being illuminated in honor of the event, a sailor climbed the frame of the steeple and put a lighted candle in the ball on the top of it. No enough air was in motion to blow it out so it burned down to the ball.
This church stood until 1832 when the present Church was built. Up to the year 1808 the Church seemed to prosper, 130 had united by baptism and letter since its organization From 1808 until 1814 we find little recorded, and then the Church seemed to grow and increase in members until the year 1840 it numbered 166, the highest ever reported since its organization. After this it seemed to grow less in numbers so that in 1851 there were only 106 members and in 1863 there were only 65, the lowest on record. There are 50 members now.

First Presbyterian Church

The Presbyterian Church was organized May 19th, 1823, by twenty persons, who presented letters of dismission from the Congregational Church in Sangerfield. They were assisted by a committee from the Presbytery of Oneida. The first Church was built in 1823 and was a wooden structure 40 feet by 53 feet located on the present site of the Brunswick Hotel. The property was bought from John McLish and the Church erected at a cost of $2,413. Its front was adorned by a porch supported by four square pillars, surmounted by a steeple crowned with a weather-vane which was later placed on the Reuben Tower building, now the Masonic Temple. Until this structure was completed, services were held in the school-house. During the first twenty years its membership averaged about 160. In 1843 it was sold and moved back to be used as a barn of the Hotel Brunswick and the other half became the barn now located at Bishop Coley's.
The second Church was built of wood on the present site in 1843 after the property had been purchased from one of its members, Gilbert M. Gifford. It was painted white with green blinds and seated about 400. The basement was used in part as a lecture room and in part as a private school. Because of the rapid growth of the Church after the Civil War and the coming of the railroad, plans for a larger Church were begun in November 1871. A subscription paper brought in a few weeks pledges amounting to $25,000. There was one $1,500 pledge and eight $1,000 pledges. For sixteen months Church services were held in Putnam Hall, now the Waterville Textile Mill by the Depot, while the present Church was being built. The corner stone was laid on July 15, 1872. The Church was dedicated August 14, 1873. The 1800 pound bell in the tower was manufactured by Meneeley and Kimberly of Troy, New York. This Church seats about 600. The membership in June 1878 was 190
At the first evening service the Church was brilliantly lighted by 48 kerosene lamps in four chandeliers suspended from the ceiling. In August 1925 a terrific hail storm broke all of the windows on the west side of the Church. On May 22-23, 1948, The Church celebrated its 125th anniversary.
Today's membership is 250. The oldest living member of the church is Mrs. Flora C. Eastman who joined the church on March 4, 1872,

Grace Episcopal Church

Grace Church Parish was organized on August 10, 1840, (The few people who" wished to hold divine worship according to the rites of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of New York" had been worshipping in the Brick School House in School District No. 3). They met on August 10th, 1840, at "Said place of worship pursuant to notice duly given in time of morning service on two Sundays previous thereto for the purpose of incorporating themselves into a Religious Society, under the act of the Legislature of the State of New York."
Six men, one of which was Amos O. Osborne, walked to Paris Hill to the old church there to ask the Bishop, who was holding services there to let them have an Episcopal Church in Waterville. In 1842 the Society organized as The Wardens and Vestrymen of Grace Church, Waterville, and erected a church on White Street. The same year the first confirmation class of six were confirmed by the Bishop in the Consecrated building of Grace Church, Waterville.
The present frame church was built in 1854 and was consecrated June 15 of that year by Rt. Rev. William H. DeLancey. Eleven members were confirmed at that service making 43 confirmed members of Grace Parish. Amos O. Osborne was the first clerk of the Vestry and the Vestry Record book was kept by him. Then later by William G. Mayor, who succeeded him, and then by Osborne Mayor. For over 100 years the record book contained only three hand writings all in the same family.
Communicants in June 1878 numbered 93 and today the present membership is about 250.

Methodist Episcopal Church

In 1835 the "Conger Settlement" society of the Methodist Episcopal Church was formed and the Old Presbyterian Church edifice in Waterville was purchased. It was sold in the winter of 1848-49. In April 1847 the second Methodist Episcopal Church was organized and a neat house of worship built in Stockwell. The present Church in Waterville, a frame dwelling was built in 1860 at a cost of about $5,000. The membership in 1878 was 120 and 133 members in the Sunday School. In 1902 the church was enlarged and repaired. The entire cost was paid by the late Mrs. I. D. Brainard. Electronic chimes were a gift in 1947 for the enjoyment of the village particularly those who are shut-ins.

Saint Bernard's Roman Catholic Church

There is no record of the Catholic people who first came to Waterville, nor when they came. There were Catholics here in 1837 for records show that Thomas Collins sent to Utica for a priest to care for a member of his family who was sick. Two years later in 1839, 18 Catholic people assembled in the home of Andrew Bradley on what is now Stafford Avenue to assist at the first Mass on record in Waterville. This Mass was said by the Reverend David Bacon who continued on to Hamilton and Norwich where he said Mass for Catholics in those villages.
In 1845 Father John McMenorny purchased the lot on which the church stands today. In 1848 Father Patrick Caraher began a fund for the building of a church which was completed in 1853. The Church was dedicated October 26th, 1854. The congregation then numbered less than 100 residing in Waterville, Oriskany Falls, Brookfield and Paris Hill. In 1911 the corner stone was laid for the beautiful new Saint Bernard's Church.

The Welsh Congregational Church

Meetings held as early as 1830 through 1841. Dr. Everett first minister.

The Welsh Congregational Church was organized in 1852 and the building used by the society was one formerly occupied by the Episcopalians. The membership in June 1878 was 100, made up of people living in adjoining towns and Waterville. This building is now the municipal Hall of the village.
Disbanded in 1926.

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