"The Church’s one foundation
-Samuel S. Wesley
First Baptist Church of Ridgebury (Present Baptist Church)
"They assembled themselves with the church and taught much people."
First Constitution adopted August 9, 1879.
Gothic Chapel 32’ x 50’ begun November, 1878, dedicated August 20, 1879.
1880 - Pastor’s salary - $300.00 a year.
New organ secured with privilege of buying.
Land purchased of D. H. Burnham for sheds - $50.00.
1885 - First purely social gathering – "Sociable, June 12 at the home of R. R. Burnham.
1887 - Church "donation" – Rev. Ballentin.
Covenant Meetings – Singing, Scripture Reading, Prayer, Testimonies and the handling of the church business.
1903 - Social was held at the home of Mrs. Kline, proceeds used to paper the church ceiling and repair sides as needed.
1910 - Church voted to buy a bell.
The church was often in financial difficulties. Mrs. Elizabeth Crainey and Mrs. Elsie Raynor would hitch up a horse and wagon and make the rounds to collect the necessary funds.
1923 - Supper in the Grange Hall. $37.85 collected to shingle the church roof.
In January, 1927, it was decided to call a minister at once, "only so he was a good Baptist man, who preached the Word of god".
1929 - Flag presented by Mrs. Anderson.
Picture of Pastor Everett presented by Joe Culp.
Large Bible presented by Lizzie Rightmire.
New piano purchased and paid for by subscription.
1934 - September 21, "bee" held to save the church foundation which had
been undermined by the July flood of 1934. State Flood Control
filled in with gravel and dug a 60’ channel in the creek. People of the
community rebuilt the wall and helped put large trees under the gravel
to hold it in place. Threat of flood damage was ever present.
1938 - Cookbook project. Proceeds used to paint the church.
1948 - Ceiling of church painted. Ladies Aid bought paper for the church.
1949 - A report says the congregation was made up mostly of young people. The efforts and prayers of a faithful handful was rewarded. More People were moving into the community.
1950 - Daily Vacation Bible School.
Members took part in Child Evangelism movement in the school.
New church runner bought by the young people.
1952 - Choir robes made for the Jr. Choir.
1953 - New roof put on the church.
Young Married Group purchased a Register and Attendance Record.
Electric organ purchased.
Some new wiring installed
Communion service purchased.
Central heating plant put in.
1954 - "Christ in Gesthemane" and "Christ Knocking" were purchased with money from Katherine Strobridge Memorial Fund.
Porch and steps built.
50 new hymnals purchased.
First Easter Sunrise breakfast held at Ridgebury School.
Senior Choir organized.
1956 - Rev. VanDeventer, Pastor, new church Constitution and By-Laws adopted.
New stairway added and upstairs made into two Sunday School rooms.
Church windows replaced and colored glass installed.
Chairs purchased for Primary Department.
Lighted cross made and presented to church.
Church voted to purchase a parsonage and have own Pastor.
1957 - Refurnished parsonage.
Rev. Charles Brooks first full-time Pastor.
1958 - Clock given to church in memory of Kit Strowbridge.
Bulletin added in front of church.
1960 - Lights for steeple donated.
1961 - New furnace installed in parsonage, it was also insulated and painted.
1962 - New hymnals purchased and dedicated.
Bottled gas stove installed upstairs.
1963 - Married Couples Club purchased new typewriter for the church.
1964 - Voted to build Annex, thanks to money left by Mark Moshier, a donation by Lil Burt and generous contributions by others.
Time and labor were donated so it wasn’t necessary to borrow as much as was first calculated.
1965 - Tract rack in memory of Marty Fethers.
1966 - Piano, Communion Table and Piano Lamp in memory of Larry Wood.
New Mimeograph machine.
1967 - Dedication of new Annex.
There have been 31 Pastors during the years.
During 90 years, people have worked hard to present
the Gospel to the People of the community.
Later Years in The Wesleyan Methodist Church in Bentley Creek
"Whatsoever is commanded by the God of Heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven." -- Ezra 7:23
Late in 1926, Rev. A. F. Mahler came as Pastor of the Bentley Creek Baptist Church. About a dozen of the members of the church had been Wesleyan Methodists or had had Wesleyan upbringing. Rev. Mahler was a Wesleyan Methodist minister. The Wesleyan Methodists were satisfied with him, and his presentation of the gospel, but the people who were of a distinctly Baptist persuasion felt that they would rather listen to a Baptist preacher so it came about in the course of human events, that there was a separation. The people who remained with the Baptist church procured a Baptist Pastor, and Rev. Mahler and the Wesleyan Methodists met on February 7, 1927, with Rev. F. S. Lee, President of the Rochester Conference of the church for the purpose of organizing a Wesleyan Methodist church in Bentley Creek. They met in accordance with Section VI, Paragraph 84, of the Discipline of the Wesleyan Methodist Connection of America. After prayer and a short sermon by Rev. Lee, they proceeded to organize according to due process of Disciplinary Law.
Six members were received by letters of recommendation, two on confession of Faith, and one associate member. These were given the right hand of Fellowship by Rev. Lee.
Those by letter were as follows:
Howard Burnham, Elton Jelliff, Mildred Burnham, Addie Burnham, Edith Jelliff, Clinton Jelliff
Those on confession of Faith:
Mrs. Elizabeth Crainey, Nina Crainey
Miss Pauline Jelliff
The following officers were elected:
Secretary – Edith Jelliff
Treasurer – Nina Crainey
Stewards – Howard Burnham, Clinton Jelliff
Organist – Edith Jelliff
Class Leader – Elton Jelliff
Ass’t Class Leader – Elizabeth Crainey
Advisory Board – Rev. Mahler, ex officio, Howard Burnham, Clinton Jelliff
Pulpit Supply committee – Nina Crainey, Edith Jelliff
Motion was made and carried that this group should be called "The Bentley Creek Wesleyan Methodist Church"; Rev. A. F. Mahler was to serve as Pastor until the next Annual Conference.
At the April Quarterly Conference Business Meeting, that same year, letters were read recommending Mr. and Mrs. Elbridge Young and Mrs. Elizabeth Chamberlain. Miss Coral Baker was received as an Associate Member. Elton Jelliff received a Quarterly Conference license to preach.
At the Annual Conference in June, 1927, Rev. J. S. French was assigned to the Bentley Creek Charge. The amount of salary to be raised was $8.00 a week.
From such a small beginning, the present Wesleyan church grew. Worship services were held in the Bentley Creek School house for the next ten years.
Rev. E. E. Look was the Pastor for the Conference year 1928-1929. During this time, Rev. Dodd held Special Meetings. There was a note in the 1929 minutes that Sunday School Supplies cost $5.80 for the quarter. At this same time, the Sunday School Superintendent (we don’t know his name, the clerk was very shy when mentioning names of the officers) hoped that the lessons would be studied better and a larger attendance was desired.
In May, 1929, there must have been an invitation from the Elmira Wesleyan Methodist Church to unite with them. We find this document pasted in the back of the Clerk’s Record Book –
May 24, 1929. Then this notation:
"We, the undersigned, members of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Bentley Creek, Pa., are perfectly satisfied to be separated from the Elmira Church. This we declare to be our desire and choice." Then follows ten signatures, which we take to be the membership of the church at this time.
Rev. Charles Guernsey came to be the Pastor in June, 1929; he was Pastor for seven years. Elmer Young and Laura Graber joined in 1929. The Pastor’s moving expenses were $30.00. His salary was $12.00 a week. The church paid $10.00 a month for rent for the Stirton house in Centerville for a parsonage. (Centerville again had a parsonage.)
Sister Guernsey’s Sunday School Class, "The Willing Workers" consisting of young people and young marrieds was organized in the winter of 1930 and continued as a class as long as the Guernseys were with us. The Sunday School attendance rose during 1930 to 40-45. Elton Jelliff held services in Elmira for a time during 1930.
Howard Burnham was granted a Quarterly Conference license to preach in June, 1930.
It was amazing to see how closely the receipts and disbursements came out during these years. At the close of each Quarterly Conference, the balance in the treasury was usually less than $2.00. Sometimes the amounts were even, then, you can be sure, some generous soul made up the difference.
In 1931, Bro. Guernsey conferred with Bro. Willett about the purchase of a church building at Van Etten. The Committee decided it was not what they wanted.
In March, 1931, the Pulpit Supply Committee conferred with the Berrytown P. S. C. concerning the Pastor supplying them for the coming year; nothing came of it for the time being. There must have been arrangements made at the Annual Conference, as we find that the following year Bro. Guernsey was also preaching at Berrytown. In May, 1932, it was moved that Bro. Guernsey move to the Berrytown parsonage.
In 1935, we notice that Fred Hanlon and Elton Jelliff donated wood, probably for the school house.
Evangelistic help during these years was – Rev. Floyd Bradley, Rev. John Wilcox and the Houghton Gospel Team.
After Bro. Guernsey took the two charges, Bentley Creek paid him $8.00 a week.
Rev. Albert Beckwith came to the Bentley Creek-Berrytown charge in July, 1936. In September, 1936, a motion was carried that the church buy the Culp house on Mormon hill for $50.00. On October 30, 1936, a committee was appointed to plan a church building and take down the Culp House – Bro. Beckwith, Clinton Jelliff, Elton Jelliff and Howard Burnham.
By August, 1936, there were 20 full members and 12 associate members. There was a motion of thanks to Clinton Jelliff for a lot to build on. As the building committee finally took shape it consisted of – Clinton Jelliff, Howard Burnham, Elton Jelliff, Mildred Jelliff, Elbridge Young, Edith Jelliff and Rev. A. Beckwith.
First mention of the Young People’s Meeting was April 14, 1937. Ansel Young and Glen Jelliff were elected ushers in the new church; Elmer Young and Chester Jelliff were to assist them when necessary.
Building Committee Report, April 14, 1937:
Amount donated ----------------- $204.88
Borrowed (less interest) -------- 443.25
Total amount spent -------------- 597.16
Donated time --------------------- 653..75
Elton Jelliff, Chairman
Elton Jelliff worked full time on the church during the fall and winter of 1936-1937.
The church was dedicated June 13, 1937. There were 28 full members at this time. The church bought a piano from Doyle-Marx in Elmira for $64.00 plus carrying charges. Clinton Jelliff was elected the first janitor with Elmer Young, assistant.
In October, 1937, Bro. Beckwith resigned. He felt his work in Bentley Creek was done. Rev. J. Harold Douglass came as Pastor in October, 1937. In October, 1937, Mildred Jelliff was designated to write to a church in Batavia to see about a bell.
The first report of a Y. M. W. B. (Young Missionary Workers Band) was in March, 1938. The Band had raised $45.72 for missions during the year: Gladys Burnham was apparently the Superintendent. The missionary project for the year was the partial support of Ono San, a native preacher in Japan.
In August, 1939, we find a report of 30 members, 18 reported tithers. In April, 1940, 15 received awards for perfect attendance in Sunday School for the preceding quarter. The first Men’s Missionary Meeting recorded was at Elton Jelliff’s in April, 1940. In October, 1940, the Women’s Missionary Society and the Young People’s Class gave the Church three Pulpit chairs. First mention of Daylight Saving Time was in April, 1941.
In May, 1942, there was a discussion about a Pastor for "our own church without anyone’s feelings offended, and the will of the Lord done in everything." Clinton Jelliff, Ansel Young and Roscoe VanBrocklyn appointed a committee to meet and plan for a parsonage. In October, 1942, by common consent, the prayer meetings for the winter months, were to be held in the homes of the members; these were war years. There was a notation of $10.00 paid for the bell. We bought the second piano from Pearl Douglass for use in the Sunday School in June, 1943.
Rev. Willard and Mrs. Dekker came to be the shepherds of the flock in June, 1943. We have the first report of a building fund at this time for a parsonage. We have the first mention of candy and nuts for the children at Christmas time in 1943. In 1944 most of the boys were in the armed forces so Carol Jelliff and Deana Burnham were elected ushers for the year. A memorial fund was set up for Library Books in memory of Nina Burnham. Howard and others built the shelves.
Beginning June 25, 1944, the church voted to start Sunday School at 8:45 A. M. and worship Service at 9:30. Rev. Dekker preached each Sunday P. M. at Hanlon Hill during the fall months. On October 6, 1944, it was decided to open a Sunday School at Hanlon Hill, beginning the following Sunday. Bought extra supplies for the same for $3.72. As a long-time result of this decision there are now, in 1968, several faithful members of the Bentley Creek church from Hanlon Hill.
There were 50 members in Y. M. W. B. in 1945 and 31 members in the Missionary Society. In June, 1948 the church voted to renew Malcolm Hill’s Local Preacher’s License, so evidently he had one before.
A D. V. B. S. was held in the summer of 1949, in conjunction with the Baptist Church. There were 31 children enrolled. They raised enough money to pay expenses and had $6.93 left over for each church.
Rev. William Woughter came to be the Pastor in June, 1950. In March, 1951, the Trustees began to plan and raise money for rest rooms in the church basement.
Ernest Wilson was granted a Local Preacher’s license in March, 1951.
In June, 1951, Sunday School enrollment was 76, which was an all time high. In 1951, the church bought a cottage at Chambers Campground for $200.00. They ran a Sunday School bus over Hanlon Hill the summer of 1951. Clinton Jelliff was the driver. The cost of Sunday School supplies had risen to $30.00 per quarter. In September, 1952, the highest Sunday School attendance during the previous quarter was 185. The value of the Christmas box to Hephzibah in 1954 was $135.00.
In December, 1956, the Trustees were instructed to look around for a lot suitable to build a parsonage and church. In the latter part of the winter, 1959, there was much discussion about a new parsonage in Bentley Creek. Finally in the Business Meeting held April 1, 1959, a vote was taken with "23 yes and 1 no". Ansel Young was the new building fund treasurer. Bentley Creek and Berrytown churches agreed to call separate pastors for the following year, 1959-1960. Malcolm and Violet Hill gave a large corner lot for a church and parsonage.
Work progressed rapidly on the parsonage. The men put in the footer for the parsonage basement on May 1, 1959. In July, the parsonage was nearly enough completed so the Woughter family moved in, July 2, 3 and 4. Rev. Woughter preached his first sermon to just Bentley Creek charge on July 26. The parsonage was dedicated June 18, 1960.
An interesting event occurred in March and April, 1960 – "Five Steps to Easter". Bentley Creek challenged Berrytown to a contest to try to have 1,000 people in Sunday School during the Easter Season – 5 Sundays. Berrytown took up the challenge. That meant having over 100 in each church each Sunday. The first Sunday Bentley Creek had 156, the second 192; Berrytown was snowed under and during this time, there was one Sunday they could have no service. Bentley Creek hit an all-time high on Easter Sunday with 211. April 3, down – 143, , April 10 – 173. Total attendance in both churches was 1,545 for the five Sundays.
In November, 1961, there was much discussion of a fallout shelter. This was to be in the parsonage basement. The idea of Nuclear fallout died down and except for the purchase of a quantity of burlap bags, nothing more was done about it.
The idea of a Unified Budget for church expenses was adopted in 1962. In May, 1962, the members voted to start building a church, which was done. January 1, 1963 was a great day in the history of the church – the men spent the day taking down the old church, salvaging such things as were usable in the new, clearing the lot and storing lumber and many other things. The women served dinner in the parsonage basement and the first Worship Service was held in the new church January 6, 1963. Things were pretty crude but there was no other place to hold it. Piles of lumber were around everywhere and the lighting system consisted of a drop cord from the parsonage. But it seamed good, too, to be able to worship there. In June, the question of siding for the church came up. Decided to use stone. Wayne Campbell gave Howard Burnham some instruction in putting on stone facing and he did the job. Good looking church when he got through, too.
The Sunday School enrollment August, 1963, was 98. Malcolm and Violet Hill gave the Church a beautiful piano and Albert (Dutch) and Bernice Lowman gave an electric organ and Offering Plates in memory of their son, Allen. Howard Burnham built an alter rail, put a lighted cross in front of the church and built a communion table. Ray Sickler donated money for molding for the doors and windows. Various contributors helped with the pews.
Rev. Woughter resigned in the spring of 1964. He felt that his work in Bentley Creek was completed with the church. After shopping around a bit, the church voted unanimously to give a call to Rev. Edward A. Crandall, who was to be graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary in June, 1964. The church was dedicated May 17, 1964. Rev. Woughter was with us for 14 years. He was the only Pastor most of the boys and girls remembered. Rev. and Mrs. Crandall came to the church the first Sunday after the Annual Conference in 1964. They have served the church well and faithful during the intervening years. The Crandalls started C. Y. C. in September, 1964. This has meant a great deal in the spiritual lives of many boys and girls, not only among church families, but in the community.
In December, 1964, the outside lighted cross was put up. Tom Johnson made and gave the church the beautiful and useful Sunday School and Hymn registers.
The church received a sum of money from the Mark Moshier Estate in the summer of 1964. This was very welcome at this time to help with the building debt.
Gas was installed in the church and parsonage for heat in 1966. in December, 1966, Malcolm and Violet Hill gave another strip of land south of the parsonage for a driveway, when needed.
They also gave the young People the use of a parcel of land west of the parking lot which the kids have made into a useful and much-appreciated picnic area.
Owing to the merger of the Pilgrim Holiness and the Wesleyan Methodist denominations in the summer of 1968, the church became officially "The Wesleyan Church of Bentley Creek". We feel that the Lord has been with this church through the years and blessed it richly. May the church be a real lighthouse to the growing community of Ridgebury. (Special meetings have been held during recent years by Rev. Howard Speas, the Jacob Brothers Quartet, The Singing West Family and Youth-In-One-Accord from Houghton College, and others.)
The Wellsburg Churches
"Ye shall be my witnesses, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the world." -- Acts 1:8
Many other churches and religious groups have entered into the lives of the people of Ridgebury, so in this chapter, we will endeavor to mention a few of them.
Wellsburg Methodist Episcopal Church
(Presently known as the United Methodist Church)
When the religious life of England seemed almost dead, God provided a wonderful revival. It started in the heart of John Wesley (1700-1791) whose father was an earnest minister and whose mother was a remarkable and saintly woman. John Wesley was schooled in Oxford University and came to Georgia hoping to convert Indians. During the long, stormy voyage to America, Wesley came in touch with the Moravians. Through Peter Boehler, one of the Moravians, Wesley was led into a deeper personal religious experience. John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield all found peace with God at about the same time. They went like a flame through England, preaching salvation from sin and Holiness. When they were barred from the churches, they preached in the fields or the streets. Thousands of eager listeners were converted. The first Methodist Society was organized in 1739 in Bristol, England. There were persecutions but they could not stop the street revival.
The origin of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America goes back to a Christian Conference held in Baltimore, Maryland, December 24, 1784. At this Conference, the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized. The Articles of Religion were accepted, the Order of Worship adopted and Francis Asbury consecrated a Bishop. It is said that, during the next 32 years, he traveled through the United states and ordained not less than 3,000 ministers. A junior preacher named William Colbert, in 1792, was sent from Wilkes-Barre on a tour of the western wilds of New York. It is said from his records, that, while on this mission on December 14, that year, he swam his horse across the river near the "Old Towne of Chemung" and preached at Daniel McDowell’s cabin, and continued on and preached in a tavern in Newtown (Elmira) from the text, Matt. 5:6, on December16. He notes that some of his hearers were drunk. These are the first records of Methodist preaching in the Chemung Valley.
The log school house soon succeeded the pioneer’s home as a place of worship. The Chemung Methodists held their first services in a log school house that stood near Wyncoop Creek. In 1839, the Wellsburg Methodists organized their first class with 10 members.
They held services in a log school house south of the present Wellsburg Baptist Church. The exact date of the building of the first Methodist church in Wellsburg is uncertain; some say 1848, some 1849. The church is first listed as a mission in the East Genesee Conference in 1849. By 1870, Rev. N. B. Congdon came and found the church "in a dilapidated state", so he immediately set about building a new one, which was dedicated July 1, 1875. While the church was in the process of being built, meetings were held in the "Hiram Young Hall".
The foregoing notes are excerpts from Harry Kelsey’s "History of the Wellsburg Methodist Church, compiled for the 100th Anniversary, September 25, 1949".
Charter members of the Wellsburg M. E. church were;
Henry Watson, and Clarissa, his wife
Jesse Simpkins and his wife
Rev. Charles Davis was their Pastor.
1969 – Present Pastor – Rev. Welling Storch.
The Wellsburg Episcopal Church
Christ Church was developed by one Horatio N. Evans of Binghamton who came here to straighten out some business affairs in connection with a general store started by his son, Edward, and a son-in-law, Samuel Kress. He sold his home in Binghamton and moved his family to Wellsburg until his business affairs were straightened out. He remained 4 or 5 years. He found the citizens most cordial and built up a very good business for those days. His genial personality and Christian character won him friends in every station in life. In building trade he also formed the nucleus of Christ Church Mission Society. The people were largely those who did not belong to any church organization. The "outsiders" so termed, used to say "it must be a pretty good religion or faith that Horatio Evans so truly exemplifies in his dealings with us".
In the summer of 1867, Mr. Evans invited Dr. Parett, then rector of Trinity Church, Elmira, to come to his house in the village and hold Even Song. Mr. Evans had found a few scattered families in the countryside who were members of the Anglican Communion, who joined with him in his efforts to establish a mission. Upon Dr. Parett’s first visit to his home, the house was filled to overflowing. Some who had never attended a place of worship before. Interest grew; Mr. Evans secured the use of the Methodist church for Sunday P. M. services. A Sunday School was organized and held it’s sessions in the Evans home. Later, they transferred their P. M. services to R. C. Lockwood’s Hall, which was the improvised chapel until the present edifice was completed in August, 1870.
Land was purchased and paid for by Mr. Evans and John Lowman, jointly, and deeded to the new parish to be legally named "Christ Church". The foundation was laid and the corner stone was placed with elaborate ceremonies on July 29, 1869. Rev. Frederick Dan Huntington, the newly consecrated Bishop of the new diocese of Central New York had charge of the Dedicatory Ceremonial. The church was dedicated free of debt in August, 1870. Baptisms were frequent and large confirmation classes were formed.
The church has been a missionary church with a supply from Waverly, New York for some years. Two parishioners went on to Priesthood from the parish, during the ministry of Rev. Levi W. Lunn, who served the parish for 25 years – Rev. Albert Dalton and Rev. Smith Lain.
The choir room was added in 1922 and the parish rooms in 1958. Rev. M. Howard St. Sayre is the present Missionary-in-charge since 1958.
Much of this history is from a historical address by Rev. L. W. Lunn, presented to the church prior to leaving the parish and taken from a manuscript owned by Atlanta Varner.
The First Baptist Church of Wellsburg
We begin where we left off in Chapter VI, which was a general account of the Goff family and early Baptist beginnings in Chemung County.
One of the most important expeditions of the Revolutionary War was the Clinton-Sullivan Expedition, August, 1779. It was the means of opening western New York to early settlers. It broke the power of the Indians, but left the entire region a waste and wilderness. The government had no money to pay the soldiers but had plenty of land and every soldier could draw a lot for himself. The drawing took place in 1791 and many soldiers returned to carve out homes for themselves from the fertile soil of the Chemung Valley. Most of them were from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Orange County, New York and Connecticut.
On September 2, 1789, a handful of early-comers met and formed a church in the Chemung Valley. Their Covenant was given in Chapter VI. Their names have been preserved in the Minutes of the Wellsburg church; they are – William Buck, John Hillman, Peter Roberts, Jessee Locey, John VanCamp and Elizabeth Hillman.
The next record is dated February 3, 1791. It was agreed to keep a record of the business transacted by the church. The first matter of record reads as follows: "Brother Roswell Goff, being recommended by the Baptist Church of Pittstown as having a measure of the Dispensation of the Gospel committed to him, and we, having had opportunity with him, give him the right hand of fellowship therein". At that same meeting, the disorderly conduct of some members was discussed and the hand of fellowship was withdrawn from one.
The early record leaves no doubt that the Wellsburg church was formed before Elder Goff appeared; also, that the church actually came into being in 1789; ‘tho it was not recognized by a Baptist Association until October 13, 1791. Roswell Goff continued in the pastorate until 1812. Twenty members made up the church roll when the church was formally recognized. Others soon came in. The fact that for some years it was the only church in the Valley accounts for the fact that at least one member of practically all of the pioneer families in the area appear on the Baptist church roll; though many of these, later, transferred to other churches as an organization of their preference sprung up in the community.
Baptist views had been introduced in America in 1639, 150 years before the founding of the Wellsburg church, but the Baptists had not gained a large following, for in 1790 there were less than 65,000 Baptists among the 4,000,000 inhabitants of the United States.
In 1797, a plan for financing the church was outlined – the budget was 30 pounds (English Sterling) which was to be raised by levying a tax on each male member according to the value of his possessions. By this time the church had grown to nearly 100 members.
Elder Goff was missionary-minded and preached in many of the communities which were beginning to develop at this time in Southern New York and Pennsylvania. The record mentions Bath, Big Flats, Horseheads, Apple Orchard, Pine City, Braintrim, New Bedford, Owego, Sugar Creek, Bentley Creek, Elmira and Chemung.
A Meeting house was erected on land sold to the church by Abner Wells for $.50. The frame was raised July 12, 1812. Roswell Goff began his pastorate in a log house about one mile south of the present church (a monument has been erected on the farm of Smith Burt which proclaims that the spot is the site of the first church of any denomination in the Chemung Valley). In 1861, under the leadership of Rev. James Madison Coley, the church was remodeled. Prior to this, the furniture consisted of backless benches; and there was a gallery running around all four walls. Part of the gallery was remodeled into a lecture room in 1882. The parsonage was purchased in 1888.
The Bible used in the original church by Elder Goff was presented to the church March 29, 1952, by Mrs. Sarah E. Smith of Oneonta, New York, who is the great-great-granddaughter of Elder Goff.
From a brochure prepared to help in the restoration of the church after the fire of 1965, we find the following names of "The First Christian Society" prior to 1800 (many of these names later appear on other church rolls of other early denominations) "The Seventeen Hundreds": -
T. Bennett Jessee Moore
Jacob Comfort James Covell
Charles Dewey W. H. Burt
Asahel Burnham Gen. John Sullivan
T. Keeney George S. Lowman
Thomas Keeney Samuel Coleman
David Burt Col. Hezekiah Smith
Col. Henry C. Wells Smith B. Brown
George Henry Robinson Abner Wells
John Burt Benjamin Wells
James Hillman David H. Burnham
William Decker R. C. Lockwood
John Stirton George W. Roberts
John D. Warren Jud Smith
S. H. Hildreth John Hillman
Roswell Goff A. G. Hillman
Benjamin Herman Stephen H. Brown
Present Pastor – 1969 – Rev. Coley J. Harrison.
The Churches of Smithfield
"Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days."
We go to Poultney, Vermont, for the organization of the First Congregational Church of Smithfield. A group of people separated from the Congregational Church there to come to Smithfield, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. (Bradford County was not yet organized.) They organized a separate church in February, 1801 before they left Vermont. Esqs. Samuel Kellogg, Nathan Fellows and Solomon Morse were the leaders of the church group. They drew up several Articles of Faith for the government of their church in the wilderness of Smithfield. These contained several interesting items: The local church is the final authority to "admit new members, censor the members and say who shall be cast out". Another item was, "Brethren shall not go to law with each other". A very strict discipline was to be enforced. The punishment for an infraction of the rules was to refuse communion for a period of time, depending on the gravity of the situation. About 55 members signed the Articles. After the group arrived in Smithfield, the records say "they met agreeably", on the first Sabbath, August 16, 1801 with Samuel Morse as moderator. They were under the Susquehanna Association. The first church building was erected in 1811. In the early days, one of the young ladies committed an indiscretion. She wrote a letter to the church asking forgiveness and promised to pursue an earnest consecration in the future. She was restored. Rev. F. M. Dickey was the Pastor.
On April 3, 1898, a committee was formed to revise the Constitution and the By-Laws. We assume that the later ones were not quite so strict. The Pastor at that time was Miss Nancy Corzz; it seems strange at that early date to find a woman pasturing a church.
The Baptist Church
Samuel Wood was one of the first settlers in Smithfield. Likely, he was one of the leading spirits in the church organization. The Smithfield Baptist Church was organized December 19, 1809. One of the first meeting places was Samuel Wood’s barn. The home of Reuben Mitchell was also often opened for Divine Worship. In 1814, Elder Stone was called to be their first Pastor. In the summer of 1818, the Congregational Church gave an invitation to the Baptists to worship in their meeting house; which they did for several months. During the winter of 1818-1819, there was a big revival meeting in Smithfield. Was a result, 86 people were baptized and 12 were admitted by letter to the Baptist Church; so a building became necessary. A church was begun in June, 1819. It was completed in October, 1819, at a cost of $2,000.00. This was a costly edifice at a time when wheat sold for $.50 a bushel,
butter was $.06 a pound, nails $.25 and glass $10.00 a box. All materials came from the Catskills on the Hudson River at a cost of $80.00 a ton. The benches were made of unplanned boards. In 1820, 18 persons were dismissed to form the Springfield Baptist Church. In 1830, 39 members of the Baptist Church, including all the Wood family, except Abraham and his family, withdrew to establish the Disciples Church.
Some expressions that have come down to us from the early church Covenant Meetings – "The brethren’s minds were asked and were individually given" and "Prayer preceded to free their minds".
An early member, Nancy Bird, wife of Lark bird, a staunch supporter of the church for many years, organized the first Women’s Christian Temperance Union in Bradford County.
Harriet Child tells me that two Baptist churches burned in Smithfield. The last framed church burned in 1874 and was replaced the next year with a brick church costing $9,000.00.
The Baptists, later, united with the Congregationalists and became the Federated Church. (late 1950’s)
There were 23 Baptist churches in Bradford County with 1,583 members in 1877.
Present Pastor – 1969 – Rev. Gordon E. Bolt.
The Disciples Church
A group of Baptist folks including most of the Wood family, withdrew from that church and organized the Disciples Church, December 22, 1830. Ziba Gerould, Moses Wood and Enos Smith formed a committee to hire Elder Silas E. Shepard to preach ½ time for one year. A church building was dedicated January 14, 1869; we don’t know if this was their first church building or not. Early names connected with the church were: Merit Wood, Darius Bullock, James Martin and J. C. Pierce. In 1900, the membership was about 280. For years, the Wood family was the main-stay of the church. By 1900, there were 91 on the roll by the name of Wood and 86 kindred. Merit Wood died in 1877 and his funeral was said to be the largest held in the church. For many years he stood obligated to assume one-fourth of any expenditure voted by the church.
Sometime prior to 1927, the Disciples were absorbed by the Baptists and the Congregationalists. The church was opened on Wednesday evenings for Union Prayer Meetings for years.
Much of the foregoing information came from old church records presently preserved in the Tioga Point Museum in Athens, Pennsylvania.
The East Smithfield Methodist Episcopal Church
The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in Smithfield Township, September 15, 1815, with 16 members. David Forrest was the first class leader and Rev. Palmer Roberts, the minister-in-charge. Regular appointments had been made two years before, in 1813. They worshipped for many years in private homes and in schoolhouses. In 1832, an effort was made to build a church on the Berwick Turnpike, as there were quite a number of Methodists living in that vicinity; but those living in the eastern and southern part of the Township preferred Smithfield Center. The church was laid with appropriate ceremonies. The sermon was preached by Judge McKean from the text found in Matt.: 16, 18- "Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it".
The following night, a group of young men succeeded in tearing up the foundation and bearing away the cornerstone. Years later it was found on a log heap on the farm presently owned by Burt Hoose (then owned by Christopher Pierce). The stone is now located in the hatchway of Alfred Hulslander home. The frame was transferred to Smithfield Center the next day and erected on the lot where the home now owned by Mrs. J. O. Gerould stands. That church was used for a number of years but was finally sold to Augustus Phelps, Sr.
In 1848, a church was built on the Turnpike on land donated by Nehemiah Beach (on the farm presently owned by Gerould Wolfe). In 1860, a parsonage was secured near the church, but that was later sold.
In 1863, the Methodist Circuit included the Turnpike, Smithfield, Lower Ulster, Upper Ulster (Milan), Sutliff Hill and Mill City (Big Pond).
Rev. E. D. Rosa was the Pastor when the plans were formulated for erecting the present church in 1862-1863. From these efforts, a charter was granted in May, 1864.
In 1871, the Methodists Society bought the house where Lawrence Kingsley lives, including land where the parsonage stands, for $1.000.00. The Kingsley house was used for a parsonage until the present parsonage was built in 1877. The church was dedicated in 1865. The 100th anniversary of the granting of the charter was celebrated September 13, 1964.
Some changes made during the intervening years:
Addition of church parlors – 1911; Steeple removed; Furnaces were installed to take the place of the two chunk stoves in the western corners; High backed pews gave place to modern more comfortable ones; the last two high ones in the back of the church were called the "Spooners’ Benches, and the young folks got to services on time so they could get a back seat; The Pulpit platform has been lowered two steps; Kerosene lamps gave way to gasoline lights and these, in turn, to electricity; The spire and the church sheds, and the horse blocks on each side of the drive have been
removed; An electric organ has been installed and in 1959 the entire sanctuary was remodeled.
We find the following names on the Board of Building Trustees in 1863: Asel Scott, John C. Tomkinson, John Smith, W. W. Hinmon, Jonathan Califf, with Alfred Riggs as Secretary and George Gildine as Treasurer. (The foregoing is taken mostly from an anniversary Booklet prepared by Mrs. Eugene Harris and Clarence Beach. They used much information from records preserved by Mrs. Mertie Beach.)
Present Pastor – 1969 – Rev. William Barnes.
Due to a merger with the United Brethren, the church is now officially the United Methodist Church.
Grace Baptist Church
On the road between East Smithfield and Ulster, Frank and Madolyn Dickerson gathered a little band of worshippers who met from house to house to study the Gospel. We don’t know when the meetings first started, but they were the forerunners of Grace Church. Sarah Depew graduated from Practical Bible Training School, Binghamton, New York, in 1936. Soon after , she and Frieda Smith started regular worship services in the community. They bargained with Mr. Alonzo Rich for the use of his tenant house on Sundays for $.50 a week. About this time, the Dickerssons seem to drop out of the picture. The girls continued to gather the neighbors together on Sundays for worship. Delmar Osterhout and his sister, Livia Burlingame, were staunch supporters. About 1940, rev. David Holden, presently operator of the Bible Lighthouse and Book Store of Sayre, Pennsylvania, came to preach to them. Mr. Osterhout was the instigator of the idea of a church building; he took down an old house and with the help of Christian friends, including Winfield Smith, James Depew, Alonzo Rich, Adam Keir, Carlton Wittie, members of the Wittig, blow and Burlingame families, and others, put up the church. Rev. Holden also helped with the building. At first, it was called "The Church of the Open Bible". They had a large Sunday School bus and picked up children who wished to come. Sometime during the late 50’s it came to be called "Grace Baptist Church".
Present Pastor – 1969 – Rev. John R. Rink
Much of this was told to me by Mrs. Vina Keir, who has been a member since the church was started. She says she worked along with other neighbors who helped with the building.
One more church in Smithfield Township that we have heard about was the
"Christ-ian" church. The old building is located on the farm presently owned by Darrell Harkness. We have not been able to get any more information about it than the bare fact that it once existed.
The Churches of Springfield
"He loveth our nation and hath built us a synagogue." – Luke 7:5
The Springfield Baptist Church
The Springfield Baptist Church is the second church in point of continuous service in the Bradford Association, Troy being the first.
Mrs. Nancy L. Bird, in her history of the Smithfield Baptist church, records that the Springfield group met in Springfield at the home of Mr. Cooley, July 4, 1817, and frequently thereafter. On December 15, 1819, several people met to consider the advisability of establishing a church for the Springfield community. Following this meeting, a council of 18 persons met at the house of john Parkhurst, January 6, 1820; they were recognized as representing the Baptist Church of Springfield, Pennsylvania. In 1820, 18 persons were dismissed from the Smithfield church to form Springfield church. The ministers present at the Parkhurst home were: Thomas Beebe, Levi Baldwin, D. A. Balcolm and Benjamin Oviatt. Mr. Beebe was moderator and Mr. Baldwin clerk for the meeting. Isaac Cooley was the first Deacon and Elam Bennett the first clerk. Peter Prink was the first Pastor. Elam Bennett was the second Pastor and Jeremy Dwyer followed him. It is said of Rev. Dwyer that, during his ministry, he baptized 1,000 people. Rev. Thomas Mitchell completed 33 years of service to the church in 1889. However, they were not all consecutive. Much of the material for this sketch comes from Pastor Mitchell’s records.
The present Springfield Baptist Church is the original house of worship. It was erected in 1845, and was dedicated on Christmas Day of that year, free of debt. Money for its erection was raised by subscription. The Dedicatory sermon was preached by Rev. Zelotes Grenell of Elmira, New York. He chose for his text, Luke 7:5, "He loveth our nation and hath builded us a synagogue." The building was improved during the latter years of Rev. Mitchell’s ministry. The parsonage must have been built during the 1890’3 and was destroyed by fire in the early 1930’s. It was rebuilt immediately. The church was incorporated in 1878, and the charter lists the following Trustees: John Cooley, George Cory, Ezekiel Burt, Frank Ripley and Joel Adams.
At the 100th anniversary of the erection of the church building, a memorial service was held, October 28, 1945. Gifts were presented to the oldest living member, Mrs. Sarah Passage, who was 89 years old at the time, and to Mrs. Fred Peet, who had been a member for the longest period of time – 71 years. At this service, the mission of the church to the community was brought vividly to those present.
Present Pastor – 1969 – Rev. Wallace McKnight.
Mill City Methodist Church (Big Pond)
In 1812, a Methodist Episcopal Circuit Rider began visiting Big Pond, or Mill City as it was called in those days, because of the many mills around the vicinity. In 1813, the first Methodist Class was organized with 12 members. Early meetings were held in homes; later, when the class outgrew the houses, it met in the schoolhouse, which was located near where the cemetery is now. In 1883, interest in the local church had grown so it was felt that a sanctuary was needed. On June 7, 1883, the cornerstone was laid. Rev. James Roberts was Pastor at this time. The church was built and dedicated free of debt. Many of the residents of southern Ridgebury attended at that time. The Mt. Pisgah Praying Band was of great help to the church during the years when it was active, especially Alvin and Derrick Smith.
From the records of the Smithfield M. E. church, we find that in 1863, the M. E. Circuit of Ulster included The Turnpike, Smithfield, Upper Ulster (Milan), Lower Ulster, Sutliff Hill and Mill City. From a report of a September, 1863, business meeting, we read as follows: "There shall be a preaching on the Turnpike every Sabbath and in Smithfield every other Sabbath, and in Mill City in the evening. That there be preaching at Lower Ulster the next Sabbath and at Milan in the evening". The minister at this time was Rev. J. A. Swallow. The salary received for the year was $570.00, divided as follows:
Turnpike (near Wolfe’s farm) ------- $225.00
Smithfield ------------------------------ 150.00
Lower Ulster --------------------------- 75.00
Milan ------------------------------------ 50.00
Sutliff Hill ------------------------------ 25.00
Mill City -------------------------------- 45.00
In 1962, the churches of Bradford County which had been members of the Central New York Conference were transferred to the Central Pennsylvania Conference.
The church held its 80th anniversary on August 23 – 30, 1964.
Present Pastor – 1969 – Rev. Frank D. Monroe.
Berrytown Wesleyan Church
A very complete account of the Berrytown Church (Springfield First Church) is given in Chapter VIII under the North West Bradford Circuit.
The Universalist Church of Springfield
In Springfield Township, near the school on the Smithfield-Troy road, stands the Universalist church which the old church records say was built in 1832. The record
says there was no formal organization until 1882 when Dr. William Taylor organized a church there in January of that year with 24 members. In Bradby’s County History, there is a record of a Universalist Circuit with Rev. Estabrook preaching in Sylvania, Troy and Springfield Center during the 1870’s. In January, 1886, a three day meeting was held with Rev. Emma E. Bailey assisting; at this meeting 6 more were added. In May, 1886, a parish was formed consisting of 40 members to act in fellowship with the church which was reorganized two weeks later upon the Constitution proposed by the State Convention. Rev. F. O. Eagleston was Pastor, W. C. Cornell was Moderator, H. W. Cornell, Clerk and R. R. Guild, Sunday School Superintendent. There is a very complete list of members in the old record book which is too long to reproduce here.
In 1902, there is a subscription list of money promised to Rev. Amanda Deyo. Mrs. Lou Brace tells me that Rev. J. A. Herrick came from Towanda to preach for some years; her husband’s grandfather, Stephen Brace, and his great-grandfather, William Brace were also members. Louise McCarty in her article in the "Settler" tells us that the early Universalists challenged the doctrines of predestination, infant damnation and judgment to come.
The church is still in a remarkable state of preservation. The front door is evidently the original one; six stained glass windows are still there. The old pulpit is still inside. The Springfield Township Supervisors use the building for a polling place and the yard is used for a parking place for gravel and machinery. They also hold their regular meetings there. From the "Help" column in the Elmira Star-Gazette, we read that Rev. Emma Bailey lived in Mansfield, Pennsylvania, for 47 years and was buried in Lima, New York. Then this note follows: "She was an ardent worker for temperance and a hearty worker for woman’s suffrage". She lived to see Prohibition enacted and to cast her first vote.
Grant Roblyer held a Universalist Sunday School in Checkerville for a couple of summers in the 1920’s when he taught in the Checkerville schoolhouse.
Other Items of Interest
"And so were the churches established in the faith." – Acts 16:5
The Mount Pisgah Praying Band
The Mt. Pisgah Praying Band was organized August 31, 1874. It consisted of eight men: D. A. Lamont, Pisgah; Edward Partridge, East Smithfield; John Miller, East Smithfield; Alvin Smith, Big Pond; Derrick G. Smith, Big Pond; Lert J. Ballard, Pisgah; Guy S. Ballard, Pisgah; and Gideon Baxter, Pisgah. The group was made up of young farmers who "resolved to use their talents and time every winter, when not engaged on their farms, to win souls for Christ’s kingdom". They took lessons in music from a local musician – Lottie Elsbree. Their services consisted of prayer, singing and testimony in various homes where they were invited; as well as assisting in Revival Meetings in churches of various denominations, tho’ they were all Methodists.
They held meetings over a wide area, going as far as Binghamton and Scranton. They continued as an active group for 12 years, tho’ not all of the original eight remained with them. Several continued on until 1888. They had a total of over 5,000 converts during their existence. Guy S. Ballard, who lived to the age of 92, was the last survivor of the band.
White Deer Baptist Camp
White Deer Baptist Camp is located at Allenwood, Pennsylvania about 12 miles south of Williamsport. There are about 360 acres of natural terrain laid out with trails for hiking, nature study, etc. "Discovered Trails" provide instruction in Bible and nature. There is also swimming and recreation, with craft for rainy days. Evening Devotions center around a Vesper Service each evening. There is room for about 200 Junior and Senior High School people. There is also a woman’s camp in late July, where women can enjoy relaxation from the cares of daily home life, have Christian fellowship with others and spiritual refreshing. There is usually a missionary speaker or Christian Worker present to give added inspiration. Church families meet for Family Camp in the Fall. White Deer has been in operation for about 10 years.
Chambers Wesleyan Camp
Chambers Wesleyan Camp is located between Corning and Watkins Glen, at Chambers, New York. This camp started with a tent meeting in 1920. The Annual District Meetings of the Wesleyan Church and of the Women’s Missionary Society are held there each year in June, in addition to the Youth Camps. A kitchen-dining hall and upstairs dorm were built in 1926. Since then, 2 dorms, a Workers cottage, a refreshment stand, a Youth Tabernacle, Girls Court (cottages), and a boys barracks
have been added. Many Families have privately owned cottages there. There are, also, a number of cottages owned by churches. A beautiful new Tabernacle was built for general use in 1969. Youth Camp for Junior and Senior Hi originated in 1939. It has been a growing thing. Presently, about 200 young people gather each summer for Bible Study, recreation and evening services by some outstanding Youth Speaker. There is a children’s camp later in the summer with crafts, recreation, Bible Study and Children’s Meetings, with group leaders for children age 8 thru 12. There are facilities for about 180 children. These camps run for two weeks with a different group of children and workers each week. These camps add much to spiritual life of our young people. For several years there has been a Labor Day Retreat over Labor Day weekend for young people 13 through 30.
Billy Graham Crusade
The Billy Graham Crusade was held in August, 1968, in a large tent on Elmira Street in Athens, with Dr. Ralph Bell as the evangelist. Many people from churches of the area attended and received spiritual help – men, women, boys and girls from miles around made new commitments or dedicated their lives to Christ.
Daily Vacation Bible School (D. V. B. S.)
Ridgebury holds a Vacation Bible School each summer, which has grown from an enrollment of 31 in 1949 to 238 in 1969, including children and helpers. Miss Nellie Beidleman of Child Character Training Association of Elmira has been the Director for several years.
Released Time Classes
Ridgebury has had Released Time Religious Education Classes (locally spoken of as Bible Clubs) for at least 18 years. There were neighborhood clubs before that. Both Protestants and Catholics take advantage of this opportunity. Protestant classes are held under the direction of the Bradford County Child Evangelism Fellowship. We hope these classes make a spiritual impact on the lives of our boys and girls. About 20 women, the clergy and the school bus drivers co-operate to make this project possible.
We have some ravelings which do not seem to fit in anywhere else, yet are interesting so ---------- here they are;
The Old Burlington Meeting House
Not far from Ridgebury, on a hill near Burlington, in Bradford County, stands the first Methodist church (the records say) that was ever built in Pennsylvania. It was built in 1822 as the result of the preaching of a Circuit Rider; we wonder if it could be the same one that started the work at Big Pond. There have been no regular services in the church for about 50 years; however, the residents of Burlington and vicinity
hold an annual meeting in the plain-looking structure. Inside there is an extraordinary balcony that encircles the entire church and a high octagonal pulpit partly enclosed with a railing. It is a memorial to the dedicated Christians of that community who built it and maintained public worship there for nearly 100 years.
The Bear That Went To Church
One summer in the early 1900’s, a bear was seen by several people on Cummings Hill, about ½ mile south of Bentley Creek. One morning a couple of young hunters decided to track down the Bruin and end the reign of terror on that hill. Children didn’t dare go after cows, mothers didn’t dare go black-berrying and even the men hesitated to go into the back fields to gather crops (tho’ most of them laughed and thought "folks were seeing things"). The hunters shot the bear and came back to Bentley Creek for a conveyance to get him home. They got a team of horses and a lumber wagon from a neighbor, and all the small boys of the village, and then went back up the hill. They brought the bear home, hung him in a storehouse, dressed him out and left the carcass hanging there. In the middle of the night, someone woke up and saw flames shooting from the end of the building. Help was quickly summoned and they saved the storehouse but the bear burned. Thus the building which had been the First Baptist Church on the Green Mountain Road was saved to become the nucleus of Clinton Jelliff’s house which he built in the early 1920’s and is now the residence of Elmer Hildebrant.
A group of Spiritualists must have organized in Ridgebury sometime during the 1870’s. We get this by comparing the ages of some of the group with some that we know about. They held séances in the old Centerville Schoolhouse on the Babcock road that went up the hill back of the present Burczynski residence. They also held meetings in the homes of some of the believers. Some of the people who were interested in the occult were – Lewis Palmer and his wife, Rebecca, Almira Voorhis, Emily Hall and her sister, Esther, also a brother, whose name no one seams to remember. The Society must have flourished for about 20 years because we find a note about them in minutes of the North West Bradford Circuit in 1890. Lewis Palmer died in 1890 and he seams to have been one of the leaders so probably the group disintegrated after that.
So we bring to a close this tale of "The Churches in Our Midst" and may we dedicate ourselves anew to the Christ that these early Christians served so faithfully and may our present churches stand for many years to guide men and women, young people and boys and Girls to god.
Let us close this story with these words from the 78th Psalm "Give ear, O my people, to my law --- that the generation to come might know, even the children which should be born, who shall arise and declare them to their children, that they might set their hope in God."