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History of the Presbyterian Church of
Rome, Pennsylvnia



Victor Charles Detty, Pastor

Author of
History of the Presbyterian Church of Wysox, Pennsylvania (1791-1938)
P.P. Bliss, A Centennial Sketch (1838-1938)
A History of the Churches of Orwell, Pennsylvania (1803-1951)

Published by the Author 1942, Wysox, PA
Printed by Barber-Doane-Mosher, Inc., Elmira NY

Table of Contents

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The Rome Presbyterian Church was organized almost a century ago, April 17, 1844, by people who were mostly of New England extraction. The names of the charter members, as well as their family histories, indicate this: Eastman, Gates, Passmore, Spalding, Young. Other names among subscribers to the church building fund also point to New England ancestry, such as Barnes, Chaffee, Elliott, Frost, Moody, Kneeland, Parks, Prince, Rockwell, Selly, Towner, Whitney, Woodburn. Among the early settlers of the township were descendants of famous New England families known in Colonial history. The Peter Allen family was related to the Ethan Allen of the "Green Mountain Boys" of Vermont. The Maynard family members trace their lineage to a daughter of Jonathan Edwards. The Wattles family goes back to a niece of Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island. Mingled with the New England names are those of the Hudson River Valley: Eiklor, Lent, Vought.

Their New England origin stood them in good stead. The town meeting had made them familiar with civil organization and procedure. They organized their township, and their church with the assurance of those who were to the manner born, adopting readily a constitution, and proceeding to incorporation with the same kind of insight as was shown in the drawing up and signing of the Mayflower Compact. Having become incorporated, they immediately proceeded to the purchase of a lot for the erection of a church.

These pioneer men laid foundations with the possibilities of expansion in their plans. Their society’s name, "The first Presbyterian Church and Congregation of Rome" indicated they thought there might come a time in the future of this settlement, when more than one church organization of their denomination might be needed. And while a second society was never needed, they were already in an atmosphere of denominational fragmentation, the Presbyterian Church in the United States having split into the Old School and New School Presbyterian Churches in 1837. They did build a second church edifice forty-two years later.

The families of these pioneer men were large and soon filled the valleys and hills of the township with the busy work of faming, lumbering and handcraft industries. There were saw mills and grist mills along the streams, run on water power. Blacksmiths, cabinet-makers and builders were in demand. Shoemakers, tailors, and school teachers found ready employment. In the homes the women worked at spinning, weaving, sewing, knitting for textiles of the household, besides all the other work of housekeeping for large families. Descendants of the first charter members having children have been numbered up to one hundred and twenty. By 1860 the township had a population of 1450, and in 1870, 1563 were enumerated, this latter being more than one hundred percent greater than the present population, which in 1940 was 758 (Tome township 540; Rome borough 218, according to the U.S. census report).

This church was organized less than tow months after the inauguration of James K. Polk of Tennessee as President of the United States. In the same year was the beginning f the modern cooperative movement at Rochdale, England, where 28 poverty-stricken weavers opened their own store. In this year Morse invented the telegraph which carried the message fraught with meaning for communication, "What hath God wrought!" Two years later Elias Howe invented the sewing machine, and the War with Mexico began. Four years after the organization of this Rome church gold was discovered in California. The nation was already beginning to feel the tension between North and South over the question of slavery, for in 1844 the Methodist Church divided on this issue, North and South. Academies were rapidly becoming a part of the picture of northern and eastern communities. They functioned as high schools, preparing pupils for college. The Rome Academy organized in 1848, and was one of the 6,085 in the United States in 1850.

The greatest contribution of the Presbyterian Church of Rome, Pennsylvania to the Kingdom of God appears to have been the influence for encouragement the church exerted through its members and services upon the character of P.O. Bliss, composer of "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning." The family of Elder Oscar F. Young, all members of the household being members of the church, was particularly effective in this. The day after Lucy Jane Young married Philip Paul Bliss they went before the session and were admitted into church membership. It is family tradition that she taught him to play the organ. He sang in the church choir, where he was noticed by the pastor, Rev. Darwin Cook.

This musical background was a part of the pattern of the Rome community, which was the home of the talented Towner family, members of which conducted singing schools in different neighborhoods of the township and beyond. Young Bliss entered with enthusiasm and enjoyment into these schools. He had a natural love for music and acquired avidly a working knowledge of it, till he was soon teaching classes himself. After moving to Chicago he came into contact with D. L. Moody at Chicago, and dedicated himself with his musical abilities to the service of Christ in gospel song work, through which he was able to create a lasting impression upon his own generation, and through his untimely death at the age of only thirty-eight, in the Ashtabula railroad disaster, to leave a lasting influence upon the Christian Church. His life proves that a consecrated person can accomplish marvelous work when dedicated to the service of Christ. It is inspiring to realize that a man of such humble origin and limited opportunities was able to accomplish so much in so limited a time. It is remarkable what he was able to do through sheer force of character, acquired through his faith and devotion to Christ. Members of the Rome Presbyterian Church should be humbly grateful that their fellowship was used of God to nurture this life of devotion.

While there have been a number of times of refreshing growth in membership, the church has always been comparatively small in enrollment. Beginning with ten charter members the membership grew to 18 the next year, then to 40 in 1857, which was the highest attained until 1886, the average for the first forty years being 28. There was a much larger growth from 1886 to 18888 when the membership reached 64, and the Sunday School enrollment 125, but the total fell back again in 1896 there were only 27 communicant members reported, with 40 in the Sunday School. This recession made an average for the 15 years from 1881 to 1896 of 38. The average reported membership for the period from 1896 to 1911 was the same as that of the first forty years, namely 28. This made the average annual membership from the beginning, in 1844, to 1911 to be 30.5. The period 1912 to 1929 shows an average membership of 44. The last decade 1930-1940) had an average of 68 communicants members. The average for the 96 years of the entire history of the church is 39. At present 72 communicants are listed in good standing on the church roll. Of this number 22 are non-resident. The highest number ever reported was 75 in 1933.

The average giving per member was $7.03 in 1881; in the period from 1896 to 1911 it was $8.00; from 1912 to 1929 it was $8.85; and from 1930 to 1940 the average per capital contributions totaled $8.75. The highest contributions reported for any one year were in 1886--$2,049; the next highest were in 1887--$1,044.60. These years covered the time of the building of the present brick church. The third highest amount of contributions in any one year was $707 for the year closing March 31, 1940, a per capita of $9.82. In Lackawanna Presbytery it was $20.17. The year beginning April 1, 1941 showed a large increase in gifts, occasioned by special contributions toward repairs and redecorations.

All this indicates that this has been a small rural church. To offset the disadvantages of being quite limited in resources of personnel and finances, the church through most of its existence has joined with other nearby Presbyterian churches in the engagement of the services of a minister, particularly with Orwell and Wysox, with which it now is grouped to make a parish of three rural churches having a combined membership of 244. this church has also for the last thirty years at least had financial aid from the home mission funds of presbytery, the total amount of aid at present for the minister’s salary being five hundred dollars per year.

The additions of members into this Rome church from 1844 to 1940, as shown by the records, total 342, of whom around 74 are noted as being taken in by letter. During this time there were reported 107 children’s baptisms. Members dismissed by certificate to other churches number 116. the number of persons leaving the Rome church for other churches by letter exceeds those received in this manner by 42. This has been general among rural churches, that they have sent more to other churches than they have received. The number of those going out to other churches includes P.O. Bliss and his wife, Lucy Young; Dr. Clarence J. Marshall, State Veterinarian, Reverent Stephen P. Gates, Professor Sumner A. Rifenburgh.

From 1887, when the women of the church organized a ladies’ aid society, until the present, much of the support of the church has come from the financial activities of the women. In addition to their own subscriptions toward the salary of the minister or the budget of the church many have served devotedly at society dinners, bazaars and entertainments. They have found a goodly fellowship in this service and have had their energies channeled into worth-while purposes. They have helped maintain a church which has kept going worship services, a Sunday School, and a series of social gatherings in which members of the community could have social contacts under spiritual auspices. The Ladies’ aid dinners have provided a social patter of goodly felling among neighbors and also have been a means of supporting the work of the church.

Extreme denominational consciousness has marked the time of the life of this church. Even the denomination of which it became a local church unit was already split into parts known as Old School and New School Presbyterian Churches. This Rome Church was organized as a part of the Old School division, and suffered some on the unfortunate consequences of that division. Along with this denominational schism was a sense of difference from the Baptist and Methodist Churches represent4ed by local societies in the community.

In a time of extreme individualism these denominations afforded chances for most of the individuals of the community to place their adherence with three various kinds of belief and church organization. For any remaining who were not attracted to any one of these three, there were others, which while not strong enough to organize units, did have adherents, including Universalists, Spiritualists and seventh day Adventists. Through no particular fault of its own, the Rome Presbyterian Church has been in a time and place of denominational fragmentation which has been sometime a drawback to the work of building the Kingdom of God in the community. While a tremendous amount of good has been done, much more could have been accomplished had there been more unity.

This has evidently been the opinion of a number of church members at different times in the history of the churches of this community. Several movements of inclusive rather than exclusive activity, have been carried through, notably union Sunday Schools, the Christian Endeavor Society and community Thanksgiving services. In 1867 a thriving union Sunday School enlisted goodly numbers. Another was organized near the close of the pastorate of the Reverend Red V. Frisbie, in 1921. The young people’s society of Christian Endeavor carried through an effective and united movement of the youth of all three churches for over a score of years. The way of cooperation has thus been demonstrated in these union projects and now has the added example of the consolidation of the district and borough public schools into a combined grade and high school. Spiritual service to the community could be more possible of its utmost fulfillment if the present churches, Methodist and Presbyterian, were to combine their services and resources in at least a federation that would respect denominational traditions and connections and at the same time open the way for the realization of more effective cooperation. A successful and outstanding example of this kind of church cooperation through federation flourished in the adjacent township of Orwell where the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches have a twelve-year-old church federation which occupies one church property, using the proceeds of the sale of the other for the upkeep of the one, which houses one church service and Sunday School and yet maintains denominational connections and obligations and preserves the advantages which exist in such denominational connections, not the least of which are the supply of an educated ministry and the promotion of missionary and benevolent work.


The following is inserted because of its recital of the origin of the Woodburn family. The justice of the peace who witnessed the deed for the church lot was a cousin of Rebecca Woodburn, his father John being a brother of Naphtali Woodburn.


(Written by Rebecca Woodburn, daughter of Naphtali and Rebecca Lewis Woodburn, and wife of Random Woodburn)

I have been thinking that perhaps it might be both interesting and encouraging to the rising generation of the Woodburn family to retain some correct information relative to our ancestors, and thereby embrace the faithfulness of a covenant keeping God in preserving to himself a people in this lineage for many generations, that succeeding descendants in this family may recognize the faithfulness of God in keeping covenant and mercy with their progenitors who have walked before him in truth. And we humbly trust that Almighty God will preserve in this family a seed to serve Him from one generation to another until Christ appears the second time without sin unto salvation.

I am indebted to my father’s brother, David Woodburn, now deceased, who was the last of his generation, for the following account. John Woodburn, my father’s grandfather, was born in Ireland—but in early life went to England, engaged in business for Mr. Car, a tradesman in Liverpool. While in the service of this nobleman, he married his only daughter—a beautifully black eyed girl. Her father gave them a fine fortune, together with a ship loaded with every necessary convenience for a voyage to America. Finally John Woodburn took with him twelve families comprising men of various order and occupation, including clergy and physician, and with his beautiful bride set sail for America. During their voyage their vessel sprang a leak and death seemed inevitable; every effort was made to save the ship and after resorting to every possible precaution without success, the betook themselves to prayer. All fell upon their knees and cried to god for deliverance. The leak was stayed and they had a prosperous voyage. After landing, and examination was made of the ship and they found to their astonishment that a large shark had thrust its head through the opening of the ship and thus became an instrument in the hand of God in the preservation of their lives. This loathsome fish was already in a state of decomposition and could not have stayed the leak, had their voyage been protracted another day.

They landed at Boston, bought a township of the Indians and settled it with the twelve families, making a number seventy souls whom they had brought from England. Having made a fine settlement they called it Woodburn town—but the Indian title proved a fraud and in the process of time another nation or tribe came and drove them off. Mr. Woodburn and his wife had been very kind to the Indians and had made themselves favorites among this tribe in particular, at least a part of this tribe were warmly attached to them. And these friendly Indians gave them timely warning to leave, telling them that the tribe had resolved to set fire to the town. Accordingly Mrs. Woodburn discreetly secured a large quantity of gold and silver, and with her two daughters—together with the entire settlement, left for Boston. But Mr. Woodburn, having so much confidence in the friendship of the Indians, ventured to stay and see how the matter would end. He would not believe that these hitherto friendly Indians would take his life, or even compel him to leave—but in this he was mistaken; they finally gave him ten days notice, telling him that if he valued his life to pack up and be gone. Said they should fire his house if he were not gone at the expiration of the days’ counting their fingers to let him know the number of days he could stay they left him to make his own decision.

One friendly Indian who loved him fondly came every day during the ten, counting each day a finger less, and as the angels took hold of Lot and hurried him out of Sodom, so did the poor Indian hurry the white man to leave the place and save his life. But regardless of these entreaties he tarried until the tenth day when the whole tribe came and fired upon his house. Securing the remainder of his money he threw a sack of wool upon his back and fled. The Indians closely pursued and constantly fired upon him until he had cleared the settlement. Having reached his family in Boston they took from his back the favorite sack and found deposited therein seven bullet balls. Thus the simple sack of wool was another instrument in saving his life and in preserving the Woodburn posterity in America.

He removed his family to New London County, Connecticut, where he settled for life. Mrs. Woodburn who have been brought up in affluence looked upon her misfortunes as grief and in bitterness of spirit said, "Alas, alas, what have I come to?" But Mr. Woodburn after his escape from the Indians was graciously led to review the past and in tracing the providences of God in the preservation of his life by sea and by land, and in view of temporal prosperity he became thoroughly convinced of the propriety of a special dedication of himself to the service of Almighty God. He was at length converted under Whitefield’s preaching and was soon afterward ordained a preacher of righteousness.

After settling in Connecticut they were blessed by two sons, George and Samuel. George Woodburn was my father’s father, born in Connecticut Sept. 15, 1722. He married Miss Richerdson of Preston, lived with her one year only, when she was removed by death. And in July, 1759 (?) he married a second wife, Mary Culver, a lady of Grotten, London County, Connecticut. He was heir to his father’s inheritance and these children were all born and reared under the same roof. My dear father was one of this number. The entire family was given to god by baptism, under the Presbyterian order. They were in time converted and most of them led holy lives and finished their course in peace.

David Woodburn, whom I have before referred to as the last of his generation, and to whom I am indebted for this memorial (and of whom I have so often heard it said was the favorite of the family) was the younger son, christened Benjamin Woodburn, but his parents renamed or rather added the name David, preferring to call him after the son of Jesse, the man after God’s own heart. His parents, together with brothers and sisters, were strictly pious and some of these have died in the triumphs of faith. While living, their united prayers ascended the holy hill in behalf of their younger and favorite brother—and having lived myself some years with that remaining member of a worthy family, I am prepared to say of my much beloved and respected father-in-law, that these prayers have been answered and I am prepared to say that he was more than common benevolent, kind, pleasant and obliging and with all, as I humbly believe, even at the eleventh hour embraced the religion of his fathers and with them was gathered in peace.

Some years previous to my grandfather’s death he removed with his family to Petersburg, Renssalaer County, New York, where he remained until the year 1802, when he was removed by death in the 80th year of his age.

After his death my grandmother removed with my father to Wysox, Bradford County, Pennsylvania, where she spent the remainder of her days. She died in 1823, in the 88th year of her age. My father and mother were both born in one town but knew nothing of each other until they met in Petersburg where they were married and lived a number of years. They finally removed to cherry Valley, Otsego County, New York, where my father kept public house a few years, but his religious principles forbade him to remain long in this business. He remembered that when Christ was upon earth there was no room for Him at the inn and a few years of experience convinced him that this was still the case. He therefore abandoned the employment and was successfully engaged in the mercantile business many years, but finally went to Wysox, Bradford County, where he lived and died beloved and lamented by all who knew him.

Ten year later my dear and lovely mother was gathered with others of the sacred dead to sleep the sleep that knows no awakening until the last trumpet shall sound. And oh, how sacred the memory of that mother—how I love to dwell upon her virtues. I love in imaginary fondness to gaze upon her pleasant and benign countenance and to recognize looks of love from eyes that have long since closed forever. I think it due the memory of my sainted mother to say that her life was one of usefulness, though mostly confined within the range of her own family. A diversity of fortune followed her an a multiplicity of cares gathered around her in raising her family, yet her examples were in many respects worthy of imitation, even in disposition, always ready to throw a mantle of love over imperfections of others and prudent to conceal anything that might give offense. In short, it might be well said that her example was one of gentleness and patience, and it may be added with equal propriety that to her godliness with contentment was great gain.

My father was uniformly devout, faithful and zealously preserving in the service of God, and in all his interests with the world. I believe he acted in reference to the glory and honor of Him who had called him to glory and virtue. My father died January 15, 1839, aged 70 years. Mother died December 28, 1849, aged 74 years. [Burial on farm of E. R. Bull, R. I., Wysox.]

The generation of the upright shall be blessed. The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him and His righteousness unto children’s children to such as keep His covenant to those that remember His commandments to do them—Psalms 112:2.

Through His all abounding grace I find myself this day in possession of that goodly land, which is the glory of all lands, the land which floweth with milk and honey. And O who that loves can love enough! I am most happy to say in conclusion that the consolations of the spirit abound, that mercy and peace are multiplied, that Jesus is a perfect Savior and a satisfying portion. The fear of the Lord tendeth to life, and who so trusteth in god shall abide in peace—they shall dwell safely and shall be quiet from fear of evil. Amen.

(The writer, Mrs. Rebecca Woodburn, born July 14, 1820, married Random Woodburn of Cherry Valley, N.Y., son of David Woodburn. She died at Cherry Valley in 1898).


Bassett, John Spencer, A Short History of the United States. (Macmillan Co., New York, 1915)

Beers, Ellis & Soule, Atlas of Bradford County, Penn. (New York, 1869)

Bradsby, H. C., History of Bradford County, Pa. 1770-1891 (S. B. Nelson & Co., Chicago, 1891)

Craft, Rev. David, History of Bradford County, Pa., 1770-1878.

History of 141st Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, 1862-1865.

Detty, Victor Charles, History of the Presbyterian Church of Wysox, Pennsylvania, (Wysox, Pa., 1939) P.P. Bliss, A Centennial Sketch, 1838-1938. (Wysox, Pa. 1938)

Diaries of Oscar F. Young, Rome, Pa.

Directory of Bradford County, Pa., 1907. Ditto, 1900. (Elmira, N.Y.)

Eastman, George U., Genealogy of George Willis Eastman, 1936.

Frost, Norman Seaver, Frost Genealogy in five Families, (Frost Family Association of America, West Newton, Mass., 1926.)

Heverly, Clement F., Pioneer and Patriot Families of Bradford County.

History and Geography of Bradford County, 1615-1926. (Bradford County Historical Society, Towanda, Pa., 1927)

Hoagland E.C., Coolbaugh Family in America, 1686-1936. (Wysox, Pa., 1938)

Journal of Union Sunday School, Rome, Pa., 1867.

Membership Record Book of Rome Society of Christian Endeavor, 1891.

Minutes of the Presbyterian Ladies’ Aid Society of Rome, Pa., 1887-1934.

Minutes of the Trustees and Congregation, Rome Presbyterian Church, 1925.

Rigdway, Henry B., The Life Of Edmund S. Janes, D.D., LL.D., (Phillips & Hunt, New York, 1882).

Rome School District Minute Book, 1851-1865.

Rome Township Assessment Books, 1948, 1851, 1862.

Russell, Lewis Clark, Genealogy of the Russell Family, (Author, Warren, Illinois, 1917.)

Scrap book of Mrs. Lizzie Watson.

Scrap book of Mrs. Jesse Coolbaugh.

Session Book of Rome Presbyterian Church, Vol. I, April 17, 1844-April 17, 1896. Volume II, April 18, 1909.

Towner, James W., A Genealogy of the Towner Family. The Descendants of Richard Towner, who came from Sussex County, England, to Guildford, Conn. Before 1685. (Times-Mirror Printing and Binding House, Los Angeles, California. Copy owned by Mrs. Jessie Buttles, Rome, Pa.)

Whittle, D. W., Memoirs of P.P. Bliss. (A. S. Barnes & Co., New York, 1877.)

Who’s Who in America, 1939.

Woodburn, Mildred, A Woodburn Family History, (Washington, Iowa, 1937; present address, 2100 Johnson Ave., Cedar Rapids, Iowa.)

TO:      Ms Joyce Tice
FROM:  William Woodburn
This is in regards to CHAPTER XIII...APPENDIX...A SHORT SKETCH OF MY ANCESTORS (The writer, Mrs. Rebecca Woodburn, born July 14, 1820, married Random Woodburn of Cherry Valley, N.Y., son of David Woodburn.  She died at Cherry Valley in 1898).
Date of death for Rebecca Woodburn should read March 21, 1905.
Working through census records I tracked Rebecca to the 1900 US Federal Census for Cherry Valley, N.Y.  At that time she was in the household of Jacob and Grace Pickett living as a widow and mother-in-law.
Since Rebecca is the author of "A short Sketch of My Ancestors" and details much of the early Woodburn genealogy I filed for a death certificate from the New York State Department of Health.  The certificate reads:
                                           Rebecca Fydelia Woodburn
(date of death)                               March 21, 1905
(age)                                     84 years 8 months 7 days
(place of death)                     Village of Cherry Valley, NY
(cause of death)                               Cancer of Face
As information the above has been passed along to the Bradford County Historical Society as they have a copy of Mildred Woodburn Cherryholmes documents where the original date of death for Rebecca originated.
William D Woodburn
125 Alpine Dr
Estes Park, Co 80517
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA

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