|A 1942 Address on History of the Rutland Hill Church
Rutland Methodist Episcopal Church
The Records transcribed here are for the
Rutland Hill Methodist Church
Roseville Methodist Church
Lawrence Corners Methodist Church
Austinville Methodist Church
because they shared one pastor during much of their history
Typed for Tri-Counties by Liz Robinson
RUTLAND TOWNSHIP, TIOGA COUNTY, PA.
ROSS G. WATKINS
AN ADDRESS GIVEN BY, R. ROSS G. WATKINS AT THE OLD RUTLAND HILL CHURCH ON AUGUST 16, 1942
The Rutland Hill Church is located about 6 miles from Austinville (as the crow flies). This short journey from Columbia Township, Bradford County to our neighbor, Tioga County, is a pleasant one.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen:
For several years Mr. Benson and others have been accosting me with "We want you to write a history of Rutland Hill." Just like that! In vain have I protested that as I removed from the hill when I was only seven and have only returned at long intervals and that in a course of a few years most of the houses were destroyed, the folks either moved or dead, so that I could do nothing about it. Still nothing would do but that
I must try. When I started I found it almost a hopeless task as all who really knew anything about it are gone and very few records are left. One hundred years are a long time in anybody's life.
I find myself in something like the situation of the great electrical wizard, Thomas A. Edison, who after nearly four score years of intense study and experiment, during which time he perfected hundreds of inventions for the better production and transmission of heat and light, made the statement that no one, himself included, knows one-half of one percent of anything. Also, it seems, that Mr. Edison was dragged , under protest, from his laboratory to a social function where a very animated and gushing young lady spotted him and swooped down on him and seated herself and expectantly exclaimed "Oh, Mr. Edison, I am so thrilled. We have fifteen minutes before dinner and I want you to tell me all about electricity."
Just the reading of a complete history of this section would extend this meeting to a three day session and would require a year to prepare, so I will make a few rambling remarks concerning the little I know about it. This should take but a little of your time. At previous meetings, many of the older people have mentioned the advent of Jesse Smith, Wilson and other pioneer families who, to avoid the swampy and malarial conditions of the Chemung valley came to this high land and wilderness. Others came and in about the 1830's, quite a settlement clustered around Burton Hill.
One item which has seemingly escaped attention was the coming of two Mormon Elders and their flock to the scene. They strewed the countryside with their propaganda and soon the excitement was intense. Then more of them came until quite a colony was formed. After a bit, some opposition arose and they, with some of the settlers who embraced their faith, moved to near Liberty, Pa, where they founded the village of Nauvoo. (Meaning the beautiful.) There, more persecution arising, they moved to Illinois and founded a city also called Nauvoo in the year 1839. During a riot in 1844, Joseph Smith, the leader and his brother were killed and the building of their temple was stopped. Then Brigham Young led them on to Utah.
During their stay here it seems they occupied this farm as I remember it, they left four of their number, two adults and two children to mingle with the dust on that knoll up there. As long as George Tanner owned this farm, he kept some field stones in place to mark their final resting place and in playing around the old orchard as children, my cousin and I came upon them and were told by the old folks why they were there. What their names were or where they came from is all conjecture now but perhaps some older and abler historian might be able to find out and if so, I would like to hear from them.
It is possible Amos Mansfield did not preach the first sermon here after all, as the Mormons certainly held meetings and some of the settlers, including some women, went with them out West. Some of them came back, sadder but wiser, years later. We may never know the whole story.
THE HISTORY OF THE OLD RUTLAND HILL CHURCH
History is simply the record of deeds of men. Wars fought and nations established are only the result of the response of men to duty's call. So to give an interesting account of any historical event, we must get the vision of the people who brought it about and their planning and energy, made the event possible. Thus the history of the Old Rutland Hill M.E. Church is inseparably linked with that of its founder, the Rev. Amos Mansfield.
It was on March 2nd in the year 1800 in one of the primitive cabins in the little village of Dummerston, Windom County, Vermont that the life and career of this most remarkable man began. Born in obscurity in the beautiful Green Mountains, we know little of his childhood. The American Revolution had but recently concluded. Vermont had just taken the commencement of the wonderful growth and achievements of the past 142 years. The war, as all wars do, had greatly aroused the emotions of the people and one result was an extensive religious awakening led by such fervent and perhaps eccentric preachers as Lorenzo Dow, Zenas Jones, Whitfield and the Wesleys and it is not strange that this impressionable lad, reared among these puritanical rural people should at the early age of twelve be converted and at the age of nineteen begin his preaching career, which eventually led him over parts of three states and culminated in the building of the church that bears his name as well as the founding of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Towanda and his being largely instrumental in building the M.E. Church at Troy. In 1823 he went 'West' to Syracuse, New York and two years later to Chenango County, New York.
In 1825 he married Miss Eliza Thompson of Dewitt, Onondaga County. She was a most devoted Christian woman, respected and loved by all who knew her who died suddenly in 1964. Later he married Hettie Dewitt who died in 1909.
After ten years of "riding the circuit" which included a large portion of eastern New York, he moved with his family to Tioga County in Pennsylvania in 1835. He settled on a farm in Rutland Hill about two and a half miles south of Roseville. At that time Rutland
Township was mostly timberland - the home of the bear, wolf and panther. Roads were mere bridle paths through the forest. Some hardy pioneers had settled near Burton Hill,
Sopertown and Mainesburg and there Mr. Mansfield settled among them and built his home and barn. As near as can be ascertained today, he preached his first sermon in this barn and incidently the first sermon preached in Rutland Township by anyone.
This was about two years previous to the building of the church. (Probably 1839-1840). In 1842 his hopes and dreams were realized for the church for which he donated the land and helped furnish the lumber and gave so much of his time and money to erect was finished and dedicated and a charter obtained.
Then began the long years of service during which time he filled many charges including those in Canton, Towanda, Monroeton, Lower and Upper Ulster, Springfield, Troy, Smithfield and Covington, ending only a short time before his death on December 7, 1888.
His average salary for many years was only $150, as most of the time he lived and worked his farm on Rutland Hill and with the aid of his small salary provided support for himself and his family. He was not an educated man and had small use for written sermons. The embarrassment he suffered at a service nearly at the beginning of his pastorate when a high wind blew the notes he had so carefully prepared out the window and disposed them hither and yon outside, decided him never again to be caught in that dilemma and he vowed that he would never use notes again as long as he lived. A vow which he always kept, making it hard to get any accurate data on his life and sermons. He was described by his contemporaries as more than an ordinary preacher possessing in a high degree the qualifications of a successful orator and having a powerful voice. Until a short time before his death he could deliver an excellent sermon. His last years were passed away in the house now owned by Glen Gould in Roseville where after a short illness he peacefully passed on and his remains were interred in the cemetery on the hill within sight of the church he loved so well and where he had preached so many years.
Now to return to the old church whose founder we have traced and which when it was built, was the only church in what is now Tioga County, of any denomination except only the Presbyterian at Lawrenceville. The people of those olden times took their job of 'replenishing the earth' much more seriously than those of today and what they had was produced from the ground by main strength. There was a serious shortage of frills and furbelows. When a man had fed and clothed the large families that then prevailed and stocked their farms to the best of their ability, where money was non-existent, wages negligible and most of the commerce by barter, they were ready to call it a day or week as the case might be and not desire or expect too much in the way of entertainment and costly diversion.
Especially in their religious life, no flippancy was tolerated and any infringement of the ten commandments was called down on the heads of the perpetrators - all the scathing denunciation of the clergy which so many deserve and so few receive today. As time went on and the country became more developed and newcomers moved in, some of the less puritanical harking back to their homes in older communities perhaps, in the parlance of today, 'started something' when they suggested that a bell be bought and mounted at the church. A BELL'. Instantly sides were chosen, lines drawn and the controversy fairly rocked the countryside. The Pros declared that every other church outside the backwoods had a bell, there could be nothing wrong in having a bell and that they were going to have a bell!
The Cons replied that they had gotten along without a bell for the past twenty-five years, or so, that they had no place for a bell, that it was all a device of Satan and the Papacy anyway and most emphatically they didn't want a bell!
All the details of the battle or how long is lasted seems to be impossible to obtain at this late day and I am writing this from memory as it was told to me by my Grandfather, George Tanner. Anyway they were all good people and stood by what they thought was right. Eventually the Pros raised the money and bought the bell. As they had no belfry and the other party would'nt let them put it anywhere in the church, some timbers were arranged and it was mounted near the ground beside the church. As might be expected, mischievous boys and men would raise the countryside by ringing it at all hours so that in self defense if for no other cause, when the church was done over in 1866, a belfry was added and the bell took its place as the voice of invitation to all the country around.
The pulpit was originally between the doors at the front of the church and in back of the auditorium some raised pews accommodated the singers. All the pews faced the opposite way from now and a partition up through the middle was the line of demarcation between the men and the women's sides. I think in the early days they were more strict about this separation, perhaps holding it impossible for a man to worship two deities at once. I remember one old couple who did the best they could, each sitting on their respective sides with the partition between them. The congregation was supplied with hymn books containing only the words and the leader would obtain the proper key from a tuning fork and start them right; the leader having a hymnal containing both words and music. Mr. Samuel Wilson, Sr., was for many years the choir leader and as the people rose to sing they would do an "about face" so as to face the choir and its animated leader. Later after another controversy almost as violent as before, an organ was obtained and there was always plenty of good music.
For evening meetings the people convened at "early candlelight." The church was illuminated by tallow candles set in tin holders, one of which still exists. The janitor would have to make the rounds with tray and snuffers every few minutes to keep them trimmed and burning. Another duty of his was to toll the bell, one stroke for each year of a deceased person's life when he was notified of the death and also toll twice at the funeral. In the Fall , a wood-bee furnished wood for the two old box stoves for the Winter. The stoves are still doing duty.
Much more than in these hectic days, the social life revolved around the church. Quarterly Meetings were held regularly and were largely attended, lasting two or three days and attracting crowds from all the country around. Revivals also added to the interest and to the numbers of the members and there were singing schools and donation parties to hold the interest of the young people and keep them in line.
When Yankee ingenuity produced oil lamps the lighting was changed to the chandeliers and lamps of the present and some 40 years ago, the seating arrangements were changed to the way they are at the present. The high pulpit was transferred to the rear platform and other changes made in the windows, blinds, belfry, and etc. Other churches having been built around the countryside and the interest divided, the old church went into a long decline and was dropped from the Methodist Episcopal conference and was only used for occasional funerals. Although some spasmodic attempts were made to rehabilitate it, none succeeded until it was taken over by the association to preserve the old land-mark for posterity.
One of my earliest recollections was my first entrance inside these doors, at least when I was old enough to sense anything. Being suspicious of what might happen, Mother brought me in late. I think all would have been well but Reverand Rawson, who was officiating, found it necessary to emphasize his remarks with, to me, some terrible gestures and a roar which made the windows rattle. Instantly, I was seized with a violent and uncontrollable impulse to be elsewhere and made my desire known in no uncertain tones. Finally seeing that the minister stood no chance in the unequal vocal contest that followed, I was taken home and put to bed.
Another recollection was of the time when my Grandfather, George Tanner, who was then the janitor, took me along with him while he tolled the bell. The toll rope, then only came down to the second floor of the belfry, said floor consisting of some loose boards with several open spaces between them. Having no confidence in my ability to keep out of mischief anywhere out of his sight, he took me up there with him and sat me down, none too gently in a corner with orders to sit still and not move or speak to him until the momentous proceedings were over. On one side of me was a great crack in the floor where a board was out which seemed to me like a fathomless abyss. The two other sides were enclosed by the walls of the belfry so such instructions would seem to be somewhat superfluous. Orders were orders, so there I sat while a whole long lifetime was tolled away. BOOM-M I took a peek down through the crack to the depths below and recoiled in horror. BOOM-M I stared at Grandpa, who tally sheet in hand was tolling the years away. BOOM-M No help there. BOOM-M I wriggled and twisted and wondered if I dared to creep around the chasm. BOOM-M A baleful gleem in the eyes of the bellringer warned me that if I didn't sit still I wouldn't sit anywhere for a week. BOOM-M All the woe of all the ages seemed to emanate from that bell to deafen my childish ears. I don't know how old that person was, but it seemed to me that Methuselah had a close runner-up, and if ever in my afterlife I been inclined to reflect morbidly on the brevity of human life, I have only to close my eyes and relive the horrors of that hour to be completely cured.
I had never intended to tell this on him but in revenge, I think I will. George Tanner was a good man. not too religious but good. Kindly, with a humorous twinkle in his eye, yet he had a certain dignity that became him well where dignity was required as for instance, in his Justice of the Peace Court. With very few bad habits and no vices, he was my hero, my idea of what a man should be. However, being a man of like passions as the rest of us in times of stress, he naturally had to have some outlet for his feelings. Instead of counting to ten or bursting into a stream of profanity for which he had no use, he hit upon the happy expedient of singing the Doxology. After his removal down to Painter Run where he lived until his death in 1897, my cousin, Welland Tanner pastured his cattle across the creek. One morning, after there had been a hard shower in the night, we discovered that the cattle had broken down the fence and were destroying the crops. Armed with tools, nails and staples, George Tanner, Nelson Brace, Welland Tanner and myself went over the creek which was spanned in low water by a flimsy footbridge, to repair the damage. Upon our return, we found that the creek had risen about a foot, the footbridge was out and gone and the only way to get across dry shod was to make a detour of about a mile up to the big bridge. As Welland and I lived in the creek half the time anyhow, the situation presented no difficulties to us so we just splashed in and waded across. Dreading the long walk, the two men decided to follow suit, so with pants rolled up and boots in their hand, they breasted the roily tide. Now it turned out that in spite of all my hero worship, George Tanner was a rank tender-foot when it came to wading on those slippery stones in the creek. He tottere and dipped and grimaced as the sharp stones lacerated his poor feet. He came at last to his Waterloo in the shape of a large rounding stone set obliquely in about fourteen inches of water near the middle of the creek and it was one slippery as an eel. He tentatively placed one foot on it and as the going seemed to be good set the other foot on the highest part of the rock. Hearing a WHOOP
all eyes turned to the middle of the creek where Grandpa was spinning like a Dervish. In the excitement, he lost hold of one of his boots which at once started for Tioga and Points West. With another blood-curdling howl he seemed to shoot in the air and came down with a mighty splash in a sitting posture, in the middle of the creek, with the icy water almost covering him. Now for the sound effects. SPLASH. WOOSH- through chattering teeth. WOOSH "Praise God through whom all blessings flow- there goes that other boot - Praise him all creatures here below - Boo-oo-oo Praise Him above ye heavenly Host - Yow-oo-oo."
I never knew whether he finished the hymn or not for while Welland and I were chasing the boots which we overtook in some still water some twenty rods below, Mr. Brace had come to the rescue and had him out of the creek and was hurrying him toward the house.
As I said before, the Quarterly Meetings were lengthy affairs and were well attended. As the fastest vehicles were horse drawn and the people were going to stay two or three days, the board and room problem had to be solved. Most of the people had friends in the community with whom they could stay for the duration of the meeting. The preachers, singly and in droves, made a bee line for Sister Tanners as naturally as the needle points toward the pole. Well they might for a royal welcome awaited them and there was lots of room in the rambling old house up ther.
If ever there were two good women in this country, they were my mother and my grandmmother. My Grandmother, Jane Mansfield Tanner, was born to Amos and Eliza Mansfield in Guildford, Chenango County, N.Y. on December 22, 1825 while her father was 'riding the circuit' in New York State. Grandma never recovered from the awful blow she received when her two sons and son-in-law died almost simultaneously in the early 1880's. While she was always kind and gracious yet there always seemed a sort of undercurrent of sadness but regardless of everything she was always at her place in the pew, well up front, when the last bell rang. One of her sons, Hannibal, planted the fine avenue of maples up the road and down the old road which is a monument enough for anyone.
I could go on and on but I am using up your valuable time and more and more I realize that by no stretch of the imagination can this be called a history of this place. Such a history would include the lives and acts of the Wilsons, Smiths, Shermans, Frosts, Tears, VanNess's, Squires, Crippen, Burton and Tanner families and a host of others which it is far beyond my ability to do. Rather, let it be accepted as a halting and disconnected tribute to a remarkable man who had a message to deliver and who had the will to find a way or make one to deliver that message.
In closing, memory pictures, two scenes in the old Mansfield home in Roseville. In the first, a little boy had come with his mother down to Grandpa Mansfield's. He is a little fellow, five or six years old who doesn't notice much but is welcomed by an aged man, nearly bald but having a sort of halo of white hair and has some piercing blue eyes who sits in a home-made armchair, his hands clasped on top of a cane and who calls the boy"Bub". He is attended by a slender old lady who takes time off to slip the boy a cookie or to make some wise-crack. The boy's mother has perhaps gone over to Dr. Nye's place to plan some temperance work. Presently a rush of little feet attract his attention and he runs out to join the Nye and Argetsinger children as they race and tumble about the lawn and terraces.
The other scene is in the same place and with the same people but later in the fall of 1888.There has been a political campaign and the victorious part is celebrating its victory with a band and barbecue. As the band swings down the street toward the bridge, a man steps out and speaks to the leader who instantly causes the music to stop. The parade passes as silently as a funeral cortege. In the Mansfield home there is much agitation and the hurry of doctor and nurses. The aged man is nearing the end and the frightened boy is taken away. In the morning the boy is brought in to view the dead. The'Peace That Passeth Understanding' is stamped on the white rugged face on the pillow and the voice of "one crying in the wilderness" is stilled forever.