State Road Baptist Church
of Sullivan Township
1856 - 1956
Typed for Tri-Counties by Liz Robinson
The Sullivan State Road Baptist Church was the fifth church to be organized in Sullivan Township. Its predecessors were: The Old School Baptist;Church of Sullivan, Mainesburg, 1816; The Free Will Baptist Church of Sullivan, at the Rumsey Hill School, 1830; The East Sullivan Baptist Church, Gray's Valley, 1836; and the Methodist Episcopal Church of Mainesburg, 1841.
Perhaps the man that we are most indebted to for organizing Baptist Churches in this area is Elder Thomas S. Sheardown.(See Sheardown Biography) Elder Sheardown came from Chemung County, N.Y. into Tioga County and surrounding areas in 1829 and until 1836 worked as itinerant preacher, organizing churches in the wilderness and settlements. Middlebury was his first church and that was his focal point for his work throughout the area. He was asked by representatives from Sullivan Twp. to help them organize a church in that place. It was midwinter when he arrived at the home of one Bro. Reynolds on State Road. There were a number of candidates for baptism and the ice had to be cut in the creek for the service. These candidates joined the nucleus of believers at Gray's Valley and later organized the East Sullivan Baptist Church.
On May 3, 1856 a preliminary meeting for organizing a church on State Road was held at the Ramsdell school, Elder Comfort Beebe acted as moderator. This school was located as nearly as we can ascertain near where the State Road School stood until it was taken up in 1948.
In June, 1956, the conference met and the motion was made to invite a council for the purpose of organizing a regular Baptist Church of Jesus Christ at State Road if thought proper. July, 5th, 1856, the conference adopted the Articles of Faith and the Covenant of the Baptist Church. Nine of the charter members came from the East Sullivan Baptist Church which closed in 1880. State Road has been considered an offshoot of the East Sullivan church. The edifice of this church still stands on the property owned by Mrs. Alice Gray Strange in Gray's Valley.
July 8, 1856, as recorded in the old minutes books: "Pursuant to the request of the Brethren and Sisters composing the Sullivan State Road Baptist Conference a council convened with them in L.L. Smith's barn at 10 1/2 o'clock for the purpose if judged expedient of recognizing them as an independent church of Jesus Christ. ( this barn was situated on the farm immediately east of the present church, later known as the Warren Rose farm) ' The meeting was called to order and organized provisionally by the appointment of Elder Abijah Sherwood of Mansfield as moderator, and Elder J.L. Smith of Tioga as clerk. The conference presented their action in calling the council, specifying the churches to which they had been sent.' Of the churches being called the following responded: Covington, Mansfield, Cherry Flats, Charleston, East Sullivan, Tioga, Troy and Cloumbia and Wells.
After a thorough investigation of the State Road Conference the council proceeded to recognize the Brethren and Sisters as a distinct and independent Church of Christ under the name of the Baptist Church of Sullivan State Road. The hand of fellowship was extended by Elder L. Stone of Cherry Flats and Charleston. The same year the hand of fellowhip was given to State Road, Harrison Valley and Ulysses churches by the Tioga Baptist Association of which the church remains a member.
There were forty-eight members of the church when it joined the Tioga Association and Elder C. Beebe, who also served the East Sullivan Church, was its first pastor. Bro's. Cornish Mudge and Ripley H. Doud were the first deacons. The first trustees were Bro's. R.H. Doud, Elliot S. Rose, and Munson Doud. Services were held only every fourth Saturday of each month and communion once in three months. By 1858, however, services were held each Sabbath and a Bible class and Sabbath School had been organized.
In 1857 a lot was deeded to the church by Leonard and Mehitable Miller for the purpose of erecting a house of worship and the building was erected the same year. The original building constituted what is now the auditorium of the church. There was no steeple, vestry, or annex. The pulpit stood where the double doors are now; the choir was situated on a circular platform where the pulpit is now. On each side of the church were short straight pews, while longer divided pews filled the middle section. On the east side of the front, near the pulpit, was the men's entrance and on the west side another door for the women. ( These doors were approached via squared log steps.) It was strictly taboo for the men and women to sit together. The church was heated by two chunk burning stoves, one on either side of the church. When the first organ was installed we do not know, but it was considered wicked in the early years to have an organ in the church.
Elder Myron Rockwell first came as a full time pastor in 1858 and under his charge the church prospered. Prayer meetings were held and support given soldiers in service in the Civil War, and anti-slavery resolutions supported. During the later sixties the church was without a pastor part of the time and slumped accordingly. In 1867 it was voted that each male member pay one dollar a year for incidental expenses and every female fifty cents.
1870 saw a great revival. Elder Rockwell returned and conducted special services. That year fifty-three members were added to the church membership. But by 1874 in a letter to the Tioga Association the church reported, 'Our prayer is, Lord revive us.' During this decade the churches of the Association became Missionary minded and benevolence secretaries were appointed from each church. Cornish Mudge was the first to be appointed at State Road. The next year Alice Rose was appointed and held the office for several years. It was also in 1870 that Bro. R.H. Doud presented to the church a silver plated communion service. As quoted from the old minutes: 'Brother Doud hopes and prays that the Lord will so bless the church that it may used for many years after he has departed this life.' Part of it still is. The goblets went out of use at the knowledge of contagians but the plates are still in use along with the original basket for keeping and transporting the service.
By 1876 the East Sullivan church closed for lack of pastor and members, many of which had been absorbed into the State Road and Mansfield churches. It didn't officially close until 1880.
From the time the church was organized it was often necessary to share pastors with other churches. Elder Rockwell spent his later ministries here by commuting from Jackson Twp. , East Sullivan, Covington, and Mansfield, as now, shared their pastors with State Road. There were times when State Road supported its own pastor independently, and several years had no pastor at all. Perhaps in the latter situation, especially in later years, it was lucky for the church it had an active Sunday School, Young People's Organizations, Ladies' Aid, etc., or the Consequences might have been tragic in the interests of the church. Before these organizations became active, there seems to have been more spirit in the congregation itself to help override the more difficult circumstances. Prayer meetings, covenant meetings and revivals, as well as regular church services held the church together.
The young people began to take interest in organizing their own societies around 1880. The following decade seems to have been a period of organizing albeit trial and error. But from then on organizations have been adopted as have been necessary to meet the needs of the church. At this time too, interest in prayer meetings and covenant meetings began to fail and early in the twentieth died out altogether.
But interest in church activities was far from dead. It must have been some time in the eighties when the steeple and vestry were added to the church edifice, and the pulpit erected where it is now. The congregation met in Doud school while this was being done. In 1885 the Ladies of the church formed the State Road Literary and Aid Society. Their first object being to secure funds for a Sabbath School Library.
The first officers were as follows: Etta Rose, Pres.; Alice Rose, Vice Pres.; Millie Reynolds, Secretary; Sarah Fletcher, Treasurer. This organization obviously became so popular that a year later it reorganized and became as the State Road Literary Society to include men also. Not only church members belonged but young and old from the whole neighborhood. The Tioga Association adopted the work of the Women's Foreign Mission Society in 1888 and in 1890 State Road Women Organized what was known as the Union Missionary Society supporting both home and foreign missions. The first officers were: Emma Webster, President; Emma Miller, Secretary; and Janie Rose, Treas. The church also had two Sunday schools at this time. For several years there were so many children without means of transportation to State Road, Sunday schools were set up in school houses to accommodate them. The Baity school was used on and off for nearly thirty years.
Church membership began to climb to its highest point in history from 1890 until 1905 when it totaled 181 members. A young Peoples Society of Christian Endeavor was organized early in that period followed a few years later by a Junior Christian Endeavor Society. Elder J.A. James was pastor for much of this period and for a short time church met in the Disciple church at Mainesburg. By 1895 the State Road church was repaired and the congregation returned to its own church. The monthly contribution system was adopted. Evangelist A.F. Hauser conducted several revival meetings the same year and twenty-five new members were added to the church. Three Sunday schools were going strong as were two mission circles and the Ladies Aid. Lack of records keep us from saying anything more about the latter organizations.
But there's a high and there's a low and the turn of the century saw a bad one. Church records are skimpy and the only records available were minutes from the Association which reported blue news from State Road. The Christian Endeavor reorganized and the Ladies Aid continued to be active.
Much was done to improve the spiritual condition of the church when Rev. F.H. Baker became pastor in 1905 and conducted revival meetings. He was followed the next year by Rev. R.E. Vallines who kept interest going. During his pastorate the cellar was dug and a furnace was installed as were the present pews.
Perhaps one of the warmest memories of the church came during the pastorate of Rev. Nathaniel Johnstone whom we shared with Covington, for the next few years was a period of much congenial activity.
The Tioga Association dropped the Y.P.S.C.E. (Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor) and adopted in its place the B.Y.P.U. (Baptist Young People's Union). The idea was of course adopted by the local churches. Also at the Association a Miss Corwin, returned missionary, stirred up new interest in the local societies. In October of 1912 she met with some of the State Road women at the home of Blanche Wilcox and the Corwin Mission Circle was organized. Nate Welch Gray was the first president. The Society is still active today.
A bolt from the blue demolished the old horse sheds in 1913 but the church set itself to immediately raise $500 to replace them. At the same time interest in an annex to the church wasa brought about, but the idea had to wait until 1920 when the trustees bid off the Gafford school house. Then an Annex was erected in 1921; it is now the dining room.
By 1916 and 17 there were four chartered Sunday School Classes and a Star Chapter of the World Wide Guild. The classes were: The Loyalty Class (adult ladies) Brotherly Love (adult men), The Golden Rule (young women's class), Bound to Win (young men's clss). The young women's class also composed the W.W.G. World War 1 brought the influenza and the church had to close for a while in 1918 because of it. In 1919 Covington and State Road called a council of the Tioga Association to ordain Rev. Ferguson.
1920 was a black year for State Road. A split in the church nearly closed its doors, but prayers and hard work on the part of the remaining members kept them open. Rev. N. J. Mecklem of Mansfield was secured as pastor for one year. The same year the Sunday School and Young People's Convention was held at State Road for the first time, although the Association had met here on several occasions. Sunday Schools were well attended but there was seldom enough money to buy supplies. Other organizations had to help out.
On March 6, 1921, Rev. D. J. Griffiths delivered his first sermon at the church. He has remained with us ever since, a loyal pastor and friend to all for thirty-five years. Of course he has had leaves of absence on occasion due to illness, the first of which was in September of the same year when he was quarrantined for diptheria.
There was much hustle and bustle in preparing for the Tioga Association which met at State Road in 1922. Cupboards had to be built in the Annex, and chairs borrowed from the funeral home. Mrs. John Tanner, Mrs. Willard Dewey, Mrs John Strange, and Mrs. Joseph Strange were on the soliciting committee. Mr. Reynolds solicited gasoline lanterns; Mr. Dewey was appointed to get screen doors; J.N. Strange was to order paint for the outside of the dining room.
The first mention of Christmas exercises and Thanksgiving dinners were made about this time. Children's Day exercises, which had been held for years preious, were held evenings, Senior and Junior W.W.G. Chapters and Children's World Crusade (C.W.C.) were all organized by 1922.
In October 1923 nearly everyone went to Elmira to hear Billy Sunday.
From 1923 to 1930; a new floor was laid in the church. The woodwork in church, dining room and kitchen was refinished by the young people. ( It looks much the same in the church now, taking into consideration the passage of time.) The young people also put on a dinner to purchase a stove for the dining room, and later added other equipment. New song books and gasoline lamps were also purchased to replace the old oil lamps.
During the twenties a class known as the Christian Comrad class was organized. The class set itself to raise funds for improving the church. Plays were given, church fairs, (two of which were held at the home of Charles Webster) and socials helped to do this.
By 1931 they had enough and the old wooden steps and porch at the front of the church were replaced with concrete walks and steps. Edna Rose supplied the shrubbery to fill in around these as a memorial plannning to her parents. The interior of the church was papered and varnished. The young people , not to be outdone, painted the exterior. The place was spruced up fine for the Tioga Association of 1932.
1929, Mr. Griffiths preached a sermon in memory of the 100th Anniversary of the year when Elder Sheardown came into Sullivan and held meetings and baptised several candidates in the creek. It was arranged to commemorate the event by holding a baptismal in Corey Creek near Dallas Wood's . Ten young people were baptised.
Along in the 30's the time of church service was changed from afternoons to mornings during the summer months, returning to afternoon services in the winter. Later afternoon services were abandoned entirely; results were renewed interest.
A new furnace fund was started in 1933 but this project was not completed until 1935. Another baptismal service, June 17, 1934, was held in Corey Creek near Elmer Smith's and 21 new members were added to the church.
The Ladies Aid was especially active during the 30's. Some of the following projects were financed by sponsoring church affairs at the home of W.W. Purvis and a minstrel show at Mainesburg Grange Hall. They papered the sanctuary and purchased new hymnals; the church was shingled and electric lights were installed. The young people provided and electric stove for the kitchen.
1941 was the 20th Anniversary for Mr. Griffiths and a tea was held at Mansfield in his honor. The church contributed funds for the evacuees of his home church in Mt. Ash, Wales.
During World War II a defense committee was added to the list of church officers. Even with strict rationing the Ladies Aid came through in their usual spirit and collected materials to send Christmas boxes to the boys in service, and specialized in sewing for the local hospitals. They also purchased chairs and silverware for the dining room and aided the young people in obtaining a piano for the church.
The Mission Circle placed copies of 'The Secret Place' in each home and sent them to the boys in service. At this time, too, a new pulpit Bible in memory of Mrs. Alice Fletcher was placed in the church.
After World War II more interest was stirred up in youth activities. The B.Y.P.U. became the B.Y.F. (Baptist Youth Fellowship). A new C.W.C. was organized; young people were sent to summer camps. Support has been extended to Boy Scouts, and a Korean War Orphan adopted. The Anne Magilton W.W.G. Chapter was organized. The Sunday School has participated in the local Vacation Bible School. An I.A.H. Club was also organized for the Juniors and Intermediates. In 1949 an Easter Sunrise Service was held at the church. The same year Rev. Griffiths was sent to San Francisco to attend the American Baptist Convention
The Ladies Aid and the Willing Worker Class have concentrated their efforts recently in improving and modernizing the church. In 1952 the old horse sheds were sold to make room for a new kitchen which was completed a year later at a cost of $1710.81. In memory of Mrs. Dora Dewey, Mrs. May Allen of Mansfield contributed funds for a 'Dora's Cupboard'. The old chairs in the dining room were sold and seventy-five new steel folding chairs were purchased to replace them. The B.Y.F. refinished the walls and ceiling of the dining room and put in venetian blinds. The Ladies Aid furnished drapes and new flooring. New hymnals and holders were placed in the church. With the contribution from his estate the Willing Workers Class refinished the walls and ceiling of the church in memory of Jesse Baity. A new coat of white paint on the exterior of the church was provided in part by Mrs. Jennie Hilfinger in memory of her husband Harry Hilfinger.
The last major project was the drilling of a well near the kitchen and hot and cold running water installed. At the time this is being written other plans for improvements are under way.
STATE ROAD BAPTIST CHURCH
Sullivan State Road Baptist Church
to the Rev.J. A. James.
Dear Sir and Brother:
Whereas, You, on the tenth of June presented your resignation of the pastorate of this church, and Whereas, We have with extreme reluctance accepted - having no other alternative- the same. We assembled therefore Resolved, That we take this opportunity of expressing to you our unfeigned appreciation and love of you as a man, Christian, pastor and faithful preacher of the word. For the eight years you have been our pastor you have steadily increased in the estimation and respect of the church and community, and none respect and love you those who know you best. As our pastor you have proven to be our friend and have lived out the Master's precept by rejoicing with those who rejoice, and weeping with those that weep. You have been patient and kind to the erring and tender to the fallen. Our children have found in you a true friend and a sympathetic teacher. In your public administration of the word you have proven to be a painstaking student of the Scriptures, a s ave of no particular school, either ancient or mode a fearless champion of applied Christian truths, morally, socially, politically, and ecclesiastically. Knowing no party, fearing no person, you have preached the word as you understood it, laying no claim to infallibility. You have held before us the rewards of Christian living, and have shown to us plainly the results of disobedience. By your preaching you have made the Bible an inspired and an interesting book to us. Our Savior has been ,rayed before us as the son of God crucified, living in our own day, and crucified by our own age. The tenor of your preaching has been the terribleness of sin: the God of Love, and salvation through Christ. We will ever thank God for your services and pray him that He may bless and prosper you wherever you may labor. Signed by order of the Sullivan State Road Baptist Church. M. A. Webster, Church Clerk.
|Photo taken by Joyce M. Tice 01 JAN 2005 shows State Road Baptist Church and the State Road Cemetery across the road. The church and Cemetery are not associated except by geography and the name of the road they are on for which both were named independently. The Cemetery was there long before the church. The first burials were as early as 1815 and the church was not organized until 1856, the building erected in 1857. The middle section of the telescope style church is the old Gafford School House brought down from the Mountain and added.|
|STATE ROAD CHURCH
Sunday afternoon, following a worship service at the State Road Baptist Church, a beautiful and impressive service was held on the bank of Corey Creek in Sullivan, when 22 young people were baptized in the waters of the creek. Following the reading of the scriptures from Acts 8:26-39, and the singing of "O Happy Day," the first candidate was led into the water, and as each candidate was baptized the congregation sang the chorus to the hymn. After having baptized the candidates, the pastor extended the invitation to others. The benediction closed a very impressive service.
Handwritten date on article, June 17, 1934
Twenty-two young people were baptized at the creek near Elmer Smith's Sunday, by the Rev. Griffiths. It was a beautiful day, the wooded hills, young hemlocks surrounding the place combined to make it a very impressive ceremony. One young couple just recently married started in the right way, Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Reese.
Handwritten on article, Sun June 17
|Followiing is a note that I received from John Tice, my father's
first cousin. when I sent him the clipping and photo a few months back.
He was among those baptised in this event and he is one of the boys excerpted
from the photograph above shown at side.
In the summer of 1934 I was nine years old .
At the State Road church the family always set on the left hand side about half way to the front where Elmer and I squirmed but behaved ourselves. The pastor was Reverend Griffiths who was also the pastor of the Mansfield Baptist Church. I am not musical but I still remember the singing. One lady who couldn't sing always made a "joyful " noise. So joyful that she was about the only one I could hear. Like many small churches often do the pastor had a children's sermon near the start of the morning service. When I was about seven or eight years old he talked about being baptized. I didn't understand much of what he was saying but Elmer was going to be baptized so I decided that I wanted to be also. The service was held along a creek in a farm cow pasture about half way to Mainesburg.