The Reverend Mr. David Craft
as we have seen, was instituted in 1796, and is most likely the oldest society in the county. The class leaders have been, in 1796, Andrew McKean; 1804, James McKean; 1812, John Ballard; 1816, James McKean, who was leader in 1804, but was away in the army. On his return he resumed his old place; 1822, John Ballard; 1834, William McKean; 1851 to 1862, Jehiel McKean. It will be seen the McKean family have held the
leadership of this class for more than fifty years. This church has been and still is a strong society. Some of the most able and successful preachers in the church have been converted here, and others equally able have labored here. The good seed sown in 1796 is producing fruit in the highly-cultivated moral and religious character of the people. Its present pastor is J. Everett, and reports 200 member, one church building, and a parsonage, which together are valued at $3000.
The Methodist Episcopal church was organized in this town Sept. 15, 1815. The society was composed of sixteen members, only one of whom , Mrs. Abigail Pease, is now living. David Forest was the first class-leader. Rev. Palmer Roberts was the preacher in charge. There had been regular appointments for two years before. For many years the Methodists of Smithfield worshiped in private dwellings and school-houses. In 1832 an effort was made to build a church on the turnpike. This church enterprise originated under the pastorate of Rev. Reeder Smith. There is an incident worthy of mention connected with it. The place of building was chosen, and the corner stone was laid with appropriate services, and a sermon was preached by Judge McKean, from the text, Matt. XVI. 18, "Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The following night the gates of hell, in the form of some vicious young men, succeeded in tearing up the foundation and bearing away and concealing the corner-stone, which has never been found. The enterprise stopped at that place; the frame was transferred to Smithfield Centre, and became a part of the first Methodist Episcopal church in the town. It now stands a few rods south of the village, and is used for a barn. In 1848 a neat edifice was built on the turnpike, about two and half miles southwest of the Centre. This church was built by stockholders for the use of the society. In 1860 a good parsonage was secured by the same company, but finally sold, and the proceeds invested in a parsonage at the Centre, which was built in 1877. In 1863 the church was erected at Smithfield Centre, around which point all the society is concentrated. It is under the pastoral care of W. Statham, has a membership of 117, two church edifices, and a parsonage, whose entire value they estimate at $5000.
The first class or society of Methodists in Monroeton was organized in the early part of this century. The leading spirit is this was Father Cole, whose large log house and capacious log barn, with a large farm and large fields of corn attached, and controlled by his large hear, afforded a pleasant place for the weary itinerant. Quarterly meetings, love feasts, communions, and all of the different services connected with the Methodist church, were held here. People would come from twenty miles around to attend one of these grand old quarterly meetings, where two hundred voices would sing, to the old tune of "Coronation,"
"All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall."
Every heart was stirred. It was a grand preparation for the exercises which were to follow. Rev. E.H. Cranmer and S.W. Alden were converted here; both entered the ministry, and both have been presiding elders of the Troy district. Their present pastor is E.E. Morris, who has the charge of 106 members. There are two houses of worship, valued at $4000.
There had been preaching with considerable regularity, and a class formed at the house of Captain Benjamin Clark, in Ulster, or old Sheshequin, as it was formerly called, since 1793. William Clark, who was a local preacher, moved west about 1817 or ‘18, when the society ceased to exist. In 1824 a new society was formed, being a part of Tioga circuit, and Abraham Goodwin was made the first class-leader. Since then the society has maintained its existence. The church at Ulster was built in 1854. Since then there has been a parsonage built upon the church, and a church at Milan. There are three preaching places on the charge, viz.: Ulster, Milan, and Moore’s Hill. N.N. Beers is the present pastor. The charge has a membership of 125, with a church and parsonage which are worth $2900.
The Methodist Episcopal church in Towanda was incorporated by act of legislature, April 1853, and the church building erected under the pastorate of Rev. Philo E. Brown, in 1837. Prior to that time, the few members of the society here worshiped in private dwellings, in the courthouse, or school house. The East Genesee conference held its session here in 1861, at which Bishop Baker presided. In 1869 the church edifice was rebuilt, enlarged, frescoed, carpeted, furnished with a good organ, and dedicated by Bishop Peck, March 16, 1870. The church has now a membership of about 300, and more than 200 connected with the Sabbath school. The church is under the pastorate of Rev. George C. Jones, and has 290 members, and value their church and parsonage at $15,500.
The first Methodist Episcopal church building in Troy was erected under the pastorate of Rev. W.H. Knapp, and dedicated January, 1855. In 1871 a lot was purchased and a parsonage built, which , with the lot, cost $3000. The old church was sold in 1873, and a new one erected on a part of the parsonage lot, which was dedicated March 12, 1874. J.E. Williams has the pastoral care of the church, which numbers 160 members, with church and parsonage valued at $11,000.
There is a church here of 108 members, which has two church edifices, one at East Troy and the other in Columbia, and a parsonage estimated at $5300. The pastor is D. Crow.
numbers 231 members, is under the pastoral care of G.W. Gibson, and value church and parsonage at $6500.
reports on the charge 185 members, three church edifices, and a parsonage valued at $10,200. Rev. R.J. Bull is the pastor.
Liberty Corners and Asylum
is a strong field, and at present in the care of Rev. M.G. Kymer. At Liberty Corner, or Hollow Hill, is a church and parsonage, and at Asylum is a very neat building. The property altogether is estimated at $7800; the membership is 153.
is in charge of the Rev. J.C.B. Moyer, whose membership is 102, and whose two churches are valued at $3000.
is a large field, covering the townships of Wilmot and Terry, and is now in charge of Rev. L.R. Crippin; it has a membership of 93, in four societies. There are eight or nine appointments on the charge. They have a parsonage at Terrytown, valued at $1000.
has 142 members, and is in the charge of Rev. J.R. Drake. Its two church buildings and parsonage are estimated at $6900.
under the pastorate of Rev. T. Jolly, has a membership of 82, and two houses of worship and a parsonage, together valued at $5200.
Not for from 1810, George Harmon preached at Mr. Saltmarsh’s tavern in Athens probably the first sermon ever preached in the neighborhood by a Methodist preacher. About the same time a Methodist by the name of Shippy, a blacksmith, lived in a log house near the tavern, and held meetings in his house, in which his neighbors of different denominations united. About 1832 a class was organized in the village, and regular appointments were made at the academy. In 1834 there were only two members of this class; new members, however, were soon added. In 1843 the academy burned down, when the society became incorporated, and proceeded to build a church, which was dedicated the next year. This house was burned in 1852, and was replaced the same year by the present brick edifice, costing about $1800. The Sabbath school was organized in 1844 under Chester Park as its superintendent, and still continues. Among the class leaders are the names of C. Harsh, Chester Park, William Norton, John Drake, A.A. Kinner, and Thomas Grantham. The charge embraces two societies, one at Athens and one at Sayre, besides a small class at Sutliff Hill. The membership of the charge is 154, of which Rev. W.N. Cobb has the pastoral care. The church is connected with the Owego district.
There are in the county 24 separate charges; 3 districts and 2 conferences each occupy part of the territory. As we have traced the progress of the church from its small beginning in 1792 down to its present commanding position of wealth, numbers, and influence, and remember that all this has been wrought in about eighty-five years, we can but admire the wisdom and patience of the men who established here her dwelling and nurtured her growth.
There are in Bradford County, in the Wyalusing district, 6 charges, 1099 members, 6 conference preachers, and 7 local preachers; in the Troy district, 15 charges, 1994 members, 13 conference preachers, and 13 local preachers; in the Owego district, 4 charges, 3 conference preachers, 724 members, and 11 local preachers, - making altogether 22 conference preachers, 31 local preachers, 25 charges, and 3817 members.
African M.E. Church of Towanda
About 1853, Elder Blaine [white], of the Wesleyan Methodist faith and conference, organized a little society of the colored people of Towanda, and preached to them for a time irregularly, and finally organized a church under that conference held at Rochester, this being the only African church in that conference during its connection with that body. White clergymen supplied the church with preaching until some time about 1862-62, when Solomon Cooper, a colored man, was licensed as a preacher by the Rochester conference, and was given the especial charge of the Towanda church. Mr. Cooper was subsequently ordained as an elder by the conference, and remained with the church some seven or eight years. In 1868-69, Elder Cooper left the Wesleyan connection and went to the Methodist Episcopal conference, taking his charge with him into that fold, but did not continue to preach to this church long afterwards. * [Footnote - Mr. Cooper died a few weeks prior to this writing, 1878] He was succeeded by J. Broaden, who preached about a year, and then for a time the church was left without a shepherd. William Smith finally was secured as pastor, and about that time [1874-75] the church joined the Zion conference at Philadelphia, and since that time has been regularly supplied by that body with pastors. Rev. S. Thompson succeeded Mr. Smith, being in turn succeeded by Rev. John Tyler, in 1877, and he by the present pastor, Elder Macaw. The membership of the church is about 21.
A church edifice - the present one - was built in 1854-55, on State street, between Second and Third, at a cost of $2200, and is at the present time being thoroughly repaired and renewed. It is of wood, with basement and audience room, the latter about 30 by 40 feet, with 125 sittings, and with its site is valued at $3000.
A Sunday school was organized soon after the organization of the church, and has been kept in operation for the greater part of the time since. It numbers some 20 scholars, and has a small library. Joseph Johnson is the present superintendent and principal teacher.
The present officers of the church are as follows: Trustees, Lewis Lee, Pearson Jones, and Samuel Powell; Stewards, Matthew Young and Jerry Geeder.
Protestant and Wesleyan Methodists
About the years 1832 or 1833 a society made its appearance, called Protestant Methodists. They were mostly seceders from the Methodist Episcopal church, differing
from the latter mainly in the form of church government and on the question of slaver, and not in theological doctrines or mode of worship. In the matter of church government they claimed to be more liberal, having neither bishop nor presiding elder. They also declared it to be the first duty of the church to demand the immediate emancipation of persons held in bondage. From 1835 to 1845 this denomination had a large and respectable membership in this county. They had societies formed in Albany, Towanda township, Pike, Herrick, Wilmot, Burlington, Granville, Springfield, and other places. Another secession followed, mostly from the Protestants, called Wesleyans, using nearly the same ritual and mode of worship. The distinguishing feature of this new sect was their earnest and uncompromising opposition to slavery.
After the War of the Rebellion and the emancipation of the slaves, the leaders of this denomination have mostly united with the Methodist Episcopals. In each of these divisions were some of the most intelligent and earnest Christian men in the country. The purity of their character and their conscientious devotion to the principles of liberal church government and personal freedom are the best evidences of their sincerity. There are small congregations of the Protestants in Wilmot, Albany, and Burlington, and a flourishing congregation of Wesleyans at East Herrick, but none of them have furnished statistics of their numbers or strength. They are being rapidly absorbed by their stronger sister.
As has been remarked, the first settlers in this county were nearly all Congregationalists in sentiment. Previous to the battle of Wyoming the settlers were so few and the settlements so recent that no minister had attempted to live among them. There is a tradition, which seems to be well authenticated, that Rev. Jacob Johnson, of Wyoming, was accustomed to visit friends here, especially the family of Mr. York, and that on these occasions he preached to the few settlers who could be gathered in. If this be correct, it was doubtless the first preaching of any kind for white people within the limits of the county. Mr. Johnson was an earnest Christian preacher of the Congregational church, whose faithful preaching, abundant sacrifices, ardent patriotism, and as ardent defense of the Connecticut title, endeared him to all the New England people settled in the Susquehanna valley.
Among the chaplains who accompanied the Sullivan expedition in 1779 was the Rev. Samuel Kirkland, who had been previously a missionary among the Oneida Indians, and by whose influence that tribe were induced either to remain neutral or cast in their lot with the Americans in the Revolutionary war. The school which he founded was the nucleus of Hamilton college. During the occupation of Tioga Point by the army he doubtless preached to his division, as did other chaplains in the service.
After the settlers had begun to return to this valley on the dawn of peace, missionaries sent out by the Connecticut missionary society visited this region to look after the scattered sheep in the wilderness. Among these was the Rev. Jabez Culver, who was here as early as the spring of 1791. In that year Col. Thomas Proctor, who, it will be remembered, commanded the fleet in the Sullivan expedition in 1779, was sent by the United States government to the Indians of the Six Nations, for the purpose of conciliating some of their chiefs who refused to attend the treaty at Athens. Spent the night of March 26 at Mr. William Wynkoop’s, then living at or near Chemung. Here he met Mr. Culver. He says in his journal of this date, * [Footnote - Pa. Ar., 2d series, vol. iv, p.559] "Took up our quarters this night in company with Mr. Jabez Colloor, a dissenting minister, at the aforesaid Wyncoop’s, with whom we spent a most agreeable evening, and, during our conversation together, he enjoined me, in a very becoming manner, should I at any time see the honorable Major General Sullivan, late the commander-in-chief against the Indians in the year 1779, to tender to him the grateful thanks of himself and his parishioners, inhabitants of the district of Tioga, for opening a way into the wilderness, under the guidance of Providence, to the well-doing of hundreds of poor families for life."
From this paragraph it would appear that Mr. Culver had been some time on the field, and had labored with some success in northern Pennsylvania and southern New York, among the frontiersmen and their families, since he speaks of them as his "parishioners." So far as records have been obtained, Mr. Culver is the pioneer preacher into this region, "the very first to blow the gospel trumpet."
The very first church of which there is any record of its organization is the church of Wysox, which was organized by Mr. Culver Oct. 3, 1791, with fourteen members. Of these were Fosters, from Sugar creek, Franklins and Guthries, from Hornbrook, besides the settlers at Wysox. Nov. 5, 1791, seven others were admitted to the church. Isaac Foster and Jehiel Franklin were chosen deacons, and Elisha Hubbard scribe. This was indeed a "church in the wilderness," separated by a distance of at least eighty miles from any organization of Christian people.
The next year Rev. Ebenezer Martin had succeeded Mr. Culver, and is with the church June 17 and October 20 of 1792. On each of these occasions persons were admitted to membership. Mr. Martin is also found with the church May 4, 1794. How much of this time he had spent in labors in this county cannot now be known. The form of the organization seems to have been borrowed from churches common in Connecticut, for in 1795 four ruling elders, viz., Isaac Foster, Jehiel Franklin, William Coolbaugh, and Jonathan Arnold Franklin, were elected, and in 1796 one more, viz., Zachariah Price; and yet it was all the while a Congregational church. There is no record to be found of any more church meetings till 1807, when the officers were called upon to report on certain "irregularities," which were disturbing the peace of the brotherhood. Previous to this we cannot tell who were the supplies of the church. It is quite likely that Rev. Ira Condit, a missionary sent out by the general assembly of the Presbyterian church, preacher here in 1793. In 1795, Rev. Daniel Thatcher was on the ground, and died suddenly at the house of Mr. Henry Strope this year.
Another item is deserving of mention. A convention of the churches of Smithfield,
Wysox, Orwell, Wyalusing, and Braintrim was held at Wysox, Feb. 16, 1804, at which they resolved to take more decided stand against the prevailing evils of the day, and especially against Sabbath breaking, profanity, and gambling, and offenders were threatened with the rigors of the law if they did not desist.
In 1809, Manasseh Miner York was engaged for $140 a year to preach one-half of the time; this half to be equally divided between Wysox and the west side of the Susquehanna, now Towanda. But the "irregularities" previously existing still continued, and it was becoming more and more necessary to take measures to correct them. The officers of the church had failed to restore order, though they had had three years to school the church into obedience. A regular course of discipline seems to have become impracticable. To remove the long existing evils, the church adopted the expedient of what they called recovenanting. A meeting was called, and as many of the members as were disposed to do it entered anew into solemn covenant engagements, and these were declared to constitute the church of Wysox. The number recovenanting was 24. The number who did not reconvening is not given. They now had no elders, but in 1815 they seem to have had some sort of house of worship; but what it was, or where it stood, the writer cannot find. In 1820, Mr. York was dismissed, and Lyman Richardson succeeded him. But in 1827 we find Mr. York again on the ground, having come from the presbytery of Geneva. The records are irregular and confused, and particulars cannot be given; but there were now two churches on the ground, and two ministers. In 1829 one of the churches had 53 members, and the other 33. The one last formed was a Presbyterian church. They applied to the presbytery for admission. The presbytery pronounced them out of order, but after much hesitation received them. In 1830 the other church adopted the confession of faith and Presbyterian form of government; and in the same year Mr. York died, and Mr. Richardson left the ground, and the two churches were united, with the Rev. John Dorrance for their minister. They proceeded at once to finish the brick church, which had been before begun. Mr. Dorrance labored there with acceptance and success for two or three years. An act of incorporation was obtained, with the chartered name of "The Old Presbyterian Church of Wysox. Matters went on, with some troublesome cases of discipline, till the "exscinding acts" of 1837. These acts did not affect the church of Wysox, but they were made the occasion of stirring up old feelings anew. A portion of the church, professing grief for the exscinding act, formed a separate organization, and eventually joined the presbytery of Montrose. Thus matters stood in 1870. Since the great reunion these two churches are again together as one. The church has no pastor, but reports a membership of 50. Its history has been a checkered one; sometimes enjoying great prosperity, at others broken by feuds and quarreled, usually having able and pious ministers, but once, at least, suffering from the unchristian and criminal conduct of one who was sent from the church to the penitentiary, it has nevertheless, for eighty-seven year, maintained its visibility as a church of Christ.
The first public Christian worship held in this place after the Revolutionary war was in the house of Mrs. Lucretia Miner York, under the direction of an old man, whose name was Gideon Baldwin, living near Browntown, in the latter part of the year 1785. This old man and his wife, with Mrs. York, were the only religious persons at that time in this neighborhood. These two families agreed to meet every Sabbath for religious worship, and invited their neighbors to join them. The old man read a psalm and offered prayer, and Mrs. York’s son, Mannassah Miner, read a selected sermon. The good effects of this service were soon apparent. Attendance upon the meetings became quite general, Sabbath profanation in a great measure ceased, and the good order and moral of the community greatly improved.
In the years from 1786 to 1793 several pious families settled in the neighborhood. The Rev. Ira Condit visited them occasionally as a missionary, and on June 30, 1793, organized the first Presbyterian church in the whole valley drained by the north branch of the Susquehanna. The meeting was held in a log school house, which stood very near where the church now stands. The organization consisted of 13 members. Uriah Terry was at the same time ordained and installed ruling elder.
In 1794, Rev. Noble Judd visited the church, and ten persons were added to the church. The next year Rev. Daniel Thatcher visited the church, and the record shows they contributed for his support $4. There is a gap of twelve years in the records. In 1806 we find the Rev. Daniel Buck commenced preaching for the church one-fourth of his time, and continued for three years. September, 1809, the church assumed the Congregational form of government. At this meeting Mr. York was called to be pastor of the church, and was ordained and settled the 27th of October following; and in 1811, the church having adopted the constitution of the Luzerne association, became a part of that body. Mr. York remained with the church nine years, but removed in 1818, and there was no stated preaching for several year. Rev. Salmon King and Ebenezer Kingsbury were occasionally present, and administered the sacrament. In 1826 the church was visited by a committee of presbytery, and initiatory steps were taken which ultimately resulted in the church becoming Presbyterian again. As the valley of the Wyalusing had become more thickly settled, the meetings were most frequently held in the school house at Merryall. After a great deal of exertion a subscription sufficient to warrant the undertaking was raised, and Mr. Justus Lewis agreed to build the house, which was commenced in 1828, and dedicated nearly three years afterwards. As showing something of the difficulty with which such an undertaking was carried on in those days, Mr. Lewis says that on that subscription he did not receive one dollar in money, but took grain, produce, lumber, or whatever the people could spare, to the amount which had been subscribed. In 1830, Rev. Simeon R. Jones commenced preaching for the church, and continued for nearly two years. March, 1831, the church became Presbyterian again, with 26 member, and April 7, 1832, called Mr. George Printz to the pastorate, and he was ordained at a meeting of the
Presbytery, held in the new church, June 28. Samuel F. colt succeeded Mr. Printz, December, 1843, ten years pastor; Lucius W. Chapman, February, 1854, three and a half years pastor; Darwin Cook, April, 1858, the present pastor. John Taylor, Aden Stevers, William Bradshaw, Hiram Stevens, and Chester Wells, ruling elders in 1831; Edwin Lewis, H.W. Camp, Bascom Taylor, J.R. Welles, and Henry Styer, 1849; William Camp, Elisha Lewis, in 1855; J.J. Lewis, 1859; Milton Lewis, Martin Fee, C.W. Camp, 1869. The church owns a parsonage, and reports a membership of 29.
This was formed in 1802, and consisted of Revs. Seth Williston, Joel Chapin, David Harrower, Seth Gage, and William Stone. In a circular, bearing date Oct. 28, 1807, entitles "A circular letter by the Susquehanna association to the churches in their connection," they say, "If this letter should fall into the hands of any who are unacquainted with such an association, they are informed that it is composed of a small number of Congregational ministers and churches, living on and near the Susquehanna river, in the States of New York and Pennsylvania." The names of the churches are not given. We hear nothing more of this association, and know not how it came to its end.
The nest in the order of time was the church of Orwell, organized Oct. 10, 1804, by Seth Williston and James Woodward, missionaries from the Connecticut Congregational missionary society, and consisted of nine members. This church subsequently became centered at Le Raysville, and is now known as the Congregational church of Pike. Rev. Benoni Mandeville was ordained its pastor, Oct. 12, 1812, and was deposed from the ministry Jan. 5, 1814. The church still continues its existence at Le Raysville as a Congregational church.
The Luzerne association was formed Nov. 2, 1810, with the following ministers, viz.: Ebenezer Kingsbury, from the church of Harford; Ard. Hoyt, from the church of Wilkes-Barre and Kingston; Manasseh Miner York, from the church of Wysox; and Joel Chapin. Where Joel Chapin was laboring the record does not state. Seven churches were represented by their delegates, viz.: Daniel Hoyt, from the church of Wilkes-Barre and Kingston; Aden Stevens, of Wyalusing; Wm. Johnson, of Orwell; Moses Thatcher, of Harford; Joshua W. Raynsford, of the first church of Bridgewater [Montrose], Joshua Miles, of the second church of Bridgewater, and Henry V. Champion, of Black Walnut Bottom.
The second meeting of the association was held in Kingston, Sept. 11, 1811. At this meeting the church of Smithfield joined the association by their delegate, Solomon Morse; also the churches of Salem and Palmyra. Nine churches were now in the association, with an aggregate membership, as the record of the meeting states, of 134 males and 176 females, and 517 baptized children, or 310 members and 517 baptized children. Probably not all of these were children of the members, for some of these early preachers baptized children whose parents were neither of them communicants in any church.
The third meeting of the association was in Orwell, June 16, 1812. The church of Wysox was received by their delegate, Jacob Myer, and also the church of Rush, afterwards called Middletown. At this meeting the preliminary steps were taken to receive into the body a church at Athens, for as yet no church had been formed at Athens. Mr. Wm. Wisner, since that time so widely known as Dr. Wisner, was then laboring in Athens as a licentiate of the associate presbytery of Morris county, NJ.
The association held an adjourned meeting in Athens, July 7, 1818, and Mr. Wisner received the laying-on of the hands of the association, and the church of Athens was organized. Rev. Simeon R. Jones joined the association June 15, 1813. He continued a member till death, March 13, 1857, at the age of eighty-four. He was a member forty-four years.
The seventh session of the association as it numbered its meetings, was in Waterford, June 21, 1814. At this meeting the newly organized church of Murraysfield was received with fifteen members. It was afterwards called Springfield. This church soon disappears from the roll of the association, without any notice of the reason or manner of its disappearance.
The association met in Orwell, Jan. 14, 1814. Here the name of John Bascom appears on the records, and a committee was appointed to install him over the church of Smithfield, and also to install William Wisner over the church of Athens.
Again they met, September, 1815, in Bridgewater. Here the Rev. Salmon King was examined and received as a member. He came from Greensburgh, Vermont.
February 15, 1816, the church of Pike first appears on the roll.
By the fall meeting of 1817, the Rev. John Bascom had been dismissed from the church of Smithfield, and Mr. Wisner from Athens; both, as the record states, for want of support. They were useful and highly esteemed in their respective charges, but the people were few and generally poor.
As early as 1815, the association had begun to consider the expediency of uniting with the Presbyterian denomination. At a meeting held in Colesville, NY, Sept. 16, 1817, they resolved to change the name of Luzerne association to that of the Susquehanna presbytery. It was, however, only a change of name, for they made no change in form, and not a single church in their connection was Presbyterian in form; even Wyalusing had become Congregationalist.
The so-called Susquehanna presbytery net in Wells, June 19, 1821. Here they made record of thanks to God for revivals of religion in Warren, Pike, Orwell, Wysox, and Towanda. The whole number added to the churches is not given, but it is stated that thirty-eight were added to the church of Wysox during the year.
Church meetings were often held in barns, although there seems to have been some sort of house of worship before this in Wysox. Sometimes the people in Wysox met those of
Towanda at a half-way place; this half-way place was Mr. Means’ barn. On the Wysox side of the Susquehanna. The word of the Lord was precious in those days, and the good people were ready to submit to many inconveniences to enjoy the privileges of the gospel.
The association had borne the name without the form of a presbytery for four years. By this time the people had become accustomed to the name of Presbyterians, and would be the less disinclined to take the form. Accordingly, at a meeting in Harford, Sept. 18, 1821, a resolution was passed to seek admission into the synod of New York and New Jersey. The following is an extract from the minutes of that meeting:
"The Susquehanna presbytery, consisting of six ministers able to labor, and two unable, and having under their care twenty-four feeble churches, and coving nearly one hundred miles square, and embracing about forty thousand inhabitants, lamenting the needy state of those precious souls, and conscious of their own weakness and inability to afford the requisite relief, one year since took under serious consideration the subject of seeking a connection with the churches under the care of the general assembly. And after much inquiry and prayerful reflection, not being able to devise any plan of equal promise to increase the means of sound Christian instruction in their needy and extensive region, and to advance the interests of the Redeemer’s kingdom, -
"1. Resolved, That we will seek a connection with the churches under the care of the general assembly.
"2. Resolve, That this body will adopt the Confession of Faith and Book of Discipline of the general assembly.
"3. Resolved, That we will seek a connection with the synod of New York and New Jersey, and endeavor to have the minutes of presbytery so formed that they may be accepted by the synod, provided the individual churches be allowed to manage their own concerns in their usual, or congregational, manner.
"4. Resolved, That the Rev. Cyrus Gildersleeve, Rev. Simeon R. Jones, Rev. Lyman Richardson, and Brother Henry V. Champion be a committee to carry forward an attested copy of the minutes of this presbytery to the synod at its ensuing session in Newark, on the third Tuesday in October, and use their endeavor to obtain the connection desired."
The synod received the presbytery in October, 1821, on the "Plan of Union"
The eight ministers in the body were Ebenezer Kingsbury, Cyrus Gildersleeve, Simeon R. Jones, Oliver Hill, Lyman Richardson, Salmon King, Joel Chapin, and Joseph Wood. The tow who were unable to labor were probably Joel Chapin and Joseph Wood.
Of the twenty-four churches the following were in this county, viz., Wysox, Wyalusing, Smithfield, Pike, Orwell and Warren, Athens, and Wells. Of these Smithfield and Pike never became Presbyterian, while of Wysox and Wyalusing we have given an account. Of the remaining three brief notices will be given.
The region about Tioga Point was in a deplorable religious condition at the beginning of the present century. Sabbath desecration, intemperance, profanity, and horseracing abounded, while wife-whipping was no uncommon occurrence, and wives had been turned out of doors for attending a religious meeting; and it was even boasted that an orthodox sermon had not been preached there for years. Mr. William Wisner, a lawyer in Elmira, becoming convinced that he could be more useful as a minister, gave up a good practice, received license to preach, and had been called to a desirable position in Bloomfield. Having a Sabbath to spare before removing, he was led to spend it in Athens. This was in January, 1812. He thought the novelty of hearing a lawyer preach would call out a large congregation. He found the academy crowded, and preached several times. Interest in his preaching was increasing. He urged the people to call upon the proper missionary agency for aid in supplying them with preaching, but they insisted he was the man they needed; so, yielding to their solicitations, he declined the call from Bloomfield, and engaged to preach at Athens, at a salary of $220 a year. July 12, 1812, the Congregational church of Athens, consisting of twenty-two members, was organized. Mr. Wisner was installed pastor Jan. 7, 1815. The relation continued until Feb. 27, 1816. For the next six years the church had only occasional supplies. In 1822, Rev. John Williamson visited the church, was engaged as its minister, and continued with it until 1824. During this interval the church was greatly enlarged by the fruits of a revival, and, April 23, 1823, resolved to adopt the Presbyterian form of government, remain in connection with the presbytery, and elected two ruling elders.
In 1825, Rev. Isaac W. Platt became the minister. During his ministry a church edifice was built, the first house of worship ever erected in the place.
December, 1829, the church adopted the "plan of union" scheme, remaining in connection with the Susquehanna presbytery. Rev. Samuel Scheaffer commenced his ministerial labors in 1831, continuing about one year. In 1833, Rev. William C. Wisner, son of the first pastor, was with the church as its minister. He was followed by William M. Adams in 1835, and he by Rev. C.C. Corss in 1837. In May following the celebrated "exscinding act" was passed, repudiating the "plan of union" upon which this church then stood. A committee from the Susquehanna presbytery visited the church to notify it that it had been severed from the presbytery; also to take measures to organize a church in connection with the presbytery, to be strictly Presbyterian. A part of the church favored this, and a part opposed it; in consequence a division followed. The church being thus divided, a question of church property was involved, which was finally settled by each party using the house alternately. Mr. Corss preached to the Old School church, so called, and Rev. Curtis Thurston to the New School. Mr. Thurston was pastor of the church for many years, and was succeeded by Rev. Nathaniel Elmer.
This state of things continued about twenty years, when the two churches united as a Reformed Dutch church July 21, 1858, the Dutch church becoming connected with the classis of Geneva. Rev. A Todd, Rev. P. Berry, and Rev. J. Shaw were pastors during this arrangement.
The old church edifice was burned in 1861, and a new brick church was built in 1862.
After the reunion of the two general assemblies, in 1869, the church became Presbyterian, and united with Lackawanna presbytery April 18, 1871, having been, by its request, formally dismissed from the classis of Geneva April 25, 1870. After the connection with Lackawanna presbytery, Rev. Yates Hickey, Rev. Charles M. Whittelsey, and Rev. H.H.
Wells supplied the pulpit for a time. Rev. John McMaster commenced his labors with the church Oct. 1, 1873, and was installed pastor in May, 1874. He continues in the pastorate at this time [January, 1878]
The Church of Orwell and Warren
was organized Sept. 5, 1815, as a Congregational church, by Rev. John Bascom and Rev. Salmon King, with 8 members. January, 1819, the number had increased to 33, with Levi Frisbie and Parley Coburn as deacons, and Mr. King as the pastor. The church became connected with the Luzerne association Sept. 18, 1817. The church by a unanimous vote changed its form of government to the Presbyterian, April 3, 1824, at Orwell, and Anson Collins, Chauncy Frisbie, Uri Cook, Milton Humphrey, Amos Coburn, and Nathan Young were chosen elders, and ordained April 15. At a meeting held in the school house, in Warren, April 5, the action taken at Orwell was unanimously approved. After a long deliberation the church, on account of the great distance between its two most important points, divided, Dec. 18, 1827, and the portion of the membership residing in Warren, 18 in number, were organized into a separate church, with Parley Coburn as both deacon and elder, and Moses Coburn, Nathan Young, and Aaron Corbin ruling elders, and were henceforth known as the church of Warren. Rev. Salmon King died April 15, 1839, "much lamented by the church and congregation." The subsequent list of pastors and supplies and of its ruling elders has not been obtained. The church reports 37 members, and 34 members of the Sabbath school. They have a good church building, a comfortable parsonage, with several acres of land attached.
The Church of Orwell
Was the name assumed by the remnant which was left after the division. The old church in which they worshiped was on the Ridge road, between the hill and Potterville; having become dilapidated, the congregation determined to erect a new house of worship, and the place selected was on the hill. At this a minority of the church tool offense, and 23 seceded to form the Congregational church of Potterville. They were dismissed March 20, 1851. This church has always had supplies, most of whom have remained with the church only for one or two years. There are 66 members of the church and 100 connected with the Sabbath school. They have a good church building, which is pleasantly situated.
The Church of Wells
In 1795, Rev. Daniel Thatcher organized a Presbyterian church in Elmira, and finding a few members in the corner of Wells, he constituted them into a branch of the same church. This little society survived but a few years, ministered to mostly by Rev. Simeon Jones. July 4, 1810, a little girl was accidentally scalded so that she died, and as there were none who were professors of religion, she was buried without Christian services. This produced very serious impressions on the minds of many. It was found there were a few pious women in the neighborhood who were Presbyterians, and reading and prayer meetings were soon established. Feb. 22, 1832, a committee from the presbytery of Bath organized the church which took the name of the
Church of Wells and Columbia,
with fifteen members. This was the successor of the old church of Wells. As the presbytery of Bath was connected with one of the exscinded synods, the church was connected with the New School body, but united with the presbytery of Susquehanna in 1841. Its ministers have been David Harrower, Stephen Sargent, Henry Ford, Egbert E. Roosa, David Abby, Benjamin Wells, J.L. Riggs, Joel Jewell, George Pierson, Stephen A. Califf, and T.B. Jervis. Mr. Jewell has served the church more than sixteen years. They have a house of worship, erected in 1839, and at the last report there was a membership of 36 souls.
Presbytery of Susquehanna
At a meeting in Wysox, in 1823, James Williamson, a licentiate laboring in Athens, was ordained as an evangelist. The body had now, in all, eleven ministers for a territory one hundred miles square, and a population of above 40,000. There were not more than twenty-five ministers, of all denominations, on all this ground, as records made at the time state. By the end of the year 1824 the number of ministers had been reduced to seven. At the meeting in April, 1825, the presbytery lamented the languishing state of some of its churches, the prevailing intemperance, Sabbath desecration, and profanity, and add, "our extensive bounds present almost one continued scene of moral desolation." In 1831, Rev. Isaac W. Platt, who had been stated supply in Athens five years, was dismissed, William Franklin ordained and installed over the church of Smithfield, and George Printz over the churches of Wyalusing and Braintrim. John Dorrance came to Wysox, and the next year Rev. Samuel Henderson was installed pastor of the churches of Orwell and Pike. This year  was a year of awakening and revival, and more than 300 members were added to the churches. At this time presbytery advised the churches under their care "to lay aside their written constitutions and adopt that of the Presbyterian church of the United States." When this was done by all of the churches who had, according to the custom of Congregationalist churches, adopted constitutions and articles, is not known; the church of Warren did this March 2, 1833. The presbytery was divided by the synod of New Jersey in October, 1832, and the presbytery of Montrose erected out of its territory.
Nothing worthy of especial notice occurred for three or four years, and we pass on to the year 1837, when the "plan of union" was abrogated by the general assembly, and the famous "exscinding acts" were passed, by which the four synods that came into the assembly on that plan were declared "out of ecclesiastical connection with the Presbyterian church in the United States of America." The ministers at this time in the body were nine, - Salmon King, John Rhodes, Isaac Todd, George Printz, Oscar Harris, Charles C. Corss, John Dorrance, Simeon R. Jones, and Richard Andrus. The churches in this county were Warren, Pike, Orwell, Wyalusing, Wysox, Towanda, Athens, Smithfield, Troy, and Canton.
Soon after the assembly of 1837 presbytery took measures to have all their churches adopt the Presbyterian form in full. The only ones that had not previously done so were Pike, Smithfield, and Athens. These three churches, not complying with the direction of the presbytery, were no longer continued in their connection. Early in the year 1838, however, a portion of the church of Athens was organized in the Presbyterian form and received into the presbytery.
The Rev. John Dorrance, pastor of the church of Wilkes-Barre, was commissioner to the general assembly in 1843. An overture was presented to that body by him, asking to have a specific number of ministers and churches described in the overture erected into a new presbytery, to be called the presbytery of Luzerne. The assembly acceded to his wishes, and a large part of the territory of the old presbytery was taken into the new body. From this to the time of the reunion of the two branches of the Presbyterian church, which was consummated in 1870, nothing of especial interest is to be noted. The usual work of presbyteries was done, and harmony prevailed in the body. It had organized ten churches in Bradford County, licensed, ordained, and installed ministers, watched the purity of its churches, and fostered the spirit of benevolence in its members. In the reorganization which followed the reunion the presbyteries of Susquehanna, Montrose, and the greater part of Luzerne were consolidated into the presbytery of Lackawanna, which covers nearly the same territory as the original Susquehanna presbytery.
Brief sketches will be given of the ten churches organized during the period covered by the old presbytery.
First Presbyterian Church, Troy
This society was originally organized as a Congregational church, under the care of the old " Presbytery of Susquehanna," March 21, 1822. Sixteen persons united with the church at its organization, only one of this number is now living, viz., Mrs. Laura Pomeroy, aged eighty-three years.
April 13, 1833, this church became distinctively Presbyterian, and united with the presbytery of Susquehanna as the "First Presbyterian church and congregation of Troy, Pa." Its first ruling elders were Solomon Morse, Ebenezer Pomeroy, and Isaac Tears.
The first house of worship, a small frame building, fifteen by thirty feet, was erected mainly by the labor and generosity of Elder Solomon Morse and family, in 1828. The growth of the congregation soon demanded the erection of a second and much larger sanctuary, which was dedicated Nov. 29, 1848, during the pastorate of Rev. Isaac Todd.
The corner-stone of the elegant and commodious church building now occupied by this society was laid by the present pastor, Rev. S.L. Conde’, Sept. 16, 1875, and the completed house was dedicated free of debt Dec. 20, 1876. It is built of brick, with pressed stone trimmings, slate roofs, and a spire 135 feet in height.
The plans were prepared by Lawrence B. Valk, architect, of New York, according to suggestions furnished by the pastor, and embrace an auditorium sixty by sixty feet, provided with rising floor and circular seats, to accommodate a congregation of nearly six hundred; a church parlor, thirty by sixty-two feet, with kitchen adjoining, and a spacious Sunday school room, thirty by sixty-two feet, over the parlors and kitchen. The auditorium is provided with a very superior organ of thirty registers, designed by and built under the supervision of the pastor, by William King, of Elmira, NY. The entire cost of the building and furniture was a little over $30,000.
The following named clergymen have served the church as pastors, or stated supplies since its organization: Rev. David Harrower, stated supply, 1833 to 1836; Rev. Isaac Toss, first pastor, from March 1842 to August 1851; Rev. J.K. Cornyn, stated supply, 1852 to 1853; Rev. H.L. Doolittle, second pastor, 1854 to 1856; Rev. Sidney Mills, stated supply, 1857 to 1858; Rev. J.G. Carnachan, third pastor, from July 1858 to May 1866; Rev. Samuel F. Colt, stated supply, 1866 to 1867; Rev. L.S. Fine, stated supply, from June 1868, until his death, March 5, 1869; Rev. Edward H. Camp, fourth pastor, from April 28, 1879 to April 8, 1872. Rev. Samuel L. Conde’, fifth and present pastor, commenced to serve the church Nov. 1, 1872, and was installed pastor by presbytery of Lackawanna, May 10, 1873.
The ruling elders of the church have been Ebenezer Pomeroy, Solomon Morse, Isaac Tears, Eli Baird, Ezra S. Jewell, Alfred Waldron, Jas. B. Adams, Layton Runyon, Dr. N. Smith, Fred’k Whitehead, Daniel F. Pomeroy, E.B. Parsons, Theo. Waldron, Jonathan Peck, N.M Pomeroy, Edward Vandine, Geo. L. Peck, and Daniel Compton. The six last named persons are the present ruling elders of the church. Elder Jonathan Peck has filled his office nearly thirty years.
The present membership of the church is 210, one hundred of whom have been added to the church during the present pastorate. The average Sabbath congregation during the year past has been 360; average Sunday school attendance, 175.
The Church of Towanda
The church of Towanda was an offshoot from Wysox. In 1821 that church was blessed with a marked revival, and 38 were added to its communion. A number of these were living on the west side of the river. In accordance with a request of the church that it might be divided, presbytery appointed a committee which met the applicants for the new church at the court house in Towanda, Oct. 25, 1825, and there constituted them into a separate organization. The new church was constituted with 16 members. Rufus Foster, John B. Hinman, John Fox, and Ephraim Ladd, were chosen ruling elders; Rufus Foster, deacon; and J.B. Hinman, clerk. The church struggles against great opposition until the winter of 1831, when Rev. John Dorrance, then preaching at Wysox, assisted by Rev. Nicholas Murray, of Wilkes-Barre, afterwards so widely known as "Kirwan," commenced a series of meetings in the court house, and the following summer 34 were added to the church, and in April a membership of 50 is reported. In September, 1833, the church gave a unanimous call to Rev. Oscar Harris to become their pastor, at a salary of $400 per
annum, which he accepted, - was ordained and installed pastor of the church the October following. In 1834 there was not a church edifice in Towanda. This church, however, determined to build one: a site was settled on Pine, between Main and Second streets, and during the fall of 1835 the church was completed and opened for worship. Aug. 7, 1837, Mr. Harris resigned his pastorate, and was succeeded by Rev. Julius Foster in December, who was ordained and installed pastor, Feb. 4, 1838. The old church becoming unsafe, the present building was erected and finished in the spring of 1855. Mr. Foster continued the pastor of the church until his death, Jan. 16, 1865, a period of twenty-seven years. He was a faithful and able preacher, greatly beloved by his church, and respected by all who knew him. He was a stanch defender of the truth, a prudent counselor, and bore an unblemished reputation. Over hills, along rough roads, through storms and heats, he rode far and near, to answer some special call for his services or to attend some meeting of the church courts. He was succeeded in the pastorate by Rev. Wm. Harris, who had supplied the church during the latter part of Mr. Foster’s illness. In 1866 was witnessed a remarkable revival under the preaching of Rev. E.P. Hammond, whose services had been obtained by the Young Men’s Christian Association, and 73 were added to the church in that year. Under Mr. Harris’ pastorate, the building was enlarged and the church was quickened in all of its activities. He resigned in January, 1870, and in March of that year Rev. John S. Stewart, D.D., was installed pastor. The church has enjoyed a steady growth under his pastorate, and now numbers 324 members. The Sabbath school is in a flourishing condition, with 350 connected with it. The congregation owns a pleasant parsonage on Second street.
The Church of Canton
was organized by a committee of the Susquehanna presbytery at East Canton, Dec. 5, 1832, with a membership of 21 persons. For the first five years the church was but rarely supplied with preaching; then Mr. Todd, of the Troy church, preached monthly for four years, and Rev. Moses Ingalls semi-monthly from 1842 to 1845. In 1846 the church at East Canton was built, and the next year Philander Camp began his labors with the church, - was ordained and installed pastor in September, 1848, and resigned in March, 1857. In 1861 a house of worship was erected at Canton village, and the next year Mr. Camp again returned to supply the church, and was followed by Dr. John Caldwell, who was pastor until 1864. In June, 1865, Rev. S.P. Gates, the present pastor, began his labors in the congregation. He was ordained and installed pastor in September, 1866. The first elders were Jerome Wright, Oliver Bartlett, and John Vandyke. Mr. Wright was thrown from his horse and killed, in the streets of Monroeton, May 17, 1836, in the midst of his usefulness. Mr. Bartlett also came to his death by accident, Jan. 24, 1863. Mr. Vandyke was for nearly thirty years the clerk of the church session. The other elders have been Joseph Fellows, J.L. Randall, Dr. C.T. Bliss, T.S. Manly, Wm. Lawrence, and C.C. Wright. For a number of years the main congregation was at East Canton, but the interest has continued to increase at the village until it is becoming the centre of the congregation, and in October, 1871, it was represented in the church session by the election of Dr. James Davison, E.H. Thomas, A.D. Williams, and Howard Bacon to the eldership. The whole number who have been connected with the church is 306, its present membership is 154, and its Sabbath school numbers 150. They have two houses of worship and a parsonage.
On April 17, 1844, Revs. Julius Foster, of Towanda, C.C. Corss, of Smithfield, and Moses Ingalls, of Burlington, a commission of the presbytery of Susquehanna, met, in company with certain members of the Presbyterian church living at Rome, and effected an organization of a Presbyterian church on the afternoon of that day. The church thus constituted consisted of ten members, of whom Bazaleel Gates and Solomon Spalding were ordained elders at a public service in the evening. The Rev. John Ivison was the first stated supply, and Rev. S.H. Hazard succeeded him. The congregation immediately proceeded to take measures for the erection of a house of worship, which was completed at a cost of about $2000, and dedicated free of debt Feb. 3, 1846, at which time the presbytery met with the church. On the preceding Sabbath Mr. O.F. Young, who had been a deacon in the church at its organization, and G.W. Eastman [since died in Orwell] were ordained additional ruling elders. The Sabbath school was organized in May of that year, and was held during the summer months until 1865, when Elder O.F. Young was appointed its superintendent, during which time it has been continued without interruption until February, 1877, when it was merged into a new organization, - the memorial Sabbath school in memory of Philip P. Bliss, the world-renowned singer of gospel songs, and a former superintendent of the Presbyterian Sabbath school. The church has experienced several seasons of marked religious interest, the most extensive of which was under the pastorate of Rev. Clark Salmon, in the winter of 1866. At the spring communion of this year 25 were added on profession of their faith. The church has been greatly weakened by emigration, but has not only maintained its visibility and sustained with but few brief interruptions the stated preaching of the gospel, but has sent forth a number whose influence has been felt far and wide for good in the world. In addition to Mr. Ivison [died in Warren] and S.H. Hazard, the church has had the following pastors or stated supplies: Philander Camp, Edwin Bronson, 1847 to 1850; Darwin Cook, 1850 to 1858; T. Thomas, 1859 to 1860; J.C. Wilhelm, 1861-62; Andrew Barr, 1863; Clark Salmon, 1865 to 1868; S.F. Colt, 1869 to 1870; F. Billsby, 1870 to 1874; William McNabb, present supple. Silas E. Seeley and William Coolbaugh were elected ruling elders, who were ordained April 20, 1869. The church now numbers about 20.
On June 4, 1859, at a meeting of the session moderated by Rev. T. Thomas, two persons were received on profession of their faith into the membership of the church whose names were destined to become household words wherever the gospel is preached.
These were Philip Paul Bliss and his wife, Lucy Jane Young. They had been married just three days before, June 1, and thus began a life which henceforth, with a constantly increasing activity, was to be devoted to the service of Him in whom they professed their faith. Mr. Bliss, at this time, had not quite reached his majority, having been born July 9, 1838, in Clearfield Co., Pa. For ten years his father was living in sparsely settled regions, which afforded few if an advantages for education. At various places in various kinds of manual labor Philip spent his time until 1855, when he passed the winter in a select school at East Troy, in this county, taught the winter following, and late in the fall of 1857 entered the Susquehanna collegiate institute, at Towanda, where he pursued English studies under the direction of Rev. David Craft, and vocal music under Miss O. Louisa Jenks, He had been but a short time connected with the institution when something of his natural gifts was discovered, and a future successful musical career was predicted for him, if health and opportunities were afforded. The year after his marriage he remained about home, except for the months of July and August, spent at a musical normal school at Geneseo, NY. From this time onward, step by step, his talents as a singer were developed and his time and energies were devoted more exclusively to the great object which he had set before him as his life work. He continued to spend most of his time in Rome, engaged in farm work, teaching music classes, and giving concerts, yet all the while using every leisure moment for study and practice. His parents were aged and in feeble health, and Philip was their only son, and though anxious to employ every moment and every dollar that could be spared to the culture of music, he provided a home for his parents, and surrounded them with earthly comforts. Here the father died, January, 1864. The next year, 1865, his first song, entitle "Lora Vale," was published by Root & Cady, musical publishers in Chicago. The correspondence which grew out of the business relations between author and publishers soon led to a more intimate acquaintance, and finally to his removal to Chicago in November, 1865. Major Whittle, his biographer, says, "From 1864 to 1876, twelve years, his pen was busy in giving expression to the songs that came thronging through his soul. All of his work was done in these years." From this time onward, until the spring of 1874, his time was employed in editing Sabbath school and other singing books, holding conventions, writing songs in great variety, composing music, and a portion of the time editing a column in a musical publication. He and his wife connected themselves with the First Congregational church in Chicago, where he was made leader of the singing and superintendent of the Sabbath school. He was a great lover of children, and a superior talker as well as singer, and made a model superintendent. In the summer of 1869 he became acquainted with D.L. Moody, the great evangelist, and was gradually drawn more entirely into gospel work. He had been repeatedly urged to give up his secular engagements and devote himself wholly to "singing the gospel."
In March, 1874, in company with Major D.W. Whittle, he entered upon evangelistic work, commencing at Waukegan, Ill. Mr. Whittle, in his biography of Mr. Bliss, relates how, in the afternoon of the third day of this meeting, the three made surrender of everything to the Master and his work, and what marvelous success attended their labors. From this time onward Mr. Bliss consecrated all his talents and energies to the Master’s service. It was during this period that he wrote those songs which are known and sung around the world, edited, in connection with Mr. Sankey, "Gospel Songs and Hymns, Nos. 1 and 2," sang at evangelical meetings conducted by Mr. Moody and Major Whittle, in short, in every possible way was consecrating his splendid abilities to the promotion of the Redeemer’s cause. Some of these hymns have been translated into Japanese, Chinese, and the language of some of the African dialects. Previous to his death he was in correspondence with the missionaries at Japan, with reference to composing music adapted to the peculiar metre which is popular in that country. On December 29, 1876, occurred that awful railroad accident known at the "Ashtabula disaster." Mr. & Mrs. Bliss were on the fated train and went down into the fearful gulf. They never were seen afterwards, and not a vestige of their persons or clothing has ever been found. The news of the disaster and death of the singers was flashed with lightning speed over the country, and sent a thrill of anguish into thousands of hearts who had learned to sing their songs. Mr. Bliss left two children, who were in the care of their mother’s relatives at the time of the disaster. Almost spontaneously, at the suggestion of Mr. Moody, the children of the Sabbath schools made contributions to provide for the orphaned children, and erect a suitable monument to the memory of their distinguished parents. The largest gathering ever assembled in Bradford County was on July 10, 1877, when the co-workers and personal friends of Mr. Bliss, with suitable services, unveiled the monument which had been erected to his memory. Not only the wonderful power of song with which Mr. Bliss was endowed, his entire consecration to his Master’s service, his tragic death, gave interest to these services, but he possessed as kind and true a heart as ever throbbed, and a warmth of affection which attached him to all with whom he was brought in contact, while in all those qualities which endeared him to thousands his wife was not a whit behind. In fact, it was owing largely to her encouragement, counsel, and criticism that he always attributed, under God, the success which he won. She was just the wife for such a husband. The broken harp-strings carved upon their monument represent in beautiful legend the two who, in their death, were not divided.
The Church of Herrick
For a number of years, beginning with Mr. Printz, it was the custom of the pastor at Merryall to preach at the old church in the morning, and to hold service once in four weeks in the afternoon at each of the following places, viz.: Herrick, Stevensville, Springhill, and Wyalusing. By this means congregations were gathered at each of these points, which afterwards were constituted into churches. In June, 1849, an organization was effected at Herrickville consisting of 8 members, with Abel Bolles and Lyman Bronson ruling elders. In a short time the name of Herrick was substituted for Herrickville. In the meanwhile the church received some accessions, and H.W. Camp,
Chester Buck, and J.S. Crawford were added to the eldership in 1854. This year, also, sixteen were added to this church. Jan. 21, 1855, A.G. Camp, Sarah A. Camp, and Mrs. Polly Camp, who had been members of a church organized in Herrick under the care of Rev. M.B. Williams, united with the new church. This was the last of a Reformed Presbyterian church which will be mentioned in its proper place. In 1858 a comfortable church edifice was erected, and Rev. D. Cook, who had become pastor in 1858, and still continues in the pastoral charge. They report 26 members of the church, and 25 members of the Sabbath school.
The Second Church at Wyalusing
Jan. 12, 1854, a committee of Susquehanna presbytery constituted at Wyalusing a church of 27 persons, and installed John R. Welles, Henry Gaylord, and William Gamble as ruling elders in the new congregation. Rev. John White was the stated supply until the spring of 1857. The erection of the church building was commenced before the organization was effected, and completed in 1856. January, 1858, Rev. Thomas S. Dewing was installed pastor of the church, and continued in the pastorate until August, 1861. In September, Rev. David Craft became the stated supply of the church; at this time it had increased to 35 members. Mr. Craft was installed pastor of the church Feb. 28, 1866. The largest additions have been in 1866, 16, and in 1876, 40. In 1870 a fine parsonage was built at a cost of $4000. The present membership of the church is 88, and of the Sabbath school 50.
The Church at Monroeton
The Presbyterian church at Monroeton, which was organized Nov. 25, 1851, consisted of 25 constituent members, all of whom had been members of the Presbyterian church at Towanda. J.B. Hinman, William North, and G.E. Arnout were the first elders. The church enjoyed the ministrations of Rev. L.W. Chapman for the first four years, and he was followed by Rev. Jas. McWilliam. After four years he was succeeded by Rev. Darius Williams, who also remained four years. In 1862 the present pastor, Rev. Hallock Armstrong, assumed the charge of the congregation, and has served the church continuously for sixteen years. The church has had a steady growth, but has lost largely by deaths and removals. Its present membership is 65. It has a comfortable church building, with ample sheds and a good parsonage.
The Church at Stevensville
The people of Stevensville had built their house of worship before the church was organized. It cost $1500, and was dedicated Oct. 3, 1858. Feb. 2, 1860, 30 persons, members of the old Wyalusing Presbyterian church, were organized into the Presbyterian church of Stevensville, in which Hiram Stevens, Myron Stevens, and Henry A. Ross were chosen the elders, and Rev. D. Cook was installed pastor. Mr. Cook having resigned, Rev. T. Thomas has supplied the church since April 1, 1866. The church received 13 on profession of faith in 1866, and 7 in 1876. A Sabbath school has been in existence a long time. The congregation have secured a very comfortable parsonage at the cost of $1500. It reports a Sabbath school or 55, and in the church 32 members.
Church at Barclay
By direction of presbytery, Rev. Wm. Harris, of Towanda, visited Barclay and preached several times. Mr. Dechert also spent some time there in the months of September and November of the same year. In March, Mr. McWilliam moved his family on the mountain; preached a few times at Fall creek, at Graydon, but most of the time at Barclay. Dec. 26, 1866, 24 persons were constituted a church by a committee of presbytery, and Messrs. Muir, Huntington, and Turner were ordained elders; William and John Ditchburn and D. Short were chosen deacons. Mr. McWilliam left February, 1869, and was followed by Rev. Edward Kennedy. Mr. Christison was supply for a short time in 1875, and was succeeded by Rev. James Petrie, Jan. 23, 1876, who is the present supply. The church suffers all the fluctuations of small mining towns. Its present membership is about 60. There is a pleasant little church, a parsonage, and a school house, costing all together about $4500, belonging to the congregation. The Sabbath school has 225 teachers and scholars.
Church at Terrytown
The first Presbyterian church of Asylum, now Terry, originated in a secession of a number of members from the old Wyalusing Presbyterian church, on account of slavery. It was organized by Rev. M.B. Williams, of the Cayuga, NY, presbytery, Aug. 24, 1842, with 10 members. Meetings were held and the sacraments administered regularly by Mr. Williams. In February, 1844, the membership had increased to 32, of whom nearly one-half resided in Herrick. The Herrick members were constituted into a church Feb. 26, 1844. There were twelve of them. They maintained a separate existence until 1855, when the remnant of them was received into the Herrick Presbyterian church.
The Terrytown branch was also weakened by removals. As this church has never been connected with any presbytery, a reorganization took place Oct. 8, 1863, under the supervision of a committee of Susquehanna presbytery, and the church was taken under the care of the presbytery. The Rev. David Craft, who had supplied the church since September, 1861, was installed pastor March 1, 1866, and has continued in the pastorate since. Dr. George F. Horton and William Gamble were chosen elders. The present membership is about 50.
Presbytery of Lackawanna
The first meeting of this presbytery was held in the Presbyterian church at Wyalusing, September, 1870. It was a remarkable coincidence that the first meeting of the presbytery should be held on the very spot where the first Presbyterian church within its borders was organized.
The only change which has been effected in the churches in this county since the organization of the presbytery has been the uniting of the two churches at Wysox into one organization.
The Second Church in Wysox
Grew out of a secession from the old church, partly on personal and partly on political grounds. The exscinding act of 1837 afforded a pretest for uniting with the presbytery of Montrose, which ranged with the New School party. In 1857-58 they built a snug little church. The church was served by supplies until about 1860, when Rev. H.J. Crane became the pastor, and continued to be until presbytery united the two branches.
There are in the county now sixteen church organizations, with the same number of church edifices, and a membership of 1350 souls. There are 14 ordained ministers, of whom 6 are pastors, 5 are stated supplies, 2 are without charge, and 1 is honorably retired.
Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ulster
This church was organized May 18, 1855, by Rev. A.M. Macauley, a commissioner from the Reformed presbytery of Philadelphia. He was assisted in the organization by the Rev. Samuel Wylie, of the Western Reformed presbytery. At the organization there were 26 members, but a short time after 25 more were added to the number. The Rev. Robert Stevenson was ordained and installed pastor of the church July 11, 1861; the ordination sermon was preached by the Rev. T.W.J. Wylie, D.D., and the Rev. W. Sterret gave the charge to the pastor and people. Soon after their organization they erected a house of worship, and also a comfortable parsonage. Mr. Stevenson left in 1867. Before his pastorate the church was supplies by different individuals, sometimes statedly, sometimes irregularly. Since 1869 they have had preaching regularly every alternate Sabbath.
The organization of the Reformed Presbyterian church of Ulster was brought about in the following manner. As the Hon. James Pollock, a short time before his election as governor of Pennsylvania, was traveling through Bradford County, he was accosted by two farmers, whose faces bore evidence that they were earnest and honest men, while their record showed that they had been born in the land of the Covenanters. One of them - James Howie - was a connection of John Howie, so well known as the author of "Scott’s Worthies," and the other - Walter Pollock - of the kindred of the author of the "Course of Time." Having been informed that Mr. Pollock was a Reformed Presbyterian, they made known to him their desire to obtain preaching from the ministers of that denomination, as they had been connected with it in Scotland. Mr. Pollock presented their case to some ministers in Philadelphia, and in due time a church was organized, as already stated.
Ballibay Congregation [Covenanters*]
[*Footnote - Collated from "Our Banner, " vol. ii, p.378]
A number of Irish Presbyterians, mostly from the county of Monaghan, emigrated to Pennsylvania more than half a century ago, and settles within a few miles of Wyalusing. In 1832, Rev. David Scott organized them into a congregation, with George Gamble and William Morrow as elders. In 1833, Mr. Gamble and a part of the members went with the "New Lights," and the congregation was disorganized. Mr. Morrow and the remainder continued faithful to their principles, and sought supplies. For about four years they received occasional preaching from Rev. Mr. Douglass, W.B. Williams, and others, but for the most part from Mr. Francis Gayley, a licentiate. They appreciated him highly as an able and faithful preachers, and when, in 1838, he withdrew from the church, they all followed him. Under his ministry they continued faithfully to adhere to Reformation principles, read the old authors, studied the Bible diligently, and were intelligent and earnest Christians. At length, in 1859, Mr. Gaylay proposed to assume ministerial functions and re-baptize all his followers. To this they would not consent, and nearly all left him. They however adhered faithfully to the Covenanter faith. As early as 1873 or 1874 they were visited by some of the ministers of the Reformed Presbyterian church, and Aug. 28, 1875, they were reorganized into a congregation at Ballibay. Seven of the old organization of 1832 were incorporated into the new one, and twelve united with them on profession of their faith, - nineteen in all. Dr. F.G. Morrow and Richard Graham were elected elders, and John Branyan and Newton J. Morrow deacons. Services are held in the school house in Ballibay, in the township of Herrick. They are connected with the New York presbytery, which sends supplies to them at stated periods to preach and administer the sacraments.
Protestant Episcopal Church in Bradford County*
[*Footnote - By George D. Stroud, A.M.]
The history of the Protestant Episcopal church in Bradford County is not a record of rapid and continuous progress, but rather of constant struggle and missionary effort.
St. Matthew’s Church, Pike
The first church organized and admitted into union with the convention was St. Matthew’s church, in Pike township. This was in 1814, and among the persons applying for a charter were Dimon Bostwick, Benajah Bostwick, Jabez Bosworth, Salmon Bosworth, Daniel Ross, and David Olmstead. Rev. Manning B. Roche was the first rector. For several years the congregation assembled for worship in the upper part of a store owned by Salmon Bosworth. The church building was erected in the year 1820, and consecrated soon afterwards by Bishop White, who was accompanied from Philadelphia by Rev. Jackson Kemper, afterwards missionary bishop of the northwest and of the diocese of Wisconsin. In the year 1825, Rev. Samuel Marks, a missionary of "the Society for the advancement of Christianity in Pennsylvania," for the counties of Bradford and Susquehanna, became rector of this church , and the same year organized a Sunday school. The number of communicants connected with this church at that time was twenty. Rev. Samuel Marks continued rector, except during 1831 and 1831, until 1834; he is now over eighty years of age, and rector of Christ church, Huron, Ohio.
His successors in St. Matthew’s church have been Rev. Samuel Tiffany Lord, Rev. Freeman Lane, Rev. Barclay A. Smith, all now deceased, Rev. De Witt C. Byllesby, now
Living in Roselle, NJ, Rev. Hale Townsend, now of Charles City, Iowa, Rev. William Smith Heaton, now city missionary in Philadelphia, and Rev. George Paine Hopkins, a hale and hearty old gentleman, who is filling the rectorship for the third time.
Christ Church, Athens
Rev. Samuel Tiffany Lord, a missionary of the "Society for the advancement of Christianity," organized a church at Athens, under the name of Christ church, on Aug. 30, 1833. Athens was at this time in a declining condition, and this organization did not become permanent, so that in about three years services were given up and the church disbanded.
Christ Church, Towanda
Rev. Samuel Tiffany Lord, in addition to his labors at Athens, held occasional services during the autumn of 1833 in Towanda, and in December began to officiate there regularly every Sunday. Among the laymen who were active in introducing the services of the church in Towanda were Henry S. Mercur, M.C. Mercur, O.D. Bartlett, and Mark Miller. The church services were held for a number of years in the old courthouse, and the Sunday school in the old "fireproof" belonging to the county was taught by M.C. Mercur, O.D. Bartlett, and Miss Mary Woodruff. Antes Snyder, Wm. B. Foster, Jr., and Abraham Goodwin were prominent members of the church in its early days.
In 1840, Rev. Robert G. Hays, in charge of the parish, reported to the convention that the amount necessary to complete a frame church thirty-six feet front by fifty feet deep, had been raised. The money appears to have been subscribed but not all paid.
Dec. 20, 1841, the court granted a charter, under the name of Christ’s church, to Wm. B. Foster, Jr., O.D. Bartlett, Abraham Goodwin, John N. Weston, M.D., C.L. Ward, M.C. Mercur, David Wilmot, and their successors. The year 1842 was one of almost unparalleled financial difficulties and distress in the community, but notwithstanding the church was completed in this year and an organ purchased.
In this year Rev. George Watson became rector, and in 1844 the church was admitted into union with the convention. Rev. Asa S. Colton became rector of this church Jan. 1, 1845. In 1847, Rev. Robert J. Parvin was elected rector, and entered on his duties September 12, and the church became self-supporting. In 1849 the church was altered and enlarged, and a bell procured. Rev. Benjamin J. Douglass succeeded to the rectorship June 20, 1850, and continued in charge of the church till April 11, 1866. During the first year of his pastorate the church debt was entirely paid off. During his second year the exterior of the church was painted and a tower erected. During 1853 and 1854, more than $2000 was raised by the congregation, and a rectory built. The months of January, February, and March, 1866, witnessed a deep religious interest in the community, and on April 11, the occasion of Mr. Douglass’ last ministration in this church, he presented fifty-five candidates to Bishop Vail, acting for Bishop Stevens, the bishop of the diocese, for confirmation.
Rev. Francis D. Hoskins entered on the rectorship on the first Sunday, August, 1866, and remained in charge about three years.
On the first Sunday in January, 1870, Rev. William McGlathery became rector, and held the position till the autumn of 1873. On Oct. 21, 1873, the vestry extended a unanimous call to Rev. Charles Ewbank McIlvaine, son of the late Bishop Charles P. McIlvaine, of Ohio, to become rector of the parish, and on Sunday, Nov. 30, he entered on his duties. In December, 1875, while officiating at a funeral of a child, he caught a violent cold which settled on his lungs, and on Feb. 22, 1876, he died at the rectory, to the great grief of his family and the congregation. Funeral services were held in Christ church by Rev. F.D. Hoskins, of Elmira, and Rev. A. Augustus Marple, of Scranton. His remains were taken to Wilmington, Del., in charge of a committee of the vestry and congregation, and after funeral services in St. Andrew’s church, of which his father-in-law Bishop Alfred Lee is rector, were committed to the earth in Old Swede’s cemetery.
After the death of Mr. McIlvaine the church was served by Rev. Wm. Atwill, of Elmira, and Rev. J. McA. Harding, of Athens, and by lay reading, until the present rector, Rev. John S. Beers, entered on his rectorship, Sunday, Sept. 17, 1876. During the last three months of 1877 the church has been enlarged by the addition of a recess chancel, a library room, a vestry room, and a number of new pews. The organ has been moved to the chancel end of the church. The galleries have been removed, and the whole interior has been handsomely papered and painted, and made an attractive place of worship. Since the organization of the parish 435 persons have been baptized and 278 confirmed, and the church is steadily progressing in influence and membership.
For many years the Sunday school of Christ church has been very flourishing. Mr. B.S. Russell, now of Philadelphia, was the superintendent for about fifteen years. Mr. S.W. Alvord was his successor. The present superintendent is Mr. E.T. Fox, who performs the duties of his position with ability and zeal. Nearly all the rectors of this church have held frequent mission services outside of their parish bounds, sometimes even going into adjoining counties.
Trinity Church, Athens
Rev. Freeman Lane, rector of St. Andrew’s church, Springville, Susquehanna county, reports that he held occasional services in 1837, but that the church was feeble, and unable to secure clerical services.
In 1839, Rev. Robert G. Hays, officiating at Christ church, Towanda, preached occasionally at Athens, and reported that the people were making an effort to erect a chapel. This effort amounted to little at that time. In 1842 the Episcopalians met and reorganized a parish under the name of Trinity church, and elected Rev. George P. Hopkins rector. The services were at first held in a schoolhouse, but before May, 1843, a church building was erected.
In August, 1843, Rev. George Watson, rector of Christ church, Towanda, became rector of this parish also. In August, 1845, Rev. A. Augustus Marple, then in deacon’s orders, went to Athens by direction of the bishop, and held services twice a week for nine weeks, when he accepted a call to St. Paul’s church Bloomsburg. Rev. Barclay A. Smith was
Sent under the auspices of the Male missionary society of Grace church, Philadelphia, and assumed the rectorship of the church on Dec. 6, 1845. His salary was paid by the missionary society. He did not continue long in charge, but after a few years was deposed from the ministry, by Bishop Alonzo Potter, for unclerical conduct.
In 1855, Rev. William G. French became rector, and entered on his duties Sept. 18. Although the parish had been served by various clergymen from time to time, it had run down for want of pastoral care, and at this time the church life was but weak. Mr. French held services every Sunday, with an average attendance of 40 to 50, and supported himself chiefly by teaching, though a portion of the time he received a scanty salary from the church, and occasional help from the bishop and the missionary society. The church building had been destroyed by fire before Mr. French’s rectorship, but in the summer of 1855 a subscription was begun for the erection of a new one. This reached the sum of $1000.
On the last Sunday in August, 1858, Rev. J. McAlpin Harding began his rectorship. The Universalist church was rented, the congregation increased, the building fund was again started, and in 1860 a stone church, to cost $2600, was projected, and its erection begun. On Dec. 1, 1861, it was occupied, and in 1862 the rector’s salary, which had been $250, was raised to $400. The tower was raised about twenty feet, and a bell hung in it, all at a cost of $450. The bell was first rung the day before Christmas. In 1863 $110 were raised to purchase a cabinet organ, which was introduced on Christmas day. In 1864 the church was admitted to the convention. On the last Sunday in August, 1865, Mr. Harding preached his farewell sermon. Rev. Joseph A. Nock held the rectorship for nearly two years, and was succeeded on July 1, 1868, by Rev. Faber Byllesby.
In the summer of 1872, Rev. J. McAlpine Harding came to Athens for the benefit of his health, which was much impaired. He had no intention of taking hold of the work again. The congregation were much scattered, and the parish pretty much gone. He was requested to stay a year and see what could be done. This was backed by a subscription of $700, to begin Oct. 1, 1872, and was afterwards increased to $800. He assumed formal charge at that time. The old rectory was pulled down, and through his efforts a substantial new one was built at a cost of about $3500. In the autumn of 1876, Mr. Harding resigned, and has since been engaged as an itinerant missionary in parts of Bradford, Sullivan and Columbia counties.
St. Paul’s Church, Troy
As early as 1833, Rev. Samuel Tiffany Lord, in addition to missionary work at Athens, held occasional services in Troy, where several Episcopalian families resided. Here he encountered deep and settled prejudices against the church, and has to work in the midst of contumely and reproach.
Here a congregation was formed under the name of St. Paul’s church.
Rev. George P. Hopkins, now rector of St. Matthew’s, Pike was in charge of the church for some years, and also carried on missionary work at Columbia Cross Roads, and at various other points in the rural districts.
In 1842 a church was built at a cost of about $3000, and on June 15 it was consecrated, and on the same day Rev. Freeman Lane began his rectorship in the new church.
In 1845 this parish was admitted into union with the convention. After this the parish was without regular pastoral care for some years, and during this interregnum the church, which was in an inconvenient location, was sold to the Roman Catholics, and a new lot purchased in a more eligible position.
In 1858, Rev. J. McAlpin Harding, rector of Trinity church, Athens, assumed the rectorship of St. Paul’s church likewise, and through his efforts, in 1862, a church building belonging to the Christian body known as the Disciples was purchased, removed to the lot belonging to St. Paul’s parish, and remodeled, and has since been used as the parish church.
Next came the rectorate of Rev. Lorenzo D. Ferguson, who was succeeded by the present rector, Rev. William G. Ware, a young man of ability and zeal, under whose care the church is prospering.
Church of the Redeemer, Sayre
The town of Sayre, on the line of the Pennsylvania and New York canal and railroad company, about a mile south of the New York line, is a new and thriving town started by the railroad company. The offices of the company are located here, and it bids fair to be a town of importance in the future. Here the church has been first in the field, and in May, 1877, the Church of the Redeemer was organized, and in June following was admitted into union with the convention. It is worthy of note that the name was suggested by Rev. Samuel Marks, who was missionary in this county about half a century ago. Rev. George F. Rosenmuller, of Trinity church, Athens, is rector of this church.
The first Catholic service held in this county was at Asylum, during the existence of the French colony there. M. Carles, the priest, was accustomed to celebrate mass regularly, and attend to the other duties and services prescribed by the church. As has been said, the missal used in these services is still in the possession of Rev. Patrick Toner. With the dissolution of this colony, both the priest and his parish took their departure, and the French mission was ended, after having continued about five years, -- from 1794 to 1799 or 1800.
The next movement towards church growth occurred at a period when there was a large immigration to this county from Ireland. In 1821 the settlement of Irish people bolding the Catholic religion was begun at Silver Lake, in Susquehanna county. At the solicitation of Mr. Patrick Griffin, the earliest settler there, the bishop was induced to send Rev. Father O’Flynn on a mission into the northern part of Pennsylvania and southern New York, who should look after any scattered families he might find in all that vast region, and administer to them the sacraments of the church. The missionary was suddenly cut off in the discharge of his duty at Danville, in 1829, and was taken to Silver Lake for
burial. At this place a church was commenced in 1827, but was not finished for some time after. Rev. Father Clancy was on the mission until 1832, and Rev. Henry Fitzsimmons was appointed to it in 1836. In May, 1837, he started on horseback to visit the far-off outlying outposts of his field. In his route he visited Troy, Canton, Ridgeberry, Athens, and Towanda, celebrating mass and administering the sacraments to the faithful. This self-denying, laborious missionary had the satisfaction of seeing the fruits of his labor in the gathering of churches at each of these places. The mission was divided, and Rev. John O’Reilly was assigned the portion which includes Bradford County soon after.
When work was begun on the North Branch canal contractor sent agents to Ireland, who, representing the advantages afforded to poor people in America, induced thousand to emigrate to this country. Many of these people found work on the sections of the canal lying in this county, and began to locate in considerable numbers along the line. Prior to 1841 Catholic services were held in various places in the neighborhood, but in that year Father O’Reilly and the congregation put up a plain wood church edifice on the site of the present church in Towanda. In 1869 the old wooden church was demolished, and the present elegant brick Gothic structure erected under the persistent and successful efforts of Rev. Patrick Toner. It is fifty by one hundred feet, finished with a tower and tall spire, and is estimated to cost, when completed, $50,000. It is named Saints Peter and Paul.
Father O’Reilly was, at his request, relieved of the portion of his work in Bradford County, and was succeeded by Rev. Mr. Sharve, who was stationed at Towanda. In taking leave of this good priest, it is but just to say that he was greatly endeared to the members of his parish, whom he was ready to aid in every way in his power. When the work on the canal was suspended, he advised the families located on the line to move back where the land was cheap, buy a farm, and become citizens of the country. In accordance with this advice. Little settlements of Irish people have been formed in various parts of the county, which are becoming more prosperous than any about them. Father O’Reilly was as fearless as he was kind. While making his trips down the line of the canal he was told some of the laborers on a certain division has been indulging too freely in drink, and that the person who kept the grog had just purchased another barrel, and it was feared serious consequences would follow. The faithful priest hastened to the scene, and after administering a severe rebuke to the riotous laborers, seized an axe, broke in the head of the barrel of whisky, and allowed the contents to flow on the ground.
Rev. Mr. Ahern succeeded Rev. Mr. Sharve. He built the church at Athens, and was followed by Rev. Mr. Doherty, and he in turn by the Franciscan fathers. After them Rev. Patrick Toner had charge of the field. He was an eloquent, able priest, a man of fine talents and culture. Under his administration the church was built at Barclay. At the request of Father Toner the parish was divided, and Ridgeberry, Athens, and Windham were taken off and erected into a new one.
Rev. Charles F. Kelly, an educated and accomplished gentleman, has succeeded to the old parish. Rev. John O’Mally was sent to take charge of the parish in the northern part of the county. His home was to be in Athens. Rev. Mr. Garvy followed him. Rev. James Loughran has charge of the parish after him. Rev. Father Costello is the present priest. There was a church erected in South Waverly in 1877.
Next to Towanda, Ridgeberry is the oldest church in the county. Father O’Reilly came out there on horseback in 1843, and celebrated mass at the house of Daniel Cain. In 1847 the chapel was built at a cost of $750, and in 1877 it was enlarged and refitted. At Troy the house formerly used by the Episcopalians was purchased, refitted, and is now used by the congregation.
Statistics giving number of communicants or value of church property are not in hand. At Towanda the church is in possession of one of the finest properties in the borough.
Universalism in Bradford County*
[*Footnote - By the Rev. G.J. Porter, pastor of the Church of the Messiah, Towanda, PA]
On a marble monument standing in a cemetery in Springfield, Pa., is this inscription:
"Sacred to the memory of Rev. Noah Murray, the first preacher of Universalism in Bradford County, who died May 11, 1811, in the seventy-5th year of his age.
"Erected as a token of grateful remembrance by the North Branch Association of Universalists, Sept. 1867."
Mr. Murray was born in Connecticut. He commenced preaching as a Baptist, but, being converted to Universalism, he removed in 1790 to Tioga Point, now Athens.* [*Footnote - Thomas’ Century of Universalism.]
It is related by the oldest inhabitants of Sheshequin that he made that place a visit [probably during his residence in Athens] and preached strongly of his religious convictions. Two of the principal members of an Evangelical church were much alarmed, fearing the extensive spread of his new doctrines. They arranged for a place and time in which to convert the heretical preacher. Mr. Murray was pleased with the arrangement, and consented to meet the gentlemen at the time and place appointed. The meeting took place. In a Christian spirit they argued all night. When morning dawned a result was reached, but not the result fondly expected by the orthodox brethren. Mr. Murray came out victorious, and the other two, then and there, renounced their former belief and declared themselves Universalists. This was the beginning of the Universalist society in Sheshequin; though a small beginning, a society was soon formed, which grew and prospered. Many converts were made, and Sheshequin became the rally point for the denomination in Bradford County.
What there is now of Universalism in the county is, in a great measure, the result of the labors of Rev. M. Murray. He visited the western part of the county, preaching in Sylvania and vicinity. He was followed by Rev. Geo. Rogers, Father Stacy, and Rev. A.C. Thomas, who is now living at Tacony, Philadelphia. These were all able men and powerful preachers. They made many converts, but did not succeed in forming lasting, zealous organizations.
In Sheshequin the society became very strong, having some of the most influential people of the community for members. The families of Parks, Kinneys, and Kingsburys were the first and most prominent. A church was built, and regular preaching was sustained. There was no organized church of Sunday school, these not being considered necessary in the early times of the denomination. The church is still standing in good repair. There are many good Universalists in the valley, but the society has become scattered. Children have gone to other churches and Spiritualism has taken away some of the strongest supporters. The Sheshequin society shows but little prospect of revival to active work in the near future.
Mr. Murray did good work in Athens. A society was organized, either in his time or soon after his death. A church was built a few years since, and regular preaching has been maintained until quite recently. The old society plan was found to be anything but a success, and so a church was organized, with a very respectable number of members. The church has been somewhat unfortunate in hiring pastors. It has engaged to pay more than could be raised; as a consequence the church property has been mortgaged to meet obligations. The mortgages amount to only a few hundred dollars, which will probably soon be paid, and the affairs will then run smoothly again. But this church has lost in numbers and influence because of lack of interest in Sunday school work, and the inroads made by Spiritualism.
Sylvania, in the northern part of the county, was also favored by a visit from Rev. Mr. Murray. Many converts were made by him, and by Rev. Geo. Rogers and Father Stacy. Rev. Nehemiah Ripley was probably the first pastor. A society was organized in Sylvania about the year 1819. Rev. Walter Bullard was pastor in 1833. He still lives near Sylvania, and is held in high esteem by all who know him. Soon after the erection of a meeting house in Sheshequin one was built in Sylvania. This house still stands, is in very good repair, and meetings are occasionally held in it. There are many Universalists in Sylvania, -- about thirty families in all. They are in good financial circumstances, and are able to have regular preaching, though they have had no pastor since 1875.
There is a good church building at Springfield. When it was built, or how the society was organized, we have not been able to learn.
Rev. Mr. Ellis, of Vermont, preached in Troy and Columbia as early as 1819. There are now many Universalists about Columbia Cross Roads, many of them being members either at Sylvania or Springfield.
There never were many Universalists at Troy, though they own a share in the Baptist church, and have at times supported regular preaching.
The Universalists at one time owned a church building at Monroe. The society became very much weakened because of removals. The church was sold and the society went down. There are pretty and comfortable houses of worship at Standing Stone and Orwell Hill. When the societies were organized, or the houses built, we have not been able to learn. The society in Orwell Hill had its last pastor in 1875. That in Standing Stone in 1877.
There has been occasional preaching in Litchfield, Ulster, and Franklindale, the Universalists owning a share in the church in the last named place.
At Towanda, the county seat, the denomination has attempted, as several different times, to gain a foot hold. Many preachers have visited Towanda at different times, and have attempted to form organizations; subscriptions for building churches have been raised, but until recently all efforts have failed. In the year 1866, certain parties made application for a charter incorporating an organization to be known as the First Universalist Society of Towanda. After getting the charter nothing more of a lasting character was done until the fall of 1875, when Rev. S.F. Porter revisited Towanda with the avowed intention of building a church. As a result of his labors, in March, 1877, a Universalist church was dedicated, costing nearly $12,000.
There are now in Towanda a flourishing church and large Sunday school. A monthly Universalist paper is to be started in January, 1878.
There are in the county 2 clergymen, 2 Sunday schools, with an aggregate
membership of 150 scholars, 2 church organizations, 6 societies, 7 meeting
houses and shares in 2 others, and over 1500 professed Universalists.