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The Old Days at West Burlington
Article: Pennsy History Lives in His Memory
About 1963
Township:West Burlington, Bradford County PA
Article submitted by Daryl ELDRETT Watkins
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Pennsy History “Lives’ in His Memory

By Helen Lepkowski

WEST BURLINGTON -- Cortland H. Decker of Washington D.C. a descendant of Nathan Decker, who settled in West Burlington in 1779, has returned for a visit with his nephew, William Coon, and Mrs. Coon.

Born in 1877, Decker has a vast store of firsthand historical data concerning the area and is believed to be the oldest living member of the first Methodist church to be built in Pennsylvania, which still stands in West Burlington.

Family lore alleges that a log church was erected late in the 1700s. Non-denominational and called simply “The Community Church.” The construction was accomplished by holding a “bee” in which great-great-grandfather Nathan and his family took part.

This served the community for about two decades before it burned to the ground. The site was idle for some time until the Methodist church was built in 1822.

When a circuit minister put in an appearance the residents of the entire countryside came streaming in for the services which began at 9 a.m. and continued until late afternoon, Decker recalls of his youth.

As many as 300 persons thronged the balcony and ground level of the little church. Unable to find seats, some stood throughout the service. Others less fortunate in securing even standing room, pressed against the windows of the church.

Picnic lunches were held at midday and a huge parking field adjacent to the church was crowded with buggies and wagons, and horses tethered with hitching weights.

Members of the clergy, the legal and medical professions and prominent officials appeared in high silk hats accompanied by wives and daughters attire in plumed bonnets, shawls and long. Sweeping gowns trimmed with bustles and bows.

A vast box stove, Decker also recalled, providing heat in the winter, burning wood chunks three feet long. Illuminating the church were oil lamps hanging by chains from long nails set into the walls.

During the lengthy services the children might become restless, but were on the whole very will behaved. “In those days,” Decker said with a grin, “amy actions out of keeping with church services were invariably cured with a good tanning.”

With an 86th birthday approaching, Decker, who retired as a building contractor in 1949, is in excellent health and spirits, active and alert. He manages a 2 or 3 mile walk everyday.

An ardent fisherman, he spent a weekend at the Coon Camp on Clark [ *should be Barclay] Mountain, although the fishing wasn’t so good, he said.

Always active in church functions he continues this affiliations he continues this affiliation in Washington where he resides with a daughter, Mrs. Ruth Womack.

Decker travels extensively by bus and train. Impaired eyesight prevents his operating a car. From West Burlington he goes to the Keuka Lake cottage of his brother, then to Rochester and Jersey Shore, where he resided for a time , to visit his grandchildren. He is also a former resident of Elmira.

He expects to return to West Burlington for the annual services to be held in the Old Church on Sunday, Aug. 19.


I believe that this article was written in about 1963 based on the age of Cortland Decker (near 86) who was born on  01 Mar. 1877. Unfortunately, I do not know in which newspaper it was published.

Cortland Decker was my great grand uncle, and William Coon, my grandfather.


Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA

Published On Tri-Counties Site On 23 FEB 2003
By Joyce M. Tice
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