Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
1891-1991 Austinville Church Observes Centennial

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This picture of Austinville, taken from the south, shows the Methodist Episcopal Church closest to the viewer.  Across the road to its left is the First Baptist Church and on its right, the second Austinville schoolhouse.

Austinville Church Observes Centennial -- 1891-1991

Over 300 people packed the church at Austinville on July 21, 1991, in a gala celebration of 100 years of ministry.  The featured speaker was Colonel Gene Dewey, son of the late Rev. Glen and Florence Dewey.  Providing music for the morning service and an evening concert were: The Crane Family Bell Choir, the Austinville Choir, Holly Butcher, Kim Chaapel and Georgia Pepper, Steve and Gloria Dziuba and Connie Sickler.

Antique autos and hundreds of historic pictures added to the nostalgic atmosphere of the noon meal, while the day ended with a hand cranked ice cream social in the new church park.

After the morning worship service, a church park dedication was held on the site of the new park.  Park benches have been strategically placed to mark the sites of the old church wagon sheds, the Charles Teeter blacksmith shop and the first Austinville school.

The Austinville Baptist Church was originally built in 1873 for $4,000 on land donated by P. C. and Lucinda Morgan to the “trustees of the Baptist Church of Columbia Township”.  Trustees at that time were:  K. Ferguson, Jacob Bierdsley, Milo Canada, P. C. Slade and G. N. Besley.  By 1891, the Columbia Township work was considered secure enough for the 28 members to transfer their letters from the mother church, the Columbia and Wells Baptist Church, and organize on their own.  An article in the Troy Gazette Register confirms that the Methodist Episcopal Church at Austinville was dedicated in 1898.

Tragedy struck in 1910 when a fire started at an Easter social being held to raise funds to pay the minister, Rev. Seymour Barrett.  Seventy-five people had a narrow escape as the church burned to the ground, while the wagon sheds and nearby buildings were scorched.  The building was insured for only $100 by agent, Lyman H. Oliver.  In 1917, the church was rebuilt on the old foundations by Frank Murray, an area barn builder, who also worked on the Panama Canal.  There were not enough funds to cover the project, so members signed a sheet of paper promising to make donations ranging from $2 to 1000 feet of lumber to three days’ work.  All pledges are penciled in as paid!

The tragedy turned to blessing as it forced the Methodists and Baptists to worship together from 1910 to 1917 when the Baptist Church was rebuilt.  In the words of the late Agnes Bailey Clark, who was 10 years old at the time of the fire, “After the Baptist Church burned, they conducted Sunday school and both churches melded together and had a nice crowd.”  Though the Baptist Church was rebuilt in 1917, the seven year period was long enough for Baptists and Methodists to get to know and like each other.  By 1920, they were holding joint business meetings and shared the same minister, each church paying half of the salary.  The union began with six months of services in each church; winter services were held in the Baptist Church because of “better heating facilities”.  In 1922, the Austinville Band was meeting in the Methodist Church under the direction of Sam Wilson.  At that time, the bell from the Methodist Church building was moved to the Baptist Church building.  The original cost of the bell is noted as $130.

In 1922, the Rev. Orey Crippen became the minister of the combined churches.  Rev. Orey and Martha Crippen were life long friends of Rev. Glen and Florence Dewey who were to come in 1929.  The union was formalized in 1937 by the Deweys.

Under the union, “baptism by mode of choice, sprinkling or immersion” was accepted.  The first officers of the Union Church were: William Staudt, Robert Shaylor, James Wilson, Mrs. Belle Watkins, Mrs. Bertha Bailey.

In the 1890’s ministers were paid $12.50 per month.  Church revenues, ranging from $5.05 to $11.45, were generated from socials.  The 1990 church income was $45,140 with 25% going to missions.

Eighteen ministers have served the church since 1891.  Up until 1965, the ministers of the church either preached simultaneously at other area churches, worked at an additional job or both.  By the mid-sixties, ministry in rural areas was becoming more comprehensive.  Urban expectations of ministry filtered back into the country from successful farm children where population and incomes soared.  The past 30 years have been a transition period for the rural church because of the imposition of urban expectations on rural demographics.  Austinville Union Church feels that it is cutting a path through that tangled forest by applying state of the art technology and methods, while resisting the erosion of cherished rural values and flavor.

Today, the church utilizes pastor Ken Marple’s M. A. in clinical and community psychology by offering professional counseling and referral services.  The computer, desk top publishing and merge mailing now make it possible to keep in better contact with the high percentage of rural young people who move away but retain the Troy area as their home.

Starting in 1891 past clerks of the church include: Jennie Strong, R. Gernert, Mrs. M. Watkins, B. E. Haven, Alice Teeter, Mrs. Lori Sears, Mrs. Hester M. Watkins, Mrs. S. C. Moore, Miss Anna Gustin, Aminta B. Andrus, Mrs. Charlotte Besley, Helen B. Shaylor, Bertha Bailey, Edna L. Haven, Melissa Spencer, Freda H. Burleigh.

Present officers include: deacons, Duane Mattocks, Eugene Wilber, William Bower, Bruce Staudt, Rex Burleigh; trustees, Virginia Case, Jack Kuyper, Michael Shaylor, John Sickler, Jonathan Shaylor; treasurer, Sandra Mattocks; clerk, Freda Burleigh; music director/pianist, Catherine Kittle; Christmas cantata director, Jeanne Wilber; organist, Gloria Marple; mission society president, Linda Miller.

A complete published history is available at the Austinville Union Church.

Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA

Published On Tri-Counties Site On 06 SEP 2006
By Joyce M. Tice
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