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Submitted by J. Kelsey Jones
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148-year-old church destroyed by fire 

Lightning suspected in Coryland 

Submitted by J. Kelsey Jones

Source: Star-Gazette, Elmira, New York, Monday, March 25, 1991 

At right - Photo June 1986 from Nalda COOK Holton collection.[added to existing page Jan  2010]
148-year-old church destroyed by fire 

Lightning suspected in Coryland 

Coryland - Lightning struck a blow to Bradford County history Sunday, setting off a fire that destroyed a 148-year-old church here that kept true to its past: few modern amenities. 

The 1:47 p.m. blaze gutted the Baptist Hill Church on Baptist Hill Road, a wood-frame structure with a metal roof that stood along a dirt road in rural, northwestern Bradford County, said Ron Crise, second assistant chief of the Troy Fire Department. 

"A neighbor supposedly heard a loud bang" before the fire, said Crise. Lightning is the only suspected cause, he said. 

Doug Pratt of Coryland, a church member, said the 30-by-50 building has no electricity or water and is used only during July and August. The rest of the year, the 100-member congregation meets at its other church located a mile away, the Coryland Church.

Pratt said the congregation was at the Coryland Church Sunday morning. "A little after 11:30 a.m., there was a flash and the nose. We knew the strike had been close, but nobody thought we should run around and check all the buildings in the neighborhood.

"We were just sitting down to our meal (at the church) when a neighbor called and said the church was on fire. She had called the fire department," Pratt said.

Pratt, the second person on the scene of the fire, said he saw evidence of a lightning strike: the cable from the lightning rod atop the steeple was broken and burned in spots as were some metal gutters.

"All the doors were locked, there were no windows broken and there is no electricity," said Pratt, a retired Navy man.

The congregation is made up of Baptists and Presbyterians who joined forces in 1909, and decided to modernize and meet primarily in the Presbyterian's church, the Coryland Church, Pratt said.

Crise said the destroyed church is insured. Pratt added that the furnishings were sparse, and old.

"The pews were old theater type seats, wooden fold-up seats. They were old enough that they had hat racks under the seats," Pratt said. He added that there also was an old organ and piano, a few chairs and the pulpit in the building.

Pratt and his wife, Nancy, said the reed organ was an 1893 model. During the summer, a small generator was set up so it could be played during services.

"Occasionally, somebody would have a wedding there. Somebody got married in October there a few years ago. There were plenty of heaters around to keep warm," Pratt said.

Crise said firefighters from the Troy, Millerton and Big Elm fire departments responded while South Creek provided mutual aid to Troy and Canton stood by at the Troy station. The blaze was under control at 3:09 p.m., he said.

Source: Star-Gazette, Elmira, New York, Monday, March 25, 1991

Photos by J. Kelsey Jones