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EXTRACTS FROM A HISTORY OF THE FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF STAMFORD: A SERMON PREACHED BY REV. L.E. RICHARDS ON THE OCCASION OF THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ORGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH, JUNE 23, 1884.
(PART I---Transcribed by Linda Robinson from The Stamford Mirror July 1, 1884 p.1 c.3-5. Microfilm purchased from the NYSHA.
While we are celebrating the semi-centennial of the history of our church, we are at the same time celebrating the centennial anniversary of the re-peopling of this region after the desolations of the war of the Revolution.
You are all familiar with the fact that this church is an offshoot of the church in Harpersfield. To know our own history, therefore, we must familiarize ourselves somewhat with the history of the church in Harpersfield. The town of Harpersfield, which stretches eastward to the Delaware river and embraces a part of our village, was secured from the Indians and settled by the family of Col. John Harper in 1771. During the war of the Revolution, his life being threatened, Col. Harper fled with his family for refuge, first to Sharon, and then to Schoharie. As you know, all this country was ravaged at that time, by roving bands of Indians and Tories headed by the savage Brant and the bloodthirsty Tory leader, Col. Butler. The houses of Col. Harper and other settlers were burned, and many of the citizens---men, women and children---fell under the blows of the tomahawk and the bloody scalping-knife. It was the time of the massacres at Wyoming, in Pennsylvania and Cherry Valley. All this region lying between and along the Susquehanna and Delaware valleys suffered in common.
After the conclusion of the war, Col. Harper returned to his purchased possessions in 1783; and in 1784, just 100 years ago, he was joined by a number of emigrants from Connecticut, who settled in this immediate neighborhood. Among those were two brothers of Col. Harper; also Levi Gaylord and Roswell Hotchkiss---names which we at once recognize as ancestral. We are, therefore, celebrating the centennial of the reviving of business after the seven desolating years of war; we are celebrating the time when emigration began to flow once more to these hills and valleys, the time when the foundations of our present social order and religious and educational institutions were laid. For it was only three years after these sturdy pioneers from New England, and others from Scotland and the North of Ireland came; only three years after the citizens of Harpersfield had blazed the boundary lines of their farms and the courses of their highways, that a religious society was organized, viz. in 1787, the very year of the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. This was not the organization of a church by the election of a church session and the adoption of a religious creed. It was the organization of a religious society - a corporate body under the laws of the State, by the election of Trustees, an organization ready to hold the property, and manage the temporalities, and foster the growth of any church that might be organized amongst them. Thus, then, the religious society of Harpersfield is a little older than the venerable Constitution of our country. The latter was adopted in September 1787, while on the 7th day of June, of the same year, a meeting was called at the house of Col. Harper, at which time and place Col. John Harper, David Hendry, Benj. Bartholomew, Joseph Hotchkiss and Daniel Mack were chosen trustees of a religious organization, and "it was unanimously agreed that the trustees and congregation should be forever after called and distinguished by the style and title of the Presbyterian Congregation of Harpersfield." You notice, it is not a church, but only a congregation, whose officers are trustees. Five days after the election of the first trustees, the Rev. John Lindsley was employed as their minister at a salary of £90 and a settlement of £100. Rev. Mr. Lindsley did not remain long. From the family record of the late Judge Hotchkiss, and from other sources, we learn that a church, and the first in the town, was organized in 1792, five years after the organization of the religious society, probably by David Huntington, who was sent out by the committee of the General Association of Connecticut. He seems to have been sent into this region for the purpose of organizing churches. What became of this organization there are no records to inform us. But it seems to have died out in less than six years, or to have been ignored; for on the 3d day of May, 1798, the Rev. Mr. Stephen Fenn organized the church which now bears the name of the Congregational Church of Harpersfield, of which our church is a colony, an offshoot. "These facts I have gleaned from "A History of the Congregational Church of Harpersfield, " by the late Rev. John T. Marsh.
According to a manuscript "History of the Town of Stamford," written by Mr. Charles Griffin, the first school was established in 1788, one year after the organization of the Religious Society of Harpersfield, and the first place of worship in the town of Stamford was on the east side of the Delaware, opposite South Kortright. This society was known as the Scotch Presbyterian Society, and was ministered by the Rev. Robert Forest.
Thus we see that not only in Harpersfield, but in Kortright also, and in the southern part of Stamford, the early settlers appreciated the value of the church and laid her foundations side by side with those of their homes and civil institutions. When the children of Israel built a tabernacle for God, He came and dwelt amongst them. So when these early settlers made provision for the kingdom and house of God, He owned the work and sealed it with His Spirit's presence. Revival influences came and the work enlarged and penetrated the social life of the growing communities. In the Connecticut Evangelical Magazine of the date of 18_0, we have an account of a work of divine gace in a revival of religion in the counties of Otsego and Delaware. A letter from one of the missionaries of the Connecticut Missionary Association, dated Springfield, Otsego County, July 23, 1800 says: "The last six weeks I have spent in Otsego and Delaware counties. In both there is considerable awakening. The towns in Otsego county where there is a revival are Otsego, Springfield and Worcester. Those in Delaware county are Delhi, Stamford and Walton." A year later, another missionary, Rev. Jedediah Bushnell, says, "In the course of my last mission to the western counties of New York, it pleased God to pour out His Spirit upon some of those counties, particularly those of Otsego and Delaware, in which there was a remarkable revival of religion." He speaks of it in Delhi and other places then adds: "Soon after the awakening at Delhi, it began at Stamford, ten miles north of Delhi." That, I suppose, must have been in South Kortright or on Rose's Brook. "In these towns," he adds, "there appears to be a glorious work of the Devine Spirit, and the religious attention in these parts is as great for the time, if not greater, than it was in the Genessee last season." Thus it appears that the early inhabitants of this region not only made provision for the worship of God, but God actually blessed them in their acknowledgement of Him. In this spiritual refreshing was laid the foundation for that wholesome moral and religious sentiment which strongly characterizes the interior section of the state of New York.
To go back once more to the church in Harpersfield. Mr. Marsh's history informs us that the church organized by the Rev. Stephen Fenn unanimously adopted the Westminster Confession of Faith as an expression of their Doctrinal belief. They so connected themselves with the Northern Associated Presbytery, an ecclesiastical body, which consisted of both Presbyterian and Congregational churches and ministers, within the counties of Greene and Delaware and parts adjacent, and which continued until 1831, when it was dissolved, and the Delaware Presbytery was organized. The church at Harpersfield remained under the care of the Presbytery until January, 1859, when it withdrew from the Presbytery and united with the Delaware Congregational Association.
The church had a varied history until the year 1831, when it was touched by the great revival wave which broke over the state in that memorable year. "On the 13th of April," says the Rev. Mr. Marsh, "the church unanimously agreed to lay aside their worldly business and meet every day to call upon God in earnest, unceasing prayer, till He should pour out His blessing upon them." In answer to their prayers, a remarkable work of grace began, which continued through the entire summer and in the course of that year no less than 132 persons were received into the communion of the church on their profession of their faith---111 being admitted on the first Sabbath in July. Three years after this great revival period, the Presbyterian church of Stamford was organized, consisting of twenty-four members, all or nearly all being members of the church of Harpersfield; but it was undoubtedly one of the results of the great revivals in that church in 1831. It struck its roots deep into the soil moistened and mellowed by the showers of divine grace. Up to this time there had been no church organization in this village, none in fact, nearer than Harpersfield and Hobart, the Episcopal church there having been organized about the year 1800. There was also a class formed by the M.E. church, which held meetings occasionally at the Widow Silliman's, near the old school house, "on the green," about two miles south of the village. The Methodists also held meetings occasionally in the school house in this village, which was located on Delaware Street, just south of the railroad crossing, in the corner of J.H. Merchant's door-yard. It is thus plainly evident that church accommodations were greatly needed in this village at that time. The people themselves felt this need, and erected a house of worship even before there was a church organization.
Let us for a moment take a glance at the first church edifice that graced and crowned the hill which divides into two sections our village. It once stood alone, like a steady sentinel on this hill, conspicuous to the surrounding neighborhoods, and a way -mark on what was then a great thoroughfare. It has been the scene of many revivals of religion, the birth-place of many souls, and I doubt it not it was with something of a pang from many a heart to see it wrenched from its foundations, and dragged out into the street last summer to make room for a new and more commodious edifice; and even now, in its humility, it crouches under the hill in the rear of its younger sisters, as if piteously pleading for sympathy. O for a poet's soul to utter its elegy; to breathe forth its last sad lament! But, like men, buildings become old, pass away and are forgotten. New ones take their place and people rejoice in them, while the old ones pass out of sight and out of memory.
I do not know how it is, but I am of the opinion that the incipient movement to build that first church was a phase of the divine energy that wrought out the great revival of 1831, which so quickened and enlarged the church at Harpersfield. At any rate, the time of the organization of the first religious society of this part of the town of Stamford coincides with the time of that revival. A religious society -not a church--- but a society with trustees, like the first organization in Harpersfield, was formed, under no denominational auspices, but, apparently, by a spontaneous and harmonious effort of all the people. I have been unable to discover any minutes of the first meeting or of the appointment of the first trustees. A subscription paper, however, still extant, which also served as an article of agreement, or basis of principles, was drawn up and circulated for the purpose of securing funds to erect the building. The following is a copy of that paper:
"We, the persons whose names are hereupon subscribed, do hereby severally agree and promise to pay to Thomas Becker, David McIntyre, Cyrus Firman (or Freeman), James Pudney, Nehemiah Whitney, Robert Newell and Thomas Montgomery, Trustees, duly appointed for the object herein specified, the sums written or placed in figures opposite our names respectively, to be, by said trustees in behalf of the subscribers, faithfully expended in building a union meeting house, in the town of Stamford, near the head of the Delaware river, for the use and upon the plan and agreeable to the principles herein set forth. The house to be forty-six feet long and thirty-six feet wide, one floor and arched overhead; two aisles, four rows of slips with doors, and a desk, a small gallery, or elevated seats, and a cupola, or bellina. Said meeting house to be used for public worship, and to be open and free to all christian denominations and no denomination shall have a right to occupy said house more than one-fourth part of the time, unless vacant. And if at any time hereafter, there shall be more than four denominations composing the society, the time for using said house shall be equally proportioned to all." To this paper there were subscribed $550.
According to the memorandum book of Nehemiah Whitney, also extant, who, it seems was the treasurer of the society, the house was in process of building during the years 1831 and 1832. Two supplementary subscription papers were drawn up, dated September 7, 1832, "for the purpose of furnishing the union meeting house at the head of the Delaware river." To these papers were subscribed $277. On December 25, of the same year according to Mr. Whitney's memorandum book, a stove was procured from Catskill for the use of the house; from which fact it is inferred that the house was used for worship during the winter of 1831 and 1832 but there is no record that we have been able to find as to what denomination used it, or what minister preached from its desk. Neither is there any account of its dedication.
The completion of the Union Meeting House, doubtless, was one of the incentives to the organization of this church. The matter came before the Presbytery of Delaware, at its spring meeting in 1834. The Rev. Fordyce Harrington, in a letter received from him, says "The Union House of Worship, as I understand it, was built by citizens in general, and not by any particular denomination, as there was no church of any name there. In 1831," he continues, "about twenty Presbyterians (the actual number was twenty-four) most of them members of the Presbyterian church in Harpersfield, petitioned the Presbytery of Delaware to organize them into a church by the name it now bears, (the Head of the Delaware was the original name), that they might be more useful, and not to have to go so great a distance to attend public worship. About the same time, " says Mr. Harrington, "they invited me to come and labor with them. I went in May, from Andes and Colchester. The Presbytery appointed a committee (consisting of Rev. Wm. Fisher and Deacon A. Sanders, both of Meredith, and Deacon J. Stephens, of Jefferson) to go on the ground, and if they thought it advisable, to constitute the petitioners into a church. This committee met in the Union Meeting House, at the head of the Delaware on June 24. The Rev. Mr. Harrington, (a member of the Delaware Presbytery, being on the ground), was invited to sit as a corresponding member, and also to act as the clerk of the committee. On the assembling of the committee at 3 o'clock, P.M. of June 24th, the action of the Presbytery was read by the Moderator, and "after mature consideration, " they proceeded to the organization of the church. Thereupon the following persons, members of the Harpersfield Presbyterian church, were organized into a Presbyterian church, to be connected with the Presbytery of Delaware: Thomas W. Dennis, Eliphas Bassett, Cosby Hunt, John Boggs, Elijah Churchill, Jesse F. Cowles, David McMinn, Zerua Dennis, Hannah Dennis, Polly Dennis, Lucy Champlin, Elizabeth McIntyre, Mehitabel Bassett, Elizabeth Mallison, Mary Newell, Eliza Newell, Jennie Newell, Catherine Hunt, Sarah Ann Churchill, Ruth Davis, Joannah Grammar, Lavinia Slingerland, Lydia Newell and Harriet Newell. On the same day, and probably at the same meeting, Wm. Woodhouse and Mrs. Belinda Woodhouse were received by letter, the one from the church at Meredith, and the other from the church in Lexington.
Thus the organization began with a membership of twenty-six. (Of these only three are now living: Mrs. Eliza Newell Wilcox, Mrs. Sarah A. Churchill and Mrs. Jennette Newell Dales.) At the same meeting convened to organize the church, Jesse B. Cowles, Elijah Churchill, Wm. Woodhouse, Cosby Hunt and John Boggs were elected and ordained elders, and these constituted the Session of the church. Jesse F. Cowles was also elected clerk of the Sessions and Elijah Churchill treasurer.
Thus was the church organized and set upon its career of work and influence for the Master. How well it has done its work, and what influences for good it has exerted, and how many souls it has been and may still be the means of converting, the records of the great day of judgment alone can disclose.
(PART II---Transcribed from The Stamford Mirror July 8, 1884 p.1 c.3-5 from microfilm purchased from the NYSHA.)
The Rev. Fordyce Harrington was the first pastor, or rather stated supply. He was present, as we have seen, at the organization, and the minutes of the session during nine years are signed by him as Moderator. He himself says: "I did not go (to Stamford) as a home missionary. I preached usually at 10:30 A.M., at the Head of the Delaware, and in the afternoon at some out-stations, as Rose's Brook, Township, Hobart, North Blenheim, &c. At that time we were few in numbers, and pecuniarily not strong; but we were united as the heart of one man hopeful, and had a mind to work, even though the Master Builder should assign us to foundation work. It was some time," Mr. Harrington continues, "before we had any special work of grace among us, so that we could say, 'Faint, yet pursuing.'" At last we had a limited work of the Spirit, which, though it did not add great numbers, yet it added much strength. The spirit of Prayer, the Revival Spirit, continued on for some two years and resulted in a second and more extended work," an account of which is given elsewhere. It seems to me evident that the hand of God was in the whole arrangement, and in nothing more dearly than the bringing of such a man to be the pastor of the church in its beginning. What labors he performed! As I read the letters I have received from him, now in his 83rd year, I am astonished. He preached here Sabbath morning, and in the afternoon at Hobart, Rose's Brook, North Blenheim, Blenheim Ridge, and the Township. At Rose's Brook three seemed to have been a branch of the church, Mr. Levi Lyon, the McIntoshes, James Smith and others being members. The records show that the Session met there at times, in the school house, and examined candidates for admission into the church. Then, besides these labors, Mr. Harrington a part of the time taught select schools in this place, possibly giving an impetus in educational matters that may have been felt in the founding of our academy in later years. It was in one of his prayer meetings, connected with the school that the greatest revival of religion connected with his labors began. Mr. Harrington's wife was no less laborous than her husband. The old members have even now distinct recollections of the mothers' meetings held under her direction; and in a letter recently received from Mr. Harrington, he makes this statement: "Here let me say that it was in the spring and summer previous to this visit of the Holy Spirit, (referring to the revival) that my recently departed, godly wife, obtained nearly a hundred names of individuals, who signed a written pledge that they would read the Bible through by course during the year." It is such consecrated lives, such offerings of the body and spirit, a living sacrifice unto God, that tell in the Gospel work. When we have once learned of these interesting facts concerning Mr. Harrington's devotion to the cause of Christ, we are not surprised that his ministry was one of remarkable success. From the very first organization of the church during the nine years of his pastorate, there were constant additions. On Sabbath, February 11, 1838, no less than forty persons made a profession of their faith and united with the church. His labors terminated here in the spring of 1843.
During his ministry, in 1838, on the first Sabbath in June, the following additional elders were ordained: James Smith, father of Rev. J.R. Smith, now of Pleasant Valley, Ill., Anthony Y. Marvin, now of Brooklyn, Ebenezer Gilbert, and George W. Reynolds now editor of the Clinton (Mass.) Times. Then again, March 5, 1843, five years later, Mr. Harrington ordained the following additional elders: Henry Simons, Hervey Simons, William Gilbert and Joshua Basset.
The next minister who supplied the pulpit of this church was the Rev. Isaac Cornwell, late of Hancock, N.Y. He began his labors in 1843 and closed them in 1852, making a period also of nine years . During Mr. Cornwell's ministry there were but forty-seven additions to the church membership. The Rev. A. Phillips succeeded the Rev. Mr. Cornwell, and occupied the pulpit one year, from 1852 to 1852, during which time four persons united with the church.
The history at this point looks discouraging. The church had been in existence nineteen years, the first nine of which were years of prosperity and growth; then came a decline, not merely a spiritual decline, as indicated in the few additions to the church, but a material decline as well. People were leaving the place. Through Mr. Cornwell's ministry the records are replete with requests of dismissal. Members were leaving and going to other parts of the country. Then difficulty was experienced in raising the salary of the minister. Then, if we turn from the records to other sources, we shall find other indications of decline. What was the worm that was eating into the trunk of the vine? What caused the leaves to wither and the fruit to drop off? Referring to Mr. Griffin's manuscript history of Stamford, in the chapter on the churches of the town, I find this statement: "Prior to the building of the Union Meeting House, meetings were held in a small school house standing on the east side of Delaware Street. Here meetings were held occasionally by the Methodists, and a little before the building of the church, by the Presbyterians. Soon after the erection of the church, the Rev. F. Harrington became a settled pastor of the Presbyterian church, occupying the church a part of the time. As the membership of the two societies increased, pure brotherly love seemed to decrease between the societies, which seemed to have been because of the efforts each society used to increase the number of their own membership by persuading those who had been awakened at a general meeting to join their respective societies. The feeling thus originated continued many years, and finally was increased because one society occupied the church more than the other." Does this not tell the story? This is as it appeared to an outsider for Mr. Griffin was not a member of either the societies named. Religious jealousy and a proselyting spirit, then, must be set down as one reason for the decline to which I have referred. Of course I know not which party was to blame, or whether both were alike guilty. But that this feeling, this jealousy stood in the way of the church's prosperity is shown from other sources. In a letter recently received from Rev. Julius S. Pattengill, a prominent member of the Presbytery, at that time pastor of the church at Walton, occurs this suggestive paragraph: "Mr. Mayo, the minister after Mr. Cornwell, entered the ministry at my earnest solicitation, I induced him to take charge of the church for the special object of leaving the old Union House of Worship and building a new sanctuary---a work for which Mr. Mayo seemed specially qualified, and he made a successful effort." It was the old strife between "the herdsmen of Abram's cattle and the herdsmen of Lot's cattle." It was that spirit of inter-denominational jealousy so prominent thirty or forty years ago, but now happily disappearing. O, if those two societies could only have entered into the spirit of David psalm---and I might add, of David's Son---"How beautiful and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" If they could have entered into the spirit, even, that erected the Union Meeting House, how much better would it have been for all parties concerned and for the growth and prosperity of the place! That denomination to-day here in Stamford, which will make the greatest sacrifice to put down effectually and forever that spirit of Satan---that spirit of partisan rivalry and jealousy, that spirit which would compass land and sea, to make one proselyte---will I believe, be the most prospered and blessed of God. And I wish on the part of Presbyterians that no part of that old animosity be carried into the new half-century. Let it be buried in the first half. Let it lie and rot on the sands of the desert we have already passed through and never let it enter the Canaan of our future.
The Rev. Warren Mayo, now of Mankato, Kan., entered the ministry of this church in 1853. A few months afterwards, the records show, a meeting was held for the purpose of organizing a society in connection with the Presbyterian church, i.e. of forming a corporate body under the laws of the State, to hold and own property for the church. The society was formed, named "The Presbyterian Society of the Head of the Delaware," which corresponded with the name of the church. Both have since been changed by an act of the Presbytery and Legislature to the "Presbyterian Church and Society of the Village of Stamford." The first trustees if this society were Messrs. Elijah Churchill, Henry Simons and Wm. Woodhouse. The organization was effected on the 19th day of December, 1853, nine and one-half years after the organization of the church. In less than one month after the organization of the society, viz., on January 9, 1854, at a special meeting, it was voted that a subscription be started for the purpose of building a church whose site shall be as near that of the Union House as will be advantageous to the interests of the Society. This project was warmly seconded by the Society and by the Presbytery, and resulted within a short time in the erection and completion of the present edifice. Mr. Mayo writes: "It was a glad day to use when the frame was raised, but a more joyful one when, on a December day, we dedicated it." Rev. Julius Pattengill, of Walton, preached the dedicatory sermon. "Perhaps it is a mere whim of mine," says Mr. Mayo, "but I cannot help coupling the beginning of the prosperity the Head of the Delaware has since enjoyed with the building of that house. It seemed to me that it started a new spirit of enterprise." During Mr. Mayo's ministry of five years, twenty-eight persons united with the church and the following elders were elected and ordained: Josiah Meigs, Henry Mayham, and Edwin M. Metcalf. Mr. Henry Pratt and Mr. Lyman Wilcox were elected soon after, although I can find no record of their election.
After Mr. Mayo left in April, 1858, the Rev. Harper Boles, of Harpersfield, supplied the pulpit for a time, followed by Rev. Henry S. Redfield. Their combined ministry covered only three years, during which nine persons united with the church. The Rev. John Wilde, who came here as the principal of the Stamford Seminary, succeeded Mr. Redfield and occupied the pulpit for three years. There were but two accessions during that time.
This brings the history of the church down to the year 1864---the year that I began my labors amongst you. It also rounds out the period of thirty years or three-fifths of the half century of the church's existence -a period occupied by the six ministers whom I have named, and under whose combined labors 223 persons were added to the church and the present church edifice was erected. In the remaining three-fifths, or twenty years, my own personal history mingles with yours. During these twenty years Stamford has been my home, this parish my field of labor, and this pulpit the point from which I have given forth the results of twenty years of study. To write the history of these twenty years would be to write my own autobiography, or at least, a part of it. Your prosperity has been my prosperity; your growth, my growth; your sons and your daughters, who have come into the church, I regard as my own spiritual children whom I have longed for in the Gospel, my joy and my crown. You are so identified with me, and I with you, that it would be less partial for another to be the historian of the last two decades of our history. But you will expect me to say some thing on this occasion, and I wish to say something in acknowledgement of the Divine goodness and mercy which have followed me through all these years. I came almost fresh from the Theological Seminary, having had but nine months previous experience in the ministry. I came alone, so that you did not need to furnish me with a parsonage. I came in the vigor of youth; I came not expecting to remain long, and, to be honest, not wishing to remain long; I found the church very weak. After sifting the roll of unknown members, there remained a membership of but thirty-five souls; of the remainder of the two hundred and twenty-three, many had gone to their final rest, many had removed to other parts of the country and had connected themselves with other churches. The congregation was very small, the building was in need of repair, and there was no parsonage. According to the minutes of an informal meeting of the society held July 5, 1864, "a motion was made and carried to pay the Rev. Mr. Richards $300 and a donation for one year's service," it being understood that South Gilboa should have half my time. That was $100 less than the church gave to Mr. Mayo six years before; and it was in the time of the war when butter was fifty cents a pound and everything else in proportion. That was our beginning. Yet God has blessed us. He has given his sanction, it seems to me, to the arrangements entered into. The salary has been increased gradually until now it is $900, with parsonage and donations which are liberal.
My connection to the Sabbath school has been one of my chief delights. I have been the superintendent of it about fifteen years. It has been my joy and my pride---pride in a good sense, I trust. The growth and prosperity of the church and Sabbath school, the spirit of unity and harmony in the church and the uniform kindness I have received from this people, have constituted the threefold cord that has bound me to you, rather than any mere matter of material support. In the relation of pastor and church, there is something better than large salaries and luxurious mansions. It is the blessedness of "the tie that binds in Christian love," it is the fellowship of Christian minds. I remember some instances more demonstrative of this than mere words. In 1867, when living at the inconvenient distance of a mile and a half from the church, I was on the point of accepting a call from a church in Connecticut; in three days, money was subscribed for the building of the present parsonage, which was the condition of my consenting to remain. Then, five or six years later, feeling, as every minister feels sometimes, discouraged, and thinking he might do better in another place, I received a call from a church in New Jersey and was on the point of accepting that. A joint meeting of the session and trustees was called to consider the matter and then, witnessing the keen anxiety that the officers felt for the church, and their fear of having it left vacant, and the hearty expressions of good will and love towards myself personally, I could not break the tie and so the call was declined.
Of course, everything has not always been smooth. The church has not been becalmed all these twenty years. We have had our storms that sometimes left us a little the worse for the gale. In the first years of my ministry there was the war excitement. Patriotism was a flood tide. The lines between those who favored the war and those who opposed it were closely drawn. My own nature being somewhat warm, and my convictions somewhat decided, in the heat of the times I expressed myself from the pulpit with a fervor that might have been overwrought. I remember one good Democratic friend who told me that on Sabbath night, after one of my war sermons, he was unable to sleep---did not sleep the whole night long, he felt so badly. Well of course, I felt badly too when he told me, and it taught me to me more charitable and more tolerant. Mend do not all think alike in political matters, and it should me the minister's aim, although maintaining his own political rights, to so preach the Gospel as to bring men to think alike in matters of salvation. But those were terrible times. Our brave soldiers were falling in the battles, or dying in the hospitals, or, what was worse, starving and dying in Southern prisons.
Then, again, we have had some struggles in the matter of our Seminary. We met with opposition in the building; we met with opposition in the change from and academy to a graded free school. These all, and other things too, stirred up deep feeling, which sometimes threatened explosion. And looking at affairs in the light of these things, I wonder that I am here to-day
And now, as a closing word, let me call your attention to the roll of membership. This roll consists of about 400 names, all the persons who have united with the church. Of these 157 have gone to their long home. Of the original members who convened fifty years ago and constituted the church only three remain, viz. Mrs. Sarah A. Churchill, Mrs. Eliza Newell Wilcox, both residing in Stamford, and Mrs. Jennette Newell Dales, of New York city. Only these! The rest have passed over the river. It would be pleasing, did time permit, to read over the names of the worthy dead. They rest in their graves and their works do follow them.
Of the 400 names, fifteen are unknown; three have been excommunicated, and 225 are still living, many of them members of other churches. Two at least are ministers of the Word, viz., Rev. J.R. Smith and Rev. A.G. Ruliffson; there may be others. Many are filling important positions in the church and in society, in the professions and in business. I would like to mention the names of men and women who have been, or are now members of this church, eminent in business and in usefulness. But in doing so I might makes some invidious distinctions, and so I must forbear.
Dear friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, it will not be long until every name now on the list will be starred. It will not be long before every one of us shall join the company that has gone before. This world is not our abiding place. We build houses; we own farms and stores, and shops; we carry on our occupations---but these are only temporary and we shall be estimated at the great tribunal, not by our success in these things, but by what we have done for the Master and for His church. The church, then, is our best field of labor. It is there we should seek our greatest distinction. The men and women, and boys and girls, are the materials we are to work upon. If we can bring these to Christ, we shall have great rejoicing on that day when the whole world shall stand before God. The present is our time of work. Browning says: "God did anoint thee with his odorous oil to wrestle not to reign." We are not to prepare for ourselves here places where we may retire from work, but rather places and appliances for work, and ever greater work. Let it be
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a service of the Delaware County Historical Association located at 46549 State Highway 10, Delhi, NY 13753
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