Chemung County NY
History of Tompkins, Schuyler, Chemung, Tioga 1879
Chapter 45
Chapter XLV  - City & Town of Elmira, Chemung County, New York - Ecclesiastical History
City & Town of Elmira
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Ecclesiastical History.

THE FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN ELMIRA was organized probably in the summer of 1795, by the Rev. Daniel Thatcher, a missionary of the General Assembly’s Board of Missions. His remains now lie in Wysox, Pa. The first elders were Abiel Fry and Samuel Ludlow, the former from Orange Co., N. Y., and the latter from Morristown, N. J.

A Dr. Amos Park preached here occasionally, or statedly, after Mr. Thatcher, under some kind of license from one of the ecclesiastical bodies in New Jersey. He for a time apostatized from the faith, avowing Universalism or infidelity; but, on repentance and confession, was restored to the fellowship of the church.

A Mr. Brown, from New England, was the next regular minister, and he remained only a few weeks. The Rev. John Smith, of Dighton, Mass., succeeded Mr. Brown, though he seems never to have had any formal connection with the church; he was called to the place by secular business, and preached merely to accommodate the people. He was buried, with his wife, in the grave-yard on Church Street, in this city.

In January, 1805, the Rev. Simeon R. Jones entered upon the pastoral charge of the congregation. He represents the state of the community as being then deplorably bad. The Sabbath was desecrated by sports, labor, and business; small as the place was, it sustained six taverns and tippling shops, and intemperance was almost universal. Even professors of religion became implicated in the prevailing vices. A refreshing from God’s presence was now enjoyed, ---several heads of families were hopefully converted, and the state of things assumed quite a new aspect. About this time, in accordance with Mr. Jones’ views, and at his suggestion, the church became congregational.

On Friday, February 14, 1816, Mr. Hezekiah Woodruff was ordained to the gospel ministry by the Presbytery of Geneva, and installed pastor of the church. This relation continued until Jan. 3, 1820, when it was dissolved. Oct. 16, 1829, the Rev. Henry Ford was called to the charge of the church, in connection with that of Southport, and remained here until the 12th of March, 1827. May 5, 1821, the original form of government was resumed, and the church was reorganized as Presbyterian by the Presbytery of Geneva, under whose care it had been taken while Congregational, Sept. 22, 1814. Brinton Paine, Sela Matthews, Abram De Labar, John McConnell, and Joel Jones were the first elders after this change.

The Rev. Eleazer Lathrop commenced ministerial labors here in March, 1827. In the year following, March, 1829, his health interfered with his preaching, and the pulpit at that time was supplied by Rev. John Barton. Oct. 20, 1830, Mr. Lathrop was installed pastor of the church, and retained this connection until succeeded by Rev. M. L. Farnsworth. Mr. Farnsworth resigned in 1834. In September, 1835, Rev. John Frost assumed charge, and remained until Feb. 5, 1839. Oct. 24, 1832, John Sclover and Asa Willard were elected ruling elders. Nov. 6, 1836, Dr. Norman Smith, Simeon Benjamin, Hector I. Maxwell, and Sylvester G. Andrus were chosen ruling elders. Rev. P. H. Fowler was installed pastor of the church Dec. 4, 1839. On the 5th of November, 1841, Hiram Potter and Solomon L. Gillet were chosen ruling elders.

Jan. 2, 1846, forty members were dismissed for the purpose of organizing the Independent Congregational Church of this place.

On the 2d day of November, 1849, Orrin Robinson and Lester Smith were duly elected elders in said church, and ordained November 11, 1849.

On the 9th of December, 1859, Rev. P. H. Fowler requested the members of the church and congregation to unite with him in asking Presbytery to dissolve the pastoral connection existing between them. The request was granted, and the connection dissolved by Presbytery. On the 15th of April, 1851, the church and congregation called the Rev. David Murdoch, D.D. The call was accepted, and he commenced his labors May, 1851, and was installed as pastor in July, 1851. He remained pastor until 1860, when the connection was dissolved by the Presbytery of Chemung. On the 23d of January, 1861, on application, letters were granted by session to one hundred and sixteen members to organize the Second Presbyterian Church in Elmira, to be connected with and under the care of Chemung Presbytery.

Lovell Kellog, Timothy S. Pratt, and Stephen Rose were elected elders in 1869, and R. W. Barton and William T. Carr were elected deacons April 5, 1869. May 17, 1869, Rev. George C. Curtiss, D.D., resigned his pastorate of the church in consequence of continued ill health. August 1, 1869, W. C. Knox, D.D., was called by the church and congregation as pastor, began his labors Dec. 5, 1869, and was installed May 1, 1870. the number of members now (April 1, 1878) is over four hundred. The Sunday school has three departments, primary, intermediate, and senior, with some five hundred members, including teachers.


was formed in an old log school house, on the site where the old chapel was built in 1831. The church was formally organized in 1814. Among the earliest preachers remembered are Revs. G. Lanning and Loring Grant. The first regular pastor was Rev. Edmund O. Fling, who preached during 1825. Rev. Robert Burch was pastor in 1827, 1828, and 1829. Rev. Asa Abel was presiding elder in 1828 to 1831. Rev. Jonas Dodge was pastor in 1831-32. During this time the church took on new vigor. This was known as the "work-bench" revival. Being without a place of worship, permission was given to occupy the court-house when not wanted for other purposes.

The First Methodist Episcopal Church, according to their church directory, the only source of information furnished by the church, was organized in 1819. From this it appears that the Bishop is Rev. Randolph S. Foster, D.D., LL.D.; Presiding Elder, Rev. Manly S. Hard, A.M.; Pastor, Rev. Elijah Herr, Jr., A.M.; Member of the Annual Conference, Rev. Austin E. Chubbuck; Exhorter, Augustus P. George; Sunday-school Superintendent, Prof. Jas. R. Monks. The membership numbers about 300.


The probable cost of the church is near $7000. The membership is about 196. The pastors have been J. G. Gulich, 1872-74; H. B. Cassavant, 1874-76; Joseph B. Shearar, 1876-78. The presiding elders have been Thomas Tousey, 1872-75; Luke C. Qucal, 1875-77; Manly S. Hard, 1878.


Erected 210 Church Street, 1852. Society organized August, 1852. Board of trustees elected September, 1852, consisted of John I. Nicks, Bradley Griffin, Nelson W. Gardner, David Tillotson, and John Davis. The society organized with 60 members.

Previous to the organization Rev. Nathaniel Mandeville labored in this field as missionary. The first pastor was Wm. H. Goodwin, D.D. Some of his successors were H. Hickock, J. C. Nobles, S. L. Congdon, K. P. Jervis, J. Raines, E. J. Hermans, O. L. Gibson, and Chas. S. Chase. The present membership is about 300. The Sunday-school about 200. In connection with the church is a "Palestine Class," the object of which is the study of the topography, the geography, and history of the Holy Land. This information is from the History of Elmira, etc., 1868, by A. B. Galatian & Co.; the present pastor, S. C. Queal, failing to furnish any additional.

These churches belong to the Central New York Conference.


The Southport and Elmira Baptist Church was constituted May 16, 1829, by delegates from the Baptist Churches at Big Flats and Elmira, N. Y., and Springfield and Canton, Pa. Subsequently, June 24, 1853, the name was changed to the First Baptist Church of Elmira. The first place of worship of the First Baptist Church was in a church building two and a half miles below the city, on a place known as Summon’s Corners. The location of the first church edifice of this church was the same as the present.

The first pastor was P. D. Gillette; the first deacons, John Waeir, Jr., and David Howell; the first clerk, William Lowe.

The 38 constituent members were John P. Stryker, Polly Stryker, John Waeir, Jr., Hannah Waeir, Henrietta Seeley, William Lowe, Hannah Lowe, Joseph Grover, Hannah Grover, Susan Smith, Maria Grover, Thursa Ellison, David Howell, Julia Howell, Sally Gurnec, John Bovier, P. D. Gillette, Harriet E. Gillette, Hannah Streeter, Abigail Cassada, Noama Smith, Margaret Bovier, Elizabeth Paine, Martha Ellsworth, Jonathan Rowley, Sally Rowley, Joseph Grover, Jr., Martha Gurnee, Sally Cassada, Sarah Ann Beckwith, Judge Hammond, John H. Cassada, John Sly, Polly Sly, Zina Jenkins, Cynthia Mason, Sally Tubbs, and Nancy Beckwith.

The first Sabbath-school was organized June 8, 1833. The first house of worship was built in 1832, the first business meeting held Dec. 22, 1832, and the first communion Jan. 27, 1833. May 24, 1840, the church dismissed 10 members, at their own request, to unite in constituting the "South Creek Baptist Church." May 6, 1854, 64 members presented a request for dismission to constitute a separate church, under the name of the "Southport Baptist." Feb. 26, 1859, 69 members asked for letters, which were granted, and immediate steps were taken for the formation of a new Baptist interest in Elmira, resulting in organizing the "Central Baptist Church," but now known as the Madison Avenue Baptist Church.

The pastors have been Revs. P. D. Gillette, H. C. Vogel, D. Robinson, Z. Grenell, E. W. Dickinson, J. G. Binney, D.D., C. N. Chandler, R. J. Wilson, E. Andrews, M. C. Manning, T. O. Lincoln, D.D., J. J. Keyes, A. Parker, and the present incumbent, W. T. Henry.

The deacons are Joseph Grover, J. R. Waterhouse, C. C. Crane, H. M. Smith, and S. M. Fassett. Trustees, J. Grover, N. P. Fassett, H. M. Smith, J. N. Cooper, and J. C. Seeley. Church Clerk, Chas. B. Bovier. Treasurer, O. C. Kingsbury.

The present valuation of church property, $22,000. Present membership, 549. Sunday-school teachers, officers, and pupils, 446. Average attendance, 290.


The first religious service in Elmira according to the forms of the Episcopal Church was held by the Rt. Rev. B. T. Onderdonk, D.D., then Bishop of New York (in 1832). Shortly after this event a zealous lady, Mrs. Thomas Hill, familiarly known as "Auntie Hill," endeavored to procure subscriptions for the support of a missionary, but failed. She is said to be entitled to more credit for the foundation of the Episcopal Church in Elmira than any one else. In 1833 services were again held in Elmira by James D. Carder, and in May by Daniel E. Brown, a candidate for holy orders, and an organization of a parish effected June 12, 1833, under the supervision of Mr. Carder.

The wardens elected were Harvey Luce and Ephraim Wheeler. The vestrymen elected were Platt Bennett, Samuel H. Maxwell, Richard F. Seabury, Levi J. Cooley, Linns Griswold, Arnon Beardsley, Ransom Birdsall, and Freeborn Sisson, Jr. Rector, Rev. Thomas Clark. Clerk, P. R. K. Brotherson.

Services were afterwards held in a school-house in the Park, on Main Street.

A site for a church building was selected on Church Street, where Blivens’ furnace now stands, and a resolve made to erect a house, cost not to exceed $3000. Trough the exertions of "Auntie Hill," Trinity Church of New York contributed $800 towards the building fund. The building committee was Harvey Luce, Damon Hatch, and Samuel H. Maxwell, and the edifice was completed in December, 1836, and consecrated by the Rt. Rev. B. T. Onderdonk, D.D., Aug. 21, 1837. The rector, at this time, was Rev. Richard Smith. The wardens, Harvey Luce and Dorastus Hatch. The vestrymen, S. S. Lawrence, Damon Hatch, Charles S. Vogel, Levi J. Cooley, Stephen Lewis, George Kingsbury, Ransom Birdsall, and Samuel Maxwell. Clerk, P. R. K. Brotherson.

The building was occupied about eighteen years, and during this time the rectors were Revs. Richard Smith, Gordon Winslow, Kendrick Metcalf, Stephen Douglass, B. F. Whitcher, Washington Van Zandt, and Andrew Hull.

In 1855, during the rectorship of Mr. Hull, a new house of worship was determined on, this congregation having outgrown the capacity of the old sanctuary, the new one to cost $18,000 to $20,000; the site of the church had already been selected. A building committee was appointed, consisting of Rev. Dr. Hull, H. P. Beardsley, S. T. Arnot, W. P. Yates, and W. F. Roe. The builders were Messrs. Nichols & Washburn, and the architect Mr. Dudley, of New York. The corner-stone was laid with impressive ceremonies, by Right Rev. W. H. De Lancey, July 26, 1855; Rev. Dr. Metcalf, a former rector, but then professor in Hobart College, Rev. W. H. Cooper, Rev. Mr. Parke, and James Rankine also being present.

The Wardens were Harvey Luce and Dorus Hatch; the Vestrymen were W. P. Yates, B. P. Beardsley, A. C. Ely, S. T. Arnot, E. G. Brown, R. Jones, E. Jones, Fletcher Roe; Clerk, R. B. Coffin; Treasurer, A. C. Ely.

The first service held in the new church after its completion was on the Fourth of July, 1858; it was not consecrated till April 5, 1866, at which time the debt on its construction was discharged. The Right Rev. Arthur Cleveland Coxe; D. D., Bishop of the Diocese of Western New York, performed the services of consecration. The cost of the edifice was $18,000. The wardens and vestry the same as given. A class of sixteen persons were confirmed at the same time.

In 1851 a rectory was built, mainly through the zeal and industry of the ladies of the parish; the lot for church and parsonage was bought in 1850, for $2000,-$400 of which was also furnished by the ladies, who raised in six years $2130. Harvey Luce was senior warden thirty-one years. Samuel Maxwell and Dorus Hatch were also wardens and vestrymen many years.

The total amount contributed, including cost of church, during Dr. Hull’s rectorship was $35,000. Dr. Hull resigned, and was succeeded by Rev. William Paret, D. D., who, during his brief rectoate of two and one-half years, inaugurated a mission in the Fifth Ward of the city, and a building was erected there at a cost of $3000, but which proved an unprofitable step, and was abandoned.

Rev. George H. McKnight, D. D., succeeded Paret in July, 1869. During the first five years of his rectorate the offerings were $40,781.31, including $3455 for Chicago sufferers by fire in 1871, and an addition to the rectory.

The whole number of baptized has been 196, confirmed 201, added and received to the communion 284; and, while it is not claimed that statistics settle the question of spiritual growth, yet they show a prosperous condition.

The Sunday-school numbers about 150, and has contributed to missions $1453.48. The diocese was divided in 1869, and the new one was called the Diocese of Central New York, and the Rev. F. D. Huntington, D. D., of Boston, was elected as its bishop.

The present officers of the parish are Rev. George H. McKnight, D. D., Rector; Wardens, Dr. William C. Way and Jesse L. Cooley; Vestrymen, Jackson Richardson, Robert Neilson, E. H. Cook, Eugene Diven, H. W. Rathbone, G. L. Smith, C. S. Ingraham, and W. D. Kelley.


The Independent Congregational Church of Elmira began the 15th day of May, 1845, and completed the organization Jan. 3, 1846. The original members, 40 in number, came from the First Presbyterian Church. Thos. B. Covell and Stephen W. Hanford were chosen deacons Jan 3, 1846.

The work of pastor and teacher in the church has been performed as follows: Rev. F. W. Graves, Feb 1, 1846, to Nov. 16, 1846; Bro. Dr. N. Smith and other brethren led the church from Nov. 16, 1846, to December, 1847; Rev. A. M. Ball, December, 1847, to October, 1848; Rev. E. H. Fairchild, Feb. 1, 1849, to Nov. 1, 1849; Rev. Wm. Bement, May, 1850, to June, 1854; Rev. Thomas K. Beecher, June, 1854, to the present time.

The church and society built a lecture-room on Baldwin Street in 1848, which occupied until 1850, when a new house was finished. This house was dedicated and Mr. Bement installed pastor May 5, 1851.

This meeting-house was remodeled and re-occupied by the church in November, 1861; taken down in the spring of 1872. The new Park Church (built on the old ground) comprises the church, a lecture-room, children’s room, and home. The lecture-room was occupied September, 1874. The church was opened for divine service Oct. 10, 1875. The home was completed in the fall of 1876. Deacons, John M. Robinson, Samuel G. Comstock, J. D. F. Slee, and Stephen H. Cottrell. Pastor’s council, Deacons, Mr. J. M. Robinson, Mr. S. G. Comstock, Mr. J. D. F. Slee, Mr. S. H. Cottrell. From the church, Mr. C. N. Shipman, Mr. S. Dexter, Mrs. Olivia Langdon, Mrs. E. J. Cleeves. From the society, Dr. S. O. Gleason, Mrs. R. B. Gleason, Mrs. Wm. W. Ballard; Clerk, Julia N. Carrier. Enrolled members at date (July, 1878), 483. Average attendance in Sunday-school, 600.


The first organized was by Rev. John Sheridan, and situated where the present church stands. It was of brick also, with a membership of between 300 and 400. He also attended Owego, Corning, Watkins, and Waverly. Elmira was headquarters. In October, 1850, Rev. John Boyle, Pastor, and Thomas Cunningham, Assistant, came to Elmira and took charge of the church. In December, 1853, Thomas Cunningham was sent to Corning, Bath, and Addison. Elmira and Watkins was attended by Rev. John Boyle. In 1854 the old church was torn down, and the present commodious and beautiful building erected on the site; it will seat about 800. This is the parent church of the parish, there being beside, St. John’s (German), St. Patrick’s, and St. Mary’s, each as large as this. In 1854, Watkins was separated from Elmira, and placed under a separate pastor. Rev. John Boyle died in Elmira, Dec. 20, 1856. His successors were Rev. Thomas O’Flaherty, till 1861; Martin Kavanagh, till Aug. 15, 1866; Peter Bede, who died Aug. 14, 1870; Francis Clark, till August, 1873; since which Rev. Thomas Cunningham has been pastor. The Sunday-school numbers about 200.

Bishop John Timon, formerly of St. Louis, Mo., established the church in Elmira. He was Visitor General of the Order of Lazarus in America, and first bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo, in which these churches belong, and of which Stephen Vincent Ryan is bishop.


In accordance with previous notice, daily given, the congregation worshiping in the house formerly known as the Central Baptist Church met for the purpose of organizing themselves into a corporate society April 26, 1872. Prayer by the pastor, Rev. E. F. Crane. It was resolved that the name of this society be "The Second Baptist Church of the City of Elmira. The Board of Trustees of this society shall consist of seven members."

The following persons were elected trustees: J. Wood, J. Wormly, Thomas Bennett, to serve three years; J. J. Smithers, J. F. Roody, J. R. Braden, to serve two years; Lewis Hill, to serve one year. S. M. Broahman was elected clerk and J. Wood treasurer, for one year each. The society adjourned to meet at call of trustees; closed with prayer. S. M. Broahman, Clerk. From the records it appears that regular elections for trustees were held; and at a meeting held Thursday evening, May 31, 1877, it is stated that "our house of worship (corner Church Street and Madison Avenue) having been damaged by fire on the morning of Wednesday, May 23, 1877, T. M. Losie, Esq., and Bro. Foster, members of the Board of Trustees, were appointed by the board a committee to attend to the appraisement of the damage, and settle the business with the insurance company on behalf of the trustees."

On Friday evening, July 20, 1877, the members of the Second Baptist Church and Society convened in special business meeting for the purpose of reorganizing under the new trustee law of A. D. 1876, pursuant to and in conformity with the requirements of chapter 329 of the "Laws of the State of New York," passed May 15, 1876.

At this meeting it was Resolved, That this church and society shall be known hereafter under the name and style of the "Madison Avenue Baptist Church and Society" of Elmira, N. Y.; and the number of trustees was fixed at six. Then followed the election of trustees.

At a subsequent meeting the amount of damages sustained by fire as before mentioned was settled by the receipt of $850, and steps taken for repairing the building. At a meeting held Dec. 28, 1877, the pastor, Rev. E. L. Millis, loaned to the trustees $450 for the purpose of paying off previous indebtedness, and took their note for the same at three months. At a meeting held Jan. 15, 1878, the salary of the pastor was fixed at $1000 per year, and that his year as pastor commence on the 1st day of April next, and that he receive $120 for his services up to the commencement of his pastoral year.

The trustees were subsequently empowered to borrow money for the use of the church in making the repairs, and borrowed $1600 of the Chemung Valley Mutual Loan Association, for which a mortgage upon its church edifice and property was executed.

The present pastor is Rev. E. L. Millis. The number of members at the time of organizing by Rev. E. F. Crane was 19. The number at this time is 89. The number of Sunday-school scholars and teachers is 65.


organized Nov. 8, 1871, with about 40 members, under Rev. Losch. The first house of worship is the one now in use, and was built in the summer of 1876. Rev. R. Winterick, pastor. The cost of the building was $4500; it is situated on Church near William Street, and was dedicated the first Sunday in November, 1876. The doctrinal teachings are a union of the Reformed and Presbyterian. The membership numbers about 60, the Sunday-school class about 100.


is situated on the east side of Dickinson, between Fifth and Junction Canal. This church was organized in 1867; attended by irregular missionaries from Rochester, N. Y. in 1869; also from Buffalo, N. Y.; from the latter place by Father _________ Shower.

The church cost about $5000, for in those times everything was so very high. It has a seating capacity of 400. The membership is about 300. The Sunday-school has between 60 and 70 pupils. The first resident pastor was Father G. Erhardt. The second pastor was Rev. Ferdinand von Ruapplin, who served from Jan. 7, 1871, to July, 1871. Father S. B. Gruber served from Aug. 7, 1871, to June 2, 1873. Father H. Bachman served till June, 1874. Father T. Niebling served till Dec. 27, 1874, when the present pastor came, who is Rev. A. Gisenhoff.

Connected with this church is St. John’s Parochial School, organized in the spring of 1875. The school buildings cost about $2000. The teachers are furnished by the Sisters of St. Francis, the Mother-House being on Pine Street, Buffalo, N. Y. Rev. A. Geisenhoff is in charge of the school, but does not teach. The number in attendance is between 80 and 100.


is located on the corner of Franklin and Fulton Streets. The first house of worship of this society was a frame building, on a part of the same lot on which the present handsome brick structure stands. The frame church was built in 1872; had a seating capacity of over 200. The present church was built in 1874; cost about $30,000; will seat near 800. The membership is not far from 500, and that of the Sunday-school near 100. The pastor of the first church is also pastor of the present, Rev. James McManus.


seated on the northeast corner of Lake and Standish Streets; was opened for service July 30, 1869, and will seat 208. It cost about $1500.

The first pastor was Rev. Schuyler Aldrich, who has continued with the church for seven years and a half. The church is now without a pastor, having an occasional supply. The membership is now about 20. The Sunday-school averages 30. O. F. Riley is the clerk.


is situated on the north side of Clinton, between Main and Park Place. It was built in 1871, and dedicated Dec. 13, 1875. It cost about $60,000, and will seat 1500. The number of members is about 550; the number attending Sunday-school 200.

The church was damaged by fire in 1877, since which some important changes have been made and some costly improvements added; it will be finished in a superb manner. Rev. J. J. Bloomer was the first and is the present pastor.


located on the southwest corner of Dickinson and Fourth Streets. It was built about 1870. The church cost about $4000. The members number about 50. The Sunday-school numbers 30. Rev. S. H. Thompson was the first pastor, and the present pastor is the Rev. John Thomas.


was organized in 1855. The church was built in 1862, and cost about $2000. It has at present about 100 members. The Sunday-school numbers 96. The present, who was also the first pastor, is Rev. Nicholas E. Collins.

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