Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
Churches of the Tri-Counties Area
Chemung County NY
History of Church of Christ Wellsburg NY in Chemung County
1986 - 1994
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Booklet submitted by Sylvia DENTON Smith 
and retyped by Deborah JUDGE Spencer
Formatted & Published by Joyce M. Tice March 2005
See Also Church Records 1872
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Christ Church

Wellsburg, NY

The year was 1866. Wellsburg, on the bank of the Chemung River, was a bustling community that had grown to nearly 1,000 inhabitants. During the waning years of the Civil War, one Horatio W. Evans, a retired Binghamton businessman, had moved his family to this small village. He came to rescue a general store business run by his son and son-in-law, and stayed. Several years later, with many townspeople and friends from the surrounding countryside, he formed the nucleus of the Christ Church Mission Society. The group largely was made up of people who belonged to no other church society or organization. For most of 1866, the Rev. Mr. Myers preached to them in the Methodist Meeting House. The Rev. Mr. Myers was succeeded first by the Rev. Frederick Esch, then the Rev. Mr. Hitchcock. By the summer of 1867, Mr. Evans invited the Rev. Dr. William Paret, then Rector of Trinity Church of Elmira, to come to his home in the village to hold Evensong. On succeeding Sundays, the Evans home became so crowded with people eager to hear the inspired sermons of the Rev. Dr. Paret that Mr. Evans made arrangements to hold Sunday afternoon services at the Methodist Church. One of these enthusiastic followers was John Lowman, a farmer and resident of Chemung, NY. A Sunday School was organized, meeting at the Evans home. Soon, difficulties arose between the Methodists and the growing Episcopalian group. Services were moved to R.C. Lockwood's Hall, where they continued from October, 1868 under Rev. Francis D. Hoskins. Soon, stirring of a desire for a permanent place of worship surfaced, and on May 26, 1869, at a meeting of the society, it was resolved to "procure a lot and build a church." A committee was appointed to solicit subscriptions. Horatio Evans and John Lowman purchased the lot located across Pennsylvania Street (now Main Street) from R.C. Lockwood's home. The building, recognized as an architectural gem, was planned by I.O. Perry of New York City, who donated the design and measurements. This same Mr. Perry also did the original design for the State Capitol building in Albany. The builder was Wellsburg resident George W. Fishler, who also constructed several of the suspension bridges of the day, including West Elmira's original Fitch's Bridge. Actual building began on June 19, 1869. On July 29th of that year, the cornerstone was laid with appropriate ceremony. Easter week of 1870 saw the following elected: Wardens -Horatio Evans and Eaton W. Frisbie; Vestry - R.C. Lockwood, John Lowman, Jacob Lowman, Egbert N. Goodwin, Mark Burt, and Charles Freer. The church was opened for divine service on July 21, 1870. On October 26th, Articles of Association were made out, duly signed, and recorded according to law. By November 29th, the church was finished and the whole amount of indebtedness as reported by the committee was $1732.34. Eaton W. Frisbie, John Lowman, and Horatio Evans assumed the debt. The church was consecrated by Bishop F.D. Hungtington, D.D., "with heartfelt prayer to Almighty God from many a loving heart that the work so auspiciously begun should continue till time is no more." (This last in quotes as written by Horatio Evans.) Many priests from Binghamton, Elmira, and other Twin Tier towns assisted the Rt. Rev. Huntington, newly consecrated Bishop of the newly formed Diocese of Central New York. It being the Bishops, first dedicatory ceremonial in the new diocese, the Bishop in later life remarked to a friend that the "event of the founding of the Mission of Christ Church, Wellsburg, would ever be a bright spot in my memory." Christ Church was admitted to the Convention of the Diocese of Central New York in June, 1871. Through the early years, there were numerous baptisms and confirmations. Memberships increased far beyond that original faithful little band. With the passing of years, Christ Church has experienced the highs and lows of most small churches. In the 1880s, it stood closed and silent for six years, finally being reopened by the Rev. William Wright, Rector of Grace Church, Elmira. Membership again rose and a Sunday School was organized. The advent of the 20th century brought many more changes.



Emmanuel and Grace Churches of Elmira helped serve the needs of the parish until the spring on 1909, when Rev. Charles T. Raynor of Grace Church, Waverly assumed parish duties, uniting Wellsburg and Waverly as sister churches. By 1922, need for added space became evident. Choir members had long donned their robes in the homes of neighboring church members. Sunday School classes needed more room. Architect Charles Sterling was hired, and the choir room was added to the south side of the building. Before then, an alcove near the organ had a library of books where one could sit and read. Now it made way as choir stalls were built to take the place of the chairs that choir members had occupied for years. On a sunny spring Sunday in 1931, tragedy suddenly struck, when nine-year-old Esther Margaret Welliver was fatally injured on her way home from Sunday School. Just minutes earlier, she had knelt with other children at Christ Church's altar rail as they proudly offered their Lenten mite boxes, with a prayer. As she crossed the street, she was struck by a car, dying the next morning. The children's altar at the front of the church was presented in her memory by Mr. and Mrs. Clarence R. Welliver, her grieving parents. A thunderstorm took its toll toward the end of the 1930s, as a lighning bolt tore away part of the church steeple. The original spire had been built on the ground, then raised on a wooden tower and transplanted to the top of the church. People came from miles around to watch such an awesome feat. Now, major repairs to the steeple were handled by Elmira contractor Wilmot H. Welliver, restoring it to its original majesty. Fortunately, the 1000-lb Troy built bell in the steeple was not harmed. According to the earliest church record book, the bell was procured prior to the Convention Report of June, 1872. Its value "as procured" was $500.00. Near 125 years old, its resonant call still summons worshipers to Sunday service. Christ Church had always been under the jurisdiction of the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York. However, ownership of the church remained with its vestry. In June, 1952, the congregation voted to dissolve the corporation and become a Mission Church of the Diocese. The deed was transferred on October 25, 1952 and recorded at the Chemung County Clerk's office in Book 390 Deeds, page 412, just three days later. It was understood at that time that, should the congregation expand in future years, the title would revert back to the congregation. The June 14, 1953 minutes of the Sunday School teachers' meeting first speak of building a parish hall. Changing times called for the church to have a place of its own to bring families together in fellowship. Clarence R. Welliver agreed to draw up plans for a two-story addition. By October, 1958, the building fund had reached $5523.00. This project, started under the Rev. Benjamin Narbeth, came to fruition soon after the arrival of the Rev. Howard St. Cyr. 1958 Christmas exercises purposely were delayed until January, 1959, taking place in the new parish hall. Christ Church joined with Grace Church, Waverly, NY and Emmanuel Church, Elmira, NY to form the Chemung Valley Cluster in the spring of 1993, and called the Rev. Richard Bellows on July 1, 1994. Now on Saturday, July 30, 1994, Wellsburg's congregation, our friends, and our new minister will gather to thank God joyously for His blessings on our church these past 125 years since laying of the cornerstone.


Christ Church, Wellsburg - record books.

1931 Newspaper article on the early church by Rev. Levi W. Lunn

Historical notes and data by J. Oliver West.

Newspaper clippings.

History of Chemung County, 1836-1892, by Ausburn Towner.

History of Four Counties, by Peirce & Hurd.

Compiled by Sylvia D. Smith, with historical input of Doris Durham, Martha E. Hanmer, Margaret D. Stanton, and Harry Stewart.

Chemung County NY

Published On Tri-Counties Site On 17 MAR 2005
By Joyce M. Tice

You are our welcome visitor 17 MAR 2005