SCHUYLER MEETING HOUSES
By Alexis L. Johnson
Second Methodist Protestant Church
"Schuyler Meeting Houses," was contributed by BetteJo Caldwell, who has an original newspaper clipping dated August 26, 1902 from one of the Citizen newspapers (Ilion or Herkimer) given to her by Betty Currier. Kind permission to use photographs from "East End West End Our Town, Schuyler 1792-1992", published in 1991 and put together around the Schuyler Bicentennial, was given us by Betty Currier. The book's editors were Betty Robbins Currier and Beverly Rathbun Gillette. A resident of the Town of Schuyler, Mr. Johnson was in his 90s when he contributed articles to the Citizen paper in the first decade of the 20th century. Spellings, odd punctuation and sentence structure are as in the original article.
Schuyler Meeting Houses
A Brief History of the churches in Schuyler by Alexis L. Johnson.
No town in the county has a more faithful or accurate historian than literary Schuyler, in the person of her aged and honored townsman, Alexis L. Johnson. If Mr. Johnson's writings could be compiled and published in a volume they would be found to give a very complete history of the town. Today he adds this history by the following communication on the meeting houses of Schuyler:
This brief history of the meeting houses in Schuyler was promoted by reading what the south Columbia correspondent tells of "The old Warren meeting house."
The people who built the first meeting houses followed the old English custom of burying their dead on ground adjoining the churches. This was not done in Schuyler, as the meeting houses were built later. In writing the history of meeting houses a person labors under some difficulty, as the records have been either lost or are incomplete, but tradition will help to fill the void and perpetuate the names of their promoters. The German Palentines were like the emigrants to New England, a religious people, and had a pastor or "fore reader" who met the people on Sabbath or Holy days in some dwelling that was convenient of access, and afforded room. These brought few German books from the father land. A Bible was found in every family; a book of the Psalms of David with notes and tunes, also. Perhaps two or three copies of a book of sermons for each Sunday, for the Holy days, and special occasions that in the absence of the pastor, the "fore reader" would read to the people, and the children recite or answer the questions in the catechisms. These Germans were followers of Martin Luther, and when more room was needed than the log houses afforded, services were held in the large framed ashery that Hassenclever had built. An aged woman told me that she remembered attending a funeral there when she was quite young. The settlement of this town was prior to the revolution, about 1764-5, but during these troublesome times families were broken up, the members scattered, and some heads of families left in the bloody ravine of Oriskany or murdered by the prowling Indians, and for a few years New Petersburgh was left almost desolate and most of the people fled to Fort Dayton for safety. During all this time there is no tradition of any place for public worship, schools were taught in the houses of the teachers and religious meetings and schools were continued until 1809. Then, as the population had increased, and more room was needed, arrangements were made to build a house that could be used for both schools and religious meetings. A site containing four square rods of ground was obtained on a lease for the perpetual annual payment of a pepper corn, if demanded. A building nearly covering the site was built, of many bents filled between with sticks and clay mixed with straw, clapboarded outside and sealed within. Opposite the door in one corner, part of the floor was raised two steps and partially inclosed. This was the pulpit, and within were seats against the wall, that meetings were usually occupied by some aged men in the congregation, while the pastor had a chair, which also served for the school teacher on week days. The seats for the congregation and pupils were along the walls, with an inclined board before them to write on, while the smaller pupils sat in front of them. the first preaching was in the German language and only German was taught by the teachers in their homes. Very early in the settlement a small house was built for the pastor.
In 1813 the town was divided into school districts and schools and school houses came under the protection of officers and law. The house we have described was in District No.4, but still was continued the only place for religious meetings here. Owing to the increase in members in the Methodist Protestant church, some plans were considered for building a church near the school house as the site was central. Near the close of 1834 a meeting was held at the school house and arrangements were made to build if sufficient money could be subscribed to warrant the undertaking. A few survivors of the Old Lutheran church and they, with members of the M.P. church, resolved to build. The name adopted, was "The Lutheran and Methodist Protestant Union Church. "The Lutherans had no organization but they, as well as persons who were not members of any church, contributed liberally. The condition of the subscription was that the M.P. Methodists were to occupy the church in proportion to the sum contributed by them. This was intended so as not to have the Methodists control all the time, but to afford an opportunity, if needed, to allow preachers of other denominations to use the church occasionally.
The first trustees were Francis H. Pruyn, Daniel Bridenbecker, Philip Finster, Frederick Rima, Peter Finster, Jacob P. Oyer and Peter Rima, Alexis L. Johnson was chosen clerk. These trustees were not all members of the Methodist church, but were chosen from the contributors. Of all these trustees none survive. John Heald of Frankfort was the architect. The Methodists had regular preaching there, though occasionally some other preacher had appointments. In 1865, the death and removal of members and contributors, together with the need of some repairs, the rebuilding on another site was decided upon. The present church was built on the land of Michael Miller near the cemetery.
The new church was built by Charles Widrig, under the direction of Gilbert Palmeter, Audustus Klock and George Widrig, trustees, with the pastor, L.J. Cooper, and Michael Miller, as building committee. The first regular church that was built solely for religious purposes was at East Schuyler, on land donated by Major Amos Smith, a leading and wealthy member of the Baptist church at that place. This was in 1821-2 and the trustees were Eratus Yeomans, John Goo, Charles Holdridge and Rufus Smith. The only descendant of these trustees now living in Shuyler is Rufus H. Smith. This church was dedicated in 1812, but the pastor's name is unknown and early records of the church are lost.
Some years later a Baptist church was organized in the village of Frankfort, and many of the members in Schuyler united with it. No parsonage was ever built at East Schuyler, and owing to the change in membership, it was decided to move the building to near West Schuyler. During the winter of 1833 it was taken down and rebuilt during the summer about a mile east of West Schuyler on lands donated by Asa Willis, Sen. A parsonage was built on land donated by Nathan Budlong, 2d. Some years later the members were reduced by death and removals, the church was dissolved and the building taken down. The parsonage reverted to Mr. Budlong and was used several years as a tenanthouse, but after a few years it was destroyed by a whirlwind and the tenant's wife and infant killed. The first site of this church at East Schuyler is occupied by the "stone schoolhouse", and the second site is also used for a schoolhouse. At present there is no Baptist church in Schuyler, but several members residing here belong to the church in Frankfort.
The Methodist Episcopal church at West Schuyler was built in 1853. The builder is not known to the writer. The building was named "Embury Chapel." A room was attached for Sunday schools. The first trustees were Wm. Budlong, Hiram Tanner, Dr. Warren Day, Wm. Vivian and Erasmus W. day. This church has the only bell in town and is in use yet. Wm. Budlong is the only survivor of the first trustees. There is no parsonage at West Schuyler.
Another, Methodist Episcopal church was built on land of Adam J. Staring, about 1862; the date not exactly known. It was built by Wellington Staring. the first trustees were Joel Sheaf, Samuel M. Jackson, Wm. Philips, Sanford Staring, Nicholas J. Staring, Frederick Burch and Adam Miller. Adam Miller and Frederick Burch are the survivors. This church was not used much and was taken down some years ago.
The "Second Methodist Protestant Church" was built in 1866 by Hamilton Ingham under the direction of N.J. Davis, Emour Ladd and Hiram Smith, trustees. This vicinity is known as "The Wind Fall,: and the site was on the land Joseph Willis. The house is in use yet and has a resident pastor. None of the first trustees survive. There is a parsonage with about one-fourth acre for garden, belonging to the church.
In 1868 a "Union" church was built on the former site of the Lutheran and M.P. church by the Free Methodists and others not members of any church. The trustees were Newell Miller, John Sheaf, Daniel Oyer, Ira Finster and Alexis L. Johnson. The frame was put up by James Durst and the finishing by Chas. Willard and Isaac Coffin. The building cost $2,000 of which Philip Finster paid nearly one-third. It was used several years by the Free Methodists and occasionally by others, but the church failed to keep up their organization and the building was sold by the surviving trustees for a little more than $100, which was made a perpetual fund for the First M.P. church. The lot reverted to the owner of the farm from which it was taken and the building is now used as a wagon house and the storage of farming implements. A commodious house and good barn with about an acre of ground belong to the First M.P. church. The buildings are opposite the church, across the road. A shed for the teams is in the rear of the church. The ground on which these different churches have been built has or will revert to owners of the farms from which they were taken when ceased to be used for church purposes.
This account of all the churches that have been built in Schuyler is believed to be mainly correct, though if any reader has any corrections or additions to make, the writer would be pleased to see them.
Probably some history of churches in other towns in the would be interesting to the readers of the Citizen.
East Schuyler Methodist Church
West Schuyler Methodist Chutch
The East Schuyler and West Schuyler Methodist Church are still standing, and services are still heard on Sunday.
Copyright © 2001 BetteJo Caldwell/ Martha S. Magill
Photos Copyright © 1991 Betty Robbins Currier & Beverly Rathbun Gillette
All Rights Reserved.