The First Baptist Church of Herkimer, NY
The First Baptist Church of Herkimer, N.Y., was organized February 14, 1888. Prior to that time and during the summer of 1885, cottage prayer meetings were begun and continued regularly by the Baptists of the village up to the time of the organization of the Baptist Church. On August 10, 1886, the Baptist Ladies' Aid Society was organized, and one week later, on August 17, 1886, a Baptist Society was organized with Dr. Elmer G. Kern as secretary and treasurer, the chairman being appointed at each meeting of the society. This society at once made arrangements for public worship, and services were thereafter held in the Court House on Sunday afternoons by visiting pastors from Mohawk, Ilion, Frankfort, Little Falls, and other places. This method of supplying pastors for the Baptist people of Herkimer, was continued until February 6, 1887, when Rev. George B. Lawson, then of Madison University, was secured as permanent pastor. The Sunday afternoon services were continued until the fall of 1887, when morning and evening services were held instead.
Vigorous life at once manifested itself, and wead and feeble as the society was, a committee was appointed to secure a site for a church home. This committee was, after a time, discharged, and was succeeded by another committee appointed for a like purpose, and which continued in existence until the purchase of the lot on North Prospect Street, upon which the Baptist Church now stands. This church building was erected during the latter part of 1889, and was dedicated on February 20, 1890. Rev. Mr. Lawson had resigned his pastorate and left Herkimer on May 12, 1888, being succeeded by Rev. Norman S. Burd, a graduate of the Theological Seminary at Hamilton, N.Y.
The work of building a new church was a herculean task for the small number of Baptists then living here, and the undertaking was successfully carried out only through great sacrifice on their part. Soon after the erection of the new church, two important steps were taken which go to make up the history of the Baptist Church in this village. On April 1, 1890, the church was reorganized under the centennial law, and on April 7, 1890, the Christian Endeavor Society of the Baptist Church was organized. This society was started with 27 active members, and three associate members, but it was builded on an old foundation. A young people's society had been organized on September 9, 1889, adn this original society was merged into the C. E. Society. This C. E. Society was afterwards merged into the Baptist Young People's Union.
On June 1, 1890, Rev. N. S. Burd was called to the church at LaGrange, N.Y., and Rev. C. A. Alden, of Hamilton, N.Y., was secured as his successor here. Mr. Alden continued as pastor from July, 1890, until August, 1891, when he resigned. After his departure, supplies and candidates were ehard until January 1, 1892, when Rev. W. D. Lukens of Pennsylvania, was called as pastor. During his pastorate, which extended over a period of four years, a vigorous forward movement was inaugurated so that the membership of the church was increased from 61 to 160 in that time.
On September 29, 1892, the Circle for Home and Foreigh Mission work was organized among the women of the church. On February 21, 1893, the number of trustees was increased from three to nine, and the following then constituted the Board: Dr. E. G. Kern, George Bunnell, A. Rust, A. B. Steele, A. G. Miller, A. A. Hudd, H. D. Silliman, Minott Caldwell, Menzo Wood.
In 1894, the Junior Union of the church was formed, with Mrs. Mary Lukens as superintendent, and Mrs. A. A. Hudd as assistant superintendent. Rev. Mr. Lukens resigned the pastorate of the church on November 1, 1895, and was succeeded by Rev. G. S. Beckwith, of Newport, N.Y., who entered upon the duties of the pastorate here on December 1, 1895. During Mr. Beckwith's pastorate conservative spirit characterized the church work, the requirements for admission to membership in the church were more rigidly insisted upon, and the church roll was revised. In that time also the project for a new church home was started and vigorously pushed, and besides the purchase of a new site at the corner of North Washington and Green Streets, the church building fund was materially increased. On September 1, 1900, Mr. Beckwith resigned his pastorate to accept the position of teacher of Theology in the Theological Seminary at Columbia, South Carolina.
The church building committee intend to commence the erection of the new church early in the spring of 1901.
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