The following is taken from "Ilion 1852-1952." We thank the Mayor and other officials of Ilion for granting us permission to provide this information to our visitors.


To attend divine services the early settlers were obliged to travel to Fort Herkimer or Herkimer. Some families maintained pews in both churches. Later the district school house was used or private homes. By 1842 the population was large enough to encourage the erection of a union church which was built on the site of the present Baptist Church. The Methodists, being the larger group, held services Sunday mornings while the Universalists held theirs Sunday afternoons. This edifice was also used by other denominations until they had their own church homes.

The Methodist Episcopal Church

The first group to separate from the Union Church were the Methodists which group dates back the farthest. It was in 1832 that Rev. John Ercanbrach, a preacher in charge of the Litchfield circuit, organized the first class. John Hunt was the first class leader and at his house the first preaching was held with six members present. After that the school house was used for services.

In 1840, Ilion together with Frankfort and Mohawk made a part of the Herkimer circuit.

In 1860 Ilion became a preaching station, having some sixty members and paying $400 preacher's salary. In the year 1863 the Methodist Episcopal society came into possession of a parsonage valued at $1500 and the next year a subscription for a new church was presented and read. Philo Remington was elected to a building committee for the erection of the church. The frame dwelling and lot on the corner of West and Second Streets was purchased and the new edifice was dedicated January 3, 1886 at a cost of $21,000.

In 1890 Mrs. Caroline Remington, in remembrance of her husband, Philo Remington, built and presented to the Church the Remington Memorial Chapel. This church is one of Memorial windows, the first of which was installed in 1910 and the last in 1944 while Rev. Leonard Peale was the pastor.

Rev. Roland Osgood became pastor in April 1952.

Church of Annunciation

The early history of the Catholic Church dates back to 1840 when Catholics began to settle in the towns of Ilion, Frankfort, Mohawk and Herkimer. These sturdy pioneers attended Mass in Utica or Little Falls, journeying by packet on the Erie Canal, by carriage, or even on foot. For their convenience in 1845, missions in each town were established and Mass was celebrated in private homes. The first Mass celebrated in Ilion was in the home of John Roche, the house now occupied by Arthur Putnam, 154 East Main Street. With permission from the Bishop of Albany, Ilion was made a separate parish and Rev. William Howard was appointed first resident pastor in 1867, and a new mission was opened.

The success of the new mission was so encouraging that Father Howard purchased of J. B. Pelton the site on East Main Street upon which the first Catholic Church in Ilion was completed in 1868 for $15,000. The site is now occupied by the Kaiser-Fraser Garage.

In 1904 the present parish house on West Street was built at a cost of $7994.

In 1909 Rev. James B. Gilloon, beloved by his parishioners, was assigned to the charge of the Church until his death in 1936.

The residence, formerly part of the Bennison estate, 59 West Street, was made into a Convent for the Sisters of Mercy in 1926.

Early in 1937, during Rev. James Nolan's pastorate, it seemed that the time was propitious for the erection of a new church. A campaign for funds for the new church was undertaken and March 27, 1938 the new church was dedicated. This beautiful edifice on West Street was built at a cost of $170,000. The style bespeaks the twentieth century and yet it is distinctly Gothic with a reverence for the historic past.

In 1944 Rev. Daniel A. Horan was made pastor and continues at the present time (1952).

The First Baptist Church

The First Baptist Church in Ilion was born during the closing years of the Civil War, although records show there was "Baptist activity" as early as 1860.

After more than three years of consideration the pioneer Baptists called a public meeting in March 1864 for the purpose of "considering in a more definite way" the organization of a Baptist Society.

The church society was duly established on April 16, 1865 and, by unanimous call of the church, the council convened in the Union House of Worship which recognized it as a regular Baptist Church. The Union House of Worship stood on the site of the present Baptist church. This was purchased and enlarged at a cost of $7000 in 1867 and was dedicated two years later. The present church was erected at a cost of $13,250 during the pastorate of Rev. W. H. Hubbard. It was dedicated June 18, 1897, when it was free from debt. The value of the church property including the parsonage, 110 West St., is nearly $100,000.

The first Sunday School was conducted in the National Bank Building. It continued there until the Baptist society owned its church. Records show that early baptism ceremonies were conducted in Steele's Creek at English Street.

The church has not been given to long pastorates but one is outstanding, the Rev. Fred W. Ainslee, who retired in 1949 after more than 22 years of service and guided the church through the depression years. He was succeeded by Rev. Stanley Thomson in 1949.

St. Augustine's Church

Feeling the great need of spiritual value, a little group of Episcopalians met back in 1867 and asked their Bishop for missionary assistance. Rev. Hedges from Christ Church, Herkimer, was assigned to hold service for this group and for over a year services were conducted in the Old Stone School House.

In 1869 a group of Episcopalians met and resolved to incorporate themselves as a religious society in communion with the Protestant Episcopal Church, the corporation to be known as the Rectors, Wardens and Vestry of St. Augustine's Church. Rev. Charles Lancaster was called upon to assume the charge of the church.

Floyd C. Shepard contracted with the church to convey to it the building and lot on what is now the corner of Central Avenue and West North Street, the site of Old St. Augustine's Church. The first service was held there at Christmas in 1869 and in 1874 the church was reconstructed.

When the parishioners felt the need of a new church the Monsel property on Second Street was purchased and the present rectory was moved to the rear of the lot. In 1919 a Parish house was built and used for a church until the Crypt was constructed in 1920.

Two former Rectors of the Parish, Rev. J. D. Morrison and Rev. Sheldon Griswold, later became Bishops of Duluth and of Salina, Kansas and Chicago, respectively.

>From 1869 on a member of the Rix family has served on the Vestry; George P. Rix who brought his faith from England and his sons, Walter and William, followed in his footsteps.

Rev. Benson known for his kindness and devotion to his church was appointed rector in 1913 and gave 33 years of service in the Parish.

In the fall of 1946 Father Pugh, the present pastor, succeeded Rev. Benson.

The First Presbyterian Church

The First Presbyterian Church owes its origin to a suggestion made by Mr. R. R. Bennett, a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church of this village. The Church was incorporated June 12, 1871. The first meeting was held in December 1870, following a notice from the pulpit of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Until 1875 meetings were held in Mechanic's Hall.

The lot for the edifice on Morgan and Second Streets was purchased from Mr. Chismore in 1874, and on April 6, 1875 the new church was dedicated at a cost of $35,000. Rev. D. M. Rankin was the first pastor. In 1888 Rev. William Taylor became pastor for fifteen years. Rev. Barnes also served 15 years. The trustees, Mr. Newth and Mr. Harter, purchased a house on John Street, now the Reiman house, for a manse. Later, the Best house on Prospect Avenue was purchased for a manse and was followed by a manse on Armory Hill. The present one is located on Morgan Street.

On Sunday, February 11, 1912, this beautiful edifice was ruined by fire. While the church was being consumed by flames the trustees met at the home of Dr. R. B. Redway and there made arrangements for the future. Within ten days $30,000 had been pledged. The cornerstone which was given by Mr. Alex Jarvis was laid Sept. 12, 1912 and the new church, costing $60,000 and notably improved, was dedicated in December 1913.

Dr. and the late Mrs. Conterman presented the Tower Chimes to the church Christmas 1936 and they were dedicated January 10, 1937.

Dr. Wagner, the present pastor, came to Ilion April 1, 1934.

The Christian and Missionary Alliance Church

The Christian and Missionary Alliance Church started with prayer meetings in the various homes showing the presence of this church as early as 1896. The pastor from the Utica Alliance Church came each Thursday evening for weekly meetings. As the membership increased a hall was rented over Deaner's market for meetings. Mrs. H. E. Caswell was the resident pastor. Later they met in a room over the Ilion Hardware store. As the church progressed they moved into the lower floor of a business place on Morgan Street and the church met there for about 17 years. Meetings were also held in the home of Mrs. Philo Remington, the chapel of the Methodist Episcopal church and the Presbyterian church.

In 1936 the "Old Johnson House" at 69 John Street was purchased and made into a church where meetings are now held, with Rev. John Harmon serving as pastor.

In 1949 the Orlyn Wood property on West Street was purchased for a new church. The property consists of a double house and two lots.

Other Church Groups

Other denominations and societies were represented in the community. Sometime in the 1860's the "First Liberal Christian Society" of Ilion was organized. Meetings were held in several halls and later in the old Baptist church. One of the last pastors of the society, Rev. Howard Brown, was in charge of the oldest Unitarian church in Boston, Mass. The Rev. M. Simmons organized his people into a Library Association, others joining them. This library was open to the public Wednesday and Saturday afternoons and Saturday night of each week.

The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church is the name given to certain Methodist churches which have been formed for Negroes only. About 1883 a group of colored people began to worship in the village. At times they were able to support a resident pastor. The church held divine worship in the W. C. T. U. and Rechabite Halls on First Street and had quarterly meetings in the old chapel of the Methodist Protestant Society on South Otsego Street.

The Zion church gave various kinds of entertainment open to the public for a small admission fee to help raise funds for their church such as concerts, cake walks, ice cream sales, etc. The church at one time sponsored an entertainment illustrative of the ancient feast of the wilderness for 15 cents.

About 1880 a Methodist-Protestant Church was organized, meeting in homes and halls until 1900 when they acquired by the will of Charles Austin the brick building south of the Novelty Works for a place of worship. This was torn down and a new edifice was erected, covered with steel siding which gave it the name of the "Tin Church." Afterward it was used by the colored people, was later converted into a two family house, and finally torn down. There were other groups which met for a time but were never strong enough to build a church; such as the Universalists, German Evangelical and some lesser groups.

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Established: 11/5/99
Last Updated: 11/5/99
Copyright © 1999 Paul McLaughlin/ Judy Breedlove/ Martha S. Magill