committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE BAPTIST
DENOMINATION IN AMERICA, AND OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
By David Benedict

1813
London: Printed by Lincoln & Edmands, No. 53, Cornhill, for the Author

 

NEW YORK

This state contains almost a million of inhabitants. It stretches from the Atlantic ocean north to the River St. Lawrence, and north, west and west to the lakes Ontario and Erie.

The first appearance of Baptists in this State was in the city from which it takes its name; they were next found on Long Island, and a third company settled in Duchess county up the Hudson River.

So late as 1764, it does not appear that there were more than four Baptist churches in this extensive territory; in 1790, they had increased to sixty, their preachers were about seventy, and their communicants not far from four thousand. There are now of the denomination somewhere between two and three hundred churches, and probably over sixteen thousand members.

NEW YORK CITY

Baptist churches of late years have increased in this famous metropolis something faster than the materials needful for their construction, and of course some have become extinct, others are small and declining, while a few have gained a good degree of maturity, and are large and flourishing bodies.

First, or Gold Street Church. This church was founded on its present plan, in 1762, but a community of General or Arminian Baptists had existed on the ground long before, of which it may be proper to give a brief account. William Wickenden of Providence, Rhode Island, during his ministry there, frequently preached in this city, where, at one time, as a reward for his services, he was imprisoned four months. At what time this event took place, cannot be ascertained; it must have been before 1669, for in that year Mr. Wickendon died. From this period we hear nothing of Baptists here until about 1719, when Mr. Valentine Wightman of Groton repaired to the place, by the invitation of Mr. Nicholas Eyres, and continued his visits about two years. "His preaching place was Eyres? house. Under his ministry many became serious, and some hopefully converted. Their names were Nicholas Eyres, Nathaniel Morey, Anthony Webb, John Howes, Edward Hoyter, Cornelius Stephens, James Daneman, Elizabeth Morey, Hannah Wright, Esther Cowley, Martha Stephens, and Mrs. -- -- -Miller. Some time in 1714, Mr. Wightman baptized the five women in the night, for fear of the mob, who had been very troublesome, while the seven men stood by. The following text dropped into Mr. Eyres? mind, No man doeth any thing in secret, when he himself seeketh to be known openly. Accordingly he and the six brethren put off their design till morning, when Eyres waited on the Governor (Burnet,) told the case, and solicited protection, which the governor promised, and was as good as his word, for he and many of the gentry came to the water side, and the rite was performed in peace. The Governor, as he stood by, was heard to say, "This was the ancient manner of baptizing, and in my opinion much preferable to the practice of modern times." The above twelve persons called Mr. Eyres to preach to them, by whose ministry the audience so increased, that a private house would not hold them. Accordingly they purchased a lot on Golden Hill, (not far from the lot where the present meeting house now stands) and thereon built a place of worship some time in the year 1728.* The house was in being in 1774, but by mismanagement had become private property. Thus they went on to the month of September, 1724, when Messrs. Valentine Wightman, of Groton, and Daniel Wightman of Newport, formed them into a church and ordained Mr. Eyres to be their minister. To the before mentioned twelve were added, under Mr. Eyres? ministry, William Ball, Ahasuerus Windall of Albany, Abigail and Dinah North of Newtown, Martha Walton of Staten Island, and Richard Stillwell, Jr. Seven years after, that is, October, 1731, Mr. Eyres resigned the care of them to go to Newport on Rhode Island. After him Mr. John Stephens preached to them, and baptized Robert North, Mary Morphy, Hannah French, Mary Stillwell, and two more whose names are not known. But Mr. Stephens quitting them to go to South Carolina, and their house being taken from them, the church dissolved away after having increased to twenty-four members, and existed about eight years.

[* Among Mr. Backus? papers I found a letter addressed to the church in Providence by Elder James Brown, soliciting some assistance towards defraying the expense of this house. In this address it is stated that the brethren in New York had purchased a lot and built them a place of worship which cost them dear. That one of their company, a man of property, on whom they much depended, had left them, and the rest being poor, they were now incumbered with a debt which they were utterly unable to discharge. It is furthermore stated that contributions had been made for these people among the Rhode Island brethren the year before, but as further aid was still needed, it was thought that about five and twenty or thirty pounds would be a suitable proportion to be raised by the church in Providence. At the close of this address there is subscribed by Mr. Brown one pound, and by a number of others thirteen barrels of cider, which was then valuable in that market.]

The present church originated in the following manner: About the year 1745, Mr. Jeremiah Dodge, a member of Mr. Holstead?s church at Fishkill, settled in New York, and opened a prayer, reading, and singing meeting at his own house, to which some of Mr. Eyres? church resorted; but as they were Arminians, and Dodge a strict Calvinist, no good came of it, except that the aforementioned Robert North and he agreed to invite Mr. John Pine, an unordained preacher in the church of Fishkill, to come and preach to them. His ministry took effect partly in reconciling some of the old church to Calvinism, and partly in the conversion of others, particularly John Carman and Nehemiah Oakly, who were baptized by said Holstead; but Mr. Pine dying in 1750, Mr. James Carman of Cranberry, New York, visited them and baptized, so as to increase their number to thirteen; then they were advised to join themselves to Scotch Plains, so as to be considered a branch of that church, and to have their minister, Mr. Benjamin Miller, to preach and administer the Lord?s Supper to them once a quarter; this was effected in 1753. Mr. Miller had not ministered to them many months before the audience grew too large for a private house, therefore they hired a rigging loft in Cart and Horse Lane, and made it convenient for public worship; but being refused continuance there after three years, they were obliged to meet in Mr. Joseph Meeks? house in William Street, where they continued about one year; then they purchased a part of a lot on Golden Hill, and thereon built the meeting house before described, and for the first time met in it, March 14, 1760. Having now a place of worship, and the number of members increasing to twenty seven, they petitioned the Scotch Plains for a dismission, which was granted them June 12, 1762, and on the 19th of the same month, they were constituted a church by the assistance of Miller and Gano, and the same year joined the Association." [Morgan Edwards? MS. Materials, etc. For a further account of Mr. Eyres, see Newport, Rhode Island.]

Mr. John Gano became the pastor of this church at the time of its constitution, and continued in that office about twenty-six years, when he removed to Kentucky, as will be related in his biography. During his ministry, the church received by baptism about 300 members, and excepting the interruptions of the war, it enjoyed an almost continual scene of prosperity and enlargement. Three men of dividing principles, specifically John Murray, now of Boston, John Allen or Junius Junior, and one Dawson, a censured member, from Dr. Gifford?s church in London, each in their turns attempted divisions, caused no little trouble, but in the end failed of success.

The next year after Mr. Gano?s removal this church had the happiness to settle in the pastoral office Mr. afterwards Dr. Benjamin Foster, who ministered to them with much reputation and success till 1798, when he died with the yellow fever. For a further account of this distinguished character, the reader is referred to his biography.

Successor to Dr. Foster was Mr. William Collier, now of Charlestown, Massachusetts, who officiated here about four years.

After him was Mr. Jeremiah Chaplin, now pastor of the church in Danvers, the birth place both of Dr. Foster and himself. He served this people about one year. Of these two pastors something has already been said under the head of Massachusetts.

The next in office here was the present pastor, Mr. William Parkinson. He was born near Fredericktown, Maryland, November 8, 1774, served a number of years as pastor of the church in that town, was three sessions chaplain to Congress, and was settled in his present station in the beginning of 1805. Under Mr. Parkinson?s ministry this church has enjoyed peculiar prosperity and enlargement; it has also on account of some grievous allegations against his moral character, been called to pass through an afflictive scene of trial and adversity. Twice he has been indicted for an assault and battery; two long expensive lawsuits have been maintained, in both of which he was acquitted for want of evidence; but still the minds of not a few of his brethren and friends remain burdened. The crimes laid to his charge by his female accusers he denies; imprudent conduct with some of the tempting daughters of Eve, he has confessed to his church, who have received his confession as satisfactory, and resolved to retain him in office. Further than this, the relation of this unhappy affair may better be omitted. The house of worship built by this church in 1760 was enlarged during the ministry of Mr. Gano, but the whole was removed, together with the parsonage house adjoining, in 1801, to make room for their present spacious edifice, which was erected the year after. It is built of stone, 80 feet by 65, and cost, including its furniture, about 25,000 dollars. It is situated in Gold Street on a lot of 125 feet by 100. From this church have originated the Bethel, the next to be named, the one at Peekskill up the Hudson River, those of King Street and Stamford in Connecticut, one at Newtown on Long Island, the Abyssinian or African Church, and North Church, both in this city.

The ministers, who have been sent out from this ancient establishment, are Messrs. Thomas Ustick, late of Philadelphia, Isaac Skillman, D.D. once pastor of the Second Church in Boston, Stephen Gano of Providence, Rhode Island, Thomas Montanye of Southampton, Pennsylvania, Cornelius P. Wyckoff, James Bruce deceased, and John Seger. [Jubilee Sermon, etc.]

Bethel Church. -- This church was formed from the Gold Street not altogether harmoniously in 1770. But as the dispute was about matters of no great interest, it was soon settled, and the two churches have long traveled in fellowship together. This church in the beginning was called the second in New York, its first pastor was Dr. John Dodge, who is now settled with the church in Canton, above Poughkeepsie. He was born on Long Island, February 22, 1738, was bred to physic, became a Baptist in Baltimore, by means of the late John Davies, became the pastor of this church soon after it arose, and continued with it a number of years. After him they had for a number of years Mr. Charles Lahatt, now of Pittstown in this State. Successor to him was their present pastor, Mr. Daniel Hall. The first house of worship belonging to this body was in Rose Street, where they met until 1803, when they sold that and built their present house in Broome Street, 44 feet by 36. It stands on a lot 50 feet by 100.

Fayette Street Church. -- This church arose out of a division of the Bethel in 1791, both parties claimed the name of Second until 1802, when their differences were adjusted, and they by mutual consent gave up their claims to priority, and took the names they now bear.

The first pastor of the church under consideration was Mr. Benjamin Montanye, now of Deer Park in this State. Successor to him was Mr. John Williams, under whose ministry they have been built up to a large and flourishing body, and to his conciliatory maxims, must, in a good measure, be attributed the adjustment of the former difficulties in which they were involved. Their first house of worship was small, their present, erected about 1800, is 60 feet by 43, situated on the street from which the church was named. Mr. Williams was born in Carnarvon county, South Wales, in 1768, and landed in New York, 1795.

Mulberry Street Church. -- The origin of this church was marked with some peculiarities, which were briefly as follows: In 1805, Mr. Archibald Maclay, its founder and present pastor, arrived in this city from Scotland. He was then an Independent, under the patronage of the churches of that order in his native land. He, no more than Mr. Williams, had fixed upon this metropolis as a place of settlement. Mr. Williams had designed to have gone to Pennsylvania; Mr. Maclay?s place of destination was Boston; but finding here a few brethren of his own persuasion, he, in compliance with their solicitation, agreed to tarry a few weeks with them. They rented at first, and afterwards purchased the house in Rose Street, formerly occupied by the Bethel Church. Here Mr. Maclay began his labors, a respectable congregation soon collected, and in the course of a few months a small church of the Independent persuasion was formed, which, in three years, increased to forty members. This little church arose under many discouragements, had enjoyed many tokens of Divine favor, and was united to an uncommon degree in the tender ties of Christian affection. But their pastor, after a thorough investigation of the subject, was constrained to become a Baptist, and had the ordinance administered to him, December, 1808, by Mr. Williams above named, and four days after seventeen of his church were baptized by the same administrator, a number more soon after followed their example, and in February, 1809, they were formed into a Baptist church. They hold and practice weekly communion, but are not disposed to break fellowship with their brethren, who differ from them on this point. Their number has increased to about 200.

Their house of worship stands on the street, from which the church is named, is 60 feet by 40, and cost, together with their lot, about 8000 dollars. The lot is 48 feet by 104.

Mr. Maclay is a native of Scotland, studied in Mr. Haldane?s Academy at Edinburgh, and is probably about 35 years of age.

The North Baptist church was formed of members from the Gold Street in 1809. Their pastor, Mr. Cornelius P. Wyckoff, was formerly a member of the North Dutch church in this city.

The Abyssinian or African Church was also formed from the Gold Street, in 1809. They have purchased a very commodious house of worship in Anthony Street, for which it is feared they will not be able to pay. Their present minister is Jacob Bishop from Baltimore.

A church called Ebenezer was gathered a few years since under the ministry of the late Mr. John Inglesby, which is now small, and has never been large.

In 1811, a church was formed in Mulberry Street, called Union, from a schism in the Bethel Church respecting discipline. Their number is 24. They were at first under the care of Mr. Thomas Stevens, who has since removed from them. They have still a preacher by the name of Sylvian Bijotat, a native of Paris, France, whose ancestors were Seventh Day Baptists in that city.

A church once existed in Fair Street; under the ministry of Mr. John Stanford, which has many years been dissolved.

In 1806, a church was gathered mostly of natives from Wales, called the Welch Church. Their pastor, Mr. John Stephens, from Newport, Pembrokeshire, in the Principality was for a few years its pastor. But he has removed to Utica, and the church has become extinct.

A church called Zoar, because it was a little one, was formed a few years since from the Gold Street, which has also disbanded.

Besides these there is a small church in this city of Weekly Communion Baptists, and another of Free-Will Baptists, and how many other kinds I know not.

At Oyster Bay, on Long Island, a church arose in early times, but the exact date of its origin cannot be ascertained. As early as 1700, the gospel was preached here by one William Roads, an unordained minister of the Baptist persuasion, who fled hither to avoid persecution, from what place does not appear. By his ministry a number were brought to an acquaintance with the truth, among whom was one Robert Feeks, who was ordained pastor of the church in 1724, by Elders from Rhode Island. In 1741, Elder Feeks wrote to his brethren in Newport as follows: "God has begun a good work among us, which I hope he will carry on. There have been seventeen added to our little band in about three months. When Mr. Feeks was far advanced in years, this church obtained for its pastor one Thomas Davis, who labored with them several years, and then removed to other parts. After him a young man by the name of Caleb Wright, one of their members, engaged in the ministry; his gifts appeared promising to an uncommon degree, a day was appointed for his ordination, which proved to be the day of his burial! After this melancholy event the church was supplied by visiting ministers, until Mr. Benjamin Coles, one of their number, began to labor among them. Mr. Coles was born in the township, April 6, 1737, began to preach when young, spent six years with the church at Stratfield in Connecticut, seven with the one at Hopewell, and two at the Scotch Plains, both in New Jersey; the rest of his ministry was spent in Oyster Bay, where he died in a good old age, August, 1810. A few years before his death, the infirmities of age and a burdensome corpulency disqualified him for stated ministerial services, and as Mr. Marinaduke Earle had removed to take charge of an Academy in the place, the church invited him to succeed in the pastoral office. Under his ministry in 1805 a revival commenced, in which about a hundred members were added by baptism. Mr. Earle is a native of New York, and was educated in the college in that city.

Besides this church, there are, on the Island, those of Coram, Southhold, and Newtown, all destitute of pastors. Newtown is frequently supplied by ministers from New York, but the others, on account of their remote situations, are seldom visited.

At Mount Pleasant, on the Hudson River, thirty-six miles from New York, a church was founded in 1790; it is now under the care of Mr. Stephen S. Nelson, a native of Middlebury, Massachusetts, formerly pastor of the church in Hartford, Connecticut. In this place the New York Association attempted to found an Academy, for the purpose of assisting young preachers in their studies. A convenient edifice was erected, and some measures were taken to carry the design into effect, which, however, soon fell through for the want of patronage. When Mr. Nelson settled in the place, he purchased the building and premises, and under his superintendence, a seminary of a respectable character has been conducted to the present time.

NEW YORK ASSOCIATION

This association was begun in 1791. Most of the churches, of which it was formed, had previously belonged to the ancient Association of Philadelphia. A number of them are situated in New Jersey, where they will be noticed under the next head. This body has uniformly held its anniversaries in the city where it was formed; nothing special occurred in its progress until 1812, when, on account of the affair of Mr. Parkinson, a number of its churches withdrew and now remain out of any associate connection.

WARWICK ASSOCIATION

This body was also formed in 1791, and its oldest churches had before stood connected in the same Association with those of the one last mentioned. They are situated some distance up the country on both sides of the Hudson River.

The Warwick church, from which this Association received its name, was planted in 1766, by Mr. James Benedict, from Ridgefield, Connecticut, who became its pastor, and continued in that office till his death. This church at first was exceeding small, but the year after it was formed, it increased to about 70, and soon amounted to 200, when it began to branch out in different directions, and from it were set off in the early stage of its existence, Wantage, Deer Park, Middleton, etc. in 1769, it joined the Philadelphia Association, under the name of Goshen. After Mr. Benedict was Mr. Thomas Jones, and then Mr. Thomas Montanye, who was ordained its pastor in 1788, at which time the war had so scattered its members, that but about thirty were to be found, and these were spread over a circumference of almost as many miles. Soon a revival commenced, and in less than a year and a half 140 were added by baptism. Many of these soon dispersed to the western country and other parts, and by them a number of other churches were founded. Mr. Montanye, after laboring here a few years, removed to his present situation at Southampton, Pennsylvania, and was succeeded by Mr. Thomas Stephens, who tarried with them but a short time. Successor to him was Lebeus Lathrop, their present pastor. They have lately built a commodious house for worship, and have an estate supposed to be worth about 1500 dollars. From this church originated James Finn, Amos and Moses Parks, Dr. John Munro, late of Galway in this State, Jehiel Wisner, and Ephraim Sanford. Mr. John Gano resided a number of years within the bounds of this church, while exiled from his station at New York.

UNION ASSOCIATION

Was organized in 1809. Some of its churches had belonged to the one last mentioned, a few came off from the Danbury, the others had not been in any associate connection. The center of this body is about sixty miles above the city of New York, on the east side of Hudson. River; four of the churches are in Connecticut.

In the town of Fishkill are two churches belonging to this Association, but no historical accounts of them have come to hand. It appears there was a church in this town as early as 1745, of which Mr. Holstead was pastor. On north of this Association are a number of churches, which arose in early times; they are situated in Dutchess county, about 70 or 80 miles north of the metropolis of the state, at no great distance from the western line of Connecticut. Here seems to have been a distinguished resort for Baptists, when there were but few in any other part of the State.

In this region a considerable number of preachers have labored at different times for about sixty years past, and a still greater number have emigrated from it to other parts. Elders Dakin, Waldo, and Bullock, appear to have been the most distinguished of the company, and of them we shall give some brief accounts in speaking of the churches which arose under their labors.

Northeast Town. -- The church, which at present bears this name, was, according to the best information, begun about the time of the remarkable revival under Whitefield, Tennant, and others, to which we have so frequently referred in the history of the New England states. While that work was going on, a number of the members of Presbyterian church, in a place then called South Precinct, now Franklin, withdrew and joined one in the neighborhood of the Congregational order, which held to open communion. Among these dissenters was Mr. Simon Dakin and many others, who soon fell in with Baptist principles, and founded a church in 1751, of which Mr. Dakin was ordained pastor about three years after. Respecting the early movements of this church no historical accounts can be obtained, as the Herveys, its principal promoters, some years after it began, removed beyond the Hudson River, and carried the records with them. But we are informed, that Mr. Dakin?s ministry was greatly blessed, and that a numerous church arose, which branched out to different places. Some removed to what is now called Northeast Town, where a church was gathered under the ministry of Mr. James Philips, who, after serving it some years, went to Fishkill. To this place Mr. Dakin repaired in 1775; many of his church in Franklin it seems came with him; what were left behind fell in with a southern branch, which arose under the ministry of Mr. Nathan Cole, one of Mr. Dakin?s members.

In Northeast Town Mr. Dakin spent the most of his long and pious ministry. He was born in Concord, Massachusetts, 1721, came with his father to this region at the age of sixteen, and died in 1803, in the 85th year of his age, and the 50th of his ministry, leaving behind him a character fair, amiable, and unspotted. The church is now under the care of Mr. Isaac Allerton; from it originated Mr. James M. Winchell, now preaching with the first church in Boston.

In Dover, below Northeast Town, are two churches, which arose from one founded by Elder William Marsh from New Jersey, in 1755. Mr. Marsh was succeeded in the pastoral office by the late Samuel Waldo, in 1758, who ministered here with much reputation and success, upwards of thirty-five years. This church was at first called Beckman?s Precinct, and under that name belonged to the Philadelphia Association as early as 1772, and probably much earlier. It afterwards took the name of Pauling?s Precinct, then of Pauling?s town, and finally it assumed the name it now bears. In 1762, a church was set off from this in a place called the Oblong. In 1794, another was formed from it, which took the name of the Second in Dover; and besides these branches multitudes of its members have emigrated at different times to many places in Vermont and other parts.

Mr. Waldo was born in the eastern part of Connecticut in 1739, but was brought up in Mansfield in that state. At the age of eighteen he professed religion in the Baptist connection, and soon after was ordained to the pastoral office in the church under consideration. His parents belonged to a Presbyterian church, but became Baptists after this son united with the denomination. Mr. Waldo?s ministry was distinguished for nothing so much as piety and success. Those, who were long acquainted with him, speak of him in the highest terms of approbation, as a man of an unspotted life, of a sound mind, unusually edifying as a preacher, affable and engaging in every circle, skillful in the discipline of his church, remarkable and inimitable in the government of his family; in a word, in him was united every qualification, necessary for a plain, profitable, and successful minister of the cross. Soon after he settled with this church, a revival commenced in which over sixty were added in a short time. In 1775, another refreshing season was granted, in which over fifty were added to his flock in about ten months. Besides seasons of special revival, he had many seals of his ministry during the whole of its continuance. In having served this church over thirty-five years, he was called away to receive his reward, 1792, in the 62nd year of his age. His widow is yet living, aged 82. Seven children out of nine he had the happiness of receiving into his church before his death. One of his sons is now resident in Georgetown, South Carolina.

Since the death of this venerable pastor, the church has had various supplies, but have lately settled among them a pastor by the name of Elisha Booth.

In the Great Nine Partners a church was formed under the ministry of the late Elder Comer Bullock, about 1779; it has, at times, flourished much, and embraced a multitude of members in many of the surrounding parts of the country. In 1790, according to Asplund?s Register, it contained 870 members, and its preachers, besides Elder Bullock, were Christopher Newcure, Christopher Newcure, Jr., Nicholas Hare, James Purdy, and Abraham Adams. Mr. Bullock was born in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, probably about 1756; was named after John Comer, once pastor of a church in that town, to which he belonged before his removal to this place, where he was ordained about 1780, by Elders Charles Thompson, then of Warren, and Samuel Hicks of the place of his nativity. Mr. Bullock finished his pious course in 1811.

In the neighborhood of Mr. Bullock?s church, another arose in 1788, to which Dr. Gano, now of Providence, ministered a few years before his removal to his present station.

In Poughkeepsie a church was founded in 1807, partly out of the ruins of one, which had existed in the place a few years before, under the ministry of a boisterous preacher by the name of Palmer. They had for their pastor a short time after their re-organization, Mr. Francis Wayland, now of Troy, above Albany. Their present pastor is a young man by the name of Lewis Leonard, from Bridgewater, Massachusetts. They have a new commodious house of worship, and appear in a promising condition. As we go north from this region, we find sixteen churches, belonging to the Shaftsbury Association, containing about half of the members of that body.

In New Canaan a church was planted over forty years ago by Elder Jacob Drake, from which many others originated. Mr. Drake removed from Windsor, Connecticut, and settled in this town in 1769. He was then a Pedobaptist minister of the Separate connection, and finding a number of his own persuasion in the neighborhood, he formed them into a church and was ordained their pastor, 1770. After travelling on the Pedobaptist plan about eight or nine years, he, with many of his flock, embraced the Baptist principles, and formed a church of baptized believers only. One article of their covenant was, "A church consists of a Pastor and Teacher, Ruling Elders and Deacons." Mr. Drake traveled and preached abundantly with great success, insomuch that his church in ten years from its beginning amounted to between five and six hundred members. They were spread over a great extent of country, not only in the neighboring towns, but branches were scattered at many miles distant, on both sides of the Hudson River, for wherever Mr. Drake baptized any disciples, he gave them fellowship as members of his flock. When this wide-spread church contained the number just mentioned, there were in it, besides its pastor, eleven Teachers and Ruling Elders. Their names were David Skeels, Bariah Kelly, Jr., David Mudge, Jeduthan Gray, Reuben Mudge, John Mudge, Nathaniel Kellogg, Hezekiah Baldwin, Aaron Drake, Jr., Nathaniel Culver and Asahel Drake. The four last were Ruling Elders, but had a right to administer ordinances. Dr. Gano of Providence was about this time preaching at Hillsdale, not far distant, where he founded a church, which he served a number of years; he labored with Mr. Drake?s people to show them the impropriety of their proceedings, and mostly by his influence there set off from their great unwieldly body, five distinct churches in 1789, namely Great Barrington and Egremont, Warren?s Bush, Coeyman?s Patent, Duane?s Bush, and Rensellaerville. The church in West Stockbridge had been formed from it in 1781, and the one at New Concord was set off in 1791. Thus, from the labors of this itinerating pastor and his spiritual sons, arose eight churches in the course of about twelve years. "Some," observes Mr. John Leland, who furnished this account, "say that Mr. Drake contended for an Apostolical gift; be that as it may, he has been a successful preacher, and he is the best fisherman, who catches the most fish," etc.

In 1792, Mr. Drake removed to Wyoming in Pennsylvania, where he founded a church, which has spread extensively, along the Susquehannah River. In this country he died at an advanced age, having been some time blind; the date of his death I have not learnt.

The Church at Canaan, after having adopted some different maxims, was received into the Shaftsbury Association. It is now in a feeble state without a pastor. A second church was formed in this town in 1793, which is also destitute.

In Berlin a church arose in 1785, under the ministry of Mr. Justus Hull, which has been distinguished for unusual prosperity, and now contains over 600 members. It was at first called Little Hoosick, from the name of a river on which it is situated. Afterwards it was named Stephentown, then Stephentown and Petersburgh; these frequent changes of name would puzzle the searcher of registers to identify this body, were it not that Justus Hull has, from first to last, been its pastor. Some of its original members removed from Exeter, Rhode Island. Mr. Hull was born in Reading, Connecticut, in 1755, where, and in different parts near, he, not long after his commencement in the ministry, labored with good effect. A revival of an uncommon nature was experienced in Berlin in 1811; over 200 joined the church under consideration. Fifty-seven were baptized in one day, in the space of thirty-two minutes. Over 100 joined the Sabbatarians, and about thirty were added to the open communion church in the town. [M.B.M. Magazine, vol. iii. p. 172-3.]

By this church were sent into the ministry Robert Niles, Eber Moffit, Alderman Baker, and probably many others.

In Albany, Troy, and Lansingburgh, all within nine miles of each other, on the Hudson River, are churches, which do not appear to have been marked with any peculiar events. The church in Troy was formed in 1795, under the ministry of Mr. Elias Lee, now at the Ballstown Springs. It has a commodious house for worship, and is under the care of Mr. Francis Wayland, a native of England, who was sent into the ministry by the Fayette Street church in the city of New York. The church in Lansingburgh is three miles north of it. Its late pastor, Mr. Nathaniel Kendriek, is now at Middlebury, Vermont. In the city of Albany a small Baptist church was gathered in 1811, which has since increased to upwards of seventy members. Soon after they were embodied, a revival commenced under the ministry of Elder Joseph Utley, belonging to the second church in Groton, Connecticut. This work progressed under the labors of Mr. Francis Wayland of Troy. The church is now under the care of Mr. Isaac Webb, from Ireland.

In Cambridge a church was planted in 1772, by Elder William Wait from Rhode Island. It was at first called White?s Creek, is situated near the line of Vermont, and within half a mile of Elder Wait?s house the Bennington Battle terminated. The night before the battle, some of his church went over to the enemy, where they were obliged to fight, and during the bloody conflict the heavens and the earth witnessed the shocking spectacle of brethren, who, but a few days before had set together at the table of the Lord, arranged in direful hostility against each other, amidst the clangor of arms and the rage of battle. Brother fighting against brother! Such are the horrors and unnatural effects of war! O, tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon. This melancholy affair threw the church into confusion, and entirely broke it up. The next year Mr. Wait collected three members besides himself, and began anew, a revival soon commenced, so that, in 1780, the number amounted to 140. It is now something smaller, and has for its pastor Elder Obed Warren, a native of Dudley, Massachusetts, who has long been with the Salem church, still above this. Mr. Warren has been a successful minister in these parts, and has at different times traveled and labored much in regions remote and destitute. In Granville, not far from the place last mentioned, a church was gathered in 1788 by Elder Richard Sill from Connecticut, whose ministerial course was short but highly respectable and useful. The church has had since his death various supplies, but since 1806 has been under the care of Mr. Samuel Rowley, a native of Rutland in Vermont. Under his labor they have enjoyed a season of revival, and have been built up to a large and flourishing community.

RENSELLAERVILLE ASSOCIATION

This association is on the west side of the Hudson River, and many of the churches composing it are at no great distance from it. The town from which it took its name is about twenty miles south-west of Albany. It began in 1796, with only three churches, namely two in Rensellaerville and one in Broome. It has since increased to over twenty churches, and nearly two thousand members, but has been much reduced lately by dismissing churches to associate elsewhere. Many of the members of this community removed hither from New England. Elder Philip Jenkins, late pastor of the church in Bern, died in 1811, in the 85th year of his age. He was born in one of the Kingstons, Rhode Island, in 1727; was first a member, then a deacon of the church in Exeter, in that State. After he began to preach he planted a church in North Kingston, which he continued to serve until about 1795, when he removed to this part of the vineyard. For more than half a century Mr. Jenkins was zealously engaged in the work of the ministry, and according to Mr. Andrew Brown, one of his members, was a man of eminent piety and usefulness, during the whole of his long and unspotted life.

SARATOGA ASSOCIATION

This Association was formed by a division of the Shaftsbury in 1805. The churches of which it is composed are mostly on the east side of the Hudson River, between that and the Mohawk, and are scattered in every direction around the famous Saratoga Springs. The ground occupied by this body was, for the most part, in a wilderness state at the close of the American war, and very few of the churches were constituted previous to 1790. A number of them are large, but as no accounts of their origin and progress have been communicated, but little can be said respecting them. At the Ballstown Springs is a church under the care of Elder Elias Lee, a native of Connecticut, whose name is known throughout an extensive circle, on account of his publishing a number of well-written pieces on different points of theological controversy. In this church a very extraordinary case of healing took place in the person of Martha Howel, a few years since, who, from a state of helpless decrepitude, was suddenly restored to perfect soundness, without the application of any external means. Those, who may wish to gain more particular information of this uncommon occurrence, may find it in a pamphlet published by Elder Lee. The late eminent Lemuel Corel was sent into the ministry by the church of Providence, belonging to this Association, now under the care of Elder Jonathan Finch.

At Stillwater, within the bounds of this community, and near the place where General Burgoyne was taken, a church was formed over forty years ago, which was broken up and scattered by the devastations of the war. About 1780, Elders Beriah Kelly, one of Mr. Drake?s connection, and Lemuel Powers from Northbridge, Massachusetts, began to labor in the place, and raised two distinct churches, which in about two years were incorporated into one under the care of Elder Powers. This church increased abundantly and spread its branches into all the surrounding country, insomuch that in 1798, after between forty and fifty had been set off from it, to found the church at Fish Creek, it contained upwards of four hundred members. But in ten years from that time it was reduced to a little more than twenty, and is now small, though beginning again to revive. The cause of this dispersion was owing partly to the spirit of emigration, which possessed the members, but mostly to some misconduct in their pastor, or at least to some reports unfavorable to his chastity. He confessed he had been imprudent, but at the time, and in his dying moments denied having been actually guilty. But so it was, that his usefulness was ruined, his church scattered, and he went mourning down to his grave, which he entered in peace in 1800, in the 45th year of his age. The dispersion of this great body might well be compared to a shipwreck: and on that account, Mr. Leland, being called to preach among them in the time of their troubles, took for his text, Acts 27:44, And some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship -- and so it came to pass, that they all escaped safe to land. The members though scattered were not lost, but united with the other surrounding churches. Elder David Irish, once a member of this church, and an assistant to Mr. Powers, is now in Aurelius, in the western part of this State.

The church in Clifton Park, but eight or ten miles westward of Half Moon Point, did not see fit to take a dismission with the rest of the Saratoga churches, but still belongs to the Shaftsbury Association. It is a large and flourishing community, under the pastoral care of Elder Abijah Peek.

LAKE GEORGE ASSOCIATION

Is still north of the one last described. It is a small body formed about the year 1809. Its name suggests its local situation. Elder Jehiel Fox, formerly of St. Coyt, appears to have been the first Baptist minister in these parts. He settled in Chester in 1797, and in this then destitute region, in the course of about twelve years, traveled about as many thousand miles, to sound the gospel to the scattered inhabitants. Elder Daniel M?Bride, a few years since, was sent into the ministry by the church in Chester, founded by Mr. Fox, and is now laboring with good effect in those parts. Mr. James Whitehead, the third minister in the Association, has lately removed to the State of Vermont.

THE ESSEX ASSOCIATION

Is in the north-east corner of this state, on the western shore of Lake Champlain. It was formed in 1802. The first and almost only minister in these parts for many years was Elder Solomon Brown, by whom most of the first churches in this body were planted.

ST. LAWRENCE ASSOCIATION

Was begun in 1812, of a few small churches mostly the fruits of missionary labors. It took its name from the country in which the churches are situated, which was called after a well known river, which proceeds from Lake Ontario.

BLACK RIVER ASSOCIATION

This association takes its name from that of a newly settled region, near the east end of Lake Ontario. It was formed in 1808. One of their principal ministers is Elder Emery Osgood, from Massachusetts, who settled here in 1803, at which time there was no ordained minister of the Baptist order within sixty miles of him. At Turin, within the bounds of this Association, now resides Elder Stephen Parsons, formerly of Middletown, Connecticut. In what is usually called the western part of New York, that is, in that vast range of territory west of the old settlements on the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, between the northern Lakes and the State of Pennsylvania, is a very large assemblage of churches, which have mostly been planted within less than twenty years past. They are, with a very few exceptions, included in the Otsego, Madison, Franklin, Cayuga, and Holland Purchase Associations, which we shall briefly describe in the order here stated.

OTSEGO

This association was organized in 1795; but was begun under the name of a Conference the year before. At the time of its organization, Elders Werden, Cornell, and Craw, from the Shaftsbury Association, were present to counsel and assist them. The churches, of which it was composed, had arisen very suddenly in the infant settlements around, and at no great distance from the Otsego Lake, about sixty or seventy miles west of Albany. This Association began under very encouraging prospects, and increased with great rapidity, so that by the year 1807, twelve years from its commencement, its churches amounted to fifty-five, its preachers to thirty, and its communicants to upwards of 3000. It had then become so extensive, that a division was thought proper; accordingly in 1808, a number of the western churches were dismissed and united with others in forming an association, to which they gave the name of

MADISON

It consisted at first of eighteen churches and fourteen ministers, among whom were some of the principal ones in the country. Its total number of members amounted to a little more than a thousand.

FRANKLIN

This association was formed in the southern bounds of the Otsego and of churches mostly from that body in 1811. It received its name from the town of Franklin, in the county of Delaware, where there is a church of more than two hundred and fifty members, by far the largest in this body.

CAYUGA

This association lies at a considerable distance to the westward of those just mentioned, around the lake from which it received its name. In 1799, a number of churches in this quarter united together, under the name of the Scipio General Conference, which arose to an Association in 1801. It had, in 1811, increased to 58 churches, 94 ministers, and over 3000 members.

From these brief sketches of the rise of these four associations, we shall proceed to some general observations on their boundaries, ministers, etc. The Otsego Association, in 1799, extended from east to west about 140 miles, and from north to south not far from 60. It probably became much more extensive before it was divided in 1808. But after fitting out two associations, it is reduced to narrower limits, which I am not able precisely to state; it is, however, sufficient to say, that its churches are on both sides of the Mohawk River, on the head waters of the Unadilla River, the Butternut Creek, and about the Otsego Lake.

The churches of the Madison Association are on the east, west, and middle branches of the Chenango River, and the east range of townships in the Military Tract, so called, extending about fifty miles north and south, and forty east and west.

The Franklin Association lies mostly between the Delaware and Chenango Rivers, and extends from the southern bounds of the Otsego Association, on south towards the State of Pennsylvania.

The Cayuga Association occupies an extent of country of about a hundred miles from east to west, and not far from forty north and south. Its churches are situated on the east, west, and north sides of the Cayuga and Seneca Lakes, and are scattered along westward as far as the Genessee River. This extensive body will probably be soon divided. In its bounds are at least five churches of respectable standing, which have not yet associated, besides many collections of brethren, called conferences, which are maturing for churches.

In these four associations are now a hundred and thirty odd churches, about seventy ministers, and not far from nine thousand members. These churches, with a very few exceptions, have been raised up in the space of about twenty years. Most of the ministers by whom they have been planted are still alive, and actively engaged in this part of the Lord?s vineyard. Many of them, especially of the older class, began their labors in this wilderness region, under many trials and disadvantages, being generally low in their worldly circumstances, and often too much neglected by the churches. But we are happy to state, that they now enjoy a competence of worldly things, and some have arisen to a considerable degree of opulence, not by the munificence of their brethren, but by the smiles of Providence on their own exertions.

Among the large body of elders in these Associations, William Furman, Joel Butler, Ashbel Hosmer, and David Irish, are represented by their brethren as having been the most successful in their labors. Mr. Irish removed to Scipio in the early settlement of the place, and planted a church in 1795, which now contains about 250 members. He has sometime been pastor of a church in Aurelius, whose members amount to over four hundred. When he settled at Scipio, there was no Baptist minister in regular standing, (impostors were plenty) within more than a hundred miles of him, and most of the way was through a wilderness. In this western region he has baptized about a thousand persons.

Elder Hosmer was born in West Hartford, Connecticut, 1758. At the age of sixteen he entered the service of his country, in which he received a severe wound. When about thirty years of age, he was baptized and became a member of the church in Canaan, in his native State, where he began to preach soon after. From that place he removed to Wallingford, where he was ordained in 1792, and three years after settled in Burlington, New York. In that place he resided a number of years, and traveled and preached abundantly in all the surrounding country, being poor and often much straitened in his worldly circumstances. From Burlington he removed to Hamilton, where he resided till his death. There he found himself among a people who knew how to explain aright the Apostle?s meaning, when he says, They that preach the gospel, shall live of the gospel. By them he was placed in circumstances easy and comfortable. But in the midst of a course of distinguished usefulness, this eminent servant of God and the churches was suddenly arrested with a violent fever, of which he died April, 1812, in the 55th year of his age.

Elder William Furman removed from St. Coyt, not far from Albany, and settled in Springfield at the head of the Otsego Lake in 1789. After laboring many years in that quarter, he removed to Avon, within the bounds of the Cayuga Association, where he died in 1812. Elder Joel Butler, from what place I do not find, settled between the two Canada Creeks, north of the Mohawk River, in 1793. He lately had the misfortune to fall into the fire in a fit, which afflictious event has mostly laid him by from his ministerial labors.

By the three last mentioned ministers, most of the first churches in the Otsego Association were set in order; by them also most of the baptisms in early times were administered, and very few ministers were ordained without their assistance.

Elder Peter P. Roots, and a great number of others might be mentioned, as having been distinguished for usefulness, in the new settlements in this western region, to which multitudes have emigrated from all the New England states. By these emigrants many of the churches have been enlarged, but they are mostly indebted, for their prosperity and numbers, to those many and extensive revivals, which the gracious Lord has granted to this highly favored country. It is asserted by brethren, capable of giving correct information on the subject, that since 1794, scarce a month has passed without some special outpourings of the Divine Spirit, within the bounds of these four associations.

HOLLAND PURCHASE CONFERENCE

This name was given to a small collection of churches, which convened for the purpose of beginning an association at a place called Willink, in the county of Niagara, in 1811. The number at first was seven, all of which were small, and amongst them were but three ministers. The Holland Purchase is an extensive tract of country, in the western part of New York. A Baptist church was formed in it in 1808, at a place called township No. 10. This was the first church of any denomination founded in this Purchase, and is the fruit of missionary labors. Mr. Roots and other missionaries have labored much and with good effect in this remote region, in which there is now an encouraging prospect of an extensive spread of the Redeemer?s cause.

From these brief sketches we see that Baptist principles and Baptist churches have, within a few years past, spread into every corner, and been established in almost every part of this extensive state. [For a part of the information respecting this western region, the author is indebted to a work published in 1794, by Elders Hosmer and Lawton, entitled, A View, etc. of the Otsego Association. All the late information was furnished by the same Elder Lawton and Elder John Peck, who travelled extensively and took much pains to collect it.]

To the History of this State we shall subjoin a brief account of the Baptists in

UPPER CANADA

What few churches are found in this Province were built up mostly by missionaries from New York, Vermont, and some other states. An association, called Thurlow was formed in the place from which it took its name, in 1804, of only three small churches, whose ministers were Asa Turner, Joseph Winn, and Reuben Crandal. These churches were scattered over an extensive country, along the Bay of Canta, in the districts of Midland and Newcastle. About the time they were organized into an association, they were visited by Elders Joseph Cornell and Peter P. Roots, by whose labors they were much refreshed and encouraged. The late Lemuel Covel and many other missionaries have traveled in this remote part of his Britannic Majesty?s dominions, whose labors have been crowned with success, insomuch that the Thurlow Association in 1811, had increased to eleven churches, eight or nine ministers, five only ordained, amid about a thousand members. What is their state since this Canadian war commenced, I have not learnt. Elder Turner who communicated this information, is now settled at Scipio, New York. A few churches in this province belong to the Shaftsbury Association. The one at Niagara, under the care of Elder Elkanah Holmes, has a seat in the New York Association.

 
 
The Reformed Reader Home Page 


Copyright 1999, The Reformed Reader, All Rights Reserved