Madison County, NY
MINISTERS OF THE UNION CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
IN LENOX AND SULLIVAN
Congregationalists were known for their desire to have educated settled pastors. While this was difficult for the frontier community, the Oneida Lake Church made a conscientious effort to install pastors of their own choosing. The minister who accepted the call of a parish was expected to be loyal to that parish until such time as the congregation dismissed him. The request of a minister to leave the service of the church was subject to a vote by the congregation. Ministers were poorly paid, even though some on the frontier were subsidized by missionary societies. Usually ministers boarded with congregation members paying for their room and board, if they were unable to purchase a home. Although the Oneida Lake Church had purchased a lot to be utilized as a parsonage during its early history, the expense proved to be greater than they were able to support, and the land was sold. Association with the Presbytery provided supply ministers when the church was unable to secure a resident pastor. Throughout it long history the Oneida Lake Church has often shared pastors with neighboring country churches, especially with the Presbyterian Church at Whitelaw.
The Rev. Ira M. Olds of Sullivan was present on May 21, 1814, to officially institute the church among its thirteen founders. He also preached to the congregation at the lake on June 11, 1815. According to Smith’s History of Madison Co., he was a farmer and pastor of the Congregational Church at Quality Hill for twenty-five years. The Sullivan Church History states that Mr. Olds was ordained as pastor of the Sullivan Church on 8/22/1810 in “connection with the congregation in Lenox.” In 1817 the Sullivan Church “dissolved its relations with the pastor and was received by the Church in Lenox” as directed by the Presbytery. Over the years Mr. Olds was called upon by the Oneida Lake Church to assist in the ordination of ministers, and to help resolve disputes. Smith explains that Mr. Olds continued his ministry at Quality Hill, originally known as Lenox, until 4/11/1832 at which time he was dismissed by the Presbytery. He is listed by Tuttle as a Congregational Chaplain in the 74th Regiment during the War of 1812. His wife, Roxy is buried in the Lenox Rural Cemetery on Nelson Road, Canastota, NY, and perhaps he is buried there, although no stone is in evidence.
Rev. Wallace of Pompey preached to the congregation on 6/11/1815. Guest ministers and missionaries sponsored by the Connecticut Missionary organization were often invited to preach when there was no regular pastor associated with the church.
The first permanent minister was the Rev. Mr. Adams. The Whitelaw Church History reports that Roger Adams came to the region about 1811 and settled along an area commonly known as Waterbury Ridge. He may have previously served the First Congregational Church in Sherburne whose records list a Rev. Roger Adams as an early pastor in that parish. The original Oneida Lake Congregational Church membership was composed of people living in the area of Oneida Lake and Whitelaw. Rev. Adams served the Oneida Lake Church from 1815 until at least the fall of 1825, and perhaps until Rev. Elliot was ordained the following February. On 4/29/1825 the Church voted to continue alternate Sunday services at the Lake and at Beach Ridge, and probably he continued to serve as pastor for both communities. The decision to alternate the location of services may have been the advice of the Council of Ministers convened 4/22/1824 to resolve “subsisting difficulties in the church.” Adams is listed as the pastor of Whitelaw as of June 6, 1826, and was probably actively working with the individuals who formed that church several months earlier. Although there is no mention in the record of his dismissal from the Church at the Lake, there is a discussion on 11/24/1825 about hiring a new pastor. Rev. Adams’s wife, Ruth, is listed in the record of 5/21/1814 as one of the Oneida Lake Church founders, along with Sarah Adams who died in 1815. In July of 1826 Ruth, their daughter Ruthy, their son A.F. Adams, and his wife were granted letters of dismissal to the Church on the Ridge following the official institution of that church by the Onondaga Presbytery. According to Smith, Rev. Adams continued his ministry at the Ridge 1832, and perhaps sporadically thereafter.
On November 24, 1825 the church appointed five individuals, Deacon Bushnell, Wm Bushnell, E.S. Cadwell, Z. Tryon, and M. Chamberlain, to meet with the Trustees and the Society to make arrangements to settle George W. Elliot as pastor. They were granted the authority to speak for the Church. After the arrangements had been completed, the Church scheduled the ordination for February 21, 1826, and selected an ordination Council of Ministers.
On that date the Council of Ministers met at the home of Deacon Reuben Bushnell to examine the candidate. Immediately following the meeting, the Council, Church, and Society proceeded to a barn owned by E.S. Cadwell that had been prepared for the installation and ordination ceremony. Rev. Elliot’s wife, Nancy, was formally accepted into the church by letter from Auburn on 10/29/1826.
Mr. Elliot served the Oneida Lake Church from 1826 until 1830. He submitted a written request to be released from his ministry to the church on July 22, 1829, citing “want of support” and “discordant feelings” as his reasons. After seeking the opinions of the congregation, the Church voted unanimously on 8/1/9/1829 against Mr. Elliot’s dismissal, believing that it was “their duty to retain their pastor.” No resolution had been reached as of 8/15/1830 when Mr. Elliot requested that the issue of his dismissal be placed before the Presbytery. At that meeting the church appointed William Bushnell and Jeremiah Lay to represent the position of the Church in the matter of Elliot’s dismissal at the Presbytery Session. There is no mention in the record of the Presbytery decision, or the date of Rev. Elliot’s release. Smith reports that Mr. Elliot departed from Whitelaw in 1830, and therefore presumably from the Church at the Lake, as well. His wife was granted a letter of dismissal and recommendation to a church in Bergen, Genessee County, NY on 8/22/1831, where perhaps he was already established as the minister.
Probably Ezekiel J. Chapman was the next minister to serve the church between 1831 -1835, although there is no record of ordination or installation. Chapman is listed by Smith as being the pastor at Whitelaw beginning on Dec. 31, 1831, during which time the Church at the Ridge and the Church at the Lake were probably sharing pastoral services. Chapman had been a member of the Connecticut Missionary Society, resigning to become a pastor in Ontario Co. In 1827 the Chapman Genealogy reports that he resided at Oneida Lake.
In 1832 Chapman purchased land on the north side of Route 31, across from the Oneida Lake Church. This land had been purchased in 1828 by the Trustees of the Society to serve as a parsonage. However, the Church Society was unable to raise sufficient funds to pay the debt incurred at the time of the purchase, and was forced to sell the property. On 12/18/1832 the meeting of the Church was held at Chapman’s home, and on 3/3/1833 he served as Church Moderator.
The record states that on 7/7/1834 the church voted to investigate the possibility of securing Seth Williston of Greene Co., NY as pastor, which indicates that the pulpit was vacant at that time. No information is provided on their contact with Williston, but at the following meeting, 7/21/1834, the Church voted to procure the services of Chapman “one half the time”.
Chapman’s 2nd wife, Tryphena Clark Chapman, was admitted to the church on 1/5/1833 from the 1st Congregational Church in Lebanon along with Caroline, Ezekiel’s adult daughter from a previous marriage. Chapman acted as a supply pastor in the church for many years, and is listed specifically as assisting the regular pastor in 1863, and again in 1866, the year that he died. Rev. Ezekiel Chapman died at the age of 85 and is buried in the Oneida Lake Cemetery at Messenger’s Bay with his wife Tryphena who died on 5/1/1867 at age 81.
On 4/11/1835 the Church voted to meet by themselves on the Sunday that “they did not have preaching.” which indicates that they had continued sharing a minister with the Whitelaw congregation. On 7/4/1835 the Church voted to have the list of suspended members who had formed the Union Congregational Church, called the “new church in this place,” read on the following Sunday by Rev. Lot B. Sullivan. Smith reports that Rev. Sullivan preached in Whitelaw on Jan 3, 1835. Perhaps Sullivan served both churches during the early part of l835. A Rev. Cooper is listed in the record of 9/8/1835 as being requested to act as Moderator of the meeting. There is no other reference to Cooper, who may have been a quest minister.
In November 1835 Rev. David R. Barnes, was hired to preach on alternate Sundays at Ridgeville and Oneida Lake. In an old diary owned by the Bushnell family he states,
Oneida Lake Memorandum
On November 11, 1835 came to Ridgeville and lectured during the week. Agreed to commence my labors at Ridgeville and the Lake on the 15th of November 1835. Engaged for a year to preach alternately in both societies for a year from the above date of November 15th. The people promise to raise $250 dollars for the year - poor pittance! But perhaps tis what I am worth. I feel poor in all respects - save one - poor in spirit. Think to apply to the Evangelical board for some aid. Perhaps it may be offered – Shall write to Dr. Weeks.
The church records report that on 7/16/1836 he offered prayers at a meeting of the Church. He states in his diary 9/28/1836 that he was paid fourteen dollars by the Ridgeville Trustees, and “so I am done with them.” Perhaps he concluded his service at the Oneida Lake Church at that time, but it is possible he served longer. He purchased land at the lake, and the 1859 Gillette Map of Madison Co. shows his house on the south side of Great Lot #14 east of the Oneida Lake Church. The Madison Co. Directory 1868-69 states that he was a Congregational clergyman and farmer owning 5 acres. Rev. Barnes died 9/5/1889 and is buried with other Barnes family members in the Oneida Lake Cemetery at Messenger’s Bay.
By 1837 the church again lacked a permanent pastor. The record indicates that on 6/15/1837 William Bushnell was chosen as Moderator for one year “if not provided with one, a minister of the Gospel.” This statement should probably be understood to indicate that the minister usually served as Moderator by this time in the church history, although such was not typical during the very early years. During 1837 the Church held one other recorded meeting in June, and the final reports of July and September meetings contain no mention of pastors. The church became inactive by 1842, the same year that William Bushnell died, but reorganized and reincorporated in 1846.
Sandra B. Wilsey, 2005