History of the Congregational
Church was organized in F. A. Bidwell's B. & M. Land Office,
near where Cobb's store now is, on Sunday May 12th, 1872, by Rev.
O. W. Merrill, superintendent of home missions in Nebraska. The
six charter members were: Austin Harris, Dr. and Mrs. W. A.
Anderson, Mr. and Mrs. F. A. Bidwell, and Mr. L. D. Stilson, who
still resides in York. The first four presented Congregational
letters, the last a Baptist letter, while Mrs. Bidwell united on
confession. Eight others who had promised to join, united
afterwards. Rev. C. S. Harrison, superintendent of the Mayflower
Colony, gathered the church and sent for Supt. Merrill to come and
The church was incorporated June 24th, 1872. The first communion service was on June 23rd, 1872, Rev. C. S. Harrison preaching and Rev. W. S. Hills conducting the service. During the next two years services were held in the new school house, built in 1872 on or near the site of the present high school building, and also, on alternate Sundays, in the Methodist church, on the corner where the methodist parsonage now is, and in the Presbyterian church, corner of Lincoln Avenue and Eighth Street. Then from 1874 or 5 to 1882 they were held in the Academy building, which stood on Academy Avenue facing the end of Seventh Street, which then ended at Academy Avenue. Its location is now a part of Seventh Street. The proceeds of the sale of the building went into the new church, while the lumber, when it was torn down, was used in building the two houses just north of Dr. Sedgwick's residence.
During a part of 1882 services were held in the City Hall, which was the second story of the building on the north side of Sixth Street and west corner of the alley, one half block west of the north-west corner of the square. The present church building was dedicated Dec. 31st, 1882. With lots and furnishings. its cost, or value, was a little over $10,000.
The church was improved, and stained glass
windows added in 1887.
From June 1872 to March 1873, Rev. Wm. S. Hills supplied the church while living on a homestead some eight miles south-west of York. From March 1873 to Oct. 1881 Rev. C. S. Harrison, the real founder of the church, was pastor, except one year, 1875-76, when Rev. H. Herrick Johnson acted as pastor. Some twenty or twenty-five times Mr. Harrison came from Illinois to fill his appointments, a round trip of about one thousand miles. Of course he had a pass, on account of the work that he was doing in getting colonists for York and Arborville. It is to Mr. Harrison more probably than to any other person, that York owes her countless trees, a forest where was once a prairie, and also her freedom from saloons. During his pastorate there was a liquor war and one day two roughs from North York started out to brutally beat, if not kill, Mr. Rice and Mr. Harrison. They were beating Mr. Rice and crying "Kill him," when Henry Seymour of the Congregational church knocked them both down. Fearing that he might be expelled from the church for it, Mr. Harrison assured him that instead of expelling him they would canonize him. Mr. Harrison, after a remarkably useful career in the pioneer work of church and academy building, now, at the age of seventy, resides in York, supplying churches and carrying on a nursery. When he left the church in 1881 it had one hundred members.
Rev. O. H. McIntosh was pastor from January 1882 to June 1884. He was the only pastor the church ever had, who came first as a candidate.
Rev. Henry S. Harrison was pastor from September 1884 to July 1st, 1886. It was his only pastorate and it was a successful one, sixty or seventy uniting with the church. He was called to a position on The Advance, of Chicago, of which he afterwards became the proprietor. He was instantly killed on the railroad near Chicago in November 1894.
Rev. Robert S. Lindsay was pastor from March 30th, 1887 to May 1889. For nine months preceding his pastorate the church was supplied much of the time by professors in the Methodist College then located at York. Mr. Lindsay
was the first pastor to live in the new parsonage, which was built
in 1887, costing, with the lot, about $2500. Seventy or eighty
united with the church during his pastorate. Since leaving York he
has preached in Ohio, at Columbus and Geneva.
Rev. Edward A. Leeper was pastor from June 2nd, 1889 to October 1892. Upwards of one hundred and fifty united while be was pastor, while the losses by removals and otherwise were over one hundred. Since leaving York, Mr. Leeper has preached at Wellsville, N. Y. and Dover, Ohio.
Rev. Roselle T. Cross became pastor February 15th, 1893, and is about completing a pastorate of ten years, the longest in the history of the church and the longest of any church in York, except the Catholic. His and Mr. Harrison's pastorates cover more than half of the history of the church. Two hundred and thirty three members have been received by him. The losses during his pastorate have been two hundred and one. January 1st, 1903 the church has a membership of three hundred and eleven.
The records have been lost for many of the early years of the church. As nearly as can be ascertained over seven hundred persons have been connected with the church, about four hundred of whom are no longer members.
During the past sixteen years -- 1887 to 1902 inclusive -- the benevolent contributions have been approximately as follows: Foreign Missions $1717; Home Missions $2178; Education $2082; Freedmen $500; Church Building $263; Sunday School Missionary Work $240; other causes $7449. The total for twenty three years has been about $19000. The home expenses in the last sixteen years have been about $38000, a grand total of $57000 or more.
SUNDAY SCHOOL. This is the oldest Sunday School in York. It was organized in the Spring of 1872 as the York Union Sunday School, under a tree on Beaver Creek, just below Wright's mill. During the first year it met in the school house, then in the Presbyterian church, then in the Methodist church till 1875, then in the Academy. The Methodists withdrew in 1876, and the Presbyterians in 1877. The average attendance in the past ten years, beginning with
1893, has been as follows:
160-197-197-193-156-165-160-159-152-177. In some of those years
the number includes the Home Department. The superintendents have
been: Dea. F. A. Bidwell 6 years, Henry Seymour 2 years, U. C.
Cobb 2 years, Geo. B. France, Dr. D. E. Foristall, Frank Knapp 2
years, Charles Daniels, W. K. Williams 2 years, J. B. Maylard,
Frank A. Hannis 2 years, Miss Abbie Whitney, Rev. E. H. Baker 2
years, John E. Evans 5 years, Merle S. Brown. Miss Whitney and Mr.
Hannis have served many years as assistant superintendent. The
school has always met at 12 o'clock.
CHRISTIAN ENDEAVOR SOCIETIES. The Senior Christian Endeavor Society was organized during Rev. H. S. Harrison's pastorate, in March 1885, with thirty five members. Charles A Boynton was president. The other officers were Mabel Chilcote, Flora Wyckoff and Mr. J. B. Maylard. It was the second society organized in the state. In October 1888 the third state convention was held in this church. There were 162 delegates and 31 visitors. The senior society has had a continuous existance until now. The junior and intermediate societies have existed intermittently.
THE WOMAN'S MISSIONARY SOCIETY. It was organized February 14th, 1883 with Mrs. J. Seymour as "directress." The other officers were Mrs. Cobb, Mrs. Spees and Mrs. H. Seymour. It began with six members and increased to twenty the first year. It pledged seven dollars the first year and fifty the second year. The presidents have been Mrs. J. Seymour, Mrs. Cobb, Mrs. M. E. Morgan, Mrs. Harrison (mother of Rev. H. S. Harrison), Mrs. Grippen, Mrs. Geo. P. Chessman, Mrs. E. H. Baker, Mrs. W. Sanford, Mrs. G. F. Northup, Mrs. A. Stevens and Mrs. R. T. Cross. In 1886 there was a mission band which was kept up until the Junior Endeavor was organized. The woman's society has raised in all in twenty years about $1550.
LADIES' AID SOCIETY. A band of ladies in the church who had given suppers and entertainments for the church treasury, organized themselves in the spring of 1878 into the Ladies' Aid and Missionary Society. Mrs. C. S. Harrison was president. For five years the earnings were divided be-
REV. R. T. CROSS. Plate VII.
tween home expenses and missions. In 1883 the missionary society was organized by itself. In 1878 the Ladies Aid paid $195 for a bell; in 1881 $300 to meet a note; in 1882 $300 for the new church; in 1885-6 $375 for chandelier and stained glass windows; in 1891 $500 for the debt; in 1893 $200 for a furnace in the parsonage, etc. From 1885 to 1896 they raised about $2791; or in all up to 1903 nearly $5000. This money was raised chiefly by sewing and cooking. In 1891 an Industrial store, open on Saturdays, was started, from which $1419 was realized in six years. The annual chicken pie supper, held on election evening in November, has been a feature of their work. The Ladies' Aid has been an important factor of the church activities.
R. T. CROSS, Pastor,
Rev. R. T. Cross was born August 21st, 1844 at Richville, St. Law. Co., N. Y., where his father, Rev. Gorham Cross, was Congregational pastor forty years. He studied in a common school, and in the Oberlin Preparatory Department and Oberlin College, from which he graduated in 1867. He studied theology one year at Union Seminary, New York City. He worked his way through college, mainly by teaching school in the winter. He taught six months in Austinburg Academy at Austinburg, Ohio, and for five years, from 1869 to 1874, was Principal of Oberlin Academy, or Preparatory Department as it was then called. During part of the time he preached for the First Church at Oberlin, after Mr. Finney resigned. The ministry was his chosen life work and in 1874, after a few months study at Andover, he took a pastorate at Hamilton, N. Y. In the summer of 1876 he accepted a call to Colorado Springs, Colo., where he remained until 1887. While at Colorado Springs he built a now church, received about two hundred and forty members, organized the church at Manitou, and, with some of his Sunday School boys, discovered the "Cave of the Winds" at Manitou. In 1881 he organized a new church in Denver, built a building for it, and remained with it over eight years. During nearly two years of that time be also served as superintendent of home mis-