HUDSON YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION
COLUMBIA COUNTY, NEW YORK
By Captain Franklin Ellis147
In the spring of 1866, Mr. James Gifford, who had been for several years an active member of the Boston Young Men's Christian Association, and others, feeling the need of an organization in our city whose object should be "the development of Christian character and activity among its members, the promotion of evangelical religion, and the improvement of the spiritual, moral, and social condition of young men," agreed to associate themselves together with this end in view. The first meeting for this purpose was held April 26, and the association was formally organized May 21, 1866, the following persons being chosen for the first executive committee: James Gifford, president; S. R. Lawrence, vice-president; S. R. Rainey, corresponding secretary; M. P. Moore, recording secretary; Theo. Parton, treasurer; R. B. Benedict, Thomas Tilley, F. H. Webb, J. Hasbrouck, F. H. Spencer.
On the evening of June 5, 1866, a public meeting was held in the city hall, at which the object of the association and its needs were placed before the people, and much interest manifested. Temporary rooms were secured at 118 Warren street the month following, and thrown open to the public every evening for ready and conversation. It was soon, however, ascertained that they were too small, and arrangements were made to secure the second floor of the building corner of Fourth and Warren streets. These commodious rooms having been handsomely furnished by the ladies, were thrown open to the public on the evening of Nov. 27, 1866, and occupied by the association until 1873, when they removed to 192 Warren street, afterwards in 1876, to 156 Warren street, and are now located at 211 Warren street, five doors above Fourth street. The following are the presidents since the organization: 1866-67, James Gifford; 1868, F. H. Webb; 1869, Isaac Mull; 1870-72, Rev. H. R. Schermerhorn; 1873-74, A. S. Peet; 1875, Milo P. Moore; 1876, James C. Rogerson; 1877, Richard Graves, Jr.
At the very outset of the organization an effort was made to secure a good library for the rooms, and at the close of the first year it numbered upwards of eight hundred volumes, nearly all of which had been donated by friends. S. W. Phoenix, Wm. I. Peake, Miss K. B. Gaul, and others, were among the principal contributors. Much of the subsequent growth and success of the library was due to the indefatigable labors of Dr. J. C. Du Bois, who voluntarily served as librarian for several years. In 1873 it had increased to twelve hundred volumes. The books are circulating among members only, but are free to all if read in the rooms.
The free reading-room and library, which were at first opened to the public during the evening only, are now open from nine A.M. till ten P.M. daily (except Sundays), and are well supplied with daily and weekly newspapers and magazines. Writing materials are furnished gratuitously to all wishing to write. The work of the association is carried on by six standing committees, viz.: on Churches--whose duty it is to introduce strangers to the privileges of the church and Sunday-school with which they are connected,--one member being appointed from each church represented in the association; Visiting--who visit and relieve the sick, so far as in their power; Entertainment--who endeavor to provide monthly social and literary entertainments; Rooms--who provide for rooms and library; Finance--who collect funds for carrying forward the work; and a committee on Christian Work. The latter now numbers twenty-five members, and is subdivided into smaller committees of from two to three members each, each of whom have charge of one of the regular devotional meetings, twelve of which are now held each week in different sections of the city. Their work consists of holding meetings specially for young men and boys, cottage work in the houses of the poor, gospel, temperance work, visitation of prisoners in jail, and, in warm weather, open-air services on the streets.
In 1876, Mr. H. W. Race published, in the interests of the association, for several months, a four-page monthly paper known as the Helping Hand; and Mr. F. H. Webb is now publishing monthly, under the auspices of the association, The Hudson Repository, devoted to the interest of the Christian and benevolent work of the city, at a subscription price of fifty cents per year.
In May, 1877, the association having for some time previous felt the need of some one who would devote his entire time to their work, engaged the services of J. T. Bowne as general secretary, who may be found in the rooms at nearly all hours form nine A.M. to ten P.M.