Cherry Valley, Otsego, NY
Post-Revolutionary Churches, Part IV
Among those who came back to enjoy the felicities of rural life at different times were Judge George C. Clyde and Samuel Campbell, Esq., who retired after successful careers at the bar or on the bench, and Messrs. George B. Ripley and Henry Roseboom, who retired from mercantile life. All were descended from old settled families, and by their interest in church affairs greatly compensated for the love of those who were departing. Mr. Clyde, who returned in 1852, was judge of the county of Columbia, and died in 1868. His was a family of influence, his grandfather, Colonel Clyde, having been a magistrate under whose call the church had reassembled after the war.
Rev. C. W. D. Tappan was called March, 1828, but was dismissed at the end of the year. The accessions were slender at this period, and causes had begun to work whish greatly diminished the importance of the village, commercially, as well as the prominence of the church. As I have hinted, the character of the place was changing through causes that were irresistible; new lines of travel were opening up which diverted that stream of life which had hitherto poured through and drained off much of its young and enterprising talent. The Erie canal was completed in 1825, and a few years later, the locomotive followed along the level stretch bordering the Mohawk, and across the low divide to the lakes, which constituted the natural channel of commerce from the east to the west. The old highway along the hills became a deserted country road. The mere rivulet only of traffic was left from the south to the canal and railway. At a later time this also was dried by the building of the Albany and Susquehanna railroad south of us; when it became necessary for us to regain communication with the outer world by a railroad of our own, or sink into entire insignificance, an ineffectual attempt towards this same end by carrying a plank-road o Fort plain, in 1850, openly serving to demonstrate the necessity. This however, is anticipating.
When Rev. Alex M. Cowan was called, Oct. 8, 1829, there were still 212 members, but at the end of his time, notwithstanding some 50 additions, the losses being greater then the gain, the total has fallen to 208. Installed February, 1830, he remained till September, 1833. Frequent mention is now made of dismissals to the two Methodist churches of the village, which about this time began to spring up, besides numerous others of that and other denominations in every surrounding hamlet.
From this period to the year 1863 the church was under the pastoral care of the following; successively: Rev. William Lochead, Albert V. H. Powell, William Luck, Geo. S. Boardman, John G. Hall, James. Dwight, Alex L. Twombly, Edward P. Gardner.
The history of the church is thus brought down to the time when the present pastor began is labors, May, 1863, his call being dated February 26, and installation taking place June 18 of the same year.
From the narrative as a whole the following may be derived as a general summary. The church, founded in 1741, has existed over a period of one hundred and thirty-five years. It has had five successive church edifices in three different locations. It has received the labors of twenty-two different ministers, including the present, beside occasional temporary supplies. Of these twenty-two, fifteen have been regularly installed pastors.
Mr. Dunlop's pastorate was violently ended after he had been in the field for thirty-seven years. Mr. Cooley served ten years, and Mr. Hall seven. The other pastorates ranged from five years to one or two.
The names of eight hundred and sixty-four persons are on the extant roll who at different times have been members of the church from 1804. There is no list of the members previous to the massacre; but presuming that as many as one hundred and thirty-six must have been gathered during the long ministry of Mr. Dunlop, we may make the total one thousand. The old church has therefore, in heaven and on earth a numerous flock, even as it has had many shepherds. It has had along history, and has not existed in vain. Its honorable records is worthy of preservation, and there is a feeling of satisfaction in submitting the story of its career as of a duty performed, such as one generation owes to those which have preceded it.
On the 14th of May, 1872, the board of trustees received the following generous and unexpected proposal in regard to a new church edifice:
TO THE TRUSTEES OF THE FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF THE TOWN OF CHERRY VALLEY:
GENTLEMEN,--It is now more than forty years since your present church edifice was erected. Extensive repairs would be necessary to render it comfortable for the society. I propose to render repairs unnecessary by the erection of a new church edifice, and accordingly tender to you this proposition. If you will authorize me to dispose of the present building in such a manner as I may deem best, I will cause the same to be taken down or moved away, and build and finish on the same site, ready for use by the congregation, a suitable edifice of stone. In this undertaking I am mindful of my family's connection with the town since its early settlement, and of that family and personal connection with the church which has continued for four generations, and propose to erect a building which may serve as a grateful memorial to my beloved parents and dear sister, deceased, and which, while it will be an ornament to my native town, will, I hope, prove a pleasant and attractive religious home for many coming generations.
Thankful to Almighty God for the numerous blessings bestowed upon my family and myself in the years that have passed, and for the opportunity to devote a portion of His good gifts to me to His service, I am very truly your friend and co-worker.
Cherry Valley, May 4, 1872.
The liberal offer was of course accepted, and on Sunday, May 19, 1872, divine services were held for the last time in the old church. It was soon after taken down, and on the 11th day of the following month the foundations for the new edifice were begun.
No sacred deposits were found in the old foundation. The corner- stone was laid July 25, a brief historical account of the church; (published in the Gazette of August) being deposited in it, with other documents and mementos. The work proceeded without accident, attaining it completion by Oct. 1, 1873, when the dedication took place, of which a full account was also published in the Gazette, with a description of the building. It was a beautiful day, and a great concourse of people filled the building to overflowing. The printed programs bore a list of the chief dates in the history. After the invocation and some responsive psalms, the keys of the edifice were received from the donor, Miss Kate Roseboom, and delivered to the trustees for the use of the people, by Hon. William W. Campbell, who accompanied the act with a short address, reviewing the career of the church in the past. After a reply by Mr. H. J. Olcutt, on behalf of the trustees and the people, expressive of their thanks for the gift, the sermon was preached by Rev. Anson J. Upson, D.D., of Albany, from Psalms exxii. The church was then solemnly dedicated to the service of God in prayer by the pastor, and after addressees by Rev. P. F. Sanborn and F B. Savage, the audience passed to the lecture-room, where a repast was spread. (The History of Otsego, NY, by Duane Hamilton Hurd, 1878)
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Transcribed by Holice B. Young
Copyright Debbie Axtman and Holice B. Young
December 23, 1999
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