Cooperstown, Otsego, NY
Churches, Part I
The Presbyterian Church
The Presbyterian society of Cooperstown was organized Dec. 29, 1798. No records having been preserved of events between this time and the organization of the church, June 16, 1800, the history of the organization is impossible to conjecture. One sermon, preached Thanksgiving day, Nov. 26, 1795, by Re. Elisha Mosely, is mentioned but that is all.
The present organization was effected on the above day, the record of which is as follows:
"On the 16th day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred, Stephen Warren, Timothy Sabin, George McKinsey, Thomas Tanner, John Williams, Stephen North, Hannah Sabin, and Susannah North, having good recommendations from regular churches in New England, and James Applin, Obadiah Dunham, John A.Lee, George Roberts, and Sarah Spalding, having just made a publick (sic) profession of their faith in Jesus Christ, unanimously and voluntarily entered into a bond of Christian fellowship and communion, and were constituted a regular Presbyterian church. James Applin was chosen and ordained an elder of this church, and Timothy Sabin was chosen and ordained a deacon."
The record immediately following is:
"The Rev. Isaac Lewis, a member of the presbytery of Albany, was regularly enstalled (sic) pastor of the church and congregation of Otsego, on the first day of October, in the year of our Lord 1800. The sermon was pronounced by Rev. R. Smith, of Schenectady. The charge to Mr. Lewis by Rev. J. Coe of Troy, and the charge to the people by Rev. E. Nott of Albany."
Upon the 10th of the same month fourteen new members were received into the communion of the church by certificate and upon confession of it. Among the Christian names of these early members, we find those of the old Puritan times prominent, such as Zeruiah, mercy, and Thankful.
Upon the 24th of this month another elder, Isaac Williams, was elected, and upon February 8, in the following year, 1801, the incumbent in the office of deacon, Timothy Sabin, was promoted to the eldership, the vacated office not being refilled until Nov. 30, 1804, when Elisha Eldred was elected deacon, vice James Applin resigned.
On Sept. 23, 1806, Wm. Neill, a licentiate of the New Brunswick presbytery, was ordained and installed pastor of the church, Dr. Carahan, afterwards president of Princeton college, preaching the sermon. Mr. Neill, who in after-life attained deserved repute as pastor, scholar, and author, continued over the church until September , 1809, when he assumed the pastorate of the First church, Albany, N. Y. ; thence in 1816 to the Sixth church, Philadelphia, and thence in 1824 to the presidency of Dickinson college, Carlisle, Pa.
No minutes are recorded concerning any of the transactions of the church between Jan. 12 1809, and July 8, 1810. In this interim Mr. Neill resigned the pastorate. During his pastorate the church edifice was erected, which in "revised form" stands today.
Dr. Neill in his autobiography gives several items of interest in regard to the field of his labors here. "The church," says he, "had been but recently formed, and it was the only church of any denomination within several miles around; the people were a good deal scattered, and there was a demand for much visitation and frequent preaching in the neighborhood.. .. . . Hitherto the people had not enjoyed the convenience of a suitable place for public worship, but held their meetings on the Sabbath in an academy, which soon became too contracted for their accommodation. Within eighteen months or two years after my coming among them, they erected and completed in a neat style, a church edifice which would accommodate eight or nine hundred persons."
On Feb. 7, 1811, after an interval of a year and a half, the Rev. John Smith was ordained and installed pastor of the Cooperstown church, over which he remained pastor for twenty-three years, sending in a request for a dissolution of the relations with the congregation upon March 4, 1834, to which request the church acceded "with deep regret."
The immediate occasion of this action may perhaps be traced in the records of the church. About this time certain members had, for a period of three years previous to the termination of the relations of the church with Mr. Smith, been "impressed with the belief that some more efficient means than were employed were demanded for the salvation of the population of the place and its vicinity." There was a delicate little satire involved in those words "more efficient means," which doubtless reached Mr. Smith in one form or another. The culmination of this impression was the regular organization of a second Presbyterian church upon Oct. 30, 1833. After an incomplete organization of eight months, a stated supply for the pulpit was secured in the person of Rev. J. A. Hart, who continued as such until the reunion of this ephemeral church of the First church, in the month of November, 1834. Upon the 25th of his month, Re. Alfred E. Campbell was installed common pastor, continuing such for a period of twelve years and a half. Shortly after the beginning of his ministry the church building was remodeled and enlarged.
On Feb. 27, 1849, Rev. Charles K. McHarg was installed pastor, having filled the pulpit for some six months previous to the time of his installation. This relationship lasted little over a year, being dissolved July 10, 1850, by presbytery, at the joint request of pastor and people.
Rev. J. A. Priest succeeded Mr. McHarg, being installed June 25, 1851, and continuing in the pastorate till Oct. 16, 1854, when by mutual consent presbytery dissolved the relation.
In April of the year following a call was extended to Rev. Samuel W. Bush, of Norwich, N. Y., who having accepted was installed pastor October 31, and remained as such till June, 1862. In September of this year, a second call was extended to the former pastor, Rev. C. K. McHarg, who consented to fill the pulpit till the first of November.
The church being evidently unsettled at this time, the records present a very incomplete view of the existing condition of the church. Between this time and that of the next regular pastorate the pulpit was supplied by the former pastor, Rev. J. A. Priest, and Rev. W. W. Newell, Jr., the latter acting as stated supply for one year, at the expiration of which Rev. Charles LK. McHarg was again chosen to fill the pulpit. This pastorate continued till the spring of 1870, when through ill-health Mr. McHarg a second time resigned, and the Rev. G. R. Alden was chosen to the vacant office. Mr. Alden continued pastor two and a half years, when at the people's request the relationship was terminated.
In January, 1873, Rev. F. B. Savage was chosen to fill the pulpit for eight months, at the end of which time he was called to the pastorate. This relationship lasted till the summer of 1875, when through ill-health, consequent upon the sad death of his wife, the pastor was compelled to seek a severance of the union.
In September of the same year the present pastor, Rev. Newell Woolsey Wells, was invited to preach, with a view to a call in case of mutual satisfaction of people and preacher. His installation occurred in the opening of November.
During the pastorate of Mr. Savage the church was repaired, enlarged, and beautified at an expense of $8,000, a new organ also being substituted for that then in use.
The present eldership consists of Messrs. Cyrenus Warren, F. A. Lee, Robert Russell, A. H. Watkins, Charles W. Smith, and Henry G. Walker. The deaconship includes Messrs. Gabriel Tyley, O. R. butler, and Elihu Phinney. The church numbers 197 members; its Sabbath-school 167 members.(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 24, 1999