The lost manuscript - Early organization of religious societies -
Report of the first missionary - Summary of report -
Different sects in the county - Educational interests of the county, and other information.
The reader who has glanced at our preface, has already been made aware of the almost total destruction of this work by fire. And this misfortune appears nowhere more evident than in the present chapter. Several of the first pages of the manuscript, containing much valuable and important historical information, are thus irremediably lost. The information too was of a character which cannot be replaced. The index to the chapter having been burned, also containing the different points of observation, coupled with the interval of time with its moving world of other projects, have almost totally obliterated from my mind a definite idea of its contents. A general outline is all that remains.
In the first pages we had remarked the gradual march of improvement from the organization of the county, at which point the preceding chapter had reached, and the development of its moral and social resources. We had extracted from a little pamphlet the report of the first missionary to the county. His visits to the various localities, his remarks on the state of society in the different towns, forming, as they did, interesting themes of instruction and grateful comparison, we are now compelled to omit.
Speaking of the town of Middletown, the missionary thus remarks: "In this town, God appears to have made your society instrumental to the good of many souls, particularly in the settlement of Platte-kill, where the divine spirit was poured out in a remarkable manner.
"At the close of the first sermon, ten or fifteen persons came forward as if impelled by the Spirit, and seated themselves near me, with countenances marked with great anxiety. The first that answered my questions, said with a big tear upon her cheek, that she could scarcely refrain from approaching me till the sermon was closed. Soon many were in tears. I appointed a lecture in the evening, and spent the intervening time till I rose to lecture in conversing and weeping with about twenty persons; and after lecture, till late in the evening, the people appeared unwilling to leave the house. Three days afterward I returned to this place, and after preaching eight times and visiting families, found about thirty persons under conviction, and left three or four of these enjoying hopes of pardon through Christ."
In taking a cursory review of the territory over which he has passed, the pioneer missionary thus refers: "The region through which your missionary was directed to pass, is widely desolate. Two out of the five counties explored, are almost wholly destitute of Presbyterian preaching. A great part of Delaware county seldom enjoys preaching of any kind. Those living on the Delaware and its branches are famishing for the Word.
Having submitted to you this brief sketch of my labours, and the missionary field before you, allow me to drop a few suggestions relative to the direction and future prosperity of your society and its missionaries.
"The strength of your institution depends much on the zeal and energy of your officers. Let such as possess these qualifications be selected; and let them and the members be continually exhorted to unremitted exertion, remembering Him that denied himself even to the very death for our sakes.
"Let females also bear offices, particularly that of a committee to enlist new members, solicit donations of the rich, inspirit the society, and to visit and instruct the poor and ignorant. Select young and active missionaries, and assign them stations or limits within which to itinerate.
"As such stations, I would take the liberty of selecting 1st, Meredith and its vicinity, together with the desolate region of Charlotte. 2d. A circuit including the city, Deposit village, the Forks of the Delaware, and a part of Colchester, demanding immediate aid. 3rd. A district of country including Middletown, Roxbury, and perhaps Delhi, with settlements adjacent. 4th. Without pointing out any particular station of it, I shall mention all Sullivan county, as a missionary field, containing three Presbyterian churches, which would probably nearly support a missionary.
"The towns of Sidney, Bainbridge, Masonville, &c., should be frequently visited by your missionaries.
"I would advise that the people you design to supply, be instructed to assist in supporting your missionaries, and that they be encouraged to expect preaching in proportion to the pecuniary aid they furnish.
"Let further attempts be made to form more societies in other counties. Great exertions and more ample funds are necessary to supply that portion of the district already specified.
"You perceive, friends and brethern, you have merely entered upon the threshold of a great work. Let me urge you to press forward zealously and resolutely in the cause of humanity and religion, on the plan you have adopted. Having put your hands to the plough, after the example and injunction of our glorious pattern, never think of looking back."
Up to the introduction of this system of missionary preaching the moral resources of the county were of the most indefinite character. Indeed, as appears from the extract of the above report, in many localities the inhabitants had not had preaching for years. Society, under such depraved and improper influences, presented but one vast gulf of moral degradation. And at this late day, when we are permitted to draw so favourable a comparison - the past in contradistinction with the present - how grateful a tribute ought we to ascribe to the pioneers of our social and moral improvement. Their peculiar hardships and privations, the ingratitude frequently bestowed upon their ardent labors for the good of others, without emolument or profit to themselves, are fitting themes for discussion in these modern times.
The establishment of churches commenced about 1816, and has kept pace with the gradual increase of population to the present time.
The different sects or denominations which exist in sufficient numbers to support stated preaching, are the Baptist, Congregational, Christian, Dutch Reformed, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian and Union.
The Methodist denomination is the most numerous: The whole county is comprised in the Delaware, now Prattsville district of the New York conference.
The county is subdivided into twelve circuits, and each circuit is filled by two preachers appointed by the conference at their annual meeting, with a limited period, not to exceed two years.
The Methodist Episcopal Church, was first regularly organized in the United States, December 25, 1784, by John Wesley and his associates, to whose laborious and energetic perseverance the church in the new as well as old world is in an eminent degree indebted for its present high degree of prosperity. The doctrines and beliefs of the society are found elsewhere, but a brief history of the origin and progress of the institution, may not prove uninteresting to the general reader.
In 1729, Mr. Wesley, A.M., Fellow of Lincoln College, in the University of Oxford, a regularly ordained minister of the Church of England, became affected by the general apathy exhibited in that body, and associated himself with a few college associates of like opinions.
The following Statistical Table, exhibiting the number of members, Sunday Schools, and collections for benevolent purposes for the entire district, is compiled from the Conference report.
S. SCHOOL STATISTICS. L. No. of Offi. & Vols. In Missionary Bible S.S. Fifth Ten cent Wesl'n Circuits and Stations. Mem. Prob. Pr. Sch'ls Teac. Scholars Library Society Society Union Collection Collection Delegates Univer. Ratio. Prattsville 255 56 1 3 36 150 350 $60 31 $5 00 ..... $14 32 $ 5 04 $ 5 88 6.2 Gilboa 293 101 7 5 30 100 400 42 00 32 00 $2 80 9 00 3 00 2 00 3.3 Coeymans 350 5 1 4 25 110 400 43 90 30 00 3 00 3 30 4 43 2 30 2.2 Catskill 292 97 .. 3 44 164 832 54 96 4 28 10 27 12 73 26 45 5 58 $2 04 9.7 Durham 310 55 5 3 29 125 370 21 66 108 57 4 00 7 97 7 61 3 00 4. Livingstonville 201 20 2 5 40 198 321 12 00 7 41 1 50 1 55 60 .7 Windham 365 79 1 5 40 181 700 83 26 9 10 8 95 11 18 2 32 4.6 Lexington 202 14 5 2 15 60 260 21 41 2 50 2 82 1 00 1 00 .9 Middletown 220 15 2 3 23 95 213 23 00 3 29 1 00 1.8 Colchester 329 89 2 12 65 310 700 20 00 80 5 62 1 60 9 13 2 35 1.3 Beaverkill 134 32 2 .. ... 2 71 Kortright 293 37 .. 4 24 100 125 30 84 13 42 8 71 11 65 5 49 4 16 6. Delhi 189 74 .. 3 25 100 220 32 96 19 46 1 70 5 27 3 80 2.3 Walton 117 18 1 2 9 35 120 10 64 5 83 1 57 1 00 1 36 1 18 1.5 Hancock 125 35 .. 5 46 158 600 7 17 13 21 4 20 2 75 2 59 3.3 Deposit 64 24 .. 1 11 49 160 2 75 25 67 2 50 3 00 2.9 Cannonsville 154 50 3 2 9 70 225 3 00 1 00 1 25 1 00 1.1 Jefferson 570 150 3 9 70 370 1000 84 81 17 00 16 72 20 00 4 61 3.7 Charlotte 390 110 6 8 86 462 740 90 08 30 00 5 57 22 26 2 10 5.5 Franklin 260 26 .. 5 45 193 450 42 18 5 00 5 70 2 33 2 91 2 25 1.8 Total 5113 1087 41 84 672 3030 8186 $686 93 $329 25 $48 69 $114 19 $124 61 $51 43 $2 04
A series of weekly meetings, was established for prayer and other religious vocations, and so strict was their outward deportment in comparison with that relic of aristocratic religion from which it had sprung, the Church of England, that the public, either out of compliment or derision, gave to the new organization, the appellation of "Methodist," which name it still retains.
The limits of the present sketch will hardly permit us to dwell in detail upon the gradual increase of Methodism in England, or its introduction into the other civilized countries of the old world. It was introduced about the middle of the Eighteenth century (1766) into the United States, by a company of Irish emigrants, who landed in the city of New York, and founded the first Methodist society in the new world. The society gradually increased prior to its regular organization, quite numerous. These churches existed in an isolated and detached form until 1773, when the first conference was held in America. The number of churches represented was ten, who reported in total 1,160 members.
Strange as it may seem, the church, instead of decreasing during the Revolution, which immediately succeeded the first conference, met with an almost incredible increase, so that the conference in 1783, reported fourteen thousand members. At the Annual Conference in 1792, some internal dissension led a large number of members to secede, who styling themselves "Republicans," formed the germ of another denomination, since become quite numerous, as the Christian, or Unitarian Baptist Church.
In 1830, another secession took place, which resulted in the formation of the Protestant Methodist Church. At a still later period (1843), a third secession from the radical organization was effected, which contributed the elements for the formation of another church, styled the Methodist Wesleyan Church. The succeeding year (1844), the dissolution of the Methodist Church was brought about, the result of angry dissensions and contentions in relation to slavery, which resulted in the formation of two distinct organizations, the Methodist Church North, and the Methodist Church South.
The next religious denomination, and the only one besides Methodism, having a sufficient number among the citizens of the county, to render an article of general interest, is the Presbyterian Church. Under this head are included all the churches formerly represented in the General Assembly, viz.: Congregational, and Old and New School Presbyterian.
Presbyterianism as well as Methodism owes its origin and introduction in America to Irish emigrants. As early as 1705 or 1706, a Presbytery was convened in Philadelphia, by seven ordained ministers, four of whom were Irishmen, two were Scotchmen, and the seventh, a native-born American.
Rev. P. Douglass Gorrie, in his interesting work on "Churches and Sects," says: "In 1788 the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church was duly organized, and two years afterwards the Assembly invited the ministers of the Congregational churches to renew the Annual Convention (which had existed prior to the Revolution but had been broken up by internal dissensions), in connection with the ministers of the Presbyterian Church."
This conciliatory feeling evinced on the part of Presbyterians, met with a mutual return on the part of Congregationalists, and resulted in 1801, in the adoption of a plan of union between the two bodies, which existed with the best of consequences for more than thirty years. Among the questions on morals, which have at different periods, disturbed the harmony of the Church, is the one respecting slavery. The Presbyterian Church in its earlier history bore decided testimony against slave- holders and slave-holding, but foreseeing that sooner or later these dissensions would result in a dissolution of the church similar to that effected among the Methodists in 1844, they wisely resolved in future to pass that subject in silence, and since 1816, to at least a recent period, all discussions of the subject of slavery have been excluded from the General Assembly.
The work above referred to, adverting to the dissolution of the church, says, after discussing some doctrinal points which had become the issue between what were afterward styled the Old School and the New School churches: "What with complaints, decisions, protests, appeals, reversals, suspensions, restorations, &c. &c., a crisis was evidently at hand, and the notes of preparation for the Assembly of 1837, which were heard in every part of the church, gave fearful evidence of an approaching conflict. Immediately before the session of the General Assembly of 1837, the opposers of Mr. Barnes and his doctrines held a convention in Philadelphia, wherein they prepared a statement of their grievances, and drew up a memorial, with a method of reform. In the memorial they protested against sixteen errors of doctrine, ten departures from Presbyterian order, and five declensions in discipline; and as means of reform they proposed a severance from the Presbyterian Church of all local churches, presbyteries, and synods which were not organized on strictly Presbyterian principles, and the separation also from the Presbyterian Church of such presbyteries and synods as were known to be composed chiefly of unsound or disorderly members. On the meeting of the Assembly, it was found that the Old School party, as the opposers of Mr. Barnes were called had a small majority in the body, and finding themselves possessed of sufficient numerical strength, they proceeded, among other things, to abrogate the Plan of Union which had been formed between the Presbyterian and Congregational Churches, and to declare that the Synods of Utica, Geneva, Genesee, and Western Reserve, containing about five hundred ministers and about sixty thousand members, where the supposed heretical opinions prevailed most, were not consistent parts of the Presbyterian church. After the close of the session, and during the year prior to the next session of 1838, the time was busily employed in preparing for a renewal of hostilities. At length the General Assembly of 1838 met. The commissioners from the different bodies appeared, and among the rest the commissioners of the four excluded synods. the Moderator of the Assembly refused to recognize a motion that these members be received; whereupon the rejected commissioners, with those who advocated their claims to a seat in the Assembly, united in disclaiming the authority of said moderator to refuse to recognize the above motion, and subsequently elected a new moderator and clerk, and organized themselves into what they claimed to be the Constitutional Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. While the latter body was transacting their business in the First church, (Mr. Barnes's,) the old body remained in their seats and transacted their business also as the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church. Among important acts of the Assembly at each session, is the election of trustees to represent said Assembly as a corporate body. The two Assemblies accordingly elected two sets of trustees to fill vacancies, who subsequently claimed seats in the board; but a majority of the sitting members of the board decided in favor of those elected by the Old School Assembly. As there was considerable church property held by the trustees for the Assembly, it became a matter of importance to know to which Assembly the property belonged. The discarded trustees accordingly commenced a suit in the courts of Pennsylvania, and their claim to the property or trusteeship was allowed by the decision of the Judge. The case, however, was appealed, and the Superior Court granted a new trial. But as the Chief Justice had advanced legal opinions adverse to the claims of the New School party, the suit was very properly discontinued. Since the above period both Assemblies have met statedly, and transacted their business, each as the representatives of the Presbyterian church in the United States. All that need be added, is, that since the above separation, greater amity and peace have prevailed, not only among the ministers and members of each branch, but between the ministers and members of both branches in their intercourse with each other."
Annexed is a list of the Presbyterian Churches in the county: CONGREGATIONAL CHURCHES Location Name of Minister No. of Members 1. Franklin Rev. Mr. Morgan, 140 2. Harpersfield, vacant, 84 3. Meredith Rev. Charles Chapman, 70 4. Deposit, O. H. Seymour, 129 5. Hancock, J. D. Cornwell, 36 6. Walton J. S. Pattengill, 150 7. Davenport, H. Boxes, 46 8. New Road, C. S. Smith 60 9. Harden, vacant 38 753 PRESBYTERIAN, NEW SCHOOL 10. SHAVERTOWN, Thomas Larcom, 30 11. Cannonsville, S. J. White, 40 12. Delhi, Rev. D. Torrey, 145 13. IId. of Delaware W. Mayo, 80 14. Colchester, Edward Orton, 105 400 PRESBYTERIAN, OLD SCHOOL 15. Delhi, C. B. Smyth 16. Hamden, Charles Brown 17. Stamford. 18. Hobart. 19. Bovina.
Next in importance to the establishment of churches for religious worship, and the promotion of a healthy moral tone among all classes of citizens, and nearly allied to it, as an agent in bringing about the most desirable results, is the diffusion of education throughout all grades of society.
The committee appointed by Gov. Tompkins in 1811, in presenting their report, speaking of the importance of education, thus refer:
"The commissioners think it necessary to represent in a stronger point of view, the importance and absolute necessity of education, as connected either with the cause of religion and morality, or with the prosperity and existence of our political institutions. As the people must receive the advantages of education, the inquiry naturally arises, how is this end to be obtained? The expedient devised by the legislature, is the establishment of common schools; which being spread throughout the State, and aided by its bounty, will bring intellectual improvement within the reach and power of the humblest citizen. This appears to be the best plan that can be devised to disseminate religion, morality, and learning throughout a whole country. All other methods, heretofore adopted, are partial in their operations, and circumscribed in their effects. Academies and universities, understood in contradistinction to common schools, cannot be considered as operating impartially and indiscriminately as regards the country at large. The advantages of the first, are confined to the particular districts in which they are established; and the second, from causes apparent to every one, are devoted almost exclusively to the rich. In a free government, where political equality is established, and where the road to preferment is open to all, there is a natural stimulus to education, and accordingly we find it generally resorted to, unless some great local impediments interfere. In populous cities, and the parts of the country thickly settled, schools are generally established by individual exertion. In these cases, the means of education are facilitated, as the expenses of schools are divided among a great many. It is in the remote and thinly populated parts of the State, where the inhabitants are scattered over a large extent, that education stands greatly in need of encouragement. The people there, living far from each other, makes it difficult so to establish schools, as to render them convenient or accessible to all. Every family therefore, must either educate their own children, or the children must forego the advantages of education."
The subject of universal education was one of the earliest matters of interest which drew the attention of our State Legislature. At the first meeting, after the ratification of the constitution, Gen. Clinton, then governor, called the attention of the legislature to the subject of education. He says: "Neglect of the education of youth, is one of the evils consequent upon war. Perhaps there is scarce any thing, more worthy your attention, than the revival and encouragement of seminaries of learning; and nothing by which we can more satisfactorily express our gratitude to the Supreme Being for his past favors; since piety and virtue are generally the offspring of an enlightened understanding."
In 1795, April 9th, the legislature took the first action on the subject of education, and "An act for the encouragement of schools" was passed, appropriating $50,000 annually for five years, to the establishment of and support of common schools. There were defects in this act, which its practical workings served to demonstrate, and accordingly, on the 5th of March, 1801, the attention of the legislature was again called to the subject, and the following resolution adopted: "Resolved That the Act for the encouragement of schools, passed April 9, 1795, ought to be revised and amended, and that out of the annual revenue arising to this State from its stock and other funds, the sum $50,000 be appropriated for the further encouragement of schools, for the term of five years.
In 1811, up to which time no fixed system had been established, Gov. Tompkins adverted to its necessity in his annual message, and an act was passed by the legislature in accordance, thereto, authorizing the governor to appoint a committee of five, to report a system for the permanent organization and establishment of public schools upon a durable basis. This committee submitted their report on the 5th of February, 1812, accompanied by a bill which subsequently became a law, comprising substantially the main features of our common school system, as it existed up to the year 1838.
The main features of the bill are comprised in the following extract from their report: "The outlines of the plan suggested by the commissioners are briefly these; that the several towns in the state be divided into school districts, by three commissioners, elected by the citizens qualified to vote for town officers; that three trustees be elected in each district, to whom shall be confided the care and superintendance of the school to be established therein; that the interest of the school fund be divided among the different counties and towns, according to their respective population, as ascertained by the successive census of the United States: that the proportions received by the respective towns be subdivided among the districts, into which such town shall be divided, according to the number of children in each, between the ages of five and fifteen years; that each town raise by tax annually, as much money as it shall have received from the school fund: that the gross amount of moneys received from the State, and raised by the towns, be appropriated exclusively to the payment of the wages of the teachers; and that the whole system be placed under the superintendence of an officer appointed by the Council of Appointment."
We have thus briefly drawn the outlines of the origin and development of our admirable common school system. Its history since that period, is vitally connected with that of the State, and it remains for us but to add, that under the control of a liberal and enlightened legislature, the system has realized the most magnificent results.
In 1827, at the opening of the session, Gov. Clinton, in his annual message, called the attention of the legislature to the expediency of providing "small and suitable collections of books and maps," to be attached to the common schools. No definite action was taken upon the subject at the time, but subsequently, April 13, 1835, an act was introduced authorizing the taxable inhabitants of the several school districts to impose a tax not exceeding twenty dollars the first year, and ten dollars for each subsequent year, for the purchase of a district library, consisting of such books as they shall in their district meetings direct." In 1838, Gov. Marcy recommend that a portion of the revenue of the United Sates' deposit fund "be devoted to the purchase of DISTRICT LIBRARIES, in such of the several school districts of the State, as should raise by taxation an equal amount for that object." And the legislature, in accordance with the suggestion of the Gov., passed an act appropriating $55,000 from the annual revenue of the United States' deposit fund, "to be expended by the trustees in the purchase of suitable books for a district library."
The number of school districts in the county in 1840, was two hundred and eighty- four, viz., Tompkins 18, Sidney 11, Masonville 11, Delhi 17, Davenport 15, Hancock 8, Franklin 25, Kortright 17, Meredith 14, Bovina 13, Andes 17, Colchester 16, Harden 13, Harpersfield 20, Middletown 20, Walton 17, Stamford 14, Roxbury 18. The total number of scholars attending these schools, as reported in the census returns for that year, was 10,651. During the ten succeeding years up to 1850, the number of school districts had increased to 301, with a total number of students 12,597, showing an increase over the preceding report of nearly two thousand students, while the total increase of population in the county during that period was but about four thousand, a more favorable report than can be exhibited by any other county in the State, and which argues strongly the gratifying advancement of the county in intellectual development. And it is upon the extent and permanency of this feeling, that the friends of education rely; and this spirit to which they appeal, in looking forward to the just appreciation and judicious improvement of those means of moral and mental enlightenment, which the beneficent policy of the State has placed at the disposal of the inhabitants of the several districts. The renovation of our common schools, distributed as they are, over every section of our entire territory, their elevation and expansion to meet the constantly increasing requirements of science and mental progress, and their capability of laying broad and deep the foundations of character and usefulness, must depend upon the intelligent and fostering care they shall receive, at the hands of those to whose immediate charge they are committed. There is no institution within the range of civilization, upon which so much, for good or for evil, depends--upon which hang so many, and such important issues to the future well-being of individuals and communities, as the common district school. It is through that alembic that the lessons of the nursery and the family fireside, the earliest instructions in pure morality, and the precepts and examples of the social circle are distilled; and from it those lessons are destined to assume that tinge and hue which are permanently to be incorporated into the character and the life.
Ought we not, then, in drawing this brief chapter to a close, to impress upon all good citizens the necessity of devoting their undivided energies to the advancement and improvement of these beneficent institutions. Resting as it does upon their support, indebted to them for all its means of usefulness, and dependent for its continued existence upon their discriminating favor and efficient sanction. The district school must become the central interest of the citizen, and the parent, the clergyman, the lawyer, the physician, the merchant, the manufacturer, and the agriculturist, each must realize that there, under more or less favoring auspices, as they themselves shall determine, developments are in progress which are destined at no distant day, to exert a controlling influence over the institutions, habits, modes of thought and action of society in all its complicated phases; and that the primary responsibility for the results which may be thus worked out, for good or for evil, rests with them. By the removal of every obstacle to the progressive and harmonious action of the system of popular education, so carefully organized and amply endowed by the State, by a constant and methodical and intelligent co- operation with its authorized agents, in the elevation and advancement of that system in all its parts, and especially by an infusion into its entire course of discipline and instruction, of that high moral culture which can alone adequately realize the idea of sound education, results of inconceivable magnitude and importance to individual, social, and moral well-being, may confidently be anticipated.