BIG FLATS, NEW YORK
1822 - 1972
|1830-32 – George Shriver||1877 – John R. Mineer|
|1833-37 – Samuel Mineer||1878-80 – James E. Farr|
|1838-40 – C. L. Gardner||1881-82 – William H. Farr|
|1841-42 – W. A. Tuttle||1883-85 – William H. Lovell|
|1843-44 – Telman L. Bennett||1886-87 – James E. Farr|
|1845-46 – W. A. Tuttle||1888-90 – Joseph R. Lowe|
|1847 – Judson M. Park||1891 – S. G. Hughson|
|1847 – Samuel Mineer||1892 – J. R. Lowe|
|1849 – Judson M. Park||1893-97 – Frank N. Shriver|
|1850 – James Hughson||1898-00 – E. H. Wakelee|
|1851 – Judson M. Park||1902-03 – George M. Welles|
|1852-53 – Paul W. Breed||1904-09 – Charles A. Lowe|
|1854 – John Haggerty||1910-13 – E. H. Wakelee|
|1855 – Henry Minier||1914-19 – Oscar Kahler|
|1856 – W. H. Tuttle||1920-21 – Edward E. Miner|
|1857 – John Haggerty||1922-23 – Glen Bates|
|1858-60 – W. A. Tuttle||1924-27 – Robert Curren|
|1861 – William H.Palmer||1928 – Glen Bates (*) Died|
|1862-63 – W. A. Tuttle||1928-33 – Lars Peterson|
|1864 – John A. Stewart||1934-37 – David L. Churcher|
|1865 – H. Minier||1938-41 – Grant Reasor|
|1866-67 – Lorenzo D. Hughson||1942-47 – Matthias H. Wells|
|1868-69 – Samuel Mineer||1948-51 – John H. Kahler|
|1870 – Judah Shriver||1952-57 – George E. Hartman|
|1871 – S. Mineer||1858-61 – LeRoy Peterson|
|1872-73 – Thomas Cuddebach (Chairman)||1961-69 – Rowland W. Farr, Jr.|
|1874 – Cephas Breed||1970-71 – Leon Walters|
|1875 – Stephen T. Owen||1972 – Rev. Walter G. Griffith|
|1876 – Cephas Breed|
BIG FLAT PANTHERS
The following article was written by the late John L. Sexton. The Wilson Winters who is mentioned was the father of the late Mrs. Henry Bucher and Mrs. Mahlon Johnson of Catlin and the "Pap" Winters was their grandfather.
John Winters, better known as "Pap" Winters, Robert Miller and Captain George Gardiner were pioneer settlers in the town of Big Flats in Chemung County, New York. Each owned several acres of land extending from the Chemung river north, beyond the limits of the present village of Big Flats, embracing some of the very finest farming lands in the state. They had settled upon these lands soon after the close of the Revolutionary War, when they were covered with a heavy growth of timber. John Winters was a native of Pennsylvania and closely related to Daniel Boone, the renowned Pennsylvanian who became famous as the great Kentucky pioneer and hunter. Robert Miller was also a Pennsylvanian and was connected with the first families in Northumberland, Dauphin and Lancaster counties and Captain George Gardiner was a son of Caleb Gardiner, one of the very earliest settlers of Catherines Town (now Watkins Glen) and descendant of the early English settlers on the Hudson River. Pap Winters, Squire Bob Miller and Captain Gardiner were fast friends. They were men of more than ordinary proportions. Captain Gardiner was the heaviest of the trio, each however, was over six feet tall and well proportioned. Anyone, glancing at the picture of George Washington today might obtain almost a perfect facsimile of Captain Gardiner, while Robert Miller resembled very closely Hon. Hiram Gray of Elmira and Pap Winters resembled the late Uncle Billy Hoffman of Elmira. Pap Winters’ home was upon lands now owned by Martin Hammond, Jr., and the Erie Railroad depot at Big Flats also stands upon his old farm. The Presbyterian, Episcopal, Baptist and Methodist Churches, the cemetery, the school house and the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western depot are upon the lands originally owned by Robert Miller as well as the many dwellings eat of the north and south road leading from the village, Northward, Captain Gardiner’s old home is now occupied by John Minier, a descendant of one of the early pioneers.
Over one hundred years ago there assembled at the fine mansion of Pap Winters by accident, Robert Miller, Captain Gardiner, Dr. Theseus Brooks, father of the late Judge Elijah P. Brooks of Elmira; my father, John L. Sexton and the writer of this sketch, (John Sexton, Jr.) My father then was about thirty-five years of age and had won considerable fame as a hunter and deer slayer in Cattaraugus County and in the town of Big Flats. There being three old pioneers and hunters and the presence of my father, a young hunter, the conversation naturally turned to topics pertaining to the chase. Pap Winters was the champion of the evening. He was, even then, when sitting by his fireside in his elegant and well furnished home, wearing buckskin moccasins, leather breeches and coonskin or catamount cap. He delighted in retaining his hunter’s dress as well as keeping a full pack of wolf, bear, deer and coon hunting dogs. He had grey hounds, fox hounds, deer hounds, curs or bear dogs and dogs for hunting smaller game, and rifles, shot guns, hunting knives of every description, bullet pouches and gun flints and Indian arrow heads by the bushel.
At first, Andrew Jackson and politics were discussed but all belonging to the same political party, that subject was dropped and the recital of hunting stories was taken up. A panther had been killed recently by Pap Winters a few rods north of the present residence of W. H. Farr in what was then known as Lowe’s swamp, the skin of which was then hanging in the woodshed. This, of course, had to be examined by the visitors and remarks made upon the killing. The skin was stuffed with oat chaff and was taken down and place upright on a work bench. We shall never forget the feelings we experienced when viewing that panther skin, the sight of which gave us the ague and made every hair in our little tow-heads feel as large as a rope. Returning to the sitting room, Dr. Brooks called on Pap Winters to relate how he killed a panther in the calf shed. The glasses were filled and each took a drink of old rye and Pap began speaking: "You all knew Abraham Minier, father of Samuel and Harry Minier, who was killed by the falling of a tree a few years since, and who lived off north of my farm. Well, Minier had a lot of new hemp bags that I wanted to borrow. So I started across the woods to his place and got a half dozen of them and was returning home through the timber along by that swamp spring over in Bob Miller’s land when I spied two panther kittens about the size of a full grown house cat, lying under a white pine root of a tree that the wind had blown down. They were apparently asleep. I approached them carefully, at the same time looking about me in every direction to see if I could discover their mother. I hesitated at first to disturb them, for I was unarmed, save for a small skinning knife which was in my belt and I knew how unpleasant it would be for me to meet an infuriated female panther in a hand to hand fight, especially if she was being robbed of her kittens. I stood for a minute or two deliberating on what I should do and finally on the impulse of the moment, I seized the kittens and before they were fairly awake I had them in the long hampen bag. This, no sooner done than I commenced to run for the house, a distance of not more than sixty rods. The little devils scratched and fought as I ran with them in the bag on my shoulder. Finally one of them gave a cry of distress and in a moment I saw the mother panther bounding toward me not more than thirty rods distant. There was a calf shed with a strong roof on, not more than twenty rods from me and I concluded if I could reach that with my game I would be safe. By the way the panther jumped I was satisfied she did not know from what quarter the suppressed cries of her kittens issued. This was in my favor, and I tell you gentlemen, that Pap Winters did not let the grass grow under his feet but I made for that calf pen with the speed of a Virginia racehorse. By and by the panther struck the tree and trail and came on with the ferocity of a demon. At one time, I thought I could reach my house but then I knew I could fight her better in the calf pen without glass windows than I could in my dwelling with glass windows. The dogs were all fastened up in the wood shed and barn and George and Wilson, my sons, were down in the field by the river and my daughter, Sally Ann and my wife were down to Dr. Brooks’. So I concluded to take to the calf pen or house which stood on the opposite side of the road from my house. I am satisfied now that at the speed the panther was making, I should have been overtaken by the time I reached the road and torn to pieces. I, therefore, dashed into the calf pen and had only just closed and secured the door when the panther came against it with great fury, tearing the splinters out of it with her claws and teeth. The house or pen was made of logs about ten inches in diameter with two little apertures or windows about a foot square and four feet from the ground. I knew the panther could not force its huge body through these openings and having the kittens securely tied up and apprehending no danger from them, I sat down on the calf rack and deliberated upon the situation. In the meantime I would kick the bag containing the kittens to keep them crying and infuriate their mother. Finally, I concluded to take a chain halter, fix a noose, open up one of the windows with a slide and try to induce the panther to poke her head into it. The panther was meanwhile, tearing the splinters off the sides of the pen, and at one time mounted the roof and made the long shingles fly in every direction. When I had made everything ready I opened the slide of one window and placed the bag containing the kittens upon the calf rack near it. This, no sooner was done than the panther thrust her head into the opening, her eyes beaming with fury. I made several efforts to lasso her before I was successful; at one time catching hold of the under jaw and holding her head a few minutes until she tore her teeth out when the noose slipped off. At length I was successful in placing the noose firmly about the neck and with the aid of a stall pin which I had wrenched from the rack, choking her until she was dead. Her skin was sold to one of the De Armands who took it down the river and sold it to a dealer in Baltimore. The kittens were kept for several months, but they became so troublesome that I finally disposed of them."
HISTORY OF THE FIRST BAPTIST
The First Baptist Church of Big Flats, N.Y. was organized with 28 members by Roswell Goff in 1807, just 20 years after the first permanent settlers arrived in this valley.
At the time the church was organized, by Elder Goff, in 1807 there were no post offices. West and north of Newtown (now Elmria), all roads were foot trails or rough wagon tracks. The first stage route was opened 14 years later. The Chemung Canal was not dug until 25 years later and the railroad and telegraph did not appear until 42 years afterward.
The first meetings were held in homes, barns, and schoolhouses. From 1807 until 1812, Elder Goff served both the Wellsburg Baptist Church and this Church. Having no other means of transportation, he often walked the 16 miles on alternate Sundays to serve the congregations. From 1812 to 1815 he served only the Big Flats Church. His death occurred in 1825 just two years before a larger meeting house on the Cornelius Lowe farm was built. Records show that the cost of this building did not exceed $793.00. This Church was known as the Baptist Tavern and was occupied for the first time Jan. 19, 1828. It was not until 1828 that women were admitted to a business meeting with equal privileges with the males. The Church was reputed to have 500 members. Some of the 500 members resided on Martin’s Hill, Hawes Hill, Sing Sing, the Village itself, Hooker’s Hill, Reaser’s Hill and at Bennett’s Schoolhouse (later in the town of Corning.)
During the time James Coffin was pastor of this Church, the Episcopalian Society of the Town gave up their church building which was located near the intersection of old Rte. 17 and the Olcott Road. It stood on the Gardner Estate, west of John Minier’s residence. Samuel Minier was instrumental in getting the building for the Baptist congregation. It was moved to its present location, and the entire church, lot and building were donated by Henry, Samuel and Telina Minier. It was remodeled by William L. Gibson of Elmira and the first service in the renovated building was held in September 1852. In 1854, the first Sunday School was organized.
In 1878 a pipe organ was installed at the cost of $800. The organ remained in use until 1958 when the present electric one was installed.
During the late 1890’s Rev. F. H. Martin was pastor. The first Christian Endeavor Society was organized during that time. The "Upper Room" was given that name by Rev. Martin, who, during his pastorate had the old gallery fitted with swinging windows which are still in use today. From 1900 to 1902 Rev. Cunnings served. From 1902 to 1905 Charles Drake was pastor, during which time John A. Davis of Binghamton held revival meeting for three weeks. About 100 took a stand for Christ during that revival.
In September 1907 the Church celebrated its centennial, but from the fall of 1912 to April, 1917, the Church and Sunday School were closed. In April 1917, Delos Abrams of Elmira opened the Church with Sunday afternoon services. By the fall of 1917 the Church resumed a regular schedule and was wired for electricity.
Rev. Otto Nichols followed Dr. Abrams and served until 1926, then Rev. I. A. Falk came to fill the vacancy and served one year. In December 1927 Ward Lewis became our pastor. In January 1928 his brother, Bob Lewis, held evangelistic services and had about 130 converts. Pastor Lewis resigned in 1033, and Rev. E. E. VanDeventer was called as pastor, and served until May, 1939. At this time, Mr. Falk returned as pastor, and served until Nov. 1946. During Mr. Falk’s ministry World War II claimed the life of Robert Falk the eldest Falk boy. In September 1944 a large memorial service was held in Robert’s honor. In March 1947 Rev. Floyd Hendershot took over the leadership. During his pastorate new pews, new gas furnace and new paper and paint throughout the building was mad possible. Due to illness, Mr. Hendershot resigned in May 1956. On June 24, 1956 Derwin Hauser became our pastor. While he was here, the church annex was started but was not completely finished when he preached his farewell sermon on April 1, 1962. September 2, 1962 saw Rev. Paul Maitland, Sr. take over the reins. He served until Nov. 1966 at which time he left for Baileysville, Illinois. Several persons were converted and baptized during his pastorate. Since July 1967, the Rev. Louis Newkirk (who just recently resigned) had served the church.
We pray that the next 165 years will still find the church here and shedding the glorious light in this community.
A Freewill Baptist Church was organized and a meeting house built about 1849 near the George Schriver home. (The George Shriver home was located just beyond the airport.) The meeting house was a wooden church-type building with a steeple. It was originally built on the north side of Sing Sing Road and then moved across the road later. It was established as the result of dissention during the administration of Rev. Benjamin R. Swick in 1847-49. The dissention was caused by the excommunication of Abraham Bennett one of the founders of the Baptist Church. He had been excommunicated for being a free mason, then Capt. David B. Brown and Willim S. Minier were excommunicated for being Odd Fellows.
The Rev. S. T. Aldrich was the first pastor of the Freewill Baptist Church.
HISTORY OF THE FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF BIG FLATS, NEW YORK
The First Presbyterian Church of Big Flats was organized September 27, 1827, and was a member of the Bath Presbytery. When the Chemung Presbytery was organized in 1836 the Big Flats church was a member of that presbytery.
According to a note in the Minutes of the Trustees dating from 1843 the following were the original church members: Mr. and Mrs. Charles Fry, Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Reynolds, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Pound, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Dorn, Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Mundy, Mr. and Mrs. John Reasor, Mr. Atwood, Mrs. Robert Miller, Mr. William Miller, Miss Rebecca Miller, Mr. George Gardiner, Mrs. Henry Farr, Mrs. John Winans and Mrs. John Winters.
Towner’s History of the Valley and County of Chemung, printed in 1892, states that Nathan Reynolds, Charles Frey (Frey or Frye) and Joseph Pound were elected deacons and that a flourishing Sunday School was held in Robert Miller’s barn.
In 1829, according to Towner, a church was erected by William H. Reader, assisted by his brother Austin from Pennsylvania, under the direction of Benjamin Farwell, Eleazer Owen, Nathan Reynolds, Robert Miller, Charles Frye, John Winters, Clark Winans and David Reynolds, who were the building committee and probably furnished most of the means. There is a list of their names, ranging from $100 to $200, the total of which is $1178. This would seem to be what it cost to build the church. In a fire insurance policy of 1833 the church was valued at $1600. The County Clerk’s records include a deed to the church from Robert Miller, dated Feb. 23, 1832, which was the lot on which the church stands.
In the early period of the church, probably in the 1830’s, money seems to have been raised by numbering the pews which were called slips and assigning a value to those in the center of about $75 and those on the sides of about $35. Then various members chose slips which then became a responsibility for raising the amounts which those slips represented.
The session records for 1845 to 1860 are missing. Probably the church continued and had services during much of this time. Rumor has it that sometime during this period a minister tried to introduce Episcopalian aspects of worship which resulted in a division in the church and led the trustees to close the church for a time.
The County Clerk’s records include a deed dated Dec. 18, 1854, from Thomas Noyes to Stephen T. Owen, Levi Rose and William Butler, trustees of the First Presbyterian Church, for the consideration of $1075, of the house and lot which was the original manse.
1860. In the earlier part of this period they often had difficulty raising money for church expenses. As late as 1868 they still owed money to Rev. Harrington although he had not been minister since 1864.
The church settled accounts with Rev. Harrington and built a fence around the meeting house at a cost of $20. They also moved the pulpit from the south or entrance end of the church to the north end and turned the pews around to face the pulpit. The present pews are butternut made from lumber from the farm of Valentine Farr and they may have been installed at this time. The church was repaired but they had to borrow $400 from the Church Erection Fund of the General Assembly to pay off remaining debts.
1870. Efforts were made during this period to have Baptist and Methodist Churches join with the Presbyterian in services during the week of prayer. The Baptists held out but for some years various forms of union were carried out by the Methodists and Presbyterians.
1880. The Women’s Missionary Society was organized by Rev. Jewell in 1879 at the time when such societies were being formed throughout the presbytery. The purpose of the society as stated in the constitution was to "extend the kingdom of Christ throughout the world". There were about forty members at the beginning and membership rarely was below thirty.
According to the records the church moved forward signicantly during the rather long pastorate of Rev. Stanley D. Jewell. The pastor’s report for 1881 states that the average attendance at the morning service was 160, at the evening service 70, at prayer meeting 25, and at the outstation 60. The outstation was in a school house in East Corning where the minister conducted services every other week, and at which there was a regular Sunday School. Also, in 1881 Sunday School membership was given as 175 with an average attendance of 95. Sunday School members included 50 adults, 80 intermediates, 20 primary and 90 members of the Sunday School attended church. Prayer meeting during the week and a young people’s society met regularly, there was a Women’s Missionary Society, an organization of girls, another called the Willing Workers and a choir which in 1886 participated in a music festival in Elmira.
1890. A group of young ladies called the United Workers was organized in 1894, Miss Louise McNulty, president. In 1901 this was reorganized and its name changed to the Ladies Benevolent Society, with Mrs. E. F. Lucas as president. This was the women’s social and money-raising organization. Their purpose was to promote sociability, a spirit of Christian usefulness, and improvement of the church property.
The pastor’s report of 1895 mentions the farmers’ difficulties due to hail storms, grasshoppers, drought and low prices for tobacco which was the main cash crop.
1900. At the beginning of this period, Dr. William C. McCormack ws pastor, the church was remodeled but no parlors were added. The roof and foundation were repaired, and a number of gifts were made to the church.
In 1912, it was decided to build a new manse. The Ladies Benevolent Society was asked by the trustees, E. F. Lucas, F. C. Gowan and C. S. Wolcott, if they would be willing to contribute the money they had on hand toward a new manse. The trustees were authorized to proceed with the building, using the money from the Ladies Benevolent Society, securing subscriptions and borrowing the balance. Elder George M. Wells agreed to match the contributions of others and gave at least $700. A final report two years later indicated that the new manse cost $4353, that the Ladies Benevolent Society contributed $1084, subscriptions amounted to $1528 and outstanding notes were $1650.
1920. This decade witnessed a procession of ministers.
By 1922 pledges for the new Sunday School rooms amounted to $377 and talk began concerning building an addition to the church. The trustees were authorized to build Sunday School rooms so that they could be used as church parlors also. An architect was secured and plans were drawn, but building was deferred.
1930. There was much talk of church union, probably with the Baptist Church, and a committee was appointed to explore the matter. A specialist was engaged to discuss the proposition but at the last minute he was unable to come, the matter "grew cold" and the church turned to a program of renovation of the church.
Much was done. Most of these improvements were designed by Sloat Welles who also furnished much of the material and did most of the cabinet work and carving.
1940. This was one of the very first Presbyterian churches to have a woman function as minister. Mrs. Lillian Chapman, wife of Rev. W. H. Chapman, assisted him in his pastorate from 1922 to 1925 and when he was pastor again, 1931 until his death in 1940. While her husband was pastor Mrs. Chapman did much of the preaching and much more of the pastoral work such as calling on members, leading and guiding organizations especially young people’s groups, and managing church affairs. After 1940 the church desired to have Mrs. Chapman continue as pastor but although ordained by the Congregational Church she could not be recognized as minister in a Presbyterian Church. However, by special consent of the presbytery she was permitted to function as stated supply and Rev. Malick, then pastor at Horseheads, was appointed moderator.
Toward the close of the decade there was serious consideration of building the Sunday School rooms and church parlors which had been discussed some twenty years before. At a special meeting of the church in 1948 authority was given the Good Will Class to raise funds to build an addition to the church and elder George M. Wells was named chairman of the planning committee.
This was the period of the Second World War and there was a camp of Conscientious Objectors in Big Flats. It was a question what the relation of the church to the camp should be, but after some discussion it was decided that the church should be open to them the same as to any other persons, and there was an expression of appreciation for the services to the camp by church members and by Mrs. Chapman who was minister at that time.
1950. Also at the beginning of this period a major capital improvement was made, that much talked of addition of Sunday School rooms and parlors. Under the leadership of the Good Will Class plans had been made and money raised for this addition to the church. This included a large auditorium for church meetings, suppers, and Sunday School, with a sizeable equipped kitchen and rest rooms at one end, a stage and class rooms at the other end. A report in 1951 stated that $12,264 had been paid on the new addition and the trustees borrowed $3000 from a church member and $2000 from the presbytery. In two or three years all debts were paid. Much credit is due to elder George Welles and trustee Fred Neilitz for their constant supervision and work on the building, and to Ezra Wolcott for the use of his machines.
The addition is called Presbyterian House. The Horseheads Central School District rented the new Sunday School rooms for a time while the new school was being built, and since about 1953 the Big Flats Rotary Club has been holding it weekly meetings here.
In the middle of the 1940’s the Woman’s Missionary Society and the Ladies Benevolent Society began holding their meetings jointly. Then in 1958 the two organizations were combined into the United Presbyterian Women and divided into circle.
Welcome Class and Good Will Class
The Welcome Class was organized in 1928 with August Bottcher as president. This is a Sunday School class of not-young people which meets each month for business and social purposes. It has always been their practice to read through the Bible from beginning to end and each month to appoint a teacher or teachers from among their members for the Sundays of the coming month. The monthly meetings are usually in the form of a picnic supper with a small committee in charge. After this is their business meeting and then the program which consists of talks on religious subjects or other matters of interest, reports of conferences or some member’s recent trip. The class was quite active in church affairs in the 1930’s and 1940’s, a goodly number attended Sunday School, and forty or fifty were present at the monthly social meetings.
Another group, the Good Will Class, is composed of young adults. This is in part an outgrowth of a Fireside group, organized by Mrs. Chapman during the ‘30’s. This was a kind of Westminister fellowship, composed of young people who met at the manse Sunday evenings for supper which was followed by a worship service and discussion. In the 1920’s and 1930’s there was a Philathea class of girls and young women of which Mrs. George M. Welles was leader for some time and Mrs. Annah Manning later, and a Baracca class of boys and young men of which Mrs. Loren Clark was teacher. The Good Will class of younger married couples apparently was made up of the grown-up boys and girls who had been members of these earlier classes. It was active in doing things for the church such as insulation and redecorating the building, and it was this group which obtained the permission of the church to proceed with the building in 1950 of an addition to the church for Church School and social purposes. It continued as a social organization which holds monthly supper meetings, with about thirty or more in attendance, in Presbyterian House, and these suppers are usually followed by programs. It represents the interest of the younger segment of the church membership in the affairs of the church. Occasionally both classes hold a joint meeting which then becomes a family church night.
By Lyda Quackenbush Foshay
The Big Flats Methodist Church
On a quiet street in our little town
Stands an old white church of no great renown.
For a century it has braved the changing scenes of life,
Times of plenty, times of peace, and times of strife.
We love the old bell, the old pews, and the old steeple,
They bring memories of joy and of grief to many people.
We thank Thee God, of Thy servants, staunch and true,
Who have brought the message of Salvation and filled our hears anew.
And for the faithful band which met a hundred years ago,
To worship and praise Thy name because they loved You so.
Some day a new church will take its place,
May it proclaim Thy great Love and Thy Redeeming Grace.
Lyda Quackenbush Foshay
The history of Methodism in Big Flats dates back more than a century. The following facts have been taken from old histories, old records and the memories of friends.
The history of all the churches in the community is closely related. Each one during the century has provided a place of worship for another sect during a time of need.
There was a Methodist Class formed in 1825 about the time the Presbyterian Church was organized. Rev. Edward T. Gilbert was the pastor. The Society had a feeble existence for several years being supplied with Circuit Preachers.
In 1853 through the influence of Dr. and Mrs. W. T. Read who had resided in the town about a year and the efforts of Rev. John Nevin a church organization was effected under Rev. John Parker as Presiding Elder. There were 12 members. The first pastor was Rev. Isaac Ketchum, who was appointed by the Annual Conference.
For several years services were held in the Baptist Church on Sunday afternoon, also in Tuttle’s Hall and the old schoolhouse.
There is a Certificate of Organization dated Nov. 14, 1853 and recorded Dec. 16, 1853 which reads: Recites that a meeting of The First Methodist Episcopal Church in the Town of Big Flats certain persons were elected trustees; and the said trustees and their successors in office are forever hereafter to be called and known by the name and title of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of the Town of Big Flats.
Following Rev. Ketchum were Rev. George Wilkinson, Rev. F. Kent, and Rev. W. E. Pindar.
During Rev. Pindar’s pastorate, the old parsonage was started between 1856-1858. A warranty deed of the Parsonage lot was given Sept. 2, 1858 by Mr. John Hagerty and Mr. Nicholas Mundy. It was recorded Sept. 27, 1858.
There is a Certificate of Organization dated Aug. 2, 1858, and recorded Aug. 9, 1858, which reads: Recites that the Society was duly organized under the name and title of the First Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church of the Town of Big Flats.
During Rev. Stathan’s ministry in 1864, the church edifice was started.
Rev. A. T. West was pastor in 1866. On Jan. 18, 1866, a deed to the lot on which the church now stands was given to the trustees of the Church. The land was purchased from David and Theodosia Churcher for $150. The trustees were David Churcher, Jackson K. Knight, Joseph Bradshaw, Godfrey Rhinesmith, and Conrad Gardner. The deed was recorded May 14, 1866. William Reasor, grandfather of Mr. Grant Reasor of Quackenbush Hill gave logs which were sawed in lumber and used in building the church.
Rev. G. J. Dubois was pastor from 1866-1868. During his pastorate the church was dedicated.
Rev. N. A. Depew served from Oct. 1885 to Oct. 1889. During this period the church was carpeted anew and the pipe organ purchased. This was the pride of the church. It was pumped by hand, usually by a young lad who sat behind a screen. Occasionally the congregation was very amused when it was necessary for the preacher to step down from his platform to arouse the pumper who had fallen asleep during the long sermon, so that the closing hymn could be sung.
Rev. C. E. Figles served from 1897-1899. During his pastorate the old parsonage was sold and moved to a lot nearly opposite the present Erie Freight Station. It burned a few years later. Rev. Figles built the present parsonage at a cost of $800.
The name of the Young People’s Society was changed from Christian Endeavor to Epworth League. A group meeting and Young People’s Rally was held and attended by the Presiding Elder and several ministers from the District. The Epworth League had a large place in the history of the Church because of its spiritual uplift. This Society is now called "Youth Fellowship".
Rev. Douglas Bayliss served as pastor from 1912-1914. During the pastorate of Rev. Bayliss, the mortgage on the parsonage was burned at a Prayer Meeting held in the parsonage. Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Bradshaw gave the last $100.
In 1922, many members had passed away and others had moved away. There were only 20 members left. It was decided to close the church. The Baptist and Presbyterian Churches welcomed all who desired to worship with them.
In January 1924, a meeting was held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Wilbur Foshay. It was decided at that meeting to open the church for evening services.
In Jan. 1932 a Sunday School was organized with a large membership and morning services were restored. The baptismal font and alter cloth were presented to the church by Mrs. Frank Reasor as a gift from the Episcopal Church which had been closed.
Rev. O. J. Steverson served from 1936-1939. During his pastorate the church annex was built at an approximate cost of $2,000.
The annex was rented to the trustees of the Big Flats Union School for school purposes which helped in reducing the debt on the annex.
In 1951 the members of the church decided that a full time minister was needed. That year the trustees purchased 20 feet of land on the south side of the church from Mrs. Nellis Knettles in memory of her father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Fremont Fulkerson.
Much credit is due to the different organizations of the church which have had a great part in the growth of the church.
The Ladies Aid Society, now called the W.S.C.S., has been a great help to the advancement of the church socially, spiritually and financially.
Much credit is due to the members of committees and the trustees who have been given so generously of their time and money.
Inevitably came the time when the church structure could no longer properly fulfill the needs of the congregation.
In 1959 at the suggestion of Rev. Paul J. H. Zelinka, the Board of Trustees under chairmanship of Merrill Robinson began an investigation of possible sites for a new church building. Resultantly three building lots in Green Acres and directly adjacent to the parsonage were deemed most suitable and were purchased.
In the fall of 1961 building plans discussion became active. A good friend of the church offered considerable financial support. This impetus "started the ball rolling". The Bishop’s Thousand Builders and the Central New York Conference Board of Missions also offered financial support.
Plans for a new building were placed before the congregation and the congregation voiced approval. Dr. Dwight Woodworth supervised a successful financial campaign. A goal of $30,000 was set. Gifts and pledges at the end of the campaign totaled $81,000. Building plans were finalized and building contractors were contacted. The Houghton Construction Comapany was chosen to erect the church building.
As a result of faith and the combined efforts of this group, November 4, 1962 a new building was dedicated.