Inside Front Cover Advertising
Bishop's photo................................................................................P. 10
District Superintendant's photo........................................................P. 11
Chemung Pastor's photo.................................................................P. 12
Chemung Methodist Episcopal Church Photo..................................P. 13
Owens Mills Methodist Episcopal Church Photo.............................P. 14
Oak Hill School House / Methodist Episcopal Church Photo...........P. 15
Wilawana (Pa.) Methodist Episcopal Church Photo.........................P. 16
Pastor's Preface........................................................................... PP. 17-19
Churchs' Officers..........................................................................PP. 20-23
Churchs' Calendars...................................................................... PP. 23-24
Historical sketches secular and religious.........................................PP. 25-44
Pastor List 1861-1919................................................................... P. 45
*Methodist teachings and beliefs.....................................................PP. 46-49
*Financial Report 1919...................................................................PP. 49-52
*Tithers' Association Explanation and Membership..........................PP. 52-54
*Membership Rules and Explanations..............................................PP. 54-58
Membership Roll - Chemung Circuit...............................................PP. 58-64
In Memoriam 1919 Deaths............................................................ PP. 64-65
Conclusion.................................................................................... PP. 65-67
Advertising................................................................................... PP. 67-71
Advertising ...................................................................................Pg 72-78
Inside Rear Cover Advertising
Rear Cover Advertising
(* = not transcribed)
To this beloved church, which in this very year of 1919, witnesses the accomplishment of its first century of precious service; to both its members, and friends, to the entire Chemung Circuit, Greetings from the pastor.
“Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In this little booklet bringing a directory of a church membership, and some facts of interest, first and foremost is the Pastor’s salutation to the people, who constitute the church, either by membership or by friendship, and whose loyalty has made, and will make abundant success in the Kingdom of God.
Two years is not a long time. But in that brief space since God called the Pastor from afar, to labor in this field, he has truly learned to love this people. Entering into their sorrows and their joys, their strength and their weakness, in many respects ill adapted to their mode of country life, during these months together, the Pastor has come to appreciate his people, for their simplicity, their affection and kindness, their patience, their faithfulness, and their sincerity, their liberality in things religious, as well as things financial, for their charity to others, as well as to the Pastor, because he is deeply conscious of his own many limitations, and for their loyalty to the arduous demands of the Kingdom work.
True, not all have done their utmost, but is has been seen that few, daily increasing to the many, sacrificially serving, who have impressed the Pastor with the real worth and true qualities of his people. He has not forgotten as a stranger, nor will he ever forget the kindness bestowed upon him and his family, by this people, and that continuing on through the months since the Pastor’s family has come to dwell among them. To the Pastor this has been two happy years, indeed. He has a conviction that much of the happy success can be attributed to the silent, but evident fact, that both the Pastor and people have realized the shortcomings in each other. Thus silently admitting of imperfections in each other, they have, by common experience, been more able and more eager to sympathize in brotherly love with each other, than to magnify their incompleteness. Thus we may pray that the spirit of our church may ever be. For where else should, or where else can man find sympathy and help in human frailties and shortcomings, except among his own church brethern.
So God has graciously helped us to grow in grace. And we suppose we have grown some weeds in the past few months, for which we are truly sorry, let us seek out the good corn that has come up also, thereby being encouraged to do greater things as we count the harvest. These have been months of toil, anxiety, and transition, and thus together we have prayed and worked them through. With the Apostle, “I thank God upon every remembrance of you.”
This year of 1919 marks the closing year of a century of history for the Society of Chemung, which, of course, in point of strength and age, is the heart of the Chemung Circuit. Of what that history has been we could write much. It has its dark pages, as well as its pages of inspiration and achievement. Just so are all records of the history. But let us leave our history in the dead past, gathering from it all that inspires and strengthens, and taking care that we do not compel ourselves to learn those lessons twice, that were taught by the suffering way, of pain and bitterness, and tears and loss. The great important fact that God is anxious right now for each of us to see, with eyes wide open, is not the past history, except the light that shines forth at the bitter and sweet places He has taught us, but the door of the new century, even now flung wide open, that our entering may be more eager and more inspiring, as we catch a glimpse from this date of the glory and splendor of a still more precious achievement and service, that awaits the Chemung Circuit, if we put our trust in Him, and seek to sacrificially send His message out the uttermost parts of the earth.
Very soon now, the early days of October, 1919, will find of possibilities and opportunities, stretching away off over us passing the portals of yonder open doorway, and see us taking our first steps out into that bright summerland overlooked by the distant hills to the end of another hundred years, and not stopping even then, not until it find its end in that endless Eternity beyond. Perhaps none of us will be here to witness the closing days of this new century that lies before us. But every one of us must begin this new century in the history of our beloved church.
So let every one begin it with the fear of the Lord. Realizing the responsibilities laid on our shoulders, when we took up the discipleship of our Master, let us wholly consecrate our lives to do his bidding, for only by such are we his disciples at all, but still shading off into the darkness of the world we have tried to leave. Let us not take a step into this new year and century, without first asking his guidance and strength. Let us each one go to about our share in the important task of fashioning a new link in our long chain of church history with all seriousness and brotherly love, and thus in earnest, and thus forgiving and forgetting, make this new link next year, the first link of another century the most beautiful one of all the golden year links that bind 1919 with 1819.
The Pastor earnestly exhorts each one of his people to a spirit of honest cooperation in all departments of the church work during the coming weeks and months. He not only asks for your prayers, but your physical and spiritual presence at some post of duty in the activities of the church. For thus, and thus alone can we increase our spirit of unity that, as the Master prayed, we all may be one, and thus only can we fill this coming year with greater achievements, especially in the field of real EVANGELISM.
So let us seek each one to be faithful and honest stewards of all our spiritual talents and of all that we possess materially, studying daily to show ourselves approved unto God, workmen that need not be ashamed.
Humbly yours in Christian fellowship,
Ezra O Morgan, Pastor
Chemung N. Y., September 1, 1919
Ezra O. Morgam
|Historical Sketch - Chemung
The history of the Chemung Methodist Episcopal Circuit stretches back into the shadowy past, in which the wear of a hundred years has blurred the details. But, whatever these details may have been, the Circuit stands as a great monument to the sturdy Christian character of the men and women who have passed this way before.
There is room here only for the very briefest outline. However, it might be illuminating if we allow space to review a few of the outstanding facts in the early history of the Chemung Valley and particularly that part of the Valley which has given birth, in this past hundred years, to the Chemung Circuit.
It seems hardly possible for us living here today to realize that a hundred and fifty years ago, this beautiful Chemung Valley was entirely unknown to the civilized world. But such is the historical fact. However, it is evident that the white had been in the Valley at a very early date. For we will remember that a few years ago, the Waverly Hill, just east of our village, was known by the name “Spanish Hill”. This name tells the tale of the white man’s early coming, but we nowhere find any evidence that he elected to remain, until a very recent date. A company of Spaniards in the early days of the sixteenth century set out in search of gold and treasure. They left Florida and by taking a northerly course, they passed directly through the Chemung Valley and continued on until they reached the shores of Lake Ontario. Whether they found the quest of their search is not definitely known. But this is sure, they did not tarry long in the Valley of Chemung and left nothing behind them gave the first name which they gave to Waverly Hill. (1.)
In was in 1777 that the beauties, and the richness of the Chemung Valley
were revealed to the world and to civilization. In that year the Valley
was, in a sense, first discovered by the men in General Sullivan’s army.
The soldiers were not long in taking the news of this new land they had
found in the outside world. The proclaimed that a sort of “Canaan” had
been discovered. It was a land that flowed with milk and honey; with soil
so fertile that corn stalks grew to the height of sixteen feet on the average;
while pumpkins and watermelons swelled to such an enormous size that a
single one made a good load for a horse to drag down the side hill.
Very naturally these tales soon brought a ripple of immigration. One of these was Elijah Buck, who after he had mustered out of the Continental Army, in New Jersey, returned and built his home on the site where the present residence of John Skinner stands today, in the center of our village. (1)
The Indians living in the Chemung Valley before the coming of civilization and remaining for a short time after, belonged to a tribe of Senecas. This tribe was also a member of the famous Iroquois Confederacy. When Sullivan and his army arrived, there were perhaps nine Indian villages belonging to this tribe, scattered up and down the valley. One of these stood at the present site of the Chemung village. (2.) For some reason, the Indians abandoned this village before Sullivan’s program of annihilation was put into operation. But they had a more prosperous village, if any of them could have been called prosperous, located on the banks of the Chemung River and just west of the Chemung Narrows. This village was called New Chemung, and like all the rest of the Red Man’s villages in the valley, went the way of fire and destruction at the hands of Sullivan’s army.
The Chemung Valley takes it name from the name of the river that flows
through it. The Chemung river was also at one time called the Tioga river.
The name Chemung is an Indian name, derived from the language of the Senecas.
Its translation into English is “Big Horn”. This rather strange name finds
its origin in the discovery of two big horns or tusks which were one time
dug up out on the banks of the river. These horns belonged to the age when
the Megatherium, or the Mastodon, roamed our valley and came down to the
banks of its river to drink. One of the horns was very carelessly lost
from a blacksmith shop, where it had been taken to have an iron ring fastened
around it, in order that it might be hung up. The other is till preserved
and today is in the city of Quebec.
The name Chemung is a familiar name in the scientific world. In text books on geology, there is a group of rocks named the Chemung group. These rocks belong to the Paleozoic Age, are found in more prominence and distinction in the Chemung Valley than in any other place on the earth’s surface. There was a day, also, when the name Chemung meant standard and unequaled quality in the commercial world. This was true at least in the lines of two commodities. The fame of Chemung lumber and Chemung butter spread far up and down the Atlantic coast. Although the day of the lumber has passed, we doubt today if there is another label in the line of butter that insures a better quality than that sold under the Chemung label.
Very soon after 1777, people from every direction moved into the Chemung Valley. The bought land, cleared it, tolled the virgin soil, and built homes. They brought with them their civilization, their religion, their laws, and their pioneer strength and ideals. An in a remarkably short time, the Valley became a bee hive of industry. Villages began to spring up in every section, some of them remaining villages to this day, but some of them soon growing into cities. The first spot in the Valley said to have been settled by these early pioneers was the present site of our village of Chemung. The settlers soon made Chemung, then the village of Buckville, one of the most noted villages in the whole valley.
In those days of settling, clearing, and building, the hills and valleys among which the Chemung Circuit has developed and grown, were covered, except where the Indians had already cleared the ground, with a virgin growth of choice timber in hemlock, pine, and oak.(3.) Naturally the first and chief industry was lumbering. And very much of the modest wealth about Chemung today finds its origin in those virgin forests and early saw mills. The busiest years of the lumberman about Chemung lasted until 1855. But in the year 1860, the lumber business took a new boom, in the phase of stripping and shipping bark. In that year, tanneries began to use bark in their industry and lumbering became a very profitable vocation again in Chemung. It was in the year 1860 that Harry and Jesse Owen Co. built their mill, largely for the purposes of stripping bark. This mill was built on a piece of ground not far from where our church stands at the present time at Owens Mills. (4.) The Ruggles were among the early founders of Methodism at Chemung and they are on record, doing business under the firm name Charles Ruggles & Son, as having shipped from Chemung in 1882, 1300 tons of bark.
There is a host of names associated with the early days of clearing away the forests and subduing the fields in the territory which our Circuit now covers but space will not even permit their mention. Perhaps the two names that stand out most prominently in the development and growth of our village are the names of Buck and Wynkoop.
The Bucks came from New Milford, Conn., and it was Elijah, son of William, who laid the foundation for the present village of Chemung. In fact the village, which soon sprang up after his coming, was in some ways superior to the present village, and while the village has developed in some ways, it may be said in other regards that it shows signs today of deterioration, as compared with those flourishing days seventy-five years ago. The village which Elijah Buck and his sons had so prominent a part in building soon took on growth religiously and civilly. It was named after its founder and was known for more than half a century as Buckville. The first mail was delivered in the place by runner, before 1870 to the officers in General Sullivan’s army. Elijah Buck was made the first postmaster in 1801. He also opened and conducted the first general store, but he seemed to have more gifted ability for the hotel business. He was the proprietor of Buckville’s famous tavern, which stood on the site of Mr. Skinner’s present home. As the business grew, the original building was enlarged, and added to until at the end of fifty year’s additions, the tavern, or Buck’s apartment house, as it was also known, presented a rather strange sight to the eye that had a special love for architecturally beautiful. This building, as were all the other original buildings in the center of the village, was destroyed by fire. The present buildings were built on the same sites as the original buildings. The Ruggles seem to have been the first really successful merchants in the place. Their first store was burned to the ground, but in four weeks a new store was built, and business was being carried on as usual. W. D. Morely (5.) is now doing businees in the store once occupied by the Ruggles. Both the Ruggles and the Bucks were among the early founders of Methodism in Chemung.
Major William Wynkoop was perhaps equally prominent with Elijah Buck in the early history of Chemung. He built and conducted the first tavern in 1788. An indentation in the ground just east of the property of J. S. Holbert today marks the spot where the foundations of this old tavern once stood. (6.) He built the first frame house in the village in the village, probably across the street from the present home of James Owen. The lumber in this house came out of the woods near by, and was cut with the old whip saw in one of those early saw mills. (7.) Asa Parshall built the first brick house in 1829. This house still stands just west of the village. (8.) Major Wynkoop also built the first mill in the village. This was a grist mill, and the venture gave inspiration to others. Very soon both saw mills and grist mills began to spring up along the banks of Wynkoop Creek. The elder Joseph Swain probably built the next mill, about a mile up the creek. The present mill operated by the Warrens traces back to one of these original mills. The first school was held in the weaving room of Major Wynkoop’s house. Samuel Walker, teacher of this first school, was one night treacherously killed by the Indians. There are many things which will make Major Wynkoop’s name memorable, but he will always be remembered by the living name of Wynkoop Creek. This little stream was named years ago of this illustrious citizen. The name seems to have stood the test of the years better than the name of Buckville.
The days when Chemung was really famous were the days under its maiden name of Buckville. Then it was a much more independent village than it is today. This was before the days of the railroad or the street car, days when the stage coach line ran through the center of the village, where the street car tracks are now laid, and Chemung could then boast of two first class taverns, where travelers, if at all possible, would endeavor to make Buckville by night, for it was one of the best stopping places along the line. Today travelers make Elmira the objective. But in those days, people had more time than they have today. Everyone took pride in his village and the log meeting house was the most popular and influential institution in the place. Those were the days when Buckville could have lived, even though a railroad strike might have shut it off from the outside world. Those were the days of homespun cloth, and when every household was a little world in itself. Those were the days when a large share of the marketing was done in New York City. What the farm produced and the household manufactured, was in the fall loaded into wagons, and the early farmer of Chemung, with his wife and family, would drive into the big city, some 260 miles away, where they would trade and sell the treasure from the farm, and come back a month or two later with a wagon load of flour and the many, many things that would be needed on the farm for the winter and coming season. This regular fall trip was looked forward to. In those days before the coming of Major Wynkoop’s mill, the grist was loaded into canoes and carried as far down the Chemung as Wilkes Barre, to be ground. (7.) There are none living today who remember the busy days of the (Erie) canal, but there may be some who remember the coming of the Erie Railroad in 1851, and they remember what a great benefit came to Chemung, although the village did sacrifice its fame. There may yet be some who remember the coming of the first Masonic lodge to Chemung, which was established in 1854. And beyond a doubt, there are many who remember when the Grange was chartered in 1874. One of the greatest blessings came to the people in this section of the Valley, when in 1869, by an act of the Legislature, Myamin Griswold, Jesse Owen, and Henry Baker were appointed as commissioners to build a bridge across the Chemung river, at a cost not exceeding $18000. The present Wilawana bridge was completed four years later, and the old style ferry boat to Orcutt Creek passed out.
In the foregoing facts very little has been said of the religious development. But as this section of the Chemung Valley developed in every phase of civilization, the religious phase grew quite as rapidly as did any other. The early comers brought their religion with them, and they laid the foundations of the present Chemung Circuit. It is quite probable that Wilawana had the first religious organization in this section. There was a Methodist class, and may go back as far as 1795. There was a Baptist class in Dry Brook, but none at Chemung, a few years before the definite organization of a Methodist class in the village. There were Methodists living at Buckville as far back as 1780, but the first class was not organized until 1819, just one hundred years ago, and just about a half century after the first Methodist society was organized in America. Oak Hill followed, and a class there was organized one year later in 1820. Then came Rose Valley in 1860. This is no longer a separate point on the circuit, and the membership there has been transferred to the Wellsburg charge. Owens Mills was the last point to be organized. Owens Mills had a mixture of Methodist and Baptist preachers serving it, but finally by a unanimous vote it was organized into a Methodist society in 1899.
The organization of the Methodist class at Buckville grew out of a religious revival that swept through the whole Chemung Valley. This revival may, directly or indirectly, be traced to the efforts of that early Methodist, Thomas Webb, a captain in the British army. As a result of that revival, a Methodist class was organized at Buckville in 1819. There were no church records kept before 1861, and as a result, the names and details of those first few years are, for the most part, lost. However, the names of a few who were converted in that revival over a hundred years ago have been found. The first class was only thirty in number, but it was the beginning of the Chemung M. E. Church of today. The few names I have are: Jerry Holland and wife, James Ribble and wife, Epentus Owen and wife, Philip McConnell and wife, William Kellog, Stephen Vanderlip, Nancy Floyd, Julia Wynkoop, Katie Floyd, Betsey Swain and Treadway Kellog.
This first class of 30 converts held their first class in a little log meeting house that stood in the lower end of the village near Wynkoop Creek. In this little log meeting house the founders of Chemung Methodism continued to worship their God until 1838. In that year a modest frame church was built on a piece of ground just a little east of Wynkoop Creek. Here our forefathers worshipped for about ten years. In 1849, the Erie Railroad got its right of way through Chemung and it was found that its road bed would pass through the Methodist Church property. So the trustees were compelled to sell the property to the railroad. It is claimed that the first frame church, at least in part, still stands today near its original location, and has been remodeled into a barn.
After the transaction with the railroad had been closed, the Methodist society moved up into the center of the village for a church site, and in 1850, our present church was built, at a cost of $1500. This price is certainly low, compared to the prices of today. It is estimated that the same church could not be built for less than $12000. Our church building stands today nearly as it was originally built in 1850. The few changes have been made on the interior. The heating system has been changed, and still in need of change. There are those, particularly some janitors, still living who have a vivid recollection of the old oil lamps once used for light, before the present system of electric lights was installed a few years ago. There are those still living who can also remember the old family pew box, with one center aisle.
The first presiding elder the Chemung charge ever had was the Rev. Horace Agard. One of the first pastors to serve the charge was an old time horseback circuit rider, the Rev. Sophronus Stocking. No doubt Chemung at that time was just one point on Rev. Stocking’s circuit, which in point of territory may have been as large as the whole Elmira district of today. But in those days if the pastor was not seen but once in two months we had class leaders who were fully capable of taking his place, and in shepherding his flock in his absence. Our first resident pastor was the Rev. William H. Pearne. He may have served the church along about 1840. The names of our first official board, after the church records came into use, were found, written by Rev. E. H. Cranmer in 1863, on the fly leaf of our oldest record book. They are: S. L. Congdon, presiding elder; E. H. Cranmer, pastor in charge; J. H. Fausey, supply preacher; G. W. Buck, recording steward; stewards, C. H. Peppard, A. W. Smith, Owen Swain, J. M. Blauvelt, John Greatsinger, David Gardner, Charles Ruggles, J. S. McDowell; class leaders, John Joslin, Samuel Drake, Gordon Snell, J. V. Scott, Oak Hill; William Greatsinger, Francis H. Arnold, Orcutt Creek, now Wilawana.
The first recorded birth was that of Morris Catlin, to Mr. Israel and Ditha Catlin. The first death was that of William Bosworth, who died in 1790. He was an uncle to Elijah Buck. The first wedding was that of Guy Maxwell to Eleanor Van Stienburg. The bride was a step-daughter to Major William Wynkoop. The oldest baptism, where exact dates can be found, was that of John Carner. He was baptized on November 24, 1861, by the Rev. G. J. DuBois. The oldest exact date of reception into church membership, since that class of thirty in 1819, is June 24, 1861. On that date Rev. E. H. Cranmer received John Rogers into probation and he joined Brother John Joslin’s class.
The section of the county known as Oak Hill was in all probability opened up and settled along with Chemung or very soon after. In the early days of the nineteenth century this little section was covered with a virgin growth of choice oak timber and was probably the only oak of any consequence in the whole country. It is evident that this timber induced the pioneer at an early date to settle in this ridge of hills. It is also quite evident that those splendid oaks, standing out in sharp contrast to the hemlocks and pines, gave their names to the section where they grew. Oak Hill, beyond all question, was named for its famous trees. And Oak Hill has the distinction of being the only point on the circuit that still retains its original pioneer name.
The details of early Methodism at Oak Hill, down to 1860, are very indistinct. Many of the people who could tell us of these days lie in the little, sunken graveyard just beside the school house church. (8) So very little is known about Oak Hill religiously during the first half of the nineteenth century. It is known, however, that the revival of 1819, that so influenced Buckville, reached the settlers living at Oak Hill, and a class was organized there in 1820, just one year after a class was organized at Chemung (Buckville). This first Methodist class in the old log school house, which at the time stood at the site of the frame school house which followed it. Mr. Gideon Griswold was probably the first class leader of this class. And from what we know of the religious character of the people at Oak Hill since 1860, we have every reason to believe that many an old time Methodist meeting, with the power of the Lord bursting forth in song, and prayer, and shouts and amens. Sometime before 1850, this log school house was pulled down and a frame building erected in its place. This building was later moved and the present frame school house built. All three school houses have stood on the same spot. This first frame school house (the second school building) that so often beheld the glory of the Lord at Oak Hill, still stands on a nearby farm, where it was moved to be used as an out building. On this first frame building some of the early Methodist ablest circuit preachers have preached. There are some living today who remember Rev. Dutcher and Billy McKinster, who seldom used a Reverend before his name. Billy McKinster was one of the last century’s flaming heralds, the horse back circuit rider. Oak Hill was fortunate enough to be on his big circuit.
Israel Griswold, Jacob V. Scott, Timothy Doolittle and John Doolittle are just a few of the many names associated with the early history of Methodism at Oak Hill. In 1860, John Doolittle and Jacob V. Scott, father of Mrs. Thomas Shelford, were led to pray for a revival. And they began to hold special meetings in the woods a short distance from the school house. After much prayer, the power of the Lord came down and one man, named William Harrington, was converted. This was the beginning of the greatest revival Oak Hill had ever seen. Under the influence of this revival, Jacob V. Scott, one of Oak Hill’s ablest class leaders, was led to start meetings at Rose Valley. This venture proved successful and Rose Valley later became a regular point on the Circuit, but was finally transferred to the Wellsburg charge, which has in late years, let the point go down, so that services if held in the school house at all, are held very irregularly. We had class leaders in those days who were as capable as the pastor. That revival of 1860 was the beginning of a great new day at Oak Hill religiously, and that day did not begin to wane until about 1895. In those days, very little of a special nature was needed to start a revival. And never was the modern musical equipment of today’s revivals even approached. It has been only in the past few years that Oak Hill has had an organ. And it is said since the organ came into the school house the singing is of a poorer quality. But the old school singers have nearly all passed on to joint the Eternal Chorus, and something had to be done, so the organ came. Oak Hill had singing school once ever week, and even the children were taught to sing by note and to get the pitch from a tuning fork. There are a few good singers left on Oak Hill today who learned to sing in that school. An organ would have spoiled the melody of those old school house song services that shook the hill top. But today we do not have time to learn how to sing, so we must have an organ.
It cannot be denied that Oak Hill has declined in strength in the past twenty years, until today it is the weakest point on the circuit. But this is by no means the fault of the character of the society there today. It must be remembered that there is no oak timber there now and that the first values have been taken from the soil, and that the call to the city has been very strong during these past twenty years. And the saints of yesterday are passing one by, while Oak Hill faces the inevitable. If there is not an influx of population there will be a day not far distant, when there will be neither worshippers nor tillers of the soil at Oak Hill.
This past year Oak Hill faced a crisis in its history and for the first time questioned whether to continue the services. A vote was taken at the close of a meeting in August, 1919, with the result that every one present voted to continue the services, and also pledged $125 a year towards the pastor’s salary. At the following Quarterly Conference it was decided to transfer Oak Hill to the Wellsburg charge. So the future history of this faithful little point may take a turn for the better. This plan was tried in 1913 but was not worked out successfully, largely however, because of the Wellsburg pastor’s ill health.
We shall never forget that the Oak Hill point, only one year younger than the Chemung point, was for about seventy years nearly as strong as the Chemung point itself. Along with good oak timber, it has turned out some of the best kind of religious timber. But Oak Hill, like many other churches where the experience has been deep, has suffered from much hair-splitting and differences of religious opinion. There was a day when the Chemung Circuit could ill afford to be without the Oak Hill point. But time has brought changes and whatever may be done next year we hope it will be for the betterment of the Oak Hill point.
One visiting Wilawana would not suspect that beneath its peaceful surface today there is a bit of the most thrilling history that any village has had in this section of the country. It is a history that is mingled with love and happiness, bitterness and tragedy. But whatever the past history may have been, it is safe to say that by nature Wilawana has always been religious. In fact there was a Methodist class there long before one was organized at Chemung. And down until about the year 1899, Wilawana was one of Methodism’s strong rural points. But in that year, just five years after the present church was dedicated, a difference arose in the society over the question of putting a hotel in the village. The breach made by this controversy has not been healed to this day, and as a result the society has lost much of its former power and strength. But the people of real Christian worth have stood by the church and some day this Christian leaven will bring the church back to its rightful place of leadership in the community.
The first white men to own land at Wilawana were men by the names of Sanderson and Kingsberry. During the latter half of the eighteenth century these men owned all the land in and around Wilawana. That section of the state of Pennsylvania was then known as the Sanderson and Kingsberry tract. Mr. Daniel Orcutt was probably the first man to buy land from this tract and settle in Wilawana. At a very early day he built a log house in about the center of the village, as we know it today, on the banks of the little creek that still bears his name, Orcutt Creek. Among the others who early bought land and settled Wilawana were the Garrisons, the Clarks, and the Knights.
As the village grew the name of Sanderson and Kingsberry tract became too indefinite. So the people began to look for a better name for their village. As it happened, this name was not too long in coming. And that early Garrison family has the distinction of giving Wilawana its first definite name. This was the rather unusual name of “Johnny Cake Holler.” The history attached to this first christening is curiously interesting.
On the banks of Orcutt Creek the Garrisons built a modest log house, the ruins of which could be seen a few years ago, lying in about the center of the village and a short distance from the present bridge crossing the creek. It is said that that the Garrison family were peace loving folks by nature, but like most families they little domestic troubles. It is rumored that Mr. Garrison so far forgot himself at times that he was inclined to handle his good wife a little roughly. But history shows that Mrs. Garrison was fully capable of taking her own part. One fateful evening Mr. Garrison came home and for some reason, began to severely criticize his wife, who in turn, took severe objections to his remarks. As it happened, Mrs. Garrison was preparing the evening meal, and they were to have hot johnny cake for supper that night. When Mr. Garrison began his harangue, the johnny cake batter was peacefully baking in the old fashion spider frying pan which hung before the open fire place. At last, when Mrs. Garrison patience was entirely exhausted, she seized the spider and with it swatted Mr. Garrison a much deserved swat over the head. But in her excitement she evidently forgot the pan was filled with red hot johnny cake corn meal batter. As a consequence, the johnny cake supper went running down over Mr. Garrison’s head, finding lodgement about his neck. For his shirt collar would not allow it to run further, but provided a convenient receptacle for holding it. And before Mrs. Garrison could undo what she had done, Mr. Garrison’s neck was pretty well parboiled. It is said he carried a scarlet ring around his neck for many months afterwards, and when he died, the scar was still plainly visible. This little incident of family life soon became public property, and is known in history as the “Johnny Cake War.” It is in memory of this war that the village received its name of “Johnny Cake Holler.” How long this name lingered is not known, but it must have been for several years. There are those living today at Wilawana, who can remember seeing mail sent from Ireland to people living at Johnny Cake Holler, Bradford Co., Penn., U. S. A. But the folks in the neighborhood finally discarded the name and adopted the name of their creek, as the name of their village. Thus, Wilawana’s second name became Orcutt Creek. In 1882, when the Lackawanna R. R. was put through, the new station was named Wilawana, which has been the name of the village ever since. The name was originally spelled with two Ls. It is an Indian name, given in honor of that famous Indian princess, Queen Esther.
The complete history of Wilawana is full of interesting facts and incidents. If written, it would indeed read like the story of some romantic novel. But whatever of Wilawana’s early history may come under any other head than good, we might possibly take the suggestion seriously, that all the bad men of Chemung and Wellsburg, whom the early churches could not reform, went to Wilawana to make their headquarters, and lay their plots. This may be the honest reason why the heart of one of Orcutt Creek’s former resident, is today on exhibition in a jar of alcohol at Auburn prison. This remarkable heart beat four hours after a bullet from the gun of one of the prison guards tore through it. But these days with their tragedies have gone never to return. As have many other days with their pioneer customs. Such as the days when the folks at Wilawana used to load their grain in canoes, and pole all the way down the Chemung to Wilkesbarre. We are willing to let all these days go and care not for their return, but hope that the days of the good old Methodist meeting have not gone, never to return. Those days when the power of the Lord would descend and shake the village with prayers, hymns, and shouts of amens, are needed now at Wilawana.
The first Methodist class at Wilawana probably dates to 1795. For about that time, one the old Methodist circuit riders, Rev. Lorenzo Dow, is known to have visited the village regularly to hold meetings. Rev. Dow rode horseback, and probably came up by the way of Athens, making the village one of his first points, after leaving Athens.
Most of the religious history and names associated with Wilawana before 1858 have been lost. But, however, many interesting incidents and characters still linger in the memory of the people. A preacher by the name of Allen, one time served the Wilawana church. He was generally known as “Crazy Allen.” It is said that he won this title because of his mane eccentricities, one of which was his quite battles with the personal devil. Mr. Allen was probably only a local preacher, and there is no account of his having served any other point on the circuit except Wilawana. The devil became so real to Mr. Allen, that he often found it necessary, to interrupt his meetings, until he had chased the enemy of all mankind out of the service. In a schoolhouse where he was once holding a meeting, the devil entered. Mr. Allen perceived somehow, that his foe had retreated to the loft above the room where the meeting was in progress. The fearless preacher jumped upon the little desk before him, and suddenly springing upward, drew himself through a little trapdoor in the ceiling, and disappeared from view, into the darkness above. Of course the congregation knew what was going on, and waited breathlessly below, while their pastor had it out with the devil in the loft above. When satisfied that his enemy had been vanquished, Mr. Allen dropped through the trapdoor to the platform below, and there with a great deal more comfort and power, finished his sermon to the people. One is inclined to believe, that religion under such dramatic circumstances must have been a very real thing indeed.
The first Methodist class in Wilawana held their meetings in a little log school house, that stood about the center of the village on the banks of Orcutt Creek. This blog building finally gave place to a much better frame building, which became the new school house. It was erected on the same spot where the former one stood. In this frame school house, early Methodism at Orcutt Creek held its services down until 1858. It was in that year that the society rented the upper follor of a dwelling house belonging to Mr. M. C. Gardner. This building stood on the lot adjoining the present property of Mrs. Laura Keyes.
By knocking out the partitions, and doing some remodeling, this upper chamber was made over into a very pleasant and suitable meeting house. And here the village people worshipped their Lord until 1894. This building still stands, but has been moved back from its original site. It stands today, converted back into a dwelling house, just over the creek bridge, and is owned by Mr. William M. Shaf.
Mr. I. J. Pratt was perhaps the first class leader in that upper room church and Rev. Noble, a horseback circuit rider was probably the first preacher to serve the society in their new quarters. Though there were no records kept before 1861, this preacher and the one who followed him, Rev. Slawson, probably served the whole circuit. The preachers in those days, before the bridge, were compelled to ferry across the river to Wilawana. In the summer time going to preach by boat, and in the winter time very often driving across on the ice, must have been just another thrill for the early pastors on the Chemung Circuit.
Wilawana has always been a point on the Chemung Circuit, although some unsuccessful attempts have been made to transfer it to the Wellsburg charge. One of these attempts met defeat because the ferry boat system failed to operate. It happened not long after the Erie R.R. came through that the Wellsburg pastor agreed to serve Wilawana if they would see to it that he was ferried across the river. The very first Sunday night the pastor came down, the Erie train was late, a habit it has never fully gotten over to this day. The preacher hurried from the station at Chemung to the river bank, but to his dismay, he found no ferry boat. It is rumored that Wilawana did not have a strong inclination for the transfer, but of course, this mistake of the ferry boat that night was because the train was late. At any rate the preacher from Wellsburg never came back and Wilawana has never been taken from the Chemung Circuit.
During the pastorate of Rev. C. E. Ferguson, 1884-1887, Wilawana had a mighty revival and there has been none like it since. It was out of this revival that the inspiration came to build a new church. So the present pretty little church was begin in the year 1892, and was completed and dedicated in 1894. Most of the labor and material that went into its construction were donated by the good, substantial people of the village, who were at that time and dominated the community by their Christian influence. $900 in cash was added, making the total cost of the church about $2000.
The history of Owens Mills goes back probably to the days just after the Indians were driven out of New York state. It along about that time that a man, by the name of Malory, moved into this section, cleared land, and built a settler’s cabin, on the site of the present home of Charles Green. It is quite probable that there were very few people besides the Malory family living in this locality during the first half of the nineteenth century. At any rate there was very little land cleared before 1860. And this whole section down to about 1860 was known as Malory, being named after the first settler.
In 1860 new life came to Malory and it began to grow rapidly into a community of the open country. It was that year the tanneries discovered that tannic acid found in the bark of trees was well neigh indispensable for tanning hides. As a result there immediately came a great demand for bark. This was the great opportunity for Malory. There were hundreds of acres in this section at that time covered with a virgin growth of hemlock and pines. And it was in that year, of 1860, that Harry and Jesse Owen Co. built their large saw mill at Malory. This mill stood on a piece of ground now owned by L. B. Grace and just a short distance from the present house occupied by Mr. Grace. This mill proved to be the beginning of a real community, and very soon a village of the open country sprang up. Beside the mill, there came into being around it a store and post office, know then and to this day as Owens Mills. Jesse Owen himself was the first postmaster.
Of course the neighborhood owes its growth to the coming of the mill, which remained for a number of years the most important institution in the place. The Owen company bought up some 1400 acres of land covered with a virgin growth of hemlock and pine. In order to get this lumber out of the woods and strip the bark and ship it, workers were needed and they began to come. The Owens and the Swains were among the first comers. The coming of these early workmen was the beginning of what is known today as Owens Mills. When the day came that there was no longer demand for the mill, the most of these people remained in the locality and turned to farming.
As has been said the mill was for many years the chief institution in the community. It was the principle means of livelihood and the building itself provided a place where the neighborhood could gather together for social entertainment. It is said that one of the principle ways used for recreation and for entertaining the frequent social gatherings was dancing. Of course we must bear in mind that the dancing of those days was so far different from the wild art of dancing today that one would have great difficulty in finding anything similar in the two. It is really a pity that the dancing of today should be allowed the favor of so general a title . There are many descriptive titles we could attach to out dancing of today, but it is enough to say here that it is in no detail like the dance of fifty years ago. There may be those living today who can go back in memory to those nights of long ago, and dance again the old “Virginia Reel” in the big planing room of the Owens’ saw mill.
As Owens Mills continued to grow, it proved to be unlike other communities. There was a leaven there at work which soon created a demand for religious growth. It is said that Loren Grace was for a number of years the only church member living in the neighborhood, and it was largely through his efforts that services were finally begun at Owens Mills. Perhaps the first preacher to hold services in the place was a Baptist preacher by the name of Bishop. Then we hear of Rev. C. M. Gardner, who served the Chemung Circuit in 1873 and 1874. After him perhaps a Baptist preacher by the name of Runney. And so for a number of years, down to possibly 1890, the community was served by first a Baptist preacher and then a Methodist. These services were irregular and were carried on in a voluntary way by the preachers, who offered their services from time to time. They were paid with a free will offering taken up among the people.
All these service down to around 1890 were held in the same big planing room of the saw mill. And there are those living today who can remember many of these good old saw mill meetings. It was about that year that the people got together decided to improve the external conditions surrounding their services. So the top floor of the store was rented and remodeled into a meeting house. An organ, chairs and fixtures were bought and for the first time Owens Mills had a suitable place for worship.
The store building, with the upper room meeting house still stands, but the saw mill has long since disappeared. Some of the fixtures of that first meeting place is still in existence. One of these fixtures is the organ. The first organ was one time borrowed to be used in a funeral service, but for some reason the instrument never came back. However, the good old organ is still doing valuable service in another place. So we all say amen.
The people by this time were growing in numbers and religious strength and the day was approaching when the community would need some definite and regular pastoral oversight. The first regular pastor to put in an appearance was a Methodist local preacher from Waverly by the name of Denslow. Mr. W. H. Denslow began holding regular bi-monthly services in this little upper room meeting house in 1896. He continued his good work for about a year and a half. Then becoming convinced that the people ought to be organized in a society and attached to some denomination he proposed that Owens Mills be added as a regular point on the Chemung Methodist Circuit.
Rev. F. W. Sessions was the pastor at the time on the circuit and at the first Quarterly Conference held in October 1898, the plan of organizing Owens Mills and receiving it as a point on the Circuit was proposed. Rev. Sessions took charge of the work the first Sunday in November 1898. As there were both Methodists and Baptists in the community a vote was taken to find the feeling of the people as to which denomination they should join. The vote was unanimous to make the new society a part of the Methodist church. So at the close of the best revival Owens Mills ever had, Rev. Sessions organized the thirty-three converts, and the ten holding church memberships elsewhere, into a Methodist class, March 3, 1899.
Immediately the inspiration came for a new church building. This inspiration soon took definite form and a building committee was appointed. The members of that first committee were: H. T. Tregoning, W. H. Denslow, C. W. Harlow, Joseph Swain, Ambrose Grace, and J. W. Guild. The corner stone was laid March 14, 1899 and by the last of June of that year the present pretty little church was completed.
The organization of this society and the building of this splendid little
church in the open country was a great accomplishment, and has been owned
of God. Although the class at Owens Mills was the last to be organized
on the Circuit, it is today in respect of strength and numbers, next to
the strongest point on the Circuit, which of course is the Chemung point.
And not only is it at present second in strength and numbers, but it has
perhaps the best prospects of any of the other points of retaining that
place. There are truly great possibilities for future growth and development
at Owens Mills.