Transcribed for Tri Counties by Dick McCracken
Source: The Sunday Review, Towanda, PA, April 29, 2001
East Smithfield – The East Smithfield Federated Church began over 200 years ago on Feb. 11, 1801, in Poultney, Vt.
The Reverends Elijah Norton and Lemuel Haynes, the celebrated black pastor, held a special service to bless Solomon Morse, Samuel Kellogg, and Nathan Fellows and their families as they started for "the Far West" to establish a new church.
Let’s think of the adventure these men and their families were beginning.
They were setting out for a distant wilderness away from familiar territory. Poultney, Vt. Is only 5 or 6 hours away by car. However, there were few good roads and no cars in 1801.
It was reported that at least Kellogg and his family floated down the Susquehanna River from a point near Otsego Lake in New York State. The whole party submerged several times during their voyage. Can you imagine experiencing this in the month of February?
A church spokesperson reviewed the history of the church:
Kellogg was a clothier by trade and while living in East Smithfield, he invented a machine for sheaving cloth which revolutionized the manufacture of woolen goods, but brought no monetary reward to its inventor.
Kellogg was a captain in the Revolutionary War, having served with General George Washington. Capt. Kellogg attended President Washington’s inauguration in New York in 1789.
Samuel Kellogg, who was widely known as Deacon Kellogg, lived in the township until his death in 1839.
Solomon Morse also served as a captain in the Revolutionary War. His main business was that of teaming. He hauled goods by wagon from Philadelphia to merchants in Tioga Point, now called Athens. Morse died and was buried in Troy Township in 1816. He had a family of five children. There are no known descendants of Morse in Smithfield Township.
Nathan Fellows remained in East Smithfield a few years. He later moved to Sugar Creek, then left the county in 1812.
The baptism of Jemima Almira Morse on May 16, 1801, was one of the first recorded events of the Congregational Church of East Smithfield.
In May 1802, the first recorded communion was held. It consisted of squeezed grapes sweetened with maple syrup. This first communion was held in a log schoolhouse, which stood near the foot of Mitchell’s hill, just east of the village. The communion table was a large plank split from a log with wedges and hewn with an ax. The table legs were sticks driven into auger holes in the plank.
The 200-year Federated Church anniversary committee chose to celebrate their "Homecoming Event" in May in honor of these early recorded historical events.
Many other folks came to East Smithfield from Vermont and other New England states. Other settlers, prior to our founders, joined in fellowship with the new congregation. In 1811, the Congregational denomination built the first church in the area. Major Jared Phelps, a Revolutionary War veteran donated the land where the church sits and where the cemetery is located. His daughter was the first burial there. The last burial listed in this cemetery was around 1921.
Nehemiah Tracy, who came to East Smithfield from Connecticut in 1805 and whose ancestors arrived in this country on the Mayflower in 1620, pledged a third of the cost of the 1811 church building. When a further need arose for nails and glass, Tracy sold his last cow to ensure the building project’s success. Tracy died in 1815.
Nehemiah Tracy’s son, Bulkley, led the building fund for the present church building, which was dedicated on Feb 5, 1862. Bulkley passed away in April 1862. His was the first funeral in the new church building.
There is evidence of Baptist activity in the area by 1807, but the earliest recorded meetings were in 1809.
A church was organized in 1810. In 1819, this group built a meeting house, 36 x 50 feet with 22-foot posts, all of heavy timber, "well-braced."
At the raising of this church, "the Smithfield boys" had the body of the building up and the plates on in 56 minutes. J This building was partially funded by the ladies of the church welling their homespun and butter for a penny a pound.
This building burned in 1870 and was replaced by a brick building which also burned. A third building, also of brick, was put up. This building survived and was used as the East Smithfield Fire Hall until the fire department tore it down to construct its new building.
The disciples church was organized here Dec. 22, 1830. The congregations shared a building with the Baptists alternating Sundays. Eventually, a house was purchased by the Disciples for meetings. In 1869 a Disciples church building was dedicated.
The Congregational and Disciples denominations formally merged (federated) on Nov 22, 1918.
The Disciple church building was used for a time for meals, meetings, fellowship, and other uses "deemed appropriate by the federation." This building still stands next to the East Smithfield Hardware Store.
The Baptist denomination joined this federation on March 20, 1955. Federation was a logical step for these churches, as they occasionally held joint Sunday Schools dating back to the 1830’s.
Ground was broken in 1956 to add the baptistery, rest rooms, kitchen, fellowship hall, Sunday School rooms, and office area. A dedication service for this addition was held in 1958.
Further remodeling was do9ne in 1794, 1993, and 1994. These dates covered the sanctuary baptistery wall being redone, wallpaper removal, new siding, insulation, handicap ramp, and new roof on the fellowship hall.
The first church building that was built in 1811 cost $450. The church built in 1861 cost approximately $2,200. The repairs in 1994 cost $79,000. Due to the efforts of our congregation, we paid this amount off relatively quickly.
Many needed items have been donated as memorials in honor of loved ones. The beautiful pricture of Christ knocking at the door, the picture of World’s end State Park in the baptistery, the carillon, several kitchen items, and most recently a Clavinova and our baby grand piano.
There is a story about a former instrument used in our church – an old organ that had to be cranked by one person, while the organist played her songs. The gentleman cranking had to watch the gauge to keep the pressure just right. The trouble was, occasionally this man dozed off, allowing the pressure – and the volume – to drop.
At the 100-year anniversary, poems were read that were written by this congregation’s first home-grown missionary – Rev. Charles Tracy, serving in Turkey.
Just as our founders went off into the wilderness to spread the gospel, mention should be made of our present "homegrown" missionary, Katrina Jill Hunsberger Didot and her husband, Ernie, who are serving in Guatemala.
They are enduring hardships, as did the first church founders in East Smithfield.
Closer to home and continuing our heritage of community ministries, Angela Graham, Theresa Glisson, and their helpers hold meeting called the "5 to 5 Club" for kids ages 5 years to fifth grade.
Wednesday evenings, the love of Christ is shared with an average of 30 teenagers by youth leader, Brenda Finnerty, Pastor Bob straddling, and several adult helpers.
Bonnie Wilcox leads the S.O.L.A.R. puppet team. S.O.L.A.R. stands for Serving Our Lord and Redeemer. This group shares at local churches, nursing homes, and other occasions as requested.
Tuesday morning Bible study began over 33 years ago. This bible study continues to be a strong ministry with ladies from several churches attending.
Federated Ladies meet monthly and are very faithful, serving the community as well as several foreign mission projects. An active missionary committee provides for the needs of many others in the mission field. All of these ministries benefit from our active van ministry. Several dedicated drivers provide transportation to and from these events, for special trips, and to church and Sunday School.
The mother church in Poultney, Vt. no longer exists, but her outreach continues to thrive in East Smithfield.
Today’s ideals and attitudes have changed, but remember we are still serving the same Lord Jesus today as our founders did.
Hebrews 13:7 and 8 says: "Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today, and forever."
As we think about our church history, let us praise God for these men and their families who were willing to brave the unknown to bring the gospel to East Smithfield, Pa., so long ago.
The public is cordially invited to our special "Homecoming" celebrations scheduled for May 5 and 6.
On Saturday, May 5, at 7:30 p.m., Martha Kress will start off our hymn sing/talent sharing evening with songs and humor. Following Martha, several members of the congregation will share their talents. Prior talent sharing evenings have proven to be a time of good fellowship and fun.
On Sunday, May 6, the 11 a.m. worship service will include communion as it was first served in 1801. Following the service, there will be a fellowship dinner with a chance to reminisce with old and new friends.
Old pictures and memorabilia will be on display. If you have memorabilia or pictures pertinent to East Smithfield or any of the three denominations of the Federated Church (Congregational, Disciples, or Baptist), feel free to bring them along to share with us.
All persons interested are invited to attend. If you have any questions, please call Bernie Petry, Anniversary Committee Chairperson, at (570) 596-3202.
The Federated Church is located at the corner of Church and Main Streets in East Smithfield.
Copyright © April 29, 2001 by The Daily/Sunday Review, Towanda, PA.
Copied with permission of James E. Towner, Publisher.
Transcribed by Richard J. McCracken, Towanda, PA