The design of the following pages is to give a history of the Baptist Missionary Convention of the State of New York. We have thought that it might be properly introduced by a brief sketch of the rise of the denomination in the central and western parts of the State.
In the month of June, A. D. 1773, Ebenezer Knap and Increase Thurstin, with their families, settled on the Butternut creek, within the present limits of the county of Otsego, and about twenty miles southwest from the head of the Susquehanna river. There was then no English settlement west of this nearer than Niagara, in Upper Canada, a distance of more than two hundred miles, nor a single white inhabitant, in any direction, within sixteen miles. Various tribes of the aboriginals were still enjoying their possessions throughout this region, in considerable strength and numbers.
Increase Thurstin, Ebenezer Knap, and his wife, were members of a Baptist church previous to the time of the settlement already mentioned. Thus the lamp of civilization was first lighted in this wilderness by Baptists in 1773, who, notwithstanding their isolated situation, were not unmindful of their duty to God, but, immediately after their arrival in this inhospitable wild, commenced the worship of God in their families, and on the Lord's day, by singing, exhortation, and prayer - a noble example for all Christians who form new settlements.
These religions exercises, however, produced no remarkable effect on the unconverted members of those families until the February following, when, one evening, Elizabeth Lull, the daughter of E. Knap, and wife of Benj. Lull, Jun., arose from her bed in great distress of mind, and came down stairs, repeating the following words:
" Shall Simon wear thy cross alone,
And other saints go free?
Each saint of thine shall find his own;
And there is one for me "
"I have lived," said she, "sixteen years, and never had a good thought, spoke a good word, or did a good deed." This made an impression on the mind of her sister Martha, and also on her husband. Thus the work of the Lord began. The father of the family was gone from home, and they had no earthly instructor except their mother. They continued in this exercise of mind until April, when Mrs. Lull and her sister were brought into the liberty of the gospel. In the ensuing summer seven more families moved into the place, and united with the first settlers in their religious meetings. This summer was a comfortable time with them, in the former part of which the wife of Increase Thurstin, together with Caleb Lull, was brought to rejoice in the Lord, and many others appeared under deep exercise of mind.
In 1776 David Fowler, who was a Baptist, and a native with five other Indians, from Connecticut and Long Island, removed to a place called Brothertown, (now in the county of Oneida,) and these persons like wise soon set up a religious meeting. Hence, it appears that the first religious meetings in this extensive territory were established by Baptists: the first at Butternuts, in 1773, and the second at Brothertown, in 1776.
When the war of the American independence took place, the unprotected inhabitants at Butternuts suffered a sad reverse by merciless white men and Indians. Their houses were pillaged and burned, their property all destroyed, and they themselves driven from their endeared homes. But when peace again smiled upon our beloved country, four of these same persecuted families returned to Butternuts, and in the subsequent year established their religions meetings.
In 1787 they were privileged with the occasional preaching of the gospel, and some of the hearers were baptized. In August, 1793, a council, consisting of the elder and delegates from the church in Greenfield, in the county of Saratoga, gave them fellowship as a church in gospel order. They were ten in number, five males and five females. Thus was constituted, in the wilderness, the first church in Butternuts, situate southwesterly from Springfield about thirty-five miles.
Springfield Church, Otsego Co. - In 1789 Elder William Furman became an inhabitant of that place. In February of the same year they were blessed with a revival of religion. In March following Eld. Furman, with twenty more, united with the former nine in covenant, and were thus constituted a church in gospel order. This was a beautiful sight, a glorious day in the desert: this was the first evangelical standard erected in this howling wilderness.
Franklin Church, Delaware Co. - In August, 1792, a revival commenced in the town of Franklin, and continued until January, 1793; and on the fifteenth of the same month the disciples here received fellowship as a church in gospel order. The church lies southwest from Springfield about fifty miles.
Kortright Church, Delaware Co. - In the spring of 1793 there appeared a religious attention among the few inhabitants of Kortright. In July following Eld. Jonathan Gray visited them, and baptized seven converts. These, with three more from Eld. Gray's church, entered into covenant, and received from him the right hand of fellowship as a gospel church. On the 30th of October, 1794, delegates from the churches in Great Harrington and Coeymans assembled in council, and ordained Br. Warner Lake as their pastor. This was the first ordination in this wilderness. Elds. Gray and Mudge officiated in the solemn service.
1st Church, Burlington, Otsego Co. - On the 28th of March, 1794, the first church in Burlington received fellowship of a council, consisting of the elder and delegates from the Springfield church. They were ten in number, and situated northwest from Springfield about twenty-four miles.
2d Church, Burlington. - On the 29th of March, 1794, a number of brethren and sisters in the southern part of Burlington covenanted together as a church of Christ. On the 16th of May following a council from the churches in Butternuts, Springfield, and 1st Burlington, met at the house of Br. Paul Gardner, and after prayer, and due inquiries respecting the faith and practice of the brethren by whom the council was called, gave them fellowship as a. church of Jesus Christ. Their number was nine. From the 5th of April, 1794, to the 18th of May, meetings were frequent, and many gave a relation of their Christian experience. On the 10th of May Eld. Furman baptized twenty-three persons, and on the 29th of June Eld. Caleb Nichols, of Pownal, a minister of the Shaftsbury Association, baptized twenty-eight. The good work continued until October following, when their number was increased to ninety-eight. This church lies southwest from Springfield twenty-eight miles.
3d Church, Burlington, Now Edmeston. - In March, 1793, Brn. Jonathan Pettit and Stephen Taylor set up a conference-meeting, on the Lord's day, in the northwest part of Burlington ; which they continued until May 11, 1794, when a council of delegates, from Springfield and the 1st and 2d churches in Burlington, convened at the house of Br. Timothy Taylor, and, after due examination of the covenant and articles of the brethren and sisters (ten in number) residing in that part of the town, gave them fellowship as a church. This church lies southwest from Springfield thirty miles.
Richfield, Now Exeter Church, Otsego Co. - Richfield church, numbering nine, was fellowshiped June 14, 1794, by a council of delegates from Springfield and 1st Burlington churches. It is situated west from Springfield about seventeen miles.
1st Church in Otsego, Otsego Co. - On the 18th of December, 1794, Eld. Furman and four brethren, being invited, convened and examined the religious character and circumstances of certain brethren in the town of Otsego, twelve in number, and gave them fellowship as a church of Christ, Its location is west from Springfield about seven miles.
2d Church in Otsego, Now Hartwick. - On the 19th of August, 1795, pursuant to a request, delegates from Springfield and Franklin churches convened, and gave fellowship to twelve disciples, (residing in the southern part of Otsego,) aa a church in gospel order. This church lies southwesterly from Springfield about twenty miles.
Otsego Church, Otsego Co. - On the 20th of August, 1795, a council of delegates from the churches of Franklin and Springfield assembled, and gave to twelve disciples in Otego fellowship as a church in gospel order. This location is southwesterly from Springfield about thirty-five miles.
Fairfield & Palatine Church, Herkimer Co. - In 1793 Eld. Joel Butler removed to the Royal Grant, and began to preach to a few scattered inhabitants. The Lord so blessed his labors that, in 1794, a church was organized and received fellowship by Eld. Joseph Cornell, consisting of fourteen .members. This church lies north from Springfield about twenty-two miles.
Church in Norwich, Now New Berlin, Chenango Co. - In 1792 a number of Baptist professors met in conference, and, after suitable inquiries, obtained fellowship of each other, and continued their meetings until the 20th of January, 1794. They then met at the house of Br. Simeon Camp, where Eld. Joseph Craw, and one brother with him, gave them fellowship as a church in gospel order. They were eleven in number. This church lies southwesterly from Springfield about forty-two miles.
Schuyler & Whitestown Church, now embraced in the town of Deerfield, soon lost its visibility.
Church in Charlestown, Montgomery Co. - In this place a number of disciples, at an early period, covenanted together to maintain the public worship of God, and in September, 1793, they received fellowship as a church of Christ, numbering about ten. Eld. Elijah Herrick, who was born in Dutchess Co. 1760, and who was baptized in 1789, at Duanesburgh, commenced preaching the gospel in 1792, and removed to Charlestown in 1794. The following year he was ordained as pastor of the church, where he has continued his labors until the present, with abundant success; and in the mean time has broken the bread of life to the destitute in the surrounding country.
These were the only churches to give light to a vast extent of wilderness; and we have mentioned their distance from a given point, to show their scattered situation, and the necessarily accumulated labors of their first public ministers. For a more full account of the organization of the preceding churches, consult "Rise and Progress ot the Otsego Association," by Elds. A. Hosmer and J. Lawton, 1800. =============
[From John M. Peck and John Lawton, "An Historical Sketch of the Baptist Missionary Convention of the State of New York," 1837, pp. 9-14. Document from Google Books. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]
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