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THE BEMUS POINT UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Town of Ellery, Chautauqua County, N. Y.
Old church built - 1897/98. New church built 1975.
(Materials include the old church on Maple Street, Bemus Point, NY and the new church located on the Bemus Point-Ellery Center Road, Bemus Point, NY)
The first Methodist preacher in the Town of Ellery was Rev. Mr. Daniels from the Genesee Conference.
The first Methodist Society in the Town of Ellery was organized on November 1, 1821, at the home of Joseph Loucks, building their first church at West Ellery in 1836.
On May 24, 1860, a meeting was called at the West Ellery Church for the purpose of selling the Gospel Lot, to create a building fund with which to build a new church and a parsonage. Although there seems to have been some difference of opinion where to build the new church, the church was built at West Ellery, but the parsonage was built at Bemus Point.
On October 26, 1863, the members agreed to pay the amount opposite their names to the trustees of the church, Robert Lazell, Alonzo Felton and P. R. Brownell, on or before January, 1864, to pay the balance due for building the church at West Ellery. Thirty-nine members signed up to pay amounts varying from five to fifty dollars.
On January 23, 1871, notice was given that the annual meeting of the Methodist Episcopal Church of the Town of Ellery would be held at West Ellery Church, Thursday, May 12, 1875, at 6 o’clock for the purpose of electing two trustees and any other business as shall come before said meeting. At this meeting two trustees for the parsonage were elected, this being the first separation of officers of the Bemus Point Society and the West Ellery Society.
In 1885, a gentleman by the name of Puddy came to Bemus Point for the winter. He organized the first Sunday School and with the aid of Mrs. Merritt, Mrs. Mary Y. Brown and Miss Leva Goodridge, the school was kept alive the following summer.
In 1887, Dr. Earl A. Scofield and Mr. and Mrs. Frank Klock came to Bemus Point. With the aid of the Klocks and others, Dr. Scofield reorganized and developed the Sunday School, which paved the way for the future church at Bemus Point, N. Y.
In 1889, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Flahaven joined the Sunday School and organized the choir. Mrs. Flahaven acted as organist and directed the singing, taught a class and for several years both worked faithful for the building of the school. Dr. Scofield supplied the pulpit whenever he could find a minister. Rev. Harris, the Baptist minister from Ellery Center and Rev. Spring from Fluvanna preached whenever possible. During his vacation Mr. Childs, a student from Oberlin College preached. He organized the Christian Endeavor Society, admitting members of all ages.
In 1893, the Rev. David Skillman who was stationed at Gerry, became deeply concerned about the spiritual condition at Bemus Point. He inspired and persuaded the people to hold a series of special meetings. He brought an evangelist, W. E. Winsor and opened meetings in the early part of March. We cannot forget the stories, the slang, the uncouth expressions that came from the pulpit, but it had the desired effect. When the meetings closed, sixty had confessed the name of Christ.
In 1893, the Church Society was formed with three working members, Dr. Earl A. Scofield and wife, and French Brown with a large class on probation.
Then came the question of church organization. People from the surrounding country came to the lake to live, many already members of other churches, with five different denominations represented. On April 14, 1894, a meeting was held to decide which denomination should be established in Bemus Point. A motion was made by Mr. Henry Flahaven that a ballot be taken with each person writing on a slip of paper their choice. Of the five denominations, the Methodist Episcopal and the Congregational carried the most votes. On the second ballot the Methodist received 13 votes and the Congregational 12 votes. Dr. Scofield, was chairman of the meeting, and decided in favor of the Methodist. At this meeting those who desired to join the Methodist Church entered their names on a slip of paper being fifteen of the original charter members as follows: Dr. Earl Scofield, Mrs. Earl Scofield, Watson Ripley, Mrs. Jennie Ripley, Mrs. Jothan Bemus, Earl A. Norton, May Norton, Gertie Wilcox, Frank E. Scofield, Anna Scofield, J. P. Horton, Mrs. S. H. Brownell, French Brown and the John Skillman’s. Rev. Wilson, from Corry, filled the pulpit the following summer.
The Ladies Home Missionary Society was organized in 1894. There came a time when it seemed the spark of life would go out but God sent Dr. and Mrs. Robertson to Bemus Point, and they saw the weakness, the need and the society more than doubled in members.
Services at first were held in the Universalist Church which at that time had no pastor. Men and women began to recall the Christian teachings of their childhood and sincere interest was aroused in the community.
On September 18, 1894, Samuel T. Davison, became the first regular pastor. The first summer of his pastorate (1895) notice was given by the Universalist that the pulpit would be filled by them during the months of July and August. The following year the same notice was again received. A tent was provided and erected at the home of Dr. Scofield and services were held in the tent until they could again be held in the church. The feeling that the July and August services could not be given up and the knowledge they owned a church site decided the members the time had come when they must have a church of their own. When Rev. J. K. Whippo came in September 1897, plans for raising money were formulated and set in motion.
Several projects were carried out to raise money; church suppers, auctions and ice cream socials were held. The Young Ladies Essential Brigade, organized in 1897, made a bedspread.
This spread was started in 1897 and finished in 1900. It contained 42 white 1 1/2 inch blocks, with a 9 1/2 inch ruffle on three sides. The edge of the spread and ruffle and around each block was feather stitched with red thread. Each member of the Brigade was responsible for the completion of at least one block. People of the community, who wished, for ten cents or more could have their names embroidered in red thread on these white squares. This spread included the names of most of the families living in the Town of Ellery at that time.
When the spread was finished it was sold at auction on March 16, 1900, held at Bemus Heights, the Bemus home. Nathan Arnold acted as auctioneer and the spread was sold to the highest bidder, who was Smith Brownell, for ten dollars and seventy-five cents. This plus the ten cents for each name made a profit of over $85.00 for the ladies. There seems to be no record of just when or how ownership was transferred to Dr. Earl Scofield, probably Mr. Scofield bought it from Mr. Brownell that same night. This spread was used in the Scofield family for many years. In 1966 Mrs. Betty Lawrence, representing the Lucian J. Warren family, gave this spread to the Fenton Historical Society, in Jamestown, N.Y., who are the present owners.
In 1897, John Skillman cut logs from his woods, hauled them to the Phillips Sawmill at Phillips Mills, where they were sawed into lumber which was used to build the first Methodist Church at Bemus Point, N.Y. Dr. Earl Scofield, Earl Norton and John Skillman were the head carpenters with members of the church helping.
In January 1898, the West Ellery Methodist Church was closed to worship and the names transferred to the new church at Bemus Point.
The new edifice at Bemus Point, was dedicated on Sunday, February 13, 1898, with a large attendance, both morning and evening. Rev. D. E. B. Patterson of Jamestown preached the morning service at 10:30. After the sermon, he stated there still was a debt of $1,200. Before the close of the morning services the whole amount was pledged by the efforts of Dr. Patterson, also money for a bell. The total cost for the church and bell was $2,300. On Sunday evening the formal dedication occurred with Rev. Dr. W. P. Graham, Elder of this district, presiding, preaching the dedicatory sermon.
When the first bell was received it was broken. This bell was used, turned up side down, as a flower urn on the church lawn for many years. In 1948, some members wished to remove the bell. By a vote it was decided to let the bell remain. A few years later, Mr. Morgan Sack was asked to remove the bell. There seems to be no available record of just when the second bell was bought, but it was in use before 1923.
October 15, 1922, the part of the church known as the Community House, an addition to the Methodist Church was opened to the public on a Friday evening with a program and a supper. More than 200 guests were present.
This was a high-ceiling room with a bowling alley, a room for basketball, a stage for entertainments with an auditorium which connected with the body of the church with folding doors so that both auditoriums could be thrown into one; class rooms for the Sunday School, a well equipped kitchen and dining room, toilets and shower baths.
A program of music and recitions, arranged by Mrs. A. F. Mallory and brief addresses were made by R. C. Kohn, John C. Cheney and Rev. S. T. Davison, pastor, with prayer by Rev. G. A. King, the new pastor of the Universalist Church.
Until the Bemus Point High School gym was built, this room was used by the school for basketball games and plays. At this time the parsonage was remodeled.
It was not until February 15, 1938, that the 25th anniversary was observed, with Mrs. Jennie Brown writing the church history. Seventy-six persons gave money from $.50 to $2.00 to purchase new hymnals for the church. Sixty-three dollars and sixty cents was received with the books costing sixty-five dollars. Names of those donating to the Hymnal Fund were:
1. Mrs. Perry E. Brown
2. P. DeWitt Brown
3. Florence and DeWitt Brown
4. Lena Haskin
5. Mr. and Mrs. Richard Evans
6. Mr. and Mrs. George Thompson
7. Mr. and Mrs. Asa B. Cheney
8. John C. Cheney
9. Jessie S. Griffith
10. H. J. Griffith.
11. Mrs. Lizzie Scofield
12. Alice A. Babcock
13. Mrs. Grace E. Penfield
14. Dr. and Mrs., Frank S. Barons
15. Ernest Russ
16. Mrs. Ernest T. Russ
17. Hilda Thompson
18. Mr. and Mrs. James Bemus
19. Earl W. Jones
20. Oscar T. Caywood
21. Mrs. Ernest R. Parker
22. Mr. and Mrs. Walter Shepardson
23. Mr. and Mrs. Clark Shanon
24. Mattie Casselman
25. Mr. and Mrs. Frank Skillman
26. Mr. and Mrs. Clark Lord
27. Mr. and Mrs. D. E. Lord
28. Mrs. Edith Putnam
29. Sarah Reynolds
30. Mrs. Bessie S. Kohn
31. Mrs. George Bugbee
32. Selma Hanson
33. Mr. and Mrs. Sherman Skillman
34. Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Skillman
35. Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Lown
36. Mr. and Mrs. Earl Jones
37. Lucille Russell
38. Ida Nelson Johnson
39. Hattie D. Winchester
40. Millie Jones
41. Mrs. Harriett Blackham
42. Mr. and Mrs. Harry Dolan
43. Jack Hazzard
44. Mr. and Mrs. Earl Shepardson
45. Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Shepardson
46. Mr. and Mrs. George Thompson
47. Mr. and Mrs. Richard Evans
48. Mr. and Mrs. Frank Sack
49. Mr. and Mrs. F. L. Peterson
50. Mr. and Mrs. Clifford O. Brown
51. Margaret Bemus
52. Lena Wilson
53. Leah B. Skillman
54. Mary Skillman
55. The Elizabeth Bemus Sunday Class
56. Coralyn Thayer Taylor
The 50th anniversary observance of the organizing of the church 1894 was held on Sunday evening, June 19, 1944. The History of the Church" written and read by Eva Russ and the "Methodist Church in America," read by Mrs. Leah Skillman.
On Sunday, November 30, 1947 the dedication service for the Charles E. Kohn, Memorial Hammond Organ, was given. This organ was a gift of the Sunday Evening Bible Class, in memory of Mr. Kohn, the first Bemus Point veteran killed in action in World War II.
On March 19, 1948, the Sunday Evening Bible Class observed their 10th anniversary with one hundred present in the newly remodeled church.
In October, 1948, thirty-seven men donating their time and labor painted the church and half of the parsonage in one day.
The Junior Class was organized in 1949, by Miss Bessie Hall and continued under the direction of Miss Norine Ward.
On December 8, 1949, the 50th Anniversary of the building of the church (1898) was celebrated. The history of the church was acted out with authentic dress, beards, costumes and as near like the first meeting as possible.
Building the church was portrayed by their version of a Woman’s Society Meeting, working on the original quilt made by the society with the names embroidered on. Mrs. Herman Johnson painted a picture of the church which covered the back of the stage.
The new heating system was first used in the spring of 1949 in the Community House and in the Sanctuary in the fall of 1950.
In December 1950, a money raising project was undertaken. Members and friends were offered the opportunity of buying shares in the church at 3 cents a day per share, the project to run three years. At the half-way mark, the sum of $3,056.64 had been received.
The kitchen was rebuilt and refurnished with a new stove, new basement floor with radiant heat, the washrooms moved upstairs, the dining room remodeled and redecorated, a heating system installed, drapes provided for the windows, all new paint through-out, stained glass windows installed in front in memory of the three past members, Dr. Scofield, John Skillman, and Earl Norton who were the main-stay in building the church. All the work was done by volunteer labor, 1,830 man hours of work beginning November 10, and ending March 19, an average of 12 men, 3 1/2 hours per night, for 38 nights. Each night two women furnished refreshments. In all, about 35 men and 20 women participated in the project, with much of the material donated.
In 1951, a nursery was provided for children while parents attended the worship service.
On Sunday, June 8, 1952, a rededication of the Sanctuary was observed. The history of the church, written by Mrs. Marian Barkstrom was read by Mrs. Bessie Kohn.
Several years ago the "Methodist Church" and the "Emmanuel United Brethern Church", (E.U.B.) were united: the church was renamed, "The Bemus Point United Methodist Church".
Some of the early leaders were: Dr. Scofield for 15 years president of the board of trustees, class leader, teacher and Superintendent of the Sunday School; John Skillman, who was a trustee from the beginning of the organization and president of the trustees eleven years; Rev. David Skillman, Superintendent of the Sunday School, and teacher of the Bible Class. He was an inspiration to all those who knew him; Mrs. Elizabeth Bemus, for nearly 30 years a faithful church worker, 16 years a Superintendent and for longer a teacher, who gave her time and financial support; Mrs. Vina Austin, who was a charter member of the Christian Endeavor Society, the Ladies Home Missionary Society and treasurer of the Sunday School from the beginning and Miss Emily Horton who was always ready to give a helping hand. The Missionary Society and the Ladies Aid eventually were combined into the Woman’s Society of Christian Service.
On September 1974, the 80th Anniversary was observed. The congregation was also busy on a drive to add $75,000 to the $42,000 it had for a new church.
In 1963, two sites were offered the church by Mrs. Bertha Bemus Pitts Olander, only to be eliminated when the State of New York changed its mind about the location of the Southern Tier Expressway, specifying the Bemus Point approach and exit to it. The original site chosen on Bemus Street had already been surveyed at a cost of $3,000, when the state took it over.
On January 23, 1974, Mr. and Mrs. Maurice E. Lown gave a deed, dated November 25, 1973, to Mr. Richard Marks, Chairman of the Building Committee, for two acres of land located on the Bemus Point-Ellery Center Road, about one mile from the village.
In March 1974, Dr. Edgar E. Walker, an experienced fund raiser, and former pastor in the midwest was asked to assist the Fund Raising Committee which was headed by Bruce Colburn.
The new church was completed in September 1975. This church serves not only for worship services but also for community programs such as dinners, nursery school, senior citizens meeting and etc.
On September 7, 1975, the congregation met at 10 a.m. in the old church on 28 Maple Street for the first half of the services, then walked to the new church for the last half of the service with the Pastor Rev. Paul Robinson in charge. Transportation was provided for those unable to walk. There was a coffee hour in the new church at about 11:30 a.m.
On September 13, 1975, a public auction was held at the old church. The building was sold to be torn down. The following was sold: the church pews and cushions, chandeliers, lights, chancel rail, car port, spot light, drinking fountain, carpeting, hymn board, two hot water heat circulators and thermostats, two upright pianos, 40 gallon American Standard gas hot water tank, kitchen cupboards, refrigerator, West Bend coffee maker, roofing, tables and stands, chairs, 14 double fluorescent light fixtures, antique bookcase, 1912 double pulpit chair, antique chest, coat racks, bathroom fixtures, cast iron radiators, clocks, picture frames, flower stands and other miscellaneous items. The auctioneer was Robert W. Matson, Sale Mgr. by Zahm and Matson Inc., of Falconer, NY. This old church was torn down in 1975-76.
A Consecration Service for the new church was held on November 8, 1975, with Bishop Yeakel attending.
On March 24, 1976, the church steeple was lifted to the church roof. Mr. Clayton Anderson, a member of the church, directed the steeple raising.
In March 1977, Rev. Dr. Edgar Walker and his wife, Alice, again came to Bemus Point, to lead the building crusade. Pledges were sought to pay off the church debt. Rev. Dr. Walker is from the office of Finance and Field Service National Division, Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. He has led more than 170 financial crusades.
In 1979, the bell from the old church steeple was placed on a brick foundation in front of the church so that its chimes can be heard again as it was for so many years in the village of Bemus Point.
This new church has a greatly enlarged sanctuary with stained glass windows made in part from the stained glass in the old church. It has a large fellowship hall, a large kitchen and six Sunday School rooms, some with removable walls, also a large parking lot.
About May 17, 1979, a dedication for the new Saville Organ, model 7228, was held at 4 p.m., Sunday. Brian Bogey, the organist and choir director at First Lutheran Church, Jamestown, gave a program including the works by Bach, Peeters, Widor, Pachabel, Buck and Purvis. Mrs. Barbara Henry is the present organist (1979).
The Rev. Paul E. Robinson has been the leader during the building of the new church. He became a minister in 1972. He is a native of central New York, born in Syracuse on May 4, 1945. In 1962, he was an AFS student on the summer program to Bolos and Canea, Greece. In 1967, he graduated from Lycoming College, in Williamsport, Pa., with having spent his Junior year as an exchange student in Gottingen, Germany. In 1972, at Washington, D.C., he began his theological education at Wesley Theological Seminary. Following graduation with a Master of Divinity, with Mrs. Robinson, the former Eleanor Budd, and their infant son, Andrew, them moved to Basel, Switzerland, where he served to German-speaking United Methodist Churches for one year. In the last part of June 1972, Mr. Robinson came to Bemus Point. They have a daughter, Martha, born in 1973.
Since the Bemus Point Methodist Church was organized in 1894 the pastors have been:
1894.................................Samuel T. Davison
1895.................................R. A. Parsons
1897-98-1900..................H. K. Whippo
1898-1899........................L. H. Bugbee
1900-1902....................... J. S. Kittell
1904-1904........................J. H. Secor
1905.................................H. C. Millington
1906-1908........................L. M. Barnard
1909-1910........................G. M. Strothard
1911.................................C. T. Greer
1912-1914........................G. B. Carr
1918.................................C. M. Woodmansee
1919-1922........................C. S. Robertson
1921-1922........................ S. T. Davison
1922-1924........................C. A. Williams
1925-1926........................J. L. Buck
1927-1928........................J. W. Frampton
1929-1934.......................E. M. Jones
1935-1936.......................E. V. Rupert
1937-1939......................C. S. Aldrich
1940-1944......................A. C. Howe
1948-1952......................H. L. Knappenberger Jr.
1972-1980..................... Paul E. Robinson
Mrs. Sherman Skillman
Deeds at Chautauqua County Court House
Jamestown Post Journal
Mrs. Betty Lawrence records
Mrs. Georgianna Bugbee Evans records
Claybourne Sampson records
Doris W. Carlson records, Town of Ellery Historian
Rev. Paul E. Robinson.
Fenton Historical Center, Jamestown, NY
Miss Elizabeth Crocker, Chautauqua County Historian
SOURCE: Loraine C. Smith, Town of Ellery Historian. 2003.