First Universalist Church of Ellery
Bemus Point, NY


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Baptisms 1919-1946


This history of the Universalist Church of Bemus Point has been compiled from records of Mrs. Edna Myers, Mrs. Mary Jane Stahley, and the secretary records of the church meetings and oral history. Some of these records were kept on loose pages and not all are now available.

The First Universalist Church of Ellery was organized by Lewis C. Todd, the first pastor, and the following twenty-three members: Elias Scofield, Cabel Todd, Asa Hall, Joseph Strong, Samuel Ayers, George W. Barnhart, Isaac Young, Henry Dayton, Joseph Hovey, Daniel Shears, Abijah Clark, Chas. Hayward, Nathan Eddy, Bella Todd, Nathaniel Cottman, Brown Tayler, Stephen G. Burnell, Elias Clark, Lewis C. Todd, Clark Winsor, Timothy Rowley, David Young, and Philo Hopson. These members met on October 3, 1817, at a meeting held in School District No. 1 (the Weaver School) to organize a church by the name and title of the "First Universalian Society in the County of Chautauqua".

They drafted a compact, to support and abide by, made up of four articles as follows:

Article l: The first meeting of the society shall be on the second Monday in October, 1817, and annually on the same day thereafter at such place as shall be agreed on at a previous meeting.

Article 2: The business shall be to elect one or more trustees, who are to take charge of the concerns of the society; and make choice of a clerk who shall record their proceedings in a book provided for that purpose.

Article 3: The said trustees shall have power to call a special meeting of the society at such time and place as shall by them thought most proper and be given in writing at least six days previous notice of such meeting.

Article 4: Seven members when present shall constitute a quorum, and a majority at such meetings shall decide all matters relating to the society.

On June 13, 1832, a meeting was held in the Weaver School House in the Town of Ellery. Members present at this meeting were: Jared Nicholson, Abijah Clark, Phillip Phillips, Alanson Weed, Elias Scofield, Orin Story, Peasly Young, Lewis C. Todd, Elias Clark, Nicholas Thumb and James Hamon.

It was voted that Alanson Weed and Abijah Clark serve as trustees and that this meeting form into a society by the name of the "First Universalian Society of Ellery". The two trustees were to serve until the second Wednesday in January 1824, the next annual meeting; also, that the trustees be the proper person to receive members into the society until the next annual meeting. The trustees were to be a committee to correspond with other societies in this county and make arrangements respecting the ordination of Lewis C. Todd.

The society held yearly annual meetings in 1823 -- 1824 -- 1825 -- in the District No. 1 School House. In 1826 they met at the home of Abijah Clark On December 25, 1828 a deed was recorded where Wilhem Willink, Wilhem Willink the younger, Cornelia Hollenhoven, of the Holland Land Company, Kingdom of United Methodist Lands by their attorney, David Evans, gave Gospel Lane to Alanson Weed, Elias Scofield and Abijah Clark, trustees of the Universalist Society of Ellery. This parcel of land was located on the north center boundary line of Lot 36, and contained 33 acres (on the Luce Road, Town of Ellery). This deed was not recorded until October 9, 1858.

On July 6, 1839, the society met at the school house at Ellery Center and voted to build a house of worship at Ellery Center providing sufficient funds could be raised. Orry Wood, Philander Baldwin, Thomas Copp, Elias Clark and Milchent Thumb, were to serve on the building committee. They also voted that the said meeting house, when built, should be a Universalist Meeting House, have free seats and be used free by all other religious denominations when not occupied by the Universalist Society.

On August 15, 1840 the society again met at the Ellery Center School House and Orren Wood, Philander Baldwin, Thomas Copp, Elias Clark and Milchent Thumb were still on the building committee.

On January 23, 1858 the society met at the Bemus Point School House. Abijah Clark was elected trustee for two years and John Burbanks was elected trustee for three years.

A motion was made and carried directing the trustees to prepare and circulate a subscription paper for the erecting of a meeting house and to find on what terms a site could be obtained and also to find out whether the Gospel Land acquired December 25, 1828, and still owned by the society, could be sold.

At this time the following persons were enrolled as members of the society: E. D. Strong, Clark Windsor, John R. Russell, John Burbanks, Lucy Jane Strong, Susan C. Hazeltine, Tryphena D. Arnold, Julia A. Burbanks, Mary D. Arnold, Phoebe Shedd, Charles Bemus, Abijah Clark, Luther C. Jones, Edward B. Arnold, Lois M. Strong, Helen M. Copp, Annett D. Phillips, Hannah Russell, Relief Burbanks and John Arnold.

The society met February 20, 1858 at the Bemus Point School House. The trustees reported that $700 had been subscribed for the erection of a Meeting House. The trustees were instructed to contract for the building of a Meeting House at Bemus Point, 32 X 44 feet including a belfry and steeple. Simon Smiley, John Arnold and L. C. Jones were elected to work with the trustees on the building committee.

In four weeks, March 20, 1858, they again met at the Bemus Point School House, and changed the size of the house to a building 26 X 50 feet. The trustees were given the power to sell the Gospel Land, also, contract for the new foundation and the building of the house. L. C. Jones was to exhibit the plans for the new house.

A warranty deed dated June 26, 1858 was recorded at Mayville, October 9, 1858 from John Burbanks, John Russell and Abijah Clark, trustees of the Universalist Society of the Town of Ellery, conveying the Gospel Land to E. Darwin Strong, in consideration of $660.

On September 4, 1858 the Society met at the new meeting house at Bemus Point which would seat four hundred persons.

The church was dedicated Wednesday morning, September 15, 1858. The service commenced with presentation of a copy of the Bible to the society by Rev. E. W. Reynolds, on behalf of the ladies, and a response by the Rev. Isaac George as pastor of the church. The dedicatory sermon and prayer were pronounced by the pastor, assisted in the accompanying services by Rev. W. W. Reynolds. The religious exercises were continued until Thursday afternoon. Two discussions being delivered by Rev. E. W. Reynolds and the same number by Rev. O. B. Clark of Busti. Meetings for social conference and prayer were held Wednesday a.m. and Thursday a.m. The congregation attending these services was very large, greatly exceeding the capacity of the church, and an extraordinary interest and zeal characterized the occasion.

The trustees were instructed to see about procuring land for the purpose of building sheds. At the January 11, 1869 meeting it was voted and carried that the trustees be empowered to lease land for the Society and to build sheds.

At the October 1858 meeting the treasurer reported the subscribers in Ellery had paid $665.50 and those in Harmony $90.67, plus $20.00 worth of lumber given. This with the $660 received for the sale of the Gospel Land made a total of $1,406.17 received plus the lumber.

The Society paid A. A. Price for building the church $1,293.32: paid L. C. Jones $84.00 which included $1.00 for drawing plans, drawing specification $2.00, surveying and deed on the building site $1.50, going to Mayville $1.00, writing E. Darwin Strong $2.00; paid L. C. Manley $15.00; James Smiley $ .25; L. C. Manley for pulpit $5.00; for lightning rods $5.39; one gallon fluid and blacksmithing $2.14, total expenses $1,405.10, owing L. C. Jones $3.50.

On December 22, 1858, Rev. Isaac George was asked to draft a new constitution and by-laws for the church.

The members of the church for the year 1858 were: John Arnold, Mrs. Polly Arnold, Mrs. Phebe Shed, Miss Lois Strong, Mrs. Jane Copp, Alonzo Arnold, Mrs. Cornelia Hazeltine, John Burbanks, Mrs. R. Burbanks, Mrs. Annette Phillips, Miss Triphena Arnold, Mrs. Abijah Clark, John R. Russell, Mrs. H. Russell, C. D. Strong, Mrs. Jane Sacket, Abijah Clark, Jonas Underwood, Mrs. Jonas Underwood, Mrs. Amy Newberry, Miss Emeline Thumb, Miss Almona Tredway and Mrs. Alonzo Arnold.

On July 9, 1859 the trustees were authorized to alter the church so as to bring the entry into the main audience room and also to raise the seats in the gallery if they should think it advisable.

At the January 12, 1861 meeting a new preamble and constitution was adopted and contained seven articles. The officers of the church were to be a pastor, two deacons, and a vestry of three discreet men.

A deed was recorded at Mayville on April 17, 1869. The date on the deed is October 14, 1868 and being part of lot 39, township 2, range 12, from L. Alonzo Felton and Mary Caroline, his wife, of the Town of Ellery, to Joseph Phillips, C. R. Horton, Martin T. Copp, trustees of the First Universalist Society of Ellery. Consideration of $1.00. This land goes to the shores of Chautauqua Lake and contains one third of an acre, more or less. John Smiley was the Justice of the Peace, present at the signing of the deed. In 1873 the church property was valued at $5,000.

In the May 7, 1881 meeting the Society received rent for the parsonage and Rev. Isaac George was the pastor. Rev. George was probably the second pastor of the church.

In January 1883 the Society met at the church but the Cemetery Society was also meeting at the same time so the Church Society adjourned to the residence of Mr. John S. Bemus for their meeting.

At the September 28, 1907 meeting the members voted to transfer the money from the "Old Dramatic Club" to the church fund and use it to pay the expense of repairing the church roof.

At the September 27, 1913 meeting a discussion ensued about renting the church for moving pictures of which no action was ever taken.

At the October 3, 1914 meeting the new minister, Mr. W. G. Price, from Mayville, was present. In the new business, a discussion on having the church wired for electric was held but nothing was decided.

On October 27, 1914 after preaching a week and three nights, the new minister, Mr. W. G. Price organized the church and took into the church the following twenty new members: John Cheney, Edith Cheney, Martha Cheney, George Phillips, Florence Phillips, Seldon Phillips, Gertrude Phillips, Ellen Griffith, Pauline Cooper, Mary Cooper, Martinette Drayton, Eva Rexford, Vellonia Rappole, James Kellogg, Blanch Kellogg, Sumner Cowden, Jessie Cowden, J. J. Lenhart, Dora Lenhart, Charlotte Lenhart, and Mrs. Annette Phillips and Miss Tryphena Arnold who were both members of the old society.

James Kellogg, John Cheney and George Phillips were appointed to draft a new constitution.

November 20, 1914 the new constitution was adopted and the organization of the church took place, the church to be known as the First Universalist Church of Bemus Point continuing The First Universalian Society of Ellery, which was organized October 13, 1817.

In November, 1914 the members voted to belong to the State Convention of Universalists.

By the fall of 1915 electric had been installed in the church at a cost of $49.00

On June 6 - 7, 1917 the 85th annual session of the Niagara Association of Universalists, was held in the Universalist Church at Bemus Point, N. Y. This was also the one hundredth anniversary of the Bemus Point Church.

Rev. Walter Taylor came to Bemus Point as the pastor of the church for one year, April 1, 1919. In October 1920, the parsonage was to be repaired so that Rev. Taylor could use it rent free. New plumbing, heating system and new electric was installed. On June 1, 1921 Rev. Taylor left to become pastor of the Brooklyn Church.

In 1923, Rev. King, Mrs. Mari King, and George Johnston were appointed delegates to the State Convention.

November 21, 1934 it was decided to build a garage, 12 X 20 X 8 large enough for one car and for some storage space. The sides of the garage were to match the church as it was located on the back of the parsonage lot close to the church. This garage was built at a cost of $199.00.

In November, 1936 Rev. Walter Taylor returned to the church, and when possible, served the church until his death on October 6, 1947.

At the October 25, 1953 meeting the treasurer reported $1,228.00 in the bank. a notice was read from the Episcopal Diocese of Buffalo who wished to purchase the church property for the sum of $10,000. No action was ever taken.

The church and parsonage are still owned (in 1975) by the Church Society. Members of The Church of God, with their pastor, LeRoy Apotosh have used this church for their home of worship since 1962.

About 1980 the property was given to the Lakeside Bible Chapel. Pastor Clyde Mohl and wife, Linda, graduates of Eloheim Bible Institute moved into the parsonage with their three sons. Pastor Mohl started his pastorate in June of 1980.

Materials compiled by the late Doris W. Carlson, Town of Ellery Historian.


SOURCE: Loraine C. Smith, Town of Ellery Historian. 2002.