Number Thirty Eight - History of the First Presbyterian Church Con't
Written by Joshua G. Borthwick and originally published
on May 17, 1884, in the Catskill "Examiner". Copy provided
by the Durham Center
Museum and retyped by Annette Campbell
We saw in the last sketch that the efforts of the people in New Durham to
build a new meeting-house was crowned with success in the year 1796---that is
to say, the frame work was erected and enclosed, but for at least five years
thereafter it was without glass in the windows, or any inside walls either of
the ancient style of ceiling or the more modern lath and plastering. It was
also without a pulpit, and as no mention is made of the pews at this early
date, we are inclined to believe that they had none; and so far as paint,
window blinds, stoves, or a steeple were concerned, the house was entirely
guiltless of either and all of these. And yet no doubt it was considered a very
comfortable and "decent" house, compared with the old log building
which had been erected in great haste in the early days of the settlement.
It was built by subscription, and finished only so far as their means would
permit, thus avoiding a church debt, which their posterity have found by sad
experience was an unmitigated evil.
We cannot at this late day give with certainty the exact length of this new
building, but probably it was about fifty-five feet. The width was forty-four
feet, and the posts were twenty-four feet in length. The original frame was of
the best of oak timber and now constitutes the principal part of the frame
work of the present church building.
In 1821 it was removed from its location on the hill to a new site in
"Broadway," on or near the boundary line between the lands of Mr.
John H. Reed and Mr. Robert Crawford. A steeple
and belfry were also built at the front end of the church, which, according to
the fashion of those days, projected considerably beyond the main building,
thus giving them a square room for a vestibule or "lobby," as the
young people called it. Beyond this vestibule there was a long narrow hall
reaching across the front end of the church from which two doors opened into
the audience room of the church. This hall also had two outside doors, thus
giving them three entrances to the building.
In 1851 this building was taken down and re-erected on its present foundation
in the village. The steeple was modernized and an addition built on the rear,
so that now the building is sixty-four feet in length while the width and
height remain as originally constructed. Thus this building had a history of
twenty-five years on the hill, thirty years in "Broadway," and has
continued thus far in its present location thirty-three years.
Feb. 6, 1797, the people held their first society meeting in the new
meeting-house and adopted the following "Articles of Agreement between
the subscribers for the support of a preached Gospel in New Durham
"1st. That the meeting be holden at the Request of twelve of the
Subscribers to a Justice of the Peace of the County of Albany who is hereby
Empowered to call a meting in order to choose a Treasurer, Trustees and
transact any other Business Necessary to be done at the Meeting.
"2nd. Said Treasurer shall be empowered to Receive all Moneys raised for
the use and benefit of the subscribers.
"3rd. That a Collector to appointed annually to Collect all moneys
Doned or Subscribed, and to pay said money into the Treasury. And said
Collector shall be entitled to Lawful fees after the second time of calling
for said moneys.
"4th. That no one hereunto subscribing shall be holden to pay any longer
than to Conclude the year in which he, she or they manifest by a Certificate
Lodged in the Society Clerk's office that they cannot conveniently attend Public
Worship with said Society.
"5th. That the Trustees be Empowered to Draw all moneys raised for
the use of the Society out of its Treasury and lay it out for the support of
the Gospel at the Direction of the Major part of the subscribers usually
attending on meetings lawfully warned.
"6th. That all moneys raised as heretofore agreed upon shall be Collected
and paid into the Treasury by the first day of December, annually, unless
altered by a Majority of the Subscribers personally attending then warned as
"7th. We, the Subscribers, promise to pay annually unto the
Collector or Collectors chosen aforesaid, at the above specified time, the
several Sum or sums affixed to Each of our Names. In witness whereof we have
hereunto set our hands---this assignment to begin on the first day of June
To these Articles of Agreement we find the names of 204 subscribers, who
pledged themselves to the amount of 151 pounds sterling, 6 shillings, to be
paid annually for the support of the Gospel. These pledges range in sums from
3 pounds sterling, signed by Phineas Canfield, down to 2
shillings. But as these names cannot be of interest to the general reader we
will not take the space to transcribe them here. If any of the Durham people
request it, they can be produced in due time.
On the 13th of April, 1797, they met in society meeting and after calling Mr.
Jairus Chittenden to the chair and electing Ezra Jones
clerk, they chose Jonathan Baldwin treasurer, Daniel
Brown, Francis Wilcox and Benjamin Chapman
trustees, and Leverett Chittenden and Dan Cornwell
collectors. They also voted to "hold the annual meeting of the Society on
the second Monday in December at the meeting-house."
June 5, 1797, they held an adjournment meeting and voted "that the Trustees
are directed to hold open Contributions every Sunday for the Support of the
Gospel;" also leaving it "discretionary with the Committee to
Procure Preaching until our Annual Society meeting." This brings us to
the advent of Rev. Jesse Townsend, their first pastor.