Article 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 Society:"
 
"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 aforesaid.
 
"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 next."
 
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.
 

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