Number Thirty Nine - History of the First Presbyterian Church Con't
Written by Joshua G. Borthwick and originally published
on July 19, 1884, in the Catskill "Examiner". Copy provided
by the Durham Center
Museum and retyped by Annette Campbell
Early in the Autumn of 1797, Mr. Townsend came and
preached and labored among the people with so much acceptance that at the
regular meeting of the Society held Dec. 11, of that year, they after
electing Daniel Brown, Francis Wilcox, Benjamin Chapman, Jonathan
Pratt and Benjamin Bidwell Trustees, passed the
"6th. Unanimimously agreed in the wish to give the Rev. Mr.
Townsend a call to Settle with us in the Gospel Ministry."
"7th. That Joseph Hart, Daniel Kirtland, Daniel Merwin,
Francis Wilcox, Jonathan Pratt, Jonathan Baldwin, Lemuel Hotchkiss, Ezra
Post, and Daniel Brown be a Committee to join the
Church Committee in giving the Rev. Mr. Townsend a call to
settle with us in the work of the Gospel Ministry and they are hereby
authorized to offer him three hundred and thirty three dollars and thirty
three cents, and thirty cords of wood as a yearly salary."
"Attest. Ezra Jones, Clerk"
It appears that Mr. Townsend accepted the call thus made
and was installed June 21, 1798, and continued his labors until near the
close of 1809 or about twelve years. He is spoken of as a very plain
appearing man, of rather slender build, and an excellent pastor. His sermons
were very clear and instructive, and the remark was made by one who enjoyed
his ministry many years after he left Durham that "Mr. Townsend
was never tedious, like many old ministers, but said what he had to say and
that was the end of it." He was a laboring man and cultivated a
small farm, the avails of which with his salary enabled him to live very
comfortably. He was a graduate of Yale College, and directed the preparatory
studies of Elihu W. Baldwin, D.D., who afterward entered
the same institution. During his ministry 174 members were received into the
church and 232 children were baptized. From Durham he removed to Madison,
Madison County, NY., and on the 4th of Jan., 1811, this church voted letters
of dismission and recommendation to that church for Anne his wife and Edward
Selton, his son. January 20, 1811 the church also voted to comply with
a request made by the church in Madison to "send their Pastor and a
delegate to assist" in his installation over that church, Deacon
Jonathan Baldwin was appointed and David Baldwin
was his alternate. After laboring several years in Madison, Mr.
Townsend moved to Palmyra, NY, and from there to the State of
Missouri where he died at about eighty years of age.
There were some matters of interest which took place while Mr.
Townsend was the pastor, that deserve notice in passing. The matter
of furnishing thirty cords of wood yearly, for the pastor was an undertaking
that required considerable engineering, notwithstanding the abundance of
that article. Accordingly at their annual meeting held Dec. 10, 1798, they
appointed James Utter, James Baldwin, David Baldwin, Martin Kirtland
and Daniel Coe, "Wood Committee."
These five men lived in separate neighborhoods of the society and we suppose
that it was the business of each to secure six cords of wood from his
They also voted "that the Northwestern People, provided that they come
forward and give the Trustees of this Society, security for one-sixth part
of the salary for the year ensuing, they shall be entitled to one-sixth part
of the preaching for said term of time." They also appointed Seth
Coe "to be Collector for said Northwestern People."
Attest. Martin Kirtland, Clerk"
A resolution similar to this was passed year after year, and it was the
initiatory movement which finally culminated in the formation of the West
At their annual meeting held Dec. 9, 1799, they appointed Ichabod
Spencer, Jonathan Baldwin, Bela Strong 2nd, Bill Torry and Gideon
Chittenden "to inspect the young people on the Sabbath."
This was the commencement of the reign of the "Tything Men"
whose business it was to keep order among the young people in church. At
this meeting they also changed the time of holding the annual meeting to the
second Monday of November.
Jan. 30, 1801, they held an adjourned meeting and voted as follows:
1st. Capt. Lemuel Hotchkiss chosen moderator.
2nd. That it be left discretionary with the Trustees to finish the Meeting
house in the best and cheapest manner they can.
3rd. That the house be ceiled as high as the windows, and the walls and
overhead be lathed and plastered.
4th. That the house be glazed and painted, the body to be white and the roof
5th. That the Trustees shall proceed to and finish the house by the next
6th. That the Pulpit be built on the latest construction, but to be plane
"Attest, Martin Kirtland, Clerk"
It appears that the people of those days did not have a very exalted opinion
of Quartette singing, much preferring the Psalmist's idea, "Let all the
people praise Thee," and it also appears that there was no lack of
people who were willing to use their voices in God's worship. On the 9th of
Nov. 1801 "Jonathan Baldwin, Bela Strong, Samual Cooley,
Charles Kirtland, Stephen Stocking, Benoni Austin and Frederick
Pratt were chosen Choristers."
Sept 2, 1802, they met at the church for the purpose of selling the Pews,
and voted "that the Pew No. 2, at the lest of the Pulpit be
appropriated for the use of the Ministers family forever."
"That the Trustees bid off the Pew for the Minister."
"That the remainder of the Pews be sold to the highest bidder, and that
James Thompson, Esq., be chosen Vendue Master, and that the
singers shall have a seat in the front and side gallerys without interruption."
The galleries extended round on three sides of the house and the pews were
square boxes with high surroundings and each entered by a door. The naughty
boys called them "sheep pens," and I suppose that the doors were
about as musical and perhaps more useful than the present ones are. The pews
sold that year for $644.00; Capt. Charles Johnson paying
the highest: to-wit $28.00 for Pew No. 8, James Utter $27.25,
Jonathan Baldwin $27.00, Robert Field $26.50,
Lemuel Hotchkiss $25.00, etc.
In 1806 they took measures to procure grounds for a Cemetery, and appointed Benjamin
Chapman, James Thompson, and Lemuel Hotchkiss a
committee to secure a suitable site therefore which resulted in the choice
of a location on the hill near the Meeting House. The grounds were neatly
laid out by David Baldwin into 126 lots, which were sold
for one dollar each, but since the removal of the church there have been no
burials there and the place is greatly neglected.
At the annual meeting in 1806, Thos. E. Barker, Mod., and John
Adams, Clerk, they voted "That a committee be appointed to
ascertain whether it is necessary to procure an Act incorporating the Durham
Ecclesiastical Society, and it found it necessary to procure the passing of
such act. That Thos. E. Barker, James Thompson and John
Adams compose the aforesaid committee."
It appears that such an act was passed and at a meeting held March 9, 1807
they reorganized the Society by choosing six Trustees, giving this Society a
corporate name, viz: "The First Presbyterian Society in Durham,"
and changed the time of the Annual meeting to the first Monday in March. Jonathan
Baldwin who had so long been Treasurer, was chosen Clerk and Benjamin
Chapman, Treas. These two splendid men were the Deacons of
the church since the death of Deacon Lord and the removal
of Deacon Hart.
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