Article 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 following votes.

 
"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 district.
 
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 Durham church.
 
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 red.
5th. That the Trustees shall proceed to and finish the house by the next annual meeting.
6th. That the Pulpit be built on the latest construction, but to be plane and decent.
                            "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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