Cairo Methodist Church
Written by Ethel Ruland in 1976
Contributed by April Saccoccio
Retyped by Sylvia Hasenkopf
The earliest religious records of the Cairo (Canton), New York were destroyed by fire. In 1815, there was a Society in Cairo which was under the care of circuit riders. In the obituary of Sally L. Wright Stevens, the earliest written evidence sustained the claim that Methodism was operating in Cairo in 1815. The first Methodist Society in Cairo was composed of Sally Wright Stevens, her husband and a few others who were under the supervision of rev. Daniel I. Wright and Rev. Moriarity who traveled a circuit of 200 miles.
At this time an intense religious life prevailed – customs and habits of people being determined by the religious societies and religious revivals were expected. Much of the population of Cairo was increasing and men and their families were engaged in cutting hemlock bark for the tanneries and shingles from the bark-skinned lumber.
Life being organized around religion, the arm and purpose of every religious society was to erect a "Meeting Place" or church as soon as possible. In 1819 Benjamin Hine deeded a lot to the Methodist Society in Cairo on what is now known as Bross Street. In the same year the first Methodist Church building in Cairo was erected. This building was a simple one story structure. No records of the cost or the year it was dedicated are available. This building was used from 1819 to 1866 when the Baptist Society deeded their church building on Main Street to the Methodist Society for $1000. This building, the present Masonic Temple, was used by the Methodists from 1866-1952. The abandoned building on Bross Street was purchased by Mrs. Maggie Newton van Cott and her husband soon after they had moved to Cairo. She carried on her husband’s business which was manufacturing patent medicines, especially cough drops and cough medicines. After Mrs. Van Cott died the building became the property of Mr. Schermerhorn who used it for a feed store. Mr. Ross Ruland purchased this building from Mr. Schermerhorn and it was used for a time for a town hall voting place and office of the Justice of Peace. Then he added a second story and constructed it into a two family dwelling. Mr. and Mrs. Abram Bonesteel purchased it from Mr. Ross Ruland and made it their home until 1976 when they sold it to Robert Phoenix.
Revivals characterized the Methodist Church from the beginning extending over the period from 1739 until 1900. About the year 1900 the emphasis on social life and higher education offset the spiritual revivals and Christian education was substituted for the revivals. The last big revival in the Methodist Church in Cairo was held during the pastorate of the Rev. Joel Lincoln.
When the revivals ceased about 1910 renovations and improvements in the church began to make the church building more restful and comfortable. Those improvements included new oak pews, electric lighting, central heating, a new church kitchen and eleven memorial windows were installed. Those windows are still in the Masonic Temple, the Masons having purchased the building in 1952, when the Methodists purchased the Presbyterian Church and moved in there. This is the present Cairo Methodist Church building. Other renovations in the Methodist Church were a pipe organ in 1925 costing $2600 including installation paid for by church subscriptions and dedicated by the Rev. John E. Parker. Church Chimes purchased in 1947 during the pastorate of Rev. Donald Keil were placed as a tribute to the memory of the men from Cairo who had served in World War II.
During the Depression 1929-1933, the churches had a difficult task to secede. Many of the Protestant churches closed their doors – the Presbyterian and the Episcopal. The Methodists, with many struggles managed to keep going. Some of the ministers were Rev. Ryan, Hurn, Parker, Chandler, Keil and MacCormac. In the 1930’s the Sunday School Superintendent, Lysander Lennon passed away, leaving the Methodist Church without a Sunday School Superintendent. Rev. Parker acted as superintendent as well as organist and preacher. At this time Rev. Chandler came to the charge of the Cairo and South Cairo Churches. Mrs. Floyd Simpkins realized the need for a superintendent and spoke to Ethel Ruland about this problem. Ethel volunteered to be the superintendent and held this position until 1969 when Fran Cooke took over until 1978 when Marilyn Telga graciously consented to be the superintendent.
From 1941-1950 many activities took place under the pastorate of rev. Donald Keil and his wife Eveline. These activities were held to meet the budget and included hobby shows, flower shows, thrift sales, Easter breakfasts, Community birthday parties, strawberry festivals, bazaars, concerts, candlelight services, Christmas pageants and dinners.
In 1948 the Cairo, Round Top and Acra became one charge for the first time. In 1952 the Presbyterian and Methodists of Cairo voted to form one United Church and use the Presbyterian Church as the place of Divine worship. In 1963 the Methodist Church in Cairo was renovated and painted inside and outside. Three Sunday School rooms were made in the gallery. In 1965 the churches of Acra and Cairo merged. Round Top and South Cairo were put under one Quarterly Conference with Cairo. Rev. William Rogers, from Rocky Hill, Conn., was appointed to serve the three churches. In 1965 the Methodist Church purchased the Presbyterian Manse (the present parsonage) and sold the Methodist Parsonage. The parsonage is the house next to Walker’s Hardware Store owned by Millie Gersback. In 1966 the new parsonage was reconditioned and Rev. Wm. Rogers family moved into this home. The driveway and parking lot were paved in 1970 and central heating were installed in 1973. Also in 1973 a new Allen electric organ was purchased by subscription and in 1974 the current room used as the church office came into being when the pipe organ was removed.