Methodism in Windham
From a newspaper article, dated December 6, 1934, presumably from the Windham Journal. Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin
Thanksgiving week 1934 marked the celebration of 125 years of Methodist service in the town of Windham. In co-operation with the Hensonville and Ashland parishes, North Settlement and Windham churches participated in the week’s activities.
The supper at Windham, Tuesday, November 27, and program of “Former Pastor’s Night” were well attended, also proved interesting, inspiring, and enjoyable. The messages read from former pastors who were absent brought messages of encouragement and cheer.
The service in Windham Methodist Episcopal Church, Sunday morning, December 2, will long be remembered by the large congregation, at which time Dr. J. W. Chasey, superintendent of Kingston district, and Francis J. McConnell, resident bishop of the New York area, were present. Special music by a combined choir augmented the program.
Dr. Chasey, district Superintendent, prior to his introduction of Bishop McConnell, congratulated Rev. R. Don Ocheltree, and all present upon the splendid occasion and the presence of Bishop McConnell who would deliver the address. The Bishop’s discourse included much of historical data of Methodism, interspersed with anecdotes and entertaining experience of the pioneers and organizers of Methodism in the U. S. A.
(The following was prepared by Donald F. Munson)
Old Windham consisted of all the land west of the “summit of the mountains” to the Delaware line, or what now is in the towns of Windham, Ashland, Prattsville, Lexington, Jewett and Hunter.
Settlement of this territory began about 1786 by people, mostly form Connecticut, who were from Puritan stock and were as a class a hardy, industrious, patriotic, Christian people. They soon made this country to “blossom as a rose.” With a virgin forest of hemlock and plenty of water-power, industry soon started in the form of tanneries and sawmills. Grist mills followed with the clearing of the land for the plow. Still later other forms of manufacturing were started. In less than twenty years, every farm was occupied, the wheels of industry were turning, taverns and hotels filled with travelers, and the route from the west was through here to the Hudson River. The Hudson then was the sole means of transportation and shipment. By it, this manufacturing and enterprising country was made and maintained, till the coming of the railroads some fifty years later.
This then was the country in which Methodism was to gain its foothold. The first settlers were of different denominations and naturally they wanted to see their different faiths established in this new country. They first had traveling preachers of their faiths stop at their homes for worship. Later services were held at schoolhouses and taverns. These services were largely attended, with the people coming to spend the whole day, the services being held in the morning and afternoon. This custom was continued even after the building of churches and meeting-houses.
Windham was a part of the Albany Circuit in 1805, with the M. E. Church at Coeymans, as the Mother Church, and its is supposed that the church at East Jewett was also connected with it. This Circuit also covered a part of Delaware County. Methodist itinerant preachers first came to this locality about 1807 and classes with class-leaders were soon formed. Circuit preachers were then appointed to make regular trips. Thus we have the formation of different Churches and societies. A Quarterly Conference of the Albany Circuit was held in Windham Dec. 17, 1811, according to Albany Circuit records.
The first M. E. Church to be built was the one at North Settlement in 1826. The following year a quarterly conference was held there. The minutes of which follows:
Minutes of a Quarterly Conference of the M. E. Church, held on Durham Circuit, Windham Meeting House North Settlement, November 16-17, 1827. Present: P. Rice, Presiding Elder; Moses Amadon and David Poor, Circuit Preachers.
Ques. 1. Are there any appeals? Answer. None
Ques. 2. Are there any licenses to be renewed? Answer. None.
Resolved by a vote of this meeting that the Circuit Preachers of the Durham Circuit divided the Circuit into districts and a Steward to be appointed to each division to visit the several classes in their districts to stir up the Brethren to be more liberal in the support of their preachers.
Resolved by a vote of this meeting to appoint two more Circuit Stewards. John Elton and
Ezera Disbrow were accordingly elected.
Charles Chase, Sec’y
presiding Elder expence $0.50
Moses Amadon expence 1.12
David Poor expence 1.00
Presiding Elder’s salary 5.00
There can be no doubt that this Resolution worked well for from then on the different class-leaders, with their collections, made regular reports. These collections were divided with the Circuit Preachers and the Presiding Elder, but they did not receive more than was due them for the quarter. The circuit paid for the shoeing of their horses besides certain table expenses.
Some of the early stations and classes mentioned in the early minutes are: North Settlement, East Kill (East Jewett), East Hunter, Westkill, West Hunter, Osbornville (Windham), West Settlement, Mitchell Hollow, Scienceville (Ashland), Huntersfield, Lexington Flats, Johnson Hollow, West Windham, Lower Settlement Windham, Bailey’s Corner (Hensonville), Ferris Hollow, Disbrowville, Fuller’s Schoolhouse, Moresville (Grand Gorge), West Hollow or Sutton Hollow, and Bell’s Schoolhouse.
These classes with their leaders were formed from about 1800 to 1835. Some of these classes had a membership of nearly 100. It can clearly be seen that they were well distributed in the community because Methodism was readily being accepted by the settlers. Where the classes were the strongest we have the first churches built.
North Settlement M. E. Church built 1826.
West Settlement M. E. Church built 1832.
East Jewett M. E. Church built 1833.
Windham M. E. Church built 1837.
Ashland M. E. Church built 1843.
Jewett Heights M. E. Church built in 1848.
Hensonville M. E. Church built in 1874.
The census of 1875 shows that in Greene County there were in the Methodist denomination 32 organizations, 31 edifices, and a membership of 2689.
A religious census of the three parishes, Hensonville, Ashland and Windham, made in 1933 shows: 3 parsonages and 6 churches valued at $45,000 with 931 members and communicants.
Briefly, this is a history of Methodism in Windham. We, as Methodists, take great pride in what has been accomplished by these good people, many of them our forefathers. Their work is done; for us—the future is still before us.
Ritchie Don Ocheltree, B. D., Minister
Clarence W. Hunter, Minister
Charles E. Hewitt, Minister
Willis W. Bentley,
Mrs. K. M. Cole, Hugh Lee, Donald F. Munson,
Ray Rivenburg, William E. Sutton, Roger Sweet,
Abner Woodworth and the Ministers.