History of the Old 
Stone Church
 
Coeymans, Albany County

1791-1885


Contributed by Ron Waldron

Typed copy of a hand-written 20 page Manuscript from 1883. Provided to Ron Waldron by Mrs. Shirley Foster Lowe, 1st Cousin to  Ward Waldron’s wife Anna Vincent [his Uncle & Aunt]. The original document is located in the NY State Library Manuscript & Records Section at Albany: 

History of the Old Stone Church Coeymans, Albany County, New York 1792. By Rev. John Cornish, 1883, while pastor at New Baltimore, Albany County, New York.


“There is a range of mountains running through the town of Coeymans, Albany County, New York with a perpendicular face to the east, varying in height from 260 feet to 500 feet from the level of the Hudson River. Extending back from the eastern face the bluff is a rolling, and somewhat broken country, furnishing an almost infinite variety of scenery, and un..pped out with beautiful farms.” From the base of this cliff, extending eastward to the banks of the noble Hudson, lies a rich alluvial plateau here and there broken by romantic ravines through which babbling brooks flow to the river, which glides on in freedom … By pastoral hills, old woods, and stately towers; Now midst the reeds and golden willows hiding. Now gleaming forth by some rich bank of … Shimmering to cottege and grey hall it’s [waters] low, sweet, unchanged. 

Beautiful residences greet the eye of the beholder on every hand, while the warmth beckons [from] old Dutch barns and reminding one of the days gone by. But a little way off one can see the elegantly equipped West Shore Railway; and as the trains rush by it requires us very great stretch of fancy to apply the prophesy of Nahum, 2: 3, 4: “The chariots shall be with flaming torches in the day of his preparation, and the fir trees shall be terribly shaken. The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall jostle one against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightening.

At the foot of this rugged precipice, extending from which are fertile farms, imposing as well as humble homes, many of them owned by well to do and intelligent Methodists, in the midst of such picturesque scenery, near the two great arteries of our business life, on the old Colonial road, or King’s highway and about midway between Coeymans Landing and South Bethlehem, was built in the year of our Lord 1791 or 1792, the Old Stone Church. At that time this now beautiful and busy region was mostly a waste howling wilderness. Indians were not strangers, and slaves were chattels of the inhabitants. At the “Old Stone Church” they had their black class, the evidence of which I have from class papers dated as far back as 1805, and now in my possession, with others, by the kindness of Miss Moica Ten Eych, who is 91 years of age, in the full possession of her faculties, and for many years a member of the society worshipping at the Old Stone Church. For a long time her father was a Class Leader, and a leading man in the councils of the church. 

The following narrative in substance was told me about eighteen months ago by Brother James W. Jolley, of South Bethlehem, whose father, Rev. F. Hugh Jolley, was one of the earliest members of our society in Coeymans Patent and an active “Local Preacher” for many years. He says that Revd. Freeborn Garretson sent Revd. John Crawford, a devout young man, to “Coeymans Patent” in 1789. He was the first Methodist preacher sent to this region of country. His first effort was to find a place in which to preach the gospel, but as in all first efforts we are apt to meet with disappointments and obstacles, so did this pioneer of the church. At first he was unsuccessful in finding a position from whence he could storm the enemy’s works. Becoming discouraged at this mode of reception he decided to return home. However, before suiting the action to the thought, he wisely betook himself to prayer and sought divine guidance. He sought a retired place by the wayside, within the protecting shade of a forest copse, (said to have been the place where the Old Stone Church eventually was erected), and poured out his heart to God. He became a wrestling Jacob in his petition, pleading so earnestly for divine help and direction, that some ladies passing near (whose names I have forgotten, if they were mentioned,) paused to listen, and found a young man who, to his own mind at least, was in deep trouble, and was actually bringing it to the Lord for solution. They tarried until he had finished, then they made themselves known unto him and enquired as to his trouble. He told them all that had happened, and how he was about to return home, but thought he would first call upon God for help.

They told him to come to their own house; they would open it for service, announce it through the neighborhood, and at their house he could preach. This offer he accepted and that night preached in their home to the people of the surrounding country, who after hearing what had transpired flocked to hear him. The seed fell into good ground – John Crawford stayed to preach “the glorious gospel of the blessed God.”

The kingdom grew, and today in rapturous arrangement we say, “What Hath God wrought?” This is tradition, but if it be true, this was probably the first Methodist service held within the present bounds of the Prattsville District, and John Crawford was the preacher of righteousness.

The following is taken from and (sic.) old Quarterly [Courthouse] Record Book belonging to the Albany Circuit, then Coeymans Circuit, and at present in the possession of the Coeymans Society. “Freeborn Garretson in 1788, assisted by twelve young men, commenced his gospel labors in New York State. On Thursday, May 28, 1789, conference met in New York. John Crawford was received on trial and appointed to the Coeymans Patent, having  a membership of ten whites. At the same conference one other was admitted by the name of John Crawford, and afterwards appointed to Salenda, South Carolina.” How can we harmonize this record with tradition? According to tradition John Crawford could not find a family willing to receive him, or give him the use of a house in which to preach, yet according to the record there were “ten whites,” members of our church, living in the vicinity of Coeymans Patent. Surely the Methodists of those days were “given to hospitality!” Either Crawford could not have found them at first, or they, having moved in from other sections of the country where Methodists lived, and where they had united with them, had become cold and indifferent to the cause through separation from the larger societies, and the lack of pastoral care and instruction.

Again these “ten whites” may have been the membership reported as the result of the first years labor, which in all probability it was. However, from the time that Methodism was introduced into this region, it has continued to thrive. It grew rapidly during the first few years, and gained sufficient strength to begin in 1791 the erection of a substantial stone church. Bishop Asbury about this time in his journal says: “Friday July 29, 1791, I preached to about three hundred people in a barn at Coeymans Patent, the new stone church not being ready. Our society is flourishing in this place.” About thirteen months after this visit he again came to Coeymans Patent and found the church referred to ready for use. In the newly completed edifice he preached from these words: “The eyes of your understanding being opened enlightened; that ye may what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.” Eph. 1:18,19, He was not left to grope his way in the dark on this occasion, but enjoyed the service having the illuminating grace of the Holy Spirit concerning this service, and his immediate departure thereafter, we find in his journal the following entry: “Monday August 20- 1792. – I came to Coeymans and had a degree of light in preaching in the new church on Eph. 1:18,19. After preaching we hastened to Hudson, thirty-two miles. On our way we called on a friend whose wretched wife had made an attempt to poison him and two others by strewing bane on the meat they ate; the dose wrought so powerfully that they threw it up; and so she, Satan and hell, were all disappointed.

I lodged with Brother W___; he and his wife were kind dear souls to me, when sick here last year – now I am well: praise the Lord, O my soul!”

Other entries in the journals of Asbury prove that the church at Coeymans Patent exerted a considerable influence over the community in the very beginning of its existence. Of so much importance was it that he gave it his personal oversight on several occasions previous to 1800. They also give us ideas as to the moral tone of society in our vicinity at that time, it vicissitudes and trials which the man of God must needs pass through for the gospel’s sake, and the vast extent of territory then embodied within the bounds of the Philadelphia Conference, of which this region was then a part. From the journals of Asbury we have transcribed the following entries: “Saturday, July 13, 1793. – We rode to Coeymans Patent; We had a good quarterly meeting. Many newly converted souls testified of the goodness of God, and of the powers of his grace. From thence to Albany with reluctance; the wickedness of the people; but we had a melting season among the preachers from this conference; some will be sent to New Jersey, others to Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. The people of Albany roll in wealth. They have no heart to invite any of the servants of God to their houses. Unless a great change should take place, we shall have no more conferences here. I am tired down with futility and labor, and a great weakness of the body. … I must hasten to Lynn – it may be to meet to … but my days will be short. We hope 200 … have been awakened, and as many conversions in Albany District the past year. Our friends are happy here, not being distressed with divisions in the church nor by war with the Indians as they are to the southward.”

“Friday, Sept. 4, 1795. – We came to Lansingburgh, and thence to Troy; at last we got to Coeymans Patent, weary, sick and faint, after riding thirty six miles.”

“Saturday, Sept 5, 1795. – We were crowded with people. I suppose we had, perhaps a thousand at the Stone Church at Coeymans Patent, and I felt some life and the warmth among them.”

“Sunday, Sept. 6, 1795. – In the morning we had baptism, ordination, Sacrament, and love feast; Some spoke with life of the goodness of God. I gave them a discourse at eleven o’clock, and then went to be with a high fever. Brother Roberts pleased, and, I trust profited the people with a discourse, after I had done.”

Monday, July 8th, 1799. – Rode to Coeymans Landing and then to the stone chapel; here we have the good news of souls converted at prayer meeting. Rode six miles in the rain and damp to Brother Blogett’s upon Hocketuck, Albany County and circuit. Here also I found the labors of Anning Owens had been blessed in the awakening of some young women. Our Congregation was large; I gave an exhortation and a prayer in much weakness of  ?many?. We rode back the same evening a few miles to father Waldron’s.” The place here called “Hocketuck” by Bishop Asbury, is now known as Coeymans Hollow. The old Blodgett house is still standing. Last summer the writer had the pleasure of dining beneath the same roof which sheltered Asbury. On the opposite side of the road, in an oblique direction, to the right, stands our church edifice. Hezekiah D. Brown, who for many years was a leading man, and a class leader in our society at Coeymans Hollow, but is now deceased, left on record the following note: “My mother, under the labors of Anning Owen found Jesus.” May she not have been one of the young women mentioned by Asbury? Furthermore one Sister Elizabeth Scott of our Society in New Baltimore, the widow of Brother Alamson Scott, who for many years was a class leader in this place, and also a trustee of the “Old Stone Church” told the writer that not long since, that her grandfather and grandmother were the first members to join the Methodist Episcopal Church at Coeymans Hollow, namely Thomas Craft, her mother’s father, and Mary Eighmy Shear, her father’s mother. In all probability they were the fruits of Anning Owen’s labors, and among those referred to by the Bishop at the time of his visit there.

“Wednesday, July 10th, 1799. – I rose at 5 o’clock, very unwell; but must needs ride in the heat and dust, over hills and rocks thirty five miles, and came to Crawford’s and Dillon’s about four o’clock; weary as I was, I could not feel satisfied without prayer and exhortation.”

From the “Old Stone Church” Methodism spread to the outlying regions. The circuit preachers were ever on the move; and within a few years of time of the first planting of the gospel seed at the “Patent”, preaching places were established in other parts of our district and elsewhere. Among the earliest ones mentioned in the records of the church and now included in the district were Durham and Scott’s Patent. The following will throw some light on the history of our church at Scott’s Patent and Durham:

“Died, Feb. 2, 1857, in the town of Broom, Schoharie County, N.Y., Abijah Hulbert, aged 89. Brother H. was born in Chatham, born, March 22, 1767. He removed to Albany Co., N.Y., in 1790, and settled in a place now known by the name of Durham, Greene Co., N.Y. He was converted in in 1793, and was appointed leader of a class under the pastoral care of Revd. J. Crawford. In 1796 he removed to Scott’s Patent Hill, Schoharie Co. A class was soon formed, consisting of twelve members, over which he was appointed leader, under the pastoral care of Revd. Robert Green. Here he received license as an exhorter. Brother Hulbert was a warm supporter of religion and all the institutions of the church. He endeavored to train up his children in the way they should go, and he had the blessed satisfaction of seeing them brought to a knowledge of the truth. In his labors as an exhorter he was zealous, faithful and energetic. His piety was deep and practical, and his end was peace. He could say with the Psalmist, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.”

A Methodist for 64 years. #J. Whittaker.”

We find it recorded in the Coeymans church records that the Philadelphia Conference was compromised of four districts, Albany District being one of the four, comprising all north of Ulster County, and the western part of the state of New York. The first Quarterly meeting held on the district of which we have any record was held at Niskanna, December 6th, and 7th, 1800. This place was is a few miles north-west of Albany. William McLaueham was Presiding Elder. Mathias Swain and William Williams were the circuit preachers. From this time down to February 14th, 1829, we have a continuous record of the Quarterly Conferences held in connection with the Albany and Coeymans circuit, as it was called. –To an ?Antiguan? of Methodist love they furnish an interesting study. You may think we have wandered from our subject, and perhaps we have. So do the branches of a tree stretch themselves from the parent trunk, and you must go to the very tips of the tiny twigs to gather the luscious fruit. So have we many lines to follow, and much to gather up lest it be lost to the future. The following is the first entry made in the Trustees Record Book of the “Old Stone Church”:

“April 1, 1793. – This day met at the Stone Church in the town of Coeymans in order to settle and establish and bring such church in order and rank with other churches in the United States of America, and to be a corporate body by themselves. Who was present to set it forth? R Revd. Freeborn Garretson. Who was present chosen to carry on the Meeting? Levi Blaisdell and James Waldron. Who was chosen trustees? James Waldron, Lewis Civill, Withollamus Rowe, Jacob Springstead, Isaac C. ?Huncke?, Ephraim Holbrook, Peter Hogan, Nathan Williams, James Selkirk. Who was chosen clerk? Levi Blaisdell. Who was chosen Sexton? Lewis Civill. He is to sweep the church twenty times in the year. He is to see that there is no damage done to said church and attend to making fire in the stove, the wood to be found [by] him; provide places for all the strangers, he and to have for his services 50 shillings, and to be paid by the members of the Society, Lewis Civill, Sexton, was paid by the clerk.”

The following article of incorporation is recorded in the Trustee’s Book of the “Old Stone Church”:

“Be it remembered that on the fifth day of April one thousand eight hundred and two, appeared before me, John Taylor, first judge of the book of Common Pleas, in and for the County of Albany Jacob Springsted, Samuel Jolley, Samuel Spears, Peter Spawn, and Lewis Civill, being a majority of the Board of Trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the town of Coeymans, county aforesaid, were sworn in pursuance of the act of Legislature of the State of New York, passed on the 5th day of April, one thousand seven hundred and eighty four, for incorporating religious denominations, depose and say that all the annual revenue and income of the said church accruing from real and personal estate does not exceed twelve hundred pounds, and that the following is a true inventory of the estate, real and personal of said church, viz:

One stone church, with the lot on which said church stands. Sworn before me the fifth day of April 1802.

John Taylor,
            Jacob Springsted,
            Samuel Jolley,
            Samuel Spears,
            Peter Spawn,
            Lewis Civill.

Through the kindness of Revd. C. DeVol, M.D. of Albany, I have in my possession a history of Methodism published in New Haven, July, 1830. Some of the pages are missing, and I cannot ascertain the name of the author. On page 345 we obtain the following information:

“In 1789 we had eleven conferences.”

This refers to the sessions held held (sic.) in different parts of the country.

“The fortieth in New York, on May 28th In New York State we had four new circuits, Newbury, Columbia, Coeymans Patent, and Schenectady. In 1807 there were seven sessions of conference held. One of these, the 210th, was held at Coeymans Patent. Bishop Asbury presided. Daniel Hitt was his traveling companion. Among those present at the conference were Freeborn Garretson, Daniel Ostrander, William Thatcher, Dr. Foebus, John Wilson, and Francis Ward. – These with the Bishop and his traveling companion were entertained at the residence of John Ten Eyck, the father of Miss Moica Ten Eyck, before mentioned. Miss Ten Eyck relates the following incident which took place at her father’s house.

“A young man named Curtiss desired to be received into the conference. The Bishop said to him when he presented himself, ‘ You look as though you had not been converted.’ Consequently they did not receive him.”

The Revd. F. Wesley Carhart, D.D., in his book “Four Years On Wheels,” gives us a brief account of matters concerning “The Old Stone Church,” He is the only author who mentions John Bloodgood’s name in connection with the Coeymans ?Cliarage?. Is he not mistaken in this? “When I look up the Old bible, now lying above the other books of my library, and think that for nearly fifty years it was used as the pulpit Bible of “The Old Stone Church”, by Asbury, Garretson, Whatcoat, and by multitudes of others, who fought, died, and are now in heaven, pleasing emotions play about my heart. ++++’The Old Stone Church’ was built in 1792. Revd.  John Crawford was the first Methodist minister ever known in this vicinity, and was preacher in-charge of the Coeymans circuit when the project of building a church here was first conceived. – John Bloodgood followed him and superintended its erection. The Coeymans circuit at that time was one of the old-fashioned kind. I am not in possession of data that will enable me to give the exact extent of this circuit, but think it must have embraced as much territory as is now covered by some of our Annual Conferences. The Stone Church Society was the nucleus of Methodism on the Circuit and the nursery of religion for this section of country. +++ In the year 1807, the New York Conference held its session in this church, Bishop Asbury presiding. The preachers were many in number, and came great distances to attend the Conference. Among other names recorded in the minutes of that Conference may be found the Revd. Freeborn Garretson, a name that will live forever in the memory and affections of saints. Several of the preachers were entertained by “Father” Waldron, of whom Asbury speaks in his journals. Revd. Hugh Jolley a local preacher +++ was one of the first members of the Society formed in this place. +++ The church is now in ruins. The stones that composed the sacred walls are used in fences about the premises. Some parts of the pulpit yet remain. The sounding board, a large block of wood, once suspended from the ceiling above the pulpit, by means of a large iron hook, is now left to decay beneath the shade of a venerable maple. Some of the seats are there, the very seats used at the Conference of 1807. The foundation walls are still standing. The relics challenge respect. I know that in them is little intrinsic value, and yet there is an associated worth, and for that hallowed association they should be preserved.”

This article was written by Dr. Carhart for “The Christian Advocate” when he was a probationer in the Troy Conference. At the time when his book was published, he wrote:

“This church had passed away before my recollection, but the seats made of yellow pine, with great high backs, the sounding board, which was suspended over the pulpit, and other relics of the nobel edifice, remained on the ground in a grove of maples, for many years.”

The relics above mentioned are now gone. So far as we can ascertain, nothing remains but the old pulpit Bible, which Dr. Carhart says is in his possession, and which we trust he will deposit with the New York Conference Historical Society.

(A few years after the above was written I learned that the communion table, some of the Communion service, and one or two of the collection plates, were found, and are in the custody of our church at Coeymans.)

The place where the “Old Stone Church” once stood is now a pasture field. Some of the basal stones of the old building are yet in their places, and one can just distinguish the outline of the structure. Within the enclosure of this outline there have grown up some half dozen graceful and stately red cedars, so that now one would scarcely think that some forty years ago or more, the followers of Jesus here worshipped in the sacred ?presents? of His House. Time, that great destroyer, is fast removing the few remains of this ancient structure. We make a plea to the Methodists of the Prattsville District for a memorial to mark the spot, with a substantial enclosure to protect what remains, and perpetuate to posterity a memory of those hallowed things which have now passed away. We bespeak for it a centennial, to be observed between the years 1889 and 1892, and would suggest that some of the descendants of the first members of the Society be made the Trustees of the fund necessary to carry forward the enterprise, among whom is James W. Jolly. We hope this matter will receive due consideration, and at last become an accomplished fact, one which shall be a credit to the Church, and inspire in every heart more love and regard for it.

Addenda – to article “The Old Stone Church.”

Communion Table –
August 29-1886 – The semi-centennial of the Coeymans Methodist Episcopal Church observed with appropriate services, at the morning service the Rev.d James W. Macumber preached taking for his text Tim.3.11 .. after the sermon the sacrament of the Lords Supper was administered, the communion table was the one used by Bishop Asbury in “The Old Stone Church,” nearly one hundred years ago, and belongs to the family of Elias Holmes.
 

Church Lot -
The building lot embraced three acres, and was donated by Levi Blaisdell, who with his excellent wife Arientie seem to have been the chief promoters of the enterprise.

Time embraced-or Data -
“The Old Stone Church” building was begun in 1791 – It was dedicated 1792, and worshiped in until 1885, when it was abandoned as a church was erected Coeymans.

Rev.d J. Marion Cornish –
At present pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Saugerties, Ulster County – New York.

Dec. 16 – 1905


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