United Methodist Church

Of Catskill, N.Y

Transcribed Arlene Goodwin from a booklet located in the Catskill Public Library. Published by the United Methodist Church


From the Beginning … A Brief History

The United Methodist Church in Catskill is the child of "the first Methodist Church west of the Hudson", the Mother Church at Coeymans, founded by John Crawford in 1791 under the superintendency of Freeborn Garrettson.

A report of itinerant preaching on the site of the present Greene County Court House in Catskill in 1788 has no sequel until 1806 when one Aurie Ferguson was mentioned as class leader at Catskill in records of the Albany circuit. About that time Dr. Thomas S. Barrett, and English local preacher and physician, came to Catskill and there is tradition of Methodist meetings in his home, the brick house (now Van Deusen) still standing at the northeast corner of Main and Cooke streets. Dr. Barrett, described in the 1886 edition, "History of the Methodist Church, Catskill, N., Y." as a man "full of zeal for God and Methodism", Promptly sought and found a place for public worship, the protestant Episcopal Church, the first religious edifice in the village, then located on Church Street.

After erection of a Court House in 1812 (now the Masonic Temple at Bridge and Franklin), Methodists, along with other denominations, worshiped there, in a common meeting room on the ground floor until they were able to build for themselves. Having furnished seats for the meeting room the poor but thrifty Methodist removed them later to their new church.

By 1823 the congregation was strong enough to establish its own place of worship. It purchased a small Academy building and land on Thompson Street (at present juncture with North Street) and proceeded to build the following year. For some time thereafter there was joint use of the original building as a school and for social and business purposes of the church. Since the Academy was established under Episcopal auspices this might have been prompted by memory of the earlier kindness.

When the Episcopal Church was lost by fire in 1839 there was a real return of the early hospitality and for about a year, until the second St. Luke’s rose on Church Street, Episcopal services were held morning and evening on Sundays in the Methodist sanctuary and the Methodists, still on a preaching circuit, worshiped in the after noon. This was the centennial year of Methodism and the pulpit-sharing with the denomination from which Methodists had separated in England a century before seems like a fine Christian gesture. The planned centennial objective, also accomplished, was liquidation of the church debt.

The Sunday School movement came to the Methodist Church in Catskill in the early 1840’s and the first record shows eleven teachers, thirty-one scholars, and two hundred books in the library in 1845.

There were seasons of refreshing when the church was swept along in the great revivals of the last century but for the most part the Catskill church has known the usual uneven progress in both spiritual and material realms. It has always grown in numbers disproportionate to its wealth.

The little church on the hillside was outgrown before 1860. Expansion on the Thompson Street site was impossible and the steep location was inconvenient for the horse and carriage transportation of the day—how like the pressures which dictated the move of the 1960’s. But here is no similarity in the manner in which the building of a new church was accomplished: in the 19th century the whole project was handled by a committee which made all decisions and reported only to the Official Board. Strongest emphasis of the undertaking which has resulted in our new church home has been upon congregational meetings, Dissemination of information and member participation. Over subscription of the first campaign for $50,000 to the amount of $63,000 seemed to confirm confidence in program and method. Continued loyal support in the face of rising costs, and substantial bequest inspired by the vision of the new temple, have brought realization of our dream far ahead of the brightest expectation. The Lord be praised for bringing us into the Promised Land! May it always be used in His service and to His glory.

The Main Street Church in which this congregation worshiped and worked for just over a century was as large an effort for the people of its day as ours. It became a station which settled pastor in 1864, the year of the new church. The centennial of Methodism in America, 1866, was marked by purchased of property on North Street at the rear of the church for the first Catskill Methodist parsonage. By 1897 a spacious new parsonage was built at 75 Summit Avenue and that was succeeded in 1949 by the present pastor’s residence at Woodlawn Avenue and Day Street, now finally joined on the high ground across the street by the new three-fold center for worship, fellowship and education.

Education and social facilities in the new church plant are a far cry from those we had previously known but we must recognize the spontaneity out of which the 1884 addition for such purposes arose and the almost equal spontaneity with which the obligation was discharged. The church’s first pipe-organ was a product of that outpouring.

The great-voiced Moller organ acquired in 1930 has been a joy far beyond our own membership and it was a happy day when its removal to the new sanctuary was assured. It was complemented in 1945 by beautiful carillon chimes in memory of George B. Stebbins, distinguished gospel hymn composer who rounded our the last few year of his life-century in this church.

The two most recent pastorate of the Methodist Church in Catskill, since 1968 the United Methodist Church, have been the longest, each a tribute to pastor and people.

The Reverend Orson O. Rice (1937-1952), with quiet resolve and dedication, not only inspired and largely achieved the Stebbins Memorial but brought about ambitious renovation of the old building inside and out to tide it over until the ultimate goal of the new church could be attained.

Since the early years of this century the urge for a new edifice has waxed warm and then cooled when the undertaking seemed prohibitive but in the 1950’s the need and leadership in both clergy and laity seemed to come together. The will to proceed was evident. It is impossible to name some without slighting others who took on the cause of "the new church" in a spirit of personal mission, but for those who have been with the movement since its inception the name of Dr. L. L. Parker, long-time chairman of the Official Board, leads all the rest and his commitment was passed on to younger associates in the church. The Woodland Avenue site was purchased with the impetus of a bequest from his estate (1959). There after, over-subscription of the first 3-year Building Fund Crusade in 1963 made a brave start for an enormous and continuing effort. The near-disastrous effects of rising costs and other vicissitudes along the way have been lessened only by generous benefits provided by several devoted and departed members and friends of the church.

The pastorate of the Reverend Lloyd B. Gilmour, since 1952, has its landmark in the edifice which has finally crowned the hilltop, and which we have now possessed, but Lloyd Gilmour’s greatest monument will always be in the hearts of hundreds of people to whom his compassion has given new understanding of the steadfast love of God and His ever present help in time of need. Counseling and comfort combined with vigorous preaching of sure confidence in the purposes and deep foundations under many lives.

Memorial Gifts

Some years ago the church established a Memorial Fund to which people could contribute gifts in memory of their loved ones and friends. The purpose of this fund was to have resources that could be used for the purchase of worship materials and furnishings for the sanctuary. Among the memorials received and already in use in our former church were the following: brass altar furnishings such as the Cross, Candlesticks, Flower Vases, Offering Plates and a Receiving Bason, Candle Joiners, Candle Lighters and Baptismal Bowl. Other memorials in use include a pulpit Bible, Organ Light, Hymn Books, U. S. A. Flag, Christian Flag, Paraments and Appendia.

These things were moved and are now used in our new church edifice. Additional gifts have been procured and others are under consideration. Some planting has been done at the side of the Fellowship Hall where decorative yew bushes were placed. Other decorative plants have been placed in the entrance to the narthex. As soon as the landscaping is ready we plan to plant decorative trees as living memorials for some of our former members. A beautiful desk has been placed in the Pastor’s Study which is complimented by other furniture in this room.

Memorials still needed include the following: Dossal Cloth, Baptismal Font, Lectern, Pulpit, Brass Planter, Altar Desk, Floor Candelabra, two Prie-Dieu, and Paraments.

When we began to collect funds for the building of the new church it was decided to establish an additional fund called the Memorial Building Fund to which contributions could be made honoring loved ones and friends of the church. While the purpose of this fund is general, its creation affords an opportunity to leave a memorial gift to the church building fund in the name of a relative or friend of the family. This additional fund has helped greatly in meeting the financial need for the new edifice and will be especially meaningful because it represents former members and friends of this parish. Throughout the future, until our present edifice is paid for, we will continue the Memorial Building Fund and invite our members and friends to participate by their support.

We are indeed very appreciative of the host of people who have given to these funds of the church and have so honored those who serve the church in former times.

NOTE: The names of persons giving gifts and the names of persons whom their gifts honored have not been mentioned in this article because in a booklet this size there would not be space to include them all. They may be found in our Book of Memorials.

Chronology

C. 1788 -- Itinerant Methodist preacher on Court House site, corner Main and Bridge Streets.

1806 -- Catskill became a regular preaching place.

1806-19 -- Dr. Thomas Barrett active as Local Preacher; services in home, Episcopal and Court House (Masonic Temple)

1823-24 -- Methodist Society acquired Catskill Academy property, Thompson Street; first Methodist edifice erected.

1839 -- Centennial of Methodism; local church debt paid off

C. 1840 -- Sunday School established

1864 -- Second edifice and lecture room built, upper Main street; Catskill became single charge with resident minister.

1883-84 -- Major improvements to edifice, pipe organ installed; new lecture room built.

1897 -- New parsonage built at 75 Summit Avenue

1902 -- Roof and attic of parsonage burned; early records lost

1930 -- Extensive church renovation; new pipe organ

1936 -- Junior Choir organized.

1939 -- Methodist Episcopal Church united with several other branches of Methodism to form The Methodist Church.

1945 -- Exterior and interior improvement and redecoration of church and lectureroom; Sebbins Memorial Carillon

1947 -- Woodland Avenue parsonage acquired

1959 -- Day property opposite parsonage purchased for church site.

1963 -- First Building Fund campaign for $50,000 oversubscribed to $63,000

1966 -- Groundbreaking ceremonies, June 12.

1968 -- Union of Evangelical United Brethren and The Methodist Church created new denominations, The United Methodist Church.

1969 -- June 1, first service in new Fellowship Hall

1970 -- December 20, first service in new sanctuary.

1971 -- April 18, new church consecrated by Bishop Lloyd C. Wicke; reception and open house.

Roll of Ministers


For more than forty years of its early history, this church, then the Catskill Methodist Episcopal Church, was a preaching place on changing circuits. It became a charge with resident minister only after completion and occupancy of the new edifice on Main Street in 1864. The roll of those who have served this church over the long span of more than a hundred years number twenty-seven and of those the Reverend Lloyd B. Gilmour is now in the nineteenth year of his pastorate, Ministers and dates of appointment are:

1864 Sanford I. Ferguson 
1867 Z. N. Lewis 
1870 J. Millard 
1873 George Clarke
1876 Thomas Lamont
1879 J. K. Wardle 
1882 Edmund Lewis 
1885 Alfred Coons 
1888 Angelow Ostrander 
1891 David McCartney 
1894 Charles A. Holla 
1897 Richard E. Bell 
1900 Edmund L. Hoffecker 
1901 Frank Beale
1904 Robert Knapp 
1908 Clark Wright 
1910 H. Y., Murkland 
1913 J. Wilbur Tetley 
1915 George W. Downs
1917 A. George Feare
1922 Alfred M. Wilkins
1924 Grant E. Robinson
1928 Charles E. Rignall
1933 Robert L. Ross
1935 Lee H. Ball
1937 Orson O. Rice
1952 Lloyd B. Gilmour


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