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History of First Methodist Church in Cairo Tracked

By Grace Story Webber, Cairo Township Historian
Published in the Catskill Daily Mail November 13, 1952

Newspaper article courtesy of Linda Larsen. Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin

Editor’s Note: This is the 13th in a series of articles on the early history of Cairo. Today’s deals with the Methodist Church in Cairo. In the last article it was erroneously stated that Levi O’Hara was the father of Mrs. McWilliams. I should have read Peter O’Hara.)

The first Methodist Episcopal Church in this section was erected at Coeymans, a stone structure in 1791, and it is likely that the other churches in this section trace directly to the church of that place, where the Rev. John Crawford was stationed according to "Dear Old Greene County" by F. A. Gaullt.

In Beer’s History of Green County we read: "The early settlers of East Durham organized a class and commenced to build a Methodist Episcopal Church. It stood quite near the old cemetery. The date cannot be given definitely by it was about 1800. Later the congregation was divided and a separate church was organized at Durham and at Cornwallville.

In Jessie V. V. Vedder’s History of Greene County, we have these facts: "Quite a number of the settlers about New Durham (now the village of Durham) were Methodists and they bought the church of the East Durham people and set it up on Meeting House Hill. It was incorporated September 21, 1819. This church is supposed to be the oldest of the denominations in the county. The church at Coeymans, Albany County, is the mother church and the circuit at that time included Coeymans, Durham…. and parts of Delaware County."

Records show that the Methodist Church of Old Greenville was built in 1812 and one of the early pastors was John Bangs, who was rated as one of the great preachers of the denomination.

Church Is Formed

In 1812 Edward T. Stevens and his wife, Sally became residents of Cairo. Mr. Stevens was a merchant and owned the building which is now owned by Mrs. Clara Crooker Turner. Their dwelling is now owned by Hulbert Leufkins. Mrs. Stevens in 1814 was converted to God. The following year Mr. and Mrs. Stevens and a few others united to form the first Methodist Church of Cairo, under the supervision of Rev. Daniel I. Wright and Rev. Mr. Moriarty, who traveled a circuit of 100 miles.

Again we read in Beer’s History: "It is probably that the first sermon preached by a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church was at Catskill about the year 1815. (The minister is not named.) In 1836, Alfred Foote came to Catskill, and about three years later, Benjamin Wiltse, both of whom have been prominent and active men. Catskill, Cairo, Sandy Plains, Acra, Woodstock, Coxsackie, Coeymans, Leeds, High Hill, Durham and perhaps some other points were supplied by two or three preachers who followed each other around the circuit. The Rev. J. H. Wardell was pastor at Catskill about 1870 and this circuit did not then exist."

In checking the ministers of New Durham we find "Some very eminent clergymen were among their preachers: Phineas Rice, Nathan Bangs, who was a very able man, Bela Smith and Thomas Barrett D. D. and M. D.—1821—who was succeeded by Revs. Jesse Hunt, Moses Amadon, Eli Deniston, Samuel M. Knapp, O. G. Hedstrom, W. H. Smith, William Bloomer, A. S. Lakin and Valentine Buck who preached about 1844."

Did any of these men preach at Cairo, Acra, Round Top or Woodstock? Why are old records destroyed?

The first "Meeting House" was built in Cairo on land donated by Benjamin Hine, who lived on Bross St., from a part of his estate and Mr. Abram Bonesteel owns and lives in the remodeled church. Here services were held more or less regularly by circuit riders and local preachers until 1849 or 1850, when W. C. Smith located at Catskill, came to Cairo and conducted services every two weeks.

First Minister

The first minister regularly stationed at Cairo was the Rev. J. Ham, who came here in 1851, but how long he served we cannot say. Then followed Rev. E. A. Hill whose labors terminated in 1865. From that date the following pastors have been located here: N. C. Lent 1857-1858; G. Woodworth, 1859-1860.

In 1860, the parsonage was purchased, the deed showing that on May 11th of that year, David St. John and Betsy Ann, his wife, conveyed the property to Trustees of Cairo Village Methodist Church. The price paid was $700.

Then followed P. Stoddard, 1861-1862; Adee Vail, 1863; I. R. Van Dewater, 1864-1866.

On Dec. 6th, 1866, the trustees, Orvin Slater, David Kipp, Henry Steele, John Green and Henry Brass, of the Cairo Village Methodist Episcopal Church, purchased from the trustees, Walker Noble, John C. Lennon, George K. Noble of the Cairo Baptist Church and Society all that property conveyed to the trustees of the Baptist Church and Society on October 25, 1833, by George A Crooker and Nancy Crooker, his wife. The price paid was $1,000. This is the church in which the members of the Methodist Church have worshiped until October 19, 1952.

Cairo after 1866 became part of a circuit known as Kiskatom and Cairo with the following pastors:--W. S. Stillwell and J. J. Dean 1867; J. J. Dean 1868; L S. Brown 1869-1870; George Hearne, 1871; R. Tarleton, 1872; G. Daniel 1873; H. C. Masten, 1874-1875; J. L. Ketcham, 1876-1878; when the name of the circuit was changed to Cairo and Round Top. Then came J. Keogan in 1879; William Green 1880-1932.

Brother Green founded the Cairo Literary Society, which afterward was know as the Cairo Village Improvement Society. This society did a splendid work among which was the notable achievement of laying most of the stone walks. The society ceased to exist in 1894.

In 1883 A. H. Haynes came to this charge, followed by W. A. Dalton, 1884-1885; G. W. Martin, 1885-1887; S. Merchant, 1888-1892; During Brother Merchant’s term of service Cairo again became a station; W. H. Peters, 1893; J. H. Lincoln, 1894-1898; U. G. Warren, 1899; James Dougles, 1900-1904; C. A. Dunn, 1905-1908; Lyle Robinson, 1909; A. Quick, 1910-1911, when again it became a circuit with Acra. Grant Robinson, 1912-1914; then Herbert D. Chase served only Cairo, from 1915-1916.

The following years, the circuit consisted of Cairo and South Cairo with Rev. Jon H. Fyfe, 1917-1919; John E. Parker, 1920-1926; Milton H. Ryan, 1927-1928; George A. Cole, 1929-1931; James A. Hurn, 1932-1935; John P. Fellows, 1936-1937; B. Chandler, 1938-1940; Donald P. Keil, 1941-1946.

Cairo then became a station with Donald P. Keil in 1947, when from 1948 to 1952 Samuel Art MacCormac has served the circuit of Cairo, Round Top and Acra.

Deed Turned Over

Oct. 26, 1952, William Freese, Senior elder of the Presbyterian Church, presented to John B. Earl, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Methodist Church, the deed of the property of the Presbyterian Church of Cairo and the services of the United Church (Methodist) will from now on be conducted in the former Presbyterian Church.

It is estimated that since the organization of the church there has been expended for pastor’s salaries, purchase and repair of church property and various benevolences more than $150,000.

Memorial Windows: In memory of Orrin Slater, Polly Slater and Ester Slater; William and Phebe Tolley; Ambros L. and Harriet S. Walters; in memory of Frederick and Lydia A. Schermerhorn by their daughter Della; David T. and Effie Tolley Jerome; George and Sarah Jones Rivenburgh and son, Charles; John R. Greene, Eliza Byington Greene; William Emory Greene, Amanda Ross Greene; Reuben Greene; in memory of Rev. Levi Sand and Helen E. Moak.

There have been more gifts as well as time and money that have gone into the beautifying of the Methodist church of this village, and which show the love of the members and their friends for their churches.

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