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History of Acra Methodist Church is Traced to 1853

By Grace Story Webber, Cairo Township Historian
Published in the Catskill Daily Mail December 18, 1952

Newspaper article courtesy of Linda Larsen. Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin

This the 14th in a series of articles written by the township of Cairo this year. In the 13th article, the Methodist Church of Cairo was described. Now we will review the Methodist Church of Acra. In the previous article the Methodist Society in the larger area was discussed. In this article, the churches of Acra and their influence on each other will be stressed.

We learned in the ninth article, that the Presbyterian Church which was the first church in Acra was founded by John Howell of Sunside and Judge Samuel Sayre of Cairo. The Presbyterian Society sought the guidance of Rev. Beriah Hotchkin and built a small building on the west side of the present highway on the property now in the possession of Gustave Grand.

In 1800, the Presbyterian was strong enough to undertake the building of a larger church which is the building which is now occupied as a garage. The Presbyterian Society lasted but five years in Acra. Part of their members joined the Cairo Society and part the Centerville Society. In 1805, the Cairo Society took down the first building and with the proceeds and the sale of material rebuilt in Cairo.

When the Baptist Society was formed in Acra is not clear but Beer’s History notes "A revival took place the summer of 1799 and about ten were added to the Presbyterian Society and a greater number to the Baptist Church." Again we quote from Beers, "In the year 1788, Deacon Obed Hervey and others settled in Hervey Street. They belonged to the Baptist Church of North East, Dutchess County. Deacon Hervey was a very godly man…and preached the gospel. Their first meetings were held in the houses and barns of the settlers. Elder Hervey died in 1808 but his son, Obed, carried on the work of his father." Was Deacon Hervey instrumental in founding the Baptist Society in Acra? Anyway the Baptists purchased the (new) Presbyterian Church in Acra in 1804.

This property remained in the hands of the Baptist Society for 120 years, when the Methodist Episcopal Church took it over and sold it during 1920 to its present owner, Allen Bailey, for $500. The proceeds were given to the Methodist Church of Acra.

Elder Avery M. Cole of East Durham preached here from 1865 to 1878 and during that period a bell was purchased on which was inscribed the name of Rev. Avery Cole. This bell was sold or given to the Baptist Church in Greenville Center.

The records are incomplete, but at some later date the history of the Baptist Church of Acra and Cairo may be compiled.

Methodist Church

Where the Methodists worshiped during their founding period or until they acquired a building is not recorded. They might have worshipped with their Cairo brethren who had a building from 1819, or they might have worshipped in their homes. But worship they did !

In 1853, by the earliest records that can be found of the Acra Methodist Church, Seymour Van Deusen was the District Superintendent and Acra was a part of the Prattsville District.

Reconstructed records reveal that the present Methodist Church building was erected in 1872 mainly through the efforts of Isaac Coffin and Washington Kennedy, with Ed Meddaugh and Carl Lobdel as carpenters. The lot on which the church stands was deeded by Ezekiel Thomas and his wife, Sarah M. Thomas, on April 3, 1872, to the then Trustees of the Methodist Church for the sum of $100.

A continuous ministry had been maintained in this church for the past 80 years. At certain periods, the Acra Church was in the East Durham Circuit and at other times in the Cairo circuit. In 1917, Acra and Round Top became one charge.

The pastors follow:

Harry B. Chown—1898-1902—During his ministry the metal side walls and ceiling were installed at a cost of $200.

Adolphus Schliermacher—1902-1905—He was instrumental in securing the church bell.

George W. Rice—1905-1906—The Christian Endeavor Society was launched during this time and continued to function for over 30 years.

S. M. Cole—1906-1907; J. McConnell—1907-1908; B. A. Finch—1908-1910; Kenneth McElman—1910-1911; Ambrose Quick—1911-1912; Grant Robinson—1912-1914; Herbert D. Chase—1914-1916; E. Sutherland—1916-1917; Robert L. Mautertook—1917-1919; Leon C. Booth—1919-1920; William Peckham—1920-1926.

During the early part of Rev. Peckham’s ministry the Acra Church was shingled. The lower part of the church wall was painted with volunteer labor. Alfred Webster painted the upper part. The Baptist Church was sold for $500 and the proceeds were given to the Methodist Church. With this cash the Methodist laid the present hard wood floors and built the balcony. New pews and electric lights were also installed at this time. The Presbyterian Church at Sunside closed and many of their members attended the Methodist Church.

Samuel A. MacCormac—1926-1929. New stoves were installed.

John Parker—1929-April 1929; Ralph C Meadowcraft Jr.—April 1929-Sept. 1929; Frank Mason—Sept 1929-April 1930 (a supply); A. D. Rhiens—April 1930-Oct. 1930; R. Don Ochletree—Oct. 1930-April 1932; Stanley Risch—1932-1936; New stained glass memorial windows were installed and concrete sidewalk laid during Rev. Risch’s term.

Roger Squire—1936-1938; Cecil Miller—1938-1939; Charles Crain—1939-1940; Thomas Denman—1940-1943; Phillip Byers—1943-1944; Frank Mason—April 1944-Oct.1944 supply; William A. Fox—Oct. 1944-April 1946; William Burt—1946-1947; Frank Bauman—1947-1948; The reed organ from the Cornwallville Church was installed.

Samuel A MacCormac—1948-

In 1949 the church was shingled at a cost of $890 and in 1951 the outside of the building was painted with volunteer labor.

Thanks to the valuable contributions that have been received from Rev. Samuel Art MacCormac and others in the preparing of this article. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to my many friends.

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