1st Presbyterian Church of Cairo Organized in 1799

By Grace Story Webber, Cairo Township Historian
Published in the Catskill Daily Mail August 7, 1952


Newspaper article courtesy of Linda Larsen. Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin


(Editor’s Note: This is another in a series of articles on the early history of the Town of Cairo, complied by Mrs. Grace Story Webber, Town Historian)

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While the first religious service conducted in the Township of Cairo was that of Patroon James Barker in the year 1759 at Woodstock, the first church—a log building—was built by Enoch Hyde at Purling about 1788. These were followed by building of a number of other churches.

As the attention of the town is at the present centered on the Presbyterian Church, this article will deal with the founding of the building of this church.

In 1794, John Howell and Judge Samuel Sayre of Southampton, L. I., came to this town. They were very religious men and both were Presbyterians, having been members of the Presbyterian Church in their home town.

John Howell bought a farm about a mile from Acra on the road to Centerville and built the old Howell homestead. He and Jeremiah White—were partners in tanning leather and in making shoes. The farm was owned in 1884 by George Simpson and today is owned and used for a summer home by H. Goldschmidt of New York.

The farm was in the Van Bergen’s Patent and was bounded on the east by the patent of James Barker. John and his wife, Mahitable, had at least seven children. He died April 4th, 1815, and is buried in the Acra Cemetery.

Judge Daniel Sayre with his wife, Joyce Hunting, came to Cairo and purchased a farm of 100 acres on the Shingle Kill; Jerome Ave. and the Freehold Road of today passing through his property. The house which Mr. Sayre built was on the site of the present home of Mrs. Grace Butler, Jerome Ave. His dwelling was destroyed by fire and four of his children perished in the flames. He rebuilt his dwelling. He was the father of eight children and had four wives. He was in the tanning business and shoemaking which he carried on successfully for many years.

Rev. Beriah Hotchkin was the first missionary to cross the Hudson to labor in the new settlement west of New England. He was licensed to preach in 1785 from the Morris County Associated Presbytery of Connecticut.

John Howell and Judge Sayre sought his guidance and a church was organized at Acra. This could not have been very successful for it lasted but five years and in 1804 the church building was sold to the Baptist. Today it is used as a garage.

According to Beers History we learn the following:--"The records of the Presbyterian Church of Cairo have been destroyed three times by fire; first in the house of Daniel Sayre, January 28th, 1808; second in the house of Jason Stevens, September 1st, 1862; and last in the house of Ezra M. M. Stevens, April 19th, 1864, so some of the following is from memory of these early members of the church.

"The Presbyterian Church of Christ in Cairo was organized by the Rev. Beriah Hotchkin of Greenville, May 22nd, 1799. There were three male members: William Hoyt, Peter Halsey and Daniel Sayres. The female members were Methitable Howard, Joyce Sayres, Comfort Olmsted, Mina Halsye and Elizabeth Woodruff. There was no steady preaching, but meetings were held on the Sabbath and small additions continued to be made, until 1808 there were between 50 and 60 members. After the church at Acra was sold, the meeting house in the village was built.

"By an early deed Francis Carbine deeded to Daniel Sayre, Harvey Thine and …Bosworth, trustees of the Presbyterian Society of Canton. Commonly known as the Cairo Presbyterian Society, about eight square rods of land together with all appurtenances’ bounded by the turnpike on the west, by lands late conveyed to Carbine to Robert C. Field and on the other two sides by land of Carbine.

"In January, 1812, Rev. Richard Williams was settled here and continued with us three years to 1815; during that time about 30 were added to the church. Between the time of Mr. Williams and the settling of Rev. M. Beer 1871-26, there was a revival, and about 30 more were added to the church, while during his nine years of service 49 were added.

"Rev. J. J. Buck came in the fall of 1829 (1829-35) and about 50 more joined by profession or letter. But by death or removals the numbers in the church was only 97.

Rev. Mr. Van Dyke (1838-42) brought into the church 17 by letter and two by profession, but the membership had dropped to not more than 55.

The following were pastors of the church for the next 41 years: Rev. Mr. Woodbury 1842-44; Rev. Mr. Clark, 1844-45; Rev. Mr. Snyder, 1845-49; Rev. Mr. Niles, 1849; Rev. Mr. Humphrey, 1849-51; Rev. Sanford Roe, 1851-59; Rev. A. O. Peloubet, 1859-63; Rev. A. O. Powell, 1863-64; Rev. A. P. Freeze, 1864-65; Rev. W. S. Drysdale, 1865-67; Rev. A. P. Freeze, 1868-72; Rev. P. J. Burnham, 1872-74; supplies an vacancy during the year 1874; Rev. A. P. Freeze, a portion of 1875; Rev. Mr. Wooley, 1875-76; Rev. A. P. Freeze, 1876-81; Rev. C. L. Offer, 1881-83; Rev. Sanford W. Roe, 1883.

At this time the church numbered 70 communicants; was valued at $6,000 (the parsonage, session-room and church) and had a flourishing Sunday School in connection with the church.

The first Bible was presented by Rev. Peter Labargh on the 3rd of Dec., 1807.

Before Rev. Williams occupied the pulpit, the church was occasionally supplied by missionaries.

The records from 1883 will be recorded in the next article.

(Note: Hand written in margin—Pres church of Cairo erected in 1805)


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