Among the pioneers of this town were many families of strong religious faith who began public worship in each other's dwellings in the latter years of the preceding century and continued thus until their church buildings were erected. A Baptist society was formed at Fayetteville as early as 1800, over which Rev. Daniel Campbell was one of the first pastors; Elder Breed was also an early worker. The meetings were usually held in the school house of the upper district. A council was called in 1804 at which Father Bennett and Elder John Peck were present, and about twenty persons, men and women, were recognized as a church.
Among the first members were Gershom Breed, Jabish York, Daniel Campbell, Cyrus Kinne, John Jones, William Breed, Lewis Sweeting, Zopher Knowlton, Allen Breed, Orris Hopkins, Washington Worden, Palmer Breed, Susannah Ward, Amelia and Hannah Breed, Mary Terrill, Elizabeth Hopkins, Walter Worden and Mrs. Kinne.
Gershom Breed was licensed as a preacher, and was assisted by Elder Nathan Baker of Pompey. In 1812 Mr. Breed was ordained, and continued in charge of this church until his death in 1815. His son, Allen, was converted under the father and succeeded him as preacher, as a licentiate, and was ordained in 1829. A church was built at a cost of about $3,000 and dedicated in July, 1831. In 1843 the society was divided, and the Second Baptist church of Fayetteville was formed, with Rev. W. Kingsley, pastor. About 1870 the handsome brick church now in use was erected at a cost of $30,000, the parsonage reconstructed, and a sexton's house built.
The oldest church in the town is Christ church (Episcopalian) in Manlius village. Several families of this faith held meetings before 1800, some of them living in the town of Pompey; the meetings were generally held in private houses. Rev. Davenport Phelps came as a missionary almost at the first and preached not only here but at various surrounding points. A church society was formally organized in January, 1804, under his ministration, and in 1813 the church edifice was built on the hill at the east end of the village. That location was chosen, doubtless, in conformity with the early prevailing practice of placing churches in sightly and commanding places, often in disregard of public convenience. The building was removed to its later and more eligible situation in 1832. The church had formerly a gallery on three sides, which has been removed, and the building has undergone other important changes. It now contains several beautiful memorial windows, all but two of which have been presented in memory of the dead. One of these is in memory of Dr. William Taylor, who was a lifelong vestryman of the church. The first rector was Rev. Parker Adams in 1810. The number of families now connected with the church is about thirty, and Rev. Dr. Theodore Babcock is rector, having assumed the position in January, 1882.
Trinity Presbyterian church of Manlius was formed in the Franklin school house on August 29, 1815. Meetings had been held in that house and elsewhere a long time previous. The formal organization took place October 24, 1815, Rev. Hugh Wallace, presiding. There were only eight original members, half of whom were women, viz.: William Gardner, Caleb Remington, Isaac Hall and wife, Horace Hunt, Mrs. Sarah L. Pomeroy, Mrs. Rebecca Wood and Mrs. Mary Ann Jackson. William Gardner was the first deacon, thus gaining the familiar title by which he was always known. The first elders were Isaac Hall, Jacob L. Sherwood and Horace Hunt, chosen May 21, 1817. Services were held for a period in the "stone house" on the corner of Seneca and South streets in Manlius village, and in 1819 the church edifice was built. With many subsequent alterations and improvements it is still in use. The first pastor was Rev. Ira M. Olds, in December, 1815; the present one is Rev. Matthew Gaffney.
There were many early Baptists in the southern part of the present Manlius and the northern part of Pompey, who began holding meetings about the beginning of the century, and some kind of an organization was effected by them as early as 1805. Later, meetings were held in the academy building in Manlius village, and in 1813 the existing organization was formed under the name of the "Pompey and Manlius Baptist church." Among the early members were Elder Nathan Baker, Willoughby Millard, Elijah Weston, Isaac Ketchum, Samuel Sherman, Joseph Williams, Jacob Cleveland, James Jones, Samuel Edwards, Jonathan Ball, Thomas H. Gridley and William Fillmore. In 1828 an old fashioned church building was erected, from which, through various alterations, the present church has grown. The original building cost $3,000; extensive improvements were made in 1867. Rev. E. M. Barber was pastor of this church for several years, resigning in 1895.
Two early organizations of a religious character were instituted by the people of Manlius village, and for a time exerted an important influence upon the community. The first of these was the Auxiliary Bible and Common Prayer Book Society for the western district of the State, which was formed by the Episcopalians on January 18, 1815, with Rev. W. A. Clark, a resident pastor, recording secretary; Azariah Smith, treasurer; and James O. Wattles, Ralph R. Phelps, and eight others, board of managers. On May 21, 1821, the Manlius Branch Bible Society was organized at the Presbyterian church with Rev. H. N. Woodruff, president; Samuel L. Edwards, secretary; John Watson, treasurer; Eben Williams, Allen Breed and William Eager, vice-presidents.
The date of the formation of the First Methodist Episcopal church of Manlius is lost, but it was early in the century. A lot occupying the middle of the street on which the church edifice now fronts was deeded to Daniel P. Williams, Luther Buell, Samuel Brown, Origen Eaton, Jedediah Caswell, Ezekiel Root, John Peck, John Johnson, and Ebenezer Conner, trustees, in 1822, in which year the edifice was erected. It was removed to its present situation in June, 1844, and has been very much changed since; it formerly had a high spire. Peter Wormwood, Arnold and Mary Remington, and Rowland Caldwell (Cadwell) were long members of this church.
Early meetings of the Presbyterians living in and near Fayetteville were held in the upper district school house, and in 1830 a society was formed, many of the members being from the Manlius society. Through the combined efforts of Christians of several denominations a church edifice was erected in 1829. John McVicker (McViccar), James Stewart, and Philip Flint were the first ruling elders and the original membership was twenty-three. The first regular pastor was Rev. Amos C. Tuttle, installed June 22, 1837. The present church edifice was remodeled and rededicated under the pastorate of Rev. Lewis H. Reid on June 22, 1857, and cost about $10,000.
Trinity church, Episcopal, of Fayetteville, was organized in the year 1830, and in the following year a church building was erected, which was consecrated in 1832. The church was for several years a missionary charge, and the first resident missionary was Rev. J. B. Engle, who was sent there in 1837. The first church became entirely inadequate and in 1870 the present beautiful stone edifice was erected at a cost of $14,000.
Among churches that have been organized in the town in later years is the Church of the Immaculate Conception (Catholic) in Fayetteville. The nucleus of this society was formed of several families of Manlius and Fayetteville between 1846 and 1855. About 1851 the first Catholic mass was celebrated at Manlius by Father McCallion. Father Cahill was the first priest to visit Fayetteville, and held the first service in the house of John Farrell. In 1845 Father Cahill purchased a lot and raised a small sum towards the erection of a church. This was deposited with the bishop, and in 1861 amounted to $315. Father Rooney attended the mission a short time after Father Cahill's departure, and was succeeded by Father Lawrence Schneider, pastor at Manlius Station in 1856. In 1857 Rev. James A. O'Hara, then of Oneida, visited the mission. Rev. Father Maurus being appointed to Manlius Station, the Catholics of Fayetteville in 1859 determined to build a church. The attempt failed after the foundations were partly laid. A second attempt was also abortive in 1861-2, after part of the materials had been delivered. These were afterwards sold and in the fall of 1869 the present brick church was erected. The corner stone was laid November 25. The interior decorations were not completed until 1872, when on November 26, the church was dedicated.
St. Mary's Catholic church is on the road from Manlius to Bridgeport and was organized in 1833 in a school house. A small frame church was erected in 1834, which was subsequently burned and the present frame building erected.
On the 28th of December, 1848, citizens of Kirkville met to take the first steps towards organizing a religious society and building a house of worship. The organization was perfected on January 16, 1849, with the following trustees: David Dominick, and George Huntley, for three years; William Gilman and Joseph Hoag, two years; William Cunningham and Cortland Cunningham, one year. The society was formed on a union basis and in 1850 a church was erected. The society arranged for services by Universalists every fourth Sunday; Baptists every fourth Sunday; Presbyterians every second Sunday; Methodist Episcopal every second Sunday; and Wesleyan Methodists every second Sunday at 4 p.m. In 1893 a Congregational society was organized with about thirty-eight members and the church is now occupied by them.
The Methodist Episcopal church at Kirkville, which formerly worshipped in the Union church just described, originally constituted a part of the North Manlius circuit. It was made a station in 1872 and immediately afterward the present church was erected. The first pastor was Rev. Joseph Maxwell. The society at first comprised about thirty-eight members.
The Methodist Episcopal church at Manlius Station first met for worship in the school house. In 1862 the church and parsonage were erected, under the pastorate of Rev. Gideon Jones.
The Methodists of North Manlius are connected with the society that has a church building over the line in Madison county. The same may be said of the Baptists, who also worship with a society in that county.
Submitted 19 July 1998