Baptist services had been held in Syracuse with regularity from about1819, and in February, 1821, thirteen persons held a council in the schoolhouse, and after consultation organized the First Baptist church of Syracuseon the following day. The thirteen persons were David Johnson, JamesWilson, Thomas Spencer, Alvin Walker, Rufus Cram, Benjamin G. Avery, WyllysBrown, Braddock Dart, Polly Walker, Rhoda Wilson, Eliza Spencer, HannahFish and Sally Dart. Rev. J. G. Stearns, a graduate of Hamilton BaptistSeminary, preached about six months for the new society, and was succeededin May, 1823, by Rev. Nathaniel J. Gilbert. In that year the churchwas begun on the site of the present Universalist church on West Geneseestreet. Mr. Gilbert served the church until 1832, in which year thecholera swept over the country. He held the funeral services overthe body of a laborer who was the first victim of the disease in the village,and on the following day was stricken down and died.* The successivepastors of the church, succeeding Mr. Gilbert, have been as follows: Rev. Orsamus Allen, August 20, 1833, to October 20, 1834; Stephen Wilkins,November, 1834, to December, 1837; John Blain, 1837 to 1841; Joseph W.Taggart, December, 1841, to August, 1847; Robert R. Raymond, 1847 to 1852;A. G. Palmer, 1852 to 1855; J. S. Backus, D. D., 1857 to 1862; E. W. Mundy,to March, 1864; John J. Lewis, 1867 to 1869; E. A. Lecompte, 1869 to 1874;S. Hartwell Pratt, 1874 to 1875; Charles E. Smith, 1877 to 1882; H. W.Sherwood, March, 1882, to October, 1889; Cortland Myers, May 1, 1890, whowas succeeded by the present pastor, Rev. Thomas J. Villiers.
The old church edifice was enlarged in 1839 and used until 1848, whenan exchange was made for the lot a little east of it, where was erecteda brick structure at a cost of $15,000; this was burned August 23, 1859,and the present church was erected on the site and dedicated November 1,1860. This church has a mission school in the Tenth ward, and theChristian Endeavor society connected with the church was the first oneformed in Syracuse.
*Nathaniel J. Gilbert was born in Weston, Conn., April 28, 1786.
He removed early in life to Sullivan county, N.Y.; in 1810 to Windsor,N.Y.,
and in 1818 to North Norwich, N.Y. From there he located inSyracuse,
where he arrived on May 22, 1823. In the following fallhe brought on
his family. Besides his immediate service to the Baptistchurch, he
was employed in missionary labor in surrounding towns, givinghis time and
energy to the cause of his Master. In 1832, after havingconducted the
services on the death of one of the cholera victims, he wasstricken with
the fatal disease and died on July 19. His childrenwere Melinda, the
eldest; Milton, who died in Syracuse many years ago,and Nelson, who still
Submitted 12 July 1998
Updated 20 November 2000