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The Welsh In Oneida County, New York  |  Evans  |  The Welsh Churches  |  12

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A number of those Congregationalists who before this time had attended Capel Ucha now joined Peniel. Roberts, having broken away from the C. M. organization, organized another church soon after at Bethel, four or five miles beyond Penymynydd. This church and Peniel were served by the same pastor. Not long after at Ninety-six, about six miles southeast of Remsen was established another Congregational church and four miles south of it, another in the village of Prospect in 1856.

The Baptists also were scattering their churches through this district, though not in such large numbers. Capel Isel, their first church, was built in Steuben about a mile and a half west of Remsen village. But it was super-Calvinistic and those who leaned more toward the Arminian views soon became dissatisfied, broke away from the old church and established Capel Coch (Red Church), half a mile northwest of Capel Isel. This church did not flourish, and so to reach a district not quite so well supplied with religious services, the building was moved to a site about a mile north of Remsen village. Some time later it was abandoned and a building erected in the village in its stead. In a short time another Baptist church was established at Bardwell in the town of Remsen about four miles to the east of the village. In Prospect alone, two miles south of Remsen, was built a Baptist chapel where services were held for many years.

In this district the Welsh Wesleyan Methodists had two churches, one at Sixty in Steuben township about four miles from Remsen, and the other at Ninety-Six, neither of them very strong.

In all of the surrounding country where the Welsh settled there were Welsh churches. In Trenton there was a Congregational church and in South Trenton, both a Baptist and a Wesleyan Methodist church. In Holland Patent, to which Welsh did not go until 1836, there were two churches, one a Calvinistic Methodist, the other a Congregational. At Quaker Hill there was for years a C. M. church, and in Floyd, seven miles to the south, there was first a Union church and later a separate organization for both the C.Ms. and the Congregationalists. To the north of Floyd in Western there was a Congregational church. (12)  The Welsh did not go to Rome until 1840, but after that a strong C. M. church was built up and a little later a Congregational church. In Oriskany there was a Calvinistic Methodist church and in New York Mills an Independent or Congregational society. Marcy had a Welsh Congregational church as well as a Calvinistic Methodist and a Baptist. (13)  Deerfield also had a Congregational church. And there were a number of others near Oneida in the Welsh settlements in Herkimer, Lewis and Madison Counties. (14)

The details of the lives of these churches would be of little value to us if we had them, but it is interesting to note the effect upon the churches of the amalgamation of the Welsh into the body of English-speaking American citizens. As the experience of most of the Welsh churches though the county outside of Utica has been similar to that of the churches in Steuben and Remsen, it will be sufficient to examine so far as possible the progress of the churches in that neighborhood.

The great number of Welsh churches around Steuben and Remsen has already been noticed. In these two townships in 1872, it was estimated that there were 3,000 Welsh people, and for these 3,000 people there were twenty churches. (15)  As well as being evidence of the religious propensities of the Welsh, this shows the tendency which they have everywhere exhibited of dividing into small bodies. The satisfaction of having a church building in their midst as well as the convenience seems to have caused many of the divisions. Pen-y-caerau, the first Calvinistic Methodist church in the district, stood about half way between Remsen and Prospect, a mile and a half from each. The people in and near Remsen village left this church in 1831, though there were still but few of them, to set up their own Capel Careg in the town. The members of Pen-y-caerau, who lived in Prospect, remained satisfied somewhat longer but in 1857 they too left to build a church of their own.

A certain amount of criticism of these divisions is disarmed by the loyal support which the Welsh gave their churches. Their families were large, and when the Sabbath came all the members attended service. Half a dozen families could make a fair sized congregation. But a preacher could not be supported by as small a group as that and as a consequence it was usually necessary for two churches to unite in the support of a preacher. How common that custom was is shown by the statistics of the Calvinistic Methodist church in 1854. At that time in New York State there were fifteen preachers of that denomination, while there were twenty-six regularly organized churches for them to serve. (16)  Moreover, the small number of heads of families making up the churches did not allow for a liberal salary for the pastors, this, even when the farmers for the most part were prosperous and when the two churches combined to support one preacher. After 1830 on the Sundays when Benjamin Davies did not preach at Pen-y-caerau, he was accustomed to hold service in the Utica C. M. church, which could not yet sustain a regular pastor. He spend Saturday covering the distance between Remsen and Utica, some twenty miles of difficult forest road, preached on Sunday, and returned in the same way he came. For this he received one dollar a week. (17)  In many cases the salaries were too small to live on and the pastor had some kind of secular business with which to support himself. The first pastor of the Utica Congregational Church was a book-binder as well, (18) and carried on the work regularly. Many of the preachers had farms and from them were able to piece out a small salary. (19)  This was particularly true of the occasional preachers, those supplies who carried on most of the services of the weak churches that were usually unable to support a regular pastor. (20)

In a number of cases the weak churches have had to call on the home missionary boards in America to aid them. Early in the history of these churches, the American Home Missionary Society began giving slight aid to the Welsh Congregational churches. In 1836 we find aid being given the Utica Congregational Church; (21) in 1848 the church at Western Hill; (22) in 1854, to the Waterville church; (23) in 1859 to the Congregational churches in Prospect and Ninety-Six, which had the same pastor; (24) and again in the following year to Prospect alone; (25) from 1865 to 1869, to the church at New York Mills; (26) and to the church at Rome from 1865 to 1871, and probably longer. (27)

In most of the churches, the separation of a portion of the body to form another church has been carried peaceably, often aided by the main body. This, however, has not always been the case. The schism in the Baptist church of Capel Isel has already been noted, as has that in the C. M. Church of Remsen, Capel Careg. In the Utica Congregational Church a break occurred in 1862, when about seventy of the members left to form a Second Welsh Congregational Church. This lasted for seven years and then the two churches were reunited. The tragic history of the Welsh churches of New York City, which have been many times weakened by schisms, is evidence enough of the Welsh tendency to make their theological differences take a practical form. Fortunately, Oneida has been comparatively free from the evil results of that tendency.

There are not at hand records to show the growth of these churches or at what time they began to decline. The great causes of this decline have been, first, the falling off in the numbers of the immigrants fresh from Wales who have come to the small villages and the country and, second, the decrease of the country population as it has been drained off into the city and to the west and, third, the education of the children away from the Welsh language and Welsh church services.

It seems that between 1850 and 1860 the tendency for the incoming Welshmen to stay in the city instead of settling in the country became marked. It was then that our cities began the period of their most rapid growth, and the incoming Welsh were alive like the rest to the advantage which the city offered.

Not only did the movement from the farm to the city take away from the hills of Remsen and Steuben many who before that time would have stayed in the country and supported the country church, but the opening of new lands in the west proved a great attraction to many. Free lands under the Homestead Acts drew hosts away from the east and the biographies of residents in Welsh settlements in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Kansas show that hundreds of the Welsh were lured from the hills of Oneida to the great plains of the Mississippi valley. (28)  This current had set strongly enough by 1872 so that Thomas observed in that year that there were fewer Welsh in Steuben than formerly. (29)

In these ways were the churches weakened and had we their records we might expect a constant falling-off in the membership. Many of them had to combine for strength. The Baptist Church of Remsen was the successor to that group which had left Capel Isel, the Steuben Baptist Church, and established Capel Coch. The two churches had been accustomed to have separate pastors, but by 1875 the weakness of both forced them to combine to the extent of one pastor for both churches. (30)  It was not long after that before the numbers of Capel Isel, the country church, fell off to such an extent that the church had to be given up and some twenty years ago its building was torn down. The church in the village still continued, though with difficulty. It still retained the Welsh language, though there was a strong movement among the younger people to substitute the English in the services. Finally, when the building burned, the new edifice was raised chiefly by the party favoring the English, and when services were renewed, they were in that language. Their pastor now also preaches Sunday afternoon at Bardwell, which has long been without a regular pastor. (31)

Capel Ucha, the originally Union and later Congregational church in Steuben, just above Remsen village, was one of the strongest in the region. It had prospered from its establishment and afterward, during the long ministry of Dr. Everett, the editor of
Y Cenhadwr. But before the end of his ministry, which lasted from 1838 to 1875, the church had begun to weaken. Thomas in 1872 said there were seventy-five members of the church, twenty-six in the Sunday school and a congregation of about one hundred, observing at the same time that neither the church nor the congregation was as large as formerly. (32)

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