LackawannaProvidence Methodist Episcopal Church


Historical Record
Providence Methodist Episcopal Church

1840 - 1895

Outline History of Providence Methodist Episcopal Church from 1840 to 1895 by Mrs. Charlotte E. Gardner in the 75th year of her age and the 53rd year of her membership in this church.



The history of Providence M.E. Church dates back of this at least four years. Providence being a central place on the thoroughfare leading in and out of the Lackawanna Valley, it had undoubtedly been a preaching place by the itinerant preachers from the time Methodism was first introduced into the Wyoming Valley.

Our first personal knowledge of the place was in the fall of 1840. We found a Methodist society here of probably twenty members: - a class of intelligent, well-bred people, mostly from Westchester Co., NY. The officials were men of strong religious character, and business men, a very great contrast (morally) with the community around them. The society was connected with the Pittston circuit, which, at that time, extended from Plains on the south, to Factoryville and West Abington on the north, from Dunmore and Blakely on the east, to the Susquehanna River on the west. Pittston circuit was divided in 1849, called Pittston and Providence circuit. Providence included Slocum Hollow (as it was then called), Hyde Park, Dunmore and Blakely.

Providence supplied Scranton until 1854, supplied Dunmore until 1861. In 1862 Wyoming District was divided, and a new district was formed called the Lackawanna Dist. In 1869, Lacka. Dist. was dropped out and Providence was again in Wyoming Dist. Providence was then a station by itself including Green Ridge and Park Place.

You will readily see that Providence church has always been, largely, a supply in members for the churches around us not only our own M.E. Church but for other denominations that have been built up in this locality.

The Pastors, since 1840

As we have no minutes of the Oneida Conference, we cannot give the dates of the appointments until the Wyoming Conf. was organized in 1852 but will give, from memory, the names of the Pastors up to 1852. Benjamin Ellis & Father Davy (1840) Thomas Willcox and Pilebeam, William Round and E. Owen, Ira Willcox, E. B. Tenney, John D. Safford, John Mulley, A. Bro\\ (illegible on record)*see below, Ziba Kellog, Henry Brownscombe '53; Charles Perkins, and S.S. Kennedy, '54 - '55; J.F. Wilbur, ’56 – ’57; Geo. M. Peck, ’58 – ’59; J.W. Munger, in ’60; Anthony Shoomuaker, ’61 – ’62; Henry Brownscombe, ’63; G. H. Blakesley, ’64 – ’65; Geo. M. Peck, ’66 – ’67, Dr. Geo. M. Peck, (father of G.M. Peck) ’68 – ’69; S.W. Weiss, ’70, ’71 & ’72; W.J. Judd, ’73 – ’74; Wm Bixby in ’75 & ‘ 76; Leonard Cole, ’77 & ’78, ’79; R.W. VonSchoick in ’80; W.L. Thorpe, ’81 & ’82. * and James Cargill in ’52 H. Brownscombe in *. L.C. Floyd, ’83, ’84, ’85; A.J. Van Cleft, ’86; S.C. Fulton, ’87, ’88, & ’89; George Forsythe, ’90, ’91, ’92, ’93, ’94; M.D. Fuller.

Presiding Elders

David Holms, Lila, Comfort, Wm ready, David Shepherd, Dr. Geo. Peck, G.M. Peck, Presiding Elder of Lackawanna Dis. th\\(illegible) years) Dr Geo. Peck, Y.R. Hair, W.H. Olive, Austin Griffin, R.W. VonSchoik, Manly S. Hard, J.G. Eckman.

Church and Parsonage

Near where Wm VonStorch’s fine residence now stands on North Main Ave. there was a Methodist church built in 1833 & 4 which, I think, had not been occupied, when it was blown down July 3,1834, by a tornado that swept over the town causing great destruction of property. The church was so complete a wreck that it was thought best not to rebuild at that time. The society was worshipping in an old school-house at that time, on the opposite side of the street, but soon abandoned in, and occupied an old school building on the other side of the Lackawanna River, on the hill be the D. & H. R.R. on East Market St. Continued to worship there until the winter of 1845 & 6 when they were permitted to occupy what was called the Bell School-house on this side of the river on what is now N. Main Ave opposite Weston Place. E.B. Tenney was the Preacher in charge that Conf. year.

He held a series of meetings that winter that resulted in that conversion of 30 or more persons, which greatly strengthened our society and eventually helped to build up the Presbyterian Church, organized a few years later.

Our society had building sites on which to build a church offered to them from time to time, but they refused to accept until they could get a more eligible lot on which to build their church. The Presbyterians having a missionary station here were deservers of building a house in which to worship, gladly accepted on of these proffered lots, which was given by Nathaniel Cottrell, on what is now the corner of Church Ave. & Oak St., owned by lawyer Hulslander. They had to make a strenuous effort to build a church at that time, enlisting all who could aid them in any way, offering to the Methodists (to aid them) the use of their church when not necessarily used by themselves, intil they built a church of their own; offering the seats free and promising to aid them when they built. The Methodists accepted their offer and contributed as liberally as they could. The church was finished and dedicated July 1849. Soon after the dedication, the seats were rented to the highest bidder.

The Methodists continued to worship there until their church was built. The Methodists were stimulated by these circumstances to greater diligence to secure a lot on which to build a church of their own. I think they had already a promise of the lot where the church now stands. The deed was acknowledged Sept. 23, 1851. The charter was granted November 1851. The lot was given by Alderman Griffin of N. York, a native of this place. The church was finished and dedicated April 21st, 1853 by David A. Shepherd, Presiding Elder, H. Brownscombe, pastor. The structure was a substantial brick building, 36 by 52 ft, with vestibule. One wide entrance from the outside and two doors entering the audience room from inside the vestibule. The pulpit was between these doors in front end of church. There were elevated seats for the orchestra in the back end of the audience room. There was a basement the size of the church, but was not finished when the church was dedicated.

In due time a bell was placed in the tower, that still continues to call the people to worship and service. In 1864 or 5, during G.M. Peck’s second Pastorate, the pulpit was removed to the rear of the audience room, and an orchestra built over the vestibule in front. The seats were of course, reversed, and a new pulpit made. The walls were painted a pearl tint, the ceiling cal\\(illegible) a delicate peach flow, the wood work was painted and a new carpet placed on the pulpit platform, in the altar, and through the aisles. Five upholstered chairs and a marble top table were placed on the pulpit floor, and in the altar as they now stand. The audience room was made beautiful and pleasant with these improvements. During the two years there were two portable furnaces placed in the basement and some other improvements made.

In 1867 there was an addition of 12 by 40 ft placed on the rear of the basement to accommodate the Sunday school, making two convenient classrooms. In ’71 & ’72 during W.J. Judd pastorate there was added 20 ft to the front of the church at the cost of $8,000, which added very much to the outside appearance of the building & much to the convenience of the inside. A tower and steeple were placed on the north front corner, with an entrance at the base, and a corresponding entrance at the other front corner, each opening into small vestibules, a door opening from each of these into the audience room each side of the orchestra, which was again placed in the front of the of the church. In the center of the front, back of the orchestra was a large colored glass window. The old windows on the side were retained; plain, square windows with green blinds. The basement was enlarged to the whole size of the building giving a large infant class room with graded seats, and folding doors opening into the lecture room, a small room, for water _ under the new part.

In 1886, during S.C. Fulton’s pastorate, the church was again much improved by painting the outside, putting in colored glass windows, which by changing the form from square to arched, made it difficult and intricate to accomplish, but it was done artistically. The front window had to be replaced having been broken during a hailstorm. The audience room, and seats, were also painted, with some other improvements at a cost of $1300.

The choir had for some years abandoned the orchestra in the front and occupied the space at the right of the right of the pulpit. In ’92, during M.D. Fuller’s pastorate, a new pipe organ was placed at the right and on a platform level with, the pulpit floor with sufficient room for the choir. A well-built and fine-tuned organ costing $1300.

In ’93 (same pastor), the interior of the church was remodeled up and down. The orchestra was removed from between the vestibules adding the space to the audience room. The floor was graded with a raise of about 18 inches at the entrance of the vestibules. Substantial oak seats of modern style were placed in the audience room, semicircular, a center aisle, and one on either aisle, next to the walls, a seating capacity of 375. Walls, ceiling, and woodwork were painted, removing a form that was back of the pulpit, making that color plain. A new carpet, in pattern and color corresponding with the other furnishings, was placed on the floor.

The basement was thoroughly remodeled and greatly improved. The old floor was taken up, the ground excavated, lowering the floor to make space between the floor and ceiling, which was quite too low for the size of the room. A vault underneath was made for the furnace.

The infant classroom was in the same place as before but the floor was leveled and seated with small chairs. A comfortable kitchen was at the right of the classroom, and both were newly painted and papered.

The classrooms in the rear of the room are the same as before, except new heating stoves. Lecture room had been seated with chairs. All this at a cost of $2021. Within the last few months, two beautiful chandeliers were hung in the audience room, costing $125. The money was raised by a Sunday school class of young men, and their teacher. (Miss Amy Mulley)

Parsonages

In 1848 a parsonage was built on what is now North Main Avenue near Weston Place, a small un\\(illegible on record) house, quite inconvenient for a large family, but the lot was large and a nice building site. It was built the year before Providence and Pittston was separated so that the property belonged to Providence.

During G.H. Blakely’s pastorate ’63, a part of the lot was sold to build an addition to the parsonage.

When A.J. Van Cleft was appointed to Providence in ’83, the old parsonage was discarded. In the spring of ’84, a large and con\\(illegible) house with a large lot was purchased at the cost of $5000 near the church. There being a vacant lot between it and the church it was thought best by the board of trustees in ’88, to sell their property and build a new parsonage on the lot next to church, which was done at a cost absorbing nearly, if not as much as the other property sold for, with not more than one fourth as much land. But the (illegible) not under the new lot gave it a somewhat comparative value with the other lot. The new parsonage is a pleasant and convenient home with all the modern improvements.

Church Organizations

The Sunday School

The Sunday school has been an important factor in the church, since the commencement of its history there was organized a S. school for the benefit of the children that were scattered over this sparce community, concerning what is now the first and second ward of Scranton.

The school was continued through many embarrassments throughout the summer season until ’53, when there was a permanent organization made in our new church, that has continued to increase in interest and magnitude until the present time. E. (Illegible) Esq. was elected superintendent and G.W. Miller, Secretary. In ’55 S.W. Wyckoff was elected Sup. In ’57 G.W. Miller was elected to that office, and reelected every year successively until April 1893. When he resigned John W. Armstrong was elected Sup. (Mr. Miller died in December ’93)

The success of the school was, undoubtedly, to a great extent, the result of continuing the same superintendent for so many years in succession. Mr. Miller became all absorbed in the success of the school, and devoted a great deal of time and hard labor to its interests. Between 1866 & 1870, there was a new inspiration given to the school be additional helps. S.B. Coaler came here from Honesdale in the fall of ’65 to make a permanent home in the community. He was a loyal Methodist & S. school worker. In the spring of ’66 he was elected assist. sup.

The room was increased by his (illegible)-gation & liberality by adding 12 by 40 ft in rear of lecture room divided (illegible) bible and infant classrooms, folding doors opening from the infant class (illegible) lecture room, the bible class opening also, into the lecture room. Mr. C (illegible) & wife had charge of infant class, which increased so rapidly they were crowded for room, and were continually feeding the intermediate dept., calling for an increase of teachers which were supplied from the best matured in the church. About this time the S. school was organized into a missionary society, auxiliary to the church & parent soc., which greatly increased the interest in missionary work in the church. Nearly all the missionary money was contributed through the S. school that was paid by the church. The school has averaged about 300 scholars since 1866, and with an ample corps of teachers is still in a prosperous condition. In ’79 or ’80 a piano was purchased for the S. school.

Ladies Aid Society

The first society was organized in ’58, J.W. Munger, pastor. This society has continued with slight interruptions. It has been a helpful auxiliary to the finances of the church, paying many hundred dollars for needed help to defray expenses. For a number of years it has furnished the parsonage, and, helped make repairs on the church and parsonage.

A Ladies and Pastors Christian Union was organized in 1870, W.J. Judd, pastor. It did excellent work in aiding the pastor, visiting the sick, helping the poor, getting children into Sunday school, after about four years was dropped for want of interest on the part of the pastors, they being president of the society.

Women’s Foreign Missionary Society

This society was organized Oct 1870 the first society that was organized in the Wyoming Conf. that has continued until the present. It has averaged 37 members for years, and has paid in to the treasury $1100.

Women’s Home Missionary Society

In 1888 a society was organized continued two years and collapsed, reorganizing in the fall of ’91 and had been running since successfully.

Epworth League

The League was organized in ’88 and are doing good work among the young people of the church. Not as aggressive as they aught to be, but are striving to hold their own with the other institutions of the church.

We cannot close without paying some tribute to the official board of the church; as we remember in all its past history, their loyalty, faithfulness and responsibility. They were not only the nest men in the church, but among the best men in the community.

The first officials we knew in 1840 were Artemms Miller, Ebenezer Leach, William Silkman, Aaron B. Silkman, & his father, who was familiarly called "Uncle Joe Silkman" and Aaron Gregory. Farther on was S. Wyckoff, D.R. Davis, Geo. Staples, G.W. Miller, John Turnstall, S. Gardner, Chauncy Hand, S.B. Cost\\(illegible), Wells Benjamin, Geo. Spencer, T.B. Seely, G.A. Kemmerling, Ambrose Mulley, J.L. Lawrence, J.L. (illegible). We cannot call to mind all who have stood under the burdens of the church; but have an equal respect for, and gratitude to all. Many of them have gone to their eternal reward & others will soon pass over to the other side.

We are glad to know that the ranks are filling up with a corps of intelligent and competent young men to carry future burdens of the church. God bless them in their labor.

Preachers Licensed by our (illegible)terly Conference.

L.C. Floyd, P.R. Tower, J.B. Summer, J.B. Sweet, C.A. Benjamin, J.T. Burrell, John Baird. Present Board of Trustees (1895) J.L. Lawrence, C.W. Benjamin, S.W. Nyhart, Ambrose Mulley, J.T. Nyhart, J.B. Davis, W.S. Cowles

Transcribed from the hand written text and provided by Garthe Leland Benjamin 2001.

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