The Chronicles of Cooperstown/Chapter IV
In 1799, the Rev. John Frederick Ernst, a Lutheran elergyman, settled in Cooperstown, under a temporary arrangement with the inhabitants, to perform religious service. Perhaps Mr. Ernst, who was a native of Germany, was the only person of his own persuasion in the village, and the reason of this selection was connected with a hope of getting the benefit of a bequest made for the purpose of education and religious instruction, by the late Mr. Hartwick. This hope proved fallacious, and Mr. Ernst remained but two or three years in the place, though he purchased property in it, and his descendants in the fourth generation are now to be found among us. Mr. Ernst was the second regularly employed clergyman in Cooperstown, though, owing to his peculiar sect, he can hardly be said to have had a regular church.
The first law for establishing a post route from some convenient point on the line of post route between Albany and Canandaigua, "through Cherry Valley to the Court House in Cooperstown. in the county of Otsego, was passed on the 8th May, 1794. The postoffice was first opened in the village June 1st, 1794, Joseph Griffin, postmaster. The mail arrived weekly for some years; it then caine twice a week; then thrice; then daily; and several variations occurred even after this, the daily mail not having been permanently established, as at present, until about the year 1821.
In 1799, the Rev. John McDonald of the Scotch Seceders, was arrested for debt in this village, bailed, and was placed on the limits. Mr. McDonald during his imprisonment preached regularly in the Court House, though he had no call, supporting himself by instructing a few classical scholars. He went away in 1800.
The Presbyterians and Congregationalists, in and about Cooperstown, formed themselves into a legal society on the 29th of December, 1798.* The spiritual organization of this church took place on the 16th of June, 1800, Isaac Lewis, moderator of the meeting. On the 1st day of October, 1800, the Rev. Isaac Lewis was installed the pastor of the aforesaid church and congregation. He was the first regularly and permanently settled clergyman in Cooperstown, and he officiated altogether in the Academy, as Mr. Ernst had done during his stay. His connection with this church was dissolved in 1805.
- *it will be found by reference to Book B, County clerk’s office, that a legally convened meeting of inhabitants of this town was held at the house of Capt Isaac Williams, Jan. 12, 1795, at which was organized "The First Religious Soclety in the town of Otsego." The organization of the society mentioned by Mr. Cooper is supposed to have been the outcome of this meeting. — 36
The Rev. William Neil was ordained and installed as the successor of Mr. Lewis in 1806. This connection was dissolved in 1809. In 1810, the Rev John Chester was engaged for a few months to fill the pulpit of this church. On the 7th of February, 1811, the Rev. John Smith was ordained and installed as the successor of Mr. Neill. This connection continued until the year 1833. On the 26th day of November, 1834, the Rev. Alfred E. Campbell was installed as the successor of Mr. Smith. The departure of Mr. Smith, and the causes which induced it, being of a spiritual character, were connected with a separation of this congregation into two congregations, one of which held its religious worship in the Court House and in the great hall of the Hall, the latter building being at that time unoccupied by any person but a keeper. This division was healed on the occasion of the call of Mr. Campbell, who is still the pastor of the reunited congregations.
On the 10th day of September, 1800, Miss [Hannah] Cooper, the eldest daughter of Judge Cooper, a young lady in the 23d year of her age, was killed by a fall from a horse. Her funeral sermon was preached by the Rev. Daniel Nash of the Protestant Episcopal church, and she was interred according to the rites of that church, which were now performed for the first time in this village.
This young lady, who had been educated in the schools of New York, and who, from having accompanied her father in his official visits to the seat of government, was perhaps as extensively and favorably known in the middle states as any female of her years, was universally regretted. She had improved her leisure by extensive reading, and was a model of the domestic virtues. During his visit to this country, M. de Talleyrand passed a few days in Cooperstown, where he was an inmate of the family of Judge Cooper. The Otsego Herald of October 2, 1795, contains the following acrostic on Miss Cooper, then in her eighteenth year, which tradition ascribes to the celebrated diplomat. We give it as a literary curiosity, rather than as a very faultless specimen of poetry, although it is quite respectable in the latter point of view:
Aimable philosophe au printemps de son age,
Miss Cooper was killed in the public highway, about a mile from the residence of General [Jacob] Morris, in the town of Butternuts, where a monument has stood these thirty-seven years to commemorate the sad event. She is interred in the burying ground of her family, under a slab that, singularly enough, while it is inscribed by some feeling lines, written by her father, dies not even contain her name!
Mr. Nash, since so well known in his own church, for his apostolic simplicity, under the name of Father Nash, was then a missionary in the county. From this time he began to extend his services to Cooperstown, and on the first day of January, 1811, a church was legally organized, under the title of Christ Church, Cooperstown.
This was the second regularly established congregation in the place. On the same day, the Rev. Daniel Nash was chosen rector of Christ church, which office, through the delicacy of the clergyman who succeeded him in his duties, he informally held down to the period of his death in 1836. In 1818, Mr. Frederick T. Tiffany was engaged by Christ church as a lay reader. This gentleman was admitted to deacon’s orders in 1820, in St. John’s church, New York, and to priest’s orders in Christ church, Cooperstown, in 1828, by the Right Reverend Bishop Hobart, and his connection has continued with the church down to the present moment.
In 1822, the Rev. Dr. Orderson, a clergyman from Barbadoes, West Indies, officiated occasionally in the church for several months. Whilst here, the honorary degree of D. D. was conferred upon him by the faculty of Union college.
The Methodist persuasion has had service, from time to time, for more than forty years in the village, occasionally with regularity, and at intervals, with long intermissions. From the discipline and system of this church, it is impossible for us to give any accurate account of the different clergymen employed.
The Universalists organized their society on the 26th April, 1831, under the name of the Second Universalist Society of Otsego, another existing in the township. At this moment, this congregation possesses about eighty members. The Rev. Job Potter was the first pastor, having been installed in 1831. He was succeeded by the Rev. 0. Whiston in July, 1836.
The Baptist church was organized the 21st January, 1834; Rev. Lewis Raymond who still officiates, being the first pastor. This sect has occasionally had service in the village for near forty years also, the baptisms near Otsego rock being of frequent occurrence about the commencement of the century. — 38
The first edifice constructed for religious worship in the village of Coopcrstown was erected by the Presbyterians, on the east side of West street, between Third and Fourth streets, in 1805. It is of wood, being 64 feet long by 50 feet in width, having a tower and cupola ninety feet high. in 1835, this building was extensively altered and repaired, and it continues to be the place of worship of its congregation. This denomination purchased the house that stands on the southeast corner of Third and West streets for a parsonage, in 1838, for the sum of $1,600.
In 1807, the Episcopalians erected a brick building 54 feet long and 46 feet wide, as their place of worship. It was consecrated by the Right Reverend Bishop Moore, on the eighth day of July. 1810. – This building stands on the west side of Water street, also between Third and Fourth streets, and in a line with the house first named. This denomination built a rectory on the southwest corner of Water and Third streets, or adjoining the churchyard, in 1832. The latter building cost about $1,200, exclusively of the lot.
The Methodists erected a wooden btiilding with a tower, having no spire or cupola, on the west side of Chestnut street, in 1817. It has never been painted, and the service in it is still very irregular.
In 1833, the Universalists erected a wooden building on the northeast corner of Third and West streets, with a tower and pinnacles. It is 50 feet long and 38 wide, and stands on the site of the old Academy, the latter building having been destroyed.by fire on the 31st day of March, 1809. This church with the lot, cost about $3,000.
The Baptists erected a church in 1835–6. It is 54 feet by 40, and has a dome 60 feet high. The house and lot cost about $3,000.
These five buildings are all that have ever been erected for the purposes of public worship, in the village, and they are all now standing. — 39
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