Transcribed by Marsia Painter (2012).
This document is transcribed from a book chapter on the history of the West Portland Baptist Church. Last names and years are in bold type. Transcriber’s notes are in [brackets]. Paragraphs in the original document have been delineated by spaces between the paragraphs in this transcription.
Saturday, March 12, 1842
Church met in covenant meeting, Elder J. Wilson, Moderator. By request of some Brethren voted that all the members of the Baptist Church in Portland that can be better accommodated for worship at the Stone School House in said town shall have the privilege of being a branch of this church, possessing the privilege of receiving and dismissing members and all other business that may come before the church, except the returns to the association which shall be made by the clerks of the church and the branch as the Baptist Church in Portland, and also the exception of employing a minister which business shall be done by the church and the branch as the Baptist Church in Portland. Done by order of and in behalf of the church, March 12, 1842.
Arthur B. Post, Church Clerk
Thus was the beginning of the West Portland Baptist Church, one hundred fifty years ago.
The reason for the request was the great difficulty in traveling to the church at Salem Cross Roads (now Brocton). The roads were no more than paths and bridges were non-existent, so the people would have to ride, or more likely walk, through the creeks and mud in order to attend worship.
On May 22, 1842, it was voted at a meeting that the branch request the mother church to relinquish her claims on the members as a branch that they may become independent.
This request was made, and in June the mother church held a meeting and voted to agree to honor the request when the branch was recognized as a church and received the fellowship of churches.
An invitation was sent out to the following churches to come and sit in counsel with those of the branch and, if in their judgment they thought it proper, they would give the branch the hand of fellowship and it would become an independent church. Those churches were Cassadaga, Second Stockton, First Stockton, Dewittville, Ripley, North East, Mayville, Panama, Westfield, and Portland, It was also voted to send for Elder J. S. Richmond.
Delegates from all the church invited as well as Elder J. S. Richmond attended the meeting on June 22, 1842, held in the barn of Matthew Farrington, with nearly the entire membership of the branch. It was voted unanimously that the branch become the West Baptist Church in Portland, a church “in Gospel Order.”
Elder J. Going preached a message that day from 1 Thessalonians 3:8, “For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.” What better verse to choose for a new church.
It was noted in the minutes that it was a time of great joy and love.
The new West Baptist Church had eighty-seven members: 20 married men, 23 married women, 15 unmarried males and 29 unmarried women.
The church employed two ministers, Elder Charles Lahatt, and Elder Jonathan Wilson, each to serve one half the time. Elder Wilson stated he would need $200.00 or he would resume farming as he had a farm in Stockton. He was given a letter of dismission after about six weeks, upon his request.
In a meeting held on January 14, 1843, Deacon Bartholomew was mentioned for consideration until the next meeting. Then it was voted on May 20, 1843, that he should “improve on his talents of laboring in the gospel.” He was licensed and on August 15, 1846, it was voted that he minister one half the time and Elder Lahatt the other half.
The original officers of the church were:
Deacons: Lemi Bartholomew and James Andrews
Trustees: Daniel Farrington, Lemi Bartholomew, Edwin Farrington, and Titus Roe.
The covenant meetings of the church were held in the school but there were objections as these meetings were held on Saturday and school was held six days per week then. The extra meetings were held in Ingersoll’s Tavern ball room, this was later known as the “First and Last Chance Saloon,” until the completion of the church, Mr. Clump was the tavern keeper.
On September 12, 1842, it was voted to build a meeting house near the stone school house, on land belonging to Daniel Farrington.
The subscription paper had been circulated on March 17, 1842. It was decided that the building was not to exceed $1,000.00. The subscriptions taken were as follows:
Matthew Farrington – in land produce $75.00
Hollis Fay – in produce $75.00
Daniel Farrington – in produce or cash $75.00
Edwin Farrington – in work or lumber $50.00
Minerva Monfort – in team work and produce $25.00
Abram Bowdish – in wood work, lumber or produce $25.00
Lemi Bartholomew – in work and lumber $25.00
James Andrews – in work and produce $25.00
George Freeman – to be paid in grain on the first of January next $20.00
Parsons Taylor $10.00
E. Hewit – in produce or glass $10.00
Ithamar Crouch $5.00
Joseph Jarvis – to pay in corn or wheat 1 of Jan. $5.00
Daniel E. Burchard – in brick or labor $5.00
Alanson Jones – in grain or the stove $5.00
Morgan Wilbur – in team work and produce $5.00
Stephen Dreuse – to be paid in grain $1.60
Ichabod Russel – in lumber $3.00
George Cameron – to be paid in work $1.60
Alanson N. Godfrey – lumber delivered $10.00
Samuel Caldwell – to be paid in lumber or produce $5.00
L. Bliss – lumber at my mill $5.00
Emery K. Wood – in work $1.00
Erastus Godfrey – to be paid in lumber $2.00
Reuben Russel – to be paid in work $1.00
Darwin Wilber – some work $1.00
Martha A. Wilber $1.00
Gennett Wilber $1.00
Titus Roe – in cash $1.00
The church lot was purchased from Daniel M. Farrington for $75.00. The bricks for the church were made by Moses Wood, and the initials M. W. are said to be on each brick. In payment Mr. Wood took any produce that he could use for his family.
The bricks were laid by Godfrey Bryant of Westfield, and the carpenter and joiner work were done by Lemi Bartholomew and Edwin Farrington.
The church was erected by fall of 1842, and dedicated in 1843. The incorporation of the church was acknowledged before Hon. F. H. Ruggles of Fredonia and recorded October 4, 1842.
The building committee consisted of three members, Lemi Bartholomew, Daniel M. Farrington and Edwin M. Farrington.
The pulpit was placed between the two outside doors on the east end of the building. There were several steps on each side with a door that fastened securely. Each of the pews had corresponding doors, and the floor raised at least three feet to the singer’s seat, which was across the entire west end of the building and raised at least two steps above the floor. There were also two doors leading from the main aisles, which fastened securely.
The choir leader was Titus Roe, and the early singer’s association, at least in part, consisted of Robert Freeman, Edmund Ellis, Gilbert Spencer, R. E. Ellis, Henry Fay, Isabel Wood, Ruth Bacon, Margaret and Miriam Hulbert, Helen Freeman, Jane Hulbert, Mary Shuff, Mary Spencer, Sara Brown, and Harvey Webster. Henry Fay played the flute, and Robert Freeman played the bass viol and sang tenor.
The congregation turned around to face the singers, as they were across the back of the room. The Psalmist was used for words and the Carmina Sacred for the music.
The new church held monthly covenant meetings on the fourth Saturday of every month, the minutes of these meetings were recorded. These meetings were for the purpose of those attending renewing their covenant with God. It was customary for all who were in attendance to speak, after this they attended to any church business necessary. In one of these meetings it was voted to hold communion on the fourth Sunday every two months. This was changed many times over the years.
The young church was not without difficult times. In 1845 the hand of fellowship was withdrawn from some, due to their refusal to attend meetings, or disorderly walk, or both. Later in that year the minutes state that “many were hopefully converted in a matter of a few days.”
On March 4, 1846, the minutes read “Spiritual concerns of the church seem dull and almost lifeless, the Lord have mercy on us, and revive us.”
On September 14, 1850, the following was adopted. “Believing that it is our duty to give of the substance that the Lord has entrusted to us as stewards of the manifold grace of God for the support of the different benevolent objects of the day. We would therefore resolve to have a quarterly collection of the church and society, that a sermon be delivered by the pastor of the church on the day when such collection is taken setting forth the claim of the benevolent object recommended by the church.
“Resolved, that in our opinion, it would be advisable for the church to appoint a committee of three brethren properly located to make arrangement for the above named objects, by giving timely notice, and to see that collections be obtained, and whole duty it shall be to solicit donations from such brethren or sisters absent from the meeting when such contribution is taken.” It was not noted what benevolent objects were supported.
On April 4, 1851, there was a discussion on the propriety of obtaining a parsonage. This was not acted on for some years.
In December of 1854 the following resolution was passed. “Any member absenting himself or herself from covenant meetings for two months are required to give a reasonable excuse, and if not present within four months without a reasonable excuse will be excluded from the church.”
At the beginning of the Civil War the church at Brocton organized the Baptist Sewing Circle to make clothing for the soldiers and the women of the West Portland assisted in this endeavor. The membership also contributed to the Soldier’s Aid Society which was later formed in the community.
Early in 1864 the church was blessed with the revival for which they had been praying for so many years. It was noted that many members were added and the covenant meetings were well attended. Later in that year, again it was noted that meetings were not well attended. Then, in late 1866, another period of revival began that lasted through most of 1867. Many were saved and baptized.
On December 8, 1866, a committee, of Deacon A. L. Blowers, Brother M. A. Wixon (the pastor at the time), S. M. Granger, and Elisha Tomer, was formed to act on the building of a parsonage. Then on February of 1868 two more were chosen to join the previously formed committee (Pastor Wixon was released as he had resigned as pastor) and look into building a parsonage. The committee was to prepare a report of the accounts and present it to the church. In September of that year the work on the cellar of the parsonage was underway. Jason Webster and Reuben Ellis were chosen to supervise the work, hire a mason, procure the needed materials, and assist the mason in doing the work.
On February 6, 1869, a communion service (set) was presented to the church congregation and accepted. A resolve was made to raise the money to purchase the set. The parsonage had been completed the previous fall and the church resolved to raise the money to pay for the work.
In November of 1869 many repairs were made to the church building. The floor was leveled, the pews turned around, the pulpit moved to the west end of the sanctuary, and the plastering was done. The painting was done the following January. All labor was gratuitous. With the exception of a few minor changes the sanctuary remains the same today.
On September 11, 1875, the church voted to make an application to the state convention for the sum of $200.00 for Rev. Lee, who had just accepted the pastorate.
On February 2, 1878, the church wrote a letter to Westfield Baptist Church to request to become a branch of that church as the pastor had left and the church did not have the means to support a pastor. The letter to Westfield went as follows.
The West Portland Baptist Church to the First Baptist Church of Westfield. Greetings.
Believing it to be for the good of the cause of Christ and its advancement in our midst and the general welfare of the Baptist Church we do hereby make application to you to become a branch of your church as may be mutually agreed contribution to the support of your pastor (considering ourselves under existing circumstances unable to support a pastor) that we may in return receive the preaching of the word of God that in the instruction we shall receive there from, we may be so awakened from our coldness and inactivity and become the better prepared to do our master’s service and labor for the salvation of souls around us. That in becoming a branch of your church we may retain our present organization.
By order and in behalf of the church
February 2, 1878
The church did become a branch of the First Baptist Church of Westfield, and remained so for about two years. During this time the church was under the pastorates of Rev. Thoms and Rev. Rose.
On March 13, 1880, the church met in a covenant meeting at which there was quite a number present. The minutes for that meeting read in part, “… After considering the position we occupy as a branch of the Westfield Church in regard to having the gospel preached to us. Moved and carried that we ask to be released from that church to be free and independent of that body and they from us. Moved and carried that our clerk write a request to that effect. To be done before our next covenant meeting that we may able to receive a report at that time.”
The letter was written and the response is as follows.
The First Baptist Church of Westfield to the West Portland Baptist Church.
The church met in consideration of your request to be released from us as a church and it was unanimously accepted.
Hoping that the Lord will be in this movement our prayers will be for your prosperity as a church.
Done by order and in behalf of the church.
G. B. Mortignom
The West Portland Baptist Church was again independent. The minutes in a July Covenant meeting state that the church was in hopes of securing Rev. Knight of Brocton to preach to them part time. Upon the request of Alfred Ellis, Rev. Knight did divide his labors between our church and the Brocton church until March of 1881. At that time it was voted to call Rev. Knight to preach to the church and it was noted that those present trusted God to do what they could not do for his support. Rev. Knight’s autobiography states that he came to our church on a full-time basis on January 1, 1881.
In November of 1881 a committee, consisting of Sisters H. Ellis and L. VanLeuven, and Rev. Knight was appointed to purchase carpeting and lights for the church at a cost of $60.00 which was to be raised. Rev. Knight agreed to do the soliciting for the money. A note, by the clerk, at the end of the minutes states, “Hope we shall not be inclined to let him do all our work.”
On December 5th of that year it was voted to have a Christmas tree for the Sunday School. This is the first time for the church to have a Christmas tree, at least that was mentioned in the minutes.
Then on December 25 it was noted that “We had our Christmas tree and it was a great success, and also surprise donation for Brother Knight amounting to $65.00 and some cents.”
Through 1882 there were quite a few members added to the church and the covenant meetings were well attended. It was stated in one of those meetings that there was the feeling that, “The Lord had commenced a work in our midst, may He carry it on.”
In October of 1883 Rev. Knight invited Brother J. H. Miller of Mayville, and Brother Burroughs of Stockton to come and hold a meeting with the church. They did so and Brother Burroughs remained with the church for some time, baptizing many. He labored at the church along with Rev. Knight.
In 1889 Rev. Knight began a subscription to raise the funds to put an addition on the church. The money was raised and the work began. The addition was the vestibule and prayer room, and the steeple. It was at this time that the old windows were removed and placed with the stained glass windows. They also put inch boards in the sanctuary and covered them with plaster and lath; until this time the walls were just the bricks painted.
In April of 1890 permission was granted for shelves to be built in the northeast corner of the prayer room for library books. The prayer room is what we now use as a nursery.
In June of 1892 the horse sheds were built. They were at the southwest corner of the church, where we now have a parking lot.
In February of 1892 it was voted that nothing but unfermented wine be used in communion. It was also moved that the church be opened to all temperance meetings.
On March 5, 1892, Brother Arthur Boss of Forestville was called to labor with the church, as Rev. Knight had resigned. On June 4th Brother Boss was received by letter and given a license to preach. (Rev. Knight would return at the resignation of Brother Boss.)
In April of 1896 two large lamps were purchased for the sidewalls of the church and the chandelier was repaired. To repair the chandelier it was necessary to put on new burners, chimneys and globes. New matting was put in the sanctuary and the old matting from the sanctuary was put in the vestibule. It was noted that this was a total cost of $25.71.
It was noted on May 2, 1896, that the organ was repaired, but it is not noted when the organ was originally purchased.
Arden Miller, son of J. H. Miller, who was apparently an evangelist, sent a letter stating he would hold meetings Monday through Thursday evenings. These meetings began on Monday November 16, 1896, and ran for six weeks. The minutes state that when he left, “We clung around him as a teacher sent from God.” They felt that they received a blessing from his teaching which they could never lose, and regretted that their offering to him was not more than about $30.00.
On June 4, 1898, it was decided to hold communion service right after the preaching and the table was to be set during the service. Until this time communion was usually held during the covenant meetings.
Our church has been very active in missions, both home and foreign. In the year 1900 there were collections taken for famine stricken India as well as missions. In one month the collections for these causes was over $76.00.
On January 2, 1902, the church held one of many roll calls. Every member was notified of the meeting and was expected to respond by attending the meeting or by mail. Following are the minutes of that meeting.
Church met today for roll call and regular covenant meeting. Attendance very good considering the cold and bad condition of the roads.
Meeting commenced at eleven o’clock by a song service after which Brother S. C. Welsh of the First Baptist Church of Westfield preached a very interesting discourse from First Corinthians 12:31, “But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet to show unto you a more excellent way.” At the close of sermon, adjourned to the church parsonage for dinner.
After dinner the meeting opened with a prayer and praise service led by Brother Welsh of Westfield. At close of praise service Brother R. E. Ellis gave a history of the church.
At the close of church history, listened to roll call. Sixty-two names on the church book of which some forty-five responded to call in person or by letter. And many who did not respond had purposed to be present but were providentially detained.
Church voted that Brother R. E. Ellis and Sister Ida Ellis arrange the church history read by Brother Ellis to be kept with the church records.
Closed with prayer by Brother Knight, all feeling they had had a pleasant and profitable time.
And had been cheered and encouraged by hearing from absent ones.
J. C. Walker Clerk
The history was arranged in a booklet and is with the church records.
The church voted that the ladies should organize a missionary society on March 7, 1903. It was also in that year that the trolly that ran along what is now Route 20 was started; this would have some affect on the church. This was the mode of transportation used by Pastor Burchett to come from Dunkirk in the late 1920s and early 1930s. I am sure that others used it as transportation to church also.
In January of 1904 a furnace was installed in the church. This was a wood and coal furnace that took the place of a stove. Three years later in April of 1907 the old organ was replaced with a new one.
February 7, 1910, marked the beginning of evangelistic services which continued each evening, except Saturday, for five weeks. The evangelist at the meetings was Rev. G. Frank Johnson. Other area ministers also came to speak. Some of the speakers were Rev. Bate of Brocton, Rev. Miller of Ripley, Rev. Patrician of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Rev. Shepherd of Sherman. Rev. Fuller, our pastor at the time, led the prayer meetings, and the singing. He also cared for the church, and notified the families of the meetings. Although some meetings had a very small attendance, due to sickness and the weather, there was a feeling that all had been refreshed and a hope that much good had been done.
There are no records for the period between August 5, 1911, and February 28, 1914.
In a meeting on June 5, 1915, the church considered uniting with either Westfield or Brocton but it was decided to remain independent. In November of that year a committee was appointed to see about putting gas into the church and the parsonage, and to raise the funds to do so. The minutes state that the work of putting gas in the parsonage was completed in 1917. Nothing was mentioned of the church but the work was done possibly before the parsonage.
The church was closed for the months of January, February, and March of 1919. Services began again on April 1, 1919, with Rev. Boorman as pastor.
On July 4, 1920, Mrs. Carrie Munson and Miss Ida Ellis were elected trustees of the church. These are the first women to serve in this position. Mrs. Munson was elected for two years but served until her death in 1927. Miss Ellis was elected for one year, but the minutes do not state how long she served; it must have been at least through the 1920’s.
During September of 1921 Rev. C. S. Knight and his family spent their vacation at the church parsonage with Ida Ellis, the church clerk. The church paid for Rev. Knight’s board and accepted his offer to preach during his three week stay. The last week revival services were held.
March 3, 1924, marked the beginning of another series of revival services lasting three weeks. The evangelists, Miss Frieda M. Ehrich and Miss Mary M. MacDougall, were given a home at the parsonage with Miss Ida Ellis, with the church paying their board. During the three weeks, twenty-four sermons were preached. Eight people professed their faith in Christ, and many more were strongly moved by the Holy Spirit. The largest attendance at the meetings was between seventy-five and eighty, and the smallest was ten. Many people came to the meetings from Brocton and Westfield.
In October of 1925 the members voted to close the church for the winter as it was thought unwise to heat the church for the few who attended. It is believed that the church was closed for about eighteen months, as the minuets book states that on May 29, 1927, a meeting was held to consider the advisability of opening the church for Sunday morning meetings. A committee was appointed to see Rev. Denison of Westfield to preach for the summer or until he returned to seminary. He agreed, and the church was opened on June 5, 1927. On February 12, 1928, Pastor Denison called a meeting to inform the church that he would not be able to remain after April 1, 1928.
On April 1st, Pastor Denison gave his farewell message and Mr. Walter Burchett filled the pulpit. Mr. Burchett was asked to be the permanent pastor and he consented to remain as long as both he and congregation were satisfied.
There is a short notation in the minutes book for May 4, 1930, that stated that Grace F. Hiller was elected clerk in place of R. W. Napper who had resigned. The next note is for April 1935; apparently the records have been lost for the five year period from May 1930 to April 1935.
In April of 1935 Reverend Denison was called to fill the pulpit again. He was given the right to administer communion and baptism.
At this time also a tray of individual communion cups was purchased. This is the first mention of individual communion cups and is possible that until this time communion was taken from one cup that was passed around.
During November and December of 1935 a special series of meetings was held. Those assisting Reverend Denison were Mr. Dunham, Mr. Jones, and Rev. Robert A. Fuller. During those meetings seventeen confessed conversion and twelve applied for baptism.
In January of 1936 a heater was installed in the baptistery. Donald Mawhir was baptized in the baptistery in 1936. He has also said that before the baptismal service he and Mynfred Mawhir, who was also baptized at that time, filled the baptistery by carrying buckets of water from what was at that time the parsonage. This would be the house directly to the west of the church. That would certainly make one thankful for the invention of the garden hose.
It was also noted, in 1936, that the church seemed to be in a prosperous condition at that time. Then in March of that year the notes state that Reverend and Mrs. Denison had been at the church for one year, and the Lord had greatly blessed his work during that time. After the special meetings held in December 1935, cottage prayer meetings in different homes were held every Wednesday evening. Rev. Denison took a small organ to the homes of those who did not have a piano. The average attendance at these meetings was thirty. Sunday evening services were also being held discussing “Christian Endeavor Topics,” with a leader and Reverend Denison delivering a short message following the discussion. Reverend and Mrs. Denison agreed to stay for the following year and asked all “To sacrifice in any way that they could that the work of the Lord may not be hindered and that souls may be saved.”
The Pastor reported, in August of 1936, that the church was in need of repair both inside and out. The steeple had to be repaired or removed. The revenue was raised for the work and it began in the fall. Several contractors looked at the steeple but nothing was done until a steeple jack from Erie asked for the job. He shingled part of the steeple, stained the shingles, and painted the aluminum caps. All were thankful that the steeple was saved. The window casings and doors were painted on the outside. The interior of the church was redecorated. The ceiling was painted, walls papered, woodwork and pews were painted and new carpet installed. The gas lights were removed and replaced with electric lights. With the exception of the steeple all labor was donated by the people of the church. At this time a piano was presented to the Sunday School by Mrs. Ada Taylor.
It took some time to complete the redecorating. Then on April 9, 1937, there was a rededication and homecoming service held to celebrate the completion of the work. It was noted, by the clerk, that this service was, “One of the best services held in years.”
Reverend Burchett, a former pastor, led the congregational singing and sang a solo, “In a very acceptable manner.” Another former pastor, Rev. Robert A. Fuller, of Stockton, gave the message of the evening. The subject was, “I will build me a church.” Reverend Arden Miller, of Brocton, spoke briefly. Letters from Mr. & Mrs. Robert Napper of Wisconsin and Reverend Charles Knight of California were read. Many who had at one time been a member of the church or congregation were present and filled the church.
During the late 1930s it was noted that during the warm months baptismal services were held at the creek in Titus woods. Ferris Woleben tells me that there is a place in the creek that is like a natural bath tub.
In a business meeting in 1940 the trustees were asked to see about putting a room in the basement, and the cost of such a project. The cost must have been a hindrance as the work was not done.
On July 1, 1946, the West Portland School, the white brick house near the corner of Prospect Hill and Route 20, was deeded to the church. It was maintained as a community house by the church for a number of years.
A ballot vote was taken, in 1953, and passed to sell the parsonage to Mr. & Mrs. Arthur Woleben for $2,500.00. This is the house directly to the west of the church. In 1954 it was voted to again redecorate the church.
The Trustees were authorized to make the necessary preparations to sell the school property in March of 1955. The property sold the following year.
A meeting was held in June of 1956 to discuss a minister to fill the pulpit left empty by the death of Reverend Denison. Reverend Robert A. Fuller was called.
In November 1956 the four candelabra were purchased to be placed in the auditorium, and the church accepted a cross given by Reverend Fuller to be placed in the front of the church.
In 1958 the congregation voted to put an addition on the west end of the church. The addition was to be fourteen feet wide and thirty-four feet long. Along with this addition came the first restroom facilities for the church. There was also a well drilled and a septic system installed. The outer shell of the building was to be hired done, and the finish work was to be done by the congregation. The cost of the entire project was $3,906.70. The addition was dedicated on February 22, 1959.
Due to the fact that our baptismal was in need of repair from the late 1950s through the mid 1960s, baptisms were held at Westfield. During this time also, pre-Easter services were held along with Westfield, starting on Palm Sunday. These were quite well attended.
During February of 1968 the church sanctuary and vestibule were again redecorated. The pews and floor were painted by volunteers, and the remainder of the work was hired done. The baptistry was also repaired at this time by church members.
It was decided, by a unanimous vote, to withdraw from the American Baptist Convention and the Chautauqua Association on February 2, 1968. With this decision we became an independent Baptist church as we are today.
February 9, 1969, began the tradition of having a potluck dinner immediately after the Sunday worship and then an early afternoon annual business meeting. Prior to this the meetings were held later in the afternoon, and for some time on Wednesday evening.
In May of 1969 the stained glass windows were in need of repair and the work was done by the Houser Art Glass Company of Erie, Pennsylvania.
The congregation decided to sell the old reed organ, which had been replaced by a new electric one the previous December, in August of 1969. The organ was sold to Mr. & Mrs. Darwin Overholt for $50.00. A party outside the church had offered $75.00 for the organ, but those attending the meeting preferred the Overholts purchase it. Darwin Overholt was the pastor of the church at the time.
In September of 1969 the church was again faced with the prospect of finding another minister as Mr. Overholt said that there were several places from which he may get an offer and he would probably accept, but he would give a month’s notice.
On April 5, 1970, a meeting was held to decide on a new pastor. Ferris Woleben, the chairman, told the group that Reverend Gary Henry was willing to be our pastor. It was stated that he is the grandson of Reverend Harold Wright who was known by some members. After hearing his credentials it was decided to call him for one service per week. It was decided to have a fellowship dinner to welcome Reverend Henry and his wife Luppa.
In 1971 there apparently was some fear that the church would close as the question was brought up of what would happen to the assets if this were the case. We are all very thankful that the fears were not realized.
On Sunday morning, December 7, 1975, Pastor Henry’s ordination service was held.
It was noted in 1976 that the church had been experiencing both spiritual and financial growth.
During 1977 and 1978 various improvements were done to the church building and grounds, such as a new church sign and pew cushions. The church safe was also purchased during this time.
During a business meeting, in 1979, Pastor Henry was thanked for the many fine improvements for which he had been responsible. Among them were the shelf for the guest book, the cabinet for the antique communion set, and the block for the organ light.
In August of 1979 the nomination committee was organized, the trustees were given the task of formulating a budget, and a new pulpit was built. The pulpit is the one currently in use.
Daily Vacation Bible School was held during the period from 1957 to 1966, during Rev. Robert Fuller’s ministry.
Our Vacation Bible School revived in 1980, and has been held annually and been steadily growing since. We have had as many as one hundred children, ages three to fourteen. Even one child per year accepting Christ would make the program a success, but we have had a great number accept Jesus as Saviour each year and consider our efforts very successful.
In 1980 the building fund was established. This was done as the church membership was growing beyond the capacity of the building. The following year the basement was put under the church. The new basement is a cement block structure built inside the existing stone foundation. There was also a new furnace installed. The cost of this project was $30,000.00. This was paid out of the building fund, the general fund, and loans to the church by various members as well as those from outside the church. It was not necessary to obtain a loan from a bank. All the loans were paid off within one year.
In 1983 a contingency fund was established. This was done with the hope of calling our pastor to full time ministry in the near future. This hope was later realized. This was the year that we adopted our constitution and placed a copy of the “Church Covenant” in the back of each hymnal. The sanctuary was redecorated during 1983, the ceiling was plastered, new chandeliers installed, and the walls and pews painted.
In 1984 the church obtained a ball field. A field was loaned to the church by William and Neva Farnham to be used as a ball field. It was also during this year that the church purchased the property to the east of the church where the parking lot and the parsonage are at present.
It was on April 14, 1985, that Pastor Henry was called to the ministry full time. Up until this time our pastor had been employed as supervisor of a furniture factory in Falconer, New York. Having given notice to Fancher Chair Company, Pastor Henry terminated his employment with them on July 1, 1986, and became our full time pastor.
The grapes on the newly acquired property were removed and two acres of the property were deeded to Pastor Henry to build a parsonage.
The sound system was installed in the sanctuary of the church in 1986. The church steeple was repaired, and painted as well.
It was also in 1986 that the congregation decided to remove the old building to the east of the church. This building was acquired along with the property recently purchased. It was at one time a store and a stop for the trolly which ran along what is now Route 20.
During the time that the church sanctuary walls were painted and the ceiling sprayed, new electrical wiring and two ceiling fans were installed.
In 1987 we became computerized with the purchase of the church computer. Other happenings of that year were the addition of a coat room in the southwest corner of the vestibule, and we acquired baptismal robes. We also had some repair work done on the bricks on the outside of the church, and we began discussing a church addition, which would be discussed for many years before it would be realized.
In 1988 the classrooms on the west end of the church were redecorated, and a large exhaust fan was installed in the ceiling of the sanctuary to keep it cool in the summer. This was the first year that the youth went to the 4-C conference.
The nursery, located over the vestibule, was redecorated in 1989. The pews were padded and covered, and the sanctuary was carpeted this year. Some of the church members, along with a landscaper, landscaped the north side of the church in the fall of 1989.
In 1990 the single door in the sanctuary was replaced with double oak doors to make entering and leaving the church easier, as our congregation has grown quite large.
Arline Fuller, daughter of Rev. Robert Fuller, was recognized for her 30-year service as choir director.
We have come to this year, 1991. Many things are happening this year; we are in the process of putting another addition on the church, on the west end, extending to the south of the existing addition. We have installed a new sign in front of the church, as well as one on the building to the right of the doors. We have also landscaped the southeast corner of the church.
We would like to make mention of the various services and groups within the church today. On Sunday we have Sunday School, followed by the morning worship. During the morning worship we also conduct children’s church. This is for children ages four through eight. There is a nursery for children under four years old. We have a family hour on Sunday evening, which includes singing, testimonies, a children’s lesson and a lesson for adults. We also have a Wednesday night Bible study and prayer meeting. Wednesday evening is also when the youth groups meet. Our youth groups are the Half Pints ages three to eight, Jesus Juniors ages eight to twelve, Teen Disciples ages twelve and up, and Excellerated Youth ages sixteen and up by invitation only. The Excellerated Youth is a self-taught program; they prepare and teach their own lesson. They meet monthly with Pastor Henry to learn to interpret the Bible and prepare devotions. This group has required community and church service and strict attendance. This is a high intensive Bible program for those who want greater understanding of spiritual commitment.
Spirit Lifters is a group for young couples; they have a monthly activity such as bowling, camping, going out to dinner, or a party, and a bi-monthly business and devotional meeting.
The Over Fifties group has a Valentine Dinner and fall picnic.
We also have a visitation program for those who are shut in. In addition to the visitation that Pastor Henry does Luppa Henry and Kathy Bowser make weekly visitations.
This brings our history up to date. We are in the process of planning special meetings for our 150th anniversary which will be in 1992.
We are in the process of beginning a program to care for the sick and elderly. Margaret Kelsey has been involved in this for the past few months, and wishes to continue. There have been others also who have helped in these situations.
We are also in the process of setting up a hospitality committee. The purpose of this committee is to greet and welcome newcomers to the church and supply them with information about the church and its programs and services. Those responsible for this will be Colleen Szymczak and Jackie Eberle.
Luppa Henry, Pastor’s wife, will also be in charge of the food pantry which is currently housed in the Tri-Church Parish in Brocton. Mrs. Henry will travel to Buffalo and or Erie every three months to purchase food to be distributed to the needy.
Our church congregation is growing at a steady pace. The credit for this goes mainly to our pastor and all his hard work, and answers to prayer.
Rev. Charles LaHatt 1842-1850
Eld. Levant Rathbun along with Rev. LaHatt 1844-1846
Eld. Malcom Roberts along with Rev. LaHatt 1849-1850
Rev. C. B. Reed 1850-1852
Rev. John Haladay 1853- ?
Rev. O. L. Crittenden 1856-1859
Rev. W. R. Connelly 1862- ?
Rev. Alonzo Frink 1863-1866
Rev. Marion Wixon 1866-1867
Rev. Daniel Burt 1868-1869
Rev. J. W. Davis 1869-1871
Rev. William Downer 1872-1874
Rev. S. I. Lee 1875-1877
Eld. Thoms 1878- ?
West Portland was united with Westfield
Rev. Alfred Rose ? -1880
W. P. was united with Westfield
Rev. Alfred Knight 1880-1890
Rev. Arthur Boss 1890-1891
Rev. Alfred Knight 1891-1903
Rev. George E. Ford 1903-1905
Rev. E. H. Hovey 1905-1906
Rev. H. E. Spase 1906-1907
Rev. Charles S. Knight July 1907 – November 1907
Rev. Robert Fuller 1908-1911
Rev. J. L. Chase 1911-1914
Rev. Charles Boorman 1914-1927
Rev. Walter Burchett 1928-1935
Rev. Edwin Denison 1935-1956
Rev. Robert Fuller 1956-1966
Rev. Darwin Overholt 1966-1970
Rev. Gary Henry 1970- Present 2010
Rev. Ryan Grafton 2010- Present