Religious Societies and Schools in Canton, NY


Local Histories

First Congregational Church.- Early in the summer of 1807 the missionaries Amos Pettengill and Ebenezer Hibbard, of Vermont, organized a Congregational Church with seven members, as follows: George Foot, John Richardson, Weltha Foot, Betsy Donegly, M. Conkey, Jane Ross and P. Richardson. The society was incorporated Januuary 16, 1815, with George Foot and two others as trustees. They were supplied with missionaries most of the time until 1823, when Rev. Hiram S. Johnson became their pastor. In 1825, it is said, through spiritual weakness or indifference, they were induced to change to Presbyterian.

A second Congregational church was organized at Crary's Mills (as mentioned in the history of Potsdam), on the Canton side of the river, in September, 1823, with twelve members. Jeduthun Farwell and three others were elected trustees. A church building, 32X44 feet, was erected and dedicated in 1844. It was repaired and rededicated February 12, 1874. The society is now in a prosperous condition.

The First Baptist Church of Canton- Meetings of Baptists were held in the northern part of this town as early as 1814 and for several years thereafter before an attempt was made to organize a church. On the 22d of June, 1817, a council was called at the school-house in North Canton by Rev. Samuel Churchill, a missionary from Boston. Fourteen persons presented themselves for membership, not all of them, however, from this town. Justin Olin was appointed deacon and Joseph Olin, clerk. Rev. Rupe Batchelor was called to the pastorate and the membership increased. The records of 1832 show a membership of sixty eight, and services were being held in the village and a branch which had existed in the south part united with it. On the 10th of December, 1823, the First Baptist Evangelical Society of Canton was incorporated, with R. Batchelor, T. D. Olin and Jonathan Paul as trustees. In 1829 this society united with the Universalists in the erection of a church building, which was used by the Baptists until 1849, when they erected a church of their own, which was dedicated February 8, 1849. This building was occupied until 1871, when the present one was built; but it has been considerably remodeled since that date. At the present time (1893) there are about 125 members, and the pastor is Rev. S. Thomas Williams. The trustees are Charles Churchill, John Fields, Harvey Barber, Gilbert Bouck.

Methodist Episcopal Church.- As early as 1808 a class Was formed in the western part of the town, where prayer meetings were held, and their numbers increased yearly. On the 3d of November, 1819, the Methodist Church Society of Canton was incorporated, with the following trustees: Jesse Barnes, Hugh Montgomery, Isaac Buell, Jeduthun Farwell, William Perry and William Richardson. The early meetings were held in school houses and in a building which had been used in connection with a distillery by Mr. Farwell. In 1823 measures were adopted to erect a church edifice, which resulted in the building of the brick church at South Canton, which is still in use. The lot was donated to the society by William Richardson for church and cemetery purposes. Rev. L. T. Cole is the present pastor in that church.

In the mean time the northern part of the town had become thickly settled, and to meet the necessity of a more convenient place of worship the Second Methodist church and Society was formed on the 28th of August, 1827, with Solomon Boynton, Samuel Fish, Daniel M. Foot, Gershom Conger and Joseph Ames as trustees. A lot on Chapel and Court streets was purchased of David C. Judson, on the 1st of January, 1828, and there a frame church was erected, which was the home of the society for nearly forty years. It was displaced by the present brick edifice in 1856, which was dedicated February 25, 1857. A parsonage was erected in 1846, and the present one about 1884. The membership of the church is 209, and Rev. C. E. Dorr is the pastor for 1893. The trustees are: James Kingston, Nathan Barber, Dr. A. C. Drury, A. Watson, L. Barber, E. F. Tripp, D. W. Sherwin, W. D. Church and R. A. Barber.

Presbyterian Church.- The first Presbyterian society of Canton was organized from the Congregational body under the pastorate of Rev. Hiram S. Johnson, a Presbyterian, and placed themselves under the St. Lawrence Presbytery. In 1816 the Presbytery of Oneida was divided, and the Presbytery of St. Lawrence created, comprising this county, Lewis and Jefferson counties. The northern and eastern parts of the county belonged in the Presbytery of Champlain. In 1821 the Albany Synod set off Ogdensburg, De Kaib, Canton, Potsdam, Hopkinton, Rossie and Gouverneur to constitute the Presbytery of Ogdensburg. In 1829 a change was made by which all of this county was placed in the Presbytery of St Lawrence. In 1839, at the division of the church into the Old School and the New School, the Old School Presbytery was formed, and in 1870, upon the reunion of the two bodies, the last named Presbytery and that of Watertown were united in the St. Lawrence Presbytery. of which this Canton church became a part. The first pastor after the church became Presbyterian was Rev. Hiram S. Johnson. The church was incorporated July 22, 1825, its first trustees being Elias C. Page, Silas Wright, jr., Joseph Barnes, Henry Foote, William Richardson and Eden Ray. In 1826 a site for a church was deeded to the society by Silas Wright and Joseph Barnes, and the building was begun in 1828 and not completed until 1831. Mr. Johnson's pastorate continued until 1838. The erection of the present beautiful stone edifice was begun in 1876, and dedicated January 4, 1880; its cost was about $25,000, The succession of pastors in the church has been as follows: Revs. Roswell Pettibone, John Waugh, James Gardner, who came in November, 1869, and remained until 1884. Rev. Rolla G. Bugbee was acting pastor one year and was installed pastor in November, 1885. He served until February 6, 1888. The present pastor, Rev. Avery S. Walker, D.D., was installed July 11, 1888.

The present officers of the church are as follows: Ruling elders, Henry L. Sackrider, Charles N. Conkey, Heman P. Matthews, Gilbert B. Manley; deacon, Hiram Sanderson ; trustees, Gilbert B. Manley (president), Charles Nickelson, Solon D. Kimball, Wm. H. Taliman, Thomas Fields and James W. Bailie. The membership of the church is 208.

Universalist Church.- This society was organized in November, 1829, at a meeting held in the school house in the village, with the following officers: Minot Jenison, Joseph Ames 2d, and Thomas H. Conkey, trustees; Alvin C. Low, clerk; Daniel Mack, collector. In 1828-9 a church edifice was erected by this society and the Baptists, each being entitled to the use of it according to the amount paid towards its construction. A few years later the interest of the Baptists in the church was transferred to the Universalists. The church was remodeled in 1865, and again in 1887. The pastors who have served the church have been Revs, Mr. Briggs, W. H. Waggoner, L. M. Hawes, J. F. Goodrich, S. W. Remington, Richard Eddy, L. C. Browne, Simon Goodenough, A. G. Gaines, Joseph Crehore, George W. Weaver, Mr. Stowe, and the present pastor, Rev. J. W. Payson.

Grace Episcopal Church.- This church was organized in 1836 by the Rev. Richard Bury, who was also the first rector. The original membership was nineteen. On the 22d of August of the same year a society was formed, of which Richard N. Harrison and Roswell Green were wardens, and John D. Burns, Darius Clarke, Elam Russ, Harry Foote, Lyman Ellsworth, Thomas Viner, Chauncey Foote and Henry Van Rensselaer, vestrymen. A small chapel was erected in 1841-2, and consecrated September 3, 1842, by Bishop Benjamin H. Onderdonk. With subsequent repairs and extensions this building has been used until the present time. In 1855 a rectory was built, which was displaced by the present one in 1887 at a cost of $3,700. Tile rectors of this parish have been as follows: 1836, Richard Bury; 1838, William Latham; 1840-41, Thomas P. Tyler; 1843-4, F. J, Hawley; 1845-6, William G, French; 1848, Minot M. Wells; 1851-53, Abel Ogden; 1854-59, John Wells Moore; 1859-64, W. A. Rich; 1864-5, Thomas H. Siel; 1866-68, William Binet; 1868-71, John F. Potter; 1872-73, George T. Kaye; 1873-74, R, B. Van Kleek; 1875-76, R. D. Irwin; 1877-82, John T. Pearce; 1883-85, E. R. Armstrong; 1886-90, R. G. Hamilton; the present pastor is Rev. R. W. Brown. The wardens are L. W. Russell and Sheldon Brewer; vestry, R. B, Ellsworth, Cleland Austin, J. D. Tracy, H. D. Ellsworth, H. B. Safford, J. C, Keeler, H. Liotard and C. J, Perkins.

St. Mary's (Roman Catholic) Church.- This church was incorporated August 17, 1874, by Rt. Rev. Edgar P. Wadhams, bishop of the diocese of Ogdensburg, Very Rev. James Mackey, vicar general of that diocese, Rev. James O'Driscotl, and laymen Dennis Woods and James O'Brien, as trustees Many years ago there was a large settlement of Irish emigrants in the western part of the town of Canton, on what became known as the Irish Settlement Road, who attended church at Potsdam. The pioneer priest was Rev. James Mackey, who at intervals visited this settlement and was the founder of this church. VVhen the society was finally formed they purchased the lot on which their church now stands and erected a small frame edifice previous to i868. There they worshiped until 1873, when it was burned by an incendiary December 12th. In 1862 the parsonage was purchased. After the burning of the old church, and while the present one was in process of construction, the court-house was used for services. In 1874, through the efforts of the present pastor. Rev. James O'Driscoll, the building of the present brick edifice was commenced, and the corner-stone laid by Bishop Wadhams, July 4, It was dedicated on the 15th of August, 1876, by the same person. It is a large and handsome edifice and cost with its furnishings about $55,000. The families in this parish number nearly two hundred, principally farmers.

Educational Institutions.- Since the first district school was taught in this town, said to have been in 1804, the development of its educational institutions has been commensurate with the growth of the town in all other respects. As population increased, new districts were created, until at one time there were thirty, which number has since been reduced to twenty eight. Tile first school taught in the village of Canton was on the site of the Miner block.

It is evidence of the deep interest of the inhabitants that steps were taken as early as 1831 to establish an academy. At that time twentyfive citizens of the townpledged themselves to pay $1,250 towards the erection of a building suitable for academic purposes. The subscribers met on the 16th of May, in the year named, and adopted articles of association, in which it was provided, among other things, that a building should be erected two stories high, with cupola, and not less than thirty by fifty feet in size. The sum of money pledged was to be divided into shares of fifty dollars each and each share entitled to one vote. To become a partner in the enterprise a person was required to sign his name to the articles and give his note to the building committee to be appointed, promising to pay five dollars in the following August, and the remainder in two annual installments, payable in cattle, on or before the first of October; or grain on or before the first day of February following. The articles were to continue in force until the school was incorporated, for which application was to be made irnniediately. No subscription was binding until the sum of $1,200 was signed and the site selected for the building. Joseph Ames 2d. Isaac C. Paige, and William Noble were appointed a building committee, and the site opposite the county buildings was presented to the subscribers by David C. Judson. A committee was appointed to secure incorporation from the Board of Regents, but the amount of property necessary for this purpose was increased about that time, rendering it impossible to accomplish the object until later. On the 8th of May, 1835, a legislative act authorized a tax upon the town of Canton of $500 for a classical school, provided an equal sum should be raised by subscription, the fund to be turned over to the trustees of the gospel and school lot for investment, the income to be paid annually to the support of the academy. These provisions Were carried out, and on tile 9th of April, 1837, an act was passed authorizing a tax of $500 annually for three years on the taxable property of the town, to be invested in a manner similar to the foregoing, provided an equal sum was raised by subscription. This was also accomplished. An act of incorporation was passed April 24, 1837, appointing Silas Wright, jr., Minot Jenison, Thomas N. Conkey, Chauncey Foote, Thomas D. Olin, Richard N. Harrison, Daniel Mack, Joseph Ames 2d, Simeon D. Moody. Darius Clark, Henry Barber, and Amos G. Smith, trustees. Previous to this time, and since 1831, a good classical school had been maintained. In 1839 the trustees purchased a lot of Mr. Judson adjoining the one they already owned, and erected thereon a building, a part of which was for the female department of the academy, and part as a boarding-house. It was burned in November, 1844, and in the following year the first building was repaired and an addition erected for the female department. The academy was successful from the beginning, when it had ninety-nine students, and reached its highest number in 1846, when it had 182. It was maintained as an academy until August 20, 1868, when it was merged in the Union Free School, established in that year.

In 1883 the present handsome and commodious school building was erected at a cost of $28,000.

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