History of Churches in Cornwall, NY
From: The History of Orange County, New York
Edited by: Russel Headley
Published by: Van Deusen and Elms
Middletown, New York, 1908


Presbyterian. - The earliest record of religious worship came from Bethlehem, which was at first the name of the church, and then extended to the neighborhood. It was Presbyterian in form and ministered to by the Rev. Mr. Challoner, who had charge also in Cornwall, New Windsor and Blooming Grove. The building was erected in 1730. In point of seniority it was the third oldest congregation west of the Hudson and north of the Highlands. The second incumbent was the Rev. Enos Ayres, who was followed by Mr. Close in 1764. He remained for forty years, and was chaplain during the Revolutionary War to soldiers stationed in the vicinity. The Rev. Artemus Dean was installed in 1813 and served for twenty nine years. During his pastorate the church that had stood for ninety six years was torn down and replaced by the present edifice. In 1872 the Rev. Mr. Atwater was appointed. In 1827 the Rev. James Thorn, of Canterbury, gathered some members of other churches together and, obtaining letters of dismissal from their several organizations, formed them into a congregation. A small church was erected, and in 1828 he was installed by the Presbytery of the North River as pastor for New Windsor and Canterbury. He was succeeded in 1835 by Jonathan Silliman, who remained pastor for twenty six years. The Rev. Messrs. Baker, Eddy and Clarke succeeded each other for short terms, but in 1872 the Rev. Lyman Abbott took charge. He labored faithfully for many years, and only severed his connection when the call came from Plymouth Church, Brooklyn. His place was filled by Mr. Egbert, who proved to be a thoroughly live man, leaving the impress of his personality not only on his church but the whole neighborhood. A call to a larger field took him away, and his mantle fell on the Rev. Mr. Beattie, who had been taught in that Sunday School. He too gave up and was succeeded by Rev. Mr. Allen.

Cornwall-on-Hudson Presbyterian Church. - As early as 1855 some families residing in what is now known as Cornwall-on-Hudson, felt the need of a church at this place. They held their first meeting in the school room of Alfred C. Roe, in the building now occupied by the Gold Cure, and "depending on divine aid resolved to erect a house of Worship," and one year later the present building was dedicated. There were only seventeen members and eight of them belonged to the Roe family. Their names were Peter Roe, Mrs. Susan Roe, Alfred C. Roe, Mrs. Caroline Roe, James G. Roe and wife, Mrs. Roe Caldwell, Milton Wiley and wife, Mrs. Mary Jackson, Miss Amanda Adams, Mrs. Mary A. Clark, Mrs. Rachael Bruen, Phebe Greeds, Mary Johnson, Angeline Clark, and John P. Roe. In 1899 there were four survivors, but Mrs. Sarah Wiley died that year, Mr. Milton Wiley following three years later. In 1906 Mrs. Mary Jackson passed away, but was able to be present part of the time in the church at the celebration of its fiftieth anniversary. Her sister, Miss Amanda Adams, still survives.

The first elders chosen were Milton Wiley and James G. Roe, James O. Adams was elected later. The first stated supply was the Rev. Dr. Deyo, who was succeeded by the Rev. Joseph Robinson, who died in 1858. Dr. Ledoux followed, who resigned when Mr. Teal was appointed. He was called to a larger field and the Rev. George P. Noble came. In 1891 he dissolved his connection with the church and Mr. Hugh Frasier, the present incumbent, was installed.

The next church in point of age is the plain Quaker meeting house in Canterbury. Previous to its erection, service was held in the house occupied by David Sands, who was a noted Friend preacher, but as the congregation grew it was found a place of worship was needed. About 1790 the present edifice was built and Catherine Sands, a girl of twelve years old, carried the nails for the workmen from New Windsor on horseback.

A division in doctrine caused a separation in the society in 1827. The part retaining the buildings was called the orthodox and the seceders Hicksites, from a member called Elias Hicks, who had promulgated the new belief. These held meetings in private houses for some months, when a brick building was erected in the rear of what is now John Chatfield's stable. Both Mr. Beach and Mr. Rottener mention a coincidence in the two buildings. The first marriage in the first house was Catherine Sands to Squire Ring, and the first one in the new building was that of her son, Robert Ring, nearly forty years later.

Methodist. - The early Methodists held their meetings in a schoolhouse, which stood for many years at the Corners, but in 1830 erected the present building on a knoll in Canterbury. It has been almost rebuilt and modernized, and now is a very handsome church. The first pastor was the Rev. Phineas Rice, who had charge in New Windsor, and what is now Vails Gate, Salisbury and Mountainville. In 1863 it became self supporting, and was detached from the other missions, and the Rev. J. H. Gregory was appointed by the Conference. It has always since had a resident pastor and the present incumbent, Rev. Angelo Ostrander is justly popular and has been returned by the unanimous request of the congregation three successive terms.

Episcopal. - Previous to 1858 there was no separate organization of the Episcopal Church in Cornwall. Those who could do so drove to New Windsor, and those who were unable, joined in the worship with other religious bodies. Many of the strangers coming here at that time were of that faith, and in conjunction with some of the residents took the necessary steps for the incorporation of a parish. On July 17th, 1858, a meeting was held and officers were elected to serve until the following Easter. Alonzo Alvord and William Bayard were chosen wardens, and N. P. Willis, Thos. Cummings, Daniel Birdsal, James Crissey, Nicholas Chatfield, Jr., Francis Barton, Chas. H. Mead and John Chatfield were elected vestrymen. A lot was purchased and a contract for the building made with Messrs. Shaw & Sons, of Newburgh. and on May loth, 1829, the corner stone was laid by the Right Rev. Dr. Potter. By the 20th of November of the same year it was opened for divine service. Until 1864, the services were conducted by the resident minister at New Windsor, but in November of that year the Rev. John Webster was installed, who was succeeded in January, 1866, by the Rev. W. G. French. In 1869, the tower and spire was completed, one of our wealthy residents who was a vestryman, Mr. Sherwood, contributing $2,000. The ladies' auxiliary, an organization that has shown the greatest success in collecting funds for church purposes, contributed the clock. Mr. Snowden was the next minister, who died in office. The Rev. Mr. Huntington succeeded him, and was succeeded by Mr. Cleveling, who gave place to Dr. Page, who has charge at present.

The Catholic. - Previous to 1857 the members of the Catholic Church met for service in the home of Mrs. McQuade, in Canterbury, and at the corners in what was then known as the Weaver house. Three gentlemen, John Diffendale, Daniel O. Callahan and John McClean started a building fund, each contributing one hundred dollars. The next on the list was a non Catholic, Mr. Henry F. Chadeayne with fifty dollars. Mr. Stephen Gillis gave 50,000 bricks from his yard. But a few weeks elapsed before there was money enough to justify their purpose of building a church, and a lot was purchased at the top of River avenue, which commanded a magnificent view of mountains and river. The building was erected by Messrs. Little Brothers & Co., of Newburgh, and would seat about 150. About twenty families represented the entire congregation. But only a few years elapsed when it was found wholly inadequate to accommodate the resident population, and the summer visitors would have filled one three times as large. It was supplied from St. Patrick's, Newburgh, a priest driving down on Sunday morning, and returning after service. After A. E. Mattheissen and the Harvey and Sherwood families settled here, steps were taken to build a larger edifice. The present lot was purchased for $2,000 and nearly $2,000 more was in the savings bank, when an application was made for a resident clergyman, and in 1870 Father Ambrose Keogh was sent by the Archbishop of New York. His health was very delicate, and at first it seemed a task beyond his strength to attempt to erect a church, but the present fine building is a monument of his perseverance and energy. The corner stone was laid in 1871 by Bishop McQuade, of Rochester, and the following year services were held in the basement. A handsome rectory was built and furnished at the same time. It was connected with a mission at Washingtonville. After five years' service Father Keogh was transferred to Tuckahoe, and was succeeded by Father Mackin. There was a mortgage of $13,000 on the property and Cornwall prosperity had begun to wane, and the churches were among the first to feel it. Meeting the annual interest and current expenses were nearly all that was attempted at that time, with the exception of the purchase of a cemetery for $2,000. At the end of five years Father Ward succeeded to the pastorate, and immediately took steps to complete the upper part. This he did, at a cost of about $8,000, without increasing the mortgage. He was succeeded by Father Gordon, who paid $8,000 of the debt during the five years of his incumbency. His promotion to a large city parish was followed by the Rev. Phillip Ahearn, who was in turn succeeded by the Rev. James Curry. A heating plant, electric light and village water were installed at this time into both church and rectory. Two handsome side altars were built with three costly statues. In 1901 he was appointed to St. Tames's Parish, New York, and was succeeded by the Rev. James S. Fenton. Under his management the remainder of the mortgage has been paid and plans drawn for a parochial school to be erected on the grounds in the rear of the church. A large Sunday school has always been an important part of the work. In 1907 Father Fenton went abroad for his health, and the Rev. Father Brosan has charge.

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