History of Religious Societies in Gouverneur, NY


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Baptist Church.— The first church organization in the town was effected on the 18th of February, 1811, when a committee of three persons of the First Baptist church of Hartford, Washington county, N. Y., namely, Elder Amasa Brown, Timothy Atwood, and Eli Carrington, met at the house of Isaac Austin and organized the First Baptist church with eighteen members. Jonathan Payne was appointed deacon and soon afterward was licensed to preach, and ordained as the first pastor. The church joined the association in 1812. Mr. Payne continued pastor until 1816, from which date until 1825 there was no settled minister, but the church was supplied most of the time by various elders and licentiates. For eleven years meetings were held in dwellings, barns, orin the school-house, but in 1822 the first church building was erected. This was a plain wooden structure and was used until 1850, when it was sold to James Spencer and removed, and the present church erected on the site, The church has been prosperous during most of its history and now has a membership of more than two hundred, with a largely attended Sabbath school. The present pastor is Donald Duncan Munro, who came January 1, 1890. The society is prosperous and the attendance large. A Baptist church was in existence at North Gouverneur from about 1840 for a short time; was reorganized in 1859, but disbanded nearly twenty years ago.

Congregational Church.— As before stated, meetings of this denomination were the first held in the new settlements, which were continued for several years without a formal organization. The first regular organization of the society took place in May, 1817, under direction of Rev. Nathaniel Dutton, of Champion, Jefferson county, with fourteen members, eight were received on profession of faith. On the 27th of July the sacraments were first administered by Mr. Dutton, when ten more, on profession of faith, united with the church. The church was legally incorporated April 13, 1820, with the following as trustees: John Spencer, Richard Kimball, William Cleghorn, William Colton, Rockwell Barnes, and James Parker. Prior to this time the members had met in the school house, or in their dwellings and barns; but when the organization was perfected, a beginning was made upon a church. It progressed far enough that year for occupancy by January, 1821, and Rev. James Murdock, the first regular pastor, began his service. The house, a plain but convenient meeting place, costing, $1,400, was completed in 1824. This building was occupied about twenty years, when a second and large edifice was erected, and dedicated August 29, 1844, costing $3,500. Several years later it was considerably enlarged, the school-room improved, and a parsonage built. A few Presbyterians at first united in the formation of the church. Their numbers were greatly increased during the succeeding years by the Scotch Presbyterians who had settled in that vicinity, when the society became known as the “Presbyterian Congregational Church.” The time arrived when it became necessary to repair and refurnish the church, and it was intimated that if the name was changed to Presbyterian, the means to make the repairs would readily be furnished. Therefore a meeting was called to act upon the proposition. The Congregational element had been greatly weakened by the formation of a second church of that denomination, when the test vote decided the question, and the church became fully Presbyterian in 1863, under the pastorate of Rev. Baruch B. Beckwith.

Methodist Episcopal Church.— Several persons of the Methodist faith lived in Gouverneur from early days, but they commonly worshiped with other denominations, except when an occasional itinerant preacher held a service in a private house or the school-room. Rev. Benjamin Dighton is believed to have been the first of these preachers, and the record book of the society is authority for the supposition that he preached as early as 1828, while Mrs. Parker places the probable date several years earlier; but the first organization of which there is positive record was effected in the year 1832, with a very limited membership. From the beginning of 1833 until about the close of 1835 the meetings were held in the school-house, and later in the chapel of the seminary, where they continued until the institution was burned in 1839; then the school-house was again used for the purpose. When the seminary was rebuilt it was used as the meeting place of the Methodists until i 862, when the building which had been erected by the Second Congregational Society was purchased for $1,000. This was used for about seven years, when the church that preceded the present building was erected in 1870. It cost $13,500, besides the site, and was dedicated February 9, 1871. The society has also a fine parsonage property. The society is very prosperous and active, the membership in the charge is about 350, with a Sabbath school of more than 400 scholars. The present church is of stone and cost about $30,000. It was dedicated in October, 1891. Rev. S. J. Greenfield, the present pastor, came in May, 1893. There is a small Methoiist church at Natural Dam, built in 1890, which is in the Gouverneur charge. Rev. L. T. Conrad preaches there and at Hailesborough. A Methodist church IS in existence at North Gouverneur, which is in the Richville charge. Rev. F. W. Thompson is pastor.

A Second Congregational church was formed in February, 1842, several having withdrawn from the first. The society was incorporated on March 21, 1843, with Rockwell Burns, Nathan W. Smith, and John Leach, trustees. They built a small frame church, where the Rev. E. Pond preached to them a few years The society was not very numerous, and after struggling for a time sold their house to the Methodist society, and some joined the first church when the society went down.

Presbyterian Church.— This was formed from the Congregational body in 1863 by a vote of that church, when most of the members continued their relations with the new body, but a few went over to the Methodists. This change took place under the pastorate of Rev. B. B. Beckwith, when it took on that character, abandoning its partial Congregational features, and electing the following elders: George Rodger, Melville H. Thrall, Samuel Wright, James Brodie, Sinieon L. Parnielee, Joseph Howes, and George Lockie. The church has continued in a flourishing condition since, and now has a membership of nearly 400. The society continued to worship in the same place, with only occasional repairs, until the development of the mineral wealth of the place caused a marked improvement in the prosperity of the pleasant village. This was plainly visible in the substantial places of business and elegant homes being built tip around the old church, which seemed to admonish them that a more elegant temple should be raised. In the spring of 1892 the society took steps in that direction, when preparations were made for a new church, resulting in the construction of the present edifice, of Gouverneur marble, at a cost of nearly $6o,ooo. It is one of the most substantial and beautiful churches in Northern New York, and a great credit to the town. The new church was dedicated with elaborate and interesting ceremonies on the 31st day of October, 1893, under the pastorate of Rev. W. F. Skinner.

Trinity (Episcopal) Church.— The first Episcopalian religious services were held in the Presbyterian church by Rev. Wilbur F, Paddock in the summer of 1862, and a church was incorporated under the above name on the 16th of April, 1866, with Benjamin F. Skinner and Aaron B. Cutting as wardens. Their first rector was Rev. Jedediah Winslow. The congregation usually worshiped in the Seminary Chapel until the church building was erected ; the corner-stone was laid in September, 1866 and the church was dedicated, free of debt, July 29, 1869. The cost of the building was about $7,500. It has been repaired and refurnished recently and a new organ put in. Rev. James A. Dixon, pastor.

Catholic Church.— There were only about twenty-five Catholics in Gouverneur as late as the year 1850, and they had been dependent for public religious services upon various priests from Ogdensburg. A movement was inaugurated in 1856 for the erection of a church edifice, and a lot was purchased on South street. This was afterward exchanged for a lot and building on Park street (the former church of the Methodists), which was dedicated to its new purpose December 22, 1874 it was burned in the great fire of January 13, 1875. In the same year the present house of worship was erected at a cost of $4,000. Rev. Father Laramee is the present priest in charge.

Universalist Churches.— The first Universalist church of Gouverneur and Fowler was organized in 1832. The original subscribers to the constitution were Israel Porter and twenty five others. The first Universalist church of Gouverneur and Hailesborough was formed in Gouverneur village January 27, 1849, with eighteen members. The church continued a precarious existence several years; but there is now no church of this denomination in the town.

Continued in

* Gouverneur Quarry Industry
* Gouverneur Talc

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