Christian Church Centenial Celebration
On Tuesday, May 30, 1922 Red Rock residents and supporters of the Red Rock Christian church gathered to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its organization. The following is a report of the event I found in the Chatham Courier edition of the following Thursday, June 1, 1922.
RED ROCK ANNIVERSARY WAS A MEMORABLE EVENT
CENTENNIAL OF CHRISTIAN CHURCH FITTINGLY CELEBRATED.
Organization is One of Oldest of its Denominations in New York State-Morning, Afternoon and Evening Exercises Were Attended by Large Number of Present and Former Residents.
Seldom it is that there is a happening which in any way disturbs the peace, quiet and tranquility of the little hamlet of Red Rock which, from the standpoint of the admirers of landscape, is one of the most beautiful and most attractive sections of old Columbia county.
There are, however, occasions when Red Rock awakens and does things, does them thoroughly and in a manner befitting the cherished memories and traditions of the bygone years when it boasted of greater activity, larger population and of men and women whose names are prominently identified with the religious, commercial and civic history of the eastern portion of the county.
Recall, if you happen to be a native or one of the older residents of this section, the day, twenty-two years ago, when Red Rock observed the 150th anniversary of its settlement and the erection of the suitably inscribed marble shaft which surmounts the red rock from which the hamlet takes its name. (The hamlet was settled in 1750 and the monument was erected in 1860.) It was a gala occasion, a day on which hundreds of people from various sections of Columbia and Berkshire counties congregated to listen to addresses by the late Hon. John Cadman, esteemed by Red Rock as a native son, and by School Commissioner Hugh I. Fish, of Chatham also to listen to remarks by local speakers and to music by the Chatham band. Suspended from a wire which extended from tall trees on the hillside at either side of the rock was a large American flag, on the historic rock was a gaily decorated speakers' stand, the hillside forming a natural grandstand from which many people listened while the speakers paid their eloquent tributes to the Red Rock of that day and of the years preceding. In the afternoon there were various sports and in the evening there was a clam bake and a supper, one of those suppers for which Red Rock was famous. The hamlet may have had its shortcomings along some lines but when it came to satisfying the cravings of the inner man, it took no back seat for any other community and the supper and bake which capped the fitting climax on that occasion were culinary masterpieces. Our statement in this respect will be substantiated by all who were so fortunate as to obtain a seat beside that long table.
Many years of routine have passed since that eventful day and evening but on Tuesday of the present week Red Rock was again the Mecca for a large number of people and again the occasion was an anniversary, the formal observance of the centennial of the Christian church which is said to be of the oldest churches of this denomination in New York state.
Once more did Red Rock evidence the thoroughness of its preparation for events of this character and provided a very forcible demonstration of what can be accomplished by a small number of people in a small community when all work in harmony for a common purpose.
The old church, like those who attended the celebration, was fittingly dressed for the occasion. With its new suit of paint and with a brand new bell in its belfry, in readiness to send forth the peals signifying the age of the church organization, it did not look its years. Its condition to-day proves that men who builded in the olden times did so with the desire for durability and the majority of the timbers used in its construction promise to withstand the ravages of another century.
Included in the throng who came to witness the exercises, to listen to greetings, music, scripture, prayer, history, sermon, the sound of the new bell and to witness pantomime and the pageant depicting the history of the organization, were former and present residents of Red Rock and the many surrounding communities. To these, particularly those who knew Red Rock and its residents in the olden days, the occasion was one tinged with sorrow and sadness as there was brought to mind the many who formerly were so prominently connected with this church and its activities, so thoroughly interested in its welfare and so faithful in their attendance at its services. The majority of these old-time church men and church women are at rest in the cemetery on the hillside adjoining the church and it is regretted that they could not be present on this occasion for it would have been a red-letter day in their existence. However, it may be that though they were not present in the flesh, they were present in spirit. Who knows? If they were, we are assured that as they looked down from on high they rejoiced and approved, rejoiced because of their beloved organization having attained the age of one hundred years and approved of the very fitting manner in which their descendants, and the friends of their descendants, observed the anniversary of this venerable church.
The anniversary programme was one which extended throughout an ideal day and evening. The morning exercises opened with the invocation followed by a hymn, scripture lesson, duet by Mrs. H D. Frisbee and Elbridge Howes, greeting by Rev. Mr. ??oons, pastor of the Red Rock Methodist church, a duet by Mrs. C. H. Ford and Mrs. Arthur Beebe and in excellent address by the Rev. W. D. Rockwel1 of Medwary, N. Y., an assistant secretary of the Conference of Christian churches.
At noon there was a basket lunch, this providing the opportunity for the renewal of old friendships and good, old-fashioned visits between those who, perhaps, had not met before in many years. It was a glorious season of reminiscence and many a cherished incident of the bygone days was recalled and discussed.
None, however, derived greater pleasure and satisfaction from the centennial observance than did the older people who are former residents of Red Rock. For weeks they had been anticipating this visit to the old home hamlet, the meeting with those who were close friends in the olden days and a sight of the rehabilitated church, the valley and the old hills which were familiar scenes in years gone by. One by one these old residents told of the plans they made to attend the celebration and remarked that it would have been the greatest disappointment of their lives had they been unable to be present.
In connection with the afternoon exercises, the Rev. Mr. Gove made the announcement that the expenses in connection with the painting and repairing of the church and the sheds, also the purchase and locating of the bell, have been somewhat in excess of the estimates because of unanticipated work that became a necessity, and he asked his hearers for a freewill contribution to assist in wiping out the deficit. The appeal for assistance resulted in a very agreeable surprise, inasmuch as the collection amounted to forty-five dollars, an amount considerably larger than was anticipated and one which will enable the committees to discharge every financial obligation in connection with the anniversary celebration.
The afteroon exercises opened with the invocation, which was followed by the historical pageant which was ably directed by Miss Mary Eberly of Chatham. In several respects this was a remarkable and unusual presentation. It was an original pantomime based on actual incidents connected with forming the church organization a hundred years ago, and was produced by men and women who impersonated those whose action made the church possible. The first episode represented the home of Mr. and Mrs. Amos Starks. To that home came neighbors to discuss with Mr. and Mrs. Starks the advisability of organizing a church. Although the Starks family was a deeply devout and religious one, Mr. Starks was doubtful of the ultimate success of such a move but the pleading of his neighbors finally convinced him and it was decided to take action in the matter by calling in conference three elders from Kindcrhook and to them was sent an invitation to come to Red Rock.
The second episode represented a small number of residents of the community assembled in the schoolhouse near the home of Joseph Jenkins for the purpose of listening to what the elders had to say with regard to forming a church. These men, who addressed the assemblage at considerable length, considered it both possible and feasible to organize the church and the Red Rock residents, concurring in that opinion, decided to proceed with their plans. One of the elders presented a document that had been prepared for the occasion and when six charter members had written their names thereon, the church organization was formally launched. After the signatures had been appended, the elders extended their congratulations and the entire assemblage joined hands and sang "Blest be the Tie That Binds.”
The third episode, depicting a singing school in the schoolhouse, was one that revived for the older spectators, their childhood memories of the attire of the men and women of many years ago. In no place but a rural community, where such things are treasured and preserved, for sentimental or other reasons, could a like array of garments be produced. To see the impersonators clad in this attire was like sweeping away scores of intervening years and returning to the days of yore. Many of these costumes were provided by Miss Ebcrle. Although they caused much merriment on the part of the spectators, the element of comedy did not enter and the reproductions of the happenings of one hundred years ago were conducted with solemnity and decorum befitting the occasion. Elbridge Howes impersonated, to the manner born, the teacher or master of the old time singing school which was one of the adjuncts of nearly every church in the period represented. Standing behind a desk, the appearance of which would indicate that it is as old as the venerable church, Mr. Howes, with tuning fork in hand, found the keynote in the old-time manner and then proceeded with the instruction of his pupils who were ranged before him on the church lawn in old pews representing schoolhouse benches. The pupils managed the first selection fairly well but but discords that nearly distracted the master characterized the first two attempts to sing another tune. The third attempt was successful, however after which this selection and those that followed were rendered to the satisfaction of the instructor.
The fourth and final episode represented a scene, seven years later, when the church was finished and opened for worship. From various directions, up and down the roads leading to the church, came the religious folk, some or horseback and some on foot. By ones and twos and threes they filed into the building as did the worshippers of ninety-three years ago, and took their places in the rear pews. The spectators were then invited to enter and listen to the remainder of the afternoon programme.
It is probable that not since the remote day on which was held the dedicatory exercises which were, to a certain extent, duplicated Tuesday, has the old church housed a larger assemblage. Every pew was filled, chairs occupied the aisles and every other available spot and there were probably thirty or more persons who were unable to gain admission.
The history of the founding of the church and its existence in after years written by Ashley B. Howes of Canaan Center, was read by him and was listened to with rapt attention. This sketch appears elsewhere in connection with this report of the exercises.
After the singing of a hymn, the ancestral roll call of the church was given by Harry Doty who explained that because of the exceedingly long list of names on the church records, a list of about sixty names of old and representative families of Red Rock and vicinity had been prepared for roll call purposes. He requested that as these were read, the descendants of these families rise. It developed that there were more than twenty of the descendants of Amos and Talcott Starks present, seven descendants of David Ford, five of Joseph Jenkins, four of Phoebe Starks, six of Ester Jones, three of Abijah Doty, three of John Wilcox, three of Zenas Burrows, three of Calvin Beebe, one each of Harriet Ford, Betsy Wilcox, Polly Jenkins, Thomas Bishop, Joseph C. Ford, Mary Ambler and Richard Flint. After the reading of the list, those who are descendants of other members of this church, whose names were not read, were asked to stand and at least a dozen persons rose.
The Recessional was well rendered by Alfred Kline after which the Rev. R. G. English, pastor of the Christain church in Albany, made an address which was thoroughly enjoyed by the large congregation. The exercises closed with the singing of a hymn.
Supper consisted of the day’s second basket lunch after which the evening exercises in the church were opened with the invocation by the Rev. Mr English followed by a duet by Mrs. H. D. Frisbee and Elbridge Howes and a selection by a male quartette composed of Messrs Charles W. Havens, Elbridge Howes, Chester Ford and Daniel Lamoree.
One of the very pleasant features of the evening programme was the presentation of a pantomime directed by Mrs. Fred Kline and participated in by the Misses Doris Lamoree, Miriam Kline, Myrtle Goodrich, Dorothy Black, Arline Doty, Helen Jenkins and Hilda Briggs. These young ladies, attired in white, very gracefully executed the various movements which corresponded to the words as sung by Mrs. Kline and they were vigorously applauded at the conclusion of the presentation.
The speaker of the evening was the Rev. John B. Cove of Sprakers, N. Y., field secretary and president of the New York Christian conference.
Earlier in the day Mr. Gove told the writer that his position as field secretary of the conference corresponds to that of a trouble man with a telephone company, that he goes wherever there are little difficulties to be straightened out. However he was not in Red Rock for this purpose as there was no difficulty here. All was peace and harmony and everyone who attended the exercises was thoroughly in accord with the spirit of the day. He said the fact that the pastor of the Red Rock Methodist church extended the greeting in connection with the morning exercises evidenced a commendable spirit of fellowship among the church people of Red Rock and vicinity, a fellowship he believes should everywhere exist. The speaker prefaced hi remarks by the statement that he probably would not preach a sermon but he evidently changed his mind as he proceeded because he did preach a sermon, one which held the close and undivided attention of an audience that filled the church.
At the suggestion of Rev. Mr. English, the congregation sang the Doxology after which the benediction, pronounced by the Rev. Mr. Gove, concluded the exercises and ended a celebration the like of which will probably not be witnessed in Red Rock in many a year.
The committee in charge of the celebration wish, through The Courier, to extend their thanks to all who, in any I way, aided in making the celebration a success, to those who contributed toward repairs and the bell and to C. W. Havens and C. H. Ford who had the repair work and the bell installation in charge.
The Historical Sketch
The historical sketch read by Ashley B. Howes, is as follows:
In writing up the history of this church I have taken occasion to ramble a little interspersing a few thoughts which I trust may not prove entirely uninteresting.
By request of the committee having in charge the affairs concerning the observance of the centennial of the organization of the church in which we are now assembled and as your chosen historian I have grouped together the following facts, reference being had to old records of the church and I have drawn on the memories of several of the older members who recollect many of the happenings here recorded.
Sometime in the early part of the eighteenth century the advisability of organizing a church for the worship of God in the hamlet of Red Rock then a thriving village began to agitate the minds of the dwellers of this suburban town.
After many gatherings and discussions of the subject had taken place and finding in their judgement sufficient sentiment in that direction it was decided that a church should he organized in this place whereupon according to previous appointment on the 25th day of May, 1822 a meeting was held in the school house near Joseph Jenkins' and the following named Elders were summoned from adjoining churches for the purpose of organizing said church. The names of the Elders here follow: Levi Hathaway, John L. Perry, Daniel Call. I here quote from the records: “And after the Elders had spent some time in explaining the purpose for which a church was organized we whose names here follow gathered, took hold of hands and also the Elders with us and frankly delivered our fellowship with and for each other and were by the Elders hereby constituted a Christian church in fellowship with other churches in the communities: David Ford, Jonathan Ford, Jr., Stephen Soule, Ruth Starks and Harriet Ford.”
Thus on the 25th day of May, 1822, the organization of the Red Rock Christian church became an accomplished fact.
From this point on these faithful few labored diligently, encountering many difficulties, holding their meetings wherever an opportunity presented itself, many times in the school house, and on one occasion at least, in Joseph Jenkins’ barn on which occasion the records show that Amos Starks, was ordained an elder in the church by the laying on of hands by the other Elders.
As the years came and went they slowly gathered to themselves until their little flock numbered 45 including the names of Ford, Doty, Wilcox, Jenkins, Smith, Beebe, Lee, Castle, Starks and others.
Seven years after its organization, this little band of faithful brethren began to feel the need of a home for themselves and as their numbers augmented they were encouraged to make the attempt. A committee consisting of the following: Joseph Jenkins, John Wilcox, Joseph G. Ford, Amos Starks, David Ford, Eleazer Davis and Warren Ford was appointed.
The required amount was obtained viz $900, and thc construction began and on Saturday, November 7, I829, seven years after the organization of this church, these doors were opened for the first time for the worship of God, it being their regular Saturday church meeting, but as the church society had summoned several Elders viz Levi Hathaway, John Spoor, Jr., Edward H. Perry, Amos Starks and Leonard I. Bixford for the purpose of dedicating this church, on the following day a sermon was preached by John Spoor Jr., Text, Revelations, 3–5.
How the hearts of those good people and true must have leaped within them as they entered through these doors for worship for the first time which event marked the fruition of their cherished hopes and fond desires, the self same doors through which we have entered this day, after the lapse of 100 years with their tight butt hinges and iron latch only one degree removed from the historic latch string.
The brain that conceived the building of this temple of worship and the hand that fashioned the doors thereof have long since ceased their activities but the results of their handiwork still remain, whose doors ever swing inward, mute reminders that all who will may enter, and be welcome It might be well at this point to refer to the fact that these Saturday afternoon prayer conference meetings, which were held monthly within these very walls, were held sacred by these pioneers and afforded them an opportunity long sought when and where they could worship God in their own chosen way in their own place of worship builded by their own hands untrammeled and unmolested with no Czar’s ultimatum to obey, no Kaiser’s hand in control. The Bible upon which rests the entire fabric of the religious world was their only rule of faith and practice. The shackles of church and state were shaken off and religious freedom, the main thing sought by our forefathers who braved the dangers of the briny deep, was here typified. Their ideals were exalted, their devotion sublime in its simpliety. On the following day Sunday, November 8, 1822, the people assembled in this house for regular Sabbath day worship, also for dedication of the church. Rev. Levi Hathaway preached the sermon from the text, Malichi 5, 2 and 3 verses after which David Ford was ordained into the ministry by prayer and the laying on of hands, the officiating clergymen being: Levi Hathaway, John Spoor Jr., Edward Perry, Amos Starks and Leonard Bixford.
From this time forward this church had a regular pastor in the person of Rev. David Ford. As the years came and went one pastor succeeded another, prominent among whom were Rev. Mr. Roberts, Rev. Mr. Kellun, Rev. Mr. Hoag, Rev. J. Gallup, Rev. Chas, W. Havens, Rev. Mr. Crowell, Rev. Mr. Chase, Rev. McLaughlin and many others. This is the contellated galaxy of shining stars that deck your pastoral firmament and I say to you advisedly that their brilliancy will not be dimmed by the addition of the name of Rev. Frederick Kline, your present pastor, when opportunity permits.
This church so auspiciously begun, enjoyed a long and prosperous period after the building of its home whose every sill is level and every joint is plumb notwithstanding the fact that one hundred years have elapsed since its construction but like many another suburban church after a time it began to decline as the centres of population changed. Many of its members and their descendants have gone abroad. We hear of them in Canada some in Florida some in Boston others in Nebraska and still others in California and many, oh, how many, have quietly folded their mantles about them and lain themselves down to peaceful sleep on yonder hillside, there to await, the dawning of the morning when the mist has passed away, when we will know each other better in that land of prefect day.
That renewed interest is being taken in this church is evidenced by the fact that many have contributed from their own private funds on solicitation of the committee of which Charles W. Havens is chairman for the painting of the church, and still others have contributed to a committee of which Chester Ford is Chairman, for the purpose of a bell which after a century of waiting has been placed in position and whose rhythmic chimes will hereafter reverberate from these hillsides on Sabbath mornings, proclaiming to the dwellers of this historic hamlet that the hour of worship has arrived. So, my friends, you in turn are making history and as this day shall come to its close another leaf will be added which may find a response a century hence.
For here we are assembled in the church of our fathers. The scenes have shifted. They are not as of yore, for many new faces have taken the places of those who have left us and gone on before.
ASHLEY B. HOWESTranscribed from The Chatham Courier, June 1, 1922, Page 1 (nyshistoricnewspapers.org)
 “…with a brand new bell in its belfry” Finally, a bell!. jhc
FIRE LEVELS OLD EDIFICE AT RED ROCK
Christian Church, 111 Years Old, Swept By Flames.
RED ROCK —Fire of unknown origin destroyed the Christian church at Red Rock, between 10 and 11 P. M. Friday evening. This church, about 111 years old, was in good condition and had recently been redecorated inside by George Hitchcock. The fire was discovered by James Coxon.
Although no services had been held for several years all members and friends of the church, all residents of this place were deeply grieved by its destruction. It is understood that no insurance was carried. It was planned to reopen the church soon.
Members of the church, which had become a landmark, have become seattered, one of the oldest being Mrs, Eugene Vermilyea, of Malden, formerly Mrs. Phoebe Jones, of this place. Many excellent and very helpful sermons were preached from its pulpit, among those who occupied it being Elders Havens, Howard, Mc- Glanflin, Crowell, Metzger and Chase.
Among those who presided at the organ were Miss Augusta Stickles, who became Mrs. Bert L. Bemiss, Elbridge S. Howes, and Mrs. Henry D. Frisbee. The janitor, Alonzo B. Reynolds, gave careful attention to stoves, floors, lamps, etc. Although the scene of these labors has become ashes, those who are trying to “carry on” will be inspired by the memory of these faithful workers to strive in every way to continue the work which they in their turn endeavored to perpetuate.Transcribed from The Chatham Courier, June 29, 1933. (fultonhistory.com)
 The fire was Friday, June 23, 1933. jhc
 John Coxon, not his father James Coxon. jhc
My dad was not a story teller. All I can remember is him saying he saw someone climbing out a back window as he passed by on his way home from work that day. Just that. No mention of whether he stopped or even if he saw flames, or reported it. Nothing. This little article fills in a lot of blanks for me. Piecing this together with a few tidbits I picked up over the years:
- Born August 1, 1908, Dad would have been almost 25 on the date of the fire, June 23, 1933.
- Dad and Mom were married in January 1932.
- Dad worked (and lived I think, at least until he got the house built) in Albany during the depression and once said he built a house up on Overlook Drive from $100 worth of used lumber during the depression.
- The fire was on a Friday night. Could Dad have been on his way up to work on the house over the weekend? Possibly.
- The fire being between 10-11pm is interesting. Well after dark, it would have been unlikely Dad would have seen someone unless they were carrying a light (lantern?).
- If he saw flames surely he would have stopped. That’s not something he would pass by.
- Was the perpetrator someone squatting in the church and his fire got out of control, hours after Dad passed by? Was there a stove in the Church? I would think so - there is a chimney showing along the back wall in the postcard.
It’s interesting that the Church was inactive so soon after the big centennial celebration in 1922, including finally a bell in the bellfry! Perhaps the centennial celebration was a big push to try to renew flagging interest in the Church.