The Baptist Church of Afton, Chenango County, New York
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The Baptist Church of Afton was organized as the South Bainbridge Baptist Church. At a meeting of a number of members of several Baptist Churches, at the house of Moses Caswell, Friday, January 15, 1836, to take into consideration the propriety of locating a church of this denomination in “South Bainbridge,” articles of faith and practice were agreed upon and it was unanimously resolved to request a council of examination to convene at the house of Isaac Seely, February 17, 1836, to admit them to fellowship as a church. Rev. E. B. Sparks was delegated to invite delegations for that purpose from the Second Church in Guilford, the churches in Coventry, Masonville, South New Berlin and the Second Church in Butternuts, and to request the attendance of Rev. Aaron Parker.
The council convened at the appointed time and organized by choosing Rev. E. B. Sparks moderator, and Rev. H. Robertson clerk. Delegates were in attendance as follows:–Jesse Skinner, Wm. Mudge, Samuel B. Covey and Peter Surine, from the First Church in Guilford; Rev. E. B. Sparks, Elon Yale, Asa Jordan, Martin Post and Uriah Yale, from the Second Church in Guilford; Deacon Luman King, from the Church in South New Berlin; E. Porter, L. Hendrick and George Smith, from the Church in Coventry; Rev. H. Robertson, Deacon A. Cady, P. Bennett and L. Chandler, from the Church in Masonville.
The following communication was addressed “To the Brethren of the Council to be convened at the house of Isaac Seely, in Bainbridge, on the 17th of February, 1836:”
We, the undersigned, believing it to be the duty of all who profess godliness to do all that is in their power to promote the interest of the Redeemer’s kingdom in the world, and being desirous to promote it in the south part of Bainbridge, where Satan’s seat has been of long standing, and we being located so that we cannot enjoy privileges of church fellowship, humbly ask you to take into consideration our situation and the blessed cause of Christ and if expedient give us your fellowship as a Church of Christ, for which your brethren and sisters do humbly pray.”
The council decided to extend the hand of fellowship, and Rev. H. Robertson was delegated to preach the following day, and Rev. E. B. Sparks to present the hand of fellowship and address the church. The following named persons were thus constituted a church:–Eli Seeley, Seth Seeley, Garrit Dedrick, Savilian Thomas, Charles Toby, Moses Caswell, Eunice Seeley, Nancy Dedrick, Phebe Smith, Caroline Thomas, Nancy Tobey, Abigail Caswell, Bernetty Woodard, Lydia Night and Elizabeth Woodard.
The church petitioned to unite with the Chenango Association July 16, 1836.
Their first pastor was Rev. E. B. Sparks, who closed his labors with them in April, 1838. He was succeeded the following May by Rev. Mr. Crane, who remained two years. November 28, 1840, a call was given Rev. Jeremy H. D. Dwyre, who was voted a letter of dismission October 20, 1841.
The church was probably built in 1841, for July 11th of that year the records show that action was taken relative to finishing it and procuring a bell.
The next pastor whose name appears on the records is Rev. Daniel M. Root, who entered upon his labors March 5, 1842, and was granted a letter of dismission May 6, 1843. Rev. Levi Peck commenced his pastoral labors the third Sunday in May, 1843, and was dismissed in April, 1846. Rev. Lewis Robinson assumed the pastoral relation in May, 1846, and was ordained the last Thursday in August of that year. His resignation was accepted September 30, 1848. Rev. A. Virgil entered upon the duties of pastor February 24, 1849, and received a call April 1, 1849. He was granted a letter of dismission May 19, 1850.
July 14, 1849, the church adopted the declaration of faith and covenant recommended by the New Hampshire Convention.
The church seems to have been for some time without a regular pastor. They were ministered to at intervals by Revs. A. Virgil and Martin. October 12, 1852, a call was given to Rev. J. W. Vanhorn, who entered upon his labors and united with the church Nov. 1, 1852. He was voted a letter of dismission September 3, 1853. Geo. Balcom, who was received to fellowship March 5, 1854, was ordained to the ministry October 4, 1854, and officiated as pastor till April 1, 1856. From that time till July 1, 1856, there was no stated preaching, and the meetings and records were much neglected. About the latter date Elijah Baldwin commenced preaching once in two weeks, and from the 1st of November of that year each week. April 1, 1857, his services were engaged for a year. He and his wife were received from the Unadilla church. His resignation was accepted March 2, 1859; but he seems to have been re-engaged, for it was again accepted March 10, 1860. During the first year of his pastorate, August 30, 1857, the church had a membership of 91. Rev. G. G. Donnelly appears to have been the next pastor, but just when his labors were begun or ended, the records do not conclusively show. He was admitted to church fellowship September 1, 1860, and officiated here as late as April 5, 1862.
Rev. G. A. Hogeboom commenced his labors November 1, 1862, and continued them about five months. Rev. A. R. Hamlin closed a two years’ acceptable pastorate the first Sabbath in April, 1865. There was no preaching for several weeks following. Rev. E. Baldwin, then in poor health, commenced preaching one sermon each Sabbath, and continued, with some interruptions, until March following. Rev. E. T. Jacobs commenced his labors with this church in the early part of March, 1866, and continued them till February, 1870. Rev. J. A. Ball, from Laceyville, became the pastor about the middle of April, 1870, and closed his labors in February, 1871.
March 9, 1871, it was “Resolved, That we have no fellowship with secret societies founded on oaths and death penalties, and will not receive such into our fellowship, nor continue fellowship with such as are in our midst, or may become such.” Eight votes were cast in favor of and four against the resolution. This action was rescinded March 23, 1871, at a meeting at which 35 were present, with but two dissenting voices.
Rev. John Smith commenced ministerial labor with this church March 16, 1871, and received a call to the pastorate March 23, 1871. He closed his labors April 1, 1873. Rev. Jenkins Jones, the present pastor, (July 4, 1879,) assumed that relation April 5, 1874, the pulpit having been supplied the preceding fall and winter by Rev. Mr. Martin, who closed his labors April 1, 1874.
The church was repaired in 1875 at a cost of about $400. The present (July 4, 1879) number of members is 101.