A. D. (Amos Delos) Gridley.

History of the town of Kirkland, New York (Volume 1) online

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to be the Creed and Covenant of this church until the
present time.

A few weeks afterward, a religious Society, called
" The Society of Clinton," was formed, consisting of
eighty-three of the most prominent and respectable per-


sons in the settlement. In looking about for a pastor,
they turned to their former adviser, Dr. Edwards, and
on his recommendation, Rev. Asahel Strong Norton, of
Chatham, Conn., was invited to visit Clinton, with a view
to his settlement there in the ministry. It was not neces-
sary for the people to listen a long time to Mr. Norton
before becoming satisfied as to his ability and fitness to
be their spiritual teacher and guide. He was ordained
to the ministry and installed pastor of this church on the
18th of September, 1793. The salary upon which he
was settled was fixed at '•' one hundred pounds lawful
money," or &333.-:j. ; and this continued to be his stipend
for twenty years, when it was increased to $600.00, which
it remained for the rest of his. pastorate. 1

The ecclesiastical Council by which he was ordained
and installed consisted of the following persons, namely,
the two missionaries Kirkland and Sergeant, Rev. Samuel
Eells, of Branford, Conn., Rev. Dan Bradley, of Whites-
town, and Rev. Joel Bradley, of Westmoreland. There
were also lay-delegates from the churches in Paris,
Whitestown, and Westmoreland. The first day was
spent in the examination of the candidate. The second
day, at eleven o'clock, was devoted to the ordination.
That was " an high day " for this infant church and '
society. No Meeting-House having yet been erected,
and no other building in the village being large enough
to accommodate the expected congregation, provision was
made for holding the exercises in the open air, upon the

1 It would seern that the good people of Kirkland thought it not meet to
bestow an overplus of this world's goods upon their minister. Yet they were
as generous as their fathers had been before them. The venerable John Cotton
used to complain that "nothing was cheap in New England but milk and
ministers." And Increase Mather, in lamenting the smallness of clergymen's
salaries in his day — about $300 — thought " tbis might of itself account for
the small harvests enjoyed by our farmers."


Public Green. The spot selected was near the site of
the present Fountain in the village Park. A temporary
pulpit was constructed, over which a canopy of green
boughs was thrown, and a few seats were prepared for
the comfort of ladies and infirm persons. Of the inhabit-
ants of the village none were willingly absent. Many
persons came from the adjoining towns, and here and
there in the out-skirts of the assembly might have been
seen the searching eye and strange costume of the neigh-
boring Indians. Looking beyond this scene, one could
discern openings made by the farmer's axe in the shadows
of the forest, and could see patches of green fields smiling
under the September sun. Here and there, the ascend-
ing smoke marked the site of the settler's abode ; but
beyond, throughout the valley, and on the surrounding
hills, were spread the primitive woods. It was amid
such a scene that the ordination of the youthful clergy-
man took place. The religious services were conducted
by the clerical members of the Council : the sermon and
charge to the pastor being delivered by Rev. Mr. Eells ;
the ordaining prayer and the address to the congregation
being made by Rev. Mr. Kirkland ; and the Right Hand
of Fellowship by Rev. Mr. Sergeant. The music, — surely
there was something prophetic in one of the hymns which
they sang : —

" Jesus shall reign "where 'er the sun
Does his successive journeys run."

From this time onward for two years, nothing of
special importance transpired in the affairs of this church
and society. A log building of moderate size having
been erected on the village Common, in 1792, furnished
a place for holding religious worship. Mr. Norton also


1 IJ, 1 1 M

,-#f'|ffl 111




preached in various parts of the town, as opportunity
presented or circumstances required : to use his own
words, " I often preached in school-houses and barns and
in the open woods."

In the year 1796, the church now numbering about
sixty members, and the pecuniary ability of the people
having increased, they determined to erect a House of
Worship. The log building on the Green was accord-
ingly torn down, to furnish a site for the new edifice ;
and the school-house, a small frame building standing on
the ground now covered by the district schoul house in
the village, was used for holding religious meetings until
the new church was completed. 1

This Meeting-House was built of wood, in the style
of architecture then common in the rural parts of New
England. It stood upon a knoll some ten or twelve feet
higher than the present level of the village Park, facing
the south, the front middle door being nearly two rods
north of the south entrance to the Park. It was about
sixty-five feet long, and forty-eight broad, with a square
tower projecting half its depth in front, which was sur-
mounted by an open belfry and a turret. It was clap-
boarded, and painted white. The plan of the house was
drawn by a Mr. Harrison, of Paris Hill, and it was
erected partly under his supervision. During the first
summer and fall the building was enclosed, the floor
laid, and some temporary seats made. Here the work
rested for a time, and the house was used for public wor-
ship in its unfinished state, until the summer of 1801.
On its completion this year, the pews were sold at public

1 That school-house was removed a few years afterwards, to make way for
a brick one, and now stands on the north side of Kellogg Street, and is occu-
pied by James Hughes as a Celtic boarding-house.


auction, one pew near the pulpit being reserved for aged
and deaf persons, and another for the family of the

The first bell was hung in the belfry, August, 1804.
It was cast in this village by Captain Timothy Barnes,
its weight being eight hundred pounds ; but owing to
some defect in the casting it was soon broken. It was
then taken down and carried to Troy, and re-cast, with
some addition to its weight. The bell then and thus
made has been in use until the present time. It is the
one now in the belfry of the Stone church. 1

The Meeting-House was never dedicated by formal
religious ceremonies. It began to be used for divine
service before it was finished, and was used in this way
so long that when completed it was not thought needful
or advisable to set it apart by any special observances.
Many devout persons maintained that the presence of
God had already consecrated it.

There are some now living to whom it will be unneces-
sary for me to describe this old Meeting-House. They
will remember its three uncarpeted aisles ; its square,
high-back pews, painted blue without and unpainted
within ; the large, monumental-shaped stove standing in
an open space near the middle door ; the lofty pulpit,
with its modest show of carved work and tracery, its
hangings of faded crimson, and the large windows in the
rear shaded by Venetian blinds ; the pillars supporting
the gallery and the arched ceiling ; the high " Blue Pew"

1 A church building had been erected by the Congregational Society, of New
Hartford, in 1793. The steeple was not built, however, nor was it otherwise
finished until the year 1796. It must have been staunchly consh-ucted, for it
still stands, and with its frequent repairs, presents a very respectable appear-
ance.. As the oldest church edifice in this county, it is w T orthy of distin-
guished consideration.


over the orchestra in the gallery ; and the Negro Pew
on the east side of it. Nor will they fail to see the
reverend pastor walking up the middle aisle, bowing
gravely and graciously, right and left, to his people in
their seats. And then — to pass outside — who that ever
saw the stately old building, can forget its pale-green
doors, with their large handles and latches of wrought
iron ; the lightning-rod dangling upon the western side of
the tower ; the pagoda-like turret above the bell-deck,
and the bell itself, swinging in its open chamber, and
telling daily to the surrounding inhabitants the hours of
nine in the morning, twelve at noon, and nine at night ;
and the gilded letters at the top of the turret marking the
four cardinal points ; and the ball and weathercock and
star surmounting the whole ?

In the year 1833, this venerable structure having be-
come somewhat decayed, and in its style of architecture
out of keeping with the improvements of the age, and
occupying a site which was considered unsuitable, it was
resolved to remove it and to erect a new church. The
present stone edifice was built in the years 1835 and 1836,
at a cost of about $8000, and on its completion, the old
meeting-house was torn down. A portion of the frame-
work of the old church was used in building the present
district school-house on the east side of the village
' Park. 1

1 The masonry of the Stone Church was done by Mr. Charles Wilcox, and
the carpentry by Richard Hardell. The lightning-rod, gilt ball, weathercock,
and star, were with the bell, transferred from the old church to the new.

In the year 18G9, by the aid of Mr. Gaius Butler, the venerable surveyor, I
ascertained the site' of the northwest corner of the old church, and the centre
of its front middle door, and drove down red cedar stakes at each point. The top
of each stake can now be seen, just even with the surface of the ground. Mr.
Butler's note-book says: "The bearing of the northwest corner of the old


The pastorate of Rev. Dr. Norton extended through
a period of forty years. These were, for the most part,
years of general prosperity in the church and the
community. During the later portion of his ministry,
however, the /introduction of what were styled " new
measures," in connection with the preaching of Rev.
Mr. Finney and others, gave great anxiety to the cau-
tious pastor, and finally hastened his resignation. Yet
this did not essentially mar the purity and peace of the
church, nor check its growth. Dr. Norton gave up his
ministerial charge in the year 1833.

The stated pastors of this congregation from that time
until the present, have been as follows: Rev. Moses Chase,
from July, 1835, to January, 1839 ; Rev. Wayne Gridley,
from February, 1840, to February, 1845 ; Rev. Robert
G. Vermilye, D. D., from June, 1846, to October, 1857 ;
Rev. E. Y. Swift, from January, 1858, to May, 1862 ;
Rev. Albert Erdman, from March, 1864, to February,
1869 ; he being succeeded by Rev. Thomas B. Hudson,
D.D., in October, 1869.

This church was originally constituted with the Con-
gregational form of government ; but after adhering to
this polity for upwards of seventy years, it was found
expedient to change it for the Presbyterian. And for
the following reasons : First and fundamentally, it was
assumed that the Presbyterian form of government was
at least no less closely conformed to the principles set
forth in the New Testament, than the Congregational.
It was found also that the Congregational churches of
this region were becoming feebler ; that the Oneida As-
sociation, with which this church was connected, had no

meeting-house from the northeast corner of the Mills' Block, is S. 36° E. ;
distance, 3 chains and 8 links."


other settled pastor within its bounds, and that its meet-
ings were often held at quite a distance from Clinton :
while, on the other hand, this church was surrounded by
numerous and thriving Presbyterian churches, and was
within easy reach of the stated meetings of Utica Pres-
bytery. The relations of the college in Clinton to the
Presbyterian Church, had also some influence in deter-
mining this change. This transfer of ecclesiastical rela-
tion was consummated in the year 1864. The Creed and
Covenant of the church remained substantially the same
as they were from the beginning.

The following persons have been elected to the office
of Ruling Elder : —

Henry P. Bristol . . . Elected 1864.

James S. Cook . . . Elected 1864.

George K. Eells . . . Elected 1864.

Frederick M. Barrows . Elected 1864.

Horace M. Paine . . . Elected 1864.

Lathrop Brockway . . Elected 1864.
John C. Gallup .... Elected 1864.

Roselle L. Nichols . . Elected 1864.
Josiah L. Cook .... Elected 1864.

Edward North . . . Elected 1865.

A. Delos Gridley . . . Elected 1865.

Joseph S. Avery . . . Elected 1866.

Hamilton Brownell . . . Elected 1869.

In the year 1850, the parsonage on College Street was
built, and the church edifice internally remodeled. In
1869, the church was painted and frescoed, and its win-
dows embellished with stained glass. At the same time,
also, the chapel was built in the rear of the church.



In concluding this history of the oldest religious organ-
ization in the town of Kirkland, I think it not inappro-
priate to give a brief sketch of the life and character of
its first pastor, the Rev. Dr. Norton, who held a conspic-
uous position here for nearly half a century, and who was
held in the highest respect and veneration by all who
knew him.

Mr. Norton was born in Farmington, Conn., Sep-
tember 20, 1765. His ancestry was highly respectable,
and his father served as a colonel in the war of the Rev-
olution. His studies preparatory to entering college
were pursued under the care of the Rev. Dr. Perkins, of
West Hartford. He was graduated from Yale .College
in the year 1790, bearing off the highest honors of his

During his Senior year he experienced a change of
religious character, and resolved to devote himself to the
work of the christian ministry. His theological studies
were pursued under the direction partly of Rev. Mr.
Strong, of Haddam, and partly of Rev. Mr. Smalley, of
Berlin. In the year 1792, he was licensed to preach the
gospel by the Congregational Association of Hartford
County. As we have already seen, he was invited to be-
gin his public ministry in Clinton, March 25, 1793. A
quiet and unassuming man, he yet addressed himself to
his chosen work with great earnestness and vigor. Nor
were his labors in vain. His congregation steadily in-
creased until it became one of the most efficient and flour-
ishing societies in central New York. He preached up-
wards of three thousand sermons during his ministry,
•more than half of which were written out in full. In


November, 1833, he was dismissed from his charge at his
own request. He retired with the most dignified and
christian spirit, and contrary to the wishes of a consider-
able portion of his congregation.

Released from professional duties, he afterwards de-
voted himself almost wholly to the care of his farm on
which he had resided for many years. He continued to
cherish a warm attachment for the people of his late
charge, uniting with the pastors who succeeded him in
the administration of the Lord's Supper, baptizing the
children of parents whom he had baptized in their in-
fancy, and attending funerals, until he at length followed
to the grave the last of those who composed the church
at the time of his ordination.

Dr. Norton was one of the founders of Hamilton Col-
lege, and was appointed to deliver the Latin Address at
the inauguration of President Backus. He was a trustee
of the college from its establishment in 1812, to the year
1833, and he was deeply interested in its welfare as long
as he lived.

During the years 1852-53, he was subject to the at-
tacks of a disease which slowly reduced his strength and
finally terminated his life. The manner of his dying was
such as could have been desired for him. He passed
away without any apparent bodily distress, calmly trust-
ing in the Saviour, and cheered by those consolations
which for so long a time he had ministered to others.
He died May 10, 1853, aged eighty-seven years. His
funeral discourse was preached by the Rev. Robert G.
Vermilye, D. D., one of his successors in the pastoral
office at Clinton.

If now, in addition to this general outline, I may
attempt a more minute and full portrait of this venerable
man, the lines will be drawn somewhat as follows : —


In person, Dr. Norton was of medium stature and well
proportioned. His complexion was dark, his eyes and
hair black,, his voice rich and melodious. Quick in his
movements, he was yet dignified and graceful ; self-
respectful, yet courteous, and possessing in all respects
the manners of a true gentleman. To some he may
have seemed a little reserved in his demeanor, — for he
seldom unbent himself in general society, — but this was
only in appearance, and did not proceed from coldness of
feeling, but rather from a shrinking modesty, and a high
sense of the dignity and sacredness of his office as a Chris-
tian minister.

In the early years of his professional life, his health
was quite delicate, — so much so that his friends thought
him verging to a decline, — but by much exercise out of
doors, in walking and in farm-work and riding on horse-
back, he became more vigorous, and enjoyed firm health
unto a good old age. As he was somewhat noted for his
pedestrianism, I once asked him how he came to adopt
the practice. " Shortly after I began preaching," he
replied, " I was reading a volume of travels in Italy, in
which the writer said that while sojourning in Rome, he
noticed several Catholic priests walking out daily into
the suburbs of the city to a certain mile-stone, and then
returning. They told him that this had been their
practice for many years, and that they were largely
indebted to it for their robust health. It occurred to me
at once," said Dr. Norton, " that the regimen which had
proved so beneficial to a Catholic, might be equally good
for a Protestant. I have tried it and found it of most
excellent service." He is known to have walked from
Clinton to Paris Hill, a distance of five miles from his
house, to fulfill an appointment to preach. He uniformly


walked to the church, a mile and more, to attend his
Sabbath evening lecture. He did this from choice, walk-
ing while his horse stood idle in his stable. I met him
one summer morning at his physician's door, after he
had become quite aged, and remarking that he looked
somewhat feeble, he replied that he had not been well
for a few days past, and thought he would come over and
get a little medicine. His cane and dusty shoes showed
that he had walked a mile to see his doctor.

In accordance with the usage of that day, Dr. Norton
purchased a farm, in the early part of his ministry, on
which he labored as opportunity permitted, and the
produce of which helped to make up the deficiencies of
his salary. He was much interested in the introduction
of new and improved varieties of grains and of fruits.
Whenever he visited New England, he came back with
new seeds and scions, and then went about among his
people teaching them the art of engrafting. It is be-
lieved that he first gave that impulse to pomology in
this region, which has made Oneida County so preeminent
in this State for its fruit-culture.

Turning now to the intellectual endowments of Dr.
Norton, it may be said that though they were not of a
superior order, they were yet quite respectable, and were
happily developed by liberal studies. His mind was
not distinctively philosophical and profound, yet he
could analyze and present the argument of any chosen
subject with much perspicuity and force. He was clear
in his perceptions and calm and accurate in his reason-
ings. He did not possess large gifts of imagination and
fancy, yet, when the occasion required, he could adorn
his speech with the graces of a finished rhetoric. The
beauty of his mind lay in the symmetry and harmony


of its parts, and in its uniform and well-ordered manner
of working.

Of his moral and religious character, it is not too
much to say that he lived above reproach, and happily
exemplified the graces of a sincere piety. He was a
man of singular modesty and humility. So marked
were his simplicity and purity that even his enemies
acknowledged in him an Israelite without guile. He
was particularly careful in the use of his tongue. He
seldom spoke in disparagement of others. His chris-
tian character exhibited itself chiefly in the form of
high religious principle. Christ was the sole foundation
of his hope, and he felt sure that it was a firm founda-

His character as a preacher may be inferred from what
has already been said of him in other respects. His
voice was not powerful, nor was his action bold and strik-
ing. There was nothing in his elocution to attract
attention to itself. His manner was simple, easy, dig-
nified, impressive. His style as a writer corresponded
with his manner as a speaker. It was marked by purity
and correctness. If it was formed upon any model, it
was the Addisonian. Often, it was enlivened by figures
of speech; it was sometimes enriched by classical allu-
sions ; sometimes it rose to lofty eloquence ; but its
leading characteristic was elegant simplicity. He was
a sober man, and he aimed to present sober views of all
subjects. If he did not startle his hearers, he seldom
failed to interest and instruct them. 1 His theology was

1 He was very studious of the proprieties of time and place, almost fastid-
iously so/ It could never have happened for him to recite his text, as a very
spare clergyman once did his, without first giving the chapter and verse, but
exclaiming, "My leanness, my leanness, woe is unto me! " Nor as a broad-
girthed minister once did his, by announcing, without preface : "If any other


Calvinism as expounded by Edwards and Bellamy. He
was a doctrinal preacher, yet truly practical. He had
no hobbies — his whole nature forbade it — but he aimed
to hold and to present a just and rounded view of all
Scriptural truth. As a pastor, he was systematic and
faithful in visiting his people from house to house.

From this view of his life and character, it is not
surprising that his ministry was a successful one. There
was a steady accession to his church from the beginning
to the close of his pastorate.

Dr. Norton's only publication was an Historical Ser-
mon, and this he suffered to be printed with great reluc-
tance. His low opinion of his own productions and his
exceeding sensitiveness to criticism led him to decline
many requests for the publication of discourses and
addresses. After preaching the historical sermon above
alluded to, on a Thanksgiving Day, a leading member
of his church (Dr. Seth Hastings) rose and moved that,
as the sermon contained important historical facts, as
well as useful moral reflections, a copy be requested for
publication. The vote was unanimous. While this
gentleman was putting the motion, Dr. Norton was so
embarrassed and overcome that he got up, seized his
manuscript, and hurried out of doors bare-headed, for-
getting his hat until he was in the open air. After much
entreaty, he consented to the publication ; but as it was
the first, so also was it the last.

After resigning his pastoral charge, he still maintained
his habits of bodily and intellectual activity. His eye
and his hand were busy in orchard, garden, and field.
Even to his old age he was a great walker, walking a

man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more." Ho
certainly would not have omitted the precautionary formula.


mile and more to the post-office and the church, and for
social engagements. In his eighty-fifth year, he was
seen at the top of one of his apple-trees, gathering the
ruddy fruit he loved so well. He continued also his
scholarly habits. His library was his favorite resort, and
theology his favorite study. He kept himself abreast
with the science and literature and general news of the
day. When his eyesight failed, some member of his
household read aloud to him. The people of his late
charge made a special visit to him every winter, bringing
with them substantial tokens of their regard. At these
gatherings he was wont to make a short address ; some-

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Online LibraryA. D. (Amos Delos) GridleyHistory of the town of Kirkland, New York (Volume 1) → online text (page 8 of 17)