Samuel Dunham.

Retrospect of a happy ministry; the life story of half a century, including personal reminiscences, and a complete history from its first inception of the West Presbyterian Church, Binghamton, N.Y. online

. (page 1 of 14)
Online LibrarySamuel DunhamRetrospect of a happy ministry; the life story of half a century, including personal reminiscences, and a complete history from its first inception of the West Presbyterian Church, Binghamton, N.Y. → online text (page 1 of 14)
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Pastor of the West Church during its first twenty-nine years,
1873-1902. Pastor Emeritus since January 3, 1902.


The Life Story of Half a Century






The First Pastor

With Portraits of the Successive Pastors, and

Views of Church Edifices and










B 1544 L

Copyright. 1914




to the generous hosts of fast and
faithful friends, on earth and in
Heaven, who have so often cheered
my heart, and blessed my home, and
gladdened my days of toil and trial,
and brightened my ministry, and en-
riched my whole life, and kept
me from growing old, by their warm,
cheery greetings and kindly words,
and cordial friendship, and loving
sympathy, through all these happy,

golden years,

this volume is affectionately


with a profound and tender sense

of gratitude to them and to the

Friend and Brother of us all.

"Recollection is the only paradise
from which we cannot he turned out."


"Those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections ;
Which, be they what they may.
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
Are yet a master light of all our seeing."

William Wordsworth.

"Though varying wishes, hopes, and fears,
Fever d the progress of these years,
Yet now, days, weeks, and months, but seem
The recollection of a dreamt



On May 4, 1898, at a regular meeting of the
Session of the West Presbyterian Church, it was
unanimously resolved that the proceedings con-
nected with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the
installation of the Pastor, Rev. Samuel Dunham
(April 24, 1898), be published; but that the work
of publication be delayed until the fuller record
could be made after the completion and dedica-
tion of the new house of worship.

For various reasons the delay has been pro-
longed far beyond the time expected.

Meantime, the plans of the writer have been
considerably modified, and the scope of the work
much enlarged to include some interesting remi-
niscences of the earlier and later years of his
ministry, and, especially, to bring the record down
to date, so as to embrace briefly the closing years
of his own pastorate and the pastorates of his



Retrospect and Prospect 1

Life's Cape of Good Hope 4

Seventy Years Young 6

The True Optimism 7

Back to Childhood 9

Choice of the Ministry 12

My First Pastorate 14

Spiritual Refreshings 15

A Memorable Year . 18

A Church One Hundred and Fifty Years Old 21
Influence of Preachers Before and During

the Civil War 25

The Mother of Churches 28

Whitefield's Notable Visit 29

My First European Tour 30

The Vatican Council of i869-'70, and Italian

Unity. A Series of Startling Events . . 31
Old First Church, Norwalk, Conn., Founded

in 1652 33

The West Church, Binghamton .... 34

Passed Its Forty-first Milestone .... 36
Exceeding Interest and Value of Earliest

Records 38



The Initial Movement Checked By the Burn-
ing of the New Edifice of the First

Church 40

Delayed By the Removal of the Congregation-

alists to the west slde 41

West Church Society Organized .... 43

The Chapel Dedicated . 44

Our First Sabbath 47

Organization of the Church 48

Installation of First Pastor 49

No Holiday Pastime 50

Heroic Debt Raising 51

Tribute to the Women 55

Church Building Enlarged 57

Re-Dedication 58

Pastor's Resignation Reconsidered and With-
drawn 58

Renewed Activity and Growth 59

Delightful Oriental Tour. An Ideal Party 60

A Miraculous Deliverance 62

With Foreign Missionaries on Their Fields and

in Their Homes 63

The Free Pew Problem 64

In Memoriam 66

Church Anniversaries 67

The Fifth Anniversary 67

The Twentieth Anniversary 69

New Year's Social Re-Union After Two Dec-
ades 73

The Silver Jubilee 75



A Quarter of a Century Grandly Celebrated . 84
The Project of a New Church Edifice ... 89
Subscriptions Started ........ 94

Corner-Stone Laid . . . . . . . . .96

Contents of the Box 98

A Graceful Tribute from the City Ministerial

Association 102

Farewell to the Old Church 105

The Old Church for Sale 109

Dedication of the New Church 111

Memorial Windows 115

A Weighty Communication and Surprise . .117

Jubilee Night 123

Evangelistic Services 127

Missionary to Japan 128

Pastor's Message to His People 130

A Successor Chosen 139

Happily Wedded 141

Retirement of Mr. Dunham 142

Pastoral Relations Formally 'Dissolved . .151

Installation of Dr. Hallenbeck 153

Dr. Hallenbeck Resigns. An Appreciation . 156

Dr. Colville's Pastorate 160

Dr. Colville's Letter of Resignation. A De-
served Tribute ... . t ... . 163
Rev. Mr. McCormick Called and Regularly In-
stalled 168

Mr. Dunham's Continuous Labors .... 170
Called to the Floral Avenue Church . . .171
The Floral Avenue Pastorate, and Third

Trip Abroad 175



Fifty Years in the Ministry 178

Activities Not Limited to His Own Parish . 179

Final Retrospect and Reflections .... 184
What Meantime Has Transpired in the World

About Us? 185

Volumes of Unwritten History Locked Up in

the Secret Heart of the Years .... 190

"Christ Lives. Forward!" 193


History of the West Presbyterian Sunday

School 197

The Ladies' Industrial Society 207

The Woman's Missionary Society . . . .210

The Woman's Union 212

The King's Daughters 213

The Young People's Society of Christian En-
deavor 217

The Junior Christian Endeavor Society . . 222

Other Societies Mentioned 227

Original Members of the West Presbyterian
Church at its Formation, February 12,

1873 22 7

Complete List of the Elders of the West Pres-
byterian Church 228

Deacons of the West Presbyterian Church . 229

Trustees of the West Presbyterian Society . 230

Treasurers of the West Presbyterian Society 232
Present Officers of the West Presbyterian

Church in 1914 232



Tenth Anniversary of the Floral Avenue
Presbyterian Church, May 22, 1902. His-
torical Sketch by Mr. G. M. T. Johnson . 233

Paper Read by Mr. G. M. T. Johnson at the
Twentieth Anniversary of Floral Ave-
nue Presbyterian Church, May 22, 1912 . 244

Present Officers of the Floral Avenue

Church in 1914 250

Original Members of the Floral Avenue

Church at its Organization, May 22, 1892 . 251

Pioneers of Religion in the Early Days of

Binghamton's History 252


Rev. Samuel Dunham Frontispiece


The New West Church l

The Original Chapel 44

Church Remodeled and Enlarged 58

The Parsonage 66

Rev. Edwin F. Hallenbeck, D.D 139

Rev. G. Murray Colville, D.D 160

Rev. Arthur B. McCormick 168










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6, 18




t- 1





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3 Q





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Looking backward is not always wise. Often
it is the worst and most dangerous direction one
can turn his eyes. Witness Lot's wife, and the
Children of Israel in their desert wanderings cast-
ing a longing look behind and sighing for the
fleshpots of Egypt. Retrospect may even prove
fatal. By nature man is gifted with foresight,
and this endowment is enriched by every acces-
sion of wisdom and grace. Solomon tells us,
"The wise man's eyes are in his head." His eyes
are located, moreover, in the front part of his
head for the obvious purpose of looking forward,
rather than backward. Nevertheless, there are
seasons in our lives, as at the close of the year,
on birth days and wedding days, or on certain im-
portant anniversary occasions, or when the sun
of one's life is declining towards the western
hills, and the more active labors of one's life are
nearing their completion, when retrospection may
be very useful, salutary and helpful, for thereby
are we enabled to discover our past follies, and to

2 Retrospect of a Happy Ministry

rectify, if we will, our past mistakes and failures.

It is quite possible, also, that a careful, or even
casual, review of the by-gone years may awaken
not a few delightful and precious memories, re-
call many happy scenes, impress profitable les-
sons, and inspire the heart with renewed courage,
confidence and hope, and, withal, kindle anew
one's heartfelt gratitude to God. Like the stern-
lights of a ship it may serve greatly to illumine
and brighten the way over which we have been

Casting an eager, thoughtful glance backward,
therefore, over the busy years from the point of
view of one who has retired from the more stren-
uous and pressing duties of his ministerial office,
one is forcibly reminded of the words of the great
German poet:

"Rest is not quitting

This busy career;
Rest is the fitting

Of self to its sphere."

These lines of Goethe very nearly express our
conception of the happy estate of a "Pastor
Emeritus." He is not of necessity one who has
fallen into a condition of "innocuous desuetude."
He has not wholly withdrawn himself from the

The Life Story of Half a Century 3

world's activities, nor retired into utter obscurity.
He has, rather, fitted himself into new surround-
ings, adjusted himself to changed relations, but
finds himself still busy in other forms and spheres
of labor, though with less of the former restless
activity and never ceasing pressure of pastoral
care and responsibility, and with a little more of
agreeable pastime, and dignified leisure (otzum
cum dignitate) for calm and serene reflection.
Our own experience is that the intensely active
life of a pastor, with the incessant urgency of du-
ties goading him perpetually onward, and absorb-
ing all his time and energies, serves almost abso-
lutely to obliterate from his mind the past, and
renders any deliberate looking backward well-
nigh an impossibility.

When Luther spoke of his lot as one of "Work
on Earth and rest in Heaven," he was a total
stranger to that pleasant sensation of relief felt
by the minister who has laid down the chief bur-
den of his toil for a brief season of respite and
comparative ease before actually entering upon
the rest that "remaineth to the people of God."

The retrospect herein contemplated is that of
a happy ministry of full fifty years' continuance,
and of almost uninterrupted labor. In his "Life
and Thoughts," John Foster, with true insight,

4 Retrospect of a Happy Ministry

declares that "An interval of forty years makes
all the difference between the morning of life and
its evening: the mind in the one position, occu-
pied with imagination, conjecture, possibilities,
resolutions, hopes; in the other, looking back to
see the visionary speculation reduced to the hu-
mility of an experience and reality."

It is now two score vears and ten since the
writer's public ordination to the Christian minis-
try in the good old State of Massachusetts. Fifty
years ago it was the morning glow; now it is the
mellower evening after-glow. Then it was rosy,
youthful imagination, conjecture, sanguine hope,
eager forward looking; now it is not so much
"visionary speculation" as sober intensely real
looking backward. Then it was all radiant pros-
pect. Now, after half a century of experience
of the stern realities of life, it is humble, yet
happy and thankful retrospect.


"If I were to follow the example of Lecky,"
says President Gilman, "and to draw the Map of
Life with such cartographical knowledge as has
come to me, I should mark the age of seventy as
the Cape of Good Hope, and for the cheer of those
who are doubling this Cape, I should show that

The Life Story of Half a Century 5

it leads to a Pacific Sea, within whose bounds lie
the Fortunate Isles."

One comes thus to occupy, in fact, a kind of
vantage ground for both backward and forward
looking. Age serves as a watch-tower, situated
upon an eminence, from whose summit are gained
far broader and more comprehensive views than
those of youth and immaturity. It seems a
happy provision and combination of divine Prov-
idence and Grace whereby, to the man of faith,
the accumulating years of life open up and dis-
close, at one and the same time, clearer and more
distinct recollections of the past and brighter and
more beautiful visions of the great future.

Thus age has its twofold advantage its
blessed compensations to offset its disadvantages
and to atone, in part, for its irksome limitations.

With Emerson we confidently believe that,
"The soul does not age with the body. On the
borders of the grave the wise man looks forward
with equal elasticity of mind, or hope; and why
not, after millions of years, on the verge of still
newer existence 4 ? for it is the nature of intelli-
gent beings to be ever new to life. Most men
are insolvent, or promise by their countenance
and conversation and by their early endeavor
much more than they ever perform suggesting

6 Retrospect of a Happy Ministry

a design still to be carried out; the man must
have new motives, new companions, new condi-
tions, and another term."


It was Oliver Wendell Holmes who aptly said.
"It is better to be seventy years young than to be
forty years old." Do we not all so feel and be-
lieve? Age is by no means measured accurately
by the years of one's life.

"We live in deeds, not years ; in thoughts, not breaths ;
In feelings, not in figures on a dial.

We should count time by heart-throbs. He most lives,
Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best."

My revered mother, who lived to see her 106th
year, was younger at 100 than many an one at
seventy-five. Better far than premature old age
is perpetual youth. It matters not how many
years or decades may fly over our heads, we ar-
dently desire to retain our youthful hre and
vigor; and if, perchance, we may not do that, we
wish, at least, to prolong and preserve in per-
petuity our youthful elasticity of spirits, our
buoyant cheerfulness, and our undying enthusi-

Doing thus, the calm retrospect, in one's later
life, may be even ruddier and more serene and

The Life Story of Half a Century 7

satisfying than the brightest prospect of the
earlier years, just as the time of fruitage, or the
season of the ripened harvest is ever a period of
truer joy than the uncertain days of seed-sowing
when hope has not as yet reached the richness and
sweetness of its fruition. Not the pale, tender
vines but the purple vintage brings the brightest
visions as well as the most blessed memories.

"Let me but live my life from year to year,
With forward face and unreluctant soul,
Not hastening to, nor turning from the goal;

Not mourning for the things that disappear

In the dim past, nor holding back in fear

From what the future veils, but with a whole
And happy heart, that pays its toll

To Youth and Age, and travels on with cheer.

"So let the way wind up the hill or down,

Through rough or smooth, the journey will be joy;
Still seeking what I sought when but a boy,

New friendship, high endeavor, and a crown.
I shall grow old, but never lose life's zest,
Because the road's last turn will be the best."


Such is the true optimism, whether of man-
hood's prime or of old age.

When some one asked an artist, "Which is your
best picture?" the artist promptly replied "My

8 Retrospect of a Happy Ministry

next." Such ought, undoubtedly, to be the high
aim and ideal of our human lives. Our best year,
our best deed, our noblest achievement, our finest
touch of grace and moral beauty, our real master-
piece, should, if possible, be our next.

With advancing age men are wont to become
increasingly conservative. But, as some one sug-
gests, the past, so far from being a "hitching-
post," ought rather to serve as a "guide-post"
an inspiration and incentive for the onward

In any fair and right estimate of our choicest
earthly treasures, the past must be reckoned as
among our most valuable assets; partly because
the past is a permanent possession of which we
can never be deprived.

The present is a fickle goddess, the future a
sealed book, holding a record awaiting as yet its
mysterious unfolding. But the past is graven
forever upon the durable tablets of history, and
can never be effaced. Its worth will never de-
preciate. It will, rather, grow more and more
precious with the passing of the years. Hence
any opportunity to revert to it, to meditate upon
it, to recall its scenes and events, should be re-
garded as a privilege to be highly prized. Be-
sides, a profound reverence for the past, and a

The Life Story of Half a Century 9

grateful remembrance of God's good hand in our
life-history, and a humble recognition of His
merciful dealings with us hitherto, may well prove
a source of fresh inspiration for the time to come.
Certain is it that, in the later years of a busy
life, nothing is more natural than, occasionally,
to fall into a mood of serious reflection upon the
by-gone days.


This retrospect carries us back, in fact, to the
happy season of our childhood and school days in
the old Connecticut home. The old red school
house with its battered sides has been superseded
by a new white one of ampler proportions; the
little skating pond has sadly shrunken and nearly
evaporated beneath the Summer sun; the streams
are narrower; the hills lower; the fields and woods
less vast, and the old schoolmates and friends of
a former day have almost all passed on.

But, thank God, sun and moon and stars and
sky remain just the same as sixty years ago, and
the tender memory of those days as fresh and fra-
grant as ever.

One can never escape the charm and fascination
of one's birth-place.

Born February 8, 1835, at Southington, Hart-

10 Retrospect of a Happy Ministry

ford County, Conn., the youngest son of Chaun-
cey and Sylvia Langdon Dunham, we take a
natural and pardonable pride in proclaiming the
fact that our venerable mother who was born
July 27, 1800, and had the unique experience
of enjoying life in three successive centuries,
lived on into the twentieth century, passing away
in February, 1906, at the age of 105 years and
seven months, and that she was a "real daughter"
of the American Revolution, her father, Captain
Giles Langdon, having served in the Revolu-
tionary Army.

In the absence of any peculiarly startling per-
sonal exploits and achievements to record we also
find just a little satisfaction and comfort in a
recent discovery that the genealogy of the Dun-
ham family in England and America, two vol-
umes by Professor Isaac Watson Dunham lately
issued from the press, traces our honored Eng-
lish ancestry not only directly back to Edward
III (which may mean little or much), who was
born Nov. 13, 1312, at Windsor Castle, but also,
and more a matter of gratulation, back to Dea-
con John Dunham of the Mayflower, who figured
so prominently in Colonial affairs, having for
many years served as an officer of the Church, and
Deputy of old Plymouth Colony.

The Life Story of Half a Century 11

During the eleven years spent in Leyden after
the removal of the Pilgrim band from England,
great changes had taken place in the membership
of the original church at Scrooby, so that at the
time of the embarkation from Leyden only two
of the original congregation, Deacon John Dun-
ham and Elder William Brewster, natives of
Scrooby, were left to emigrate to America on
board the Mayflower, the other passengers being
a later arrival from England.

The old Coat of Arms of the Dunham family
is particularly beautiful in design and colors, and
bears the significant legend, "Semper Vigilante"
(''Always Vigilant"), which is claimed to be a
noticeable characteristic of the Dunham tribe;
but which, more likely, is intended to emphasize
and impress the duty and the necessity of con-
stant watchfulness.

I made a public confession of faith in 1855,
and united with the old First Congregational
Church in my native town. Fitted for college
at Lewis Academy, Southington, graduating as
valedictorian in the Summer of 1855. Entered
Yale College with the Class of 18 J9, but was
soon obliged, by the return of a serious affection
of the eyes, to abandon study for nearly a year.
I then re-entered Yale and graduated with the

12 Retrospect of a Happy Ministry

Class of i860. I had the good fortune to be one
of seven young men from that same town and
that same old church who graduated at Yale Col-
lege at about the same time, every one of whom
entered the Christian Ministry.

Among these "seven wise (or otherwise)
men" of Connecticut was my dear old fellow-
student and college chum, a life-long friend al-
ways known as "Joe Twitchell," but during his
forty-six or forty-seven years' pastorate of the
Asylum Hill Congregational Church, Hartford,
almost equally well known as the intimate friend
of Mark Twain, and whether as student, athlete,
"Chaplain Joe," wholesouled companion and
friend, pastor, preacher, story teller, writer, pub-
lic spirited citizen, or for many years as a mem-
ber of the Yale Corporation, beloved by every-


During senior year in college the decision was
fully reached to enter the ministry. To this one
thing I seemed shut up, and there was no alterna-
tive. Previous to entering college and during
much of the college course, other professions had
held out their inducements, but now they had lost
all their attraction. I could no longer think of

The Life Story of Half a Century 13

them with any relish, or with the least desire to
seek them. One passion possessed my heart and
soul to preach the Gospel. No other pursuit
seemed worthy of my ambition, and no other pro-
fession appealed to my reason or laid hold upon
my inmost convictions. The thought of the sa-
cred ministry was the only thought that really
satisfied my mind, or harmonized either with my
feelings or my conscience.

This I have always regarded as an evidence of
my divine call to the ministry. I had no heart
for anything else. Nothing else would satisfy.
"Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel."

One day in the latter part of senior year, out
under the New Haven elms, I met one of my most
zealous, warm-hearted Christian classmates, who
said, "Well, Sam, what are you going to do when
you get through college?" The reply was that
I had decided to study for the ministry. "Why,
bless your heart, Sam, if any Church ever gets
you for a pastor, they'll never let you go as long
as you live." This remark was accepted, not ex-
actly as a prophecy, but as a kind of confirmation
of the fact that I had made no mistake in the
choice of my calling.

I pursued my theological studies for two years

14 Retrospect of a Happy Ministry

in Union Theological Seminary, New York City,
and a third year at Andover, Mass., where I was
graduated in August, 1863.

During these delightful years of preparation
for my chosen profession I enjoyed the sound in-
struction of such able and gifted professors as
Edward Robinson (a native of the town of South-
ington, Conn.), Thomas H. Skinner, Henry B.
Smith, Roswell D. Hitchcock and Henry Had-
ley, at Union Seminary; and Edwards A. Park,
Calvin Stowe, E. P. Barrows, Austin Phelps and
Philip ScharT, at Andover.

My first sermon was preached, while in Union
Theological Seminary, in March, 1862, at the
First Street Presbyterian Church, New York City.
The text was 1 Kings xix:i2. My second ef-
fort at preaching was at the Broadway Mission
Church in May, 1862.

My official license to preach, however, was
granted February 3, 1863, by the Essex South
Association at Salem, Mass.


In April, 1863, four months previous to grad-
uation at Andover, I began preaching in the pul-
pit of the venerable "First Church in Brookfield,"
known as the Congregational Church of West

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibrarySamuel DunhamRetrospect of a happy ministry; the life story of half a century, including personal reminiscences, and a complete history from its first inception of the West Presbyterian Church, Binghamton, N.Y. → online text (page 1 of 14)