Samuel W Durant.

History of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers online

. (page 92 of 192)
Online LibrarySamuel W DurantHistory of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 92 of 192)
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selling or renting pews, picnics, Christmas-trees, festivals,
lotteries, fairs, and donation-parties, but worship God in
the simplicity of primitive Methodism. They have a Sab-
bath-school, of which the pastor is superintendent, and
George W. Gurley, assistant. The names of about sixty
scholars appear upon its roll. Among the clergymen who
have been active as pastors of this church the following
names appear: Reverends James Matthews, D. M. Sinclair,
J. Selby, Z. Osborne, E. Owen, G. W. Anderson, A. F.
Curry, J. B. Freeland, B. Winget, A. N. Moore, J. A.
Odell, and 0. W. Young ; the latter being the present pas-
tor and entering upon the second year of his ministry.


In 1802 the Congregationalists and Baptists held union
meetings at their various houses. One evening five of the
brethren remained after the meeting, and resolved to build
a house of worship. The appeals made for aid were very
heartily responded to, and an old paper, bearing date June
16, 1804, has the following: "This day we dedicated our
house of worship for the little Welsh congregation. Blessed

■■- Data, furnislicd by the pastor.



be God for his mercies to us strangers in a strange land !"
Rev. Daniel Morris opened the services with prayer, and
Rev. John Roberts preached from Matthew xxii. 11, and
Rev. John Stephens from 1st Kings ix. 22. Many of the
members lived at a great distance, and were accustomed to
walk to Utioa in the morning, remain for two sermons, and
then return on foot. Rev. Daniel Morris and Rev. John
Roberts preached alternately. In 1817 a Sabbath-school
was organized. In 1823 Rev. Robert Everett came from
Denbigh, Wales, and was settled as pastor over the church,
which was ksown as the Welsh Congregational Church.
He was a learned man and a popular preacher, and many
were added to the church membership during his ministry.
Mr. Everett finally retired to Winfield, and was succeeded
by Rev. James GrifiSths, of South Wales, who devoted fif-
teen years to this field of labor. His successor was Rev.
Evan Griffiths, who remained six years, and was followed
by Rev. David Price, from Denbigh, Wales. After six
years of faithful service he gave place to Rev. Griffith
Griffiths, who, after two years, removed to Cincinnati. The
present pastor is Rev. R. G. Jones, D.D., a native of
Brecknockshire, Wales, and a graduate of Brecon College,
who was called in May, 1867.

Under his ministry much harmony has prevailed in the
congregation, and a new brick edifice has been erected, at a
cost of 522,000, on Washington Street. The membership
at numbers 300, and connected with the church is
a flourishing Sabbath-school with 140 names on its roll.


The Reformed Protestant (Dutch) Church in Utica grew
out of the evangelistic labors of the Revs. Messrs. Spinner
and Labaugli, who, as early as 1820, visited this field as
missionaries. A few years later, llie Rev. John F. Scher-
merhorn, a minister of the Reformed Protestant Dutch
Church, came, and, after visiting among the homes of the
descendants of the Dutch in this locality, crystallized all
previous labors in this direction by calling a meeting in
Washington Hall, for the purpose of organizing a church
to be known as the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in
Utica. This occurred as early as 1829. The following
year, October 26, 1830, the church was fully organized in
conformity with the rules and regulations governing the
body with which it deternjined to be in fellowship. The
number of members constituting the organization was 29.

On the 1st of November following an invitation was
extended to the Rev. George W. Bethune, D.D., to become
its pastor. Dr. Bethune accepted, and was installed on the
7th of the same month, and remained its pastor till June
18, 1834, when he resigned.

From this period to the present the fo!lo"wing are the
names of its pastors, the time of their installation, and
also of their resignation :

The Rev. Henry Mandeville, D.D., who succeeded the
Rev. Dr. Bethune, was installed on the 12th of October,
1834; resigned the 20th of January, 1841.

The Rev. John P. Knox, D.D., was installed on the 6th
of October, 1841 ; resigned Feb. 16, 1844.

The Rev. Charles Wiley, D.D., was installed iu June,
1845; resigned May 1, 1854.

The Rev. George H. Fisher, D.D., was installed Jan. 1,
1855; resigned July 13, 1859.

The Rev. Charles E. Knox, D.D., installed July 29,
1860; resigned Aug. 4, 1862.

The Rev. Ashbel Vermilye, D.D., installed May 14,
1863 ; resigned July 31, 1871.

The present pastor, the Rev. Isaac S. Hartley, D.D., was
installed Nov. 16, 1871.

The first edifice in which the congregation worshiped
was erected on the corner of John and Broad Streets, in
1830, and was occupied till 1867, when the property was
sold. The same year a lot was purchased on the corner of
Genesee and Cornelia Streets, upon which a beautiful brick
church, with stone trimmings, was built, capable of seating
700 persons, at the cost of about $60,000. The new
church was formally dedicated on the 8th of September,

In government and doctrine the Reformed Church is the
same as the Presbyterian denomination ; nor is there any-
thing of an earthly nature of which the Dutch Church
is more proud than its descent from the " Chmch under
the Cross,'' or the Holland Church, whose faith and con-
servatism it would honor and perpetuate.

The interest which this church has manifested in re-
ligious and benevolent institutions is worthy of special note.
During the past fifteen years, including the munificent
bequests of Mr. and Mrs. Silas D. Childs and Mr. N. F.
Vedder, it has contributed a half-million of dollars to these

If distinguished names in a community form any true
index of the character and influence of a church, very few
churches, with such a brief history, have upon their records
names more honored, and representing every position in life.
Aside from its always having a learned and devoted ministry,
, Joseph P. Kirkland, Joshua A. Spencer, Thomas E. Clark,
Judges Savage, Gridley, Charles A. Mann, and W. J. Bacon,
John G. Floyd, Abram Varick, Charles C. Brodhead, Dr.
Brigham, William Wolcott, Samuel Stocking, Kellog Hul-
burt, Silas D. Childs, and George S. Dana, with their de-
voted wives, are a few who have been asssociated with it,
ai)d who have liberally contributed to its prosperity.

At present its membership numbers about 225 ; and a
flourishing Sabbath -school in connection with it shows its
interest in the spiritual welfare of the young. The larger
number of the churches of the Reformed denomination are
to be found along the banks of the Hud,son and in the State
of New Jersey, where it has both a college (Rutgers) and
a theological seminary.


On November 2], 1825, a meeting was held in Utica
for the pui'pose of organizing a Universalist society. An
organization was effected, and Rev. John Thompson and
others preached to the new congregation in the court-houso
until a church on Devereux Street was built in 1828-
30, and Rev. Dolphus Skinner, D.D., became, in 1830,
its first settled pastor. In course of time the society
became involved in financial difficulties, and to satisfy
creditors the church was finally sold. For some years
nothing was done towards reviving the society ; but in 1848



regular services were recounmenced in Mechanics' Hall, and
a now society was organized, under the name of the Central
Universalist Society. The present pleasant and commo-
dious edifice on Seneca Street, near its junction with
Genesee Street, was completed in 1851, Rev. Mr. Francis
being pastor. He resigned his charge in 1853, and was
succeeded in October of the same year by Rev. Theophilus
Fisk. The Rev. C. C. Gordon became pastor in 1857,
and resigned his pastoial charge in August, 1859. The
Rev. T. D. Cook, who had been one of the earlier pastors
of the old church, began a new pastorate in Utica in 1860,
and closed his labors with the parish in 18G4. The Rev.
D. Ballon succeeded him in October of the same year, and
resigned in 1869. In August, 1870, the Rev. A. J. Can-
field was called and continued his labors until May, 187o.
In December of the same year the Rev. Charles F. Lee,
the present pastor, began his ministrations. The records
of the earlier organization having been destroyed by fire,
we are able only to give the history of the Central Uni-
versalist parish, or of the Church of the Reconciliation, as
it is generally known. In 1877 the church was quite ex-
tensively renovated, and is now, with the chapel adjoining,
built some years ago, one of the most pleasant and com-
modious liouses of worship in the city. The parish is in a
healthful condition, and is gradually growing in numbers.
From first to last the Universalist Church in Utica has
numbered among its members some of the most prominent
citizens. The present organization is as follows ; Board of
Trustees, M. S. Laird, Willis Sawens, P. S. Curtiss, Lyman
Oatley, Hiram Gilmore, C. D. Falkner, H. C. Case ; Clerk
of Parish, G. L. Bradford ; Clerk of Church, Lyman Oat-
ley ; Deacons, Grove Penny, Lyman Oatley, J. G. Jones,
A. Gage.


" The United Evangelical Lutheran and German Re-
formed Congregation of the City of Utica" was organized
on the 15tli of May, 1842, at its place of meeting, the
" Old Bethel," on Fayette Street, West Utica. It was
formed of 5G communicant members, all natives of Ger-
many, and its services have always been conducted in the
German language. Its first officers were Charles A. Wolf,
Sr., and Michael Breitenstein, Elders ; and John M. Hahn,
Daniel Becker, and John G. Hoerlein, Trustees.

Their first house of worship was erected upon the south
side of Columbia Street, upon the eastern side of the site
of St. Patrick's Church, at a cost of about $2000, and was
dedicated Sept. 28, 1844, and, with other buildings, was
destroyed by the hand of the incendiary on the night of
Feb. 28, 1851.

Immediately after the destruction of their old church
the members of St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church,
having bought the adjoining building lot, corner of Colum-
bia and Huntington Streets, purchased of the congregation
their property on Columbia Street. They then erected a.
house of worship on the corner of Cooper and Fay Streets,
at a cost of about ^4000, and removed there.

The present pastor, Rev. A. Wetzel, has devoted his
time and talents to the welfare of this church ever since its

With the church is connected a flourishing Sunday-
school, numbering about 300 scholars, and also a week-day
school, in which the children receive instruction in both the
German and English languages from an efficient teacher.

The present nuijiber of communicants is about 250.


The first Hebrew congregation was organized in the
year 1848, the body worshiping on Hotel Street, with
Rabbi Ellsner, now of Syracuse, as their leader.

A few years later another congregation organized, and
built a synagogue on Bleecker Street, with Rabbi Rosen-
thal as pastor. From 1855 to 1870 the congregation be-
came scattered, and had no place of Worship. In 1870 they
built the present synagogue on Whitesboro' Street, and
chartered it under the name of the House of Jacob. Rabbi
Sapero then officiated, and his successor was Rev. L. Eisen-
berg, who is at present officiating as pastor.


BLshop Shullz, of Bethlehem, bishop of the Moravians,
may be regarded as the founder and parent of this church
in Utica. He came to the city in 1 856, and finding a few
devoted followers, caused an edifice to be purchased. The
first settled pastor was Rev. John Detterer, who settled
in August of the same year. He was succeeded by Rev.
John Pracger, and he by the present pastor. Rev. Julius
Wuenshe. The church, which is located on the corner of
Cooper and Cornelia Streets, underwent a thorough re-
modeling in 1876, and is now a very neat and commodious
structure. The present ciders are John Beisiegel and Charles
Simon. The Sunday-school is in a very prosperous condi-


A piece of ground for burial purposes must have been
occupied in Utica previous to 1800. The first recorded
transaction concerning one was in 1806, when a deed was
obtained of the old ground on Water Street, from Stephen
Potter, who in parting with it made the curious reservation
of the right to pasture his sheep and calves therein. This
"•round includes about two acres of land, and was long
since pretty thoroughly filled up. There are very few
monuments now standing which date beyond 1816.* It is
mostly given up for burial purposes, and presents altogether
an untidy and dilapidated appearanee.f

St. Joseph's Cemetery, a small burial-ground occupied by
the German Catholics, is located a short distance west of the
old "round, on St. Joseph Street, and contains about an acre
of land. It is closely packed with graves and headstones,
and is not very much used for new interments. It is
attached to St. Joseph's Catholic Church, and is called the
German Cemetery.


This beautiful home of the dead — worthy to be named
with Mount Auburn and Greenwood and Laurel Hill —

* One stone dates to 1797.

t This ground originally covered a larger area than at present, in-
cluding a tract on the south side of Water Street and some to the west.



dates its origin back nearly thirty years. It was organized,
under the general act authorizing rural cemetery asso-
ciations, on the 26th of April, 1849. The first board of
trustees was constituted of the following persons : Thomas
R. Walker, Edmund A. Wetmore, William Tracy, Horatio
Seymour, Thomas Hopper, Wm. J. Bacon, Julius A. Spen-
cer, Silas D. Childs, Charles A. Mann, J. Watson Williams,
Eiisha M. Gilbert, M. M. Bagg.

The first officers were Hon. T. R. Walker, President ;
Julius A. Spencer, Vice-President ; M. M. Bagg, Secretary.
A tract of land containing about 37 acres was immediately
purchased on the newly-opened Bridgewater Plank-Road, a
mile south of the city limits, in the town of New Hartford.
It was covered with forest-trees, but presented such advan-
tages of soil and variety of location that it was considered
the most eligible spot within suitable distance of the city
for the purposes of a great rural cemetery. A fund of
about 87500 was raised by subscription, out of which the
purchase-money was paid, and with the remainder improve-
ments were rapidly carried forward. The grounds were
placed under the management of Almeron Hotcbkiss, an
experienced landscape-engineer, then employed in Green-
wood Cemetery. Brooklyn. A main avenue about one and
a half miles in length was constructed, a Gothic lodge and
bell-tower erected at the entrance, and a receiving-vault
built in the north slope of the grounds. Near the main
entrance, and beside a small artificial pond, was placed the
celebrated sacred stone of the Oneida Indians, which had
been brought from Stookbridge Hill, in Madison County, by
pcraiission of the tribe, and placed in perpetual possession
of the cemetery association, who guaranteed to the Oiicidas
the privilege of sepulture within the cemetery.

The formal ceremony of opening the cemetery took place
on the 14th of June, 1850, and was attended by a very
large concourse of people, including a delegation of about
150 Indians of the Oneida and Onondaga nations. A
procession was formed at the entrance, headed by the Utica
Band, and followed by the school-children of the city, the
clergy, officers of the association, visitors, and citizens,
which marched to the music of the Portuguese Hymn,
along the main avenue to the glen below the bridge, where
a platform had been arranged for the speakers and seats for
the audience. A dirge was played by the band, a prayer
oifered by Rev. Charles Wiley, D.D., and an ode sung by
the children of the common schools, after which William
Tracy, Esq., delivered a most appropriate and interesting ad-
dress, following which a hymn was sung and the benediction
pronounced by Rev. Oliver Wetmore. Upon the conclusion
of these ceremonias the Indians present assembled around
their sacred stone, and addresses were made in their own
tongue by Oiio-neo-gon, head chief of the Oneidas, and
Dao-dwa-ga-neo-neo, head chief of the Onondugas, which
were interpreted to the assemblage by Tu-wat-siui-Jcus, who
had been for thirty years the chief interpreter of the Onei-
das. In these addresses the Indians gave their consent to
this final disposition of the altar of their fathers.

Tlie grounds have been steadily improved from the first,
and now present one of the most beautiful and tastefully
arranged rural cemeteries in the Uuion. By a rule of the
association all fences, of whatever description, are forbidden.

and the grading and preparation of the grounds are in the
hands of the trustees, to the end that uniformity may be
preserved throughout.

For several years the work of improvement was managed
principally by an executive committee ; the only salaried
person being a lodge-keeper, who also performed the duties
of sexton. Conspicuous among the earnest workers of the
board of trustees were Messrs. Thomas R. Walker, William
Tracy, and Julius A. Spencer, two of whom subsequently
removed from the city.

At length the necessity of employing a superintendent
began to appear, and in 1857 A. G. Howard, a florist of
much taste and skill, was appointed as superintendent upon
a salary sufficient to justify him in employing one-half his
time in a general supervision of the cemetery. Mr. How-
ard occupied this position until about the year 1870, when
Mr. Egbert Bagg, a civil engineer of some celebrity, was
appointed to the position made vacant by his resignation.

The financial condition of the association has always been
satisfactory, the income being ample for all puiposes. The
average annual income from 1867 to 1872 was something
over $5200. The income from all sources for the year
1877 was 117,551.23, and the expenditure $13,008.63.

In 1865 a farm of 65 acres was purchased at a cost of
$9000, and added to the grounds, making the present area
about 105 acres, of which about 60 acres are laid out and

A beautiful mortuary chapel, built of sandstone and in
the Gothic style, at a total cost of $16,000, was presented
to the association, as a free gift, by Mrs. Roxana Parker
Childs, widow of the late Silas Dickinson Childs, the sole
condition being that it should be for " free and common use
forever." It is a combination of chapel and receiving-vault,
the tombs (140 in number) being built into the sides of
the chapel. The arrangement is found to be an exceedingly
convenient one for winter use. The chapel is beautifully
finished, and frescoed in appropriate colors, and contains
two very elegant stained-glass windows, with rich memorial
groupings. The architect of the building was Mr. Hotch-
kiss, superintendent of the Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis.
The windows were manufactured by H. W. Lewis & Co.,
of Utica. A fine memorial tablet in recognition of the
munificent gifts of Mr. and Mrs. Childs is erected iu the

Another ornament to the grounds is the conservatory,
erected in 1874. It stands near the main entrance, and is
in the form of a Latin cross. Here is a vast collection of
plants and flowers, both indigenous and exotic, the gera-
niums alone numbering 20,000. A fine specimen of the
cabbage -palm of Florida, commonly called the palmetto-
tree, is in the east wing, growing amid a group of tropical
plants. The total cost of the conservatory, including
plants and flowers, has been about $20,000.

A vast number of native forest-trees, deciduous and
evergreen, adorns the grounds, and especially that portion
located on the northwestern slope. Several fine ponds and
running streams add variety and picturesqueness to the

* John F. Seymour, Esq., was chairman of the building committee,
and contributed in a great degree to the erection of this fine edi.ioe.


0"WBN O'Nbil, the sou of an Irisli farmer, was born in
County Wexford, Ireland, in 1798. Tlie early death of his
father devolved the care of three children upon his mother.
An older brother of the deceased emigrated to America and
died. Owen served for some years as a clerk in a store in
Dublin, and having acquired some knowledge of business, he
made his way to the IJnited States in 1816 and settled in
Oneida county. After a short stay in Rome he removed to
Utica, where, with the exception of two years spent at Nor-
fork, Virginia, he has ever since resided. He apprenticed
himself to James Devlin, from whom he learned the trade of
coppersmith and acquired a general knowledge of the hard-
ware business. His industry and skill won the favor of his
employer, who remitted a year from the term of his apprentice-
ship and made him a substantial present. He formed a part-
nership with Robert Disney, and! conducted business for a
time on Liberty street. Those who remember him in that day
speak of him as a quiet, industrious, faithful worker, who won
the respect of all who had occasion to employ him. A larger
store was subsequently rented, and after six years' devotion to
business the firm was enabled to purchase the establishment
of Mr. Devlin. Mr. O'Neil then associated himself with
John Martin, and the firm of O'Neil & Martin purchased the
property on which the store of O'Neil & Co. now stands.
Mr. Martin abandoned the business for the legal profession
and removed to Illinois, where he gained distinction, and died
while holding a judgeship. John Carton, who sferved his
apprenticeship under Owen O'Neil, subsequently became his
partner, and continued with him until 1847, when he estab-
lished the house which now bears his name. Of late Mr.
O'Neil has been known as the senior member of the firm of
O'Keil, Son & Co., the associate partner being Francis X.
Manahan, his brother-in-law.

Owen O'Neil fairly represented a class of the mercantile
community which unfortunately is wellnigh extinct. He was
never in haste to be rich. The dazzling stories of enormous
fortunes to be made by rash speculations had no charm for his
ear. He knew of only one road which led to success. Hon-
esty guarded the entrance to that road, and industry was the
only guide that traveled therein. He rose from poverty to
ailuence, but the simple tastes and frugal habits of his earlier
days exerted their beneficent influence over his life to the last.

He was a devout communicant of the Catholic church. In

the numerous charitable enterprises with which that church is
associated he worked zealously and contributed freely. He
took the pledge of total abstinence from the hands of the ven-
erated Father Mathew, and kept it unbroken to the end. His
health was remarkably sound until he was attacked by pleurisy.
His vigorous constitution enabled him to battle so manfully
with the disease that he afterward rose from his bed, and with
the aid of a nurse dressed himself and walked across his room.
Then weakness overtook him, and his fluttering pulse foretold
his doom. He met his death as he had met all the joys and
sorrows of life — calmly and manfully. Besting in the arms of
his eldest surviving son, and enjoying the consolation which
abiding faith affords, he passed peacefully through the shadow
of death and into the light of immortality, July 29, 1876.

The character of Owen O'Neil is one which would with-
stand successfully the most severe analysis. He was devoted
to business, but he always found time to cultivate the gentler
amenities of life. He used wisely, discreetly, and well the
ample fortune which he honorably accumulated. In his social
intercourse he was cheerful, instructive, and happy. Hia
knowledge of men and events, particularly those pertaining
to our local history, was full and accurate. He accepted the

Srivileges of citizenship with a comprehensive idea of the
uties which they involved. He was an old-time Whig, and
after the dissolution of the Whig party he became a Democrat.
He refused to accept political preferment, but always exercised
the right of suffrage with discrimination. He lived a useful
and blameless life, and dying ripe in years his memory will
be tenderly cherished by all who honor purity, truth, and
honesty, for these were the broad foundations on which his

Online LibrarySamuel W DurantHistory of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 92 of 192)