The Presbyterian Church of Afton
The Presbyterians, though the first to cultivate the spiritual field, suffered a long period of decline and inactivity. Under their instrumentality, in 1802, the first church in the town was organized, and February 1, 1819, was incorporated as the “South Presbyterian Society and Meeting-House of the town of Bainbridge,” at a meeting of the inhabitants in the south and west part of that town, “assembled at the new meeting-house near the house of Horace Stone.” Calvin Stowel and Silas Stevens were chosen presiding and returning officers, and they together with Asa Stowel and Arad Stowel were elected trustees. This society seems to have been short-lived and to have subsequently changed its name and form of government to Congregational. February 8, 1825, it is recorded that “at a meeting of divers persons inhabitants of the town of Bainbridge*** being male members of full age belonging to the late Congregational Society of South Bainbridge, assembled at the place where they statedly attend for divine worship,” February 7, 1825, at which Deacons Calvin and Arad Stowel, two of the members of said society presided, The South Bainbridge Presbyterian Society was organized, and Arad Stowel, David McMaster and Nathan Boynton were elected trustees.
A long interval elapsed from the decline of this Society in which the Presbyterians ceased to have an organized existence. In January, 1875, at the request of several residents of the village of Afton and vicinity, Rev. Wm. H. Sawtelle, pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Nineveh, commenced preaching once in two weeks, on Sabbath afternoons, in the Baptist Church in Afton, with a view to the organization of a Presbyterian Church. Soon after, notice of a meeting to be held in the Baptist Church of Afton, on Friday, February 19, 1875, for the purpose of organizing a Presbyterian Society, signed by G. P. Smith, B. Whittaker and Robert Yale, was read from the pulpits of the village churches. At that meeting, of which Rev. Wm. H. Sawtelle was Chairman, it was resolved to incorporate under the name of the First Presbyterian Church of the town of Afton, and Henry Doolittle, Robert Yale and Geo. P. Smith were elected trustees. The proceedings were certified to before J. B. Kirkhuff, Notary Public, February 23, 1875.
The persons who then united in church fellowship were Robert and Harriet L. Yale, from the Presbyterian Church in Unadilla; Ira A. and Martha Yale, from the Presbyterian Church in Bainbridge; Deloss Lyon, from the Presbyterian Church in Laurens; “Selar” and Mary E. Decker, and Henry, Betsey and Henry S. Doolittle, from the Presbyterian Church in Nineveh; and Emeline Merritt, from the Presbyterian Church in Windsor. They were formally organized by a committee of the Presbytery June 1, 1875, at which time “Selar” Decker, Henry Doolittle and Ira A. Yale were elected elders. Deloss Yale was elected elder June 30, 1876; Henry Doolittle re-elected June 26, 1877; and “Sebar” Decker June 25, 1878.
February 7, 1875, Rev. Wm. H. Sawtelle, of Nineveh, commenced to supply the pulpit every other Sabbath, at 3 1/2 P. M., and continued his labors with them till January 13, 1878. He was succeeded, April 21, 1878, by Rev. D. Grummon, of Bainbridge, who still supplies the pulpit every Sabbath at 2 P. M.
The whole number of members who have united with the church is 42; of whom three have been dismissed and one has died, leaving a present membership (July, 1879,) of 38. Four have been baptized, two adults and two infants.
In the spring of 1876 measures were taken to erect a house of worship. A building site was purchased of Edgar Garret for $500. The trustees, consisting of Henry Doolittle, Robert Yale and Wm. A. Wright, were associated with Deloss Lyon as a building committee. Subscriptions of money, materials and labor were solicited, and the work of construction was begun early in the summer. A building 28 by 40 feet, with an alcove for the pulpit and choir, and a front extension for the vestibule, was erected at a cost of $3,000. It was completed, furnished and formally dedicated January 31, 1877.
A grant of $800 was obtained from the Board of Church Erection. The rest of the sum was raised by subscriptions from the citizens of Afton and some of the neighboring towns, except a few contributions from some of the neighboring churches; so that the church was cleared from all indebtedness soon after the dedication.
It is but justice to say that the Society is largely indebted for the success of the enterprise to the devotion and perseverance of Robert Yale, one of the trustees, who superintended the work, procured most of the subscriptions, and generously gave his time and labor until the building was completed.