Historical Sketch of the Seventh Day Baptist Church at Verona, NY
Historical Sketch of Verona Church
by Mrs. Carrie Stark
One hundred years ago, June 19, 1820, a little group assembled here to form the sacred organization of a church. In the year 1804, one Daniel Williams with a part of his family, consisting of his wife, seven sons, and one daughter, started westward from Hopkinton, R. I., with a yoke of oxen and one horse; and after a wearisome journey of four weeks, settled in this, then, Western Wild, later known as the town of Verona. Coming from the early Seventh Day Baptist church of Hopkinton, R. I., and inspired with its sacred spirit, two of the older sons, Thomas and Daniel, young men of sterling character and strong faith, became religious leaders in this community, keeping up the interest by holding prayer meetings from house to house and extending the influence among the people. It has been said had it not been for these two Christian pioneers, this church in Verona might not have existed. And during their long lives they stood as faithful pillars of the church until with hoary heads as crowns of righteousness they lay down to rest.
In the year 1819 Rev. Amos Russel Wells, a Seventh Day Baptist minister of note, conducted an extensive revival here, and many of the young people were converted and became constituent members of the church the following year. Itinerant ministers occasionally passed through here and preached to the people, and were paid for their services.
March 20, 1829, the amount of subscriptions for a meeting house (as it was called) was $463.75. On March 20, 1830, the house was nearly completed and they held their society meeting there. March 20, 1836, they obtained the services of Rev. Alexander Campbell for half of the year, then a young man of power whom the Presbyterians had offered great inducements to go with that body but his conscientious views of the Bible Sabbath led him to retain former position. July 2, 1837, the church voted to call Rev. John L. Kenyon to preach for them until March 20.
July 15 half of the roof of their new meeting house (this church) was carried off by the wind. Eleven days later, July 26, the roof was replaced. March 20, 1838, the society voted to call Elder Kenyon to whom they had become very much attached, to preach to them the ensuing year. But in the midst of their brightened hopes sickness came to Elder Kenyon and the strong affection in which he was held could not stay the dread disease which sapped the vital forces of his life, and the little church bereft, bowed in grief as they were called to lay away their early and beloved pastor. But he still lived in the hearts of the people. At their next annual meeting the church voted to support Mrs. Kenyon.
In 1840, Charles M. Lewis, known in this denomination as the “Little Giant,” was called to preach to them. He was ordained and labored here until 1846. During his pastorate the second anniversary of the General Conference was held in Verona, also the second anniversary of the Missionary Society, and the first anniversary of the Sabbath Tract Society in 1844.
In 1848 Rev. C. C. Chester, of Ashaway, R. I., became pastor, followed by L. P. Curtis, who served from 1854 to 1858. Following are the names of other pastors and their years of service: L. M. Lewis, 1860-1863; J. B. Clark, 1864-1867; Alexander Campbell, 1867-1874; C. M. Lewis, most of 1874; D. H. Davis, July, 1874 to May, 1876; C. M. Lewis invited to preach as much of the time as he could give until July, 1878; U. M. Babcock, C. M. Lewis, a part of the time in 1880 and 1882; H. D. Clarke, 1883-1887, followed by J. E. N. Backus, Henry L. Jones, Joshua Clarke, Martin Sindall, G. M. Lewis, Leon Burdick, A. L. Davis, R. R. Thorngate, William M. Simpson. May, 1919, finds us with our present much esteemed pastor, T. J. Van Horn.
The church being centrally located many extra meetings have been held here, among the earlier, one led by Rev. Giles Langworthy and later by Lucius Crandall, C. M. Lewis, Martin Sindall, E. B. Saunders and A. L. Davis. C. M. Lewis having a home here spent more time on this field than any other pastor, holding many revival meetings of great power, this house crowded with eager listeners to his earnest and stirring appeals which are still lingering in the hearts of many here today. And could the silent voices of the town of Verona respond today many would be heard telling of the saving influence and efforts of the life of C. M. Lewis which led them to choose the path of righteousness. Converts to the Sabbath of the Bible and many others have been added to the church through the effectual efforts of many devoted pastors who have served and blessed this church whose influence can never die.
And now as we take a retrospective view a feeling of sadness comes over us as we note the ambitions, religious zeal and voices that have resounded within these walls — voices now hushed in the stillness of the century. “But they rest from their labors and their works do follow them.” The church led by the Divine Hand has given of her sons to the gospel ministry and of her daughters to stay up their hands. She has given the truth of the Sabbath of the Bible to another denomination who with unfurled banners flying over the earth are proclaiming it regardless of popularity as what man may say. This was the early church home of the ambitious and gifted O. D. Sherman whose cheerful voice and genial spirit were ever welcome. But as a valiant soldier of the cross he has been called to lay his armor down—the battle fought, the victory won. She has given to the China mission the lamented D. H. Davis, who as organizer, translator and earnest worker, together with the faithful efforts of his efficient companion, has given an impetus to the China mission which shall stand as a monument to their memory. He had planned to visit the homeland this year, and be present at this gathering today. And while we miss his familiar voice and welcome presence, the vacant chair reminds us that he too is gone, his life work ended, he has lain him down to rest. Today he calmly sleeps across the sea, on China’s soil, undisturbed by the passing elements of the world, awaiting the “well done.”
Now as the church today sends greetings and congratulations to the mother church of Hopkinton, R. I., we would say as the years have rolled on, until the one hundredth has marked the dial plate of time that this branch in Verona still lives to tell the “Old, Old Story.'” And although having passed through struggles and trials —depleted by death and numbers, who with their strong faith have been helpful in other fields, still we are grateful for the early wave of sacred influence extended here, and may it move on, widening and deepening, giving strength and power to this church that she may bear her humble part in the mighty struggle now before the Christian world.
Grand work of the ages, roll on, till complete.
By the power of the Infinite given
Till the ransomed of earth with symphonies
sweet, Shall swell the chorals of heaven.
Source: Stark, Mrs. Carrie. Historical Sketch of Verona Church. Published in The Sabbath Recorder, Volume 89, No. 10 [September 6, 1920], p. 301-303. Published: Plainfield New Jersey, George B. Utter, 1920.