Early History of Minoa's Methodist Episcopal Church


Village of Minoa

"The Minoa Chronicle," Fall 1997*

Submitted by Kathy Crowell

Conference minutes of the Methodist Episcopal Church show that in 1827 Collamer Methodist Episcopal Church was the first charge of the North Manlius Circuit.  In 1835 conferences were re-organized and the North Manlius circuit then included parishioners from Kirkville, Collamer, Bridgeport and Manlius Station (Minoa).  The 1836 church census counted 305 members.

Exactly when Manlius Station Methodists began to hold their own meetings is uncertain.  Sarah Helfer Leonard's discussions with older members seemed to indicate that in the 40's and 50's Methodists held their meetings in the hotel or tavern (located next to the tracks on the west side of S. Main).  It was owned by a man named Hatch who was very interested in the Methodists.  They used his ballroom on Sundays for services.  When Mr. Hatch sold the building, the new owners ended this practice and they then met in homes or in the school (site of the present St. Mary's parking lot on Main St.) until 1855.  At that time the German Evangelical Church was built and they were allowed to hold their services in this church.  This ended when Rev. R. Redhead "...with greater zeal than consideration, preached one Sunday morning, and continued on and on through the afternoon hour when the Evangelical people assembled, on through their scheduled time until the other clergyman was obliged to leave for his long return ride on horseback to Liverpool."  This sad incident turned out to be a blessing, for this encouraged them to develop plans to build their own church.

Conrad Shoemaker and Jabez Lewis, prominent citizens in Minoa and both past members of the New York State Assembly, offered land for the Methodist Church.  Mr. Lewis offered the land now at the corner of Hulbert and South Main Street and Mr. Shoemaker offered the land on East Avenue where the old church now stands.  The small group of parishioners decided to accept Mr. Shoemaker's offer, with his stipulation that it must be used only for church purposes.  In 1862 the main building was built along with the parsonage.  The total cost of construction was $5100.

In 1853 the North Manlius Church had been built with the enthusiastic support of the Manlius Station (Minoa) parishioners.  The members of the North Manlius congregation returned the favor by their full support when the Minoa church was constructed even though this incurred a financial burden on their church.

The relationship between the two churches was strong.  They shared the same pastor, and for years quarterly meetings were held alternately in the two churches.

"Sale" Fiesenmyer (Fieselmayer), son of Felix who built St. Mary's, was the builder on this project.  He was aided by Joseph Oot, a carpenter, the son of Adam Oot who donated land for St. Mary's Church.  The stone masonry was completed by Andrew Platz (Dr. Platz's grandfather).

Mrs. Bassett, daughter of Mr. Edmund Adams (Sugar Bush Farm) of North Manlius gave a vivid picture of the beauty and importance of the service to the people of that day.  She relates her impression as a child when attending the quarterly meetings:  "...Oh, how grand they were!  To ride to church was an event in my life anyway and those grand meetings when both churches assembled together every three months, now at Minoa and next at North Manlius.  The presiding elder was always a real personage in those days and always preached to the point and at great length and often with Hell Fire in mind and voice...The church meant so much to them."  Mrs. C. J. Fisher, one of their oldest members, said in her youth all children had to go to church.  Many attended in their bare feet for they lacked shoes.

Their very longest member was Miss Carrie Fisher.  Both of Fisher's parents were founders of the German Church.  They and many other young people joined the Methodist church, preferring to hear the service in English rather than in German.  Miss Fisher helped celebrate the Methodist Centenary.  She was 75 years of age at the time of the centennial and had been a parishioner for 53 years.

The first pastor when the church was built was Rev. Gideon Jones.  He baptized Miss Susie Adams in 1862.

Minoa continued to grow due to growth in the railroad.  This growth and the Evangelistic Campaign in Syracuse, led by Billy Sunday, greatly influenced the growth of the Minoa's Methodist Church.  Their Sunday School grew and parishioners from other denominations joined them.  The Women Bible Class was enriched with this influx of new members.

Sarah Helfer Leonard in her pamphlet said, "Since that time, though Methodist in name, we are really a Community Church.  Many of our best workers have come from other denominations."  The increased membership required changes to accommodate the people.  The rear addition was built, the pulpit and pews faced about to allow the two rooms to be used as one, and a new parsonage was bought.  Mr. Walton, Mr. Burnett, and Mr. Ouderkirk enriched the services of the church by sharing the benefits of their studies.  All three had either just completed or were finishing their college courses.

Throughout their history the Ladies' Aid Society played an integral part in their development.  They held church socials in homes.  They stitched mountains of quilts.  In 1917, when the building was remodeled, they raised funds and played an active role in the building project.  Mrs. Myra Dufel was the longest serving president (nine years).  During the centennial (1935) Mrs. Harry Beechner was president.  In the early 1900s they even contributed to Women's Foreign Mission Society.

As time passed many changes occurred.  The stoves, with their long pipes periodically emitting smoke and soot into the sanctuary, were replaced with a furnace.  Mr. Goodrich, then pastor, said "It's very hard for a man to keep his heart warm when his feet are cold."  The small panes of clear glass were replaced with stained glass windows.

The beautiful chandeliers holding the oil lamps were replaced in 1914 with electric lights.  One parishioner related the miracle of electricity to his wife.  He told her about how they just replaced the old oil lamps for light with electric lights and how much brighter they were.

She asked, "How do you turn them on?"
"Just pull a string."
Disbelieving, she asked, "How do you turn them off?"
"Just pull the string."

On March 28, 1932, during Mr. Fryer's pastorate, the church was incorporated.**  Since remodeling, the first marriage ceremony was that of Elizabeth Hunt and Carl Kremer.  The first baptism was Marilyn Deiterle and at the 100th anniversary celebration, Ann Hopkins was baptized.

Sarah Helfer Leonard's last words in her pamphlet, "A Sketch of the History of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Minoa, N.Y.," aptly sums up the feeling of these old time parishioners:  "We celebrated recently the hundredth anniversary of the founding of our church.  We also rededicated the remodeled building.  This much accomplished, may we have no vain pride in our equipment; may we rather use it to do our full share to bring about the more abundant life.  For, after all, the Church is only an agency whose purpose is to continue the real work for which the Master came."

The Methodist Church of Minoa continues to grow.  The old wooden church was replaced in 1958 with a beautiful new brick church featuring a well-equipped school, located just a short distance east of the old church.

*"The Minoa Chronicle" is published January, May and September by Norma Jenner, Bob Kinsella, Bev Petterelli and Loretta Sturick, and is available at Green's Hardware Store, the Minoa Public Library, and the Village Office,Minoa and at Brownell's Printing, Eastwood.

**The Manlius Station Methodist Episcopal Church was incorporated January 1, 1864 (H,222 - Onondaga County Courthouse) and re-incorporated in 1932 as the Methodist Episcopal Church of Minoa.

Submitted 9 June 1998