City of Syracuse

Submitted by Kathy Crowell

Source:  Dwight H. Bruce (ed.), Onondaga's Centennial.  Boston History Co., 1896, Vol. I, pp. 518-520.

This church was organized May 25, 1838.  The meeting for the purpose was held in the school house* of Dr. Mayo, which stood on Church street near its junction with West Genesee street.  Rev. John T. Avery was chosen its first pastor.  Its frame church building, which was soon commenced, stood on the north side of East Genesee street, near the crossing of East Washington street.  The building was completed and dedicated Aug. 16, 1838.  The Rev. John Frost preached the dedicatory sermon.  It was at a period when the question of slavery was agitating the whole country, and a pro-slavery sentiment was predominant even in the State of New York, that this church was organized.  Taking a distinctly anti-slavery ground, it was in hearty sympathy with the prominent agitators of the day, and such leading speakers, in the discussion of the then all-absorbing question, as Gerrit Smith, Frederick Douglass, Samuel Ward, J. W. Loguen, Samuel J. May and others were welcome to its platform.  At the time of the "Jerry Rescue" the bell of the church was broken in ringing out the alarm.  The church was active from its organization, and during its first year nearly one hundred were added to its membership on profession of faith, being the fruits of a religious revival.  Pastor Avery resigned in September, 1839, and Dr. Derrick C. Lansing succeeded for a few months.  Rev. Aaron Judson was pastor from April, 1840, to February, 1841.  Rev. Dr. Lansing was recalled and held the pastorate until early in 1843.  Rev. Thomas Castleton succeeded Dr. Lansing as temporary supply; under him about twenty members withdrew and formed a second Presbyterian church.  This church does not seem to have continued as a permanent organization.  In April, 1844, Rev. Charles Gold Lee of Rochester was called to the pastorate and continued his ministry until January, 1846, when he resigned, and about forty members left the church with him and later formed the park Presbyterian church.  In April, 1846, Rev. Ovid Miner became minister.  When he resigned in 1849 the church was without a pastor until November of the same year, when Rev. Porter H. Snow became the pastor.

The records of the church show that up to July, 1850, the whole number of members received since the organization was 440; excommunicated, 11; deaths, 27; dismissed, 274; membership July, 1850, 128.

The first officers chosen were:  John H. Lathrop, Dr. John W. Hanchett, deacons; Seth H. Mann, George Smith, Charles A. Wheaton, Ezra Stiles, committee of elders.

Some time after the conclusion of the pastorate of Mr. Snow, various adverse circumstances bearing upon the progress and usefulness of the church, and which could not well be surmounted, led to the suspension of public services and the church was closed; the property was soon afterward sold.  In 1853 the new Plymouth church made use of the building for religious services until its own chapel building on Madison street was ready for occupancy.  The history of this church, although short, shows much activity and earnestness in religious work, and in its influence in awakening public sympathy for the downtrodden Southern slave, and in preparing the people to stand by the Union in the great oncoming struggle for national unity under a free flag, was perhaps not surpassed, if equaled, by any one church in the State.

*Mr. M. W. Hanchett is probably the only person living who attended that meeting.

Submitted 12 July 1998