Christ Church Pompey


Four Miles North of Pompey Hill, Town of Pompey, New York

Submitted by Kathy Crowell

Christ Church Pompey was organized September 1828 under the title of "The Minister, Wardens, and Vestry of Christ Church, Pompey," and was admitted into union with the Episcopalian Convention in October 1828.  According to James Selkrig, missionary at Manlius and parts adjacent:

"I had preached several times previous to this to attentive congregations in a School house near the place, and when first proposed to me by the inhabitants, I opposed the organization, through fear of ultimate success.  But witnessing an increased seriousness on the subject of religion, and a growing attachment in the worship of the Church, on every new visitation, which were more in two weeks, on Sunday, at five o'clock, P.M., I became satisfied of the expediency of the measure, as well as of the practicability of erecting a house of worship.  Suffice it to say, that we circulated a subscription for this latter object, and met with such encouragement as to warrant the undertaking--and to avoid being in debt, at my proposal, twelve of the leading members of the congregation united with me in a bond, to liquidate the deficiency, if any, after the sale of the pews, by an equal division of it among ourselves.  In December 1829, fifteen months from the organization, our Church was completed, and sold for its entire cost, and we released from our bond.  The work is good, the proportions happy, and the arrangements exceedingly convenient.  It contains forty-six pews below.

I have baptized seven adults in that parish, and the Bishop confirmed sixteen during his visitation last summer, though no notice is taken of it in his report to the Convention.  To him, at the same time, I made my report, as Missionary on this situation, but he either lost it or forget to hand it to the Secretary.  To supply that deficiency, let me here remark, that I have divided my time between Manlius and Jamesville, giving three services to the former and one to the latter, and alternately held the third at Pompey and Fayetteville, until the new Church was finished, since which I have given the third service to Pompey exclusively," (report in "The Gospel Messenger," March 20, 1830, Vol. IV, No. 6, p. 22.)

In September 4,1830, Christ Church Pompey was to have been consecrated, but the Bishop became ill and the consecration was held by his successor, Bishop Onderdonk, in August the following year:

"On Wednesday 31st, the Bishop officiated in Christ Church Pompey, consecrating that neat and commodious edifice to the worship of Almighty God, and ordained the Rev. James Selkrig the officiating minister to the order of Priests.  Morning Prayer was read by the Rev. Mr. Hollister Missionary at Manlius, and the lessons by the Rev. Mr. Beardsley, Missionary at Onondaga Hill, the deed of donation of the church by the Rev. Mr. Dyer, Missionary at Syracuse, and the sentence of consecration by the Rev. Mr. Davis, Missionary at Oneida.  The candidate for the priesthood was presented by the Rev. Mr. Pardee, and the Holy Communion administered to nearly 100 persons by the Bishop, assisted by the Rev. Mr. Dyer.  An immense congregation attended and for about four hours (which was the length of the Morning service) evinced great solemnity of feeling and interest, in what was transacting.  In the afternoon, the Bishop preached again and confirmed 26 persons.  The prospects of the church in Pompey were never brighter than now," (The Gospel Messenger, Saturday, September 10, 1831, Vol. V, No. 31.)

"On Wednesday, 31st (August), in the morning, I consecrated Christ Church, in the town of Pompey, Onondaga county, which had been ready for consecration the preceding year.  The postponement of this solemnity at that time, was owing to the melancholy event which left unperformed many appointments of my venerated predecessor.  At the same time I admitted to the holy order of Priests, the missionary at that station, the Rev. James Selkrig, Deacon.  In the afternoon of that day, in the same church, I confirmed 265 persons.  The services of this day were peculiarly interesting, and engaged the devout attention of overflowing congregations.  At the Communion, in the morning, I was highly gratified to meet, in the country church not even situated in a village, about 100 partakers of the holy mysteries.  They included many, indeed, from various surrounding parishes and neighbourhoods, but their unexpected numbers added much to the interest of the occasion," (the address of Bishop Onderdonk, "The Gospel Messenger," November 5, 1831, Vol. 5 #39, p. 154.)

By 1833, Rev. Selkrig officiated one-third of the time at Christ Church, Pompey, one-third at Watervale, and one-third at Green's Corners.  In June 1833, St. Mark's Church, Jamesville, and Christ church, Pompey were formed into a Missionary station by the approbation of the Bishop.  During the year, Selkrig performed 1 adult baptism at Green's Corners, 6 at Jamesville, and 14 at Christ Church, Pompey.  At Pompey and Green's Corners there were about 60 communicants and 50 Sunday scholars.

Rev. Selkrig continued to preach at Christ Church, Pompey, one half of the time until February 1, 1834 when he resigned.  Rev. George S. Hollister continued to supply the church with a five o'clock service on every Sunday gratuitously and was followed by Rev. Marshall Whiting.  On November 8, 1835, Rev. Whiting closed his engagement at Christ Church, Pompey "at which time the Vestry concluded it inexpedient, on account of the peculiar circumstances of the congregation, to attempt any longer, for the present, to sustain ministerial services.  Number of communicants at that time as last reported 32," (Journal of the Proceedings of the Fifty-First Convention of the Protestant Episcopal church, 1836.)

Rev. George B. Engle took over as missionary at Christ Church, Pompey in early June 1837.  According to his report, "this congregation had no regular services, from the time the Rev. Mr. Whiting left it, in 1835, until my services commenced.  It had become, in consequence, very much scattered.  The Rev. Mr. Pardee spent a few weeks with them last spring, which had a salutary result; which it is hoped may continue and increase.  A Sunday school had been sustained by members of different congregations.  In consequence, I thought it advisable not to organize another at present.  A Bible class has been formed, in which there seems a becoming interest.  The present number of Communicants is 32, being an addition of 2," (report in the "Journal of the Proceedings of the Fifty-Second Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of New York, 1837.)

Rev. Whiting was followed by Rev. Stephen C. Millett, who took charge on May 12, 1839.  Milllett also had charge of St. Mark's Church, Jamesville.  In 1840, the ladies of the society procured the carpet for the chancel and altar trimmings, and a Bible class was well attended.

In 1842, Christ Church, Pompey lacked a missionary.  Rev. Millett, late Missionary, noted in his report in the Journal of the proceedings of the Fifth Annual Convention of the Protestant Episcopal church in the Diocese of Western NY, that the congregation consisted of 27 families (76 adults and 18 children) and that during the year he had confirmed two people, buried four and married one couple.  At the time there were 31 communicants.

By as early as1856, the church was deserted, so notes the following article (The Archives of the General Convention, NY: 1912, Vol. III, pp. 297-300):


(From the Note Book of an Ecclesiologist) Sept. 9, 185_

"It stood in the centre of a large, unfenced green, large enough for a country grave-yard, and even with its blackened walls and battered windows, was a fair and sightly building, conspicuous by its position for a long distance round.  The exterior was plain as possible, of the general style and proportions common some thirty years ago--square, flat-roofed, with a square tower-like elevation on the west end, crowned by the inevitable fan pinnacles, connected in this case by a handsome open parapet apparently of iron.

Alighting at the old horse-block which stood at the corner, we entered by the west door (which stood invitingly open, alas! no longer for worshippers), and found ourselves in the vestibule, from which were the usual stairs to the gallery, and doors opening into the alleys of the nave.

We were not a little surprised at the general good condition of this part of the interior.  The linings of some of the seats were torn, and all their cushions were taken away, but their wood-work, and even the paint, was nearly as perfect as when new.  it was not less a surprise to me to find in this old Church a distinct chancel, with its separate roof and arch.  It was the first of its age I had ever seen, save that of Trinity Church, Utica, which has just been re-opened after being blocked up some twenty or thirty years.

The nave was nearly square, about forty feet each way--the chancel some twenty feet broad by ten in depth.  At the south of the chancel was a very small sacristy, I think, only six feet by three.  A large gallery, containing seats for at least forty or fifty, ran across the west end of the nave.  Tradition says that this gallery, once contained a fine-toned organ, made entirely by the hands of the first Rector.  Indeed, the space which it had occupied, was plainly marked on the gallery floor, and showed that it must have been of respectable size.

The pews, in four ranges with narrow alleys, and painted white; the windows, well-proportioned, but three or four times too large; the flat ceiling and white-washed walls, were all characteristic of the time when the church was built--emphatically the iron age of Church building in this country, when traditional Church-like arrangements were nearly forgotten, and the revival of architecture had hardly begun even in England.  It seems strange enough, by the way, that the most utterly unecclesiastical and Puritanic arrangement of Churches ever invented should have originated with that very Prelate, to whose influence on the other side of the Atlantic, we owe the Oxford Movement, and the consequent revival of the glorious Christian architecture of old.

In front of the altar rail was a platform some three feet wide, and two steps above the nave floor.  Another step led to the rail itself, which projected two feet into the nave, and was once a handsome piece of work.  It was of cherry, without paint or varnish, but a better polish from the hand of Time, that prince of Artists; the top-rail heavily moulded, the balusters plain but very substantial, and thickly set.  The rail, however, was now split apart at the joints; several of the balusters lay around the chancel, and all were loosened from their sockets.  This was man's profane work; mere neglect, which had not touched the wall and roof, could never thus have broken down the carved work of the sanctuary.

The chancel carpet yet remained in its place, and except at the edges, was apparently little injured.  The arch was elliptical and very flat; the north and south walls nearly flush with it.  it was cased on the sides and front with wood, with plain mouldings, and a sort of cornice at the opening at the arch.  In the centre of the chancel was a long high desk; the front and sides were closed up and paneled, the back open, and the floor raised two or three steps about that of the chancel.  it was covered with deep hangings of blue broadcloth, edged with gold lace, now effectually tarnished.  Before this desk, which was doubtless both pulpit and reading pew, was the altar, a small table of cherry, covered with a blue cloth.  On it lay two or three large Prayer Books, so dilapidated, that I question if the entire service could have been found in them all.  A settee of turned wood, and two or three Windsor chairs, completed the furniture of the chancel.

I ascended the pulpit, and looked around the desolate interior with very sad thoughts.  But twenty years had passed away since that now empty church could hardly hold the numbers who flocked to its service every Sunday.  it was but little more than twenty-five years, since the Bishop of New York occupied that pulpit, at the consecration of the Church; and those broken rails were filled again and again, by more than a hundred communicants.  The faithful missionary who had gathered together this numerous congregation, was admitted on that day to the Priesthood; and twenty-six persons received the holy rite of Confirmation.  Twenty-five years--a quarter of a century--what a change in that time!  Abandoned and desecrated thought it was, the Church still was there.  But where were the people?  Where were the sixty communicants, who, years after the consecration of the Church, still belonged to the parish?  Not here, nor near the Church.  perhaps not ten of the number could be found in that vicinity.  They are scattered, doubtless, throughout the Great West.  Some few have removed to the neighboring parishes.  Many are dead.  All have abandoned the Church.  But there it is--deserted--unadorned--and yet with something noble in its very desolation.

And what shall be done with it?  Shall it be left to the habitation of the birds of the air, or, still worse, to the profanation and defilement of those (there are some everywhere) who in reverence for holy things, are far worse than heathen?  I wish I could say, No, I hope that some means may yet be found to rescue this consecrated house, from utter desecration, if not by restoring it where it is, at least by removing it, bodily if possible, to some more genial spot, where care and pious liberality may at length make it a truly venerable temple of the Most High."

Submitted 7 June 1998