Cherry Grove Chapel: 1892-1992
Cover of Allen E. Tilley's History

History of Cherry Grove Chapel: 1892-1992

Cherry Grove Chapel: 1892-1992
by Allen E. Tilley

This booklet was authored by my father and published in 1992 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Cherry Grove Chapel. The story gives a complete history of the cemetery and chapel, and some interesting facts about the history of the Elk Lick/Nordmont area, where Cherry Grove is located. I have also included a copy of the program for the 1998 version of the Annual Memorial Day service, which is held at Cherry Grove each year the Sunday before Memorial Day. The program contains a copy of the charter of the cemetery association. Original officers and stockholders included William Stanley, my father's uncle by marriage, and James Hunter, who would have been an uncle through marriage on my mother's side. I am pleased to provide this testimonial to the history of the Cherry Grove community and to my father, Allen E. Tilley, as its historian.

Kathy Prichard
December 2001

We will look in turn at:

* the 1998 service announcement **
* the program for the same 1998 service
* the original Association charter attached to the 1998 program, and
* the History itself.

** Editor's Note: You can also see a set of photos taken by Deb Wilson at the 2007 ceremony at Memorial Day: Cherry Grove Chapel 2007, as well as a second set of photos of the chapel interior taken by Deb in July 2008 at Cherry Grove Chapel 2008. We are also grateful to Nancy Spencer for several photos of the Boston Homestead and the Old Stone House, which are linked where the structure is referred to.

Let's begin with the 1998 Memorial Day service announcement:

75th Annual

Memorial Day Service

Sunday, May 24, 1998

Cherry Grove, Nordmont

This year the Cherry Grove Cemetery Association is celebrating the 75th annual Memorial Day service at Cherry Grove and also its 77th birthday. It is quite fitting that on this special occasion a review of the past 77 years of the Association is in order.

The cemetery itself originated with the sale of one acre of land for $5.68 by John Boston * to trustees chosen by citizens of the area then known as Elk Lick. The land was to be used as a cemetery and place for a chapel. Residents of Elk Lick were at that time meeting for church services in the Elk Lick School, earlier known as the Hiddleson School.
* Editor's Note: In February 2015, Earl Boston, a descendant of the original Boston family in the United States, provided us with additional information on the Boston family. Subsequently, Nancy Spencer from the Sullivan County Historical Society, contributed several obituaries, death certificates and photos related to the Boston family in the Nordmont area. We have included their materials here and on the Cherry Grove Cemetery page, and are grateful for their inputs. There is a sidebar on the history of the Boston family in the Americas inserted below as well, thanks to Earl Boston.

In 1892, after two years of work, the current chapel at Cherry Grove was completed and was in use as a Methodist denomination until 1918 when the dwindling number of members merged with the local E.U.B. church, now St. Paul's United Methodist Church, down in Nordmont. The need was seen for an organization to take care of the chapel and oversee the operation and care of the cemetery. In 1921 the Cherry Grove Cemetery Association was formed. Its beginning treasury was quite modest, as at the end of 1921 the account held just $1.85.

A legal certificate of incorporation was granted on August 5, 1922. Lots were sold for $15.00 each. Perpetual care fees were set at $25.00. Deeds were written by the local Justice of the Peace, George Gorman, for no fee - Gorman donated his services to the Association. Stock certificates were sold at $5.00 each.

The first officers elected in the Association in 1921 included William Stanley, president, James Hunter, vice-president, and Warren Gritman, secretary/treasurer. Early meetings of the Association were held in members' homes and in Bert Snider's local store. Later meetings took place at St. Paul's or the Community Hall in Nordmont. Several early meetings were canceled due to weather, showing how travel in the area was still mostly limited to horse or foot and inclement weather could keep people inside without a choice in the matter!

The early Association members, being very industrious, immediately planned different ways to raise money for the upkeep of the cemetery and church. Included in such plans was a festival held in 1922 that raised $36.70, a good bit of change in those days.

Land was also added to the original piece sold to the trustees in 1858. Mr. Rush Botsford, who resided in what area residents refer to as the Old Stone House next to the cemetery, sold two parcels of land to the Association, one in 1921, the other in 1925. Another piece of land was purchased in 1959 from Mr. John Peterman who also donated another parcel in 1975.

Upkeep of the chapel over the years has included painting, roofing, and the addition of pews from the Fribley United Methodist Church on the Beaver Lake Road, Lycoming County, the latter resulting from the theft of over 80 pressback chairs that acted as seating during the time the chapel was active in the Methodist denomination and afterwards at Memorial Day services, etc. New stoves were installed in 1927.

When it came to taking care of the graves, it seemed the hardest job was to find a caretaker of the cemetery, one who would be responsible for mowing grass and digging graves. Mr. Ray Reese, who lived across from the chapel, seemed to have the longest longevity of caretaker. He also served as president of the Association for almost thirty years. Other past presidents besides Mr. Reese and Mr. Stanley included Effie Martin, Ruth Fitch, and Frank A. Cox.

The first Memorial Day service was held on the last Sunday in May of 1924. Early music during the first two decades was provided by the Hughesville Drum and Bugle Corp and the Sonestown High School band. Since that Sunday the Association has been proud to sponsor the annual Memorial Day services, the oldest in that area of Sullivan County!

It is the hope of the Association that with interest and participation of its stockholders the work started 75 years ago will continue!

Current Cherry Grove Cemetery Association Officers:

Emerson Horn, President
Allen Tilley, Vice-president
Fred Fiester, Secretary/Treasurer

Here is the actual program of events for the 1998 service:



SUNDAY, MAY 24, 1998

Welcome - Allen E. Tilley, Vice-President, Cherry Grove Cemetery Association

Pledge of Allegiance to Flag

National Anthem - Sullivan County High School Band, Ms. Jessica Martz, Director

Invocation and Scripture - Rev. Karen B. Allen, Valley United Methodist Church

Musical Selection - Donald DaCosta


Memorial Prayer - Rev. Karen B. Allen

Presentation of Gifts - Emerson J. and Andy Horn and helpers

Musical Selection - Sullivan County High School Band

Address - Rev. D. Gene Patterson, Muncy Baptist Church

Musical Selection - Donald DaCosta

Benediction - Rev. Karen B. Allen

Memorial Service at Graveside -

Nelson Armes Post 601, American Legion, Robert Rine, Commander

Taps and Echo

A baked ham dinner will be served at the Nordmont Community Hall from 10:30AM to 1:00PM. Adults - $6.00, children under 12 - $3.50. Benefits St. Paul's United Methodist Church.

Lots are available in old and new sections of the cemetery.

Thanks to the Sullivan County Rural Electric Cooperative for providing electric service, David Little for mailing labels, the Pennsylvania State Police for traffic control, and Chuck Masteller and friends for providing music before the service.

The next annual meeting of the cemetery association will be held Saturday, March 27, 1999, at 7:00PM at St. Paul's United Methodist Church, Nordmont.

In the Cherry Grove tradition, remember with "A RED GERANIUM ON EVERY GRAVE".

Now let's look at the Association charter that was issued along with the 1998 program:

Charter of Cherry Grove Cemetery Association

To the Honorable, the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas of Sullivan County, Pennsylvania:
In compliance with the requirements of an Act of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania entitled "An Act to provide for the Incorporation and Regulation of certain Corporations" approved April 29, 1874, and the Supplements thereto, the undersigned, all of whom are citizens of Pennsylvania, have associated themselves together with the purpose and upon the terms and by the name herein after set forth; and desiring that they may duly incorporate according to law do hereby certify:

First: The name of the proposed corporation is "Cherry Grove Cemetery Association".

Second: The said corporation is formed for the purpose of acquiring title and management of suitable grounds and lots of land in Davidson Township, Sullivan County, Pennsylvania, by purchase, gift, or otherwise for use as a public cemetery for interment therein of the bodies of the dead; to improve and beautify the said grounds and to protect the same from desecration and intrusion; to lay out and sell lots or parts of lots in which no bodies are interred and to give deeds to the purchase thereof, such lots to be used for burial purpose only; to have general control, maintenance, and care of such cemetery grounds and property; and, in general, to have and exercise all powers of a corporate body conferred by the several Acts of Assembly relating to cemetery associations and to make such contracts as may be necessary to carry out the purposes and objects of a cemetery association.

Third: The business of the corporation shall be transacted at Nordmont, Sullivan County, Pennsylvania.

Fourth: The said corporation is to exist perpetually.

Fifth: The names and residences of the subscribers and the numbers of shares of stock subscribed by each are as follows:

Names....................Residence...............No. of Shares

Warren E. Gritman........Nordmont, Pa................5
William Stanley..........Nordmont, Pa................5
James D. Hunter..........Nordmont, Pa................5
W. B. Snider.............Nordmont, Pa................1
Frank A. Cox.............Nordmont, Pa................1

Sixth: The number of directors is fixed at three and the names and residences of those who are chosen directors for the first year are as follows:


Warren E. Gritman .......Nordmont, PA
William Stanley..........Nordmont, PA
James D. Hunter..........Nordmont, PA

Seventh: The capital stock of the corporation is fixed at One Thousand Dollars (1,000.00) divided into two hundred shares of the par value of Five Dollars each.

Eighth: All money received from the sale of stock, or otherwise, shall be used only for the purchase, enlargement or improvement of the cemetery grounds and the payment of the necessary expenses of the association. The corporation is not formed for profit and in no event shall dividends ever be paid the stockholders.

Ninth: The stockholders of the corporation shall have power to adopt by-laws, fixing dates of annual and special meetings and other administrative business; provided, however, that such by-laws shall not be inconsistent with any of the provisions of this charter and not inconsistent with any law of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or of the United States.

In testimony whereof, we, the subscribers, have hereunto set our hands and seals this Fifth day of August, in the year of our Lord, One Thousand Nine Hundred Twenty-two.

Warren E. Gritman
Wm. Stanley
J. D. Hunter
W. B. Snider
Frank A. Cox

Finally, let's turn to the history itself:.


by Allen E. Tilley


Although after growing up in this area and having many fond memories of Cherry Grove, it was not until I was assigned the task of compiling the information for this booklet that I realized how little i actually knew about the history of the church. Knowing the importance of this book and being that it may be the only one that will ever be written on this subject, I realized that I would need much help in order to make this project a success. Upon asking, I immediately received offers of help from many people in the form of pictures, bits of information, loaned histories of the area and many other helpful items.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who so willingly gave of their time and knowledge and the loan of histories and publications and photos:
Mr. and Mrs. James St. Clair
Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Walters
Mr. Cleon Boston
Mrs. Emmabelle Boyles
Mr. Harold Hunter
Mrs. Jean Vandine
Mr. and Mrs. John Cox
Mr. and Mrs. Emerson Horn
Mr. L. Clair Fiester
Mrs. Doris Jean Frey
Information was obtained from the following sources:
History of Sullivan County by George Streby, 1903.
Early Days in Sullivan County by Myrtle Magargel, 1956.
History of the Churches of Sullivan County by Adona Sick, 1955.
A special thank you to Berton C. Heinrich for sharing his talents in the desigm of this cover and my daughter, Kathryn Prichard, for typing the information.
Again, I thank, you.

Allen E. Tilley


Soon after the decision of the Cherry Grove Cemetery Association to publish this booklet, I received a letter from Mrs. Emmabelle Boyles of Endicott, N.Y., expressing her interest and enthusiasm in this project and offering any help she could possibly give. Mrs. Boyles was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Julius Sick, who were among the founders of the church. She spent her early years in this area before moving to Endicott where she taught music for many years.
Although being away from the area, she never severed her ties with Cherry Grove and visited the area often, attending annual Memorial Day services and other events.
During our correspondence, her enthusiasm about the project grew, and she stated her eagerness to receive a copy of this booklet. However this was not to be, as on September 29, 1991, Emmabelle was called to be with her Saviour.
Therefore I would like to dedicate this publication to the memory of Mrs. Emmabelle Boyles.

Standing lonely and silent on a hill near Nordmont, baked by the sun of one hundred summers and lashed by the wind-driven storms of as many winters, Cherry Grove Chapel appears today much as it did when it was completed in 1892.
The history of Cherry Grove and its congregation began many years before the church was built. In the early years of the nineteenth century the area was covered with dense forests of virgin timber and was totally uninhabited. There were no roads or trails other than those made by elk, deer, bear, panther and other animals which, at that time, were found in abundance in the area.
Sometime near 1820 two men, James Rogers and George Wilson from Huntingdon Township, Luzerne County, set out walking the new turnpike between Berwick and Newton (now Elmira). At Spring Bridge (now Ganoga Lake) they left the highway and turned westward, breaking their way through the dense forest for several miles until they came upon a large stand of huge sugar maples. At that time, maple sugar was a major source of income for the pioneers, selling well and for a good price in the cities. Although it was too late in the year for sugar making, the two men made preparations for the following year, hollowing out sap troughs from logs and leaving them behind for their return in the spring. When they returned the following spring, other men came with them to help in the sugar making. The sugar was packed in wooden buckets. The men placed a heavy bucket of sugar on each end of a neck yoke and transported it across the mountains. This practice continued for several years.
By 1825 a road had been cut across the mountain from the area to Fishing Creek, thereby replacing the meandering game trails which had formerly been used.
In 1826 the men started bringing their families across the mountain, buying large plots of land and building log cabins. George Wilson settled on the south side of the valley on what later became the Boston homestead. James Rogers elected to settle on the opposite side of the valley on what later was the Botsford farm. Other families coming to the settlement that year included John Keeler from Fishing Creek, John Hiddleson from Chester County, Amos Little from Lewis Lake (now known as Eagles Mere) and Miles Speary from Huntingdon Township, Luzerne County. They were followed throughout the years by many more families.
These early settlers were, for the most part, deeply religious people mainly of the Methodist religion. As well as bearing the many hardships of pioneer life, they sorely missed their churches which they had left behind. They soon started dealing with this problem. As early as 1829 arrangements were made for circuit riders to pass through the settlement, holding services in several of the homes. This did not completely solve the problem, as most of the homes were small and did not provide space for all who wished to attend the services. The arrival of the circuit riders was not always appreciated by the younger generation. It is written that Andrew Edgar Jr. in his later years vividly recalled a childhood experience. He said, "Pop always had some old preacher around, and I had to give up my bed and place at the table."
In suitable weather the services were held outside to provide more space. These meetings were called bush meetings, later known as camp meetings, and they were followed by experience meetings. Experience meetings were where the worshippers told of the effect the bush meetings had on their lives. One man who was widely known throughout the area for his profanity and rough living was finally persuaded by a friend to attend one of the meetings. Afterward at the experience meeting he told the worshippers, "It made me feel so good ... I just can't tell you how good it made me feel. Why, I just feel like rippin' and tearin' and cussin' and swearin'!" Fortunately these meetings had a different effect on the majority of the population, and they continued for many years. In fact, the meetings had such an effect on several of the men that they became circuit riders themselves.
Many of the early settlers had large families. Miles Speary was a widower with six children when he came to the area. Five years after he settled at Elk Lick he married Hannah Bennett of Shrewsbury Township. Eleven more children were born to the couple for a total of seventeen children. The number of children in other families ranged from four to twelve.
With the large number of children, it became evident that formal education was needed. In 1827, Ann Speary, the oldest daughter of Miles Speary began teaching school. The classes were held in her father's home. Although there was no schoolhouse a board of directors was elected, consisting of Miles Speary, William Smith, Joseph Converse, Sr., John Sowens and John Phillips. In a deed dated May 26, 1837, thirty two perches of land were sold to the directors by John Hiddleson and his wife, Mary *, for the purpose of the establishment and support of a common school. Ann Speary was also the first teacher in this new school. It was first named the Hiddleson School, but the name was later changed to the Elk Lick School, this being derived from a natural salt lick near the school where the native elk came down off the mountain to feast. After the consolidation of the rural schools, the school district of Davidson Township sold the premises to Julius J. Sick on July 6, 1929. The building is still standing but has been since converted to a storage building.

* Editor's Note: It is not just a coincidence that the local schoolhouse was first named the "Hiddleson" school. The school was named after John and Mary (Pim) Hiddleson who deeded the land where the school was built around 1837. Their daughter, Lydia Ann Hiddleson, married Matthias Boston, son of John and Phoebe (Bish) Boston. John was the owner of the Old Stone House and the individual responsible, as indicated above, for donating the land for the community cemetery. The union of Matthias and Lydia produced an entire lineage of descendants in the greater Nordmont area, many of whom are buried at Cherry Grove Cemetery. John Boston and his ancestors are, for the most part, interred at New Columbus Cemetery in nearby Luzerne County, PA.
The Boston family has a long traditon in the United States, going back to Christopher Bastian (later anglicized to "Boston"). Christopher, born in Austria in 1700, and his wife Anne Ulrich, had several children and at least five of them came to the United States. Earl Boston, our contributor, is a fifth great grandson of Christopher Bastian.
John Boston (1790-1876, the early settler in the Cherry Grove area and original donor of the land for the cemetery, was a great grandson of Christopher and Anne (Ulrich) Bastian.
The Bostons would be classified along with the Palatinate emigrants from what would become Germany. As Earl Boston's brother Richard writes:

The German Palatines were natives of the Electorate of the Palatinate region of Germany, although a few had come to Germany from Switzerland, the Alsace, and probably other parts of Europe such as Austria. Towards the end of the 17th century and into the 18th, this wealthy region was repeatedly invaded by French troops, which resulted in continuous military requisitions, widespread devastation and famine. The "Poor Palatines" were some 13,000 Germans who came to England between May and November 1709. Their arrival in England, and the inability of the British Government to integrate them, caused a highly politicized debate over the merits of immigration. The English tried to settle them in England, Ireland, and the Colonies.
The Palatine settlements did not prove to be viable in the long term, except for those settled in County Limerick and County Wexford in Ireland, and in d in the colony of New York in British North America. In Ireland, less than 200 families remained after the original settlement in 1709. Nevertheless, they maintained their distinctive culture until well into the nineteenth century and Palatine surnames are now diffused across the country. With regard to America, the English transported nearly 3,000 in ten ships to New York in 1710. Many of them first were assigned to work camps along the Hudson River to work off their passage. Close to 850 families settled in the Hudson River Valley, primarily in what are now Germantown and Saugerties, New York. In 1723, 100 heads of families from the work camps were the first Europeans to acquire land west of Little Falls, New York, in present-day Herkimer County, on both the north and south sides along the Mohawk River. Later, additional Palatine Germans settled along the Mohawk River for several miles, founding towns such as Palatine Bridge, and in the Schoharie Valley. These early German settlers established the culture in which the "Pennsylvania Dutch" and subsequent Germanic emigrants found themselves. Into this environment, came the emigrant Bastians in 1749.

Let us now return to the local history of Cherry Grove and how the chapel and cemetery came to be.

The congregation of Cherry Grove Church is pictured in 1898 showing the large number of members at that time.
Source: Allen E. Tilley's History

Soon after the construction of the school, church services were moved from private homes to the more spacious school building. The congregation was still served by circuit riders (the first minister on record was in 1866). Even during the years the school was being used by the congregation, services were often held in a large grove of cherry trees nearby, where the members hoped to someday erect a church.

The Elk Lick School building as it appears today. Although 155 years old, the building now used as a garage remains in good condition.
Source: Allen E. Tilley's History

Editor's Note: Compare the preceding picture with the photo shown below of the 1908 class. Part of a collection of old ambrotype glass plate photos auctioned on eBay in 2011, this image does not give us the names of the members of the class. Also shown below, courtesy of Nancy Spencer and Joyce Ingerson, are a more recent photo of the still standing school structure and a list of school class members with known family history notes for 1907, the year before the class group shown above. As Joyce observes, these students probably did not change much over one year in a one-room school room. .

The Elk Lick School
Class of 1908
Elk Lick, Davidson Township, PA
Subjects Unknown

Source: Auction of Old Ambrotype Collection on eBay in 2011

The Elk Lick School
April 27, 2012
Source: Nancy Little Spencer

Here are Joyce Ingerson's notes on the class of 1907 for the Elk LIck School:

1. Edna Reichard, age 10- d/o Levi Tustin Reichard and Ida E Speary
2. Adona Sick, age 12- d/o Julius John Sick and Eudora Jane Speary
3. Mary Sick, age 10- d/o Julius John Sick and Eudora Jane Speary
4. Caroline (Carrie)Phoebe Perry, age 10- d/o Charles Berton Perry and Lena Lillian Boston; spouse of Frank Clifton Yost
5. Gertrude (Louise) Perry, age 15- d/o Charles Berton Perry and Lena Lillian Boston; spouse of Willis Mosteller
6. Nellie Perry, age 13- d/o Charles Berton Perry and Lena Lillian Boston; spouse of Edward David
7. Charlotte M Speary, age 13- d/o Benjamin Speary and Phebe Brundage; spouse of Melvin Kitchen 8. Dora Speary, age 14- d/o John Wesley Speary and Lizabel Wilson
9. Clara Speary, age 15- d/o John Wesley Speary and Lizabel Wilson
10. Mary Speary, age 17- d/o John Wesley Speary and Lizabel Wilson
11. Hazel M Little, age 15- d/o Charles Wright Little and Mary Etta Speary; spouse of Harry T Knouse
12. Anna Cox, age 14- s/o Charles D Cox and Amanda Little ; spouse of Frank Samuel Foust
13. Dollie Snider, age 15- d/o Willis Bert Snider and Blanche Hess; spouse of Horace C Edgar
14. (Carrie) Pearl Snider, age 8- d/o Willis Bert Snider and Blanche Hess; spouse of Thomas Grant Buck
15. (Sarah) Marie Snider, age 6- d/o Willis Bert Snider and Blanche Hess: spouse of Simon Lee Menges
16. Rachel Houseknecht, age 7- d/o John Peter Houseknecht and Bertha King; spouse of William R Stackhouse
17. Augusta L King, age 8- d/o Lemuel Mordecai King and Eliza Caroline Laird
18. (Charles) Irvin Cox, age 12, s/o Charles D Cox and Amanda Little
19. Walter (Alva) Cox, age 9, s/o Charles D Cox and Amanda Little; spouse of Fay Edgar
20. Dorson (Paul) Sick, age 7, s/o Julius John Sick and Eudora Jane Speary
21. Frank Speary, age 12- s/o John Wesley Speary and Lizabel Wilson
22. George Houseknecht, age 5-s/o John Peter Houseknecht and Bertha King; spouse of Mabel Lease
23. Sue( Jane) Perry, age 5- d/o Charles Berton Perry and Lena Lillian Boston; spouse of Earl Raymond Laubach
24. Jessie (Edna) Little, age 13- d/o John F Little and Mary Alice Edkin; spouse of Thomas Bowman Speary
25. Walter (Earl) Little, age 9- s /o John F Little and Mary Alice Edkin; spouse of Cottie Virgina Temple
26. Amos (Foster) Little, age 11- s /o John F Little and Mary Alice Edkin, spouse of Hazel Hattie Wilson
27. (Chauncey) Morris King, age 16- s/o Lemuel Mordecai King and Eliza Caroline Laird
28. Lester Spangenburg, age 12- s/o Charles Spangenburg and May Boston; spouse of Cora Strauser
29. Fay (Margarite) Edgar, age 8- d/o John F Edgar and Ella Viola Merrill; spouse of Walter Alva Cox

This dream became nearer a reality when, on December 28, 1858, John Boston, owner of the former Wilson property, deeded one acre of land for the sum of five dollars and sixty eight cents to John Hiddleson, Miles Speary, Samuel Speary, John A. Hiddleson and Edmund Pennington, trustees duly chosen by the citizens residing in or the near the settlement now known as Elk Lick. This land was to be used as a graveyard or place of interment of the dead and as a place for a house of worship and for no other purpose whatsoever. For the next thirty two years this plot of land was used for the sole purpose of a cemetery, while plans were being made for the construction of a church on the property.
One of the main obstacles in the building of a church at that time was finances. It took most of the pioneer families' money to wrest a living from the soil and to feed and clothe themselves, leaving very little to contribute to a building fund. However, Christopher Speary, a son of Miles Speary and, like his father, a deeply religious man, knew that it was unlikely that he would live to see a church built. He therefore set aside in his will the sum of three hundred dollars to be used for the construction of a house of worship.

All that remains today are the ruins of the John Boston home near Cherry Grove. The house was built by Peter Doane for Mr. Boston in 1850, 8 years before he deeded the original plot of land to the Citizens of Elk Lick to be used as a Cemetery and Church. For many years this has been a well known landmark known as the Old Stone House.
Source: Allen E. Tilley's History

Christopher Speary, son of one of the first settlers
in the Elk Lick area, bequeathed 300 dollars in his will
for the construction of a Church on the property at Cherry Grove.

Source: Allen E. Tilley's History

Finally in 1890 construction began. Irving Brundage was in charge of the construction, assisted by Monroe Speary, John Anders and many other men living in or near the Elk Lick settlement. Brundage came to the area from Lackawanna County in 1869 and had settled high on the mountainside on what later became the Luther Martin property. Brundage was a skilled craftsman, being a carpenter, blacksmith, wagon maker, and also operated a sawmill on his property.
Timber was donated by the Boston family from land high on North Mountain and was sawed into lumber at the Brundage sawmill, then transported farther down the mountain to the site of the new church. It is said that along with the donation of lumber and labor, the amount of money bequeathed by Christopher Speary was sufficient to pay for the construction.

Students and teacher pose for a picture in front of the Elk Lick School on April 3, 1896. The Medthodist Congregation held services in this school building for 55 years.
Source: Allen E. Tilley's History

One example of how the construction became a community project was that of the teacher at the nearby Elk Lick school who brought his students to the site while the foundation was being laid. Although too young to take part in the physical labor, the children each placed their hands on the cornerstone as it was set in place, thereby giving them the feeling that they, too, had taken part in the construction.
Due to the lack of time that could be spared by the men from their own labors, construction was slow. Finally in 1892 the church was completed, and services were transferred from the schoolhouse to the new church.
One of the unique features of the church was that it did not have the customary pews which were common to most churches. Instead, the congregation ordered pressed-back plank bottom chairs, with a design of branches of cherry trees with fruit to represent Cherry Grove. It is not known where these chairs were purchased, but it apparently was from some distance away, as they were shipped to the settlement, now known as Nordmont, on the Williamsport and North Branch Railroad. Upon receiving the chairs it was evident that a mistake had been made. The design was not pressed into the backs of the chairs. The company was contacted, and it made arrangements with a factory in Williamsport to press the design into the chairs. However the church was to furnish the transportation of the chairs to and from Williamsport. Soon afterwards, three horse-drawn wagons, loaded with the chairs, were on their way to Williamsport where the design was pressed into their backs. These chairs remained in use until 1989 when nearly half of them were stolen. The remainder of the chairs were then sold and the money used to buy folding chairs of no antique value, in order that the church could remain unlocked so that visitors coming to the area from far away could enter the church to silently pray and admire the beautiful workmanship of their ancestors.

The first Board of Trustees of the new church consisted of three members: Irving Brundage, DeWitt Gritman and Oscar Lewis. Names of some of the early families connected with the church were Brundage, Gritman, Horn, Laird, Sick, Speary, Stanley and Traugh, as well as many others.
At this time with the lumbering industry at its peak, the chemical factory at Nordmont and the coming of the railroad as well as the many farms in the surrounding hills, the area was heavily populated, giving the new church a large congregation.
The first pastor of the new church was Rev. James F. Glass who served from 1890 to 1892. The pastors at that time also served the Laporte Methodist Church. Other pastors serving the church were as follows:

1893..........William A. Lepley
1894-95.......Elliot S. Latshaw
1896-97.......John W. Leach
1898..........John A. Patton
1899-1900.....Ernest Frickland
1901-02.......S.B. Bidlack
1903-04.......S.H. Engler
1905-07.......Thomas Ripple
1908..........Wilbur H. Norcross
1909..........Harry L. Jarrett
1910..........David L. Dixon
1911-12.......Ellis B. Davidson
1913..........George E. Johnson
1914..........Walter F. Byers
1915..........David M. Kerr
1916-17.......Harry F. Ward
1918..........Clarence E. Keen
As the years passed, the lumbering indusrty declined, the chemical factory was closed and many of the younger generation moved to the cities, lured by the higher wages generated by World War I.
Due to the loss of population in the area, the membership of the church also steadily declined until finally in 1918 regular services were discontinued, and the few remaining members merged with St. Paul's E.U.B. Church in Nordmont, now the United Methodist Church. When this merger took place there arose the problem of who would provide the upkeep and maintenance of the church at Cherry Grove. However this problem was solved when, in 1921, the Cherry Grove Cemetery Association was formed, and a legal certificate of incorporation was granted on August 5, 1922. The association agreed to maintain and provide all upkeep of the church, which it has done until the present time. At that time, this was a large undertaking for the new association, as at the end of 1921 the balance in the treasury was one dollar and eighty five cents. However due to the low prices of that period and great amount of donated labor, the young organization survived and was able to fulfill its pledge to care for the church. Lots were being sold in the cemetery for $15.00 each. Deeds were written up by George Gorman, a local justice of the peace, who waived his usual fee of fifty cents per deed, donating this to the cemetery association. A festival was held in 1922, the proceeds amounting to $36.70. Graves were dug for $20.00 each, with two men digging a grave and being paid $7.00 each for their two day's labor. This left a profit of $6.00 per grave for the association. Therefore the balance carried over from 1924 was $186.05. Of this, one hundred dollars was deposited in the bank on interest earning $3.00 per year. As late as 1930 the premium for insurance on the church was only $2.66 per year. As time passed, the association slowly became more solvent, fortunately, as at the present time the cost of yearly upkeep of the church is greater than the entire income for ten years or more in its early days.

The St. Paul's E.U.B. Church at Nordmont
as it appeared at the time of the merger
with the Cherry Grove congregation in 1918.

Source: Allen E. Tilley's History

After regular services were discontinued, the church continued to be used frequently for funerals and other special services. As time passed and transportation became more convenient, most funerals were held at area funeral homes until, at present, the only regular use of the church is for the annual Memorial Day services and Easter Sunrise services of the St. Paul's United Methodist Church at Nordmont. Rarely is there a funeral held in the church, but occasionally a wedding is held there, usually for a descendant of one of the early settlers or someone who is inspired by the beauty and tranquility of the area.

Memorial Day Services at Cherry Grove in May 1968.
Source: Allen E. Tilley's History

Easter Sunday Services of the St. Paul's United Methodist Church being held at Cherry Grove on Easter Sunday morning 1981.
Source: Allen E. Tilley's History

It is not known at this time if there were any weddings held in the church during its active years from 1892 to 1918. The custom of the day was to be married in the home of either the bride or the groom. However on September 2, 1939, one of the most festive occasions in many years took place at Cherry Grove, this being the 50th wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Julius Sick.

The folder printed in September 1939 showing pictures of Mr. & Mrs. Julius Sick on their wedding day and also of their 50th wedding anniversary.
Source: Allen E. Tilley's History

Mr. and Mrs. Sick were among the founders of the church and were among the last remaining members at the time of the merger with St. Paul's. It was very appropriate that this service was held at Cherry Grove, as Mrs. Sick was a direct descendant of the early settlers of the Elk Lick area, being a daughter of Dorson Speary, granddaughter of Christopher Speary and great-granddaughter of Miles Speary. Guests arrived from near and far. As well as most of the residents of the area, guests came from New Jersey, New York, State College, Sunbury and many other places. The entire ceremony was re-enacted with the bride and groom renewing their wedding vows. The Rev. L.P. Markley officiated. A folder was printed showing pictures of Mr. and Mrs. Sick on their wedding day in 1889, as well as a picture of them at the anniversary celebration. Inside was a very moving poem which was written by Mrs. Sick. Since then, as stated earlier, there have been several other weddings in the church, but this joyous occasion in 1939 is etched in the memories of all who attended.

Poem written by Mrs. Julius Sick 50th wedding anniversary.
Source: Allen E. Tilley's History

Other problems presented themselves to the association over the years, but they, too, were solved by the generosity and benevolence of the citizens of the area. One of those was in 1938 when the road passing by the church was widened, cutting deeply into the narrow space between the road and the church. Immediately erosion set in, endangering the foundation of the lower side of the church. However, in October of 1937, the Williamsport and North Branch Railroad had made its final run, and in the spring of 1938 the tracks were removed and the stone piers which supported the trestle at the horseshoe curve over Muncy Creek in Nordmont were taken down. The large blocks of stone from the piers were purchased by Bert Snider, and some were sold to the cemetery association for 25 cents each for the purpose of constructing a retaining wall to protect the foundation of the church. These large blocks of stone were cut to size and set in place by Francis Krause, a local carpenter and stone mason, who, after his regular day's work was finished, would then labor several additional hours erecting the wall until the project was completed.

An ancient Cherry Tree, one of the few of the Grove that remains, still towers protectively over the Church. The age of this tree with a circumference of nearly 14 feet can only be estimated. Although ravaged by the storms of well over 100 years, it still remains in good condition.
Source: Allen E. Tilley's History

Source: Allen E. Tilley's History

Over the span of the last century much of the history of Cherry Grove has been forgotten, although many memories remain in the minds of the older residents. Many of these brave, God-fearing pioneers who gave so generously of their time and talents to erect this house of worship, now lie at rest on the peaceful hillside overlooking the church. However there remains one stalwart sentinel of their era, this being an ancient cherry tree, one of the few remaining that gave the church and cemetery their names. Its towering branches reach protectively over the church, as if assuming its duties to those who enjoyed its shade so many years ago. It has been voiced by many, while gazing at its huge trunk and towering branches, that if this tree could only talk, what stories it could tell.
It is said that now grown deep beneath its surface are metal rings that many years ago were used to tie the horses that patiently waited as voices raised in hymns of worship on Sunday mornings, the joyous music of Christmas programs or the sad refrain of funeral services drifted from inside the church.
It is the hopes and prayers of all, that in generations to come, this church will retain the same quiet beauty and reverence it has displayed for the last century and will remain as a memorial to those hardy, God-fearing pioneers who so long ago erected it as a place to worship God.

Cherry Grove Church stands lonely and still at Christmas 1991, its doors decorated with wreathes, as if awaiting its former members to return for Christmas Services as in days of long ago.
Source: Allen E. Tilley's History

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