A Short History of the Willseyville Community Baptist Church
In the year of our Lord 1837 one hundred and fifty years ago in the village of
Willseyville, then called Big Flat, Gods Holy Spirit moved in the hearts of some
of His children and the Baptist Society was born. Jacob Willsey and his family,
for whom the town was later named, were among the 15 charter members. It was he who
donated the land for a meetinghouse that would be built in 1839-1840.
Over the years the congregation would experience rises and falls in attendance,
but always assured they were kept by Gods power.
At this time Willseyville was a busy farming community; and due to the business
acumen of Jacob Willsey it boasted of a sawmill, a general store, a tavern and a post
office which he established in 1827. Jacob Willsey a devout Christian who came to
Tioga County in 1815, was very active in the life of the early church as well as many
other community affairs.
The country in 1837 was in the midst of an economic panic, but the Honorable
Mr. Willsey was prudent and prosperous and contributed generously of his time and
funds to the community and to the infant Society, which would bear much fruit through
Maria Willsey, Jacob Willseys daughter, was the first missionary from
Willseyville. She married Jacob Thomas and sailed to India with him. While traveling
upriver by canoe in India, he was killed by a falling tree. She remained there and
eventually married the Reverend Samuel Osgood. They continued the work of the Lord
there for 10 years, returning home in 1847.
In 1838 Jacob Willsey obtained 300 signatures to build a meetinghouse which was
finished in 1840. In the beginning the meetinghouse was shared with the Methodists
and the Swedenborgs, a spiritual cult of the time. Eventually there were differences
that manifested themselves too strongly for this sharing situation, as far as the
Swedenborgs were concerned. Shortly after a sermon preached by Elder Swan on
March 16, 1842, the Swedenborgs moved to Danby and established their own church.
As is common to all men, some were very angry and an incident occurred which to us
now sounds quite humorous, but them I am sure it was not. I quote from
Jacob Willseys Journal: "Mr. Powell was quite sad. Some of the boys sheared
the horses tails of Elder Swan and Peck and our own too. Oh God, iniquity abounds
in our land, and we know not when the deluge will stop." Again from his journal on
February 1839, he speaks of being plagued with discouragement: "Now Ive lived
here 24 years and still the same discontented feeling that I brought here with me,
continues to manifest itself in all my affairs. I fail to thank God for his manifest
goodness, particularly, for the manifestation of the Holy Spirit to me and my family,
in opening our eyes to see the evils of sin, and willing our minds to embark on a
Christian course." It is encouraging to know that those who have gone before us to
glory, felt as we feel at times, as we now travel the earthly road.
On June 8, 1843, our church was organized by a counsel of the churches of Owego,
Owego Creek, Caroline, Danby, Spencer, and Candor. The first Pastor was Elmer E.
Kimball, Elder Wilcoxen was the second, and at his leaving in January 1859, Jacob
Willsey records in his journal: "Elder Wilcoxen left to go to Lisle, leaves us
destitute of preaching, been 11 years here, church has run down, few members, and
they are engaged after things of the world more than their souls salvation.
I feel that my days are few and my labor is about done. I have nothing but the
promise of a crucified Savior to rest upon; and in him I put my trust, believing that
he will not afflict us willingly in more than we are able to bear." In 1860 Jacob
Willsey went home to glory. He had lived beyond lifes expectancy by 10 years.
God was merciful to his loyal soul.
In 1867 under the leadership of Elder Perry, the membership increased to 17,
and he was voted in as Pastor March 30, 1867. The church was repaired in the years
of 1882 and 1899. Insurance was first taken out on the edifice in 1867. An
interesting note on collections comes from a sample list in February 1897.
Possibly it was only the Sunday evening offering. Two are listed as a sample:
March 7 $.47 and March 21 $.17. The total collection for seven months was $7.05.
On January 27, 1883, a constitution was drawn up and read to the church. After
a few corrections it was approved. As of June 8, 1901, there were eighteen members.
In 1912 the church had dwindled to 7 members. With the coming of Pastor W. H.
Stevens, attendance rose in a short time to twenty two. There were no records
available for the years 1916-1928. There were some interesting monetary facts noted:
Reverend Tasker, Pastor from 1927-1929, was paid $3.00 a week. Receipts were found
from the Board of Missions to North Baptist Convention showing that $5.00 was sent
to them to be divided between 3 people monthly. This was 1929. In January 1937 the
church was closed except for the Centennial Service which was and all day affair.
There was discussion at the annual meeting in May whether it would be opened again or
not. Throughout May and June 1937 Mrs. Edna Cummings, Mrs. Lillian Lohr and
Mrs. Haines kept Sunday School for the children. This is an excellent example of
the true Church which is not a building, but individual people who long to share the
Good News of Jesus Christ with others. Throughout the churchs history the
women did their share.
Starting in February 1938 Reverend W. H. Stevens conducted morning services.
In April Reverend Stevens reported for the two months of services. The average weekly
attendance was 27 ½ and the offerings averaged $3.85. About this time Reverend
Stevens is known to have said: "This is a regular Baptist Church, but there is
nothing to prohibit it from being a community church, a church home for all people.
"On May 19, 1938 at a business meeting, it was resolved that the church be known as
the Community Baptist Church of Willseyville. Easter of that year 76 attended the
morning service, 12 in the choir and Mrs. MacIntyre was at the organ.
August 24,1941 was Reverend Stevens last Sunday and on September 14, 1941 Reverend
MacMichael was called as Pastor. He also pastured the Baptist Church at Candor. In
December 1943 Reverend MacMichael resigned to return to school.
In February 1943 the church called Reverend Urban Cline to be the Pastor. He
pastured for over 19 years. During this time the church grew and much building was
done. Many people sacrificed and gave much during those years. In 1947-49 it was
written in the yearly report that
was sent to the Broome Tioga Association, that the church was spiritually and
financially progressing and the membership numbered 54. Sunday School attendance
During Pastor Clines ministry there was much inter-faith fellowship with
the Allen Memorial Baptist Church, Candor, New York. One incident of this fellowship
was the "Heifer for Relief Fund". the funds were used to buy and raise a heifer.
When the animal was sold the proceeds were used for some phase of mission work.
Mission receipts for that year were $193.39. In 1949-50 a Christian Life Sunday School
contest was held for 6 weeks. Attendance rose 100%
above the previous year. Another aid to increase attendance was the awarding of a
Bible to any student coming 13 weeks. During the 1950s a Baptist Youth
Fellowship group met regularly with 10 active members. They presented a play called
"Comin Round the Mountain". Attendance at prayer meeting was healthy indicating
growth and vitality. The winter of 1952-53 a week-day Bible Club met on Friday
afternoons for 20 weeks, with much interest from the children. 1953 and 54 was
another year of spiritual growth and deeper concern for lost souls. Evangelical
services were held for one week in May and several came to know the Lord. The
membership at this time was 63 and the Sunday School was 38. In 1955 there was
discussion of chartering a bus to bring people to church. The church had now grown
to 68. At this time we also began our own Sunday evening services.
There was a vote in April 1956 to stop sending reports to the Broome Tioga
Baptist Association. Extensive remodeling was done in 1956-57. At that time foundation
walls were put in, a basement was dug and finished off into classrooms, a furnace and
bathrooms were installed and the sanctuary was redecorated and refurbished. 150
people attended the rededication of the sanctuary on January 27, 1957. Reverend
Stevens took part in the service. The church voted to sponsor the Cub Scouts of
Willseyville in April 1961. At the annual meeting in April 1962 there was discussion
of the possibility of having our own Pastor. Pastor Cline resigned in June 1963 and
the church voted to call Mr. Ronald Hawkins who had just graduated from the Practical
Bible Training School. The following year he resigned in August to further his
education. A call was extended to Lee Mead to be Pastor. He came April 1965. The
church became incorporated in April of that year also. Pastor Meads ordination
service was held in October 1968.
A parsonage was built and dedicated April 13, 1969. At the annual meeting on
April 6, 1974 we were reminded by our Pastor that a church is only as strong as its
weakest Christian; and we need to sow bountifully that we may reap bountifully.
In June of 1974 a bus fund was started. Average attendance at this time was 60.
On November 9, 1977 the church approved the present Constitution. At the annual
meeting in April 1981 with 19 members present, it was mentioned that 10 people had
joined the church the past year. In April 1984, it was voted to have junior church
staffed by volunteers. Twenty-five people were present. In 1985 there was concern
and discussion of the problem of low attendance. A suggestion was made to have a
church outreach and discipling program to increase attendance. Mr. VanScoy suggested
a more systematic calling ministry. Each year usually in the month of August, the
church gets a touch of New Testament days baptism. "We met beneath the Gridleyville
Crossing bridge on the bank of West Candor Creek and rejoiced as 5 of our members
Another enriching event in the life of the church family for the past three years,
is the Sunday Evening Summer Fellowships. These are often held at parishioners
homes. Weekly home Bible studies in recent years have contributed to individual
spiritual growth and inspiration.
Though the church building was not completed until 1840 and will not be recognized
until 1990, it is worth noting what the members of the society have done for the
meeting house over the years. In some cases improvements were in memory of deceased
members. Among the improvements were:
Mary Lane Bequeath: $1,000.00 perpetual investment
Communion Table: in memory of Mrs. Della Birdsall
Communion Set: in memory of Mrs. Lillian Lohr
United States Flag: in memory of Lt. Donald Penny
Steeple: in memory of Mrs. Helen Dykeman and Mrs. Alice Guggenheim
Bookcases: in memory of Miss Karen Dickens
Camp Fund and Ceramic Nativity Scene: in memory of Miss Marcy Winters
Organ Fund: in memory of Eugene Green
Picture: in memory of Hyla Fries
Chairs: in memory of Mrs. Celia Newman, Mr. Marvin Muckey, Mr. Homer VanScoy
Kenneth Dykeman Bequeath: $2,000.00 perpetual investment
Homer VanScoy Estate: Value unknown as estate not settled
A nagging moisture level in the parsonage since its construction prompted the
energetic church family to call on builder William Frandson. In September 1984 Mr.
Frandson raised the structure 4 and filled in the basement equal height.
The cost was $10,000.00.
Since the days of Jacob Willsey when his daughter, Maria, entered Christian
service as a missionary, there are no records of anyone going into Gods service.
However, in 1986 two young men, Douglas Hill and Brent Mead, began formal education
for Christian service.
As we look into the future standing firm on the Rock of Ages, we are certain
that we will be as we have been KEPT BY THE POWER OF GOD. AMEN!
Mrs. Gail Kaiser,