A Brief History of the Willseyville Baptist
Sunday School and Youth Ministry
Early religious instruction was carried on at home. The first Sunday School in New York
State was organized but 45 years (1792) before the Baptist Society of Willseyville, New York.
That school started in the home of an Indian woman whose brother was a distinguished Indian
preacher, (Samson Occum near Utica, New York).
It is quite likely that the local Society did not hold Sunday School for years after its formation.
History reveals that all early Sunday Schools met in homes. Virginia was the first state
known to incorporate the Sunday School into the church building. That was 1801. Other than
the bible and a few books of catechism, no materials were published and graded for children before the
organization of the Society in Wilsonville (1837).
Perhaps this explains in part why there are no extant records of a Sunday School in
Willseyville before the turn of the Century. And when that school did start, there were but two
classes, the Little Class, or Primaries, and the Big Class or Bible class for adults. The meeting
house being but one large room until the early 1920s, is further evidence that the Sunday School
movement locally was feeble at best. In addition, we tend to forget, in our affluent mobile
society, that transportation and habit slowed the development of the Sunday School movement.
Parents being accustomed to a one service ritual did not perceive the worth of Sunday School nor
did they feel that driving horse and buggy to the meeting house twice in the same morning was
Lastly, it has been learned from the Sunday School record that the cost of conducting school
had some bearing on its promotion. September 3, 1937, "We talked about discontinuing Sunday
School when it gets so cold that we will need a fire before the opening."
As per telephone conversation with Mrs. Benjamin Hallett on August 10, 1987, it was learned
that Reverend Tasker invited Mrs. Benjamin Hallett and Mrs. Haynes to reopen the Sunday
School in the early 1930s.
The earliest records available for the Sunday School date May 1935. Mrs. William (Lillian)
Lohr was the superintendent, Mrs. Judd Smith her assistant. Miss Muriel MacIntyre was acting
As mentioned earlier, there were two classes, the Little and the Big. Average attendance was
15. The collections were considerably under $1.00. Bibles were awarded in December for those
attending regularly the full year. By May of 1937, however, the school had doubled its class
numbers; Primary, Intermediate, Young People and Adult. Attendance and collections remained
about the same. Several attempts were made to increase attendance. One such incident might
humor the reader. Beside the superintendent, assistant and secretary, the offices of treasurer,
assistant janitor, chairman of the flower committee and organist were added. Most offices it was
noted were filled by ladies.
During the cold months of the year during the late 1930s, Sunday School met in one of the
teachers homes. Among them were the names Cummings, Hallett, and Howland. A typical
Sunday School hour would be the singing of a hymn, the reading of the Bible lesson, golden text
repeated, prayer, class time and dismissal.
When the church was closed mid 1936 - mid 1937, Mrs. Lillian Lohr and Mrs. Edna
Cummings gathered the children in their homes for church school.
In spite of the physical and attitudinal obstacles, the local Sunday School seems to have been
well established by the close of World War II. Pastor Wallace Stevens vision and the untiring
labors of the Christian women were the contributing factors. Pastor Clines ministry reinforced
those early efforts and today the local Sunday School is and indispensable part of the church.
During the mid 1950s average attendance rose into the fifties. Collections due to the
increased numbers and living standard rose to above $8.00 per Sunday. The number of classes
rose from 4 to 7 where it now stands. The average attendance for 1986 - 87 was 46.6 and weekly
giving $22.11. Each month the School gives $25.00 to missions. When the church was
renovated during the 1950s, four classrooms were added. A flourishing young peoples group
was started during Pastor Clines ministry. Several residents of the area today speak of their
being part of that great group.
The past 20 years have not seen phenomenal growth or change, but consistent, persistent
holding forth of the Word of God. The Sunday School eagerly looks forward to 3 annual events;
Childrens Day Program, Vacation Bible School, where attendance has reached into the 90s, and
the Christmas Program. The last two decades found both youth and Sunday School participating
in visits to the Christian Radio Station at Montrose, Pennsylvania, and Syracuse, New York,
camp outs, a trip to the State Fair, a journey to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and participation in the
Awana Program at the Allen Memorial Baptist Church.
In addition to the names previously mentioned the following people have made worthy
contributions to the ongoing of the Sunday School: Mrs. E. F. Butler, Alice Cook, Alice and
Leslie Stevens, John Lohr, Dale Clark, Ellen Colbert, Georgia Westgate, Jeanette Kellogg,
Beverly Potter, Viola Delmage, Joan Gillette, Kay Marshall, Sandra and Gary Hallett, Jean
and Ted Card, Doris Austin, Charles LeCount, Mildred and Arthur Kellogg, Susie and Charles
Benjamin, Gail Kaiser, Eileen Ahart, Mary Howard, Jean Tubbs, Helen and Floyd Estelle,
Lillian MacIntyre, Homer VanScoy, and Leida and Lee Mead.
It has been succinctly penned:
"The Sunday School is the recruiting ground of the Church."
How important then that our Sunday School be, KEPT BY THE POWER OF GOD.
Mrs. Doris Austin
Sunday School and Youth Historian