A Brief History of the Willseyville Baptist
Sunday School and Youth Ministry

By Mrs. Jeanette Benjamin.

        

                       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 1920’s, 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 
that feasible.

     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 1930’s.  

     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 
secretary.

     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 1930’s, Sunday School met in one of the 
teacher’s 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 Cline’s ministry reinforced 
those early efforts and today the local Sunday School is and indispensable part of the church.

     During the mid 1950’s 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 1950’s, four classrooms were added.  A flourishing young peoples group 
was started during Pastor Cline’s 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;  
Children’s Day Program, Vacation Bible School, where attendance has reached into the 90’s, 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 

 


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Ernie Miles