First Baptist Church of Watkins Glen records, 1848-1892.
Collection Number: 6039

Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections
Cornell University Library


First Baptist Church of Watkins Glen records, 1848-1892.
Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections
Collection Number:
Contains one volume of trustees' annual meeting minutes (1848-1892) and two volumes of covenant meeting minutes (1845-1891) containing accounts of church discipline.
First Baptist Church of Watkins Glen (Watkins Glen, N.Y.)
1 microfilm reels.
Collection material in English


The Baptist congregation was organized in Watkins Glen in 1845 (then called the Village of Jefferson and located in Chemung and Steuben counties). It was initiated by Elder Thomas Sheardon who became its first pastor.


There is one volume of trustees annual minutes (Item #l). There are two volumes of covenant meeting minutes (Items 2-3). The trustees annual meeting minutes began on November 20, 1848 when the society incorporated and elected trustees, and in this volume, the minutes end in 1892. The monthly covenant meetings began in 1845 with "Articles of Faith" and a "Church Covenant" and continued through a second volume in 1891. Throughout each volume vere periods of scanty and irregular minutes, e.g. between 1862 and 1864 there are no minutes and in the l880's there is a period of brief and sporadic notes.


Cite As:

First Baptist Church of Watkins Glen records, #6039. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.


Sheardon, Thomas.
Seneca Baptist Association
Watkins Glen, N.Y. -- Religious life and customs.
Schuyler County (N.Y.) -- Religious life and customs.
Baptists -- Societies.
Church discipline.
Baptists -- New York (State) -- Watkins Glen.
Form and Genre Terms:

Item #1
Annual trustees' meeting minutes, 1848-1892
Scope and Contents
Contents: The meeting for the incorporation of the Baptist church and society vas held on November 20, 1848, presided over by Elder Sheardown. In this meeting the trustees were elected and it vas decided that they would meet on the first Monday in December of each year to discuss church business and finance. In many of the early years the minutes were merely a few scribbled words almost illegible on film. The church appeared in debt during certain periods of its history and applied and received loans mortgaged on the church property. Often the Seneca Association gave money for the maintenance of the pastor thereby supplementing the church money. In 1869 a Reverend Ford vas called to remain in the pastorate of the church, but because he put forth certain conditions for accepting which the church vas unable to meet ($500 salary and church building repairs) they subsequently voted to let him go.
In 1876 New York State passed a new law for the incorporation of Baptist churches and the election of their trustees and this law vas discussed in the Watkins Glen trustees' meetings. Again in 1860 there vas a vote which indicated the loss of a pastor due to the church's inability to pay a salary. In 1882 the State Convention donated money for a pastor. Ten years after that the same body gave them $1000 for church repairs.
At the end of this volume are several inserted papers: a note about the 1892 loan; what appears to be a recently written note entitled: "First Baptist Church Village of Jefferson, Organized Oct 2 1846;" and a newspaper book review concerning Elder Sheardovn and his ministry entitled: "Memoirs of a Pioneer Preacher," (the book vas written by a man from Elmira).
Item #2
Covenant meeting minute book, 1845-1859
Scope and Contents
Contents: The minutes of these monthly covenant meetings begin on October 2, 1845 with a series of articles of faith entitled "A compendium of Gospel truths believed in by the first Baptist Church in the Village of Jefferson." It includes about 10 articles of Protestant doctrine and is followed by a Church covenant with the usual commitments "to live together in brotherly love," etc. The covenant meetings that followed seem to have been concerned primarily with the admission, dismission, exclusion, and discipline of members, the religious testimonies prior to admission, several complaints, and the appointment of committees to "labour with" deliquent members, as veil as the election of delegates to conventions. The regular covenant meetings were held on the Saturday before the third Sunday of every month.
In March of 1853 the congregation seems to have experienced a revival expressed in the following way in the minutes: "the spirit of the Lord has been manifested in our midst in the conviction and conversion of sinners." A great deal of loss of membership was recorded vaguely in the minutes as due to "neglect of the church" or "unchristian behavior."
In 1857 there was a large drive to clear up the status of the members who had not participated or attended in several years. Many members were thereby expelled from the church fellowship. In 1858 there was a controversy with one member who had been preaching in the church for some time and who had been secretly married for 6 months, and eventually left the church and the denomination. The last entry for this volume is September 8, 1859.
At the end of the volume are several miscellaneous entries: a few pages of trustees' minutes from June l847 to September 1848 and another entry entitled "Brethren received in constitution Oct 9, 1846" which is a list of names and comments (dismissed, excluded, etc.). This is followed by several other lists of the same nature up to 1853. Also included is a bill from a house and sign painter with a date "l89_," a paper dated November 16, 1905, and a business meeting notation dated July 5, 1907.
Item #3
Covenant meeting minute book (Volume II), 1859-1891
Scope and Contents
Contents: There is a sheet in the beginning which seems to be instructions for recording minutes. This volume is then entitled "The Articles of Faith, Covenant and Records of Baptist Church of Watkins" and begins with a lengthy "Declaration of Faith" which discusses the scriptures, salvation, justification, the sacraments, etc., and is followed by a church covenant and dated 1859 with names and notes on when and how each one was received or dismissed, excluded, or died. The actual covenant meeting minutes begin on December 8, 1859.
In 1862 the church appointed a committee to visit delinquent members, something that occurs as a general "drive" several times in the course of this volume. This declaration was followed by several years of exclusion and punishments when the church appeared to lose a great deal of members. In April 1874 there was a note on temperance and in that same year the Seneca Association held its annual meeting in Watkins Glen. There followed several years or more of spotty minutes and reports of "few members present." In 1860 it is recorded that an evangelist visited the church for several days yet no revival was noted in the minutes. The last recorded meeting in this volume is February 19, 1891. Then there are two "church rolls," one dated January 1, 1879 and the other April 1, 1915 with names and remarks (dismissed, etc.).