Covert Baptist Church
Covert, Seneca County, NY
Source: "Manual of the Churches of Seneca County with sketches of their pastors, 1895-96", compiled and published by the Courier Printing Co., Seneca Falls, NY 1896.
Virginia is the mother of Presidents, Covert the mother of Churches. Among those belonging to the Seneca association, she has at least six daughters and two grand-daughters. She was not boastful when she said to the churches at their annual assembly in 1859-"As a mother welcomes home her returning daughters, so would this mother-church welcome you."
"The Covert Baptist church was constituted February 16, 1803; being known at first, as the Baptist church of Ovid and Hector. It had twenty-eight constituent members, viz.: Minor Thomas, Nancy Thomas, Asaph King, Debora King, Elizabeth cash, Mary A. Cardington, Hannah Freeland, Mary Woodworth, Silas Potter, Ester Potter, Sarai Walsworth, Nathaniel Osgood, Hannah Osgood, Phineas Clark, Ezra Keeler, Godfrey Clair, Mrs. Clair, Jas. Drake, Martin Peck, Charlotte Clark, Lucy Peck, Hannah Keeler and Peggy Gray." In June, 1803, the church was represented at the session of Cayuga association held in Baileytown.
Minor Thomas, its first pastor, was chosen April 21, 1804; for compensation he was to depend on the liberality of the church and congregation. He was the Pauline apostle of the Seneca association. During his pastorate the old church at Covert was often filled in summer, while a congregation of several hundred gathered around the church. The doors and windows being open and Elder Thomas speaking in loud tones, all were edified.
Thomas Campbell was appointed the first clerk of the church and Asaph King and Joseph Thomas were elected deacons. March 9, 1805, the name of the church was changed to the Second Baptist church of Ovid. In 1809 meetings were held one-half of the time at the home church in Thomas' settlement; one-fourth of the time at Samuel Hanley's in Hector; one-fourth of the time at Peach Orchard, or other stations. This year the first colony was dismissed, calling itself the First Church in Hector, now, Bennettsburg.
In 1815, according to the historical sketch of Elder Marshall, fifty-one united with the church by baptism on New Year's day; and they were but the first fruits of the harvest; for, during the year, the church received two hundred and twenty-two members by baptism. That year the church reported to the Cayuga association, four hundred and eighty members, the largest number which had ever been reported to that body by any one church. The revival spread in every direction where the Covert pastor had preached, and the seed then sown soon sprang up to bear fruit in numerous new churches. Elder Thomas' field of labor was so broad that it \seems to have included the territory in which (1879) there were at least nine Baptist churches. He resigned his pastorate here in 1818 and removed, with a number of the members of this church, to Fayette county, Indiana, where he entered again upon his labors as a gospel pioneer.
Elder James Derthick, who succeeded Elder Thomas, Aug. 8, 1818, shared the fate of many who are unfortunate enough to take the place of an unusually successful pastor or teacher. He seems to have been an excellent man and a good pastor, but the church thought that no one could fill the place of Elder Thomas; besides they were dispirited by the loss of the large number who also went West with him; so at the end of one year the relation between pastor and people was dissolved.
In 1816 a number of members in the town of Ulysses were dismissed, to form another church. In 1817 the Second Hector Church (now Mecklenburg) was organized by members dismissed from Covert for that purpose. The Church of Enfield was another colony sent out the same year. In 1818 other brethren were given letters that they might establish the Third Church in Hector, which was afterward dismissed, to join the Chemung River association. The churches in Trumansburg and Farmerville were constituted in 1819. The Fourth Church in Hector, afterward known as the Peach Orchard Church, was constituted in 1820. The same year another request was granted to brethren in Ulysses that they might form a new church. A colony of the Covert Church also went to Rushford, Allegany County, and were constituted as a branch of the old church. That branch has since become a strong and vigorous tree. Thus within two years the old hive sent out six strong swarms. In 1821 a number of the members living in the town of Lodi were dismissed, to aid in forming another new church, making twelve churches in all; most of them still in existence, which were constituted wholly or chiefly of member taken from this church in Covert. Judge James McCall, one of the founders of the Rushford Church, was an early settler in the town of Covert, Seneca county, residing near Farmer Village, which was once known as "McCall's." He was converted at thirty-eight, uniting with the Covert Church. He represented Seneca county in the Assembly in 1809 and 1813, succeeding O. C. Comstock. Removing to Rushford he was elected to the bench, the Assembly and the Senate of this State, but his first thought seemed to be ever for the Church of Christ. He was an early life-member of the Baptist State convention and one of its officers. He died in 1856, aged eighty-two years.
On Sunday, Sept. 2, 1821, this church of Covert appointed J. P. Woodworth, Nathan Cole, Daniel Cole, William Stillwell and Lewis Porter, to represent the church at the Seneca association, with authority to unite with that body, and on Wednesday, Sept. 5, the union was effected. In 1822, Elder Obed Warren was engaged as pastor, his salary to be two hundred dollars and "fire-wood fit for the fire. " On Sept. 22, he broke bread to the church, "and the season was solemn and comfortable." In Aug. 1823, he fell asleep after a short illness. Elder Aaron Abbott was next engaged as pastor, at a salary of two hundred dollars and twenty-five cords of wood. At this time, part of the covenant meetings were held at the schoolhouse at Hall's Corners. About 1826, the church passed resolutions in opposition to Free Masonry; and this action appears to have led to Elder Abbott's resignation, he claiming the right to commune with members of that order. Elder Richard Woolsey was called, but was obliged to decline. Elder P. P. Roots served for a time as a supply, then Elder J. C. Holt was called to the pastorate. In 1830, Elder Woolsey again received a call to the pastorate and decided to accept it. In Dec. 1832, about one hundred and thirty members were present at a covenant meeting. The first six days of 1833 were set apart by the church for a protracted meeting, in which a number of visiting elders and brethren participated. There were a number of baptisms. Elder Woolsey was succeeded by Elder Clay in 1837. Elder John Sears was invited to become pastor, the church deciding to raise four hundred dollars for his support one year. The invitation was not accepted; and in Aug. 11838, Elder Alonzo Wadham became pastor, at a salary of two hundred and fifty dollars. He was ordained by a council, Nov. 21.
May 8th, 1841 it was voted that elder Calvin Bateman be received as a member and pastor of the church. The church and society by a vote on the Lord's day previous having agreed to give him a comfortable living, three hundred dollars a year was named; but some thought that amount would be insufficient. In the minutes for December we find the first record of a donation visit to the pastor. Elder Litchfield became pastor in 1843. The minutes soon record a precious revival.
We find the first mention of a Sunday school May 10th, 1844; the pastor being appointed superintendent, with H. H. Dennison and Milo V. Cole assistants. Rev. Chauncey Wardner became pastor in 1844. On January 9, 1853, the church voted to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary with appropriated services, and Rev. E. Marshall, N. Cole, Amzi Durand and R. D. Hubbard were appointed a committee of arrangements. The celebration occurred February 15th and 16th, and these were memorable days in the history of the church. Rev. C. Wardner resigned Oct. 1st, 1853 and was succeeded by Rev. Enos Marshall. In 1861 Rev. B. F. Balcom assisted the pastor in a protracted meeting and the church received many additions. Elder Marshall preached his farewell sermon, April 5th, 1863. He was followed by Rev. S. V. Marsh. During his pastorate the church reported thirteen additions by baptism. Rev. William Rees was pastor from 1867 to 1871, and during that time the house of worship was repaired and in part refurnished. In July, 1872, Rev. George Hopkins was chosen pastor and ordained Sept. 18th. He continued as pastor for three years, enjoying the esteem of all, and was blessed in his labors, in 1874 the church reporting fifteen baptisms. He resigned April 1st, 1875. Rev. A. C. Mallory began his work as pastor April 1st, 1876, was notable day in the history of the Covert Church. Nearly one thousand people assembled to hear the notes of the centennial bell, rung for the first time upon that national holiday.
After nearly nine years pastorate, elder Mallory closed his labors here March 29th, 1885, twenty-seven having united with the church during that time. He was followed by Rev. P. D. Jacobus from February 13th, 1886, to January 8th, 1887. Rev. N. W. Wolcott began his labors as pastor April 9th, 1887 and continued till May 12th, 1889, resulting in eleven additions to the church, and was succeeded by Rev. S. S. Powell, August 10th, 1889, whose pastorate closed October 22nd, 1893, thirty-one having been added to the membership of the church. After a brief supply of the church and by virtue of an urgent, unanimous call of church and society, the present pastorate began February 1st, 1894.
It is probable that the first building in the county erected for public worship, was a log house which stood near the grist mill (Judge Silas Halsey's), about one mile southwest of the present village of Lodi. It seems to have been open to all denominations. Among the preachers here were Elder Jehiel Wisner, Baptist; and Rev. Mr. Clark, Presbyterian. This house was taken down early in the 19th century. In 1807 or 1808 the Baptists put up a small framed house about a mile and a quarter west of Lodi. This was enclosed by never finished. The first Baptist Church in the county was built by the Covert Church, (then Ovid), at Thomas' settlement, three miles north of Trumansburg. Elder Sheardown thus speaks of this church in his autobiography: "It was a rare model of architecture for this time. The people went into the gallery from out of doors, going in at the gable end of the building. The first time I saw it, I count not but admire the patch-work. It was not, I believe, plastered all over; only here and there a patch put on; and everything else about it appeared to be in keeping with what is already named." The meeting house seems to have been re-built in 1823. In 1850, during the pastorate of Elder Wardner, the present church edifice was erected, dedicated and consecrated by the conversion of souls. Subsequently, however, during the pastorate of Dr. Rees, between 1867 and 1871, it was repaired and in part re-furnished.
List of Members.
Hervey F. King
Transcription provided courtesy of Rick White.
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