Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Brief History of the Role Churches Played in the Growth of the Pelhams Published in 1926

Religious institutions have played an important role in the growth of the Pelhams for nearly three hundred years.  Indeed, no history of Pelham would be complete without a detailed history of such institutions and the role they have played.  

Few in Pelham today know that Lutheran services once were held in the Pelham Picture House on Sundays (when the showing of films was banned).  Even fewer may know that a time capsule was accidentally discovered in the debris of the first Church of the Redeemer after that edifice was demolished on December 18, 1969.  (The cornerstone that contained the copper box time capsule rests today with the Church bell in front of the Richard J. Daronco Town House on Fifth Avenue.)  Even fewer Pelham residents may be aware that the Little Red Church that was the predecessor building to today's magnificent stone sanctuary of the Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church is believed to be the only "Centenary Church" in the United States -- a church building that was unveiled in 1876 to commemorate the centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  (To learn more about these and other historical tidbits regarding religious institutions in our area, see the lengthy list of links to previous postings on such subjects at the end of this article.)

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes an article about the role that churches have played in the growth of the Pelhams that appeared in the October 15, 1926 issue of The Pelham Sun.  It contains a wealth of information about the early histories of a variety of churches in our area.  

A Glass Lantern Slide Created by Pelham Town Historian 
William Montgomery Between December 10, 1916 and June 10, 1917.  
It Depicts the "Little Red Church," the Predecessor Building to 
Today's Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church Sanctuary.
The Little Red Church was a "Centenary Church" Opened in 
July 1876 in Part to Commemorate the Centennial of the 
Signing of the Declaration of Independence.  To Read More 
About How This Lantern Slide Was Dated, See:

Original Church of the Redeemer Church Building 
in the Village of North Pelham from an Undated 
Post Card Issued in About 1910.

"Churches Have Played Big Part In The Growth Of The Pelhams
March of Progress in the Village Is Marked by Spiritual Aid of the Church.  Rev. Robert Bolton and His Sons Established First Church in Pelhamville

Pelham's religious history dates back to 1686, when a company of French Huguenots set sail from England where they had fled from the persecutions of their own country, and landed at Echo Bay, in the Manor of Pelham.  There they established a colony on the property owned by Lord John Pell.  Through the interest displayed in them by Jacob Leisler, a New York merchant, Lord Pell conveyed to Leisler six thousand acres of land for use of the Huguenots.  The consideration of the conveyance was 1,675 pounds sterling silver and one fat calf to be delivered to the Lord of the Manor every year on the festival of St. John the Baptist.  Pell also set apart another 100 acres for a French church in the new settlement known as New Rochelle.

At this time spiritual aid was administered by laymen.  In 1695 a clergyman of the Church of England settled in the Manor and established a small paris.  This, however, did not thrive in the sparsely settled district, and failed to survive more than a few years.

In 1697 the Lord of the Manor laid the cornerstone for the first church in the Manor.  It is now known as the First Presbyterian Church of New Rochelle.

Later St. Paul's Church in Eastchester was established and these two subscribed to the religious comfort of the settlers.  The Rev. Robert Bolton, rector of the Eastchester parish in the early 1800's, hearing of the condition at Pelham, moved to what is now the Bolton Priory.

For a time he conducted services both at Eastchester and in Pelham at his residence at the Priory.  He was responsible for the starting of a new parish and founding the first church of the Pelhams.  On April 28, 1843, the cornerstone of Christ's Church at Pelham was laid.

Most of the construction of the church was done by the Rev. Bolton and his five sons.  Washington Irving, a good friend of the Boltons, helped in the construction and made many suggestions as to its architecture.  It was constructed of common granite and patterned after a small country church in England.

The Boltons established the first stained glass works in America in what was known as Devoe Town, a quarter of a mile away from the church, and made the stained glass windows there.  The building is still standing on the Shore Road in Pelham Manor.

These windows made by the Boltons are still intact in Christ's Church.  Two of them represent the Adoration of the Magi, two of them are copies of windows in Salisbury Cathedral, and two bear respectively the arms of the Bolton and the Pell families.

Other members of the Bolton family aided in the work.  Some built the carved pulpit and a solid sounding board which was constructed above it.

At the same time a parochial free school for the parishioners was started.  The school building was erected by public subscription.  The earliest record of the student body shows that in 1854 there were 15 boys and 20 girls in the school.  In that year the church building was enlarged to accommodate the growing congregation.  

In 1856 the Rev. Cornelius Winter Bolton, fourth son of the founder of the church, became its rector, and remained such until 1860, when he became rector of St. Paul's Mission Chapel in New York City.  The Rev. N.E. Cornwall succeeded him and found 38 families connected with the church.  The next year a mission was started in City Island out of which the present Grace Church grew.

The Sunday School at Pelhamville and City Island was started through the efforts of Miss Nanette Bolton, daughter of the founder of the church.  Assisting her were the Misses Fanny and Grace Schuyler.  Later a memorial building was erected to the memory of Nanette bolton.

During the Civil War the ladies of the congregation were active in the hospital work among the soldiers at David's Island now Fort Slocum.  This is the first organization of Pelham women established for the aid of war veterans.

On October 30, 1874, the Pelham Manor and Huguenot Heights Association, which had been formed for the civic government of the community, established a second church in the Pelhams.  

The eight articles establishing the Huguenot Memorial Forest Church stipulated that the association give the land for the church, providing not less than $3,000 was subscribed for the erection of the building, and the church be Presbyterian.  A considerable portion of this amount was raised, and Rev. Dr. C.E. Lord, D.D., a retired clergyman whose researches into the history of the early Huguenot settlements in America had made him familiar with the district where the refugees from La Rochelle had founded their new homes, was retained as rector.

Silas Witherbee of Port Henry, N.Y., loaned the church $5,000 on mortgage and later made a gift of the loan.

When the site for the church building was being discussed, there was considerable opposition to the plt finally chosen, on the ground that it was too far from the center of population of the community, which was near where the Manor Club now stands.  To-day about nine-tenths of the congregation live on the north side of the Boston Post Road.

The building was erected, not only as a memorial to the Huguenot settlers, but in commemoration of the centennial of our national independence.  The old records often refer to it as the 'Centenary' Church, and emphasis is laid on the fact that it was the only church in the country to be thus specifically dedicated during the year of the great Centennial Exposition.

In the Eight Articles, special provision is made for the use of the church building as a day school.  A generation afterwards, the present building had hardly been completed when, in order to relieve the congregation in the public schools, one of the classes was housed in the church without charges except for the additional expenses of heating and service.

In 1881 the Church of the Redeemer was established in North Pelham.  Its first rector was the Rev. Cornelius Winter Bolton, son of the founder of Christ's Church, and its former pastor.  Services were held in a small frame building on Fourth Avenue near Third Street, which is now the home of Robert Martini.  In 1885 the property on which the present church stands were purchased and the rectory built.  On June 21, 1892 the cornerstone of the new church was laid and in the following February the building was completed.  It was dedicated in 1892 and consecrated by the late Bishop Henry C. Potter June 3, 1899.

The church stands as a memorial to the late Rev. Bolton, who died in his 88th year, on August 28, 1906.  

In 1888 the Congregational Church of North Pelham (now extinct) was organizaed by a group known as the Union Sabbath School of Pelhamville.  This church was disbanded after a short life.

In 1907 St. Catherine's Roman Catholic Church was established after a temporary church had been conducted in North Pelham by the Rev. Mgr. Kellner of St. Gabriel's Roman Catholic Church in New Rochelle.  The Rev. Mgr. Francis P. McNichol was first rector of the new church, which was constructed on property donated by Patrick Farrell.  First mass was celebrated December 8, 1907.

In 1921, the Congregational Church of the Pelhams was established by the Rev. William Milton Hess of New York City.  First services were held in the new church building on December 11, 1921.

Our Savior Lutheran Church, which holds its services at the Pelham Picture House, was organized in 1923 by the Rev. Carl O. Romoser of Concordia Collegiate Institute at Bronxville.  Services were first held at the Town Hall, and later transferred to the present location.  The Rev. H. Wittschen is present rector."

Source:  Churches Have Played Big Part In The Growth Of The Pelhams, The Pelham Sun, Oct. 15, 1926, p. 16, col. 1.

To learn more about the history of various religious institutions that have served the residents of Pelham during the last several centuries, see:  

Mon., Mar. 07, 2005:  What is That Bell Resting on a Stone Pedestal in Front of the Richard J. Daronco Townhouse at 20 Fifth Avenue?

Mon., Jul. 25, 2005:  The Columbarium at Huguenot Memorial Church in Pelham Manor.

Fri., Oct. 21, 2005:  Christ Church Dedicated its Columbarium in 1943 As Part of Its Centennial Celebration.

Tue., Dec. 06, 2005:  The Origins of St. Catharine's Roman Catholic Church in the Village of Pelham, New York.

Fri., Jan. 27, 2006:  Lectures to Raise Money to Build the "Huguenot Memorial Forest Church" Building in Pelham Manor.

Thu., Mar. 2, 2006:  A Lecture in 1877 to Raise Money for the New Huguenot Memorial Church in Pelham Manor.

Thu., Jun. 29, 2006:  A Biography of Lewis Gaston Leary, Early 20th Century Pastor of Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church in Pelham.

Wed., Oct. 25, 2006:  A Biography of the Rev. Henry Randall Waite, Ph. D., a 19th Century Pastor of Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church.

Wed., Nov. 08, 2006:  The Time Capsule in the Cornerstone of the Church of the Redeemer in the Village of North Pelham.

Wed., Dec. 20, 2006: A Brief History of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester Published in 1907.

Mon., Jan. 01, 2007:  Dating an Undated Glass Lantern Slide Showing the Little Red Church (Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church).  

Fri., Jan. 05, 2007:  The Early Years of Grace Church, City Island -- Once a Church in Pelham.

Wed., Feb. 28, 2007 Lord Cornbury Installs John Bartow as Rector of the Parish of Westchester, Eastchester, Yonkers and the Manor of Pelham in 1702.

Tue., May 08, 2007:  Rev. Francis Asbury, Methodist Minister, Preaches in Pelham in 1772.

Fri., Jun. 15, 2007:  Photograph of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester Published in 1914.

Tue., Jun. 19, 2007:  A Brazen Burglary at The Little Red Church in 1904.

Mon., Aug. 06, 2007:  1714 Letter Reporting on the Establishment of the Church at East Chester Built in 1692.

Wed., Aug. 8, 2007:  A Description of an Eyewitness Account of Interior of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester During the Revolutionary War.

Mon., Aug. 13, 2007:  1865 Comments of Rev. William Samuel Coffey of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester Regarding the Tenure of Rev. Robert Bolton of Pelham.

Wed., Aug. 15, 2007:  Plan of Pews in St. Paul's Church 1790.

Thu., Aug. 16, 2007:  Biographical Data About Rev. Charles Eliphalet Lord Who Served as Acting Pastor of Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church, 1874-79.

Fri., Aug. 31, 2007:  Announcement of the First Services Held in the Little Red Church of the Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church on July 9, 1876.

Thu., Sep. 6, 2007:  Information About St. Paul's Church, the Battle of Pelham and Other Revolutionary War Events Near Pelham Contained in an Account Published in 1940.

Wed., Sep. 12, 2007:  Announcement of Planned Construction of St. Catharine's Roman Catholic Church in Pelhamville in 1895.

Thu., Sep. 13, 2007:  Dedication of St. Catharine's Roman Catholic Church in the Village of Pelham in 1896.

Tue., Sep. 18, 2007:  Installation of the First Full-Time Pastor of Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church in Pelham Manor in 1877.

Fri., Sep. 21, 2007:  The Ringing of the Bell of St. Paul's Church of Eastchester on the 100th Anniversary of the First Service in the Stone Church.

Thu., Nov. 08, 2007:  Brief History of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester Published in 1886.

Thu., Mar. 26, 2009:  Excerpt from Book Published in 1860 Provides Memories of Sundays at St. Paul's Church Before 1838.

Fri., Aug. 14, 2009:  The Consecration of the Nanette Bolton Memorial Chapel at Christ Church in Pelham Manor on April 28, 1887.

Mon., Aug. 24, 2009:  1878 Advertisement for Services of The Union Sabbath School Society of Pelhamville.

Fri., Dec. 25, 2009 1906:  Christmas Day Celebration at Christ Church in Pelham.

Sat., Jan. 25, 2014:  Putting the Finishing Touches on the Lovely New Church in Pelhamwood in 1923.

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