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, May 02, 2014

Early History of the Church of the Redeemer in the Village of North Pelham

For many years a beautiful church building stood in the Village of North Pelham. It was the house of worship of the Church of the Redeemer. The church congregation laid the cornerstone for the structure on June 23, 1892. It stood for many years on Second Avenue in today's Village of Pelham.  (See image below.)

1910 Post Card View of the Original Church of the Redeemer.

The church congregation later built what became its combined Parish Hall and Church located at 20 Fifth Avenue. Today that structure is the Daronco Town House that serves as the Town of Pelham's community center. 

In 1969, the Church of the Redeemer was vacant and suffered a terrible fire. Authorities made a decision to raze the structure. Within a short time (1974), the Church of the Redeemer combined with Christ Church in the Village of Pelham Manor to create the Parish of Christ the Redemer. Three years later the Church deeded the Parish Hall and Church at 20 Fifth Avenue to the Town of Pelham for use as a community center. 

There stands in front of the Daronco Town House a memorial to the church building of the Church of the Redeemer that once stood on Second Avenue. The cornerstone laid on June 23, 1892 sits at the base of the memorial. It has "1892" carved into it. The church bell rests atop the memorial.  (See image below.)  

Cornerstone and Bell from the Original Church of the Redeemer.
Now Kept as a Monument in Front of the Richard J. Daronco Town House
On Fifth Avenue in the Village of Pelham.

I have written about the Church of the Redeemer on a number of occasions.  For examples, see:  

Fri., Feb. 28, 2014:  Brief History of the Role Churches Played in the Growth of the Pelhams Published in 1926.

Wed., Nov. 08, 2006:  The Time Capsule in the Cornerstone of the Church of the Redeemer in the Village of North Pelhamhttp://historicpelham.blogspot.com/2006/11/time-capsule-in-cornerstone-of-church.html.  

Wed., Mar. 15, 2006:  A Biography of Cornelius W. Bolton Published in 1899.

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?

Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting transcribes an article published in 1927 that detailed the history of the Church of the Redeemer.  The article provides interesting information about the early years of the church.  It is transcribed immediately below, followed by a citation to its source.  

Interesting Is History of Church of Redeemer at North Pelham
Plans Have Been Drawn for Attractive Edifice -- 300 Families Affiliated

To a woman belongs the honor of having started the religious work upon which the Church of the Redeemer, North Pelham, was ultimately built.

This woman was Miss Bolton, of Pelham Priory.

With the assistance of the Misses Schuyler, grand-daughters of General Schuyler of Revolutionary fame, she commenced the first Sunday school in the village in 1859.  This school first met in the loft of a carpenter's shop somewhere near the site of the present church building.  Within a brief period this carpenter's shop, becoming two crowded, was vacated, and the sessions of the Sunday school continued in the public school, a frame building, then located on Fourth street, directly opposite the present Hutchinson school.

Site Purchased

About 1864, it was deemed advisable to secure an edifice in which religious services as well as Sunday school work could be carried on.  With this in view, a site of land was purchased with the help of numerous friends on the easterly side of Fourth avenue, between Second and Third streets.  At the same time the carpenter's shop where the Sunday school first began, was purchased and placed upon the lot.  With a few alterations, this unpretentious structure was converted into a chapel or mission hall, where the Sunday school work was continued and where, in addition, public religious services were held -- the first ever held in North Pelham.  This building is still standing, though it is now used as a private dwelling.  

From its inception this religious enterprise had been regarded as an adjunct to the work of Christ's church, Pelham Manor.   The rector there, the late Rev. Edward W. Syles, frequently visiting it to conduct services and to administer the sacraments.  

Independent Parish

By the year 1872, the cause had grown so strong that it became an independent parish.  The exact date of its incorporation was February 27, 1872.  As yet, however, there was no settled pastor.  Annually, a student from the General Theological seminary was engaged to act in the capacity of missionary in charge, whose duties consisted in visiting the people on Saturdays and preaching on Sundays.  This arrangement continued for three or four years.

After a time, it became apparent that the church's independence had been granted too early, for out of that fact sprang seeds of disruption.  In the absence of an authoritative head some of the more prominent workers became very much disaffected about questions of church government.  Though there were other contributory causes of unrest and dissatisfaction, these were the principal disturbing elements, with the consequence that a movement was started in favor of a Union church.  To this movement nearly all the members seceded in a body.  For two years the little church was closed, and being heavily in debt, the deed of the property was returned to the mother church.  So hopeless did the situation appear of ever being able to resuscitate the cause that the vestry of the mother church contemplated selling the little property to the leaders of the Unionist movement, and doubtless would have done so, had not those friends, who had inaugurated the work, returned at this juncture to advise and plead for its retention.

Ladies Reorganize

With splendid zeal these ladies began immediately to reorganize the work and soon had the satisfaction of seeing the whole scattered flock return to the fold.  A few years after this unfortunate episode the Rev. Cornelius Winter Bolton was elected rector.  His incumbency commenced in 1881 and continued until 1906.  Under his care the work grew apace.  Within four years he secured a new site for the church, an acre in extent, and built upon it the present rectory.  In another five years he had so reduced the debt upon it that with the aid of a legacy bequeathed by Mrs. Harriet Leaver of Mount Vernon, the church building was freed completely from debt and on Rev. Mr. Bolton's eightieth birthday, June 3, 1899, was consecrated, with imposing ceremonies by the late Bishop H.C. Potter.  

With the advent of the present rector, the Rev. Herbert Haight Brown, in 1907, the church took on a new lease of life.  Within two or three years the membership was doubled as was also the income and attendance at church services.  From being a mission, receiving financial assistance annually from the diocese, it became an independent and self-supporting parish.  A special fund of $5,000 was also raised to liquidate a longstanding mortgage of $2,000 that remained on the rectory and to discharge many currant [sic] liabilities.  A choir room was built under the church and a vested choir formed -- the first in the town of Pelham.  A Sunday school was also established in Pelham Heights and maintained for many years.

By 1914, it became apparent to many parishioners that the present site was undesirable.  It was urged that it was not sufficiently centrally located to minister to the church services.  It was not strategic enough to command the notice of people in general, nor did it share as it should in the natural growth of the town.  A new movement was inaugurated to find a site more centrally located.  Eventually in 1919 the vestry was formally authorized to purchase a new site at the juncture of Harmon avenue and Fifth avenue for $16,500.  [NOTE:  Today's Richard J. Daronco Town House.]  This was done and immediately paid for.  On this splendid building plot of more than an acre in extent a new church, parish house and rectory will be built in the near future.  Plans have been drawn by Frank M. Snyder and accepted by the vestry.  The present church is regarded as inadequate.  All the pews are rented though Pelham has by no means attained its full growth and development.  The communicant list contains 340 names.  Nearly 300 families are in one way or another connected with the church.  There are almost 200 children in the Sunday school.

The following men constitute the vestry:  wardens, Isaac C. Hill, Arthur R. Van De Water; vestrymen, Harold W. Davis, Anthony M. Menkel, Bernard Wragge Walter E. Bunnell, James Harper, Lawrence B. Wardrop, Harry S. Abbott, Herbert J. Bickford and Charles H. Eyler.

There are various organizations in connection with the church of which the following are the principals:  The Laymen's association, the Parish Guild, the Woman's auxiliary, the Chancel Guild, the Periodical club, the Young People's society, and the Rector's Helpers.

Towards the new building project, the vestry has on hand about $10,000 cash and on the present site a potential asset of at least $80,000.  It is estimated that the new buildings will cost when completed about $200,000."

Source:  NEW CHURCH IN THE TOWN, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jan. 19, 1927, Special Pelham Section, p. 5, cols. 6-8.  

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