The church was originally built in 1791 for the Susquehanna Methodist Church congregation in East Durham, NY. After a period of time, the church moved to serve the Methodist Episcopal congregation of the neighboring community of Cornwallville, NY. The church building remained a meeting place for the small Methodist Episcopal population of the Durham area throughout the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries.
In the nineteenth century, Methodist pastors usually stayed between one and two years and then were reassigned to another location. Because they often served more than one church, a pastor would travel between communities to lead church services and attend other meetings during the week. Today, many rural pastors still continue to serve multiple congregations.
Cornwallville Church as a Community Center
Rural churches also functioned as community centers as well as the site of baptisms, communions, marriages, and funerals. Churches reinforced and promoted acceptable social behavior. Like many churches in New York State in the nineteenth century, it was a place where the moral leadership of the community met.
Many congregations supported reform movements such as abolition and temperance. While men held church offices, women often played a dynamic role in the church as leaders of missionary, benevolent, and Sunday school organizations. The church functioned as a place where local residents, visiting summer guests, and tourists worshipped together.