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.
Related Objects and Documents
Diary of John B. Weeks – January 21, 1855
During the mid-nineteenth century, farmers spent almost every Sunday in church. Many farmers recorded attending church on a weekly basis in their diaries. In 1855, John B. Weeks frequently attended church with family and friends. His diary reveals that the pastor’s sermons were an important part of the service. JANUARY Sun 21st Went to Jones … Continue reading Diary of John B. Weeks – January 21, 1855
The Methodist Harmonist contained the music for many of the hymns of the Methodist Church. The Methodist Harmonist shows how important music was within the church. The book not only includes the melody for each hymn, but provides harmony parts for every song. Hymnals, although important to the worship service, did not provide musical notation.
Music has always been an important part of the Methodist church service. During the mid-nineteenth century, people brought their own hymnals to church with them. Hymnals were often small enough to fit inside a pocket but were very expensive books. Because of their expense and important place in the church service, people often gave and … Continue reading Hymnal
The church bell called the community together for worship and marked events taking place at the church, including weddings and funerals. Everyone in the community, whether they attended church or not, heard the bell at least once per week. When someone died, the bell rang once for each year of the person’s life. Life-cycle and family … Continue reading Church Bell