"Mother Church"

Peru Landing

Peru Landing, (Port Jackson).  Early settlement fanned from the shores of Lake Champlain to the interior of the Adirondacks and Champlan Valley region. 

"Peru Landing was a shallow docking site on Lake Champlain just north along the shore from'the mouth of the Little Ausable River. Allen's Bay provided a celm area with winds from the south being reduced, and wave action stilled by Ausable Point. Boats with passengers or freight docked there or left for far away places, &ly boats with a shallow draft could approach the shore sufficiently, so that as larger vessels were built the landing was not accegtable. The site was abandoned, leaving only a long wall of rocks :!arming a jetting reaching outward to the east within the water. "

Source: History of Peru, New York, Lincoln Sunderland, Major Contributing Author and Editor, Second Edition 2003. Pages 21-22. www.mes-racines.ca

Robin Michel Caudell/Photograph

Hand-drawn map of Peru Landing

Detail of Peru Landing from hand-drawn map

Benjamin F. Feinberg Library, Special Collections, SUNY Plattsburgh

Robin Michel Caudell/Photograph

First Baptist Church of Keeseville

First Baptist Church of Keeseville, Liberty Street

1826 Structure on original site

Image Courtesy of Adirondack Architectural Heritage

First Baptist Church of Keeseville

First Baptist Church of Keeseville, the original edifice as it appears to today on Liberty Street.

Robin Michel Caudell/Photograph

First Baptist Church of Keeseville Marker

William G. Pomeroy Foundation historic marker  outside the First Baptist Church of Keeseville was secured by the Anderson Falls Heritage  Society.

Robin Michel Caudell/Photograph


The First Baptist Church of Keeseville (1788-1968) was the oldest existing church  on the west bank of Lake Champlain.

The original church structure, still the oldest in Clinton County, is now residential housing on Liberty Street in Keeseville. Relocated from its original location at the top of the hill, the Anderson Falls Heritage Society secured a William G. Pomeroy Foundation historic marker to recognize its significance as a founding faith congregation in the Adirondacks and Champlain Valley.

The First Baptist Church of Keeseville's origins are in the Baptist Church of Christ of Old Peru, hence "The Mother Church" of Baptists Churches in the region.


The History of the Baptist Church of Christ in Old Peru by Author Unknown

The presence of Baptists in the State of New York is due indirectly to the life and public service of Roger Williams of Rhode Island. From New York City as a central point in the latter part of the 17th century, a small town at that time, advocates of a doctrine from which Williams was banished from Massachusetts Bay, and Obadiah Holmes, probably flogged in the streets of Lynn, found their way into the villages and settlements of the interior. Suffering even to the persecution and imprisonment was the lot of the New York Baptists in the early days, and their growth was slow.

It was nearly a hundred years after the introduction of distinctly Baptist preaching in N.Y. that the Gospel found its way into this remote region. And it so happens that among the pioneers who ventured into this untrodden wilderness at that time, the great majority became adherents of the Baptist faith.

The most prominent name we find among the early records of the Baptist Cause in this region is that of Isaac Finch, who with the undauntable spirit possessed by the settlers of those early days, pushed his way through from Dutchess Co., traveling now by land and now by water disembarking on the shores of Lake Champlain at a spot now known as Port Jackson (Peru Landing). It then received and remained for many years the name of Peru Landing.

Within a radius of several miles from that spot, there were only a half a dozen families. Robert Cochran and Nathaniel Mallory lived on the Lake Shore, Moses Dickenson, Jabez Allen, John and Lot Elmore between the rivers and John Stanton and Edward Everett in the Union. (Not yet formed)

Finch was a man of strong convictions and a positive character. Soon after his settlement in the neighborhood, prayer meeting became an established institution and in 1791 or 4 years after his landing on the Lake Shore, a Baptist Church was organized. Their place of meeting was in a log house then occupied by Uriah Palmer, on the farm now owned by Joshua Reynolds, (1959, Lloyd Fuller, Fuller St., Town of Peru) one mile west of Peru Landing. The Church started with a membership of 17—10 men and 7 women. (Some of you may be familiar with the names of these charter members of the First Baptist Church and indeed of any Evangelical Church in this whole region).

Charter Members: Edward Everett & wife, Stephen Reynolds, Lucretia Reynolds, Uriah Palmer, Sarah Palmer, Noble Averill, Polly Averill, Kinner Newcomb, Robert Cochran, John Cochran, Isaac Finch, Abigail Finch, Sarah Finch, Simeon Barber and Catherine Barber.

Solomon Brown of Granville, Dutchess Co. came up and settled among them and assumed the Pastoral Care of the Church. Pastor and people were progressive in thought and aggressive in spirit. In their article of incorporation, they place themselves on record as opposed to human slavery, the union of Church with the State, and in favor of Temperance, and the prosecution of missionary labors in all lands. Their support of their pastor was generous for those days. They bought 50 acres of land, cleared it, built a log house on it, with the special intention that it should be the best house in the whole settlement and presented it to their pastor. The church prospered. Whole families were converted and brought into the church. The whole country was visibly affected by the presence of this infant church among them.

Upon Mr. Brown's removal to Jay, a Mr. Parker Reynolds came among them, a man of rare ability as a teacher, and gifted as a preacher.  Mr. Reynolds was ordained to gospel ministry upon entering his labors with this Church. The ordination service was conducted in the house of Daniel Irish on the spot where now stands the house of Wm. Moon, at Moon's Corners. Mr. Reynolds like his predecessor, farmed, taught school and preached and was preeminently successful in all three.

For more than a quarter of a century, during which time the church grew in numbers and influence, they were yet without a public house of worship. At times, they were destitute of pastoral care, but their meetings, both for prayer and preaching were kept alive, during which time considerable preaching talent was developed among some of the members of the church. So important was this phase of labour deemed by them that under no circumstances could preaching be omitted from the service of the Sabbath, and in their records we find a  minute to the effect that "two or three brethren be appointed to take the lead of Divine Worship provided no other brother steps forward for this purpose."

During this first quarter of a century of the Church's existence, the meetings were held sometimes in Peru Village, sometimes in Uriah Palmer's, sometimes at Adgate's Falls (Birmingham), sometimes here on the hill at Keeseville. This was done probably to accommodate the people that were scattered over so wide a stretch of territory.

It may interest some of you to know that one of the principal places of meeting was the old yellow octagon schoolhouse on the hill (French Catholic). Mr. Ebeneezer Mott who came from Crown Point to serve the church was ordained in that schoolhouse in March 1826, and closed his labours with them on January of the year following on account of poor health and very soon after went to his reward.

In the meantime, the desire of a public house of worship was growing among the people. But to accomplish it was a seemingly insuperable task. The number of settlers was increasing, but the majority of them were poor. Actual cash was scarce. People bartered one article for another, and paid for things in produce. People of the Methodist faith had come in, and there was quite a sprinkling of Congregationalists here and there.

It was at last decided to build a house of worship and to concede ownership to that denomination which contributed the most toward its erection. The house was built, cost of $3,000, in what was then regarded as a central location and was publicly dedicated to the worship of God in October 1826, the Rev. John A. Dodge, father of our honored Senior Deacon, preaching the sermon on that occasion. Text: I Corinthians 7:31.  For the fashion of this world passeth away. It was a great day for the Baptists  of this region. The new tasteful and commodious house was the realization of many hopes, the fruit of their self-denying labours. It was a great achievement for them.

In the efforts made to build and pay for this new house, special mention must be made of one whose name is still loved and honored in this church and community -- Deacon William Taylor. "

God Almighty couldn't make a better man than Deacon Wm. Taylor" -- Jacob Kingsland.

He not only gave of his own, but he traveled far and wide appealing for and collecting funds toward the building of the Church, going even as far as Philadelphia on horseback for that purpose. The failing health of Mr. Mott left the church pastor-less for 21 months when Providence sent to them a young man of great promise and whose advent among them lifted the Church upon its feet, inspired it with fresh hope and brought the church a marked degree of prosperity. Conant Sawyer brought to the ministry of Christ a bright intellect, a genial disposition, a pleasing manner, and all the gifts and graces which go to make a successful platform speaker. His ministry was a  most fruitful one, people flocked from all parts of the surrounding country to hear him. There was every prospect for a long and useful ministry.

We now come to a period of history of the church, which it were well to blot out of the records altogether. The Keeseville Church, in common with every other church in the country, was almost ruined by the Anti-Masonic agitation. The story of the "Morgan abduction" is still fresh in many minds. Partisan strife found its way into the churches, completely wiping some out of existence. The Keeseville Church survived the conflict, but it was with bruises and scars that remained for many a day. Conant Sawyer left when the Anti-Masonic strife was at its height. His successor a Mr. Bryant of Philadelphia, after a brief ministry of 20 months, resigned for the same reason that Mr. Sawyer did.

A veritable peacemaker came to them in the person of one Henry Green of Cornwall, Vt. Under him, the scattered elements of the Church were brought together, the church resumed its work. The number of communicants increased and when the old gentleman left them in the early fall, they were united harmoniously, and with a prosperous outlook before them. At this juncture, Hiram Safford came among them, remained with them for nearly 5 years. His ministry was blessed, and he is still remembered with affection and respect by many who are still living among us.

Again we come to  a stormy period in the history of the church. Now it is the Anti-slavery question. With the coming of Conant Sawyer the second time, the spirit of controversy was waxing hot. The church suffered from this controversy very fully as much as from the Anti-Masonic. There was no growth.  The minster's hands were tied. He was not allowed to have an opinion in the matter. The result was that in 1844, the church was again pastor-less.

The unhappy effects of those days of strife remained in the church for years. Pastors came and went, after months of fruitless attempts at consolidation. Those were dark days. There was no service in the Church. Members were not on speaking terms with each other. Even the Sabbath School was gone to pieces. One bright picture remains to redeem the ugly scenes of those days. It is the picture of two godly and patient women who used to go at stated times to a little room under the belfry of the deserted Church and there pour out their souls in prayers that God would keep his church and hasten returning of the time of peace. The names of those women are familiar to many of you. The Keeseville Church of today knows not how much it owes to those godly women. (Mrs. Jacob Kingsland and Mrs. Josiah Fish.) (See page 79 of history). 

In the midst of these  dark days, God sent a sunny-headed consecrated layman from New York to engage in business. He came will all that energy and hopefulness and missionary zeal characteristic of the old Olive St. Church in its palmiest days when Spencer H. Cane was pastor. Mr. Alfred Baber was a divinely chosen man to resurrect and reconstruct the Baptist Church in Keeseville. The Sabbath School was reorganized. Hymn books, Bibles, etc., were brought up from New York.  Church services were resumed. A minister was employed in the person of Rev. Joseph W. Eaton. There were signs of life visible once more. Measures were taken for the erection of a more centrally located house of worship.

In all of this, Mr. Baber's clear head, tender heart and strong hand was manifest. Plans and specifications by a New York architect was submitted, accepted and the new house went up. It was a model of convenience and comfort and seemingly perfect in its acoustic properties. Artists from Boston frescoed the walls. The grace and beauty of this interior as we now see it is only a reproduction with some modifications of what the cultured taste and practical knowledge of Mr. Baber gave to the Baptists of the community some 30 years ago.

The organ was the gift of Wm. James Pilling, a warm friend of the church, and who is represented here today in the person of his daughter, Mrs. Baker of Port Jackson. It is now where it ought to be, and henceforth when called upon, will have a chance to speak for itself. A good organ is like a  a good ( missing word) as it grows older, it grows sweeter and mellower in tone.

Inseparably associated with this meeting house of the Baptist Church will be the names of two brothers, Edmund and Jacob Kingsland. Though not members of the Church, it is to be doubted whether anyone was ever more deeply interested in the material prosperity of any religious organization than were these two brothers in the Baptist Church at Keeseville. The influence of their lives is with us today, and we are the grateful recipient of the benefactions. 

Renewed prosperity attended the removal downtown. Mr. Eaton's successful ministry was followed by that of Mr. Cheshire. Mr. Cheshire was followed by the scholarly Dr. Bigelow. Then came more dark days: stagnation of business, death of many prominent members, the immigration to the West of a large proportion of the young and aggressive element of the church.

The Church was prostrated and the house was closed for the greater part of three years. With the revival of business, a call was extended to Rev. S. D. Moxley,  who did much faithful work in his ministry of 8 years among them. After him came the genial John Mathews. The pastorate of Mr. Mathews is so fresh in your minds as to need no further mention of it here (1876-1883). The present occupant of the pulpit (Evan Davis 1883-1886) came among you in the summer of 1883 and through a leniency and consideration rarely exhibited in Baptist Churches still ministers to you today.

From the small beginnings originating in that log house down by the Lake nearly a hundred years ago, His Church, like the Church of Christ, even has passed through periods of alternating gloom and sunshine. But through it all, its individuality has been preserved intact. The stream of its life has through these many years flowed on unbroken. Its right to live has been proven not only by the individualities (sic) of souls that have been brought with the knowledge of the Savior through its prayers and labors, but by the fact that from its numbers may be counted those to whom has come to call "to preach the Gospel."

Among those whom the Church sent out in her earlier days are the names of a Mr. Amble, Mr. Justus Taylor, Stephen Taylor, C. H. Fuller. While those of later times are Ruel Arnold, now in St. Paul, Minn., Wm. C. McAllester, Plattsburgh, N.Y., Brewer G. Boardman, Havana, N.Y. and James Romeyn, New London, N.H. 

The Church in its life antedates the organization of our Missionary Union by 24 years and the organization of our Home Missionary Society by nearly 50  years (42) and the American Baptist Publishing Society by 33 years. It has seen those Missionary organizations grow from small beginnings to their present gigantic proportions with an aggregate yearly income of nearly a million and a quarter devoted to the sending of the Gospel to the dark places of the Earth.

When Isaac Finch was gathering settlers around Peru Landing with the view of organizing them into a Baptist Church, Adoniram Judson was but a prattling boy of 3 summers or so. Everything then was in its beginnings. Madison University was not projected. Brown University, then known as Rhode Island College, was but in its infancy. At that time, there were in New York state only 86 churches and 5,000 members. Now there are nearly  900 (872) churches, 642 pastors, and 114,000 members with property aggregating in value over 9 millions of dollars.

Our denominational schools, at that time, you count on the fingers of one hand. Now, we have 87 schools and colleges, an aggregate attendances of over 10,000 students. Collegiate property aggregating in value nearly 12 millions of dollars and endowments accounting to nearly 5 millions. In the life of the Church, the Baptist Constituency of the U.S. has increased from a few thousands to two millions and a half.

This Church here has not kept pace with the growth of Baptist Churches in other parts of the State and Nation. The cause of this is clear. All the Protestant churches through these valleys have been much depleted by deaths and immigrations west. These places have not been filled in the churches, in consequences of an alien element with an alien faith coming in to take up the farms and to fill other vacancies. The Protestant element in this town is much less than it was 30 years ago. But our weakness has been strength to others. The influence and effects of the Churches in Essex and Clinton Counties have been felt throughout all the wide west reaching even to the Pacific Slope.

As we look around us today, and see the evidences of returning prosperity to Keeseville and feel the strong beat of the pulse of our church life, we are not discouraged but are rather full of hope feeling that we have more abundant reason to "Praise God from whom All Blessings Flow."

Sources: Peru Town Historian Office Archives, History of Clinton and Franklin Counties, New York: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers by Hurd, D. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) 1n; Lewis, J. W. & Co. Philadelphia, 1880.