Founding Father of Faith
Capt. Isaac Finch’s accomplishment as the Founding Father of the oldest faith community on the West Bank of Lake Champlain is almost obliterated from the historical record much like the indecipherable script on his mottled marble tombstone in the Blockhouse Cemetery on Bear Swamp Road in Peru, Clinton County, N.Y.
His sheer determination, strong faith and leadership ability to attract like-minded people birthed the Baptist Church of Christ of Peru, N.Y., which became the First Baptist Church of Keeseville, NY 1788-1968.
The church’s 19th century edifice still stands on Liberty Street and is a testimony in the 21st century to the grit and enduring legacy of the God-minded Revolutionary War Patriot and the Charter Congregation, who built a Church when the Adirondacks were truly wild.
The Finch family’s origins are in Connecticut.
Isaac Finch was born in 1732 and died in Peru in 26th of November 1813.
He was received as a member of the First Baptist Church of Dover, Dutchess Co. The Baptist Church of Christ in August 1787. He married Abigail Palmer, the daughter of Ephraim Palmer.
Their children were: John, Justice, James, William, Sarah, Phebe (Mrs. Robert Anson) born 1761; Lucretia born (Mrs. Daniel Chapman) 1769; Robert born 1775; Isaac born 1783.Sources: First Baptist Church (Dover, N.Y.), and Josephine C Frost. Records of the First Baptist Church of Dover, Dutchess County, N. Y.[Brooklyn, N.Y., 1915. Hathi Trust Digital Library. Original Source Library of Congress; The History of the Baptist Church of Christ in Old Peru, Bibliography, Addendum to Church Minutes Transcribed by Eleanor A. Spaulding, Church Historian; “Mr. Harkness Writes On Old Historic Spot, Tells of Blockhouse Burying Ground in Peru,” Plattsburgh Daily Republican, Friday, November 3, 1938, Page 2; “The Life and Times of Capt. Issac Finch” by John D. Sinks, 14 July 2009, Fairfax Resolves Chapter, Virginia Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, www.fairfaxresolvessar.org
- Ensign, 2nd New York Regiment
- Continental Line, 6th Co. commanded by Capt. Abraham Swartout, Appointment 15th of May, 1776.
- Captain, early 1777
- Lieutenant, Dutchess County Militia, May 1777
- Private, 6th Battalion, Dutchess County Militia October 7-16, 1777
- Lieutenant, (Unclear whether, 4th New York Regiment (Lt. Col. Frederick Weisenfels)1780
- 6th Dutchess Co. Regiment (Col. Roswell Hopkins) 1779 or Lt. Col. Frederick Weisenfels Levies 1781.
- Overseer of Highways, Charlotte Precinct, Dutchess Co. April 1778-April 1779, April 1781-April 1782.
Seventh Inhabitant at Peru Landing
Capt Isaac Finch was the seventh inhabitant of Peru.
“In 1787, Mr. Isaac Finch from Washington, Dutchess Co., N.Y., who with his wife was a member of the Baptist Church in Dover, under the pastoral care of Rev. Mr. Gano, visited this region on an exploring expedition.
He sailed from Whitehall in a small sloop, and disembarked at Peru Landing, at that time the country was almost unbroken wilderness.
There were only six inhabitants in the town, viz: Robert Cochran and Nathanial Mallory on the lakeshore, Jabez Allen, John and Lott Elmore, between the two rivers, and Edward Everett and John Stanton at the Union.
Having concluded to settle in this place, Mr. Finch returned in the following year with his family, among whom was his son, William, then a lad of 12 years old. It was a season of great scarcity.
Having located on a spot one mile west of Peru Landing, a part which is now used as a burying ground, he immediately commenced holding prayer meetings. He shortly after succeed in inducing the Rev. Solomon Brown, of Granville, Washington Co., to remove to Peru.”Source: The History of Clinton County Compiled From Data Gathered In 1880: Data on Town of Ausable Continued —- Religious History Covered, Giving Details of Formation of Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Catholic And Episcopal Churches and Dividing of Parishes — Freshet of 1856 Is Described — Many From Town Served in Civil War,” Plattsburgh Daily Press, Monday, February 19, 1934, Page 8.
Peru Landing is a hamlet on the lake shore north of the mouth of the Ausable River.
Earls and Sherman Early Teachers In First School at the "Union"
Benjamin Earls and Benjamin Sherman taught early schools at the Union, where the first school in the town was established. The former was one of the first teachers " in the town, and charged a tuition' fee of $1.50 a quarter.
M. Finch I taught the first school in 1790-91.Source: The History of Clinton County Compiled From Data Gathered In 1880: Many Prominent Families Among Early Settlers of Town of Peru—Well Represented in Legislature—Civil Organization Dates Back to December 29,1792—Various Measures Voted in Early Days—Town Active Early in Forming School Districts—Preachers of Eminence Flourished Among "Friends," Chapter Forty-Eight," Plattsburgh Daily Press, Monday, July 23, 1934, Page 8. www.nyshistoricnewspapers.org
The Baptists in Old Peru by Eleanor A. Spaulding
In 1787, Mr. Isaac Finch and his wife of Washington, N.Y. visited this region on an exploratory expedition.
Sailing from Whitehall, N.Y. in a small sloop, they embarked at Peru Landing, (a) Allen Bay on Lake Champlain.
At that time the country was an unbroken wilderness, with only six inhabitants in the town of Old Peru.
A year later Mr. Finch and his wife and young son, William, returned to settle in the country.
Their log cabin, as near as can be ascertained was on the site of the present home of Dr. Robert L. Miles, on Allen Street opposite the Blockhouse Cemetery.
They had no sooner settled and then they began to hold regular prayer meetings in the homes of the settlers. One of the families whose name has come down through the 188 years is the Jabez Allen.
Paul Allen (1976) who owns and lives on the old homestead is a direct descendant. The daughter of Jabez Allen married Uriah Palmer. It was in their log cabin home on Fuller St. in 1791 that the First Baptist Church of Keeseville was constituted.
(b) There is a wooden marker on the site which is inscribed as follows: 011 this site in 1791 We First Baptist Church of Keeseville was constituted in the home of Uriah and Betsy Allen Palmer. It was then called the Church of Christ.
Thus was constituted the oldest religious society on the west bank of Lake Champlain. The Quakers followed in 1789.
This farm was owned by Lloyd Fuller of Peru. The foundation of the cabin may still be seen.
Within a few years under the leadership of Isaac Finch, Rev. Solomon Brown was called as pastor.
He cane from Granville, N.Y. to settle in their town. Rev. Brown "planted” six-Baptist Churches in the area.
The only one of the original six remaining is the Jay, NY. Baptist Church. The others are gone or for the most part have united with the present United Methodist Church. These churches were American Baptist.
In short time after Rev. Brown settled here, the Baptists gave him a 50-acre farm.
(c) That farm was at the corner of Bear Swamp Road and Telegraph St. An old well on that corner was on the farm. The land is now owned by Dr. Driss Hassam.
Isaac Finch was active in local affairs. He helped build the Blockhouse in 1792 which stood on the site of the present Blockhouse Cemetery. Mr. Finch is buried there and his grave is marked by a 1'D.A.R." marker. (a) Peru Landing - See map dated 1856 on Allen Bay since 1788.
It is opposite the home of Gerd Kienart. (b) See History of the Town of AuSable - Hurd's History of Clinton and Franklin Counties. (c) Brown Farm - See Map of 1856. It is designated as J. Rider. Information given by the late Mary Rider Mac. Eleanor A. Spaulding March 10, 1976Sources: History of Peru, N.Y. Lincoln Sunderland, Major Contributing Author and Editor, Second Edition 2003, P. 31. Website: https://mes-racines.ca; 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.
Civic Posts in Peru First Town Meeting Held Dec. 29, 1792
The first meeting of the town after the passage of the act of incorporation, was held on Dec. 23, 1792, at the dwelling house of Samuel Jackson. John Cochran, Jr., was Chosen Moderator, and the following town officers were chosen: Edward Everitt, Supervisor; Richard Keese, Isaac Pinch and John Howe, Qualified Assessors; Lott Elmore, John Finch, Gilbert Thew, qualified commissioners of highways; Reuben Arthur, John Elmore, qualified constables; Reuben Arthur, qualified collector; Jabez Allen, Samuel Jackson, qualified Fence-Viewers or Damage "Prisors"; Isaac Finch, Jabez Allen, Daniel Chapman, John Cochran, Jr., Ezekiel Lockwood, Samuel West and Henry Green, Qualified Overseers of Highways; Jabez Allen, Richard Keese, Qualified Overseers of the poor.
Isaac Finch owned land in District No. 1, Town of Peru, in the Census of 1796.
At that time, the record reads, ‘the numbers after each name indicates the number of days that each man had to perform labor on public highways.’ After his name is an ‘8’ which would indicate considerable acreage. His deed is recorded in Clinton County Clerk’s Office. This is not the same Issac Finch of Jay as the dates do not coincide.Sources: The History of the Baptist Church of Christ in Old Peru, Bibliography, Addendum to Church Minutes Transcribed by Eleanor A. Spaulding, Church Historian; 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, www.archive.org