South Yarmouth United Methodist Church History

The South Yarmouth Methodist Church building is included in the National Register of Historic Places.
 
The following is an account of the organization and building of the South Yarmouth Methodist Church. 
 
This material is adapted from the chapter entitled The Methodists, from the book Yesterday'€™s Tide by Florence Baker. This was published in 1941 and contains much of the early history of the village of South Yarmouth. Miss Baker was the granddaughter of Orlando Baker. Notations have been added by John G. Sears, 3rd to identify the modern locations of certain areas or provide further information.  
 
As Florence Baker noted at the end of the chapter:  €œIt is the common fault of histories that they deal largely with events and surface conditions, giving little heed to underlying causes and far-reaching effects. To put down on paper the adequate record of any church is impossible; its real history is written in the hearts and lives of those who came within its influence. That, no human hand can set down. 
 
€œThe Methodists
 
Previous to 1852, the only place of worship in that part of South Yarmouth known as Friends’ Village was the Friends€™ Meeting House, built in 1809. The early Methodists gathered for their services in a building that stood in the old burying ground adjoining what is now called Willow Street (Willow Street cemetery, Bass River, at the intersection of Run Pond Road). 
 
During its eighteen years€™ existence, this church had thirteen pastors, one being George W. Stearns and the last one Lewis B. Bates, then a young man just starting upon his long and useful career in the ministry. Mr. Bates and his young wife occupied what is now the Lucy Davis house (located at 77 River Street in Bass River, near the windmill). 
 
A large part of the congregation came from Friends€™ Village (South Yarmouth Village was known as Friends Village because a good portion of the inhabitants were Quakers); some from the vicinity of the present Carlander farm (near the intersection of North Dennis Road and West Great Western Road), and others from homes upon or near the land now owned by the Bass River Golf Club. A few came from the South Sea neighborhood (a portion of West Yarmouth around South Sea Avenue)€“ the remaining members being near-by residents in the section sometimes called Matthews Village (Matthews Village or Matthews country was around the location of the present Judah Baker windmill in Bass River). 
 
A more convenient location for most of the members was wished for and the subject was much discussed. The agitation finally produced results, as evidenced by the following entry in an early book of record: 
 
South Yarmouth, April 20th, 1851. We, the subscribers, vouch ourselves to pay the sum that is subscribed against our names to build a Methodist Episcopal Meeting House without defalcation, in the Friends€™ Village, if we can get the sum of Two Thousand Dollars subscribed, at least, and as much more as we think proper to have it located in that part of the village as the majority of the subscribers think proper.
 
(signed) David Smith, Selem Baker, Allen Farris, Braddock Baker, William White, William Oliver, Hatsel Crosby, Amos Kelley, Levi Baker, Venney Crowell, Laban Baker, William Haffard, Sewell Crowell, William Bray, Jr. Orlando Baker, Rufus White, Joseph Crowell, Laban Baker, Jr. John Loring, Jr.  
 
In the meantime, the trustees had been busy, the following warrant having been posted in the early part of 1851: 
 
Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Barnstable ss. To Nehemiah Baker, Elisha Parker, David Smith, William Oliver, Selem Baker, Allen Farris, and Orlando Baker, the trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church in So. Yarmouth Mass. Greeting: 
 
You are hereby directed to meet at the dwelling house of Orlando Baker (on Pleasant Street, corner of Wing Avenue) in So. Yarmouth on Thursday evening, the 30th inst. At 6 o'€™clock, then and there to organize and hold your first meeting as trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church in So. Yarmouth, under the provisions of an act of this Commonwealth passed Apr. 26, 1847, entitled An Act concerning the Trustees of Methodist Episcopal Churches.
 
Given under my hand this 21st day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty-one.
 
(signed) John Larkin
 
Justice of the Peace. 
 
Pursuant to the foregoing warrant, the first meeting of the trustees was held at the house of Orlando Baker, Jan 30, 1851, and said trustees were duly organized as a corporation. David Smith was elected President and Orlando Baker Secretary and Treasurer. 
 
At the beginning of the following year, John Larkin, Justice of the Peace, being so requested by the Association formed by those interested in the building of a new meeting house, issued a warrant for a meeting to choose officers and transact other necessary business. Accordingly, a meeting was held at the home of Braddock Baker Thursday January 22nd, 1852, €˜at 6 o'€™clock in the evening,€™ John Larkin in the chair. Braddock Baker was elected clerk and treasurer for the ensuing year and was duly qualified by John Larkin, Esq. David Smith was chosen moderator to preside over the Association, and William White, Selem Baker, William Oliver, David Smith and Amos Kelley were appointed a building committee.  
 
At the next meeting on Feb. 2nd, following a report of the building committee, it was voted to purchase a lot from Joseph Crowell and Lydia Farris. The location of the lot had been a matter of warm controversy, some of the subscribers favoring the spot where stands the house formerly owned by the late Joseph K. Chase, others the so-called “bean lot” near what is now Standish Hall (Standish Hall had a few other names and was last called the Yarmouth Playhouse. It was #250 Old Main Street and was torn down in 1992. The Bean Lot was just east). The majority was encouraged in their choice of the present site by the pastor, Mr. Bates. The young minister afterwards regretted the stand which he took at this time and in later years so stated in speech and writing. However, the decision having been made and the lot purchased, the work of the building went on apace, many others joining the original subscribers in pledging funds for the work. 
 
At last the building was completed, as all tasks are when pushed forward by purposeful and persistent souls. At a meeting held Sept. 17th 1852, at the home of the secretary, Orlando Baker, the Trustees voted to €œsecure a lot of land in Friends€™ Village where a House has recently been built for Public Worship.€ So the title to the land and new meeting house passed to the Trustees. 
 
Meanwhile, there were still difficulties to be met. The raising of the money needed for the preacher'€™s salary and other expenses weighed heavily upon the minds of the leaders. At a meeting held in the new building Feb. 14th 1853, it was voted to take up the Meeting House in shares of Twenty-five Dollars each to make it a free house, and to have the pews set up at auction yearly to support preaching. Eighty-five and half shares were thus taken up, totaling a little over $2,100. 
 
A week later, the first sale of pews took place in the meeting house. This custom was continued until 1910€“ the annual auction being held on New Year'€™s Day at one o'€™clock and announced by the ringing of the bell. Form these auction receipts were paid the preacher's salary and running expenses. The first settled pastor was the Rev. Henry Aston who lived with his family in the small house which now a part of the estate of Dr. M.D. Sedam (This house was opposite Orlando Baker'€™s house on the river side of Pleasant St. and opposite the end of Wing Ave. which did not exist at that time.) He served the parish two years at an annual salary of $400. Previous to his coming, the Rev. Mr. Coggshall, who had preached at the €œOld Methodist,€ occupied the pulpit.  
 
A few days before this first selling of pews, a meeting was held in the District School House Feb. 18th at 61/2 P.M. (District School House sat just off Main St. between the library and the church. In 1855, the €œNew€ school was built behind the Methodist church and library. This was a rather large two-story building that later became the Town Office. It was torn down some time around 1956.) 
 
It may be of interest to here note that this building, then on the adjoining lot, is now part of the property formerly occupied by the Bass River Savings Bank (The original Bass River Savings Bank, standing at #1368 Bridge St., corner of Bellevue Ave.) standing at the rear of the main building. The records of this meeting state that it was Voted that the taking care of the House be set up at auction. Zenas Wood bid it down for the year to be sexton for $12 and got it.” Later on, we find, this munificent salary was increased to $32. 
 
Now, with the Methodists at last settled in their new home and plans well laid for the future, let us forget for a while the anxious days and nights, when the burden of the undertaking lay heavily upon the shoulders of those carrying it; the uncertainty as to the best location; the long task of planning and building; the far-from-easy task of financing. By prayerful purpose, honest labor and, in many instances, painful sacrifice, the work which they set out to do has been accomplished, let us take a look at them on their day of rest. 
 
It is a Sunday morning in the late summer of 1852. The bell is tolling for service in the new Meeting House. Friends™ Village was a church-going community and a family who did not attend some place of worship was, in those days, scarcely to be found. It would seem that all who were not at Quaker Meeting this morning were coming to the new Methodist! 
 
Through the two doors, one at the right and one at the left, they pass€“ the men in black swallow-tail coasts, stand-up dickies and stovepipe hats; the women in short-waisted dresses with voluminous skirts sweeping the ground, while under their bonnets (those of the younger women flower-bedecked and tied with broad ribbon under the chin) showed hair smoothly parted in the middle and slightly puffed over the ears, which were thus concealed.  
 
Many of the company have come with horse and carriage and have their lunches with them for an all-day attendance, for there will be morning and afternoon preaching, with Sunday-school in between, and a prayer meeting in the evening.  
 
The bell has stopped. They seem to have all entered. Let us stop in unnoticed and look around.  
 
In the entry we pause. Here are to be held the two week-night services, class meeting€“ with Orlando Baker leader for thirty years €“and the prayer meeting. Upon those hard benches, without backs, will sit those present in this plain room dimly lighted by oil lamps. During the winter months, two wood-burning stoves, one at either end of the entry, will furnish heat to be carried by long pipes through the building. 
 
We pass through one of the inner doors and view an interesting scene. The interior of the building, as well as its exterior, is marked by simplicity; is unpretentious and almost severely plain.  
 
The straight-backed seats are well-filled this Sabbath morning €“even to the wing pews that flank both sides of the preacher's platform. The platform rises high above the surrounding pews and behind the unadorned desk or pulpit stands a commanding, dignified figure, whose thick, white hair rises, pompadour fashion, above a dark, florid countenance. That the Rev. Mr. Coggshall spoke with power is evidenced by the earnest attention accorded him, This was testified to a few years ago (before 1941) by an older member of the church, the late Mrs. Seth Kelley who, as little Hattie Baker going to meeting with her father and mother, listened to, and heard others acclaim his fine preaching. 
 
Scattered about in their respective pews are the founders and supporters of the church,€“ serious, straight-thinking men and women, in most of whose lives God and the Church hold first place. 
 
Up in the front sear of the right wing pews, Aunt Fanny Wheldon vigorously plies her huge palm –leaf fan, occasionally interjecting a fervent œ"Amen!" or €œGlory to God!€ When the weather gets cooler, she will be accompanied by her footstove, for those overhead pipes cannot send down enough heat to overcome the drafts around the floor and, besides, Aunt Fanny is €œgetting along.€ 
 
Above, in the long gallery at the rear€“ is the choir, their singing guided by Selem Baker, playing the seraphine.   
 
The late Mary C. Fulcher sang in the early choir as did a few years later Hattie C. Baker, John Gifford and Lucy E. Baker, when Silas Howes was singing teacher and leader.     
 
The service is drawing to a close. With a special sense of gratitude at this time the congregation joins heartily in the Doxology Let us slip quietly out and leave them with their memories and their hopes on this, their day of thankfulness and renewed consecration. 
 
The church building was not altered in any way until 1877 when a few slight changes were made. These included a smaller and lower pulpit and the addition of an altar railing, room for which was provide by the removal of the two front seats. Two years later, it was voted to take away all the pews to the right of the pulpit, raise the platform and put in chairs for the singers.  
 
At a special meeting of the Trustees held Apr. 30th, 1883, €œit was voted that Elisha Taylor have the privilege of building a vestry on the church as his own expense This chapel filled a long-felt need of more room for social affairs and functions that could not well be held in the main body of the church (This room was called Taylor Chapel. It had no basement or second floor€“ it could be divided by two large doors, over which was a sign €œTaylor Chapel.€ There were quite large windows across the rear. It was removed in the early 1950s and a three-floor parish hall was erected.) Mr. Taylor, or Squire Taylor, as he was generally called was, at the time of his marriage, a member of the Congregational Church, but as his wife, Sophia, was an ardent Methodist, he had his name added to the membership roll with hers. He was a great help to the Church financially during his lifetime and, at his death, left property that annually brings in a sum towards its support. 
 
In 1888, a cellar was dug and a furnace, which had been paid for by Phebe G. Baker'€™s Sunday school class, was installed.  
 
Three years later, €œpermission was given to the Social Circle to change the two doors now on either side to one double door in the centre of the church. There had long been need for a kitchen in which to prepare the church suppers and the ladies also attended to that.  
 
It is interesting to note that the women in the congregation had no voice in church matters, apparently, before 1871, when Sophia Taylor was put on the Sunday-school committee, and Amelia R. Baker, Laura H. Sears and Abbie Taylor appointed to have charge of the church music. In 1887, Phebe G. Baker, Elvira Loring, and Mary C. Fuller were elected Stewards, thus becoming the first women members of the Official Board, offices which Mrs. Baker and Mrs. Loring held until death.  
 
At a meeting held Mar. 20th, 1876, €œit was moved by Bro. Stephen Sears that Bro. Joseph Crowell extend an invitation to the Sewing Circle to help pay expenses of the church, which was carried. Thus invited, the ladies of he church had begun their task of contributing substantially to its maintenance€“ a task which they have loyally performed for over sixty years, under the successive titles of €œSewing Circle, €œLadies Social Union” and “Ladies Aid Society.
 
During the pastorate of Rev. Arthur J. Jolly, the fiftieth anniversary of the church was observed Sept. 3rd and 4th, 1902, the exercises beginning on the evening of the 3rd with an address of welcome by the resident minister and response by Rev. Edward Williams of New Bedford, a former pastor. An informal reception was given in the Taylor Chapel to visiting friends. On the following afternoon, Stephen Sears presented the historical address. Remarks were made by former pastors and letters read from many who were unable to attend. Dr. Lewis B. Bates of Boston, (last preacher of the €œOld Methodist”) delivered the evening sermon, and hymns of earlier days were sung by twenty-three members of the old choir in their old-time position in the gallery. 
 
With the exception of the hanging of a new bell in the belfry (this bell called people to worship as well as to town emergencies such as fires) in the fall of 1905, the church building met with no more changes until 1910. It was then frescoed and painted, the chandelier and lamps re-gilded, the entire floor newly carpeted, the cushions re-covered and other alterations and improvements made. Following this renovation, a special service was held one fine October afternoon, the pulpit being occupied by Dist. Supt. Andrew J. Coultas. 
 
In 1918, having had student pastors for about ten years, it was decided that the good of the community demanded a minister who could give his whole time to the parish. This meant the acquiring of a parsonage, the former one which stood directly opposite the church€“ having been sold in 1914 (This is presently 321 Main St. and has been in the Edwin White family for many years. It was used as a parsonage from 1863 to 1913). For this purpose, the Adeline F. Crowell property adjoining the earlier parsonage lot, was soon after purchased (This house was removed when the gasoline station toward the four corners was enlarged. It sat directly across the street from the present church office in the Fisherman'€™s House. The house was narrow but went back a distance with the rooms located along the left of a hall, and one after the other. Most of the yard was toward the previous parsonage, with a large oak tree near the street. The drive was toward Route 28 along the side of the house and was narrow between the house and a board fence. There was a single, one-car garage down in the back. The house would resemble that of the present Bainbridge Crist house at 50 Pleasant St.)  
 
Until 1922 the church was dimly lit with oil lamps. A redecoration in 1937 resulted in a new organ with an electric blower.  
 
The Fisherman's House was purchased in 1963 and rooms have been used as a nursery, church offices, library, lounge, and thrift shop. Both the church and the Fisherman's House are included in the National Register of Historic Places. 
 
List of Pastors: 
 
1852                Rev. Coggshall
1853-1854      Henry Aston
1855                James M. Worcester
1856                Lemuel P. Harlow
1857                Edward B. Hinckley
1858                William E. Sheldon
1859                Lawton Cady
1860                Benjamin L. Sayer
1862                F. A. Loomis
1864                Joseph Gurney
1865                Charles Hammond
1867                L. Bowdish
1869                W. F. Farrington
1871                S. F. Whidden and W. F. Whitcher
1874                W.L. Phillips
1877                W.F. Steele
1878                George E. Fuller
1879                A. McCord
1881                Edward Williams
1883                George W. Wright
1885                S.H. Day and Joseph H. George
1886                W. P. Arbuckle
1887                W. E. Kugler
1888                George E. Dunbar
1890-91          S. K. Arbuthnot    
1892                W.D. Wilkinson
1893                E.E. Marshall
1894                E.W. Eldridge
1896                George Tupper
1899                W.E. Vanderm’k
1902                Arthur J. Jolly
1911                S. J. A. Rook
1913                H. E. Hess
1914                M. V. Lester
1917                N.B. Cawley
1919-1920      S. A. Livingston
1924-1927      W. T. Carter
1932                J. H. Bagley
1937                O. L. Griswold
1941-1947      Willis E. Plaxton
1947-1950      J. A. Schultz, Jr.
1951                Magee Wilkes
1951-1953      J. R. A. McKean
1953-1956      K. W. Larrison
1956-1960      Otis L. Monson
1961-1962      Willard E. Conklin
1962-1970      Vernal C. Phillips
1970-1971      E. A. Miller
1971-1978      Carlton T. Daley
1978-1983      Joseph Carpenter
1983-1989      Jerry O. Cook
1987-1989      Ellen Chahey (Associate)
1990-1994      Roger A. Davis
1994-2000      Frank Kaiser
2000-2004      Rebecca Mincieli (Associate)
2000-2001      William Coleman (Interim)
2001-2004      Charles McCracken
2004-               David A. Hoyt
 
Our thanks to the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth for their assistance in compiling the list of pastors.
Council of Churches
We support the Council of Churches in many ways, including conducting a Diaper Drive for the Baby Center.
 
Other Helping Organizations
We participate in the Christmas Child Shoebox ministry of the Samaritan's Purse and sponsor a Thanksgiving Collection for Bread for The World, which encourages our senators and representatives to pass legislation to help feed hungry people in our country and around the world.