|Because You Asked . . . .|
Sunbury Baptist Church from 1908 to 1999 at 99 E. Cherry Street
Fate of Old Church in Councils' Hands
Once again the fate of the old Baptist Church at the intersection of Cherry Street and Morning Street must be addressed. The Baptists have built a new facility north of town which is larger and will hold today's congregation. Although on two sides of the building State Route 37 has been lowered as part of the improvement to ease the passage of the road below the railroad trestle on Granville Street, larger trucks cannot make the turn on the street pavement. They continually cut across the sidewalk at this intersection.
David Skeels an ordained Baptist minister in New York who moved here via Pennsylvania, found other Baptists in the area and began holding Sunday services as early as 1814. Other names associated with the church were Jacob Drake and Thomas Wigton. However after this church died out, the Walnut Creek Baptist Church was founded in 1830-32 east of Sunbury on the Berkshire Trenton line. It had a Galena post office. In 1837 the congregation moved into a log school house on the east side of the Sunbury square and the name became the Sunbury Baptist Church.
A frame church was begun at the corner of Cherry and Granville Streets in 1839 and was completed in 1850. Preaching services and Sunday School were held in the basement while construction continued. An account of the Baptist Building Committee told of getting out the lumber, hauling of timber, buying of nails, flooring, windows and even a stovepipe. The siding was black walnut. Jesse Mason, S. Carey, James Ross, James Roberts, and Robert Walker are among those who contributed grain, cattle or cash to fund the building. When the building was complete with new carpet, a pulpit about a third as high as the choir gallery with tall brass lamp posts on either side. The black walnut pews were big enough for a family to sit together and they chose the one their family would use.
In 1898, the old parsonage west of the church was moved south of the church to be occupied by the janitor and a new one was built on Cherry Street. Part of it can be seen in this photo. Nathan Marble was in charge of the building. The entire cost of the job including moving the old parsonage, grading and sidewalks was $1710.84 when Pastor Collins moved into the finished building in November 1898.
Behind the parsonage was the first water tower for the Sunbury Waterworks in the early 1920s. A pump was installed in a prosperous well behind the building on the south side of the square and the water pumped into the tower. Each person would lay water lines, some metal, some wood, in front of their homes and connect to their neighbors. Eventually this system became more bother than it was worth so the Burrer Brothers bought it for $1 hoping to improve the water lines and make a profitable business. Many years later, one Sunday the aging water tower came crashing down during a church service. Members of the congregation knew instantly what had happened. That ended the water company.
The old parsonage has been torn down but the new one is still a good residence.
In 1907, the old church was sold and demolished and the present building was erected on the same site. Although not large, the church was pretty. It was built of light grey brick, warmed by a furnace, lighted by electric and gas lights, and had handsome stained glass windows presented by families of the church. Rev. J. W. James held a formal dedication for the $8000 structure on May 3, 1908.
The church was very active in the Temperance movement, Religious Education in Sunbury School. The church has continued to grow. Forty five pastors have served the congregation. In 1939 a new organ was added which was played by Daisy Sperry Burrer and her son, Carleton Burrer. From 1950 until its completion in May 1952, the annex was added to the building to enlarge the congregational seating space.
In 1958, thirty three members left the church and started the Grace Baptist Church in Sunbury. The parking lot was added to the property when it acquired Maude Horlocker's property in 1964.
In 1988, the church purchased 16 acres of land north of Sunbury from Laura Whitney with the long range plan to eventually build on that site. This dream was realized in 1999. At the Sunday service on September 19th, each member of the congregation was given a fork to symbolize that, like dessert, something better is coming. The following Sunday, Rev. Larry Griffin conducted services in the new facility at 12259 N. Old 3-C Highway.
In January of 2000, Dick and Rick Helwig moved their many businesses under the name of Ye Olde Church Center into the former church. The windows and bell had been removed but the pews remained. Like the former tenants, Helwigs have discovered the trucks coming ever closer to their building. The Helwigs are in the process of selling the property to the village.
So what is the village to do with the property. The much needed parking lot is a great plus to the village. Because of the closeness to the corner and the danger of the traffic, the village should remove the building and expand the corner to make it safer for walkers as well as vehicles.
Many thanks to the Sketch of the History of the Sunbury Baptist Church written by Mrs. Irene Kimball Armstrong (1843-1912) read by her daughter, Mrs. Louise Sedgwick (1865-1954) in 1923 and to other documents in Community Library.
|More Photos of the Sunbury Baptist Church:|
Water Tower Behind MORE
|Church and Parsonage- 1966||Church Bulletin 1973||
Ye Olde Church Center
|Grace Baptist Church||
Sunbury Baptist Church
|Building Coming Down - August 5- 2004|
|Steeple Coming Down - August 11- 2004|
|Chain to pull steeple down broke|
Another Chain attached
|Another Chain broke so steeple left leaning until next day|
|View a Video||August 12, 2004|
|Dark Cloud Appears as Steeple Leans|
|Bats Looking for a New Home|
|August 14||Church Comes Down||August 17|
. . . .And Now You
|Return to Local History Index||
Click on Photos to Enlarge
Use BACK to Return to this Page