Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Brief Church History

 Plattsburgh was settled in 1785, but discussion to organize a church did not occur until November 10, 1792.  This meeting elected trustees, and later called a minister.

             Rev. Frederick Halsey began his service in October 1795 with a salary of $250 plus a $125 settlement.  The church was formally organized on October 1, 1797.  It first met in the Old Block House (now the Elk’s Club), and later at the Court House.  A frame church was begun in 1812 at the present site, but was not completed until 1816, due to the War of 1812.  The building was remodeled in 1865.

             The Second Presbyterian Church in Beekmantown was organized in 1817 by members living in that village.  In 1864 a split in the congregation of First Presbyterian Church over pew rentals and dogma resulted in the formation of the Peristrome Presbyterian Church (southeast corner of Brinkerhoff and Oak Streets).

            A fire on the night of August 21, 1867, after a wedding, destroyed the first building (on the present site).  Worship was then held in the Academy (present library).  The second and present building was dedicated on July 8, 1873, built of blue limestone in the Gothic style.  It cost $56,000 and was without debt when dedicated.  A bell, town clock and fire alarm were added at various times.

            Remodeling and redecoration have taken place in 1909, 1928, 1946, 1962 and 1987.  Telephone service was installed in 1902.  Electricity was installed in 1909, along with a new Estey organ.  The first printed bulletin also appeared.  A new tracker organ was installed during the summer of 1975.

            On October 13, 1967 the educational wing was completed and dedicated.  On November 2, 1958 the Prospect Avenue manse (the 4th) was occupied.  It was later sold.  On November 12, 1982 the church was put on the National and State Historic Registers.  In 1988 Korean Presbyterians, using our building, became an organized church.

            Over 200 plus years the church has been served by twenty three pastors.  The present is the Rev. Kathleen Crighton, the first installed woman pastor.

             The Session, the Diaconate, Sunday School, Presbyterian Women, Men’s Prayer Breakfast, Junior and Senior High Fellowships and three choirs are among the current organizations.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


            An account in the Plattsburgh Sentinel for January 21, 1876 records the fiftieth anniversary of the Sabbath School.  It says: “The morning service included an organ voluntary by Marion Smith, the organist, an anthem by the choir, …”

            From 1902 to 1921 (certain dates unknown) Silas D. Barber was organist and choir director.  Mrs. J. M. Studholme and Miss Alice F. Hewitt served for short periods between 1897 and 1947.  After Mr. Barber retired, Coranel Hudson played the organ.

            Mrs. Edwin L. Pettis was the director of a quartet which was a paid choir, as well as singing alto.  Frank Cooper was a tenor in this group.  On August 24, 1931, Session minutes indicate the approval of a change of pay for the choir which consisted of four soloists.

            The Music Committee appointed on March 30, 1933, reported to the Session on  January 22, 1934, recommending the establishment of the chorus choir. This necessitated dispensing with the existing paid choir at the end of March 1934.  The new director had unrestricted authority for selecting the members of this choir, and handling the same.

            Walter B. Angel was engaged as organist and director for $1500 per year.  The choir made its first appearance on April 1, 1934.  The minutes for February 27, 1934, indicate that $50 was approved for music or special singers.  Dean Nichols was a member of this choir and sang for about forty years.

            In 1936 Harry McCord became organist and director, serving for five and one half years.  He developed a junior choir and choir school.  The old “pastor’s study” in the church was transformed into an attractive choir room (now the Sunday School office) where rehearsals were held and the choir assembled before the Sunday morning service. 

            At Mr. Angell’s suggestion, the women of the church provided the choir with gowns “in which they make an attractive and dignified appearance”.  A junior choir was organized in February 1937, as well as a choir school.  Harry McCord also had an organ class on Monday evenings at   Gowns for the junior choir were made by the Women’s Aid Society. 

            Harry McCord was replaced as organist and choir director when he was called into service.  His job was to be open to him if he wanted to return.  At a meeting of elders and trustees on May 1, 1942, V. Weltie Baker, director of music in the city school sys-tem, was approved to become the organist and choir director.  Mr. Baker’s leadership and performance were held in high regard in the church.

            Session records for February 5, 1953 indicate that the Women’s Guild offered to raise funds for purchase of new choir robes for the various church choirs.  The choir do-
nated the proceeds from the last two renditions of the Messiah.  These robes were maroon.

            The minutes of the Session for March 12, 1959, noted that the lock was to be removed from the door which lead from the Pine Room (now the library) to the choir room (now the Sunday School office). 

            Gladys McShane was an assistant director for the junior choir.  Some junior choir directors were: Janet Thompson, Marian Fee, and Victoria Sandwith (now Washburn).   In 1966 the church had a girls choir.  In 1970 there was a cherub, carol, canticle and chancel choir. 

            For many years the junior and cherub choirs rehearsed on Saturday mornings, using various times from to   The time for these was moved to Monday afternoon in the fall of 1977.  At one time the youth choir rehearsed on Wed-nesday evenings prior to the adult choir rehearsal.  Saturday evening was rehearsal time for the adults many years ago.

            In February 1967 permission was given for the choir to leave the choir loft after the anthem on very cold Sundays.  Construction on the new addition had necessitated openings in the foundation and back wall of the church which caused a serious heating problem in the choir loft.

            In the mid nineteen-sixties, the choir director was Marion Fee, and the organist George F. Slosson.  The church experimented with having an early service in the fall of 1967.  The organist for the regular service, Pat McGraw, also played for this service.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The annual Tea and Bazaar


           First Presbyterian Church is the oldest congregation in Plattsburgh, and the oldest congregation in Clinton County still in existence.  It has a long and interesting history.         

           Many of these entries will be from writing I have done for Pulse, the church newsletter.  Some were written by Edward A. McShane, the former church historian, and a few by other people. 


The Sentinel for October 10, 1902 reported that the Church Fair, held in the Court Street Theatre, had a large attendance.  Especially noted was the Culinary Department, “as the Presbyterian ladies had a reputation for good cookery”.  Perhaps this is the forerunner of the Christmas Tea and Bazaar

Three ladies societies were merged on September 26, 1954, to become the Women’s Association.  Its energy was channeled primarily into mission.  The Christmas Tea and Bazaar was listed as one of its annual events.  The Sunday morning bulletin for Apr. 10, 1988, announced a name change to Presbyterian Women.  This organization still sponsors the annual Tea and Bazaar.  The hours are noon-3:00 pm.

Church Bazaar – December 3, 1954
Friendship Christmas Tea – December 4, 1965, with cherub and junior choir singing
Fall Tea and Sale, November 15, 1975,   Bulletin for Nov. 9, 1975
Dec. 1990 Tea and Bazaar Рa special cr̬che display from Miriam Troisi
For many years the cherub and junior choirs have sung Christmas songs and carols.


Many years ago people would hurry to be at the church when the bazaar opened, in order to get English muffins that Al Earl made.  They sold very fast.

Rose Carpenter made special cinnamon rolls.  You had to order ahead, and she made them the morning of the bazaar.

Sara Black used to bring canned pears and relishes.

Phyllis Wells used to bring green tomato pickles.

Joy Mazur used to bring home-made vinegars in fancy bottles.

In 2005 we could not bring home-made jellies, pickles relishes etc., due to a regulation of the Clinton County Health Department.  Cream pies have been added to this list.

There are a variety of baked goods, especially smaller-sized loaves of bread.
There was a larger demand for these in 2004, so baking is now done in the smaller size.  Stuart Voss makes his wonderful baking powder biscuits.

There are hot soups (served from crock pots). Some people eat it at the bazaar, and some take it home.  Frozen ones are available as well.

2005 was the first time for a kitchen shop.  Miriam Troisi was moving, and gave about 100 cookbooks and some other things.  There was a modified sale in 2005.  In 2009 books, especially current paperback fiction, were available.

A number of years ago a farmer from Vermont brought a 7-8 foot tree.  Later he brought a 5 foot tree which sat on a round table.  It was used to show Christmas ornaments for sale.  When they no longer sold well, it became a mitten tree.  In 2006 one woman knit thirty pairs of mittens.  They come in all sizes and colors.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Church organs


           First Presbyterian Church is the oldest congregation in Plattsburgh, and the oldest congregation in Clinton County still in existence.  It has a long and interesting history.         

           Many of these entries will be from writing I have done for Pulse, the church newsletter.  Some were written by Edward A. McShane, the former church historian, and a few by other people. 

           Music has always played an important part in the life of our church, and we have a good reputation in the community for its quality.  There follows a section from a longer history, which will continue with future entries.

            The original church was built from 1812 to 1816.  Little is known about the first organ, but it was sketched by a visitor in 1847.  In 1865 the building received extensive renovations.  The pulpit was moved to the north end of the building.  Behind it was a choir gallery, and an arched recess awaiting a new organ which had been contracted for.  After the fire of August 21, 1867, the order was cancelled with a $300 penalty. 

            The first organ was installed in the present building (second for the church) in May 1873 by the Johnson Organ Company of Westfield, Massachusetts.  It was a two-manual, tracker organ, the gift of Samuel Flint Vilas.

            The Republican (Plattsburgh, N.Y.) for September 8, 1877 reported that on Sun-day morning when the organist began to play a hymn, screeching noises were heard from the organ.  At the end of the hymn, investigation was made, and a cat was discovered in a compartment behind the organ.  It had probably been trapped after someone completed some work on the organ the day before.

            In 1909 a third organ, built by the Estey Organ Company of Brattleboro, Vermont, was installed, largely through the efforts of Silas D. Barber, organist and choirmaster. An inaugural organ concert was given on November 12, 1909. with J. Warren Andrews, organist, and Grace Bullock, soprano.

            The organ was extensively rebuilt and electrified in 1938 by the Estey Organ Company for $2400.00.  It was rededicated on September 25, 1938, with the three choirs participating in the service.  A gift set of carillon chimes was added to the organ in 1946-1947.

            In preparation for the 150th anniversary of the church in 1947, extensive renovations were made to our present building.  The church kitchen was removed from its location under the organ, and removed to a larger basement room.

            The church’s fourth and present organ was installed during the summer of 1975 and used for the first time on September 7, 1975.  It is a two-manual tracker organ (mechanical action), built in the classic tradition, by Karl Wilhelm of St. Hilaire, Quebec.  A recital was given on October 6, 1975, by Dr. John A. Davis Jr., organist and choir master at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.  Marian Fee was the guest conductor of a Bicentennial choir composed of representatives from the churches of Clinton County.