Today is a special day in Eaton, it is the day the current Eaton Church was dedicated on June 6th in 1833. Its the historic sight I see while having coffee in the morning.
At that time it was the Congregational Church, its founding members included two of the original incorporators of the Baptist Theological Seminary that became Madison University and today's Colgate University.
The step which bore the inscription still sits in front of the church, but has been broken up and can no longer be read. But the churches history has followed that of the Eaton Hamlet and has in fact helped the history of the United States.
In 1848 the church hosted the Congregational Society’s yearly northeast meeting at which time the Congregational Society officially adopted an anti-slavery stand. Some information on this is in the Cornell College Library.
The church had many noteworthy pastors including its first installed minister the Reverend E D Willis, a friend of Gerrit Smith and a noted abolitionist. I became interested in Willis because he lived in my house, a house that Allen Nelson Wood and his wife would buy on their return to Eaton.
The church’s members at that time included Allen Nelson Wood founder of the Wood, Taber & Morse Steam Engine Works and both his partners Loyal Clark Taber and Walter Morse.
Other famous Eatonites who attended services were Melville Delancey Landon and his family. Landon became a well known as both a writer and as a lecturer. Many rich and famous people attended the church during the Victorian era during what time Grover Cleveland’s brother; the Reverend William Cleveland was its pastor.
The church still today houses a historic Meneely Clock and Bell, and the churches windows which bear the names of some of Eaton’s greats... still grace its interior; an interior that sports hand turned pillars turned by Allen Wood himself.
During the Civil War the Eaton Churches banded together and held services attended by each other patrons during the week to pray for the wars end.
Eventually, the Congregational Church became part of the Federated Churches of Eaton and then later became a Community Church under the Pastor Thomas Clark who improved not only the building, and but helped institute a fabulous AWANA program. During the time he was pastor the congregation also built a large activities build that is used today for youths to play basketball and games and to host special functions.
One of the best stories I have about the church is one that ended up involving me. Melville Landon wrote a story on Mr. Wood and the Rev. Cleveland for one of his books. In the story Mr. Wood is hawking hymnals for sale in the back of the church while Rev. Cleveland was announcing the following weeks Baptism Service for children. Wood only had one child and so when the minister said for the parishioners to bring their children… Mr. Wood piped up, thinking he was talking about the hymnal that “they could have as many as they wanted for 50 cents each.”
I wrote about this story for the Mid-York Weekly newspaper and the next week I received a package from Pennsylvania…it was the sermon handwritten that Rev. Cleveland delivered that day!...
History always returns to Eaton…so visit the museum soon and see the document for yourself…we are going to be open on Sundays 1-3 pm in the summer.
Here's a video of the church!