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Columns

November 10, 2012

Oneonta's First Presbyterians sought a better church in 1887

In yet another likely example of a crowd gathering in Oneonta for construction or demolition of a building, eyewitnesses saw a bit of history start to crumble on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 1887, at the site of today’s First Presbyterian Church at 296 Main St. What they saw was the old church being demolished to make way for a new and improved church, still here 125 years after construction began.

“Around the steeple a strong rope was placed,” The Oneonta Herald reported, “and after the fastenings had been loosened it was pulled over, striking the ground with a mighty crash and going into a thousand pieces. The associations which cluster about this ancient edifice are so dear that it cannot pass away without a heartfelt sigh from many people of the village.”

The reason the old church was so dear was because it pre-dated the formation of the town of Oneonta, which was in 1830. When the Presbyterian Church was built in 1816, Oneonta was still a part of the town of Milford.

The Presbyterian Society in January 1887 had finally decided it wanted a better church, and consulted with an architect, Lyman H. Blend, who drew up plans for several other early Oneonta buildings.

The Society knew it would have to raise funds for a new house of worship, so that work got under way. A notable event took place on Saturday, Feb. 12, at the new First National Bank building, once found on the south side of Main Street, west of Dietz Street. The ladies of the Presbyterian Society called it a “crazy supper.”

As described in the Herald, “Milk was served in a pop bottle, pickles in a cream pitcher, sliced ham in tea cups, butter in a soup bowl and so on ad infinitum … The affair was well managed, and the success attained financially for a very satisfactory nature to the ladies of the society.”

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