A “precious jewel” of local history has been polished up to a new shine by an area author.
Beatrice Bennett of Walton has published a new edition of the book, “The Founding and Growth: Beerston Presbyterian Church 1888-1953,” supplemented with some new material.
“I’ve added a sequel along with more photographs,” said Bennett, who will be signing and selling her book at Walton Big M Grocer from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday.
During the snowy winter, Bennett began thumbing through her copy of The Founding and Growth.
“One photograph, of James Goodrich, caught my attention,” said Bennett. “I went to my Goodrich family genealogy and discovered the man was my great uncle.”
“The Presbyterian book also had a picture of another great uncle, Joseph Goodrich,” said Bennett. “I remember him from when I was a kid.”
“Then I read that my great-grandparents, Smith and Ella Goodrich, lived in Beerston,” added Bennett.
These discoveries, as well as demand for the rare tome, spurred Bennett to take on the task of reviving the text.
“I wanted to add a sequel, though,” said Bennett, who proceeded to call relatives of the church members to ask for more photographs and history.
“It was a lot of work. Not very many people had photographs,” said Bennett. “At first I was dismayed for the lack of photographs, then I finally realized not many of us could afford a camera back then.”
In the mid-20th century, when the New York City Department of Environmental Protection started buying buildings and land, the Beerston Presbyterian Church members mobilized. The prescience was clear. Cannonsville Reservoir would soon be the new image to behold along state Route 10.
Practiced at gathering the manna of spiritual food, they gathered history and photographs to produce the book, “The Founding and Growth: Beerston Presbyterian Church 1888-1953.” Members shared their valuable photographs long enough to publish them in one book.
“Lillian Williams Wilson took charge of putting the church book together,” said Bennett. “Her son, Niles Wilson, lives here in Walton today. His mom and my mom, Blanche Bailey Grotevant, were best friends.”
The book includes history, a membership roll, and records of births and deaths. There are more than three dozen photographs depicting the active church.
The Reverend and Mrs. Frank Lathom were pillars of the church and community from 1939-1952. “Rev. Lathom even started a shared Vacation Bible School with kids in Rock Rift,” said Bennett, who will also have copies of her book on the history of Rock Rift, “Reminisce of a Lost Village,” at Big-M.
“My publisher was able to enhance the old photographs in ‘The Founding and Growth of the Presbyterian Church,’” said Bennett. Photos reveal how important Children’s Day was to the church. The ladies’ aid had fundraisers, and clubs were formed for boys to develop social skills.
There is a list of those who served in the military, including Ida Mae Jackson, the only woman to leave Beerston for service in 1944.
The “Largest Family” photo shows the smiling faces of Donald, Fay, Jane, Jean, Camilla and June Campbell.
In the amplified edition, Bennett added another two dozen photographs. Gail Budine Laughland, a daughter of Donald Budine, listed as an officer in the Presbyterian Church, was able to send many pictures for the sequel.
Bennett added a map. Readers can see where farms and businesses stood 100 years ago. The area now is on the edge on Cannonsville Reservoir.
“Beerston is not under Cannonsville Reservoir, but part of it,” said Bennett.
In “The Founding and Growth,” there is a picture of the members standing in front of the church. They attended the last day of service held in the Beerston Presbyterian Church before it was no more — a subject that remains a mystery for Bennett.
“I have yet to learn when or how the church was demolished,” she explained. “But today, it is a vacant lot across the street from the DEP Precinct.”
Bennett called the book “a precious jewel,” explaining that, “Not many of us have a copy, and so friends and acquaintances were constantly asking me to get it re-published.”