The following text is from the pamphlet (without copyright) distributed as part of the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Friends Monthly Meeting located in Clintondale, NY. This history was compiled by B. Russell Branson, minister at the meeting at the time the celebration was held.
This document is rich in history, especially as it pertains to the Thorn, Coutant, and other family ancestors.
In the 1760, Edward Hallock, a Friend, from Chatauqua, Long Island, sailed up the Hudson in his own vessel between Christmas and New Years, with his family, a wife, two sons and ten daughters. He purchased and settled upon a farm in what was then known as New Marlborough. There he lived until his death in 1809. His home was the first Friends Meeting on the West bank of the Hudson River. It was always open on First Day at 11:00 o'clock for a meeting for worship.
In the early formation of the Society in this section Edward Hallock and David Sears were both prominent ministers. Their ministerial mantles fell upon Nicholas Hallock and James Hallock. It is believed that a meeting was formally appointed about 1785. There is a deed, executed by the trustees of the Cornwall Monthly Meeting for property in Milton, bearing the date 9-4-1787. The "Valley" (now Plattekill) purchased property 12-23-1793. Marlboro Monthly Meeting was organized 5-24-1804, meetings to be held alternately at the Valley and at the Marlboro Meeting.
It was about the year 1790 that Friends began to hold meetings in their homes in the neighborhood of what Is now known as Clintondale. A committee was appointed by the Marlboro Monthly Meeting, 7-23-1806 to formally set up a meeting in Clintondale. The committee was Samuel Adam, Zephaniah Birdsall, James Pine, Merritt More and Tristram Russell. This service they promptly performed, and the Meeting was called the Plattekill Preparative Meeting. They secured a small rectangular building for a meeting house. It stood fairly near the place where the present meeting house stands. However, it was both inadequate and inappropriate. It was sold and removed in 1910 and became "Stewart's grocery store."
It appears that shortly after this Friends set about securing property and building a meeting house. Exact dates are unknown save for a deed bearing the date of 8-20-1811 "for the Plattekill (now Clintondale) church property of one acre and 39 rods of land - consideration of $34.41 - executed by John Underhill and wife to Daniel Birdsall and Zephaniah Birdsall, trustees, duly chosen and authorized to make said purchase for and on behalf of the Society of Friends." As to whether the meeting house was built in 1811 or 1812 is not certain. But a meeting house was built in one of those years. A minute for 10-25-1911 tells of a committee that was appointed to arrange for a celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the building of the first meeting house of Friends in Clintondale. A meeting house after the manor of Friends was erected. We have a picture of it. It was a small rectangular building with two entrances and a partition running through it separating the men from the women. It stood on the very spot where the present meeting house now stands.
Prof. P. N. Mitchell in his history of Clintondale writes, "Among the leading families or persons who aided in building and establishing the first Friends society and building are Dr. Adna Heaton, a physician of wide reputation and a minister. He was, perhaps, the prime mover. With him were Daniel Lawrence, Reuben Bernard, Benjamin Roberts, Joel Cornell, Heydock Carpenter, John Sutton, Nathaniel Selleck, John Gough, Sarah Heaton, daughter of Adna Heaton and mother of Mary Sutton, and Hannah, wife of Caleb Church."
Friends used this plain but substantial meeting house for 75 years. The records for this early period are not available. For this writing we are minus the records of the first fifty years. However, it is evident that the Society grew and progressed. That there were some ministers of note is also evident. Beginning with Dr. Heaton some of the others were -- Hannah Church, Nathaniel Selleck, Nathaniel Thorn, Sarah Roberts and Sarah E. Roberts.
The saintly Esther Weeks was probably the most noted of the early Friends ministers that went out from Clintondale. She was Esther C. Thorn born Sept. 3, 1813 in Clintondale, and married Abram Weeks of Mt. Kisco, NY. She was truly a fine preacher and pastor, never lacking the right word at the right time. Someone has said that her prayers were just a little bit of heaven. She was a household example held up before the children of the community. For her ministry she never took so much as a free-will offering. As St. Paul was tent maker, she knitted for a living. Hers was truly a ministry of divine gift and spirit. She traveled throughout the United States and Canada on behalf of the Society of Friends and was greatly beloved wherever she went.
We have a minute book of the Plattekill Preparative Meeting covering a period from 1862 to 1874, and contains some most interesting entries, particularly with regard to the Civil War. The first minute is brief but gives quite a picture of the times and times method of procedure, we quote it in full -
This minute is typical and like the rest is unsigned. However, it is evident from later minutes that James Palmer was the clerk and continued in this service until his death, by small-pox, in 1869.
The meeting faithfully practiced answering the queries every three months and forwarded the answers to the Monthly Meeting as their report. The following is a typical set of answers to the queries, given on 3-15-1865
The names of Friends which appear frequently in the minutes of this period as representatives or committeemen are - George A. Carpenter, a resident minister; James Palmer, clerk; Reuben B. Heaton, Sarah T. Palmer, wife of James; Benjamin Roberts, Thomas B. Heaton, Jacob Heaton. John J. Thorn, William B. Roberts, Edwin Cornell, treasurer, Soloman Birdsall, Isaac S. Sutton, Daniel S. Heaton, Jacob C. Roberts, Josiah E. Barnhart, Joseph G. Wiltsey, Halllock W. Sutton, John E. Cornell, John Y. Jenkins, Harvey Barton, Charles S. Cornell, Eugene McNabb, Adna P. Heaton, Alexander Palmer, Solomon P. Thorn, Joseph T. Griffin, Erastus S. Andrews, Charles Birdsall, Charles Palmer, Daniel L. Heaton, and George H. Tabor. The latter names appear in the later minutes (the 70's).
These same minutes show that proposals of marriage were received by the meeting signed by Erastus Gerow and Sarah A. Carpenter; Hallock W. Sutton and Hulda C. Thorn, both dated 10-10-1866. Also for William B. Roberts and Deborah G. Andrews, dated 3-17-1869. Also for Walter Adams and Alida Wardell, dated 8-14-1872. The minutes also contain two or three complaints made by the Overseers for "outgoing marriages" or what we have called marrying out of meeting.
It was in this period that the Sunday School was organized and frequent references are made to the preparing of reports. 1865 is the date of organization. Today it holds a large place in the life of the meeting giving Christian nurture.
That this period was a most prosperous one, and that the community and members of the meeting were rather wealthy is evident both from the records and from the personal memory of older Friends now living. There never seemed to be any hesitation about raising the funds requested. The meeting would accept its "proportional share" of the expenses in building horse shed at the "Valley" or in Cornwall. One or two hundred dollars for such purposes did not bother them even when they wanted to spend $266 improving their own grounds and sheds. The cost of running the meeting was not very great. Often a minute states that some one or two persons are directed to raise $100 for the expense of the meeting. $25 per year was paid for the care of the meeting house and grounds. Repairs on the original meeting hours were made in 1863 to the extent of $350.
In these minutes one sees the demands of the Yearly Meeting Budget grow from $3500 to $5000 to $6500 to $17,000 reaching a peak of $36,000 in 1866. Apparently this all came about because of the Civil War, and the extra demands made upon Friends to relieve suffering among their own and the Negroes. Interesting is the minute for 5-17-1865 ---
S. Adelbert Wood came to Clintondale about the year 1880. He came first as an evangelist and held a series of meetings. He was a man with a fatherly disposition that won for him his way into the hearts of the people. He was asked to stay in Clintondale as pastor of the meeting. With him the "Pastoral System" began in the Clintondale Meeting, he being the first to receive a stated salary. He was paid $300 per year. The actual dates of his pastorate are unknown but it is known that he stayed for four or five years. He was a young man at that time, and is still living today, at Knightstown, Indiana, well advanced in years.
William Thomas Willis and Mariah Willis cam to Clintondale receiving no stated salary. We are told that his example before the public was good. And that he was a great hand for mixing with the public socially and showing a genuine interest in the welfare of all of the people. He was a fair preacher and a great prohibitionist. His dates, too, are unknown but he served the meeting as pastor for either three or four years. It was while he was pastor that music and hymn singing were introduced into the meeting for worship. At first the music bothered him but he soon came to love and the hymns. We have a record in a minute for 3-15-1889 in which a committee of three was appointed to see about the purchase of an organ. The committee was Mary Ambrose, Lulu Sutton and Charles Jenkins. Mary Ambrose was the organist for many years; so was Lulu Sutton later on.
The local Christian Endeavor Society was organized 4-5-1889 in the home of William Thomas Willis when he was a resident minister. It was a union organization of Friends and Methodists, with Stella Andrews Barnard, president and Alida Dingee, secretary. It had as its purpose to promote an earnest Christian life among its members. At the beginning there were 21 active and 20 associate members.
The records of 1889 are not available but from the memory of Friends it is certain that it was at this time that the first meeting house was removed and became "Temperance Hall." It was used in this capacity for some years. It was later acquired by Hallock Sutton and is today the Undertaker's parlors of George Harold Sutton. It has been somewhat modified, but the main part of the original building is there. Of course this meant the building of a new meeting house. And those who wanted one that looked more like a church finally had their way. The present meeting house was the result. At the time of building it was without the Port-cochere, and kitchen and the Sunday School room was smaller. It was built in the fall and winter of 1888-89 and was dedicated in February of 1889. Sylvanus Coutant was the designer and carpenter. The actual cost is unknown but it is estimated from memory to have cost between $3000 and $4000.
William Thomas Willis remained in Clintondale long after his pastorate expired, as a resident minister. And as such greatly influenced the life of the community. His name almost regularly appears in the minutes in some capacity or other until 1910, and once as late as 1921 when he was a very old man.
Harrie R. Keats came to Clintondale largely through the influence of William C. Tabor. He came from the Salvation Army. It was with him that the revival movement really began in Clintondale. He was an exceptionally fine preacher and seemed to be a natural evangelist. Needless to say he won a great many converts. He is said to have been a fine singer as well. His salary for the first year was $800, a part of it being raised by William Tabor. For his second and last year he received less. His dates are unknown, however, he stayed just two years,
We do not have the minutes from 1874 to 1894. Beginning 1st mo 10th 1894 and onward we have the complete minutes. And in the minutes of 1894-95 the names of the following Friends appear frequently in one capacity or another, Charles 1. Cornell, clerk from 1894 to 1902 and treasurer much longer; Katharine Thorn, clerk from 1903 to 1920; Hallock Sutton, William G. Birdsall, Hulda Sutton, John W. Weaver, Mary Weaver, George H. Carpenter, Kate Carpenter, Katherine Covert, Alida Dingee, James Hull, Addie Wanzer, William D. Wanzer, Kittie Wiltsie, Mary Ambrose, John Sutton, Frank Elting, Katie Cornell, Lulu Hull Sutton, Caleb Thompson, William Thomas Willis, Charles W. Mowbray, Jennie Jenkins, Charles A. Jenkins, Harriet Roe, and Mary Bernard.
As to the exact date when James D. Wood came to Clintondale as pastor we do not know, but some Friends remember him as early as 1892. We do know that he was pastor in 1894 receiving a salary of $8.00 per week. We know, too, that he came to Clintondale at the peak of the revival movement. He was a brother to Adelbert Wood. Definitely he was a deep spiritual man. He made much use of the cottage prayer meetings. These were always fully attended for one scarcely dared fail to attend. A good preacher; under his ministry the meeting was very much alive. A skilled workman; he made the splendid white oak pulpit now used in our Sunday School room. It is interesting to note that the total budget of the meeting for this period ran $700, $800, and $900 - (in 1896). The meeting extended to him a call but James Wood resigned 4-31-1897.
James Price came to Clintondale 5-1-1897. An elderly man, he was one of nine who survived "Libby Prison" of Civil War days. He was a good man and earnest although poorly educated. He was a man of deep feeling and did excellent pastoral work. He came at a salary of $10.00 par week but it dropped to $375 per year for his last two years. A native of Newburg, Oregon he resigned 4-3-1900 and returned to Oregon where he was still living a few years ago.
A committee was appointed from the Elders to propose officers and committees for service in the meeting until as late as 1902. Then that service was delegated to the Pastoral Committee where it has remained since that date. Perhaps we should enter here a list of the officers and committees that were serving the meeting at the turn of the century - or rather, to be more exact the following were proposed and appointed at the meeting which was held 1-10-1900:
There were other nominations which had to be submitted to the Monthly Meeting; such as, Pastoral Committee, Temperance Committee, Care of the Ministry, Overseers of the Poor, Elder Committee, Finance Committee and Overseers. The Overseers were - Frank Elting, Patience Dingee, Harriet Roe and Caleb Thompson. These Overseers made the following report 3-14-1900:
The Uniform Discipline was adopted by this meeting in its regular session 3-20-1901. A little more than a year later we find this action taking place in the meeting - "By order of the Yearly Meeting this is the last session of the Plattekill Preparative Meeting. Being now governed by the new discipline our meeting transacting the affairs of the church will be known as the Clintondale Local Business Meeting." The date of this proceeding was 8-13-1902. An interesting sidelight on these preparative meetings is the collections that were taken, - $0.02, $0.06, $0.13, $0.33, $0.17, and $0.66. - these figures were takes somewhat at random from the minutes. We understand that they were used to provide fuel for the oil lamps.
Fred Lewis Ryon was called 5-16-1900 to be the pastor. A native of Hanover, Michigan, he and Olive Ryon came to Clintondale from the Poplar Ridge Meeting in N.Y. They were noted in Clintondale chiefly for their prohibition work. They suffered many hardships and much inconvenience as wall as actual threats upon their lives, this by the liquor forces because of their decided stand. And of course there were a number of the members of the meeting who stood with them. Notably among these was Katharine Covert. Fred Ryon's home was set on fire three times; this led him to request that the meeting build or purchase a parsonage. This the meeting was most willing and prompt to do. And a minute dated 9-19-1903 states, - "After some discussion it was decided to report to the Monthly Meeting that a parsonage had been secured and the full amount raised and all indebtedness paid." It was purchased from George Coutant for $1000. In so doing he made a generous gift, the property being worth considerable more.
The meeting recorded Olive A. Ryon a minister in 1902. She conducted practically all of the Sunday evening services after her recording. Fred and Olive Ryon were really a team In the ministry. It was Fred Ryon who took J. Edward Ransome under his paternal care and recommended him for service in the Tillson meeting. The Tillson Meeting later requested that he be recorded a minister. He was so recorded and is today "The Sky Pilot" of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Fred Ryon received an annual salary of $400. He gave up his work at the Clintondale Meeting on the advice of J. Lindley Spicer, Yearly Meeting Superintendent, all became of the strain and sleepless nights through which they had lived. They returned to Poplar Ridge Meeting in 1904. Fred and Olive Ryon are living today in greatly advanced years at Green Cove Springs, Florida.
The records are scanty for a number of years to follow but it is evident that Walter Commons followed the Ryons as pastor. Indeed, he came to Clintondale for evangelistic meetings in 1901, He was one of the most pleasing preachers that the meeting ever had. He stayed about a year and a half at a salary of $500,
The first trustees were appointed 5-17-1905. They were Charles L. Cornell, appointed for one year; H. W. Sutton, for two years; and Charles Jenkins, for three years. This order was set up so that one would come up for appointment each year.
Samuel H. Hodges came to Clintondale from the Salvation Army in the spring of 1906. He was an aged man and of English descent. He had a very large family consisting of eight children. A very spiritual man with a strong will and great determination, so he is reported by those who sat under his ministry. He was well liked even by those who felt most keenly his sharp and burning messages. Emma Hodges his wife, was a tireless helpmate. His salary was $400 per year. During his ministry the Port-cochere was added to the church building. It seem that Solomon Thorn and Wells Weaver were appointed to work in unison with the Christian Endeavor Society to have this work done as is recorded in a minute for 9-19-1906. Lewis Thorn was the architect and the work was completed and paid for at a cost of $213.99 and was so reported 10-9-1907. It was at this time that the cupola was repaired and slightly altered. The parsonage was rented in the spring of 1907.
Caleb Horatio Hodges, son of Samuel Hodges, followed his father in the ministry at Clintondale. He was married to Florence Cornell, daughter of Charles E. Cornell and they resided outside of Clintondale. Caleb traveled back and forth to care for the Sunday services. Upon the word of those who knew him he was a smart young preacher who could speak the pointed truth and make you like it. He served the meeting one year at a salary of $400.
John D. Piper, "the most beloved pastor that Clintondale village ever had," was minister of the meeting for twelve years. While only an ordinary preacher, he was beloved by all because he was sympathetic with all. He was a father to all of his congregation and a pastor to all of the community. Loving all, he was greatly loved. Steadily through the years the church increased and his salary increased likewise. He came in 1909 at a salary of $400. This was increased in a few years to $600 and in 1919 it was $750; and in 1920 it was $862.50. It was during his ministry that the meeting house was enlarged and repaired. In a minute for 3-19-1911 it speaks of a special meeting to consider repairing and enlarging the meeting house. A committee was appointed to collect funds and to proceed with the work. The committee - George Jones, Frank Terhune, Lincoln Dingee, Willard Jenkins, James Heaton, James Hull, Edward Jenkins, John Thorn, Isaac Duryea, Winfield Jenkins, Wells Weaver, Melford Hurd, and William Dobert. The Sunday School room was considerably enlarged with the sliding doors; stained glass windows were substituted for the rather plain ones; new pews were secured for the main auditorium; a kitchen was added at the back of the church; a new stem heating plant was installed; and a slate roof covering the Sunday School room and one side of the main part of the church building. All at a cost of better than $2600. Lewis Thorn was the architect for these alterations.
The Friends Circle was organized at the home of Mary B. Terhune 3-8-1915. It was Suzanne Piper's idea, and she secured the enthusiastic support of Kate Carpenter, Mary Terhune and Artamissa Coutant who helped her to carry it into effect. The Circle was formed, "To do serious kinds of Christian work." It was early stipulated that the Circle was not to help pay the minister's salary. The first officers were, - Pres. Emma Jenkins; V. Pres. Grace Minard; Sec. Mary B. Terhune; and Treas. May Thorn. The Circle organized with 25 charter members and rapidly added others to this number. The Circle laid the concrete walks in front of the church, put in the electric lights, assumed responsibility for improving the parsonage, financed the reconditioning of the cemetery, has had the church and parsonage painted a number of times, and has sponsored many other worthy projects.
John Piper resigned 10-19-1921 and retired from the active ministry to live near his daughter, Helen P. Bell in Milton. There he lived until his death in April of 1932. His wife, Suzanne Piper, loved as her husband was loved, now lives at Batavia, N.Y.
Albert G. Shepard left the job of Field Secretary of the Yearly Meeting and became the pastor of the Clintondale Meeting 1-19-1922. He had a genius for handling the finances of a church. He is the one responsible for putting the meeting on the budget system with the Every-Member canvas and the use of the weekly envelopes. For the four years during which he remained at this meeting he received a salary of $1500 per year. He was largely responsible for setting up this amount as a standard salary for pastors over the entire Yearly Meeting. In Clintondale the salary has remained at that figure. Albert Shepard was a man who was extremely interested in community work. He was a leader in the movement to build a "Community House." The movement got under way, but it also got out of hand and was directed to quite different interests from those which motivated Friend Shepard. He was, also, a good scholar; one of deep thought and profound wisdom. His successor has said that he was to him a most valued "Elder Brother." Albert and Olive Shepard started the "Church Nights" in connection with the business meetings. He resigned to retire from active service early in 1926.
Levinus K. Painter, a graduate of Hartford Theological Seminary, and Margaret E. Painter, his wife, a trained worker in Religious Education, came to serve the meeting in the spring of 1926. He was an intensive and untiring worker, a deep thinker and a scholar, a good preacher and greatly interested in Religious Education. He was highly valued in the Yearly Meeting and made many worthy contributions to the whole of the Yearly Meeting's program. In the field of Religious Education his wife was a most valued helpmate. And the decisive contribution which they made to the local meeting was in this field and under the particular direction of Margaret Painter. Together they saw the need for more adequate rooms in which to hold classes and a large room was built beside the kitchen at the back of the church. This was done in 1927 and the Trustees reported to the business meeting in March of 1929 that it was built at an approximate cost of $600.
The cemetery which is by the meeting house was condemned years ago. Under Levinus Painter's leadership and enthusiasm for work, it was cleaned, plowed, reshaped, stones reset, and generally made acceptable even as it is today. Levinus Painter left Clintondale at the close of August in 1929. At present he is with the State College in Pennsylvania.
B. Russell Branson, and Bessie Phipps Branson, moved to Clintondale September 1st 1929 just a few weeks before the stock market crash that was the beginning of the depression. A graduate of Guilford College and Hartford Theological Seminary, he came to the meeting from Greensboro, N.C. He brought with him the friendliness of his native south. His labors have seen many fruitful ingatherings. Working chiefly with the children and young people, bringing the children into the Sunday School and the Vacation Bible School, and the young people through training classes into active membership in the meeting. The need for additional Sunday School room again required special effort. And in the fall of 1934 the old basement room below the rear of the meeting house auditorium was cleaned out, a cement floor laid, celotex walls and ceiling put up, electric lights added and on Rally Day the room was formally opened for the use of the Junior Department of the Sunday School. The cost of fixing this room was $252.79.
Today the meeting has a fine group of young married people. They posses a spirit of unity and a willingness to work which makes them the strength and hope for the future. The meeting has received two bequests in the last few years. One for $2000 from the late George H. Carpenter, received in 1935, and one from the late Alida Dingee Sutton for $2000, received in 1938. The most of $1000 of this latter fund was used to install a new furnace and oil burner in the church. The other $1000 was set aside as a memorial to Anthony Sutton.
Other bequests held by this meeting are the Bernard fund of $100 received 2-26-1908; the Alphonse J. Koons fund of $3000, given in 1928; and the Abram Weeks fund, received from the Hallock Sutton estate in 1929.
Among the many efforts of Russell Branson has been his earnest effort to extend the influence of our Quaker testimonies into the surrounding neighborhoods and churches. Through this means the meeting has strengthened the bonds of Christian fellowship among the Christians of our larger community. The membership of the meeting has increased through these years from 203 to 244. The meeting is alive and all organizations function smoothly. And now, after nine and a half years of ministry with us, Russell Branson has resigned to return to North Carolina June 30th 1939.