A HISTORY OF NAPLES BAPTIST CHURCH
(Read at the Centennial Celebration on January 19, 1943)
In Naples in the early days,
But few did follow Baptist ways;
These few did worship, as are told,
With Baptists of South Bristol fold.
In Shotwell Powell’s barn they met,
That’s all the facts that I can get.
A schoolhouse near to Naples next
Served Elder Coole for prayer and text.
But then, a hundred years ago,
In forty-three (the year we know)
Among the leaders there were some
Said time to organize had come.
That summer this was boldly done.
The church its course began to run.
Soon they a building standing nigh
Did bargain for and then did buy.
It had some Presbyterians housed,
Whom once a schism had aroused.
A David Olney, fresh from school,
They called their little flock to rule.
They worshiped where the building stood,
Although the site was far from good.
They then a better corner bought.
“Twas where the present building stands.
A central place it here commands.
They worshiped here till fifty-two*
And slowly they in numbers grew,
Till of the people there were some
Who thought the time to build had come.
The present church was then begun;
In fifty-four the work was a done.
Its dedication, by the way,
Was Thursday, on Thanksgiving Day.
E. Tozer was the pastor then,
One of God’s great noblemen.
They say he traveled far and wide,
The debt at last to set aside.
Before him, pastors had been four,
Besides Olney of our lore –
M. Tuttle, Hadley filled the place,
Then Ingraham, and Amos Chase,
The, after Tozer, Purington;
We know but little of this one.
Then Edward Tozer served again
And R.H. Tozer next we ken.
Then S.J. Douglas served two years,
For thus from records it appears.
Then, after Douglas, came DeWitt,
Whom some remember just a bit.
In seven, one L. Galpin came,
Of whom we know more than his name.
His daughter, at the age of four,
In Sunday School some verse said o’ver.
For home the basement then was used,
And often saints were much amused
When preacher had to pause and go
To see what ailed the tots below.
When fire the neighboring church destroyed,
A host of workers were employed
The contents of our church to save,
Because fire’s menace then was grave
The pews, chairs, partitions, too,
Were carried out to public view.
When Galpin left, a Mr. Dean –
From records old we this much glean –
Was here til eighteen eighty – two.
The numbers then were rather few.
He lived at Bloods, which now we call
Atlanta, neighboring village small.
Then Reynolds made a three years’ stay;
Near eighty-five he went away.
His home he made on Water Street:
(To us, East Avenue more meet).
Then Cummings, fresh from Colgate, came,
Reputed somewhat deaf and lame.
The Baptistry, our authors say,
Was Naples Creek in that old day.
His home in Italy Valley was.
This little word as witness does;
I’ve heard a deacon this relate,
That often horse and man were late.
The horse was grabbed by anyone,
And Lo, the service was begun.
Then came the period of near death;
Almost we breathed our latest breath.
Three years our doors were tightly closed,
While church in slumbers deep reposed:
Except for faithful women three
Who weekly in the church their plea
Did raise to God, that He would give
The church His Grace one more to live.
Belinda Vermilye, of these was one;
Another was a Parkinson;
A Mrs. Richardson was third;
For thus the story we have heard.
Then this, in eighty-five occurred:
A Methodist pastor then averred
That not one church should idle be;
And if the Baptists would agree,
He would his Baptist cousin ask
To undertake for us the task
Of resurrecting our dead church,
And with us souls once more to search.
The Methodist was named Ward Platt;
His cousin whom he brought was that
F. Leach, to whom we owe
A great deal more than now we know.
At first he was a student still,
And each week pulpit to fill.
He came to Bloods week-ends by train,
And then, in sun or snow or rain,
Was met by one of Clark’s young sons,
And brought to us, the story runs.
At. Bristol Springs he also preached,
Perhaps the first that thither reached,
Among the pastors of our fold –
At least the first of whom ‘tis told.
The things we did while he was here
Should make his name to us most dear.
The church was painted up like new;
The walls inside were papered, too;
The present windows then were brought;
A furnace was for heating brought.
The parsonage was built for us.
The basement of the church was thus
Left vacant. This next was all remade –
Perhaps by funds of Ladies’ Aid
We entertained while, he was here,
The Baptist churches that are near,
They came and stayed two nights and days,
Before they went their homeward ways.
To Woodville dock they came by lake,
The final miles our teams did make.
We entertained and fed them, free –
“Twas quite a task, you will agree.
The other churches gave a hand;
Their kindness always has been grand.
“Twas also in this Leach’s day
We tried to organize our way.
A constitution we did write,
Then let it be forgotten quite.
When Leach had called his work here through,
We called in eighteen ninety-two
Our Eugene Anthony, the same
Who recently to Naples came.
He then was in Rochester school,
There learning how his work to rule.
He came each week to us by stage,
And did for Christ in work engage.
For other sheep he always sought;
A ‘cycle strong he soon had bought.
With this he went to Whitman Hill,
To Gulick, Hunts, and Bristol, till
To all he did the Gospel preach
And try each one for Christ to reach.
In ninety-seven he left our church,
And for a pastor we made search.
P. Jacobus in May was called,
And soon as pastor was installed.
For salary ‘twas ours to give
Three hundred and a place to live.
Two years with us he made his stay,
And then he, too, was called away.
H. Howard was the next who came –
Our mission circle bears his name,
At Bristol Springs he might supply;
If they desired, he might comply;
But all they gave him any year,
Deducted was from salary here.
The Baptistry which now we know
To Howard’s time with us we owe.
When Howard first with us did come,
We had to others let his home;
So he at first was led to rent
The house where, lately, Tobey went.
H. Howard followed was by Ross;
No records more I’ve come across,
Then Samuel Harding came to us
And stayed four years, a little plus,
From nineteen eight till nineteen twelve.
I little from his records delve.
Near Syracuse he now does dwell,
At last report alive and well.
McKnight then added four years more;
That’s all I have of his time’s lore.
I’ve heard he baptized near a host,
And that some stayed – I hope the most.
A while ago he left this life,
But is survived by his dear wife.
A. Aldrich, now of Waterloo,
Was one or our own pastors, too.
In eighteen was his work begun,
And finished here in twenty-one.
In nineteen eighteen we removed
The steeple, and then improved
The church for use at night
By putting in electric light.
T. Wheeler came in twenty-two;
The annals of his year are few;
While he was here he lost his wife,
A son went mad and took his life.
When wheeler left, we planned a call –
If Bristol Springs consented all –
To William Harris; but alas!
They liked him not. We let it pass.
Then Wilson, good, came as supply,
Great things for Christ he here did try.
He taught us well how we should give,
And how more Christlike we should live.
We learned to love him very much.
May God give pastors many such.
While he was here, the house was wired
And all our old debt was retired.
And here this record should be made:
Our Baptist Board long gave us aid,
That we might well our pastors pay,
Enabling them with us to stay.
As pastor, Wolcott was our next –
A preacher of the sacred text.
To us he came in twenty-four,
And stayed four years and nine months more.
With him we soon accomplished much,
In preaching, guiding, and all such.
The church was painted fresh again,
Repairs were made to organ then,
A new garage was built for cars.
The floor had suffered many mars;
Replaced it was by one brand new.
The walls were decorated, too.
His daughters, two, were with him then;
But they away from home were when
He came once more with us to live,
The ripest years of life to give.
With us he still does make his home,
Except when southward he does roam.
H. Spurdle was the next in line,
But left soon after twenty-nine.
In March of thirty Ratcliff’s came –
Our pastor now is still the same.
Their children were in number three:
First Betty, Walt, and Bobby wee;
But when these grew they choose to roam,
And now are far from home.
For two are dwelling in the South;
Quite near the Mississippi’s mouth;
And Robert wears the Navy blue;
Our prayers for his safety, too.
For years, while children were in school,
Vacation time found, as a rule,
The pastor at some local fair –
They once were held near everywhere –
And here he did fine poultry show;
That back to college all could go;
While Mrs. R. was baking cakes –
To make them good, she know what takes.
Soon after they to Naples came
A social circle made the name
Eureka mean a pleasant time
For Baptist folks just in their prime.
A church vacation school was run
For many years, since first begun
By Betty, Laura, then Mrs. K
(I now must use her name that way).
If of repairs I mention any,
I may be led to dwell on many –
Some roofs for buildings, furnace new,
Some coats of paint, a new floor, too.
The young men of our church now meet
And once a month their fellow greet.
The ladies, too, have tried the same,
With “Come Again” as their own name
We bring some children from afar,
To reach the folks, use motor car.
Of meetings for the children small
There have been many, all in all;
Of these we mention only one –
By Mrs. Killian was begun,
A children’s church in preaching hour;
Here she has harnessed youthful power,
To help the children church enjoy,
To furnish them with good employ.
The World Wide Guild I’ll not forget;
And some young folks we always send
A week at summer camp to spend.
Of workers, if I mention any,
I must perforce, then tell of many;
So I’ll not tell of these or those;
Biographies I’ll not compose,
But I may tell of some en masse –
The ladies of Philathea Class
For many years, I’m glad to say,
Have helped the church all bills to pay.
And right here ends this paper long;
And please forgive if aught is wrong.
– One account says 1850; another, 1855.
– The wooden Presbyterian church, burned Sunday
Morning, March 8, 1874.
(Indebted to: Miss Jane Mills’ History of Naples; The Naples Record; Mr. and Mrs. John
Tozer; Rev. Frank Leach; Rev. Eugene Anthony; Rev. Clarence R. Wolcott; others; and
especially to Miss Celestia Hatch.)
Photo Above: Source – Personal postcard collection of B.J. Johanningmeier