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Belfast, New York Churches

from Allegany County and its People by John S. Minard, published 1895, pp 687-

Baptist Church

Without doubt, Rev. Ephraim Sanford conducted the first religious services. In French's Gazetteer, it is stated that it was in 1806, and that he formed the first church in 1807-8. No record proof of the statement is to found. That the first services were held in 1806 may be true, but the writer would as soon think it was earlier, for the habit of Rev. Mr. Sanford was to preach whenever opportunity occurred, and the few settlers could be convened. Some of them came from long distances, following the primitive wood paths and the lines of blazed trees. The first meeting held to establish a church, of which record has been kept, was at the house of Isaiah Smith, April 6, 1811. Mr. Smith was chosen moderator, and Ezra Sanford clerk. The record does not show any business transacted. On April 27 and May 14, 1811, meetings were held but no action was taken till June 1st when Thaddeus Bennett, Elizabeth Bennett, Isaiah Smith, Lila Smith, Nathaniel Reynolds, Margaret Reynolds, Ezra Sanford, Samuel Very, Ziba Huff, Zephaniah Huff, Jonathan Huff and Jacob Rickery, to use their won words, “joined together in covenant relations.” August 24th this company adopted articles of faith and covenant. In December, 1811, it was voted “to send to the Wayne and Bristol churches (Steuben and Ontario counties), calling a council in order to regularly organize a Baptist church on the first Thursday in February, 1812.” No record of this meeting for organization has been preserved, but in April, 1812, “trustees were chosen who were to act also as deacons,” but no names are mentioned. Sept. 11, 1812, the first delegates were elected to attend the Steuben Association. In July, 1813, the church voted to hold their covenant meetings “on the last Saturday in each month” and the practice has ever since been recognized.

In August, 1813, the church felt itself strong enough to send out four missionaries, S. Very, J. Rickey, T. Bennett, and E. Sanford, to hold meetings in Nunda, Ischua and Van Campen's Creek.  Sept. 29, 1827, “The church left the Steuben Association, to join the Holland Purchase Association,” and nearly seven years elapse before the next entry, June 28, 1834, which imparts the intelligence that it was then that the first funds for home and foreign missions were raised.  In 1835 the church “resolved that we cannot co-operate with any society bound by a constitution, to support slaver-holding ministers in the slave states, believing that it is wrong to support a sin abroad that we would not at home.”  In 1838 Lewis H. and Joseph T. Ford were chosen deacons, which office each held most of the time for forty years, or until released by death.  In 1842 62 members were added by baptism, during the labors of Rev. J. E. Eldridge as pastor.  The need of a meetinghouse was sorely felt, for up to this time services had been held in dwellings, schoolhouses and barns.  Putting forth great efforts the society constructed a building which was finished and dedicated in 1844.  For the next 21 years the church observed the usual routine of services, but all the time making steady growth and in 1865 50 members were added.  In 1874 a council was called to ordain as pastor Rev. Eugene Hillman, on Nov. 18th Sept. 25, 1889, Pastor C. L. Bonham was ordained.

Under the pastorate of Rev. H. W. Jones in 1892 the church was remodeled and a session room and pastor's study added. The wooden walls were replaced with brick and stained glass windows put in. The large front window is in memory of Dea. L. H. Ford and wife, given by the sons and Ford Brothers. Another window is the memory of Rev. A. S. Kneeland and wife, and one to Squire Miller and wife. The church was rededicated March 5, 1892. This was the first church built in the town, and the present modernized edifice occupies the site of the orignial structure. The pastors have been, Revs.

The value of church property is $4,000. The number of members Jan. 1, 1896, was 141, and the present officers are,

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