Niagara Gazette

Columns

December 30, 2013

HIGGS: Methodist beginnings in Niagara

Niagara Gazette — Pete Ames came to the rescue again as well as former pastor Calvin Babcock. Pete loaned me his copy of the 25th anniversary booklet of the St. Paul’s Methodist Church - 1788-1948, and Cal dropped off “a short history of St. Paul’s.” This church was next on the list of established congregations at the time the various villages merged and became the city of Niagara Falls in 1892. From these documents we will get a look at early religious life in our city.

Back in 1788, Methodist missionaries held preaching services throughout the Niagara area. As many as 77 Methodist preachers traveled the local circuit. Some held meetings in private homes. Following the War of 1812, when things settled down in 1815 the first two Methodist Societies were started in Manchester (now Niagara Falls) in what is believed to be in the parlor of a private home and in Olcott.

The Holland Land Company holds the record of the first existence of this church organization by deeding to the Methodists 100 acres of land on what is now Lockport Street which was in the Town of Niagara at the time.

The first building was purchased in 1824 and was used as a preaching center. It was located where the former Gorge Terminal Building was built on Falls Street in later years. It was known as the Union Chapel and later as the Methodist Chapel. The society met there for 25 years and the first Sunday School was organized in 1839 with 78 pupils and 11 teachers. The Rev. John Cannon (1835) was the first regular pastor of he church. One of the preachers during 1839 in Union Chapel was the Rev. Ebenezer Cleveland Sanborn.

Rev. Sanborn was married to Almira Smith and they had six children. After Almira died he married Elizabeth “Betsy” Randall, one of 10 children of Methodist Minister, the Rev. Stephen Randall and Mary “Molly” Rice Randall. He and Molly had two children, Lee Randall Sanborn and Francis Emery Sanborn, and they settled in Lewiston. Lee Randall Sanborn was the postmaster of South Pekin which he succeeded in renaming to “Sanborn” in honor of his father.

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