Niagara Gazette


December 30, 2013

HIGGS: Methodist beginnings in Niagara


Niagara Gazette — The descendant that I know is John Sanborn who married Christine (Jarosz) Sanborn, a former resident of our east side and still active in our community and the Eastside Block Club and Niagara Street Business Association. The Rev. Ebenezer Sanborn was John’s great-great-great grandfather and his great-great grandfather was Israel Gilman Sanborn, the son of Rev. Sanborn and his first wife Almira. John traces his family back to the 1600s in England.

During March of 1849, the trustees purchased a small frame building from the Presbyterians with a belfry at its center on Falls and First streets from the Presbyterian Society for the sum of $2,000. In 1852, the church membership stood at 69 and the “preacher’s claim” was $400 raised by assessment and supplemented by the Home Mission Board of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

In 1865, the membership changed its corporate name to “St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church of the Village of Niagara Falls.” Trustees now numbered seven and plans were set in motion to build a new church at the corner of First and Thomas streets in downtown Niagara Falls. The lot included a barn and cost $2,000. The church parsonage was built first at a cost of $1,550 which was a gift by A. M.Chesbrough to the Society. The next was a chapel, fronted on Thomas Street, designed by G. M. Allison for a fee of $250.

Members set a goal of $10,000 in pledges so they could start construction of the church itself. By April of 1867, William Morgan, a church architect, was engaged to draw detailed plans. Builders William and James Shepard were engaged to begin construction in October of 1868. Funds were lacking for completion despite the effort of the Rev. Zenas Hurd who worked very hard to raise the needed funds for the building project. What became known as “the old Saint Paul’s” was finally completed in 1872. The total cost was $22,500; Methodists, both local and non-residents, contributed $10,000; $5,000 was mortgaged and eleven pastors shared in paying off the mortgage in 1882.

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