July 13, 2007

Tour of Essex churches today


ESSEX -- The early residents of the Town of Essex were a prayerful lot as evidenced by the variety of churches located within and outside of the town lines.

Essex Town Historian Shirley LaForest and David Hislop, Adirondack Architectural Heritage board president, lead a walking and driving tour today of the Essex Community Methodist Church, St. John's Episcopal Church, St. Joseph's Catholic Church, the former Methodist Episcopal Church and the Foothills Baptist Church in Boquet.

Hislop will speak of the architectural aspects of each building while LaForest will address history.

"The oldest building is the old Methodist Church, where the Senior Center is now, but the congregation from the modern-day Methodist Church, they organized earlier," LaForest said. "They organized as Congregationalists."

In 1815, they met in the old schoolhouse. In 1831, some members wanted to become Presbyterians.

"The Presbyterians stayed in Essex and the Congregationalists went to Willsboro."

The Essex Community Methodist Church, made from stone cut from the Willsboro quarry, was built by the Presbyterians in 1853 and remained so until 1922 when the Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians merged during a period when many Protestant churches were faced with financial challenges.

"In 1992, it became just Methodist."

This change was wrought again by financial concerns stemming from apportionments paid to each of the three denominations. It became cost prohibitive to do so.

"Since more of them were Methodists than the other two denominations, they voted to become all Methodists."

The Old Methodist Church was begun in 1835 and was built out of stone from an Essex quarry. Katherine Cross, who is a lifelong member of the church, will speak of her remembrances.

St. John's Episcopal Church was originally a schoolhouse for the Ross family in 1835. Tilly Close, a Ross descendant, will speak about her ancestors.

"It became a church in 1853," LaForest said. "The Episcopal congregation shared the schoolhouse with the children. In 1880, it became solely a church. It's a wooden structure, kind of Gothic in looks."

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