FIRST LOG CHURCH
In 1791, early Dutch settlers organized the Dutch Reformed Church, a crude log structure with dirt floor and slab seats built on the highest knoll in what is now known as Riverside Cemetery, along Vestal Avenue. The original deed was dated February 2, 1775. The land cost two shillings (25 cents) an acre and the parish extended on both sides of the Susquehanna River for about twelve miles.
Members of this early congregation were few and lived some distance from each other and the church. Roads consisted of mere trails that were often impassable. Rev. John Manley was the first minister, and he served from 1791 to 1795. The Dutch Reformed Church was abandoned due to of a lack of funds and an onset of malaria.
The marker for the Log Church is located at Riverside Cemetery.
On Wednesday, the tenth day of March 1819, the original founders met for the purpose of incorporating a religious society. The named the society “The First Presbyterian Society in the Town of Union”. There were fourteen charter members. In all, 140 acres of land was purchased or donated to the First Presbyterian Society in the Town of Union.
The Colonial Church was built in 1822, also located at Riverside Cemetery. The building was 56 feet long and 44 feet wide with a nine foot gallery on three sides and 26 windows. There were 66 pews on the lower floor and 22 pews in the gallery. Pews were purchased by members and were subject to an annual tax. One quarter of this tax could be paid in cash with the remainder in produce. The name was later changed to First Presbyterian Church.
In 1825, a manse was built for the minister. It was located on the corner of East Main St. and Vestal Ave. (near the former location of Pat Mitchell’s Ice Cream store), presently a park and community garden.
The Town of Union experienced growth with the arrival of the railroad. Many houses were built around the business district, and church members wanted a church closer to the businesses. A new Victorian styled church was built in 1871 on the corner of Main St. and Liberty St. and dedicated in 1872. The manse was built in 1898 just east of the church. The manse still exists today and houses a Food Pantry and Days for Girls mission.
The Colonial Church building was moved and attached to the back of the Victorian Church. Reverend Charles Luther was the pastor from 1901 to 1913. The Victorian Church was destroyed by fire when a bolt of lightning hit the steeple on May 17, 1906, at 7:30pm.
Only two weeks after the fire, Rev. Charles Luther formed a committee to build a new church. The committee included the pastor, LeRoy White (Union Forging founder and Endicott Forging founder), Dr. Stevens and Warren Mersereau. In just two months, a groundbreaking ceremony took place, on July 2, 1906. The new church was dedicated March 16, 1907, only ten months after the fire. The total cost of the new structure was paid in full, with $17.00 left over.
In 1913, the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a bronze tablet in the front yard which marks the spot where the union of two forces took place during the Revolutionary War, under the leadership of General Sullivan.
In 1921, the Village of Union and the Village of Endicott merged to be called the Village of Endicott. This created a problem, as there were now two First Presbyterian Churches. To resolve the problem, the at 200 East Main St. took the name of Union Presbyterian Church.
The sanctuary has undergone many changes over the past sixty or so years. In 1953 the sanctuary was completely renovated. Included in the renovation was the pulpit area, the four beams over the sanctuary and both areas each side of the pulpit. Another major renovation occurred in 1980 when a new organ was installed. The front was changed to give the organ pipes more ventilation. In 2001, a major renovation was undertaken. New lighting was installed, elevettes were added to make the church handicapped accessible, pew cushions were recovered and new carpeting was installed. In 2013-14 the church undertook three major projects: a new roof was installed, the handbells and beautiful stained glass windows were refurbished.
DORIS M. EDWARDS MUSEUM
In 1976, Doris Edwards searched throughout the church to locate historic items (bicentennial year of our nation). She found so many items that she approached Rev. Gerald Hertzog about establishing a museum. The John Mark Chapel was the perfect place, and this room became the home of the museum.
Doris and Ted Warner reorganized the museum displays in preparation for the 100th anniversary celebration of the church building that was held May 6, 2007. On September 30, 2007, the museum was named the Doris M. Edwards Museum. A plaque commemorating this hangs on the wall near the entrance. The museum is open to the public by calling the church office, arrangements can be made to tour the museum.
Riverside Cemetery, established in 1791, is a division of Union Presbyterian Church, and is located at 400 Vestal Ave, Endicott, NY. The first burial in Riverside Cemetery was that of sixteen year old Mary J. Fitch who died on June 13, 1792. There were forty-three more burials between 1793 and 1819. Riverside Cemetery is the final resting place for soldiers of the Revolutionary War, Civil War, Spanish-American war, World War I, World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War.
Doris Edwards worked very hard to have the cemetery listed on the New York State and National Register of Historic Places. A plaque to commemorate this listing was installed in 2004 and can be seen just beyond the cemetery wall on Vestal Avenue.
Riverside Cemetery is associated with the lives of persons and events significant in our past. Union Presbyterian Church has a direct connection to George Washington. Joshua Mersereau owned an inn and a stage coach line on Staten Island. His two sons, John and Joshua, helped him run both businesses. Joshua (Jr.) was educated at Kings College, now Columbia University, and practiced law in New York City. In early July 1776, when New York fell to the British, a large amount of Joshua Mersereau’s property was destroyed and he narrowly escaped capture.
His brother, John, turned the horses, which were used by the stagecoach line, into Washington’s service. When George Washington was retreating through New Jersey, he asked Mersereau that his son John La Grange Mersereau, who was about nineteen at the time, remain behind in Staten Island to act as a spy.
When George Washington crossed the Delaware in early December 1776, the British were in pursuit. John and Joshua told him the wanted to go back to check to make sure no boats were left behind for the British to mount a counter attack. On the other side of the river they found two Durham boats (troop carriers) sunk just below the surface, by the British. They destroyed the boats and rejoined George Washington. When the British under General Howe arrived at the Delaware, they had no means of following Washington. The war was saved for Washington. Twenty-five days later, Washington returned and “Crossed the Delaware”. Victory resulted.
After the war, John and Joshua moved to the valley and settled in Union, NY. In 1791, they were two of the early founders of the Dutch Reformed Church. And, in 1819, they were two of the re-founders of the church named the “First Presbyterian Society”.
PASTORS OF UNION PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Rev. John Manley 1791-1795
Rev. Samuel Bacon 1854-1858
Rev. T.D. Walker 1860-1866
Rev. Henry Benson 1867-1870
Rev. C. Otis Thatcher 1871-1874
Rev. C.S. Dewing 1874-1884
Rev. EW. W. Lake 1885-1886
Rev. H.H. Lipes 1887-1888
Rev. J.V.C. Nellis 1888-1893
Rev. Wm. T. Parsons 1893-1900
Rev. Charles Luther 1901-1913
Rev. Robert Galbreath DD 1913-1923
Rev. George Crapullo 1924-1928
Rev. C.P. Kitredge 1928-1932
Rev. R.W. Sheperd 1933-1939
Rev. Paul Hays 1940-1945
Rev. Wilbur J. Kerr 1946-1963
Rev. Gerald R. Hertzog 1964-1978
Rev. L. Kenneth Hooten 1971-1974 (associate pastor)
Rev. Willis F. Kerns Jr. 1979-1987
Rev. James. H. Haas 1990-1996
Rev. Dr. Arthur M. Suggs 1998-2006
Rev. Patricia Raube 2008-present