Gaines Congregation History

The First Methodist Church of Gaines started as a Methodist class, organized about 1838. Early members were Mrs. Aaron Furman, Benjamin and Eliza Furman, John and Mrs. Benn, Benjamin and Nancy Ogden, Mrs. Hannah Ogden, Mrs. Jared Davis, Mrs. Sallie Billings. Mrs. Aaron Furman was the first Methodist in Gaines Township and a memorial window in the church at Gaines bears an inscription to that effect. (note: This window was destroyed in the fire of 1918). Meetings were held at Furmantown (the present site of Pine Creek Cabins – now in 1998, Pine Tree Lodge), the parsonage being on the Furman place. Among the early ministers who preached here were the Reverends Conant, Parkhurst, Burnett, and Vaughan.

org_parsonageIn 1868 a house of worship was erected and in 1883 a parsonage. Both of these in Gaines village and together cost $6,000.00.  The society was incorporated in 1869. (Note: the parsonage constructed in 1883 served as such until 2011, when it was razed due to much needed and costly repairs.

The church building was a large, tall clapboard structure dominated by a towering clapboard belfry and spire. The sides had three short slender windows and the front edifice contained long slender twin windows, a center doorway, and a high porthole window. The church building burned March 21, 1918. Harold Wood, pastor at that time, started a grass fire which got out of hand, setting the church on fire. Worship services and Sunday School were held in the IOOF (Odd Fellows) Hall.

The Rev. John R. Adams of Galeton Charge (1918-1919) talked with Mrs. Daisy B. Carr to see if something couldn’t be done to rebuild the church. She contacted M. M. Smith, one of the trustees, Dr. Howland, and other members of the community. They met with Rev. Adams at the home of M.M.Smith and decided to rebuild. The Conference sent the Rev. William Deighton in 1920. Mrs. Ada Bookmiller Head donated the lot where the church (now Gaines Township Municipal Building) stands. (It is interesting to note here that Gaines was a boomtown in the lumbering era. At times the lumberjacks could be a rough and loud group to deal with. The liquor store was a necessity for them; however, the liquor store had also burned and the land donated for the new church building was the lot and foundation of the lumbermen’s liquor store. Old timers loved to relate that the devil had burned our church, but the Christians won the battle as we raised a new one on the foundation of the liquor store and converted the wine cellar into Sunday School rooms.)

People subscribed money to start rebuilding and labor was donated by the townspeople. Not just church members, but townspeople who wanted and needed a church in the community. The Gaines Thimble Club (still active today in 2001 as a ministry of PCVUMC) was a community organization, not a church organization. The members put on socials, especially ice cream socials. The people of the community put on home talent plays, coached by Mrs. community effort. These shows raised a large sum of money. The Deacon Dubbs play was one of the most successful and was talked about for generations to come.

The cost of the new church was about $8,000.00. It reflected many features of the original building – short, narrow side windows, but now set with lovely stained glass designs; the large clapboard tower and belfry, but this time located at the left corner of the body of the church; and the porthole window carried over in a large brilliantly colored rose window. A huge, sectioned stained glass pictorial window of St. Paul preaching enhances not only the front of the church, but the sanctuary within. A unique curved altar area and rail, designed by Ruth Kohler, graces the front of the sanctuary.

 

bookmiller atwellThe large stained glass window and small windows were given by the Bookmillers in memory of Maurice Atwell and Herman Bookmiller, Sr. The round window in the belfry (referred as “rose window”) was donated by a class of young people known as the Invincible Bible Class. The bell from the old church was not hurt by the fire. Because of its beautiful tone, it was decided that this bell should kept. It was sent away to be recast, then placed in the belfry of the new church. (Today,  this bell is one of the three-in-one in the pavilion in front of the PCVUMC. The stained glass windows of Bookmillers and the Invincible Bible Class are also found in the current building).