Picture to yourself, as a Christian, the loneliness of a new green land between two
lakes where the first settler has been around for only two years. Then you arrive on the scene to
begin life in a cabin on your new farm. You like the lovely green land, your farm life prospers,
but you find yourself to be the only Christian man in the entire area.
Every day you gather your family around you for family devotions. Perhaps your children grumble that
"no one else has to do this." And your longing for Christian fellowship grows.
Then one day your son happens to pass close by a farm cabin where a new family has just moved in. The
boy can scarcely believe his ears, for the man in that house is praying aloud with his family. Can you
see that boy as he races home to cry, "Father, guess what, there's a Christian man just over the way.
I heard him praying with his family."
Can you share John Fleming's joy when his son, Robert, brought him the news that Mr. Henry Beers led
his family in devotion? John Fleming wasted no time in looking up Henry Beers, and it wasn't long until
the two of them were holding prayer meetings, reading sermons aloud to all who would come to the Fleming
home and listen to them, and exhorting their neighbors to come to the Lord.
Now can you see John Fleming's growing concern for the children of the neighborhood? What can he do for
them? Why, on Sabbath afternoon he can gather them together at his house for instruction in the Westminster
If you can picture these scenes from the day in 1790 when John Fleming moved to the town of Romulus, you
can understand the beginnings of the Romulus Presbyterian Church, the oldest Presbyterian Church in Seneca
County. And you can see why John Fleming has been described as "a man of exemplary piety."
By 1795, when the Presbyterian General Assembly sent the Rev. Daniel Thatcher of Virginia to the Finger
Lakes area, there were several families of Presbyterians in the Romulus area. The minister helped them to
form a church in 1796, with John Fleming, Alla McNath, Henry Warton, and an unnamed fourth person from
Ovid, as the first elders.
The congregation held at least one communion service because there is a story connected with it. When the
wine for the service was bought in Geneva, it was colorless. The merchant told his customer to add wild
grape juice to the wine in order to color it to represent the blood of Christ. This early congregation
disappeared around 1800 when John Fleming died and others moved out of the community.
A second missionary, the Rev. Jedediah Chapman, helped to organize the present Romulus Church on April 4,
1802. Ask an old-timer if he can tell you where "the old red house on the Depue farm, a mile south of the
village" was located, because this was the site where fourteen members formed that church. Alla McNath,
Henry Beers, and Jesse Brewster were the first elders.
For several years this group worshipped in homes and barns, until, on April 6 1807, at a congregational
meeting, trustees were elected with instructions "to fix a place to erect a meeting house for said society."
The place selected for the meeting house and for a burial ground was donated by Henry Depue.
The 45 foot by 55 foot church built was a two story building, lathe and plastered inside and sided on the
outside, and had a steeple. The building was dedicated on October 22, 1809. If you would like to see the
location of the church, visit the cemetery on the hill west of the village and find the grave of the Rev.
Morris Barton who is buried where the pulpit in the little church was located.
Do you ever long for the "good old days?" Just think of paying the sexton a yearly salary of "seven dollars
for taking charge of the meeting house, which he is to wash twice in each year, and sweep it once a month;"
or "that the sexton have no more than one dollar for digging a grave for a child. And no more than two dollars
for a grown person."
Perhaps the salary received by the Rev. Charles Mosher back in 1807-1814 sounds good to you; "three hundred
dollars for the first year, three hundred and twenty dollars for the second year, three hundred and forty
dollars for the third, three hundred and sixty dollars for the fourth year, three hundred and eighty dollars
for the fifth year and for every year thenceafter for hundred dollars so long as he shall continue to be
our regular pastor." Mr. Mosher also received one hundred acres of land which Mr. Depue had designated as
a donation to the first settled minister of the congregation.
The congregation was poor and with real sacrifice gave "$1.48 for the education of poor but pious youth for
the ministry." How would you like to have recorded for all to see the money you give to the church? Early
church records list the names of members and the amount of their giving either in cash, in labor, or in
produce like pork, wheat, or whiskey (which was worth 65 cents per gallon) for each year of those early church days.
Yes, those were the good old days: when women, carrying their shoes to save wear on them, walked four or five
miles to church in their bare feet, washed in a pool near the church, then put on stockings and shoes to enter
the church in style; and when the church had no heat and foot warmers, heavy woolen clothes, even red bandanas
on the men's heads were used to fight the cold of winter in the little church.
During the ministry of the Rev. Mosher, one hundred and ten people joined the church. Then came the War of 1812,
and the minister turned out to be a Federalist who opposed the war! When he preached this from the pulpit, he was
forced to resign. One source says, "Both sides were hasty, some of his warm friends turned against him and he resigned."
In December of 1825, Mr Morris Barton was ordained and installed as pastor. During the twenty years of his ministry,
some three hundred and twenty-four people joined the church at various times, mostly as a result of revival services.
A pipe organ bought in 1835 for $500 and installed in the old church was still in use over a hundred years later.
When Rev. Barton took a vacation in 1836, he let it be known "that unless repairs were made or a new church built he
would resign." The old church was so cold in winter that he felt his ministry was hindered by it. So on December 18,
1836, the congregation decided to erect a new building.
We are presently using the new building which was dedicated in February of 1836. When you look around you notice that
a redecoration done in 1976 restored the sanctuary to its original appearance, minus a few things like pew doors and
lighting by chandelier. The cost of the building was $6000. The organ was brought over from the old building and placed
in the balcony of the new structure. Some of the older members recall pumping the old organ for the morning services.
They tell of a little seat for the boy doing the pumping to occupy while he worked a handle up and down like a bellows.
With the organ in the center of the balcony and the pumper hard at work, he could not see the service, so licorice candy
went along "for company."
How do you feel about church discipline? A hundred years ago, church members were taken before the session for
intemperance, adultery, horse racing, driving cows on the Sabbath (Sunday), failure to attend church or to give anything
to the church, dishonesty, lying, and for other things of this nature. Names of offenders are given and the session members
who visited these members in their homes are all recorded in the session records of that day.
Or, would you like to have your own pew in the church? The trustee records show a plan of the sanctuary with the names of
those who paid for a pew and the amount they paid for it. One pew is marked "reserved for the minister." A few are not listed
as having been owned by anyone. Then, in ensuing years, there was a tax levied on the pews to pay for "the contingent
expenses of this house." The minister's salary was raised by subscription. If he lacked some of the salary due him by the end
of the year, a collection was taken at the annual meeting to make up the difference.
The church decided to build a parsonage in 1852. The trustees were directed to "purchase a lot and to erect the necessary
building and fixtures thereon for a parsonage." For $1300 the house was made ready. The manse is on Cayuga Street here in
The pastor who served this church for the longest period of time was the Rev. J. Wilford Jacks who served from 1872-1900.
His picture and biography appeared in a book called Churches and Pastors of Seneca County which was published in 1896. During
his ministry, in 1886, the church reached its highest membership; 270 in church and 288 in Sunday School.
On January 3, 1884, the chapel was dedicated. This building had been the Romulus Female Seminary, a girls school. The church
bought the building after the school closed and remodeled it for use as a chapel and Sunday School. Total cost of the project
was $2300. Ask some of the ladies in the church today about the chapel, which was in use until 1962. The ladies will tell you
that there was no water in the chapel building so water had to be carried from a nearby house for doing dishes when dinners
were served there. Then some of the men of the church worked out a system for using rain water. An eaves trough was hooked up
to a barrel sunk into the ground. Someone donated a pump and an old black iron sink. The ladies were elated at such luxury.
Or, they may tell of the wood stove used in the chapel. Some of the ladies would go into the basement of the church, throw
wood out of the window, and others would carry it to the chapel for making fire.
The bell on the chapel was rung every Sunday morning to announce church services. It would toll out the years for funerals,
and ring for fire alarms in the community.
In 1969 the chapel was sold to the Genesee County Museum. It may be seen at Mumford South of Rochester as part of a
turn-of-the-century reconstructed village.
Since May of 1874, there has been some form of women's group active in the church. In that year the ladies met at the seminary
to form a Society for the Support of Foreign Missions. By October they had sent fifty dollars to the parent society in
Philadelphia for the "printing of a Bible for the Laos People."
A Ladies Aid Society was formed in 1907 "to raise funds, part of which shall be given to the trustees of our church to assist
in carrying on the financial work devolving upon them," and "to create a spirit of harmony and love among the members of our
Society and Church." A fee of 5 cents per member per month was collected.
A 1910 meeting of the group tells of their tying and finishing completely four comforters for which they were to receive $2.
:The regular business part of this meeting was omitted as it was necessary to devote every moment to the work which all were
anxious to finish up… and wishing we could earn $2.00 at some more of our meetings."
In more recent years the work of the two groups has been merged to form one United Presbyterian Women's Organization which is
interested in both mission and the work of the local church.
Back in 1932, the church celebrated its one hundred and thirtieth anniversary. At that time the church was redecorated in honor
of the occasion. The Rev. S. Horace Beshgetour was the pastor at the time.
The Rev. Luther Cross came to Romulus in 1958. Under his leadership the fellowship hall and Christian Education units were added
in 1962 at a cost of $42000. The Christian Education unit has been used for Sunday School, pastor's office, youth club,
Vacation Bible School, and other simular activities. The fellowship hall not only sees use for church suppers, receptions,
and things of this nature, but waas occupied by a Head Start program for ten months of the year for several years,
has been a polling place in local elections, a place for 4-H work, and for group counseling services.
In 1996 we celebrsted our 200th year as a church and we are now working on our 300th year. In recent years our
congregation like so many others has been srinking in numbers but the size of the congregations heart has
remained large as always. All are invited to stop by any (or every) Sunday and join us for some worship
Charter Members - April 4, 1802
James McKnight Alike (?) Huff
Admitted Nov. 23, 1802
Nancy Barr Jr.
Mrs. Dunsenberg, wf. of Jacob
Mrs. Arnold (widow)