Nina Daniels



Wednesday, July 26, 1950

We were describing a day in Parishville fifty years ago, but we were interrupted. The story was about the churches and the most of the Methodists and Congregationalists had been recalled. The church, which was burned in the fire of 1854, and which stood on the Common, was the first Congregationalist built in the village. The Methodists worshipped in a small church at the Center, built in 1819. Before that they had met in Luke Brown's house. Later the church was moved up to this village on a lot given them by Dr. Francis Parker, where it still stands. Following the loss of their church, the Congregationalists built another church where Duff's gas station still stands. As the years passed both congregations grew weaker as country churches everywhere have been doing for over fifty years. Around 1892 they decided to unite, and they abandoned the Congregational meeting house, having worshipped together in the old Methodist Church in utmost harmony ever since. It is the Union Federated Church now.

As I have already described, many worshippers drove in from near-by farms hitching Dobbin in the sheds that still stand behind the church, albeit no equine church-goers now occupy the spaces made for them so long ago. Instead, the snow fences are piled there, and if you hear a faint whinnying at night as you pass by, it could be the ghost of some faithful nags recalling by-gone days when they trotted up from Capel Street or from Catherineville, bringing hither the faithful Stones, Capels, Lees or Davis Trerise and his neighbors, the Flechers.

The Cook families were always on hand from Toad Hollow. One could count on King Root and his wife from the Center, or the Garloughs from the Market Road. On Children's Day their progeny "spoke pieces" or sang songs taught them by long suffering Sunday school teachers. At Christmas, the Union folks joined with the Baptists in a big entertainment at the Town Hall, each group having its own tree. Some recall to-day with a lonesome chuckle those far-off years when "the Baptist tree" and the "Methodist tree,"—one loaded with gifts for the Baptists, the other meant only for those of the Union Sunday School—required many hours of planning and practice before the eventful night when they should be unloaded. That Christianly custom has long been abandoned, and the majority of those partaking in the old Christmas exercises have gone on into another world beyond their native hills, many into "a land of pure delight" and into "a city not made with hands."

As the new century came in, the Baptists here were more numerous and the church more prosperous, than the Union church, as S. L. Clark, owner of the shops and saw-mills, was a religious man and a strong Baptist. Others active and influential were Deacon Thayer; Mrs. Cynthia Rose, widow of Hon. Parker Rose, late member of Assembly; the Hal Clark family; Mrs. Eliza Woodworth; Elmer Mitchell and wife Minnie, Gertrude and Grace Tichenor; the Faulkner families, Ed and Charles; the Shaws; the Nesbitts; the Douds, Noah Link and his family; the Lester and John Flint families; the Gosselins; the Simonds; the Fosters; the Meekhams; the O'Harrows; the George Fletchers; the Pliny Clark family; the Morways; the Myron Robsons; the Cadys, and many more.

The Baptists generally had the better choir, as Elmer and Minnie Mitchell looked after it, and both were good musicians and sang well. The whole Mitchell family, old and young, could sing. They also had Mrs. Pliny Clark for the alto. They sang anthems and duets often. Mrs. Mitchell excelled in playing an organ. Both churches now have pianos, but many would love to hear the little old organs once more. Both churches had large, active Sunday Schools with fine teachers. It must be remembered that good roads and cars were not yet in the picture, and also folks were half a century nearer the early history of the town when the founding fathers and mothers cherished their religion, and the church and its departments held first place in their lives.

There have been many reasons advanced for the decline of rural churches, but I shall not enter into that discussion at this time. It would have been unusual if most of the children in the community had not been enrolled as Sunday school scholars. The young folks also belonged to their Epworth League and Baptist Young People's Union. Sunday was to be kept as the day devoted to their church and its various activities, and few even thought of such worldly doings as baseball or card-playing on the Sabbath. There are men and women who remember faithful Sunday school teachers they had in the old days.

And to look back, they were peaceful and happy days, too. Our Town lacked the electrification we now have, but the ever-present Fear which hangs over all mankind had not reared its ugly head. Our Uncle Sam pursued his own affairs as securely entrenched behind his oceans—so he thought. Europe was far away and it mattered little to us that the eternal quarrels going on across the Big Pond were finally to breed a great host of war-mongers who were to destroy the peace of the entire planet, perhaps the race itself. The need of a Marshall Plan, the uncountable alphabetical organizations still as undreamed of as atomic weapons. Jules Verne's tales were utterly fantastic, but yet some of them have come true.

So in Parishville village fifty years ago, the shops and mills hummed all day, the eternal sand blew from all directions, a thousand dollars was an awfully lot of money to have, every one practically owned his home, garden, and maybe a pig and a flock of hens, three doctors looked after the many illnesses, two ministers looked after the souls, and Sunday School picnics, pedro parties, and occasional dance and church socials were the highlights of social entertainment. Automobiles, moving pictures, and plane trips were still mere latent products of future scientists, along with penicillin and cortisone. Our intimate foreign friends were France, England, Ireland, Italy, and Scandanavia.

(To be continued)



North Country