Yates Baptist Church will celebrate 200th anniversary on June 4

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 22 May 2022 at 9:05 pm

Photos by Ginny Kropf: This banner in front of Yates Baptist Church invites the community to join in their celebration June 4 and 5 to honor the 200th anniversary of the church and the town of Yates.

YATES – This year marks a milestone, not only in the history of the town of Yates, but also the Yates Baptist Church.

Both are observing their 200th anniversary this year, with the church celebrating June 4 and joining with the town’s celebration June 4 and 5.

On Saturday, events will begin at 11 a.m., featuring family activities and games, an eat-in chicken barbecue from noon to 2 p.m., demonstration by Bow Bending Believers, music in the tent, caricature sketches by Diane Martin and church tours from 1 to 3:30 p.m. An evening of music from 6 to 7 p.m. will feature local talent, followed by a free ice cream social.

On Sunday, the celebration continues with a Bicentennial Celebration Service from 9:30 a.m. to noon, with guest speakers and special music by Edward and Kristine Klaussen.

Food truck vendors will be on site beginning at noon, followed by old fashioned games, a bounce house and horse drawn wagon rides from 1 to 3 p.m. Events will conclude with a bicentennial closing program at 4 p.m.

The Yates Baptist Church is the only church ever established in Yates Center. Yates Center was originally known as Northton, but was changed to Yates when Joseph C. Yates was elected governor of New York state in 1822.

Elisha Brown, a physician and member of the Baptist Church of Palmyra who settled in Yates in 1820, was a strong advocate of temperance. He was the first to unite the town to form a strong society to promote that cause, according to a history book compiled by Jon Neal and Lynne Wilson.

In 1822, the Rev. Jeremiah Irons, who was Dr. Brown’s pastor, followed, and through these two men, the church of Yates was founded June 6, 1822. The Rev. Irons served until his death on March 13, 1829.

Lynne Wilson (left) holds the original communion cup she found at Yates Baptist Church. Mitzi Fredericks holds two of the ornaments commemorating the 200th anniversary of Yates Baptist Church. The one in Fredericks’ left had was designed by Beth Carpenter and the other by sixth grader Alexa Robinson.

The first meeting of the church was June 6, 1822 in a schoolhouse north of the village. It consisted of eight members, the Rev. Irons, Dr. Bowen, John H. Burroughs, Abigail Irons, Laura Irons, Adaline Bowen, Belinda Burroughs and Rebecca Rawson. On Sept. 22 of that year, nine candidates for membership were immersed in Johnson’s Creek near the grist mill, about two miles below Lyndonville. It is believed to be the first baptism in the town, and the late Jackson Blood was the first person baptized in the group.

Jon Neal stands next to the stained glass window named for the first pastor of Yates Baptist Church, the Rev. Jeremiah Irons. Neal is an eighth generation descendent of Irons.

Meetings for the first 10 years were held in schools, homes and Dr. Bowen’s office. The first baptismal service of the church was held at Blood’s Bridge.

It is interesting to note the salary the Rev. Irons received was $75 a year – half in cash and the other half in grain.  From 1831 to 1834 the pay was increased to $275 and included wood for heating. In 1864, the pay was $350 with a parsonage provided. By 1900, the salary had increased to $400 and the total church budget was $550. The total church budget in 2002 was $99,870, compared to $165,000 for 2022.

A 100th anniversary celebration took place on the weekend of Nov. 19, 1922, with three services on Sunday. They were preached by the Rev. C.F. Knauth and Mrs. J.D. Waterbury, historian, read the history of the church. Addresses in the afternoon were given by Ada Furness, a missionary to Africa and the Rev. J.T. Allen of the Medina First Baptist Church.

A 132-year Founders’ Day Celebration took place June 6, 1954, at which Esther Baker read the church history in the evening. Baker, who has since moved to Canandaigua, will be 100 next January and still supports the church.

Also attending the Founders’ Day services that day were fifth- and sixth-generation members of the Rev. Jeremiah Irons’ family. Virginia Wirth Cooper was a great-great-great-granddaughter of the Rev. Irons. Seventeen of the 22 couples who had been married in the church attended the morning service.  On display was a four-piece pewter communion set found tucked away in an upstairs church cupboard. It bears the date 1838 and is believed to be the church’s first communion set.

The Rev. Lyle Drake, pastor of Yates Center Baptist Church, talks with members of the congregation who are planning a celebration for the church’s 200th anniversary June 4. Bob Breeze and Mitzi Fredericks look at one of T-shirts commemorating Yates Baptist Church’s 200th anniversary.

The set is also currently on display in a cabinet off the sanctuary, after Lynne Wilson went looking for it and also found it stored away in an old back cupboard. It has been polished and shined and sits in a prominent place where everyone can see it.

Other celebrations were held to observe the 150th and 180th anniversaries of the church. Membership in 1972 had grown from the original 22 souls to 156. In 2002, the 180th celebration spanned three days, featuring a Creation Science Evangelism Seminar on Friday at Lyndonville Central School Auditorium.

In 1989, the church hired its first youth pastor, Steve Thompson, to minister to the large number of children and youth attending church. They are blessed today with a large attendance of children. Twenty to 25 regularly attend and the nursery is full, said Lynne Miller.

Yates Baptist Church has occupied several buildings, the first being completed in 1832. It was enlarged and repaired for $3,500 in 1866, but burned to the ground before work was completed. The church has actually had two fires, according to members of the bicentennial celebration committee.

Bill Wilson, a member of Yates Baptist Church since 1985, points out names on the door to the bell tower, on which are written the names and date of death of hundreds of early members of the church. The door was removed to the sanctuary so visitors would be able to see it.

Construction of the current brick structure was completed and the building dedicated Jan. 30, 1868 at a cost of $10,522 for the building and all the furnishings. The brick used was brought from Canada on freighters to the piers at Shadigee.

The second fire occurred in April 1927 and destroyed the rear Sunday School rooms and kitchen. No banks would approve a loan for the rebuilding, so the trustees on the board, including Stanley Breeze and Stanley Baker, signed their farms’ deeds as collateral. By the time of completion of the rebuilding, the debt was paid off.

The Rev. Floyd Childs was pastor from 1943 to 1953, and during his pastorage one Sunday loud snapping noises were heard and plaster began falling from the north end of the sanctuary. The trustees realized the joists in the ceiling were breaking and moved the congregation to the south end of the room while the pastor kept preaching. The ceiling was reinforced by several members under the director of Ken Neal.

From 1951, until the present, many repairs and improvements have been made to the church. These include repairs to the steeple, stained glass windows repaired or replaced, a new furnace, new pews, renovation of the parsonage, a two story addition, purchase of an adjacent property for more parking, a new parsonage kitchen, new handicap bathroom and a picnic pavilion erected, to name a few.

The parsonage is located just past the cemetery, having begun as a log home costing $275. It was replaced by a frame building in 1837 costing $500. The home and barn burned in 1853 when a fire broke out in the nearby planing mill and destroyed a large part of the village. They were rebuilt for $1,000 and since then, upgrades and repairs have resulted in a nicely maintained home.

Music has always been a big part of worship at Yates Baptist Church. The Moeller organ was donated by the late Daniel Ross in memory of his parents Alexander and Ann Ross in 1933. A Baldwin piano was purchased in 1960 and a baby grand piano was donated in 2006 in memory of Sarah Callard by her parents Gary and Dorothy Callard and sister Patricia Callard Corser.

Several members of the church recently met to share their affiliation and dedication to the Yates Baptist Church.  Jon Neal boasts being an eighth-generation descendent of the church’s first pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Iron. He and his wife Carol and their ancestors have attended all their lives, except for a period of 20 years.

Bob and Karen Breeze have been members for 54 years. His great-great-grandfather was married there in 1891 His mom and dad were also married there, around 1918, Bob said.

The Yates Center Baptist Church cemetery is located across the parking lot from the church. The tall monument at right is that of the Rev. Jeremiah Irons, first pastor of the church in 1822.

Bill and Lynn Wilson started attending there when they were expecting their oldest daughter in 1985.

Ray and Beckie Feller have been members for 24 years.

Merle and Mitzi Fredericks are new kids on the block, having started attending two years ago.

“They have a men’s breakfast every other Saturday with devotions and prayer,” Mitzi said. “Merle was invited and was so enamored with the pastor, he wanted to come back and hear him preach.”

The Rev. Lyell Drake and his wife Callie came to Yates Center 21 years ago. He had been preaching in Phelps when he said he felt led of the Lord to move. In seeking a new location he applied to Yates in 2000. He accepted the call here in June and came in September that year.

“I felt a sense of welcome,” the Rev. Drake said. “They wanted someone who could stay a while. This is a congregation that is hungry for the Word. It’s a pastor’s paradise.”

Pre-Covid membership exceeded 100. Since Covid, Bill Wilson has been posting the Sunday service online at www.yatesbaptistchurch.org. It is available in YouTube format.

The church boasts a large children’s attendance and family night, with worship and singing, followed by the kids breaking into small groups for Bible lessons, crafts, games, memorizing Scripture and songs.

A Men’s Discipleship meets the first and third Thursdays of each month. They sponsor Vacation Bible School every summer and a Harvest Dinner the first Sunday in November. A free will offering benefits a special church project. A concert by the choir follows.

The choir regularly has 10 to 15 members, led by Lori Boseck.

Janoah Atwater is worship leader/pianist and Jackie Reichard is organist.

The church has supported missionaries since its founding. The First missionary was Vada Furness, who traveled to the Belgian Congo during World War I. During the trip home her ship hit a mine and she lost everything she had, but she survived. The church currently supports 21 missions and/or missionaries.

A highlight of the 200th anniversary celebration will be the opportunity to view a historic door from the bell tower. The door has been removed and placed in the sanctuary so it can easily be viewed. It contains the names and date of death, written in pencil, of the early members of the church, most of whom the committee believes are buried in the church cemetery.