The Beginning of Branch Missions
1910-1920 The stream
that was rising was also widening. The redemptive influence of the Pentecostal
Rescue Mission was now going beyond the borders of the city. Within six
years, nineteen Branch Missions were started. The Church that originated
in a prayer meeting now takes on the complexion of a Conference. This growth
was also reflected in the changes of organization. The office of a General
Superintendent and a General Board of Managers was created to give proper
direction over the growing number of societies. It may be interesting to
note, in the Yearly Meeting of the Pentecostal Association of 1910, the
immediate care for the Branch Works was divided and put under the supervision
of District Superintendents. S. N. Bennett, a household name in the early
days of the church, was elected Superintendent over such Branches as: Deposit,
Brookdale, Randolph, Binghamton, Windham Center, Vawter, Union Valley, Homer,
Lestershire and Cortland. H. M. Moore was elected to the supervision of
Albany, Brooky Hollow, Groverner’s Corners and Oak Hill Branches. This paragraph
is important as it marks out most of the older churches in the Conference.
Several of these churches mentioned played a very important part in the
history of the New York work.
The complete history of the beginnings of these Branch Missions during this period and future periods would be an impossible task. For one thing, it would require too much time and space for this writing. However, we have selected some interesting accounts of a few of the Branch Missions during this period that did develop and survive.
Mary Berg was sent to Albany to start Rescue work in that wicked city. The first meeting was held Saturday night, May 11, 1907. With Sr. Berg and others, Preston Kennedy was on hand to open fire. Listen to Bro. Kennedy report concerning those first meetings in that city. “The blessing of the Lord was upon our first meeting. Sunday was a blessed day from morning to night; souls seeking the Lord at each service. Last Sunday was one of unusual power; many seeking God for pardon and many seeking for purity.” Thus the work at Albany begins. Sometime later a home was given by a “Grandpa Weist.” This was to be used as a place for Gospel workers and a refuge home for wayward girls. Among others who came to assist in the new work was Grace Robinson. She gave valuable help during her stay at Albany. When the Block was purchased at 33 Green St., the home was sold and the proceeds were placed toward the purchase of this building. A rescue home was established on the top floor. Miss Berg became ill and Miss Southworth assumed the position of matron. Miss Southworth partly supported the home for some time by her own labors as a dress maker. As Pastor, Belle Bradt gave direction to this work from 1910 to 1913. In 1914 the charge was supplied by Albert Wilson. He remained as pastor of this church for 30 years.
The work at Schenectady dates back to 1910. Preston Kennedy was on hand to fire the first shots for the Gospel work in this area. Kennedy gave this report of the beginnings. “We report victory for Schenectady. The Brethren have bought a place in Bellevue, about a mile out of the city, which will make a beautiful place of worship after a little repairing. They organized while we were there, with a membership of twenty-five.” (This was June 4, 1910.)
“The slum work was begun last Saturday night and we expect to continue it. Let us pray much for those who go out through these dens of iniquity, giving out tracts and pointing people to God.” Rev. Albert Wilson became the first pastor. At the Yearly Meeting in Binghamton, November 1910, Rev. Wilson reported, “God is still blessing. The saints standing by the work and pushing the battle to the front.” Pastors of the early days were as follows: Clarence Stanton — 1913, Sr. Belle Bradt —19 14, Sr. Belle Burns — 1915, and Sr. Ethel Wilson — 1916 to 1918. Ironically enough, there was a persistent debate during these years whether women preachers should be ordained. Obviously, these were the days before the modern Women s Liberation Movement. The Bethel Home in Schenectady was opened in 1915. Mary Berg was the first Matron.
Brooky Hollow has a special fascination to many in this Conference. It was not only “home territory” of Preston Kennedy, it was the birthplace of a spiritual heritage. The Possons from Cotton Hill, a long standing Methodist family bid adieu to their home church. They said goodbye to its family and friends and joined the little holiness band in Brooky Hollow. Elwin Posson was explicitly warned that if he would leave the church with its good facilities and securities, he would lose his family. The Possons did not lose their family; they saved them. And God only knows the contribution that Elwin and Cassie Posson of Cotton Hill, five miles from civilization, have made to the Middleburg church and to the entire Conference.
In 1945, at the request of Anna Chaffee, a brief history of the early work at Brooky Hollow and of other churches in Schoharie County, was written by Sr. Elwin Posson. In the report she states, “The Brooky Hollow work was prosperous for a number of years. There were many wonderful meetings held, with good attendance and souls being saved. If I were a better writer, I could tell about many interesting incidents. There were four persons that went from here to preach the Gospel. There are a number that are in Heaven now as the result of the prayers and faithfulness of those saints. Brooky Hollow Branch of the Pentecostal Rescue Mission was organized on October 2, 1908. Stanley Simmons was the first pastor. The people worshipped in a school house until a chapel was built in 1909.”
Rev. Simmons was also the pastor of the Grovenor Corners Branch church. In those days, the parsonage was not provided; whereupon, the pastor rented his own home, usually in Central Bridge - midway between Brooky Hallow and Grovenor Corners. The Brooky Hollow group also held some meetings in a small village about two miles from the church. The place was called Dutch Settlement. A number of souls were saved in this little schoolhouse. It is interesting to note that two outstanding evangelists pastored the Brooky Hollow Church: Rev. David Wilson and Rev. Harry Felter. In 1934, the church was moved to MIddleburg. At this time there was consummated a union between the Brooky Hollow Church and the Keyser Kill Church. The Dutch Settlement group had joined earlier. The Keyser Kill Branch had been holding services since 1906. Their church was built in 1911.
It may be well to point out that while Schoharie County is situated in the central part of Eastern New York, it was also a county that was central in much of the Mission work. No place was so thoroughly covered with the gospel of full salvation. Preston Kennedy held some of his greatest meetings in the Schoharie Valley. There are people who live in that area today that remember Kennedy and his tent meetings. Floyd Baker, Belle Burns and her sister, Augusta Visscher, L. W. Ward, George Becker, and Mary Wood are several among many who preached holiness in that valley. There were at one time nine or more churches or Branch Missions in the Schoharie valley area: Grovenor’s Corners, Brooky Hollow, Coneville, Sutton Hollow, Windham Center, Bumptown, Union Valley, Vawter, Keyserkill, and across the county line is Grand Gorge and Scotts Patent.
Last modified 12/9/00