At the beginning of the century, about 1902, a woman by the name of Flora Lyonn felt the need of a Holiness Church in Harrisville, NY. In its beginning, the church became a part of a small group of about five churches and a camp meeting in Natural Bridge, NY known as the “New Covenant Churches.” Several pastors served the Harrisville congregation during the succeeding thirty years, most of whom are lost in history. One however, from that period of time, is still well remembered by the elderly in the community as “uncle” Frank Jones. These people were very conservative, very plain and very sober. Even in the construction of the church building “fancy trim” or design was not allowed.
In the mid thirties, a woman by the name of Bertha North came to pastor the Harrisville church. It was during this time that the church began to distance itself from the “New Covenant Churches.” The local assembly became known as simply “The Holiness Church,” which name many in the area continue to use.
Shortly after the Second World War, a returned army M. P. by the name of Walter Merritt became pastor of ‘The Holiness Church.” Not long after his arrival the “New Covenant Church” decided to stop the local congregation from meeting in their” church building. At one point, the local group gathered for service only to find the church padlocked. The sheriff was called and the lock was removed. A judge ordered that the local group be given permission to use the building. An agreement was made, that as long as the building was utilized for religious services, they could continue to use it.
Rev. Merritt and his wife continued to pastor the local flock for 25 years. During those years he became close friends with Rev. Donald Hardy and Rev, Kendall Straight, whom he called several times for revival services. Through the friendship of these men and others, the Harrisville church was brought into contact with the New York Pilgrims.
In 1970 the first Conference minister came to Harrisville. Fresh from the mission field in Egypt, the Maurice Hobarts came to pastor the church. The Hobarts were not afraid to work. A piece of property was purchased, along with two army barracks buildings from Fort Drum. After being torn down, the people of the church pulled nails and cleaned boards to build a new parsonage, under the able leadership of Rev. Hobart.
In 1973 the “Holiness Church” added “Pilgrim” to the beginning of their name and was accepted as a full member of the “Pilgrim Holiness Church of New York.” The first delegate to represent the church at the Annual Conference was Lewis Brothers, a godly man who is still very important in the life of this church today.
Change came in 1975 with Paul Case, Sr. family coming to pastor in Harrisville. The first order of business upon their arrival was finishing the parsonage. A four bedroom ranch style house was built and the Case family moved in. Bro. Case also beautifully remodeled the sanctuary of the church. During the Cases’ seven year stay in Harrisville, Rick Mashaw was saved out of a rough past and was later married to Susan Whitney. They are still a vital part of the church today. Three of the Case children graduated from Harrisville High School. Their oldest daughter, Pam, was married to Richard Williams in the newly remolded sanctuary.
From 1982 to 1985 the Carters pastored the Harrisville congregation. Change came again when Rev. Ronald Robison family was called to pastor, spending one year in Harrisville. In 1986, Rev. Whitney, the Conference President persuaded a couple to put off their retirement for a little while to “fill in” at Harrisville. Though in failing health the Fred Hinderliters came and “filled in” for the next four years. During their time here the church was sided by the men of the congregation. The Hinderliters retired in 1990.
Rev. Robert McLean, Jr. family were called to Harrisville at this time. A new parking lot for the church has been put in. Landscaping and a new sign have also improved the appearance of our church. The highest recorded attendance in any service was a Youth Rally when Mesgun Tedla spoke to a packed church of 190 people on May 10,1992. In 1993 the deed from 1902 was finally amended from the “New Covenant Church” to the “Pilgrim Holiness Church.”
The vision of Flora Lyonn lives on even though the name has changed. Harrisville needs the message of scriptural holiness today. Our desire is to let the light shine brightly until Jesus returns.