A stranger in town Sunday, July 27, 1952 might have thought that time had turned backward a century and a half for on that day church-goers in Westfield were appearing in the costumes of yesteryear. That Sabbath day, the first day of the week-long celebration of the one hundred and fiftieth birthday of Chautauqua County, had been declared “Homecoming Day” by the churches of the village.
At St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, The Rev. Harry Vere of Fredonia told the history of St. Peter’s and The Rev. H. Dimmick Baldy of Buffalo, who was rector of the church from 1929 until 1936, delivered the sermon.
Three former pastors of the Presbyterian Church participated in the service at that church. They were the Rev. Alexander Thompson of Geneva, N.Y.; the Rev. J. Manley Spencer of Mayfield; and the Rev. Charles Thompson. The Rev. Alexander Thompson delivered the sermon to a large congregation of present and former members and guests.
The folks who gathered at the Baptist Church heard greetings from visitors and old-timers both in person and by letters. Special guests at the Baptist Church were the Rev. and Mrs. William Sawin of Gloversville, N.Y. and the Rev. and Mrs. A.H. Owens of Clearfield, Pa.
At the Methodist Church Kenneth Wells and Rosamond Jackway, former organists furnished special music. At least half of the congregation appeared in old fashioned costumes. Some of the men were competing in the beard-growing contest which was to take place later in the week as a special feature of the Sesquicentennial Celebration.
An old church bulletin of 1905 served as pattern for the morning ritual. Mrs. H.L. Dreyer led the choir. (Only a few weeks before, Mr. and Mrs. Dreyer had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.)
Many former pastors took part in the service. The Rev. Warren Bugbee of Erie offered prayer. Dr. D.G. Farr, who had come all the way from Fayetteville, W.Va. to attend the meeting, led the responsive reading. The Rev. B.F. Howe, who was pastor at the local Methodist Church at the time of the celebration, gave a short but sincere welcome speech. Dr. J.D. Roberts, who had been pastor from 1915-1918, preached the sermon. In true old-time Methodist style, the sermon was punctuated with audible “Amens” and an occasional lusty “Halleluiah.” The Rev. F.M. Redinger pronounced the benediction.
The congregation joined heartily in the singing of old hymns and perhaps one of the most enjoyable features of the day was the forming of the “new” choir, made up of the old-timers under the direction of Mrs. Dreyer. Today’s picture is of this group, attired in attic treasures. Thanks go to Ralph and Jennie Strickland for calling our attention to this photograph.
Wish we also had a picture of the dignified, bearded men who ushered at the morning service at the Methodist Church on Homecoming Sunday. They were Richard Mead, Hayden Hanks, Charles Hanks and Larry Ackerman with Carleton Heist Jr. in Side-burns and striped trousers ushering in the balcony.
Following the service, the Women’s Society of Christian Service sponsored a reception in the social rooms of the church at which time Rev. and Mrs. Howe greeted the visiting pastors and members of the congregation.
Sunday morning at church with friends both old and new was a pleasant way to start the week of celebration of our county’s one hundred and fiftieth birthday.
Marybelle Beigh is the current Public Historian for the Town and Village of Westfield. Her office is located at 3 East Main Street in Westfield, N.Y, 14787 — inside Parkview Ice Cream Parlor. Her scheduled office hours are Monday through Friday 9 to 11 a.m.; other hours by appointment.
Beigh can be reached at westfieldhistorian
@fairpoint.net or by calling 326-2457 (office), 326-6171 (home) or 397-9254 (cell).
Photo courtesy Strickland
A once in a lifetime experience, singing with the Old-Timers’ Choir at the Methodist Church Sunday, July 27, 1952, first day of the Chautauqua County Sesquicentennial. Pictured left to right: Gladys Crim; Grace Hopson; Kenneth Wells; Almena Pratt; “Dee” Shelkey; Arletta Grinols; Seborn Noxon; Myrtie Welch; Grant Hover; Marlan Martin; Billie Dibble; Ralph Strickland; Dorothy Holbrook; Oliver Strickland; Mary Martin; Ray Anderson?; Lucille Shearer; Frank McKnight; Gladys Sparkes; Grace Graeff?; Kathleen Rosel; Robert Cady; Florence Macomber; Lillian Dreyer; leader?; Blance Macomber; Roberta Schlick; Jessie Meredith; Virginia Hover.