As early as 1773 there were Baptists in Kingston Township who were
served by the Reverend Mr. Gray (not to be confused with the Rev. Andrew
Gray of Hanover).
In 1787 the Reverends Benedict Finn and Gray formed a congregation in
Plymouth. Among their converts at this time were Joel and Jonah Rogers
who also became preachers. Their sister Hannah was the wife of Griffin
Lewis, who, too became a preacher and was associated with the Rogers
brothers in the Baptist ministry. These three were instrumental in
laying the foundations of Baptist work in Union, Jackson, Lehman and
other pads of old Luzerne County. In these achievements the Rev. Jacob
Drake, who, together with the Rev. Roswell Goff arrived in the county
from New England about 1790, assisted them.
In 1779, Jacob Drake, then a Congregationalist lived in Cannan, near the
Hudson River. He became a Pedobaptist minister of the "New Light' or
"Separate Connection" and adopted Baptist views. With a few of his
members he organized a church of Baptist believers. An article of their
church covenant was: a church consists of a pastor and teacher, ruling
elders and deacons. Great success crowned his labors as he traveled and
preached on both sides of the Hudson and in places far remote from each
other. Whenever he made disciples he baptized them and gave them
fellowship as members of his church. Later, this widely scattered church
was divided and there were organized in 1791 some eight distinct
In 1792 the Rev. Mr. Drake moved from the Hudson and settled near Exeter
within the bonds of the association. He extended his labors all the way
from Northumberland on the south to Choconut on the north, gathering all
into one church, having its headquarters in Exeter, Huntington,
Plymouth, Wilkes-Barre, Dallas, Braintrim, Auburn, Middletown, Hartford
and Choconut Many other places where he preached also furnished gracious
subjects for his church at Exeter.
About the same time that the Rev. Drake settled in Exeter, Samuel
Sturdevant and his family moved from Connecticut to Black Walnut Bottoms
along the Susquehanna River near Braintrim, about two miles southeast of
the present Laceyville. Mr. Sturdevant, his wife and their family, which
numbered eleven children, lived simple, busy lives in a log home on the
property near what is now owned by his great, great, great
granddaughter, Mrs. Anne Sturdevant Jennings and her husband Bob.
Mr. Sturdevant was a man of devout piety and of uniform faithfulness and
finding the people of this sparsely settled region comparatively
destitute of religious privileges, his heart was stirred and he
immediately commenced holding meetings in the family home. Although
unlicensed and unordained, the word he spoke was in demonstration of the
Spirit. At the various meetings he held he generally occupied the
greater part of the time himself although he was aided by the
exhortations and prayer of a few faithful ones whom he found in the
place. For two years or more he continued to press the claim and
invitation of the Gospel upon the people, both publicly and privately,
whenever he had the opportunity. He was emphatically "instant in season
and out of season" and under his faithful and persistent labors
considerable religious interest was awakened and it was deemed advisable
to proceed in the formation of a church.
With Mr. Sturdevant as the human agency, the little church of eleven
members gathered and organized the Braintrim Baptist church, May 24,
1794. The members were: Samuel Sturdevant, Sarah Sturdevant, Joseph
Wescot, Hannah Wescot, Jedediah Coon, Olive Coon, Azor Sturdevant, Fear
Sturdevant, Noah Sturdevant, Molly Sturdevant, and Samuel Sturdevant,
Jr. They and those who followed them have maintained throughout the past
two centuries their testimony to the world that the Gospel of our
blessed Lord is able to save to the uttermost, all them who come unto
God by Him.
The covenant they adopted reads as follows: "A covenant of the Baptist
Church meeting in Braintrim Township, Wyoming County, State of
Pennsylvania, agree to a constitution of the church the twenty-fourth
day of May, 1794.
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we whose names are
hereunto-subscribed do solemnly covenant and agree to and with each
other in the following manner, Viz:
First: That we will with diligence and perseverance attend to the
scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the only certain rules of
our faith and practice.Secondly: We will endeavor strictly to observe
and maintain the discipline contained in the "Confession of the Faith":
adopted by the Baptist Association held at Philadelphia in the year of
our Lord Christ 1792, as far as we can see it agreeable to the Word of
Thirdly: We will to the utmost of our abilities cultivate and maintain
brotherly love and Christian fellowship, both in our own hearts and in
our brethren, and faithfully improve all the gifts and graces God has
given us for His glory and for the edification of his church, and that
in an orderly manner-
Fourthly: We will carefully and constantly endeavor to fill up our
places in all appointed meetings of the church in public conferences,
meetings of business, and especially at Communion Season,
Fifthly: We will carefully and tenderly regard the persons and
characters of all brethren and especially our minister.
Sixthly: We will freely and cheerfully communicate our wordly substance
for the support of our minister, for the supply of the poor and for all
other uses as the body of the church shall think duty requires, and that
in some measure of equality, so that some shall not be eased and others
Seventh: We will, in case of failure in any of the above mentioned
articles, carefully give an account to our brethren when required, of
the reason of our neglect and joyfully receive council, instruction,
reproof or admonition of the church in these and all cases, according to
discipline or Christ's house. And now, feeling ourselves in the presence
of the great God, can honestly say, everyone for himself, this is the
very language of my heart, and being sensible of the depravity of human
nature, I feel my own insufficiency to perform these things; but
believing the Lord Jesus hath enjoined them on me, I look to Him for
strength with full confidence that He of His free grace will present me
unblamable before His Heavenly Father in love.
And now as I have solemnly given myself to God, soul and body, to be
at His disposal, for time and eternity; and viewing to the church as the
body of Christ, governed by word and Spirit of God: I, therefore, do
this day in the presence of God, angels and men, fully give myself, a
member, to this church, with full determination, by the grace of God, in
all ways and at all times to conduct myself as becomes a follower of
Christ and a member of this church in particular."
In June 1794, the new organization licensed Samuel Sturdevant to preach
and on October 25 of the same year, ordained him to the work of the
Gospel ministry at a Council convened to take into consideration
"setting him apart by solemn ordination to the work of the Gospel
Ministry." Rev. Sturdevant was in the fifty-fourth year of his age and
had on his hands a numerous family, for whom he must necessarily
provide. Nevertheless, he went to work for the Master with commendable
zeal and energy. He labored during the week with his hands, but every
Sabbath he could be found holding forth the Word of Life with all the
ability be had.
It is believed he was the first to preach in Abington arid Mehoopany. In
the early history of Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming Counties, the
following mention is made: Elder Sturdevant of Black Walnut preached
often in Tunkhannock and baptized several persons, among them Sarah
Marcy and McCord Whitemore in 1800."
The history of the Mehoopany Baptist Church prepared by the Reverends
Phillips and Dair says: "Sometime during the autumn of 1803, Elder
Sturdevant visited a sparse settlement near the mouth of the Mehoopany
Creek. In the spring of 1805 the Braintrim pastor was invited to visit
at the forks of Mehoopany Creek, near where Forkston now is, and break
the Bread of Life. First 2, then 12, afterwards in 1809, 60 were
baptized- a glorious harvest." This is evidence that the first pastor of
Braintrim Baptist Church who labored far and near was blessedly used of
God in other fields as well as at home. Many persons were brought to a
saving knowledge of the Truth under his faithfu1 labors.
During the first two years of the church's life at Braintrim,
twenty-three new members were added at sundry times, mostly by baptism.
During four years of its organization, the angels of peace and
prosperity hovered over the newborn church. Its spiritual health, growth
and activity marked ii as born from above.
The first one to follow the Savior in the ordinance of baptism was Sarah
Sturdevant, daughter of the pastor. Miss Sturdevant later became the
wife of Jacob Gray and mother of Elder Davis D. Cray and H. H. Gray.
In the year 1796 the church appointed delegates to meet at a conference
of churches at Chemung, NY. They attended and the Braintrim church
became a constituent member of the Chemung Association. In December of
that year, the church licensed Thomas Smiley to preach the Gospel and on
March 26, 1797, Samuel Agard, a licentiate previously admitted to
membership by letter, was ordained. It is believed that these two men
became faithful laborers in the Master's vineyards.
The church continued to enjoy a good degree of prosperity and with
slight exceptions, the members walked together in unbroken harmony until
1798 when a dispute arose between two prominent members in regards to a
worldly matter concerning a land dispute, which involved the church in
lasting strife and difficulty.
From 1798 to 1815 was one continual scene of darkness and trial but the
church did not fall for it was founded on The Rock. Church meetings were
held and councils called but all to no purpose.
In 1800 some half dozen members, seeing no prospect of returning peace,
left and joined Elder Drake's church at Exeter. The same year at a
meeting of the Chemung Association, Braintrim Baptist Church was
reported "dissolved and consequently dropped from the minutes." The
church was not actually disbanded but still struggled for its existence.
Through this long period of perplexity and discouragement, the church
never lost its vision nor failed for any length of time to maintain the
regular worship of God. When regular services were not held, prayer
meetings of pastor and deacons were carried on. On November 30, 1815
five former members returned, confessed and were restored to fellowship.
From that time on the church enjoyed a good degree of prosperity. Late
in 1815, Braintrim joined with Mehoopany Baptist Church to become one
church. This act was soon reconsidered and the two churches separated
arid stood as before, by mutual consent.
It may be well to remark here that in some quarters, the original church
was known by the name of "Usher" and that here the Braintrim Church by
reorganization begins. But this is wholly erroneous. There was no
reorganization or any change of name. It appears quite plain that the
pastor from the start preferred the name "Usher" and when speaking of
it, called it the "Usher Church", but the church never acknowledged the
The church on the day of its organization took the name of Braintrim and
after two years it was united with the Association as "the Braintrim
Church". This is a small matter and would not be mentioned here, were it
not that the church has in two or three instances, found its way into
history under the name of "Usher".
In 1816 Rev. Sturdevant, who had now held his standing in the Abington
Church seven years, took a letter of dismissal from that church with the
intention of reuniting with Braintrim, but after obtaining the letter,
he came to the conclusion that the old difficulty might some day be
revived, and consequently retained his letter several years.
Nevertheless, he labored steadily and faithfully for the church, as far
as his health and failing strength would permit it and he enjoyed the
confidence and esteem of all its members.
Among other descendants of Elder Samuel Sturdevant were: Isaac B Lake,
Byron D. Sturdevant (ME), D. D. Gray, H. H Gray, Ira Sturdevant and
Davis G. Sturdevant, eight preachers including himself and son Elijah
from that family. To this number may be added: George Wakely,
Protestant-Methodist and Rev. James 0. Sturdevant.
Rev. Davis Dimock, then pastor at Montrose, made the Braintrim Church
several visits in 1817, 18l8, and 1819 and preached with great power.
The Lord blessed his labors and the church was revived and sinners
converted. There were a goodly number of accessions, so that in 1820
there were seventy-one members in good and regular standing.
During the year l818 several members withdrew from the church and
constituted an "Independent Church of Jesus Christ". This is what we
call Mehoopany Baptist Church, then it was known by the name of
"Windham". September 6, 1823 Rev John Wilson and 12 members were
dismissed from Windham for the purpose of constituting the Eaton Baptist
Church. Thus Eaton became a granddaughter off Braintrim.
Sometime previous to the date at which we have now arrived, several
branches of Elder Drake's great church had become distinct churches and
had formed a compact known as the Susquehanna Conference, and afterward
as the Susquehanna Association.
Braintrim united with this body in 1820. The church has sometimes been
blamed for this act, for the following reasons: there were connected
with the Association at the time, three or more ministers and as many
churches, whose doctrinal view did not in all respects harmonize with
those of the great body of Baptists in the country. In their views of
design and extent of the atonement, they differed from Baptists
generally; and on the subject of "Trinity and the Sonship of Christ"
they leaned toward Arianism. The difference of opinion on fundamental
points of doctrine occasioned much debate and disunion Those who held
with the denomination generally, labored hard to bring their brethren to
embrace the truth; while the others were equally tenacious in the
defense of their sentiments. The churches that stood with the Baptist
body generally were Bridgewater, Middletown, Choconut, Auburn,
Braintrim, Eaton, Mehoopany, and Northmoreland.
These eight churches left in a body in 1826 and formed the Bridgewater
Association, thus permitting a few whom remained to retain the old name
and enjoy their own opinions.
One writer states: On the whole we hardly think that we would advise a
church to join an association in such a predicament as the Susquehanna
was at that time. Still we do not see anything particularly
reprehensible in the conduct of the Braintrim Church in this matter."
From 1820 to 1826, the church experienced no remarkable changes. The
Rev. Sturdevant had become quite infirm with age and was assisted in the
pastoral work, for two or three years, by Rev. John Wilson who preached
stately, for a part of the time.
In the fall of 1826, Mr. Levi Kneeland, a licentiate from the Madison
University, came to spend his vacation with tie church and stayed
through the winter. He was a young man of exemplary habits and deep
piety. Under his faithful labor, the church enjoyed a refreshing and in
the spring, twenty-two new convents were baptized. Rev. James Clarke
administered the ordinance.
On the ninth day of April, 1828 the Rev. Samuel Sturdevant, the
organizer and first pastor of Braintrim Baptist Church, passed to his
heavenly rest, after arduous and fruitful labors, receiving without
doubt that "well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the
joy of thy Lord". He was 87 years old and had served the Lord and his
church for over thirty -three years.
After the decease of the former pastor, the church was for a while
without a shepherd until Rev. Joseph W. Parker, then a missionary of the
New York State Convention, was engaged to preach a fourth part of the
time. He is described as admirably adapted for promoting piety among
Christians and for winning souls to Christ. A considerable number of
persons turned to the Lord and were added to the church. He closed his
labors here in the spring of 1833 and was succeeded by Rev. Charles A.
Fox. Mr. Fox was a licentiate when settled with the church but was
ordained November 20. 1833. During his stay he was instrumental in
effecting an improved state of things in the church. He was a strong
methodical preacher and his pulpit services were especially valuable in
establishing his listeners in the faith of the Gospel. It was during
this period, in 1829, that the church voted to have congregational
singing as part of the regular services for the first time. All the
music was written with a single staff on the treble clef.
May 24,1834 Davis D Gray and Isaac B Lake were licensed to preach. Rev.
Fox resigned in 1836 and Rev. Davis Dimock became the pastor. He
combined both pulpit and pastoral qualifications of a high order.
Largeness of soul and great activity showed themselves in him. He was an
able preacher and a good pastor and this was the beginning of a short
period of general prosperity for the church and the end of an era. From
1836 to 1840 the church walked together in harmony, a wholesome
discipline was exercised and there were frequent additions by letter and
In 1834 the first record of a contribution from the church as such was
made It reads as follows: "A benevolent concern for the destitute has
led them to contribute about twenty dollars during the year to the
Missionary Funds". Again in the minutes of 1835: "Braintrim had a
Ladies' Missionary Society Auxiliary to the N.Y.B.M. Society" but no
mention of any specified sum. The following year, Braintrim sent six
dollars for Burman Missions. However, Braintrim Baptist has not given
the most nor the least for benevolence of any of the churches of the
Association and also Paul probably would not say of Braintrim as he did
of the church of Macedonia "their deep poverty abounded to the riches of
their liberality". (II Cor. 8:2) Nevertheless, the church raised more
money by far in the last decade for God's work than in any preceding
In 1838, the members voted to build a house of worship. For the previous
forty-five years worship services had been held in dwellings: first, the
home of Rev Sturdevant at Black Walnut, then across the river from his
place, and lastly at the Lacey Street schoolhouse, just above the barn
on the present Frank Insinga farm.
During 1839 the new house of worship was built and paid for by the
church It was dedicated in 1840. It served well for fifty-three years on
the corner lot of West Franklin Street and Church Street in what is now
Laceyville Borough. It was on the same site as the present Braintrim
Baptist Church, which replaced the first structure in 1892.
The first church was fifty feet wide and forty feet deep. The ceiling of
the one room auditorium was twenty feet high and was slightly arched.
The long shuttered windows on each side of the entrance were Gothic in
Immediately inside the auditorium between the doors was the pulpit. The
congregation was seated facing the entrance. The balcony was up a flight
of stairs and it served as a choir loft, with the choir facing the
An aisle led from each door to the back of the church, thus dividing the
seating space into three sections of pews. At one side of each aisle was
a small-enclosed space where a woodburning stove was used to make the
building comfortable in cold weather. Sunday School classes were held in
sections of the pews that were enclosed seats.
On each side of the building were three long windows designed to match
those in front and back. Collection was taken in a plate at the entrance
as worshippers arrived for services.
We might note here that each harvest season an annual donation gathering
was held. Members of the congregation brought canned goods, produce and
money to help the pastor feed his family that winter.
Braintrim Church has always believed in the valuable ministry that a
Sunday School offers and has always earnestly supported this claim. In
1835, it was recorded that "three Sunday Schools were carried on by this
church. Other years as high as seven Sunday Schools were reported. There
has always been a lively, earnest and successful, enthusiastic
superintendent as a leader".
In notes recorded in 1867 it is said: "the young have been gathered in
Sunday and Bible School classes where it is believed they are constantly
obtaining enlightened views of the Divine Truth; and the Hope is fondly
cherished that the generation to come will exceed the present In
intelligence, piety, and usefulness".
It is not forgotten, however, that ''except the Lord builds the house,
they labor in vain that build it; except the Lord keeps the city, the
watchman waketh but in vain. Our trust is in the Living God, who made
heaven and earth".
In 1840 a dark cloud settled over the church and a scene of trial
ensued, which lasted more than two years. The hearts of all were pained
and several of the old members were finally excluded including two
deacons. But God, who is rich in mercy, at length smiled on his people.
Early in 1843 a protracted meeting was held in which Rev. Henry Curtis
assisted the pastor and the church was greatly increased and helped.
Sixty-three members were added by baptism; several received by letter
and some were restored.
On September 14, 1843 by request of the church, the Wyoming Association
resolved itself into a council and examined and ordained Elijah
Sturdevant to the work of the ministry.
Pastor Davis Dimock had now become old, and being in poor health, was
only able to preach once a week. He remained and did what he could until
October 28, 1846 when he resigned the pastorate he had served faithfully
for ten years. He went to live with his son-in-law in Montrose and as
his failing strength would permit, he preached at Montrose, Dimock and
other nearby places until the close of his life September27, 1858.
In 1846 Rev. Ira Stoddard supplied the pulpit and continued for three
months before leaving for India as a missionary. When he left Rev.
Joseph W. Parker was again called to the pastorate. He stayed three
years and was honored by, and was profitable to, the church as during
his first pastorate. April 23, 1849 he resigned his second pastorate to
the church. August 26, 1848 twenty-two Braintrim members were dismissed
by letter to form the South Auburn Church.
Following Rev. Parker's resignation, Braintrim members extended a call
to Rev. Davis D. Gray, a grandson of the church's founder Rev. Samuel
Sturdevant. He became the new pastor on November 23, 1849 and served for
twenty-two years, left for one year and returned in 1870 to serve eleven
At the time of Rev. Davis D. Gray's call to Braintrim he was the pastor
of the Baptist Church at Princeton, NJ. He was a spiritual child of
Braintrim, having been converted when he was about nine years old,
baptized into the fellowship of Braintrim, and licensed by them on May
24, 1834. He was ordained at Montrose, PA in 1836. Braintrim was
repeatedly and richly blessed during his pastorate here.
He is described as "a close and diligent student, a good preacher,
exemplary in life at home and abroad, richly endowed with common sense,
an exceptionally good counselor, possessed of rare conversational
powers, heartily devoted to the Master and His works."
We shall notice three important events in the history of Braintrim
during his pastorate here: the first event is the great revival of 1854
in the month of January, a series of evening meetings was commenced.
Rev. E. A. Francis assisted the pastor, two or three weeks at the
beginning, after which he left and went to Rush in Susquehanna County.
The pastor of the church continued the meetings here at Braintrim for
over ten weeks and the church was greatly quickened. There were in all
seventy-three sermons delivered, of which Rev. Francis preached sixteen
and the pastor, fifty-seven. As a result, ninety-one were added to the
church by baptism. This was the most powerful and extensive revival ever
yet enjoyed by the Braintrim Church.
Secondly, nineteen members were dismissed from Braintrim Baptist Church
in 1855 to organize a church at Terrytown. Three new converts who had
recently been baptized were also added to the group. As early as 1820,
Baptists were meeting at Terrytown and at Frenchtown, north of there.
In the spring of 1856, sixteen of the earnest workers of the Mehoopany
Church were dismissed to organize the Russell Hill Church. Thus another
granddaughter of Braintrim was born.
Thirdly, in 1866 the church was visited by an outpouring of the Spirit
and twenty-six were added by baptism, when Pastor Gray, directed by the
Lord, led in and out of the baptismal water sixty-seven converts.
Thus God has put honor on this church by enabling her to furnish
children, grandchildren and many Christian soldiers to go forth
elsewhere as well as at home and fight in the Lord's battles.
Again in 1871, according to the minutes of that year, the church had
been blessed in her labors, exceeding her greatest expectation. For six
weeks the faithful pastor (D. D. Gray) labored successfully, after which
the Reverends P.S. Everett and A. J. Furman were called to assist the
worn-out pastor in gathering in a score of converts. They rejoiced in
what God has wrought. Sixty-seven baptized are reported that year from
Braintrim. In 1874, the minutes contain the following: "The Braintrim
Church, May 24, celebrated the eightieth anniversary of their
constitution as a church with great joy".
On the same day occurred the fortieth anniversary of their pastor's
ministry, licensed by them in 1834. Total number of sermons preached
during his pastorate was 4,899, Converts baptized were over 700.
Braintrim Baptist Church was greatly blessed in having such a pastor for
so great a length of time as Rev. D. D. Gray. He was earnestly sought by
pastors as a helper in their fields and whenever he could, he gladly
responded and proved to be an efficient assistant. So competent and
trusty was he that many called upon him to aid them in making final
disposition of their property. When he had served Braintrim about twenty
years, he resigned and Rev. J. A. Bell was called as his successor.
Brother Bell closed his pastorate in one year and the church recalled
Pastor Gray, who remained at Braintrim until the Master called him home
on February 9, 1881. He had served thirty-one years.
Several other important events had taken place during the last few years
just mentioned. Pews in the church were rented to families and sheds
were built on the north side of the church lot to accommodate those who
traveled a great distance. These would keep their horses and carriages
under cover and the sheds remained for nearly half a century until they
were finally torn down for needed space.
In 1866 a house and lot on Lacey Street was purchased for use as a
parsonage. The house, now owned by Claude and Anna Mae Jayne, was the
Baptist parsonage for twenty-six years. In 1867 the custom of receiving
money at the door was abandoned and collection plates were passed among
the congregation for the offering. The same year it was voted to pay the
pastor a salary of $600.00 for the next year. In 1870, when a financial
deficiency was reported, the committee was instructed to make it up by
an average on the members.
In 1869 the members voted to raise money for four benevolences: Home
Missions, Foreign Missions, Education Society and State Association. It
may be noted here that previous to this time there were women of the
congregation to help missionaries doing work. Useful goods were sent for
their use and distribution.
In a letter from the wife of Rev. J. J. Stoddard, who had been at
Braintrim in 1846, mention is made of a box sent from the Ladies'
Missionary Society to the Stoddards, missionaries to Assam, India. The
goods sent were described as "very useful and suitable to the school".
The missionary work of ladies of the church has stopped and restarted
several times over the many years of the church's history and the
support of many missionaries in foreign lands as well as in the United
States has been on the hearts of members for scores of years.
Rev. Thomas Mason was called to serve the church in 1881 following Rev.
Gray's demise. Three months later, Pastor Mason succumbed after an
illness of a few days. He left a host of friends and it is recorded that
his memorial services were "such as will long be remembered by the
In 1881 Rev. George Righter was called to serve as pastor at a salary of
$500 a year plus the use of the parsonage and a donation endorsed by the
church. He remained until 1888.
In 1882 money was raised for the pulpit furniture and it was used
until January 1991, when the original pulpit was replaced by one built
by Ray Brigham, a member of the church, and Lynn Campbell. The original
one with the other pulpit furniture was stored.
Friends of Davis D. Gray paid for a monument to be placed on his resting
place in Lacey Street cemetery. Made of Quincy Granite, it was unveiled
on Memorial Day 1883. Its cost is recorded as $308.00.
In 1884 the Lacey Street parsonage was sold to William S. Arnold for
$528. The same week it was voted to buy a lot and build a new parsonage.
The lot was purchased from B. F. Wakeman for $200. The new parsonage was
built and four years later was free of debt. Mrs. Elaine Doty now owns
the house on East Main Street.
In August 1885 it is recorded that a committee of three was appointed to
keep order in and outside the church during services, and later four
more were appointed and were empowered to make arrests if necessary to
stop trespassing on church property.
After Rev. Righter left the flock, Rev. S. W. Cole served for ten
months. April 7, 1889 Rev. James Rainey was called as pastor and stayed
The last extensive revival experienced by the church was in the winter
of 1889-1890, when Rev. Thomas Needham came by invitation and remained
preaching for two weeks. From the first sermon he preached, it was
evident the Holy Spirit was present awakening Christians and arousing
the careless. After Evangelist Needham left the meeting continued for
eight more weeks, night after night. Nearly one hundred professed to
have found Christ. Of this number, eight were baptized and united with
We shall mention here that new converts over the past many years had
been baptized in the Susquehanna River where the Little Tuscarora Creek
empties into the larger stream. It is a spot just south of where the
Vandervort Mills was later located. As soon as a new convert accepted
salvation, he or she was encouraged to be baptized, and it was not
uncommon in the winter months to break the ice on the river in order
that the new converts might follow the ordinance of baptism.
A special meeting was held at Braintrim on March 12, 1892 and plans were
made to build a new church on the lot occupied by the old church.
A month later, at another special meeting, it was reported that $4,057
had already been subscribed towards the new building. At the same time
it was voted to sell the then present building and have it removed. It
was bought by J. S. Mingos in 1892, and was skid across Church Street by
Jacob Rought on June 6 of that year. While moving the building, one or
more anchor stakes pulled out and flew about 70 ft. and struck W. F.
Transue in the side and injured him badly. But praise the Lord, no bones
were broken and he recovered.
The old church was made into a dwelling, an apartment house and later a
factory. It was later razed and the lot was used for a parking lot after
the church purchased it.
Among those who worked tirelessly on the committees to help make the new
church building possible were: Elias Smith, J. M. Wakely, Mrs. John
Vandervort, Mr. & Mrs. Leon Smith, Miss Mary E. Gray, George Johnson, E.
Sinsabaugh, Samuel Gregory, Cortez Pickeff, and H. D. Wilson. There were
many more that gave of their prayers, time and money to help build the
new House of Worship for Braintrim Baptist.
September 29, 1892 the cornerstone for the new building was laid in the
basement for the new Braintrim Baptist Church. There were special
services and a large number of the membership attended. A very
impressive program of addresses was heard and several items were placed
in the box within the cornerstone. Rev. Robert Holmes of Pittston, PA
was the main speaker. The Ladies' Aid Society of the church served a
chicken dinner at a charge of 25~ per person at the Good Will Fire Hall.
The items placed in the cornerstone included a list of church members,
old church records, names of all subscribing to the new church fund, a
written directory of Laceyville, minutes of the Wyoming Baptist
Association for 1890-1891, Sabbath School quarterlies, photographs of
Reverends Rainey, D. D. Gray and D. Dimock, a copy of the Tunkhannock
Republican New Age - Democrat, Wyalusing Rocket, Baptist Covenant,
School report for Braintrim Township for 1891, the School Law for 1887,
a new silver quarter dollar, papers: The Voice, The People, National
Baptist, Kingdom Tidings and the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The new church had been designed by Architect Lacey of Philadelphia and
a Mr. Colley is listed in the records as the contractor for the building
that cost over $7,000. We should note here that there was a very active
Ladies' Aid society in the church who, over the years had many benefit
meals, bake sales and sewing bees to help pay expenses of the church,
add to the building fund and help with the cause of missions. The last
report of their activities was given July 12, 1920.
The new building measured seventy feet across the front and is fifty
feet deep. The auditorium is forty-seven feet across the front and fifty
feet deep with an approximate height of twenty-four feet to the center
of the dome. It was built with double arch vaulted ceilings and a bowl
floor auditorium. On the east side are two double entrance doors, on the
north and south ends of the building. Above the pulpit is a large rose
window. All other windows and the entrances of the original structure
are of Gothic design and all windows are hand-mixed and hand-leaded
On the north side of the auditorium was a large memorial window to Rev.
D. D. Gray with three emblems across the center portion - The Cross, The
Fruit and The Crown. By the first he was saved, the second he bore
during life, and the third he now wears.
The window centering the front is a memorial to the Ladies' Aid Society.
Names of other pastors are on the windows of the church, placed there as
memorials of families and friends.
The varnished wainscoting on the walls has been retained and the top
portion has been redecorated from time to time with wallpaper, textured
masonry, or paint. The original pews have been kept in repair and are
still in use.
The pulpit is at the western end of the auditorium facing the two
entrances and the three sections of pews easily seat about 200 persons.
The side classroom (part of the original structure and known as the
Philathea Room) has in recent years been remodeled to be opened for
church services. There are two large vestibules at each front entrance.
The fifty-five foot high steeple houses a large bell that had been made
by A. Meneeby & Son, Founders, and cast in West Troy, NY in 1851 and had
been retained from the first church building. It is still in use. It has
been tolled for the dead, served as a warning of fire in town in
addition to its main duty of calling all to worship at Braintrim
The roof of the main structure when viewed from the air forms a giant
cross. The building at its completion has been described as "one of the
most beautiful churches in Wyoming County."
During the interim, while waiting for the new building, services were
held in the Edwards Opera House (the B. W. Edwards building) located on
the north corner of Church & Main Streets over where the present U. S.
Post Office is today located. June 16, Children's Day exercises were
held at the Opera House decorated with flowers, evergreens and canary
birds singing in their cages.
However it was only seven months, twenty-four days from the day the
cornerstone was laid until the Dedication Services were held on May 24,
1893. Eleven visiting pastors attended the services to dedicate the
Braintrim Baptist Church to the service of Almighty God.
Two months later the first baptisms were held in the new church with
nineteen being baptized and sixteen new members joining the church.
Rev. Rainey resigned in 1899 and Rev. D. D. Harmond served until 1901.
The first Roll Call Service was held on April 12, 1900 with one hundred
ninety-six names read. About half of the number responded. Seven years
later, at another such meeting, Ira Sturdevant, age 85 years, walked
from Black Walnut to attend. He was called upon and spoke briefly to the
A series of revival meetings were conducted beginning January 13, 1903
with Rev. Rainey, who had returned to the pulpit in 1901. O. G. Langford
of Freeland, PA assisted him. The meetings continued for three weeks
with an addition often members by baptism.
In 1905 Rev. Robert B. Dunmire came to serve following Rev. Rainey's
second term at Braintrim. He was a good preacher and during a service as
a guest pastor at nearby Edinger Hill Sunday School and Church, fifteen
people accepted our Lord and were baptized later. In 1905 new sidewalks
were installed at a cost of $31.00 and following year carpeting was
purchased at a cost of $206.24.
In 1910 mention is made of the Barachah Class, composed of 60 men and
the Home Department of between fifty and sixty members. The Home
Department continued until a few years ago but with fewer members. Mrs.
Amy Whipple Repsher was the last person to have charge of its
Rev. Dunmire resigned in July 1911 after 6 years. Rev. H. C. Downing was
called January 1, 1912 and served 5 years. In 1913 he proposed using
individual communion service. The following year this was voted by the
congregation to become the method of serving it and Fred II presented
the first individual communion set to the church as a memorial to his
mother. Johnson. This ordinance continues the first Sunday of each month
Rev. H. S. Landis was pastor in 1918 when Rev. Crabill held special
services and provided a feast of good things. There was a spiritual
uplift to the church as well as the community.
Rev. Lew Cass Bennett was called to the church November 15, 1920 and
stayed nearly three years. In two years, April 24, 1922 the first
Missionary Committee was elected by the congregation to serve with four
members. In 1905 the church had given $90 to missions. In 1994 the
accepted budget for missions is $78,000. Today there are nine voting
After Rev. Bennett resigned in 1923 the church was without a shepherd
until May 4, 1924 when Rev. Burgess Brown was called from West Groton,
NY and stayed until August of 1927. He was a hard worker and took a
great interest in the ministry of young people. He worked with sports in
the school and served as coach of the boys' basketball team during his
October 12, 1925 the people of the church signed a note of
congratulations to former pastor, Rev. Rainey and his wife on their
fiftieth wedding anniversary. October 18, 1926 Paul Nyecka Revere came
to the U. S. to further his education and later came to Laceyville, was
received as a member of Braintrim Baptist Church and was licensed to
preach. He returned to his native Liberia, Africa after 10 years, to
teach and minister to his people and finally returned after five years
to raise support for further ministry in his homeland. It is reported he
died at a young age.
Rev. Clarence Keen answered a call to the pulpit in 1927 and his six
years' service to the Glory of God has had a lasting impression on
scores of people. Many were privileged to sit and study with him as
pastor, preacher and teacher.
The same year the Christian Missionary Alliance Tabernacle was presented
to Braintrim Baptist Church and was moved from the A. L. Vandervort
property on Franklin Street to the northwest corner of the church lot.
In the ensuing years, rooms were partitioned off and many improvements
made to make it usable for Sunday School rooms as well as classrooms for
Daily Vacation Bible School. It was also "loaned" to the Wyalusing
Valley School District during its transition into consolidation with the
Laceyville School System, to be used for school classrooms for a short
time. Mrs. Alice Gray's first grade pupils used the building from
January to June of 1959. Mrs. Floyd Vandervort showed great interest in
the building and spent considerable funds for its upkeep and
April 1, 1929 the church canceled its membership in the Wyoming Baptist
Association and the Northern Baptist Convention. This was their
beginning as an independent Baptist Church. The church body agreed that
all commercial efforts to support the church be ceased and that all
funds would be received by free-will offerings, tithes and gifts. Thus
it remains to this writing in 1994
During the summer of 1929 the first Daily Vacation Bible School was held
with an average daily attendance of seventy pupils and teachers. In 1993
there were 143 children in attendance the last day of this program that
has continued until today for 65 years.
Rev. Keen, realizing the wealth of scenery in the natural setting
provided by the Creator for the taking, started the first outdoor
drive-in church services at Donavon Park. These meetings continued
annually since 1931 during the months of June to September. They were
largely attended and in later years an effective public address system
was installed. The congregation sat in their cars facing the mobile
pulpit to hear the Gospel message. A choir from the congregation left
their cars to start the service with well-known hymns. For many years
the closing services of D.V.B.S. were annually held at these meetings.
The drive-in Services were discontinued following the first service in
June 1984 after 53 years of summer ministry.
Rev. Keen held a Bible Marking Class that proved very profitable to a
number of young people and adults. Many of the congregation were
encouraged to form a Correspondence Bible Study Class entitled
"Scripture Memorizing for Personal Work". Moody Bible Institute,
Chicago, IL, supplied the course.
Sunday morning services were broadcast each week through radio station
W8CPL, owned and operated by Leland S. Vandervort from the present
parsonage. These sermons reached homes within a radius of several miles
and were a rich blessing to scores of listeners.
The first complete redecoration of the church was recorded in 1932.
Wallpaper was removed, paint applied, new light fixtures installed,
bookracks built, and carpet replaced. During this renovation services
were held in the Laceyville School building on East Main Street.
In 1934 Rev. Melvin G. Hatcher answered a call to the pulpit. He worked
diligently with the young people and conducted very profitable Bible
Study classes. He suggested the establishment of the first fund for
student loans to be used by deserving persons from the church who
desired an education in full-time Christian work. The following year a
fund for distribution of Bible Tracts was also established. May 25 - 26,
1935 the first Young Peoples' Bible Conference was held at Braintrim
with guest churches participating. It was during Rev. Hatcher's services
at Braintrim, that the Young People added the bulletin board on the
church lawn to the property.
Rev. Clarence Hayden was called to the pastorate March 14, 1937. June 6
of the same year, the church voted to buy an amplifier to be used at the
drive-in Services at Donavan Park.
The following December, Burton Davis and Robert Lacey, both Braintrim
members, were ordained to the ministry for full-time Christian work.
Rev. Davis later entered full-time Missionary work in Brazil, South
America. His work was partially supported by missionary funds from
Braintrim Baptist for several years until, by his personal request the
support was terminated. Rev. Lacey ministered as pastor for 28 years in
churches in New York until his death at an early age.
When Rev. Fletcher Suanders came to fill the church pulpit in 1940, the
policy of annually rehiring a pastor was changed to that of hiring for
an indefinite time. Rev. Saunders continued the programs already
established for the Young People and with all of that age group in the
community invited and encouraged to attend.
In 1942 a Golden Jubilee celebration was held to commemorate the laying
of the cornerstone of the church. A fellowship dinner and a special
meeting marked the event.
October 24 - 29, 1944 the church celebrated its 150th anniversary with
many noted speakers and special music.
Over the years choirs of different sizes and ages have presented
programs for special occasions and for several periods of time their
part in the services was a regularly scheduled event. There have been
adult choir groups and youth choir groups, each adding a special
testimony and message to the services. In 1947 Rev. Saunders organized a
Youth Choir and also a church orchestra.
Also about that time, Eldon Winans was ordained as a pastor for service
to God in the ministry.
Rev. Tunis Mouw came to Laceyville in 1948 and became Braintrim's
pastor. Soon afterward the church bought a new Hammond organ and the
auditorium was very tastefully redecorated.
In 1952 the Mary Whipple Missionary Home was bought by Miss Whipple to
be used by missionaries home on furlough. The home was retained until
1958 when it was sold to Cleon Woodruff. It was located on East Main
Street and is now owned by Darrell Fassett. In 1949 a nursery for babies
and small children was equipped in the second story of the southwest
corner where Sunday School classes had been previously held. Mrs. Lucina
Yale and Mrs. Emma Whipple served as overseers of this labor of love for
twenty years. It has since been moved twice and is now located in the
west addition of the building with Lucy Whipple in charge.
In 1951 the church voted to become a part of the Independent Fundamental
Churches of America, a fellowship of Independent Churches who ascribe
doctrinally to the fundamentals of the Faith.
In 1950 and 1951 a large room was constructed in the church basement for
use as a classroom and general meeting room. Two outside entrances on
Franklin Street were built to the room. The entire project was financed
by a gift from Cora Donavon. Love gifts of members and friends of the
church have made many other improvements over the years
Rev. George Scripture served the church eight months of 1953. During
that summer the Daily Vacation Bible School had its peak attendance of
310 pupils, teachers and helpers.
Rev. Arthur Malles came to serve the church in 1954 and remained until
1958. It was during this time that afternoon classes were started for
children by visiting missionaries of the Child Evangelism Fellowship and
were known as Good News Clubs. In 1954 also, Released Time Classes were
started, when by mutual agreement, the school board voted to excuse
elementary pupils for spiritual education and training.
The first teachers of the Braintrim classes were: Rev. Malles, Marjorie
Brotzman, Ruth Klotzbach, and Arthur Valentine. These classes continued
until 1984. In 1956, the church basement was remodeled and new
classrooms were added. A kitchen was installed on the northeast comer of
the basement and the room served as a classroom as well as the kitchen.
In late August 1955 a fund was again established to help Young People
who are called to train for Christian work.
January 30, 1956 Rev. Malles started a daily radio broadcast "From the
Pastor's Study", a Gospel message heard from Montrose Radio Station WPEL.
This testimony continued throughout Mr. Malles' stay at Braintrim and
some months after. That same year in October, Junior Church, a service
for pre-school children was started. This served as an instruction
period during the Sunday morning worship service and has been renamed
Tot Church, and accommodates children 2 yr. through an early 4 yr. of
In 1957 a Men's Fellowship Group for men of the church and community was
started and held once each month. Many interesting programs were given.
Rev. Albert Fesmire was called to Braintrim November 16, 1958 and served
five years. That same year the church voted to purchase a property on
Franklin Street for use as a parsonage. This was the former A. L.
Vandervort home and it provided a large dwelling closer to the church.
The Main Street parsonage was sold to J. Earl Newhart. In 1962 an
addition on the northeastern end of the front of the church provided
An early Sunday evening meeting for pupils from the third to seventh
grades was started in September 1964 and was called Jet Cadets.
For a few years at this period the church published a bi-monthly
newsletter with prayer requests and communications from missionaries
supported by the church.
The church was host to the Eastern Regional Semi-Annual Convention of
the I.F.C.A. with a program of spiritual activities that proved to be a
rich blessing. Pastor Fesmire served as president of the Eastern
Regional group during his pastorate here.
In 1962 the first book containing summaries of all departments of the
church was compiled to be distributed at the annual meeting. The first
church bus was purchased in 1963 for transportation for youth
Duane Mowry was ordained into the ministry of the service of God at a
special service on January 7, 1963.
The last recorded baptismal service to be held in the Susquehanna River
(at Donavon Park) was held when Rev. Fesmire was pastor.
In 1964 Rev. Richard Gregory answered a call to the pulpit. Later the
same year, the first Missionary Conference was held at Braintrim. From
October 18 - 22, the program was unique with the Rev. Reuben Judson and
his wife Mary (at home on furlough from the Philippines) among the
speakers, as were also: Mr. & Mrs. Earl Andersen, missionaries to Kenya,
Africa (on furlough); Spiros Zodhiates, missionary to Greece; and
students Benjamin Wambari, son of an African tribal chief in Kenya;
George Sadig from Pakistan; Sondee Pooswatsee from Thailand; and Fred
Alonzo from the Philippine Islands. The program also included a film on
Christian work with Jewish people and a discussion by Wycliffe Bible
Translators missionary, Frank Robbins. The conference was a great
blessing to the church people as well as to the participants. Since then
the Missionary Committee has sponsored a Missionary Conference every two
That year an Adult Discussion Group was formed and also a bookstore was
opened in the Prayer (Philathea) Room and was operated by Mrs. Kenneth
Comstock. It soon expanded to a library and was moved to a room behind
the pulpit. Here Christian literature is available to all that
appreciate good reading and Bibles, tracts and tapes are loaned.
A Ladies' Fellowship Group was formed for women of the church and
community with one meeting each year featuring a Mother-Daughter
Banquet. The membership averaged about thirty ladies but as time went
on, regular meetings were dropped and the women held the banquet
annually. The group has traveled by car or bus to nearby Montrose Bible
Conference for an evening meal and meeting to hear special speakers once
each summer. This trip continues at this writing. A committee still
prepares food plates for shut-ins at Thanksgiving time and funeral
dinners are served when needed.
Primary Church was started in December 1964 for grades I - 3. Later
Pioneer Girls was started and still later the boys and girls club known
as Awana was started as a ministry to children.
In 1966 a nursery, beginner and primary church had been maintained
throughout the year. Young peoples' meetings were held for three
different age groups.
For the past several years a Thanksgiving Harvest Home display of food
and a love offering had been collected for the Aberdeen Servicemen's
Center in Aberdeen, MD. In 1968 this was changed to a purse of money
only, that was collected for them due to the difficulty of getting
foodstuff to them. Over $600 was collected for the gift. In later years,
it was directed to the SIM Famine Fund and more lately to reduce the
debt on the last parking lot purchased.
In 1968 "Our Daily Bread", a periodical devotional publication from the
Radio Bible Class, was obtained by the church for free distribution by
the bookstore and later by the Sunday School office. It is still made
available each month. The same year, Pastor Gregory resumed the radio
broadcast "From the Pastor's Study" on a three day a week schedule.
These broadcasts continued until May 30, 1970.
In 1966 special commissioning services for Dr. Robert & Marion Bowers
were held before their departure for Liberia, Africa for missionary
work. In 1968, Mrs. Margaret Whipple Lacey joined her daughter and
son-in-law, the Bowers, with her own two youngest children. Mrs. Lacey
served as a registered nurse in the ELWA Radio Village Hospital. Since
then they have all served in Ethiopia until political strife forced
their return to the states.
In 1969 the church celebrated its 175th anniversary the weekend of May
22 with a series of historical events including a historical pageant
"Steps of Faith", written and produced by the Young Adults Class of the
Sunday School and presented at the Laceyville Elementary School. An
anniversary booklet of the history of the church and an exhibit of items
and accounts in various forms associated with the church's past was set
up in the church to be viewed at an Open House. 200 people enjoyed a
fellowship supper at the local fire hall. Former pastor Rev. Tunis Mouw,
then president of the I.F.C.A., was the speaker for the event. The choir
presented a cantata and at a late afternoon luncheon, letters of
congratulations were read from President Richard Nixon, several former
ministers, neighboring ministers, and former members.
The following year the Bible that had belonged to the founder of the
church, Rev. Samuel Sturdevant, was presented to the church by the
family of Mrs. Marion Whipple, one of his descendants. It is displayed
in the church. The same year 60 people were awarded Sunday School
perfect attendance pins and the tabernacle was torn down to make room
for the building expansion.
In 1969 Rev. Gregory held two morning worship services each Sunday
during the summer. This proved to be a very rewarding arrangement as
both services, one at 8:45 a.m. and the other at 11:00 a.m. were well
The church bus transported children from the area to the CEF Camp at
Mehoopany. Several attended. Later that year the church board hired Mrs.
& Mrs. Thomas Jones as the first youth directors. They were from Baptist
Bible Seminary. Since that time, when they are needed, other students
from there have filled this position through the school months.
In May 1970 Pastor Gregory resigned and on August 30 the congregation
called Rev. Robert Fitzgerald with a 95.5% vote in favor of him. Later
the congregation approved the board's appointment of Rev. Reuben Judson
as church visitor for six months. He served for longer as he was
reappointed. September 18, 1970 Pioneer Girls for girls grades 3 - 6 was
added to the youth programs and held their first meeting in the Prayer
Room. Later in 1974 a program for older girls, the "Colonists," was
November 25, 1970 a dedication service for the new educational building
was held. It provided 12 more classrooms and an auditorium. The choir
presented the John Peterson cantata, "Sound of Singing". Rev. Gregory
returned to have the evening service and a Thanksgiving offering of
$1,775 was received.
In 1971, one of the few times the church body had taken a stand on a
public issue, a committee attended a hearing in Wilkes-Barre, PA before
an examiner designated by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board in
connection with an application for a malt beverage license by Mr. & Mrs.
Frank Jayne. The place to be licensed is within 300 feet of the church.
Despite the church's efforts, the license was granted.
November 9 Teacher Training Courses were offered to the staff of the
Sunday School. There was a good response and these have been offered
from time to time in the ensuing years. The same year Richard Camp
served a short time as a summer missionary with Central Alaskan Mission.
During February a severe snowstorm caused the worst dent in attendance
at Sunday services that had been experienced in many years. Sunday
School attendance was 73, morning worship only 69, and 35 in the evening
In 1972 the Agnes Flood affected the church much the same as it did the
rest of the community. The bridge that crossed the Susquehanna River
connecting Laceyville Borough and Windham Township washed out and caused
many changes. Mid-week prayer services were held in homes of the church
families on North Flat and were led by Richard Davis and others. On
Sundays it was necessary for the congregation from that area to travel
22 miles or more to get to worship services. The Sunday evening drive-in
service was changed from Donavon Park to the Wyalusing Valley High
School parking lot. Later they were moved to Lacey Street cemetery, then
to a property that was donated by Mildred Arthur.
The same year Richard Camp started missionary service full-time in
Alaska as a college instructor and David Decker went for the summer
months as a short-term helper with the James Brock family in Africa.
Richard Camp was commissioned at a meeting following the regular worship
service on Sunday, July 23, 1972.
Several groups of two people each were calling as part of a Visitation
Evangelism program in the fall of 1972. A new Yamaha piano was purchased
at a price of $2,815. An Explorers' Class for new converts was started
early in 1973 and two home Bible Study groups were started.
Baptismal classes, personal evangelism classes and the regular
activities of the church proved to be a great blessing to all those who
The following year a program of regular giving to missionaries was set
up to give third week Sunday School collections of classes not giving
regularly to an on-budget missionary. This was recommended to the Sunday
School Executive Committee by the Missionary Committee and designated as
"Missionary of the Month". This was approved and there was full
participation for several years. In 1994 the Ladies' Sunday School class
is the only one participating. In 1973, too, every class started giving
collections every fifth Sunday of the month for a "Christmas in July"
fund to be divided among all the individual missionaries on the budget
as a sort of Christmas gift.
Also that year, the lot across the street from the front of the church
was purchased. The first church was razed and paving was completed for a
parking lot. Also, monthly church letters to missionaries on the budget
1was started and sent regularly for several years.
July 9, 1973 Dale Comstock and his wife Loretta conducted the Daily
Vacation Bible School with a Kid's Krusade (a puppet ministry). It
proved very beneficial with several children accepting the Lord into
their hearts. The Comstocks were invited back several times in the years
In November 1973 a Junior Choir had been formed and was led by Mrs.
Fitzgerald. They sang the third Sunday of each month and to this day
they are enjoyed by all. Seven people completed the course in "New
Testament Survey" taught by Mrs. Mary Judson during the winter. Church
membership in 1973 totaled 231.
In 1974 Richard Vieldhouse served as a summer missionary in France and
Belgium where he was helper to the C. Kroeker and Dan Lacey families in
their mission work.
Over the past several years the Young Peoples Group has taken part in
services both as a group and individually, and their contributions to
the ministry have been noteworthy. For many summers they have attended
Bible Conferences in various places in the Northeast and also at Harvey
Cedars, NJ for a week each summer. Often they were given help from the
church to meet the cost if it is not otherwise available. In the past
few years the "Christmas in July" fifty Sunday offering from the Sunday
School has been changed to benefit the Camp Fund. The young people also
have attended retreats, rallies, and other youth activities with other
groups at various times. The church was painted in the summer of 1974.
In June the new bridge across the Susquehanna River was completed and
the church float won the first prize in the Bridge Opening Celebration.
That same year in May, Braintrim Baptist observed its 180th anniversary
with special services. In the fall the boys & girls club was started
that was known as Awana. This program continues today in 1994 and has
proven very profitable both in further developing the youngsters who
already have had some Christian instruction and also reaching unchurched
About 1975 a Ladies' Mission Work Group started to hold meetings once a
week to make and pack items that are sent to missionaries for their use
and distribution in their ministries. This group is an outgrowth of the
Ladies Fellowship Group that later combined with the Senior Citizens'
Group that had formed in 1982. However, the Mission Work Group continues
yet in 1994 with about 4 active members.
That same year, 1975, a feature of the Sunday morning worship service
"Spotlight on Missions" was presented by the Missionary Committee
chairman Duane Mowry to acquaint the congregation with missionaries
supported by the budget. The church purchased a new Rodgers electric
organ that year, too.
September 10 a commissioning service was held for Mrs. Margaret Lacey.
She left for missionary service in Ethiopia, Africa to work with Dr. Bob
Bowers. Several people completed the E.T.T.A. (Evangelical Teacher
Training Association) course taught by Karl Young on "Understanding
People" and the Old Testament Unit taught by Rev. Larry Thomas of
Evergreen Church. The library was moved to Room #8 of the educational
addition to the church (across the hall from the room that was used for
In July the church participated in the Bicentennial Celebration of our
country. Five hundred people attended the cantata, "I Love America"
presented by the church choir of over thirty voices directed by Mrs.
Joan Decker. In early 1976, Richard Vieldhouse was hired as a part-time
Assistant Pastor and the congregation approved an assistant treasurer
for the Missionary Committee to be appointed by the Church Board. There
were three choirs participating in services with the Primary Choir
starting September 5, 1976.
In September a Men's Bible Class met at the parsonage the second and
fourth Thursday evenings of each month to encourage those with limited
background in the Bible. The same month Mary Judson taught an E.T.T.A.
class on "Bible Beliefs".
June 19, 1977 ground was broken for the last addition to the Braintrim
Baptist Church building to make space for four Sunday School rooms, an
Awana game floor, 120 seating spaces on the north side, and a nursery.
Cushions were placed on all of the pews of the church and Mrs. Ella
Leenheer gave a gift of a spinet piano.
That same year two octaves of bells were purchased to start a Bell Choir
to be directed by Sherrie Lacey.
It is noted in the church yearbook that "Rev. Fitzgerald has been with
us seven years. During this time he baptized 99 people and performed 26
Kathy Iseminger gave a report of her work as a summer missionary in
Alaska under SEND Int. Mission in a Sunday evening service in September.
The newly formed Bell Choir took part in a special musical program
February 28, 1978 Ellis & Ruth Lacey Brotzman and family left for Spain
to begin their work as missionaries with the Greater Europe Mission.
D.V.B.S. attendance reached a new high of 322 that summer. A Sunday
Family Day was held with special music by both Adult & Junior Choirs,
and a midday dinner was held with 250 people attending. June 4 the north
wing of the church was dedicated with special services.
The following year Phil Osennis, a student at Baptist Bible College, and
Denise Adsit were hired as Youth Directors. The front entrance of the
north wing was paved, a sign installed on the siding of the church, and
steps on the west side of the addition were built. Later a van was
purchased to pick up children for Sunday School, and in October
witnessing classes were started.
There were 5 Bible Study Classes being taught, 4 for women and 1 for men
at this time. May 27 recognition was given to Mrs. Lucina Yale who had
been a member the longest period of time (since 1908) and the oldest
member, George Bushnell, who was 99 years old, June 10, 1979 after
morning services and a family dinner was held.
The church joined others throughout the nation in December for a Day of
Prayer that year and the Constitution was re-evaluated by a special
committee. A school bus was hired to bring children in for Awana each
week during that school year.
Another octave of bells was bought. There were three Bell Choirs under
the direction of Sherrie Lacey. Today, in 1994, there are two Bell
Choirs (Adult and Junior) directed by Nancy Bendinsky. New signs were
made for Route 6 at both ends of Laceyville Borough. July 13, 176 people
in 88 cars attended drive-in church.
September 15, 1980 Pastor Fitzgerald resigned and on January 18, 1981
Rev. Robert Ebersole was called as pastor.
Bobby George Brigham worked with CEF as a summer missionary during the
summer of 1980 just as other young people from Braintrim have done over
the last several years.
The worship services were taped for shut-ins to borrow, and membership
was listed at 294 as of April 1, 1981. About this time a Senior
Citizens' Group and a Men's Prayer Breakfast were organized and visitors
were invited to attend. CEF workers from Tunkhannock conducted Released
Time Classes. Richard Vieldhouse was ordained into the ministry on July
9, 1981 at the church. Richard and his wife Kathy Iseminger Vieldhouse
were then pastoring a church at North Collins, NY. It was this year that
a sunrise Easter Service is first mentioned in the reports of the
church. January 14, 1982 Richard Camp was also ordained into the
ministry by Ordination Council at Braintrim Baptist. He and his wife
were serving the Lord in Alaska as missionaries.
Pastor Ebersole was appointed to serve on the Board of Directors of the
Eastern Independent Church Mission of the I.F.C.A. and Mark King was
hired as Assistant Pastor. The Ladies' Fellowship group combined with
the Senior Citizens'. Mildred Arthur donated land on Lacey Street for
drive-in services and a building to store equipment was built by the men
of the church. The first Valentine Banquet was held (later called the
The pastors over the past several years have conducted baptismal
classes, as well as marriage classes (for prospective brides & grooms).
May 22, 1983 Rev. Robert Ebersole resigned. Rev. Richard Tintle accepted
the call to become Braintrim's pastor on November 1, 1983. He served
until 1989. Assistant Pastor Mark King resigned March 25, 1984. In
February of that same year the deacons voted to start a Benevolent Fund
for "those who need help from time to time". This continues in 1994. A
letter was sent to everyone in the community and surrounding areas
inviting them to Braintrim Baptist Church and its Sunday School.
In 1982 Amy Repsher passed on to Roberta LaFrance and Marjorie Brotzman
the chairmanship of the Home Department that has ministered to shut-ins
for scores of years. The new committee continued the ministry until
1984. Today, in 1994, the Men's' & Ladies' Bible Classes send cards to
shut-ins and the bereaved on a regular basis. That same year Thomas
Henderson was hired as a full-time Assistant Pastor. He stayed three
About this time, the membership adopted a clarification of the
Missionary Committee Policies and Guidelines as was recommended by the
committee. From time to time changes have been made to the Missionary
budget, the Constitution, and other important policies all by
In July 1986 a patriotic program was presented, Freedom's Praise" by the
choir and other members of the church to commemorate the birthday of the
Statue of Liberty. A corner lot across from West Franklin Street, owned
by Courtney Loomis, was purchased and the building torn down for the
second parking lot for the church. It was shaled and graded by Sam
VanDeMark, a local contractor, who furnished all the labor and materials
free of charge. About this time, golf was added to softball and
basketball as a sport for the young and not so young. Those who
participate compete with other area church teams.
The church was painted in 1987 and the belfry was covered with vinyl
siding. Over these later years trips to various places of interest
nearby for the young people and also for groups of older people have
been sponsored by the church. A booklet was sponsored by the Missionary
Committee entitled "Our Missionary Family". It contained a photograph of
each missionary on the budget with a short description of his or her
background and work.
That same year it was voted to purge the names of inactive members of
two years who did not respond after two months following a contact by a
deacon. That year there were 46 inactive members.
The following year Rev. Richard Vieldhouse was hired as Assistant Pastor
to work with the youth groups, Daily Vacation Bible School, Sunday
School, and assisting the Senior Pastor. The choir presented "Liberty"
on July 3, and the entire congregation who has served in the military
went to the front of the sanctuary to be recognized.
About that time a new copier was purchased and pamphlets were printed
listing services offered by the church. The program called "Deacon's
Oversight Program" was dropped after a one-year trial. During this
period of time the Articles of Faith were approved and a church
directory of members and friends with telephone numbers and addresses
was completed and handed out.
Concern with our nation's fascination with the cults led to a series of
Wednesday evening meetings on how to deal with the subject. A special
collection of $600 was taken for Hurricane Hugo victims in the south.
July 2, 1989 a patriotic program "Stars & Stripes Forever" was presented
and service people were again recognized. August 16, 1989 Rev. Tintle
resigned from the Braintrim pastorate.
In November 1990 Rev. William Pepper began a three and one-half year
pastorate at Braintrim. A large program of renovations and improvements
were made to the church and earlier in the year Assistant Pastor
Vieldhouse baptized seven people at Bennett's Pond. Several Christian
videos were added to the church library to be available to the
congregation. During this time a group from the church joined others
from Wyoming County areas to attend a Pro-Life Rally in Washington, DC.
September 30, 1990 the cornerstone was opened and the contents were
removed from the box within and were displayed in the front of the
church to be reviewed by those attending the ceremony. The articles were
later placed in a glass case for display.
In January of 1991 the Scholarship Fund was reactivated when a memorial
scholarship fund gift of $50,000 was received for students studying in
Christian Colleges that meet eligibility and doctrinal qualifications
from both the student and the educational institution.
Later that year the church bought a computer for $2,235, the "Prayer
Chain" for people seriously ill was reactivated, and the young people
did a house to house campaign of visitation in nearby areas to invite
people to church services at Braintrim. For Thanksgiving Day dinner,
people who would otherwise be alone were invited to the church to enjoy
a meal with others. It has been continued and is now called the Bethany
In March 1992 members of the board and the Pastor presented information
they had compiled to church members concerning either repairing the
present church or building a replacement. The following year a north
wing Sunday School room wall was opened to be used for church services,
if needed. It was later used a short time for a Sunday School class.
Mike Gustafson, from Baptist Bible Seminary, helped with the youth
On March 11, 1993 the church was saddened by the sudden death of Dale
Comstock, missionary to Guatemala, following an auto accident there. He
and his wife, Loretta, had worked for over 30 years as the Dalorey
Puppeteers Ministry in full-time Christian service to children's groups
both in the states and in Central America.
In 1993 plans were discussed for building a replacement for the present
church on land in Windham Township that was given by the Donald Arhtur
Estate. There were other meetings on the plans in the months that
followed. The library report showed over 2,000 volumes plus tapes
available to the congregation. A short committal service was held for
David Contreras for missionary service in Colombia.
The April report showed 244 active church members and 25 inactive
members. In April 1993 a Drama Ministry was started with Jana Willis as
director. They presented programs from time to time illustrating Bible
truths. June 6, 1993 Brian & Crystal Salsman, short-term missionary
appointees to Santiago, Chile under A.B.W.E., were presented in a
service of dedication. They expect to leave in the summer of 1994. In
August farewell parties for the Assistant Pastor Richard Vieldhouse and
his family were held. Rev. Vieldhouse had resigned earlier on August 8,
In 1994 Jon Willis, a student at Baptist Bible Seminary, and his wife
Jana were installed at a special service td be the new Assistant Pastor
at the church. Becky Place started a "Sonbeam" pre-kindergarten
ministry. The first semester they had 15 in attendance. Gloria Milliron
aids Mrs. Place.
There are several other programs that are ongoing as this history is
written, but we must add that over the years there has been "downs" as
well as "ups" at Braintrim. The difficult problem of disciplining
members who have been disobedient to the Biblical principles that are
the guidelines to members has had to be handled. Immoral behavior and
even dismissal of a member who had helped rob a train are recorded in
the church's accounts.
However, the growth of Braintrim Baptist in it's faithful witness to the
surrounding area of Laceyville since 1794 and its missionary outreach to
countries throughout the world is an indication of God's blessing.
The thirty-three pastors who have led the flock of believers over the
past two hundred years have each had a special part in the history of
the church and have left his special mark.
To quote a former pastor: "What the future history of the church is to
be is only known to Him who knows all things. The membership is spread
over a wide extent of territory, and the church has labored hard for
years, to lay the foundation broad and deep for future prosperity. As
the hope of the church is in God, and in the power of His work and
grace, the members have aimed to give the rising generation every
Opportunity to acquire a knowledge of the Scriptures and to
faithfully teach them the way of life and salvation, by the cross of
Christ." Thus Rev. Davis D. Gray expressed the hopes of the folks at
Braintrim Baptist Church one hundred twenty-seven years ago - the same
is the hope of the church today in 1999.
Mark King grew up in Braintrim Baptist Church and was licensed to
preach by the Church on January 9, 1994.
March 27, 1994, Rev. William Pepper resigned as Sr. Pastor of the
Braintrim Baptist Church. Mark King was hired to serve as Interim Pastor
Braintrim Baptist Church was founded on May 24, 1794 in Black Walnut and
in following years moved to Laceyville.
On May 29, 1994 following Sunday School, a group picture was taken in
front of the church in honor of the church’s 200th bi-centennial
anniversary. Pastor Mark King conducted the morning service dressed as
Rev. Samuel Sturdevant, the first pastor of Braintrim Baptist Church. In
the afternoon a wreath was placed on Rev. Sturdevant’s grave which is
located in Black Walnut. The wreath was placed by church members,
including Phyllis Rosencrance, a descendant of Rev. Sturdevant.
200 Years Special Bi-Centennial Service!
Braintrim Baptist Church held its 200th anniversary celebration October
7-9, 1994. Friday night was a dinner concert by Shepherd Song. Saturday
evening was a praise and worship service. Former Pastor Dr. Richard
Gregory spoke in the Sunday morning service. Mrs. Carol Gregory, Rev.
Rick Gregory and missionary Lorey Comstock also spoke to classes and the
congregation throughout the weekend. There was a dinner in the early
evening followed by the evening worship service.
A commissioning service was held June 26, 1994 for Brian and Crystal
Salsman, who are going as missionaries to Chile. Braintrim Baptist
Church is their sending church.
May 7, 1995 Rev. William (and Joyce) Plough was called by Braintrim
Baptist Church. On June 23, 1995, we had an installation service for
Rev. William (and Joyce) Plough, as our Senior Pastor. The Plough’s
resigned in April of 1997.
Also that year, Jeff Eveland was hired as Youth Pastor for the summer.
Evangelistic/Revival services were held with Evangelist Norm Sharbaugh,
December 3-7, 1995
Tom (and Melony) Coverly was called to become our Assistant/Youth Pastor
on January 14, 1996
On April 19, 1997, Tom Coverly was licensed to preach by the Church.
The Coverly’s started a youth ministry with our teens and reaching out
to other young people with the Gospel of Christ.
The Coverly’s resigned their ministry April 30, 1998.
June of 1998, T. Sean Mills was hired as interim Assistant/Youth Pastor
and Pastor Earl Graby was hired as our Interim Senior Pastor in
In the fall of 1998, Braintrim Baptist Church went “on-line”, creating a
website and obtaining an e-mail address.
Pastor Victor (and Cyndi) Millard became Senior Pastor on June 6, 1999.
On August 12, 1999, Pastor Millard and Cyndi purchased the parsonage
from the Church. Now the church no longer owns its own parsonage.
Present and future pastors will choose their own housing. Pastor Millard
resigned from the position of Sr. Pastor in October of 2002.
July 2000 Pastor David (and Tricia) Faulkner was hired as
The Youth ministry under his leadership has expanded with solid growth
as well as missionary trips here in the States and to Jamaica. David
Faulkner resigned March 2012.
Throughout the past few years, the church has been able to purchase
additional properties surrounding the church. This has enabled us to
create more parking spaces, and also to build a fellowship hall. In the
spring of 2001, the Braintrim Baptist Fellowship Center (across the
street and south of the church) was completed and is now in use. The
building contains a large fellowship hall/gymnasium, a large commercial
kitchen area and restrooms on the main floor. A partial second story
contains two large meeting rooms, which are mainly utilized by the
Over several years the church has had different ones as serving as
secretary, such as Rachel Rosencrance, Diane Eveland, Melony Coverly and
Pastor Thomas Davis was called to serve as Interim Pastor. He began the
position on December 8, 2002. On March 30, 2003, Pastor Thomas (and
Debbie) Davis was called to serve as our Senior Pastor. He continues to
serve as our Sr. Pastor at this present time. In the last few years,
there has been much work done within the church as well as purchasing
two houses that were demolished and the area is now being used as
parking lots. Also we have replaced the windows, had new carpeting laid
and replaced the pews, along with seeing various missionary outreach
programs and steady growth in the lives of God’s people.
In August of 2014, Pastor Joseph Kilmer, his wife Jen and three
daughters have been called to serve as Associate/Youth Pastor. His
ministry will begin on September 28, 2014. We look forward to God’s
blessing on this ministry.