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West Fulton church’s past may get noted on national list

Pastors made circuit on horseback

Sunday, December 30, 2012
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— A century-old church building that houses a congregation once served by pastors on horseback is among two Schoharie County properties being recommended for historic recognition.

The state Historic Preservation Board last week announced the 106-year-old West Fulton Methodist Church is among 25 historic treasures worthy of listing on the state and national registers of historic places.

It is one of two buildings in Schoharie County being recommended for listing. The other is a private home and property known as the Terpenning-Johnson House and Cemetery in the hamlet of Brooker Hollow.

The state’s announcement also includes the 1879 First Methodist Episcopal Church in St. Johnsville, Montgomery County.

Built in 1906 to replace the original 1882 church that burned the year before, the West Fulton Methodist Church building is considered a prime example of changes in late Victorian church architecture aimed at bringing worshippers closer to their pastor, according to its nomination.

Pastor Cornelius B. Irwin said if it is approved, it will be the second such church building he serves — the Blenheim Methodist Church in North Blenheim is already listed on the National Register.

The congregation dates back to the 1800s, when a total of four churches were part of a “circuit” pastors visited on horseback, Irwin said.

“Years ago, the church was really the main center of the community,” he said.

Work to prepare the nomination for the West Fulton Road building took two years, and inclusion on the register will open the door for historic preservation grants for any needed rehabilitation in the future, Irwin said.

Building trends in the early 1900s changed the makeup of church buildings to bring churchgoers closer to the pastor, state Historic Preservation Program analyst Travis Bowman wrote in the nomination form.

The changes, he wrote, featured curved pews arranged diagonally to face a raised platform for a choir and pastor. “The whole was designed to allow more participation in the liturgy and allow more of the congregation to be close to the pulpit,” he wrote.

The construction plan also included additional space to embrace more participation. Additional rooms can be opened up to the main sanctuary with sliding doors or partitions.

The Terpenning-Johnson House and Cemetery property in Brooker Hollow provides a view of the gradual development of the western Schoharie County town of Richmondville, according to its nomination.

The home is considered historically significant as “a surviving assemblage of resources that chronicle the settlement, growth and development of a rural area in what became the town of Richmondville,” Bowman wrote in the nomination.

Sitting on a hill near a tributary to the Schenevus Creek is a family cemetery that serves as the final resting place of Jacob Terpenning, who served as a corporal in the Revolutionary War.

The farmstead includes barns and outbuildings that depict examples of 1800s building techniques including the use of hand-hewn timber framing.

Nomination and final listing of these properties is seen as the first step toward preserving these “irreplaceable assets,” state parks commissioner Rose Harvey said in a release.

“Our historic resources help establish New York’s distinctive quality, character, and sense of place.”

 
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