Chapter 2

The First Methodist Episcopal Church

The history which is presented is not only the beginning of the church but of Bucks Bridge as well.  In 1806 Isaac Buck came from Shoreham, Vt., and located in the newly formed town of Potsdam near the Madrid line and at once began clearing land and by 1808 he had over 40 acres cleared and that year built the sawmill which was the first in the county, though there was no bridge there then nor, in fact, any of any consequence in the town. Some of the small creeks were crossed with rude pole bridges, but the larger ones were ferried, usually with rafts. Asahel Wright also located in Bucks Bridge that year. Later the Wrights bought the sawmill and built what was called the old mill bridge. That was about 1832.  A few years later the iron bridge was built and upon its completion very elaborate exercises were held and the place was called Bucks Bridge, because the bridge was adjacent to the Buck land and they were among the first settlers.  That was the beginning of Buck’s Bridge.

Soon after the sawmill was built, Isaac Buck opened up a store in this locality.  The settlement grew and by 1836 the people thought they were worthy of a post office, so on March 30, 1836, the government ordered a post office here with Owen Buck as the first postmaster. After the store came the blacksmith shop, then the wagon shop and then the cooper shop.  There were about 20 houses here and now the time had come when the people felt that they needed a church. Records show as far back as 1833 a meeting was held in one of the homes and the members incorporated themselves into a regular M. E. society.

In 1837 a separate charge was formed from Canton embracing Bucks Bridge, South Canton, Morley and a portion of the town of Lisbon. Since then South Canton, Morley and Lisbon have been separated. There were about 35 members at this time.  A frame church edifice was built about the time of the organization costing about $1500.  It was of good size, seating about 500 people.  All the men of the community helped with the building.  John Lockwood, was the carpenter.[1]

The first M.E. church of Columbia village (now Madrid) was organised (sic) June 30th, 1847, as per letter of incorporation found in the St. Lawrence county records, and was made auxiliary to the Buck’s Bridge and West Potsdam charge. Almanzo Blackman was the first pastor. The pastors of the Buck’s Bridge charge served this point until 1858, when it became a separate charge. The following names were entered on the first class book and appear as the charter members: Stephen F. Palmer and wife, Erastus Bibbins and wife, William L. Read and wife, William Lockwood and wife, William Palmer and wife, Jacob Vrooman and wife, Horace Powell, wife and daughter, and Cleora Sweet.  S. F. Palmer was the first class leader, and Solomon S. Martin, S.F. Palmer and William Read constituted the first Board of Trustees.[2]

Soon after the formation of the society a store and lot located on the west side of Main street, adjacent to the business part of the village, was purchased of Alfred Goss, rebuilt and enlarged, and used by the society as a church for 12 years.

As the members and attendance increased it became necessary that a commodious and convenient place of worship be obtained.  During the summer and fall of 1869, E. E. Kellogg pastor, a brick church was erected on the original site, forty by sixty feet in size, with vestibule and basement, the Sunday School and class rooms being in the basement. The new church cost about $14,000 and was dedicated Dec 6, 1869.[3]

In 1865 a deed for the purchase of land by the Trustees of the Methodist Church was recorded.  This one half acre plot would become the home of the Methodist parsonage.

The brick church’s splendor was short-lived. On the evening of August 16, 1878 “a fire was discovered issuing from the back room of the drug store of A. T. Hepburn which spread with alarming rapidity, and soon the entire block of buildings together with the Hotel property and Methodist church were one mass of flames. The origin of the fire is unknown.  On Main street the following buildings were burned: Methodist church, hotel and barns, A. T. Hepburn’s drug store, Walsh and Wear’s dry goods, J. E. Horsford’s drug store, C. B. McClelland’s law office, and Masonic lodge.  On Church Street: The dwelling and furniture ware rooms of Mrs. A. Van Sickler, Miss J. L. Roberts’ millinery, and building belonging to Miss L. Fisk and occupied by Peter O’Brien as a meat market.”[4]  The church loss was valued at $13,000.  There was no insurance.

The society rallied and decided to replace the church. Since they still owed $900.00 on the Church that had burned it was felt not to exceed a total of $4000.  In building this church the house and lot to the North of the former location was purchased and the, house now known as the Adams residence, was moved to North St. so that the building might be erected in the center of the two lots thus reducing fire hazards. [5]  Mr. J. P. Johnston of Ogdensburg was asked for his ideas on the new church while the congregation set about building a chapel at the rear of the lot for worship.

According to newspapers, “The new M. E. church at Madrid has received its first coat of plaster and is fast drawing to completion.”[6] The church was dedicated in June of 1884, during the pastorate of W.A. Nichols.  The church is very neat, an ornament to the village and a treasure to the society and the church.[7]  The new church took 6 years to complete but was virtually debt free at its finish.

Interestingly, Mr. Nichols was a veteran of the Civil War, having been a chaplain in the 94th NY Vol.  He was commissioned as a 1st Lieutentant and spent two years in service. He never forgot his service because he served as chaplain for the Luther Priest Post of the Grand Army of the Republic in Norwood.

In the spring of 1886, with Carlton N. Higby at the lead, the Chase Mills church was added to Madrid’s duties.  It had been organized July 12, 1869 with about 20 charter members, Justus Barnett, L. E. Barnett, R. C. Allen and others being the prime movers.[8]

Rev. Higby was well liked at both Madrid and Chase Mills and was reassigned for a third year as pastor.  However, on the Sunday after he returned from Conference, he was stricken with a cerebral hemorrhage and died two days later.  He was 41 years old and left a wife and five young children.

In 1889 the society decided to build a new parsonage, begun by Rev. Higby and continued during the pastorate of Rev. J. H. Meyers.  It was located on the lower part of Main Street, and was used until it was sold in 1974.

In 1890 the church was equipped with electric lights.  The parsonage would not get them until 1920 and they were sporadic at best.

During the fiftieth anniversary of the church, 1897, they celebrated in several ways. The society has been heroic from the beginning, never strong in numbers but ever possessed of a goodly number of strong characters it has met all difficulties triumphantly.[9]  With the help of Rev. C.H. Walton, the society decided to rid themselves of the debt owed on the church and repair the parsonage and church which had fallen into disrepair.  As a result in these few months the parsonage was painted and otherwise improved, the debt was paid in full, and the interior of the church thoroughly renovated including a new steel ceiling, beautifully and artistically decorated by Altewelt Brothers, of Syracuse, the floors had newly laid with rich carpets, the heating apparatus re-arranged and perfected, a new furnace placed under the chapel, the furniture newly upholstered, the orchestra raised and furnished with rich silk drapery and bronzed rods, the seats and other woodwork newly dressed over, new lamps suspended from the ceiling, and in fact the entire church was made to appear as good as new.[10]  The four sons of William Lockwood, deceased, are entitled to special praise for the beautiful and costly communion table which they have placed in the altar as a memorial to their sainted father.[11]

The new church had a tall spire. Pointing one hundred seven feet eight inches upward in true Gothic lines and figures, the spire was a chaste feature of our local landscape.[12]

The Rev. William H. Jago was born in England and came to the United States in 1890.  He was one of the first pastors to spend more than two years at a charge.  During his time in Madrid, the spire and tower had become shaky and dangerous and so that it was determined, to replace the spire, with a mere belfry. The bell was tolled rapidly a few strokes on Tuesday forenoon at 10:15 in warning just before the topmost section of perhaps 25 feet was pulled over and left hanging by the ropes which later lowered it to the ground.[13]  The belfry was capped and secured in September of 1912.

In March of 1918, the stained glass window at the front of the church was replaced, the Rev. W. P. Garrett was pastor.  This was done by the heirs of Milton A. Whitney and by Abner Whitney.  The central panel contains the figure of the Good Shepherd while the side panels contain scrolls pairing, bearing portions of the XIIIrd Psalm.  The coloring in the window is exquisite, the antique blue such, as was found in the Rheims cathedral being a rare and a choice element.  The beauty of the central figure which is English antique, reflects great credit upon the designer, Mr. Horwood, the face being especially attractive in its compassionate expression.  The Venetian spun roundels are handmade and no longer to be obtained.[14]  At the same time all the other windows in the church were repaired.

In 1919, Rev. George Harland became the Pastor in Madrid.  He entered the US through the port of Ogdensburg, having been born in England.  Rev. Harland had served in the Canadian Armed Forces during WWI.  During his tenure, July 1920,  the Laymen’s Gospel League held their annual convention in Madrid. Ministers and laymen from all over St, Lawrence County attended.  He settled in Madrid, and eventually went on to serve the Chipman Church in 1922.

The Rev. Thomas Wilson Carling was born in England in 1874.  He and his family emigrated to America in 1914.  He was sent to serve the congregation in Henderson and in April 1921, he was assigned to Madrid.  In 1922 Rev. and Mrs. Carling celebrated their 20th anniversary.

Rev. Albert Trickett labored here for only a year.  He was sent back to his former charge in Central New York.

Rev. Clyde Sparling was sent from the Pittsburgh Conference to work in Madrid in October of 1924.     At that time, he was 33 and had been in the Army as a chaplain during WWI.  Rev. Sparling became the District Superintendent for the St. Lawrence District in the 1950’s.   It was during his tenure that the Methodist Church celebrated its eightieth anniversary.

The birthday of the church was celebrated in 1927 Sunday morning, Oct. 9, Dr. Marsh, District Superintendant, preached a thoughtful and moving sermon, from Matt. 16.18: “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” following with the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

In the evening the auditorium was crowded for a union service with the Madrid Congregational church and the Scotch Presbyterian church of Waddington. The pastors, Rev. A. E. Hopper and Rev. George R. Harland, took part in the service and Rev. R. K. Sheffield, of the Potsdam Methodist Episcopal church preached a challenging sermon from the text: “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find the faith on the earth?”—Luke 18:8.  The music was an inspiring factor in these services, solos by Mrs. Myra S. King of the local church and Arthur W. Hawkins of Syracuse, a former member; anthems by the local choir and, at the evening service, the united choirs of the three churches under the direction of A. C. Meeker.[15]  Mr. Meeker and Mr. Hawkins were both sons-in-law of Milton A. Whitney.

The Dr. Rev. Frederick Harvey was born in England in 1866 and emigrated to the US in 1893.  He never became a citizen.  He married the Rev. Daisie Culligan after her first husband’s death in 1922.  Mrs. Harvey was the first woman ordained as a minister in the Northern New York Conference.  Sadly, Dr. Harvey was granted a medical sabbatical in 1930 and died in 1933.

The Reverend Lawrence Heatherington started in Madrid in 1930.  He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and came to the U.S. at the age of 16.  He at first worked as an electrician but soon found his way into the ministry.  He engaged in evangelistic work until the spring of 1914 when he received his first appointment by the Northern New York Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He pursued special Seminary studies in connection with his pastoral work and after completion of these studies he was fully ordained into the ministry of the Methodist Church.[16]   Rev. Heatherington gained the Chase Mills charge in 1931 and the West Potsdam and Buck’s Bridge charges in 1933.  During his pastorate in Madrid, he conducted on an average of seven services a week for 11 years.[17]  About 40 miles were traveled each Sunday in conducting these services.  He was here until 1942.

The whole Heatherington family was noted for their musical ability. Six were members of the church choir, and all of them played a musical instrument.  Lawrence was one of the best known ministers in the Northern New York conference and was much in demand at banquets and other events, both as speaker and soloist.  All through his years in the ministry he had made his home the center of community recreation for people of all ages.  He owned and always made available equipment for boxing, ping pong, badminton, horseshoes, croquet, checkers, tennis, softball, basketball, volleyball and other games to meet all interests. He often built skating rinks in the winter in his garden and always had outdoor lighting so that the youth of his communities could come and go freely and have worthwhile activities in which to participate.[18]

During World War II, Rev. Earl Luscombe was a chief observer for the Aircraft Warning Service, a civilian organization watching the skies.  The post was located in the cemetery lot near the water tower.  Rev. Luscombe finally resigned from the position after several months citing the pressures of his position.  He served Madrid until May of 1943.

The Rev. Wilbur Owen Hull served as pastor for two years from 1943-45.  He came to Madrid from Bombay.  During his time, new flags for the church were presented by the Youth Group and Sunday School.  The American flag was presented by Miss Betty Brown (Betty Rourke) and Mrs. Stanley Aitchison (Irma) presented the Christian flag.  Rev. Hull and his wife had three children, John, a Lt. in service in KY; Wilbuta, Mrs. Walton Shields and Ruth.

The Rev. Percil Stratton was assigned to Madrid in August of 1946.  A native of Chazy,  Rev. Stratton attended Asbury Theological College in Kentucky.  Madrid was his first charge. His stay in Madrid was short and in August of 1947 he accepted a call to preach in the state of Virginia in order to further his education at the University of Virginia.

Lyle Sylver started in Madrid as a student preacher in 1948 and graduated from the St. Lawrence University Theological School in 1949.   Mr. Sylver was married September 5, 1948. After he left Madrid, he became a NYS Parole Officer.

Rev. Kenneth Halstead was also assigned as a student from St. Lawrence University to work in the Madrid Methodist Church. He and his wife lost a baby in January of 1950.  Mr. and Mrs. Halstead loved music and sang with the choir.  They were called elsewhere in 1952.

Rev. Raoul Waters served the Madrid church from 1952-1955. He also came as a young seminary student from St. Lawrence University.  His wife was a student at Potsdam State.  She spent one year after graduation teaching in Madrid and then was hired at Canton Central School.

Rev. Richard W. Mellerup  June 1, 1955-May  1956.   He was married in 1954 and his wife and young son were recorded in the local newspapers as frequently their families in Connecticut. He left Madrid and was assigned to the Methodist Church in Ellenburg Depot.

Rev. Lois Rose Wright was born in Canada and with her husband, Rev. Robert Wright, moved to the US to join the Northern New York Conference in 1911.  Before coming Madrid, she had served as a supply pastor in many area churches.  In May 1956 she became the pastor at Madrid, having recently lost her husband.  During the time she was here, services were suspended for the winter months in Chase Mills, Bucks Bridge and West Potsdam.

Extensive improvements were made to the interior of the church during the month of February 1957. The walls have been painted in dusty rose.  The arch back of the pulpit platform, is painted in Swedish rose, bordered in gray, giving the arch, a “set in” appearance. The ceilings in white. The floors have been sanded and refinished. The seats have been refinished, also the cushions have been reupholstered in rose matching the color scheme of the walls and arch. The colored glass windows have been refinished.  The building has been revived. The lighting fixtures are lantern type. The brass Cross, electric candle holders, also collection plates were donated…A new electric organ has been installed in the church also.[19]

In May of 1957, Rev. Wright went on a medical leave.  She died undergoing an operation in August 1958 in Alexandria Bay.

Mr.  Norman Ingalls stepped in for Rev Wright in October 1957.  He and his wife were missionaries awaiting their call.  That came in June of 1958 just after their first child was born.  During his short stay, Mr. Ingalls was only responsible for Madrid.

Rev. Charles E. Rudd  July 1958   -Oct 1961 during his stint, WPotsdam or chase mills, 1960 bucks bridge closed, native of Rome, NY was fully ordained in the Northern NY Conference May 1958, assigned to Parish. NY , also had a child while in Madrid

Mr. Theodore Rands    Potsdam Public librarian, lay leader for several months Oct 1961-  may 1962

Rev. Frank L. Scott   June 1962- June 1964,  2 dau. When he was in Madrid  wpotsdam and chase mills

1960 –Bucks bridge closed

1964 – charges changed for chase mills and west potsdam

Jan 1, 1966 – chase mills and Waddington merge

[1] Herald-Recorder, Potsdam, NY,  Friday, September 14, 1934,  vol. LVII, no. 37,  p. 3.

[2] St. Lawrence Republican, Ogdensburg, NY, Wednesday, Feb 23, 1898, Vol. 68, No. 19, p 4.

[3]  Ibid.

[4] Ogdensburg Journal, Ogdensburg, NY, Saturday, August 17, 1878, p.3

[5] Ogdensburg Journal, Ogdensburg, NY, Saturday, April 20, 1957, p. 10.

[6] St. Lawrence Herald, Potsdam, NY, Friday, November 2, 1883, p. 2.

[7] St. Lawrence Herald, Potsdam, NY, Friday, May 16, 1884, p. 2.

[8] Ogdensburg Journal, Ogdensburg, NY, Saturday, Apr.  20, 1957,  p. 10.

[9] St. Lawrence Republican, Wednesday, Feb 23, 1898, vol.68, no. 19, p 4.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Madrid Herald, Madrid, NY. Thursday, Sept 5, 1912, vol IX, no. 14, p 3.

[13]Madrid Herald, Madrid, NY. Thursday, Sept 5, 1912, vol IX, no. 14, p 3.

[14] The Madrid Herald, March 7, 1918, vol. XIV, no. 40, p. 5.

[15] Norwood News, Norwood, NY, Wednesday, October 12, 1927, Vol 49, No 29, p. 1.

[16] Ogdensburg Journal, Ogdensburg, NY, Saturday, June 10, 1939, p. 2.

[17] Ogdensburg Journal, Ogdensburg, NY, Saturday, June 10, 1939, p. 2.

[18] Massena Observer, Massena, NY, Tuesday, February 25, 1964,

[19] Ogdensburg Journal, Ogdensburg, NY, Saturday, April 20, 1957, p. 10