The article below was written by George H. Dalley, one of the founding fathers of the Whitehouse Methodist Church. It was originally a four-part newspaper article written in 1907 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the church. The four original articles are transcribed and compiled below.
In my attempt to give you a history of this church for four years I find myself in about the same position as the boy with his first lesson at school. His lesson was to learn the alphabet, and when he came to recite his teacher asked him if he knew his lesson? He said he knew all the letters by sight but did not know their names and could not put them together. Now I know that a great many things have taken place in the 40 years that have gone by since this church was built, but how to give them a name and put them together so as to interest you is what troubles me: but if you will bear with me I will do the best I can. If you please, allow me to call your attention to two things that occurred previous to the building of this church.
In the spring of 1864 I moved on the farm where Josiah Layton now lives to start business for myself, for I had just married and was laying a foundation for our home. In the fall of that year Uncle Peter Green came to my place and said there was a vacancy in the Board of Stewards and the Pastor, Brother Craig, wanted him to get a man to take the east side of the church to fill the office and collect the salary on that ground. I said there are older and more experienced men and I have just come into the church and am only 22 years old. He replied you are just the man we want: we have old men enough now; we want to harness up one of the young men and put them to work. I said, if this is your judgment I will honor it and stand my ground and try to do the work. So you see my connection with the official board dates back 48 years, and I am the only man living that was in the official board when this church was built. They have all gone to their eternal home.
The next thing I wish to call your attention to is the revival of Rev. W.W. Voorhees in 1866. It was one of the greatest this part of the country ever witnessed. It extended for miles around, and there were nearly 100 conversions, but they did not all join this church, many went to their home churches. Now, Brother Voorhees was not considered a strong nor eloquent preacher, but the Holy Spirit accompanied the Gospel he proclaimed and led them to accept Christ as their Savior. Now, this was a practical demonstration of that passage in scripture that says: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.” It was this revival that laid the foundation of this church, for the building was too small to accommodate the people.
Sometime in January of that year Mr. Daniel Brown came to my place. It was a very cold day and fine sleighing. He drove up to the door and I went out. He said, Mr. Dalley, I am going to take dinner with you today. I am cold. I have been riding all the morning and I want to go farther and see the people about building a new church. I said, Mr. Brown we will be glad to entertain you and hear about the new church. It did not take Mr. Brown long to get warm, for we had a good fire, and when he began to talk church he soon got warm, for with his makeup he could not sit still, but moved around until he had occupied about every chair in the house. He said we have resolved to build at a meeting we had and to put the same on record. Now, the question was, where shall we put it? Some say on the old ground and some say more in the center of the town. I said, Mr. Brown, if I had anything to say my choice would be as near to the center of town as possible. We are not building just for the present: we should look at the demands of the future. He said we can get the Dr. Johnson property, but it costs too much: $2,500 is the price. I think that is just the place for it. I think you could dispose of the house and barn to bring down the price of the land, for we did not need them for a parsonage, for we were connected with New Germantown charge and the pastor lived there.
They soon had a meeting of the trustees to buy that property and go to work at once to dig the foundation and cart stones and then the work began. Now if I remember right, the Board of Trustees composed the following men: Peter Green, Sr., J.S. Van Horn, A.R. Seals, Joseph Durant, Stephen Backer, Daniel Brown, Peter Ditmars, Wm. S. Welsh and Peter T. Green. Daniel Brown was President of the Board. He seemed to be the leader in the matter of building the church. He was the right man in the right place, for in his zeal and enthusiasm he could move more people to act on than any other man. He got so he could almost picture to you the church all completed and ready for use before it was started.
Uncle Peter Green was the oldest man in the Board. His sun had reached its meridian height and was moving on to the western horizon, but sometimes when his spirits would rise and he would reach the mountaintop of his glory he would exclaim, “Bless the Lord, it can be done.”
Adam R. Seals was a man of iron constitution and a voice like a lion. He was up and at it early and late when we were digging out for the basement of the church. He would be down here before the rest were, and his voice could be heard from one end of the town to the other calling “Time to go to work.” When we carted stones from the mountain he would ride over stumps and rocks where none of the rest dared go, but always came out all right.
J.S. Van Horn was called the warhorse of the Board, for he was elected a trustee when the church was first organized, and helped build the old church 22 years before. He was a man always ready to say amen to a thing if it met his approval, but just as quick to say no if he did not think it was right.
Joseph Durant was a man of small stature and not very strong, and he did not possess much of this world’s goods, but always had something to give to the church. He was a man of faith and prayer, and was always on hand with his handshake and his smiles, his faith and prayer to bid the work go on.
Stephen Backer was the backer of the Board, for where his name went it always brought the money. He was the strongest man financially in the Board and gave more than any other man. He gave $1,000 to start with, and I do not know how much more before it was all paid. He had charge of the work and was there all the time, from beginning to the end. He did one thing that not many would have done. When they purchased the property to build on they had no money in hand. The parties did not want to take the trustees note for $1,000, so Mr. Backer mortgaged his farm for that amount and took the trustees’ note and that mortgage stayed on his farm until the debt was paid.
Wm. S. Welsh, Peter Ditmars and Peter T. Green were the conservative men of the Board. They always carefully weighed every matter that came before them before they gave their opinion, and when they did it was final. They were always ready to put their hands in their pockets and pay until the last dollar was paid.
So when all these characters were put together it made a complete whole, for the work was carried on harmoniously until the church was completed.
Back of the Trustees was Rev. M. Herr., for he was pastor at that time but lived at New Germantown. He labored for us all the time he could spare in soliciting money wherever he could to pay for the building when completed, and secured $6,000. That left $4,000 to be provided for. The building cost $10,000.
The ladies of the church volunteered to raise the money to furnish the building. Five took the matter in hand – Uncle Peter Green’s wife, Mrs. Joseph Durant, Mrs. A.R. Seals, Mrs. Daniel Brown and Mrs. W.S. Welsh. They were successful in their work and furnished it in keeping with itself, for it was the one of the finest churches at that time in this part of the country. These ladies have all gone to their eternal home, except one, Mrs. A.R. Seals.
Dr. Dashield dedicated the church and in his masterly sermon he reached the hearts of the people. He took for his text “The Kingdom of God cometh not by observation,” and after he had touched their hearts by his eloquence he appealed to them to raise the remaining $4,000, and by his wit and humor before the church was closed that night the last dollar was pledged. That still left the lot unprovided for $2,500, but the terms of the payment covered three years. There, I think, they made a mistake, for at the end of three years some had died, some had moved away and some lost their interest in the matter and the first bell was not good and we had to get another at an additional cost of $300. So when it was all reckoned up we found what was lost and costs of the bell added to the $2,500, we were in debt $4,600. At that time I was in the board of Trustees. We carried that debt for a number of years until Mrs. Sharp Welsh died and left us a legacy of $1,000. Then we thought it best to try and raise some more, and succeeded in raising $1,400 more, then paid $2,400 on the debt, which left $2,200 still to carry.
One afternoon soon after this there arose a cloud in the northwest and as it moved up and spread out its black wings, gathering strength all the way until it burst in all its fury, blowing down trees and buildings in its track. When it reached our church it struck the north corner and wracked the whole building, tearing the ceiling and side walls nearly all off. It cost $500 to repair it, but we collected the money and paid it. But it was soon discovered that the ceiling was not going to last, for it began to loosen and fail, so we had to take it off and then put on a board ceiling that cost $200. We raised the money and paid that.
In a few years after that, when Rev. W.W. Voorhees was sent back, we thought we would pay off the debt of $2,200. We made the effort and paid it off and were out of debt. Then we stayed out of debt until Mr. Prime left the church $2,000, to be paid at the death of his widow. After a few years we thought we would build a parsonage on the strength of this legacy; so we built it and paid interest until the death of Mrs. Prime. Then we thought we were all right, but when we asked for our legacy we were told to bring our certificate of organization, and I went to Flemington to get it but found nothing on record. So we had to organize as the White House church and be recorded, but the legacy was left to the Mechanicsville church, so it left us in bad shape to meet the fight, but S.S. Swackhammer, our counsel, said we must not get in a fight, if possible to keep out. Peter T. Green was executor of Mr. Prime’s estate and we had induced him to pay us the legacy and we had pledged him our word and honor to stand by him and if we lost the case we would pay him back. When the hearing came off at our lawyer’s office in New York, Mr. Swackhammer said to me, you are treasurer of the church, take the floor and the will and show them the money is due the church and demand the same. I done as I was told the best I could, but they objected to my proposition. Then I told them we had our money, that Mr. Green had paid us and he had $10,000 of the estate’s money in a Somerville bank and would spend it all to carry out the will. I said if you want to spend $10,000 to get $2,000 go ahead, but if you want to settle the matter now and pay us two years’ interest, for it has been two years since Mrs. Prime died and the will says we shall have our legacy at her death, so you see we have no fight to make, but if you want us to pay the money back come on, we have the ten thousand to spend. When they saw the situation they concluded the best way was to settle and pay the interest, which they did, and we came home happy men.
Then we were out of debt. We took up the mortgage on the parsonage and what notes we had and set a day of mortgage and note burning. Dr. W.W. Pursell, President of the Board of Trustees, held the vessel while the papers were burned.
Then we were out of debt until Brother Walton came, then we thought we should renovate the interior of our church, and we did so at a cost of $2,000, and when it was all completed it looked so nice I said to the Mitchell girls I would like to have steam heat in here, will you help? They said what can we do? I replied, your cousin, Peter Bodine, is rich, ask him if he will help us put in steam heat. They said they would; that Mr. Bodine was coming up in a few days and they would ask him. It was but a few days when Ella came in the church where I was working and handed me an envelope, saying this is Peter’s donation. I partly opened it and saw a $50 bill. I said that is good. She replied, look a little closer. I did so and found two $50 bills. She said you must put in steam or you cannot have the money. Well, I replied, that puts me in a tight place, for it costs $500, but I think I can raise the money. I went home, hitched up my horse and started out to see if I could get five men besides myself to $25 each, then I would have half the amount and thought we could raise the balance on the day we opened the church, and before night I had the five men to give me $25 each, and on the day we opened the church the whole amount was raised and we were out of debt again.
But we did not stay of debt long, for the next year we renovated the basement and put in chairs at a cost of $425. We built sheds at the same time at a cost of $400. Then we were in debt $825.
In the spring of the next year Mr. A.V. Honeyman came to me and said that if you will pay for the sheds I will give you $100. I told him I would like to have his money but that I did not see how we could raise the money, as the people had been bled so often I was afraid to undertake it. I said I would not dare to ask them to pay for the sheds and leave the $425 on the church, and as I thought the matter over, I determined to ask Mrs. Peter T. Green to give us the $425, as I thought we could raise the other, so I sent Mrs. Green a letter stating the facts just how we stood and how I would like to see the church out of debt. In a few days she sent me the word that she would give the amount desired. Then we raised the balance and were out of debt once more.
We seem determined to be in debt and just as determined to be out of debt, and I am glad the last determination prevailed.
There’s one thing I had almost forgotten and that is to give the ladies due credit for what they have done, for when we built the parsonage, they said they would furnish it and put in steam heat, and they kept their word: if anyone doubts it let them step in and see for themselves. So I think the ladies of today have kept up with the times, and I feel glad today as I look back over the 40 years’ record of this church and call to mind the many difficulties through which we were called to pass and have come out victorious through them all, and that we have such a bright outlook for the future, I think the Trustees should feel proud of their record. I cannot help but say it, even if I am a member of the board, and I am glad that we have three young men in the official board. I refer to Ross Burdette, Fred Conover and Thomas McPherson. I am glad that after 40 years we can hand this church down to you in almost as good shape as when it was built. Young men, keep your record clean: and by the church and all its interests, and at the end of 40 years hand it down to your successors in as good condition as it is today, less the wear of time. Tell your children of Mr. and Mrs. Prime’s and Mr. and Mrs. Green’s generous donations to this church. Mr. Prime has two monuments in this town – one in the cemetery and one in the parsonage his money built. Tell of Mrs. and Mrs. Green’s benevolence while they lived, for they were always ready to put their hands in their pockets until the last dollar was paid, and then left a legacy to remain as long as the church stands.
I wish to refer to the Sunday school in all these years. Soon after the church was dedicated they reorganized the Sunday school and I was elected the first superintendent, and 31 years of the 40 I have superintended the school. A great many children have grown up and left the school and the place and sought homes for themselves, and wherever I go I meet some men and women who came to this school. Some time ago I was in the northern part of the county and the family I was staying with went to Sunday and I accompanied them, and a gentleman met me and called me by name and have me his hand. I said you have the best of me. He said you ought to know me; you used to be my Sunday school superintendent, and when he told me his name I remembered him. Cornelius, I hope, I said, that you have profited from the instruction you received. He said I have my heart to the Savior and am a teacher in this school. When I went to the World’s Fair in 1893, I went out on in the state to see my cousin. He said we would go and see his daughter who lived on his farm a few miles away. When we got there his son-in-law came to me, grasped my hand and called me by name. Well, I said, I did not know there was a person here except your father-in-law that knew me. He said you used to be my Sunday school superintendent at Whitehouse. When he told me where they lived I remembered him. His parents went west when he was a small boy and had changed so much that I did not know him.
When I went last fall to the laying of the cornerstone of the Neshanic Station church I met Emma Barker, and she told the people there that I used to be her Sunday school superintendent, and I was pleased to see her connected with the church and working to have their building completed. These are the green spots here and there around which our memory loves to linger. But there are some we cannot meet again in this world. There are a great many who used to come to this school who have left the shores of time and have gone to their eternal home, and no doubt today while we still linger here battling with the world and its cares they are looking over the battlements of the skies waiting for their loved ones to come to the better land. Let us then be faithful the remaining days we have to stay here and be ready for the summons, that we too may take our flight to our heavenly home to meet our loved ones there.