Bristol Springs Free Church, Bristol Springs, New York
(Image – 08 Aug 2018, Personal collection of Betty Jo Downs Johanningmeier)


Bristol Springs, New York

Author: Unknown

In collecting the data regarding the organization and building of this church, and when considering the inspiration and foresight of its promoters, we are reminded of these words from the pen of the poet:

“Lives of great men remind us,

We should make our lives sublime;

And departing, leave behind us,

Footprints on the sands of time.”

We feel that the pioneers of faith, on our midst, must have had like inspirations, for we find these resolutions taken from the “Secretary’s Book of Records of the Christian Church of Bristol Springs, Ontario County, New York”, organized January 23, 1880 on the principle and according to the specifications herein named:

“We, whose names are here unto subscribed, acknowledge ourselves and each other, to be the several members composing the Christian Church of Bristol Springs, Ontario County, New York. As the followers of Christ, we acknowledge no other head or leader than Jesus, and no other rule of faith, practice and church government, than the Bible, rejecting all man-made disciplines, creeds, and articles of faith, we make Christian character our only test of fellowship, and extend the right hand of Christian greeting to all who give evidence of being born of the Spirit.” Signed by:

Marlin SmithG. Adelaide StandishI. B. Wilson
Loretta SmithMrs. Etta HolcombMrs. Sarah F. Wilson
Ellen BarrettE. Janette RicketsonEunice Coye
Howard SmithCharlie H. TozerHudson Gelder
F. C. HolcombMrs. D.A. HawkinsIssac Trembly
Mary S. SmithHenry F. WoodSarah Niece

So far as I can find out, the matter rested until in January 1886 when a paper was circulated for the following purpose: “whereas the inhabitants of Bristol Springs and vicinity are greatly in need of a suitable and commodious building in which to hold meetings, and gatherings of one kind or another, to be governed by trustees elected by the subscribers, the object of this paper is to learn to some extent, what material aid the enterprise would receive: and if it proves favorable, a meeting will soon be called, the matter discussed, committees appointed, etc., etc. Therefore we, the undersigned (for the purpose set forth above) subscribe the sums set opposite our respective names.”

Dated January 28m 1886: Among the first subscribers to this paper were 10 who subscribes $100.00

each to commence this project which was namely –

H. C. ShermanJohn RicketsonOlive W. KelseyGeo. Miller
M. R. SmithGeo. B. HemenwayHolcomb & Coye
Isaac TremblyGeo. T. StandishS. Bopple

They being the largest donors of the 178 contributors recorded. On Saturday evening, February 13th, 1886, a meeting of the subscribers was held at the Bristol Springs School house, to decide if it were advisable to proceed with the undertaking of building a church. Said meeting was organized be electing Geo. B. Hemenway, Chairman, and John Ricketson, Clerk. The object of the meeting and the amounts subscribed was stated by the chairman, and a vote was taken by the enterprise, and it was unanimously voted to continue. The following action was then taken, motion made and carried that chairman appoint a committee of three to procure articles of Association and to select the names of 20 or more of the subscribers as incorporators. The chairman selected as such committee, Geo. T. Standish, Isaac Trembly, and Martin Rochlin. The first 3 trustees were elected at this meeting being, John Ricketson, H.C. Sherman and Geo. Miller. It was resolved at this time that the society be named The Free Church Society of South Bristol. One week later, February 20th, another meeting was called. The committee reported that the Society would be obliged to have not less than 7 incorporators, and that they should be trustees of the Society for the first year, to comply with the statutes. Motion was mad and carried that the three trustees elected at the last meeting, John Ricketson, H. C. Sherman and Geo. Miller be 3 of the9 incorporators; the other 6 Geo. T. Standish, Geo. B. Hemenway, Martin Rohlin, Isaac Trembly, M. R. Smith, and W. R. Holcomb, were duly voted in at this meeting. The incorporators elected on February 20th met at the home of Geo. B. Hemenway, Secretary, and Geo. T. Standish, Treasurer. The articles of association were presented, read and accepted, signed and acknowledged before Wm. Hicks, Esq. by each and all of said incorporators. Motion was made that the society accept the corner lot (which had been offered by John Ricketson) being in front of Holcomb’s and Lown’s shops, containing about ¾ of an acre, on which to build said church and hall, deed hereafter to be executed. Motion was unanimously carried, and it was moved that each, or as many as could, should present plans and drafts of a building, at next meeting. Adjourned to meet Saturday, February 27th, at residence of John Ricketson. Trustees met on February 27th, as per adjournment, plans presented and discussed. On motion, a plan presented by C. F. Robertson was accepted and to be adopted by said trustees. On April 6th, the following notice was published – “Plans and specifications for the Church at Britsol Springs are now ready and can be seen at the store of Geo. B. Hemenway; sealed bids ar invited and will be received for the carpenter work until Saturday, April 24th at 2:00 p.m. The trustees reserve the right to reject any and all bids. That night a meeting was called at the home of Mr. Hemenway for the purpose of opening the bids, and after careful inspection of the same, it was decided to give the job to Chas. W. Slayton, of Naples, it being the lowest bid, $450, and he was considered a responsible and reliable contractor. On motion, Geo. B. Hemenway, John Ricketson and Wm. R. Holcomb were duly appointed as building committee; Geo. T. Standish was appointed to procure what oak timber it was necessary to purchase: Martin H. Rohlin and Geo. Miller to superintend the procuring of sand and stones needed for the construction of said building. H. C. Sherman and M. R. Smith were duly appointed to look after the excavating of said basement; Isaac Trembly to look after piling and keeping all lumber and timbers in shape, before and during erection of said building. Work on church was started and finished, and on August 14, 1886, the trustees were called together by chairman, the meeting held in the new Church Hall; the building duly examined and accepted from contractor, Chas. W. Slayton. On motion the building committee was released from further duty as a committee. On motion, Geo. B. Hemenway was authorized to purchase suitable lamps, chandelier, chairs, pulpits, etc. and M.R. Smith, H.C. Sherman and John Ricketson to procure speakers for the dedication which was decided to be held on September 2nd. Rev. Milliard of Naples preached the dedicatory sermon, and a neighboring lawyer, Emory Pottle, of Naples made a speech and plea for voluntary subscriptions to raise the necessary amount to pay off the church debt, which was done, himself heading the list with a gift of $50.00. Among the ministers who have served us since the erection of our church are the Reverends Searls, Leach, Langworthy, Ward and Johnson of Cheshire, Reverends Anthony, McLean, Piper, Howard, Dr. France of Naples, Reverends Walthers, Post, Wilkins, Carpenter of Bristol Center, Reverends McKnight, Aldrich, Wheeler, Wolcott, Gibbonsm and Sprudle, and our present pastor, D. M. Ratcliff of Naples. Among our local workers who served faithfully in their generation were Isaac Trembly, Mr. and Mrs. A. W. Hovey, Mrs. Janet Ricketson, Mrs. Riley Smith, Mrs. Olive Kelsey, Mr. and Mrs. D. G. Fellows, Mr. and Mrs. M. R. Smith, Mr. and Mrs. H. C. Sherman. Among the organists who have given liberally of their time and talent are Mrs. D. G. Fellows, Mrs. Minnie Farnsworth, Edgar R. Alford, Dora and Edna Standish, Mrs. M. T. Lincoln, Mrs. J. R. Tibbetts, Mrs. Ward Jones, and our present organist, Mrs. Delores Schenk. (This name was added at time of copying from the original in 1962.)

In closing, we wish to pay tribute to those who sacrificed and gave devotion to the cause which was so dear to their hearts. I think in no other way can we show appreciation, than by living lives which “are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone, in Whom all the building fitly joined together, groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord,” (Ephesians 2: 20 -21)

(Written and read by Mrs. Julia L. Trickey, at the First Old Home Day held on the 50th Anniversary of the building of the Church.)

At this point we pick up our history as compiled and written by Miss Edna Haggith (1976)

Up to the time of Rev. Ratcliff’s retirement we had been serviced by pastors of other churches, Cheshire, Bristol Center, and especially Naples, the pastor of the church there taking on Bristol Springs as a second charge. Rev. Ratcliff served this community for 28 years from March 1930 until January 1958. He was followed by Rev. Franklin Horst, who at first served both churches. When he left Naples, he remained with us for a year, and this Rev. Horst became our first full-time pastor, a giant step forward in the history of our community church. Following him came Reverend Roy Glasve in 1960; Reverend Milton Hurne in 1966; Reverend Chester Gretz in 1968; Revefrend Carl Holmes in 1971; and our present pastor, Reverend Thomas Bolles, who has been with us since March 1975.

There were early advances leading up to the present period of change, of growth, and of expansion. It was the Reverend Spurdle, who preceded Rev. Ratcliff, who stared the weekly Bible Study and Prayer meeting, held in the home of Lonnie and Sarah Fox, then living in Naples. Rev. Ratcliff continued those meetings. They were held in various hoes, under various leaders, on of who was Ira Randall. Rev. Ratcliff can be credited with other “firsts”. He set up the Board of Deacons, began the regular observance of the Lord’s Supper, put into form a church membership list and established the Sunday Morning Worship Service. (Up to that time all church services at Bristol Springs had been held in the afternoon.) Mrs. Ratcliff organized the Ladies’ Aid back in the early 30’s. Hattie Standish was its first president. Rev. Ratliff was on our first Old Home Day – August 30, 1936 – commemorating the 50th anniversary of the church born in 1886.

Since that time there have been many changes. In 1954 the church organ was installed, paid for largely by profits from the Lord’s acre – a berry patch given to the church by Mr. George Q. Standish, whose home is now the parsonage. In 1959 we had a new furnace. In 1961 a Memorial Fund was established. Consisting of gifts in memory of deceased loved ones, it has received over the years more than $3000.00 and has made possible the outdoor Bulletin Board, the screen and movie projector used by all church groups, and the more recently installed Public Address System in the Sanctuary with a cassette tape recorder to record all services and make them available to shut-ins and others. To accommodate an incoming minister and his family, the church purchased in, in 1960, the Spaulding house in Naples, for temporary use as a parsonage; before Rev. Glave left us, he was living in the present parsonage, three doors from the church. In 1965 the Spaulding house was sold; the Standish house was acquired and over the next few years completely renovated. In 1966 the old church hall was given a new floor and a new ceiling and in 1970 the Sanctuary was redecorated. Along with these physical changes, there was increasing interest in our congregation. Under Rev. Hurne, in 1967, a constitution was formulated and adopted; and in the same year we legally adopted our name —BRISTOL SPRINGS FREE CHURCH.

Much discussion in the early 70’s centered around the need of enlarging church facilities and possibilities open to us. Should it be an addition to the original structure? Or a new building? The matter came to a head in 1973. We purchased 1.4 acres of land behind the church, with the option to buy a second piece, contiguous to the first, behind the parsonage, thus eliminating any obstacle to future expansion. On the purchased land we now have an educational building, erected in the summer of 1973 and dedicated in October 1974, at the cost of around $50,000.00. This building provides a much-needed large room for assembly or recreation, small classrooms, a modern kitchen with all necessary equipment, new quarters for the nursery, and it made possible a second stairway connecting the Sanctuary and the lower floor. Outside there is improved and enlarged parking space. A year ago, the grounds around the new building were landscaped.

Our church is a busy place. It works in many ways, under devoted leaders. To name all would be impossible. Our pastor directs, supervises, preaches, sings in the choir, on occasion directs it. Church services are varied and effective. The Wednesday evening power time continues. Every Monday evening, October through May, Awana meets. Awana was organized in 1971 by Rev. Holmes and David and Bonnie Brinckerhoff. It is a flourishing organization, training our young folk, of third to eighth grade level, and drawing others from the neighboring community. The average attendance is around 70. For many years Mrs. Speers has devoted herself to the Sunday School. Not only that, she is our organist, coming from Wayland, regardless of weather. Sarah Fox has been Sunday School Treasurer since 1964. The Sunday School is self-supporting. It provides lesson helps, finances and the DVBS, with and attendance of over 200 children and staff, and helps our missionaries. The choir, the Ladies’ Aid, the Nursery, the Cradle Roll are all important. We have an unusual youth group that makes itself felt in the life of the church. Grace Gelder, like her father before her, serves as Church Clerk.

Among special gifts in recent years are the new piano in the Sanctuary, the Communion table, and the new stove and oven in the modern kitchen, all memorial gifts of significance.

Presently the church is serviced by five deacons and nine trustees:

The deacons are:The Trustees are:
Glenn Eaton, ChairmanHarold King, Chairman
Thomas Meade, ClerkJames Swing, Clerk
Alonzo FoxTed Dean
Harold KingMerton Lincoln
Arthur LincolnArthur Lincoln

Everett Fox

Russell Hawkins

The influences of this church has spread beyond Bristol Spring. In 1947 Dorothy Lincoln went out to Managua, Nicaragua, serving fourteen years there training nurses. She works in Limbe, Haiti in the Hospital Le Bon Samaritan. A more recent member of our church, Ed Phillips, is now in training for future missionary service. He attends Elohim Bible Institute in Castile, New York. In 1971 our former pastor, Rev. Gretz and his wife left us to work in Eastern Europe, behind the Iron Curtain; and just his last summer, on August 3, 1976, Rev. Holmes and Mrs. Homes went to Trinidad where they are to serve their first term.


Transcribed on 21 October 2020 from personal records of Betty Jo Downs Johanningmeier