Religious services started in Tallmanville near the cemetery located on the Dixie Highway, formerly called the Tallmanville Road. This was prior to the Stantons coming to the area. Services were also held in what once was known as Preston Center or Dibbles Flats. Some say “there were churches before there were churches”; in other words there were religious meetings in peoples homes.
In 1855 the classes or meetings were moved to Stanton Hill on the southeast side of Shehawken Lake. The Stanton Hill Class was organized and led by Henry P. Stanton with Henry and Emeline Stanton, David and Mary A. Stanton, Mrs. Richard McLaury (sister-in-law to Martha Stanton), and Eunice Roberts (sister-in-law to Henry and David Stanton). They probably met at the home of David Stanton, later known as Walter Stanton’s farm.
Before 1860, there was a schoolhouse at Shehawken Four Corners where the summit class of the Methodist Church met. When the Community House was built in 1868 where the church now stands, the schoolhouse was moved to the H. P. Stanton farm, originally the David Stanton property. The schoolhouse became their springhouse on the farm property later owned by Walter and Grace Stanton. The springhouse has since been torn down.
The Community House was built a little larger than usual as it was also intended for church services. The front of the interior was occupied by a raised platform about ten inches high running the entire width of the room. Mounted in the middle of this stood a “Pulpit” desk, built by Rev. H. H. Clancy who was also preaching at Hale Eddy in 1868. It was of chestnut, with three panels painted green, and had a castellated molding around the top. In keeping with pioneer ways it can be said that it was “deep scarred by raps official” on weekdays and poundings ecclesiastical on Sundays.
Behind the desk ran a board seat the entire width of the room. This was used for “reciting” on weekdays, and was dusted by ecclesiastics on Sunday. Directly in front of the desk was a large box stove. On each side of this and facing the stove were two rows of benches and desks about eight feet long. Directly behind these and facing the desk were four or five similar desks and an aisle in the idle.
The first written record began about five years later in 1860 with a class of 35 members. David Stanton was the leader.
The following is a reprint of some of the old Class book for 1860:
“Wyoming Conference, Honesdale District, Tallmanville Circuit, 1860-61. Joseph Whitan, pastor. Rev. William Wyatt, P.E. Summit Class. David H. Stanton, Leader: Henry Stanton, steward.”
Members: David H. Stanton Emeline Stanton Mary Stanton Jesse Haynes Maxie Haynes (sister of David and Henry Stanton) Eunice Roberts (sister of David and Henry Stanton) Charlotte Hufteln Catherine Hufteln Catherine Allen Jane Little Laura Smith Abram Allen Sally C. Hufteln Abriel Whipple Charles W. Allen Wm. H. Stanton Orren Merwin Joel Merwin Phliander Warren Candace Warren Phoebe J. Warren Henry C. Starbird Caleb Baker, Jr. Rhoda H. Allen, George W. Haynes Bornt Merwin John W. Smith Stephen N. S. Merwin Smith Leet Hiram Little Caroline Starbird Charles C. Roberts Hiram Baker
The next year the Presiding Elder was John H. Pierce, and the pastor was I. V. Pardee. In 1863 George Russell became the Class Leader. The next entries are in pencil and prefaced by no pastoral record. The first name is Joseph Sanford, presumably the new Class Leader. Among the new names are Mary L. Sanford, his wife, James Sanford, John Stanton, Mary E. Haynes, Emma R. Jaynes, Mary F. Jaynes, Maria Hufteln, and George Little. As some of these dates of admission are 1866 and 1867, this record is for these years. Perhaps the Civil War of that time was in some way accountable for the omission of the years 1864-65. For the year of 1867 the record reads, “August 28,1867, Presiding Elder J. K. Peck, Pastor. H. H. Dresser. Joseph Sanford, Class Leader,. Among the new members were ”Asba C. Haynes, Lucy Stanton, Daniel Sanford, and Catherine Sanford.” After one name in the early list appears the pontifical comment, “Backslider.”
The Summit or Stanton Hill Class belonged to carious districts and charges, as the Wyoming Conference moved its boundaries to accommodate the changing populations. In 1868 it was on the Kingsbury Hill Charge, H.H. Clancy, pastor, and H.P. Stanton, Leader. There were 34 members, about half of them on probation. In 1870 it was on the Tallmanville Charge and continued there till at the Third Quarterly Conference in November 1880, when the name was officially changed to “Lake Como and Starrucca.” Then name Starrucca however does not appear on any subsequent records.
At that date the “Classes” were: Lake Como, Starrucca, Tallmanville, Little York, Monroe, and Stanton Hill and the pastor’s salary was $600.00 a year. I n1870 the amounts apportioned were as followed: Starrucca, $130.00 Tallmanville, $60.00 Stanton Hill $80.00 Little York, $80.00 Lake Como, $200.00
In 1875 the Sunday School Superintendent was Gilbert Wheeler (son-in-law of Eben Stanton, living on the Preston Park road), in 1882, the superintendents were Egbert Kilpatrick and Marcius Sampson, and in 1883 W. H. Sanford.
By 1878, the class membership increased to 50 under the Leadership of H.P. Stanton. Other class leaders were Edgar Sanford, George Russell, Joseph Sanford and Alpheus Dix.
Mary Jane Woodmansee Sanford (Mrs. J. B. Sanford) stood at the edge of Shehawken Lake and looked up at the hillside toward the road. She loved this beautiful place, but one thing was missing on that June day in 1881. Jane Sanford had a vision of a little white church on the hill.
The hill on the east side of the lake was blooming with the lovely pink and white mountain laurel. Farms lined the other shores, many of them occupied by her children. She thought back to the day Elias Sanford had brought his family to Preston Township in 1839, after walking the 175 miles from Connecticut, just as her father and grandfather had done thirty years before. In 1841 Elias’s son, Joseph, had followed the rest of the family into the Pennsylvania hills. Jane had been immediately attracted to Joe Sanford’s twinkling eyes and merry ways. A year later they were married.
There had been difficult years, first at Little York, and later while they were developing a farm out of the wilderness surrounding Island Pond. It was after Joseph had built a dam to operate a mill, thus obliterating the island when the name was changed. It was called “Shehawken”, the Indian name for Wedding of the Waters,” because the water from creek that tumbled from the foot of the lake ran into the Delaware River near the place where the East branch was “wedded” to the West branch to form the main river.
Jane shivered; remembering the year that snow had come before they had been able to obtain shoes for the children. The children were needed to help watch the sheep, so Joseph had given each child two sheepskins. The child could stand on a sheepskin to keep his feet warm. When he needed to move, he would throw the other sheepskin out in front of him, and jumped from one to the other. Joseph and Jane had finally had to make the shoes themselves.
Those times of hardship were now long gone. Joseph had developed a large enough tract of land he had been able to give each son sufficient land upon their marriages for the their own farm. In addition, they had prospered enough to give each daughter a dowry of livestock to start her husband’s herd.
With all of this progress, there was still one thing missing in Shehawken. As Jane looked up the hill, her eyes rested on the spot where it would sit, the Shehawken Methodist Episcopal Church. Most of her children were Methodist. They had already formed “classes”, groups of people who met together regularly for spiritual instruction, support, and if need be, reproof.
What they needed now was a house of worship. Jane Sanford was in a good position to provide leadership in raising money to obtain the funds needed to build a church. Her children were grown, so her home responsibilities were not as heavy as those of younger couples still involved in the struggle to support a family.
She set to work in the ensuing months, planning ways to raise money, urging people to give freely of both their money and their effort.
Alpheus R. Dix deeded property on which to build the church to the Shehawken Church as a gift. He also deeded the land for the cemetery at the top of Stanton Hill Farm, known then as the Alpheus R. Dix Cemetery. The church never recorded the deed for the church site. Robert O. Stanton discovered this a few years after he bought the Alpheus Dix farm, so he signed over the deed to the church.
On October 21, 1882, the Quarterly Conference at Lake Como appointed the following Building Committee for the church at Stanton Hill at Shehawken Four Corners: members of the committee were F. E. Kilpatrick, H.P. Stanton, Edgar Sanford, S. E. Stanton and Irvin Starbird.
Henry P. Stanton supervised the building of the church at a cost $1,650. At last, Jane Sanford was able to see the work begin on the building of the church in Shehawken. There was more money to be raised to continue the work. Seldom had she worked at a more joyous task.
Dan Buck of Starrucca moved the schoolhouse using levers instead of jacks to raise it. The foundation was made from stone quarried on the F. C. Haynes farm and was laid by Ferris Fuller. The carpenters’ work was under the direction of Alman Fuller of Deposit, New York. He employed two local carpenters, J. C. Stanton and J. W. Stanton to assist him. By September 1883 the shell was completed. Work on the interior could now go on regardless of the weather. Bernard Bussman with Alpheus Dix as assistant did the plastering and chimney work. Ben Kidder of Starrucca did the painting. Ben painted blue curtains flung open at the bottom on the wall behind the pulpit. On the curved molding over the pulpit were the words: I Bring You Good Tidings Of Great Joy!
“How I look forward to the day I can attend the first service in our new church building, “ Jane told her family.
September was half over when Jane came down with a bad cold. She anxiously hoped the cold would end so she could get back to work. Then she developed pneumonia. “Keep breathing, Jane” she told herself when she reached the point where drawing a breath seemed to require more energy than she possessed. “You’ve got to recover so you can attend that first service.”
September 20, 1883 dawned with Jane scarcely aware that is was another day. Sometime during that day, despite her will to live, her lungs became so filled with fluid there was no longer room for a breath. Jane Sanford submitted to the inevitable and answered the final summons from her Creator.
The church building was far from finished inside, but the community agreed that Jane Sanford must be present at the first service. Gathering sawhorses and boards, they set up temporary benches for seating. Two more sawhorses made a platform on which Jane’s coffin rested.
The people of the community wept to think she who had contributed so much lay with unseeing eyes during the first service ever held in the Shehawken Church. Yet surely many people in the congregation believed Jane Sanford was watching from above, seeing and hearing things their eyes and ears could not perceive. From her place in the presence of angels, could Jane already see the white steeple which later would be raised, and hear the bell that would one day ring out the message of God’s victory over death?
Perhaps her ears heard the strains of singing that would begin on the day a Shehawkenite would get the inspiration to change the words of a familiar song:
“Oh, come, come, come, come, Come to the church at Shehawken Oh, Come to the church on the Hill.”
For all one knows, Jane may have been able to see far enough into the future to know some of her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-great-grandchildren would be baptized in the little white church within the next hundred years and add their voices to the refrain:
“No spot is so dear to my childhood As the Little White Church on the Hill”*
Shirley Smith Nieson
*This story is based on the funeral of Mrs. J. B. Sanford (Mary Jane Woodmansee) September 21, 1883.
On October 4, 1883 an application for a charter was submitted for the church to be made a charter church by Alpheus R. Dix, Henry. P. Stanton, E. J. Sanford, S. E. Stanton and F. E. Kilpatrick. They were named as trustees.
The church was dedicated on October 27, 1883. The church charter was granted on December 3, 1883. “I bring you tidings of great joy!” Eventually, a bell, an organ (pump), a piano, and stained glass windows were obtained for the church. The church was finally completed with the addition of bracket lamps on both windows at the side of the pulpit and on all of the other window frames. Hung from the ceiling was a larger chandelier of eight kerosene lamps, which could be raised or lowered by means of a thumb catch. Alpheus and Nettie Dix received a Bible for their anniversary from their children on August 24, 1897. This became the first Bible for the church. The title of the Bible was “The Holy Bible: Old and New Testament, The Original Tongues and with the Former Translations diligently compared and revised”. The American Bible Company, Pica Ref, Imperial Octavo published it in New York in 1892.
Shehawken Lake became a retreat for many Methodist ministers. In 1907-1910 Vesper Services were held on the lakeshore, later the services were moved out on the lake where people came in their canoes and boats to pray, provide thoughtful meditations in nondenominational fellowship with worship and song. A pump organ was played to accompany the hymns. The tradition continues today, and on Sunday Evenings of inclement weather, the services are sometimes held in the church.
The influence of the Stanton Hill church on its young people has been credited for sending out a remarkable number of young people to fields of higher education and professional careers. A mere catalogue of their names fails to measure the drive that affected such an unusual result.
Somewhat in chronological order are the following: Rev. Egbert Kilpatrick, B. D. Drew Theological Seminary Rev. Luman Sanford, B. D. Drew Theological Seminary Van Evrie Kilpatrick, Columbia, educator and author Chester Sanford, B. A. Cornell, educator, author and lecturer Irving Sanford, B. S. Yale, engineer W. L. Dix, M. A. Yale, educator, and Research Associate, Philadelphia Academy of Sciences Robert Sanford, B. A. Yale; M. E. Columbia educator Ernest Sanford, B. A. Colgate, educator Irving Dix, editor, author, and state representative Robert Dix. B. S. Howard University
Of later generations and children of the forgoing are: Ernest Dix, Clark University (son of Howard and Lillian (Sanford) Dix William (Billie) Sanford, Clark University Edgar Sanford, M. A. Yale Wendell Sanford, M. A. Yale Caroline Sanford Cook, M.D. Temple University Marcus Sanford, M. D. Yale Eleanor Dix Stanton, B. S. University of Illinois (daughter of Howard and Lillian (Sanford) Dix Dorthea Dix, B. A. Mount Holyoke
In 1937 the church was redecorated, perhaps both interiorly and exteriorly.
There were originally two woodstoves located diagonally in the corners inside the church. Families would help obtain wood for the church and had a “bee” each fall to gather and stack the wood for the coming winter. Bob Stanton remembers starting the fire in the woodstoves for Sunday services, “you were lucky if you got it up to 40 degrees on a cold winter day!” Later the woodstoves were changed for oil burners.
In 1938 the schoolhouse was purchased for a community house. The church and the school were wired for electricity. The oil burner in the front of the church was removed.
September 27, 1964 marked the beginning of building the addition with a wing for educational and social purposes, a Sunday School Room and a kitchen. Paneling was added to the wainscoting in the main church and new ceiling lights were installed.
In 1973 the church steeple was repaired, timbers replaced and jalousie windows added.
In 1983 the 100 Year Celebration of the Shehawken United Methodist Church was recognized with a special service. The minister for the service was, Reverend Edward Furman and the organist was Hazel Geer, assisted by Rebecca Houshultz.
In 1995, a Baldwin digital organ was purchased with memorials from Hazel Geer, Edward Kurzenburger, and Alfred Leidy, Jr.
In the winter of 1998, a complete renovation of the main church was made possible by a bequest from Richard Stanton, a summer resident, no relation to any of the Stanton Hill families. He just loved Shehawken and gave a gift that brought rejuvenation to the church. The church was completely gutted down to the plank walls. Carl Pease and his son Kenny plastered the walls. Richard Curtis and Gerald Neild did the carpentry and finished work. New chandeliers and wall sconces were installed. The original tin ceiling with intricate patterns and the original wood trim millwork were preserved. Dentil molding and a wallpaper border were added to mimic the original décor. It provides a warm feeling of being in God’s living room.
In 2008 the digital organ was damaged during an electrical storm. With another timely bequest, this time from Robert Lee, the church was able to purchase another organ in 2009, an Allen digital organ.
Winter of 2013 – The kitchen in the Community Hall of the church was redecorated and organized using memorial donations given in honor of Florence Leidy and Patricia Leidy. The warm sunny yellow paint that was a favorite color of both Florence and her daughter–in–law Patty brightens the workspace for the members of the congregation as they work together in fellowship serving the community at different functions during the year.
Sources: Shehawken Beginnings by Will L. Dix History of the Shehawken Church by Grace Stanton, Diaries and Secretary records *Mary Jane Woodmansee Sanford Story by Shirley Smith Nieson Oral history Robert O. Stanton
It is proper here that we make mention of our ministers who have guided the spiritual life of the people of this community from 1883 until the present time: