The Churches of Ellicottville
By Mary Fox
The Ellicottville Historical Society met Tuesday, July10 at the Ellicottville Memorial Library.
The presentation for the evening was on the churches of Ellicottville and Old Home Week. Old Home Week will be covered in a future article.
The first settlers came to Cattaraugus County predominately from the New England States. They left behind the established churches bringing into the forested wilderness, their Bibles, their moral and spiritual standards and their faith in the future.
In the early years, survival occupied the settlers seven days a week. The need was so great for the pioneers to establish themselves on the land, clear the forest, build homes, and raise crops that it was said, “The Sabbath did not extend beyond the Genesee River”.
Ministers of various denominations followed the settlers into the wilderness. Itinerant preachers visited homes preaching and baptizing then moved on to the next home.
The pioneers had little concern for denominations; they were just glad to have what they could get from a circuit rider or traveling preacher.
Once the settlers became established, they were able to gather for religious services in each others’ homes. As settlements were built families formed churches, usually meeting in school houses before building a church.
Eventually denominations began to establish individual congregations and built more permanent buildings bringing bells, organs, and hymnals, from the East.
Churches were often used as the site of town meetings, and social gatherings as well as worship.
Many denominations were established in Ellicottville. We are fortunate that most of these historic old buildings still exist as places of worship or have been restored into beautiful homes and apartments. Presently we have four active churches.
Churches of Ellicottville
The Episcopal Church was established in 1829 and met in the courthouse until 1837 when the present church was built. It is the oldest church in Ellicottville and stands on the square which the Holland Land Company designated for a religious purpose. Its interior as well as its exterior has been preserved and it is still open for worship. The bell in its steeple came from Spain and the story of its long odyssey to Ellicottville is common lore.
The Catholic Church
In 1851 Nicholas Devereaux brought Jesuit priests to Ellicottville to start the church of St Philip Neri. It stood on the corner of Washington and Mill Streets. It burned in 1881 and was rebuilt. In 1909 it burned again. It was rebuilt on its present Jefferson St. site and renamed The Most Holy Name of Mary Roman Catholic Church.
The Lutheran Church
In 1910 six families began to gather in each others’ homes to worship. In 1923, they purchased their first building on the corner of Mechanic and Elizabeth Sts. in Ellicottville. Here, they officially organized the congregation of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.
In 1959 property was purchased on Rt. 219 and a new church was built which was added onto in 2008.
The Presbyterian Church was organized in 1829. Their present building was built in 1852 on the corner of Elk and Elizabeth Sts.
In 1845 the first Methodist Episcopal Church was formed. Their first building was built on West Elizabeth St. In 1892 a new church was built on Park Square. In 1978 the church building was sold and turned into 3 apartments.
In 1976 The Presbyterian and Methodist churches mutually agreed to combine the two churches and became the United Church of Ellicottville.