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Church Marks 200th Birthday

Footnotes to Long Island History

Church Marks 200th Birthday
 

by

Thomas R. Bayles


    

The Presbyterian Church of Center Moriches which held a special service celebrating its 200 years of activity on Sunday, July, 31st, was first organized in 1748. It was a part of a large parish including Ketchabonack. (Westhampton), Moriches and South Haven, And on October 20th, 1748, Nehemiah Greenman, a graduate of Yale, was appointed by the Suffolk Presbytery to preach in this parish. At this time and for over 50 years there was no church building in Moriches and services were held in private homes.

According to Primes history the Presbytery met at Moriches on November 6th 1755, organized a church and ordained the Rev. Abner Reeve as pastor, the parish including Westhampton and South Haven. The Rev. Mr. Reeve was dismissed in 1763, and shortly after the Westhampton church operated as a separate Parish and Moriches and South Haven were one parish. The two years following, the Rev, Mr. Reeves dismissal from the South Haven, Moriches and Ketchabonack parish were marked by confusion and difficulty. There were no regular services in the churches, as they had to depend on whoever they could find to preach. Presbytery soon heard of their troubles and appointed various pastors to preach to them, and one of these was Samson Occam, the Indian who was Azariah Norton’s successor, he was well known as a hymn writer. And indirectly helped in the founding of Dartmouth College.

During the summer of 1765 the parish of “Moriches, Manor of St. George, South-part of Brookhaven, and of “Winthrop’s Patent,” in other words the south side of long Island, from Eastport to Blue Point, was declared vacant. A candidate at this time was David Rose, a young man of 29 and a graduate of Yale. At a meeting of Presbytery on December 3 of that year at the South Haven church he was examined and the next day was ordained as pastor of this large parish, which was 20 miles long and included half a dozen villages. The next year a church was organized at Middle Island, which was added to his parish. He covered this immense territory on horseback and was a doctor as well as the spiritual needs of his people.

The first church built in 1809 in Moriches was a “union meeting house.” 26 by 30 feet in size which was used by all denominations. On November, 14th, 1831 the Presbyterian church was recognized by the Presbytery of Long Island and in 1839 the present church was erected, by which for some time by the Presbyterians and Congregationalists on alternate-Sundays. This was a building 30 by 40 feet in size.

The parish was incorporated in 1849 and about this time the Congregational Society became practically extinct. Capt. Josiah Smith about gave to the church 7 acres of land for a parsonage, which was built in 1850. The church building was enlarged to 40 by 56 feet in 1861 and was rebuilt to a size of 56 by 69 feet in 1886. The Sunday school extension 30 by 60 feet was added in 1931, and in that year the one hundredth anniversary of the reorganized church was held.

In 1870 a branch of this church as a chapel was built in East Moriches which became a separate church in 1902, and is now the first Presbyterian Church of East Moriches.

There have been 16 pastors who have served this church since its reorganization in 1831, and it is now under the leadership of Rev. Joseph B. Livesay.

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