Ten Mile River Baptist Church at Tusten, New York

June 08, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

The historic Ten Mile River Baptist Church, also known as the Tusten Baptist Church, is located just off Route 97 in the Upper Delaware River Valley town of Tusten, New York. It is approximately five miles south of the village of Narrowsburg, New York. The church prominently stands on a wooded hill, east of the Ten Mile River, which flows approximately one-half mile south to its junction with the Delaware River. Downriver from the church, near the mouth of the Ten Mile River at its junction with the Delaware River, the Tusten Stone Arch Bridge also pays testament to the former village of Tusten, which was known as Ten Mile River Village on some historic maps. The church property encompasses approximately six acres of land, including the church building, the adjacent cemetery and several stone walls.

 

Photograph of the Ten Mile River Baptist Church, located at Tusten, New York in the southern Catskills.Ten Mile River Baptist ChurchThe Ten Mile River Baptist Church, also known as the Tusten Baptist Church, was organized in 1840 by Reverend Henry Curtis, first meeting in the homes of its congregants. The current church building was constructed in 1856. “The layout and construction of this building was typical of smaller Protestant meetinghouses of the period and illustrated simple, but finely crafted furnishing and joinery. The rectangular lines of the building, and use of period moldings and trim profiles imbue the vernacular church with some of the characteristics of the Greek Revival style, popular in the Delaware Valley between 1840 and 1860.” The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

 

Enoch Owen – Preaching the Word at Ten Mile River

 

As the village of Ten Mile River grew in the 1800s the Baptist faith reached the people of the village through the works of Elder Enoch Owen (1767-1836). Owen came to the village of Damascus, Pennsylvania about the year 1790, and settled above Cochecton. He married Lois Tyler (1772-1814), the daughter of Silas Tyler. By trade Owen worked as a local lumberman, farmer and mason. He “built the old-fashioned stone chimneys of the valley before brick and lime were seen there” and also constructed several miles of the Newburgh and Cochecton Turnpike.

 

In June of 1806 Enoch Owen was ordained as an Evangelist. Being of the Free Will Baptist faith, he preached every Sunday at a small Baptist meeting-house in Damascus, Pennsylvania, but also “held religious meetings in the Delaware river towns wherever there was a settlement.” He was the first missionary at Callicoon and “among the pioneer preachers of Cochecton,” and he occasionally visited the village of Ten Mile River. Owen was sometimes accompanied on his trips up and down the Delaware River valley by Deacon William Dunn, a member of Owen’s church. Where a church was not available, Owen would preach in people’s homes, in barns and sometimes at popular establishments such as the Raftman’s Hotel in the town of Tusten.

 

At Callicoon, “hearing that a few families were living here far from Christian privileges, he found his way to them through the woods in 1820, and preached to them. The three households received him gladly, and as a token of their satisfaction, presented him with a half-bushel of rye, which he carried home on his shoulders. It is said that he continued to preach at [Edward] Wood’s once a month; that to reach the settlement he followed blazed trees when the snow was deep and the thermometer below zero; and that he was paid fifteen dollars per annum for his services!” (Quinlan, James Eldridge. History of Sullivan County. p. 159.)

 

Elder Owen “was a man of but little education; but his mind and body and zeal were robust. It cannot be said that he was mercenary; for he received little or no compensation for his labors in his Master’s vineyard . . . He was always ready to visit the sick and afflicted, and to discourse at funerals on mortality and immortality – the ineffable and everlasting bliss of the redeemed, and the fearful fate of the doomed. His unpretending and homely discourses impressed Christian morality upon many souls of this neglected region . . . In his old age he joined the Close Communion Baptists. He was an honest old soul, whose good deeds and good name survived his mortal body, and are yet held in grateful remembrance.” (Quinlan, James Eldridge. History of Sullivan County. pp. 217-218.) Enoch Owen passed away on November 14, 1836 and is buried at Overlook Cemetery in Damascus, Pennsylvania.

 

Founding of the Ten Mile River Baptist Church

 

The official congregation of the Ten Mile River Baptist Church was organized in the spring of 1840 by local citizens, including E. Tyler, A. F. Bush and Thompson Parsons. The group commenced holding prayer meetings, with the first meetings taking place in the homes of its congregants. Soon after founding of the congregation, Reverend Henry Curtis, of the Damascus society, was invited to preach and to aid in conducting the church meetings.

 

In the early days of the church, “the Word preached was attended with convincing and converting power, leading Christians to pray and labor, and sinners to cry “men and brethren what shall we do to be saved?” Soon a number of the anxious were indulging hope in an all-sufficient Savior. The meetings were continued with increasing interest and power. The subject of believers’ baptism and church membership now began to claim attention and elicit discussion. As usual, candid inquiry resulted in a sense of obligation to make a public profession of Christ by baptism, and become identified with his people. A number of persons manifested a desire to unite with a Baptist church.

 

This desire being made known to the Damascus Church, situated some fourteen miles above, on the Delaware River, a special meeting was appointed by that church and held at Ten Mile River, to hear experiences and receive candidates for baptism and membership. A number of the converts presenting themselves at this meeting, were cordially received and baptized on a profession of faith, by Mr. Curtis, and became a branch of Damascus Church.” (Bailey, Edward L. History of the Abington Baptist Association, From 1807 to 1857. pp. 185-188.)  

 

Given its lengthy distance from the Damascus church, the Ten Mile River congregation soon requested “letters of dismission” in order to organize themselves as an independent body. The Ten Mile River Church was officially established through a council of recognition on August 18, 1840. At the time of its organization the congregation consisted of 29 people, including 16 males and 13 females. The first dedicated pastor of the church was Rev. Daniel F. Leach (1840-1845), who was then followed by Rev. James P. Stalbird (1845-1848), Rev. M. M. Everet (1848-1852) and Rev. J. R. Ross (1852-1854). In October 1840 William Hawks and Tobias Fox were chosen Deacons of the church and were ordained into that office the following year. Services continued at the church for circa 80 years until around 1920.

 

Photograph of the Ten Mile River Baptist Church, located at Tusten, New York in the southern Catskills.Ten Mile River Baptist Church, 1856The Ten Mile River Baptist Church, also known as the Tusten Baptist Church, was organized in 1840 by Reverend Henry Curtis, first meeting in the homes of its congregants. The current church building was constructed in 1856. “The layout and construction of this building was typical of smaller Protestant meetinghouses of the period and illustrated simple, but finely crafted furnishing and joinery. The rectangular lines of the building, and use of period moldings and trim profiles imbue the vernacular church with some of the characteristics of the Greek Revival style, popular in the Delaware Valley between 1840 and 1860.” The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

 

The Church Building and Cemetery

 

Sixteen years after the congregation’s founding, the church building was constructed in 1856 at a cost of $1,500. Although there is little evidence, several newspaper articles from around the time the church was being restored in 1969 have noted that “according to tradition, this church replaced a still older one.” (“Resort Tusten Church – Service Sunday.” The Evening News. August 21, 1969.) The church had seating available for 200 people. The “layout and construction of this building was typical of smaller Protestant meetinghouses of the period and illustrated simple, but finely crafted furnishings and joinery. The rectangular lines of the building, and use of period moldings and trim profiles imbue the vernacular church with some of the characteristics of the Greek Revival style, popular in the Delaware Valley between 1840 and 1860.” (National Register of Historic Places.)

 

The Ten Mile River Baptist Church has also been known as the Tusten Baptist Church. However, not all local residents appreciated the alternative name. In 1894, a local newspaper noted that “some are mistaken by calling this church the Tusten church. It always has been the Ten Mile River Baptist church and it is hoped it always will be.” (Tri-States Union. October 11, 1894.)

 

The cemetery adjacent to the church was opened in 1840 or earlier. The cemetery, enclosed by stone walls on the east and south sides, contains approximately 100 burials. William H. Hankins (1846-1922), builder of the nearby Tusten Stone Arch Bridge, is buried here. William Hawks (1813-1906), reported to be “the last constituent member of the Ten Mile River Baptist Church,” passed away “on the old homestead” in September 1906 and is buried at the church “beside those of his family, who have passed on before.” Hawks had been chosen to be a Deacon at the church in the year of its founding in 1840.

 

The church was largely unused for over 50 years from 1920 to 1969, but continued to receive basic maintenance. In 1969, the Tusten Settlement Association was established in order to restore and maintain the church and the adjacent cemetery, and over 50 years later they continue with that notable historic mission. After the church’s restoration was completed in August 1969, a community service was held for the first time in nearly five decades. The services were attended by nearly 150 people, with the sermon being given by Reverend Robert L. Kohler, Jr., the senior chaplain at the nearby Ten Mile River Boy Scout Camp.

 

Today, the church continues to serve the Tusten area, and is made available for special services, including Memorial Day and Veterans Day observances. In 1995 the church belfry and spire were reconstructed through the analysis of historic photographs. The church building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997 “for its historical significance in representing the lost nineteenth century river community of Tusten.”

 

Photograph of the Ten Mile River Baptist Church, located at Tusten, New York in the southern Catskills.Ten Mile River Baptist Church, Tusten, New YorkThe Ten Mile River Baptist Church, also known as the Tusten Baptist Church, was organized in 1840 by Reverend Henry Curtis, first meeting in the homes of its congregants. The current church building was constructed in 1856. “The layout and construction of this building was typical of smaller Protestant meetinghouses of the period and illustrated simple, but finely crafted furnishing and joinery. The rectangular lines of the building, and use of period moldings and trim profiles imbue the vernacular church with some of the characteristics of the Greek Revival style, popular in the Delaware Valley between 1840 and 1860.” The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

Photograph of the Ten Mile River Baptist Church, located at Tusten, New York in the southern Catskills.Ten Mile River Baptist Church, Tusten, NYThe Ten Mile River Baptist Church, also known as the Tusten Baptist Church, was organized in 1840 by Reverend Henry Curtis, first meeting in the homes of its congregants. The current church building was constructed in 1856. “The layout and construction of this building was typical of smaller Protestant meetinghouses of the period and illustrated simple, but finely crafted furnishing and joinery. The rectangular lines of the building, and use of period moldings and trim profiles imbue the vernacular church with some of the characteristics of the Greek Revival style, popular in the Delaware Valley between 1840 and 1860.” The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

Photograph of the Ten Mile River Baptist Church, located at Tusten, New York in the southern Catskills.Point to GodThe Ten Mile River Baptist Church, also known as the Tusten Baptist Church, was organized in 1840 by Reverend Henry Curtis, first meeting in the homes of its congregants. The current church building was constructed in 1856. “The layout and construction of this building was typical of smaller Protestant meetinghouses of the period and illustrated simple, but finely crafted furnishing and joinery. The rectangular lines of the building, and use of period moldings and trim profiles imbue the vernacular church with some of the characteristics of the Greek Revival style, popular in the Delaware Valley between 1840 and 1860.” The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

Photograph of the Ten Mile River Baptist Church, located at Tusten, New York in the southern Catskills.FatherThe Ten Mile River Baptist Church, also known as the Tusten Baptist Church, was organized in 1840 by Reverend Henry Curtis, first meeting in the homes of its congregants. The current church building was constructed in 1856. “The layout and construction of this building was typical of smaller Protestant meetinghouses of the period and illustrated simple, but finely crafted furnishing and joinery. The rectangular lines of the building, and use of period moldings and trim profiles imbue the vernacular church with some of the characteristics of the Greek Revival style, popular in the Delaware Valley between 1840 and 1860.” The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

 

Reverend Daniel Fowler Leach

 

Reverend Daniel Fowler Leach (1817-1889), the first pastor at the church, was born at Corbettsville, New York on June 27, 1817. He was a direct descendent of Lawrence Leach who arrived at Salem, Massachusetts in 1629. Daniel’s father, Major Daniel Leach (1777-1831) was a lumberman and farmer, served as a Justice of the Peace, and served as a Major in the New York State Militia. Daniel’s grandfather, Captain Hezekiah Leach (d. 1823) served during the American Revolution as a private in the Connecticut Line of the Revolutionary Army.

 

Daniel felt the call of the ministry early in life, and was baptized at the age of 15. In 1838 he was attending the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution, and in 1840 he began preaching in Pennsylvania at Bethany, Damascus and Jackson Summit. At Pennsylvania, “revivals soon broke out under his labors, and he became, without any preconceived purpose, by force of circumstances, an itinerant evangelist along the Lackawaxen and Delaware Rivers. Long walks, often on mere footpaths, and sometimes with no path, became necessary. He was ordained at Ten Mile River, N.Y., September 10, 1840.” (Brooks, Charles Wesley. A Century of Missions in the Empire State. pp. 174-175)

 

Reverend Leach remained as pastor of the Ten Mile River Baptist Church for four years until 1845, during which time “he performed missionary labors. . . preaching six times a week; only one other Baptist minister within forty miles.” Reverend Leach divided his time between Ten Mile River and the Paupack Eddy Church (now Hawley, Pennsylvania). The Ten Mile River Baptist church grew to a membership of 43 in 1841 and t0 46 in 1842. Reverend Leach was married to Levantia Guy on May 11, 1841 at Middlefield, New York. Daniel and Levontia had six children together.

 

After his time at Ten Mile River, Reverend Leach went on to serve in a number of locations, including Port Jervis, New York for five years from 1845 to 1850; followed by time at Colesville, New York; Unadilla, New York; Newark Valley, New York; and the state of Virginia. Reverend Daniel Fowler Leach passed away at Virginia on September 10, 1889. Upon his passing it was written that “few men in the State ever gave a half-century of more self-sacrificing, disinterested service to the cause of Christ than did the dear brother whose life-work is here so briefly and imperfectly sketched. The half has not been told of his efficiency and consecration, even in outline. A multitude of souls won to Christ was waiting to welcome him on the other shore, and throngs will be welcomed by him, whom he had led to the Savior’s feet.” (Brooks, Charles Wesley. A Century of Missions in the Empire State. pp. 176-177.)

 

Reverend James Perkins Stalbird

 

Reverend James P. Stalbird (1813-1900), the second pastor at the Ten Mile River Baptist Church, was born in Canada in 1813. That same year he moved with his family to New Hampshire, where he spent most of his time until 1837, when he then came to Pennsylvania.

 

Reverend Stalbird was licensed to preach the gospel at the Blakely Baptist Church in 1843, and in 1845 he was ordained at the Ten Mile River Baptist Church. He remained at Ten Mile River for three years until 1848. During his time at Ten Mile River church membership including 40 people in 1846, and “congregations had been comparatively large and covenant meetings quite interesting. Three weekly prayer meetings had been sustained by a few as in former years. The Sabbath School, however, had been somewhat neglected. In 1847, the church was measurably revived and the cause strengthened. They report to the Association of that year, 11 received by baptism and 51 as their total membership.” (Bailey, Edward L. History of the Abington Baptist Association, From 1807 to 1857. p. 187.)

 

In 1854 Reverend Stalbird returned to the Ten Mile River Baptist Church. During his second tenancy, “little has occurred during his ministry worthy of particular notice. The church report in 1856, two received by baptism, and 53 as their total membership, but complain of their scattered condition and want of activity and earnestness in the cause of the Master. In 1857, they report 50 communicants, and say that they cannot tell of prosperity and progress in the service of Christ. They, however, still cling to the Word and promise of God, and hope for brighter and better days.” (Bailey, Edward L. History of the Abington Baptist Association, From 1807 to 1857. p. 188.)

 

After leaving Ten Mile River, Reverend Stalbird served a number of churches, including those at Ashland, Berlin, Hawley, Purdytown, Lebanon, Lackawaxen and Barryville, as well as many mission churches. He often traveled 20 miles a day, and preached three times on Sunday.

 

In the fall of 1868 Reverend Stalbird sold his house at Beaver Brook, New York and settled on a farm at Freytown, Pennsylvania. He remained there on the farm for nearly thirty years until the fall of 1897, when he moved to Moosic, Pennsylvania to live with his son.

 

Reverend James Perkins Stalbird passed away at 87 years of age on November 6, 1900 at the home of his son Howell G. Stalbird in Moosic, Pennsylvania. His passing was caused by a fall a few days prior, from which he received a broken hip and suffered internal injuries. Funeral services were conducted by Reverend H. F. Hardell, of Daleville, Pennsylvania. Reverend Stalbird is buried at Freytown Cemetery in Pennsylvania. Upon his passing it was written that “he was a kind husband and father, and much respected wherever he lived.”

 

Reverend M. M. Everet

 

Reverend M. M. Everet, the third pastor at the Ten Mile River Baptist Church, took charge of the church in 1848 and remained for four years until 1852. During this period, Reverend Everet divided his time between Ten Mile River and Paupack Eddy, Pennsylvania (now Hawley, Pennsylvania). In 1852 he resigned from the church and the Baptist association.

 

During his time at Ten Mile River, “under his faithful labors, the church enjoyed a degree of prosperity and received some accessions by baptism. Two were baptized in 1848, the same number in the following year, and one in 1850. In 1852, the church report four received by baptism and 64 as their total membership – the culminating point in their numerical prosperity – and say in their letter to the Association, which met with them that year, that they are grateful for the mercies of the past year; had tokens of a deep and solemn work of grace, but the enemy of all righteousness, by weakening the faith of the brethren, disappointed their hopes. A few, however, were hopefully converted.” (Bailey, Edward L. History of the Abington Baptist Association, From 1807 to 1857. pp. 187-188.)

 

Reverend J. R. Ross

 

Reverend J. R. Ross, the fourth pastor at the Ten Mile River Baptist Church, accepted the invitation of the church to be the pastor while teaching at an academy in Narrowsburg. Reverend Ross took charge of the church in the autumn of 1852 and remained until May of 1854, when he resigned from the church and the Baptist association. During his time at Ten Mile River “his labors were faithful, but without any marked results.” Reverend Ross was followed as pastor by the return of Reverend James P. Stalbird.

 


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