Methodism in New Hartford

Methodism in New Hartford has a past to honor and a future to mold. The New York Mills Methodist Society, formed on New Year’s Eve 1825, was the mother of the New Hartford Society. Methodist meetings were held in the village as early as 1826. Preachings began about 1829 and were held in numerous places including a schoolhouse on Factory Lane and a weaver’s shop. The New Hartford Society became independent about 1838.

Although its religious services were conducted irregularly, the Methodist Society was fostered by management of the New Hartford Cotton Mills. Superintendent  Daniel Keith, and later George Andrews promoted the services to meet the needs of the mill worker and offered the chapel in the Factory Yard for this purpose. A Sunday School was organized on May 24, 1840, and the Society proceeded with incorporation a month later.

Andrews Williams obtained a deed for three quarters of an acre of land on Oxford Road for the Methodist Society. Construction of the First Methodist Episcopal Church began, and it was dedicated on January 1, 1842. It contained both church and parsonage and, with the lot, cost $3000. The building was razed in 1986 for a funeral home parking lot.

By 1867, the growing congregation needed a new church. Built on the adjoining lot, it was completed in July 1869 at a cost of $13,786. By 1920 more rooms were needed and Tibbitts Hall, containing a kitchen, Sunday School rooms, and recreational facilities, was added to the church. At the same time, a parsonage at 29 Oxford Road was built. The church building is now the Players of Utica Theater.

As the church family grew, a new building plan was set in motion and property acquired at 105 Genesee Street. On October 8, 1961 at a cost of $325,000, the First United Methodist Church was consecrated.  In 1965, an education wing was added, and ten years later the bell from the old church, bearing the inscription “Salvation is Free” , was installed on the grounds. A mortgage burning ceremony was held in the church on May 16, 1982.