Saturday, February 23, 2013

New York, New York, it's a heck of a corn field

The sign that identifies New York is getting a little hard to read these days, so once you turn east off Highway 14 at Millerton when headed for Bethlehem or the Sunnyslope Church of Christ it's easy to drive right by without noticing. This has been especially true since the old Christian Church was picked up and moved to Allerton, its former location now a corn field.

But once upon a long time ago, this was a thriving village, platted on April 20, 1855, by Micajah Cross. It developed into a thriving neighborhood trading center with stores, two churches, both Masonic and Odd Fellows lodges, a Grand Army of the Republic post and from 1856 through 1903, a post office.

From the crossroads at the west edge of town, the New York Road led (and still does) north into Lucas County, then after a twist west into Chariton on the Blue Grass.

Although it took about 150 years for New York to vanish almost entirely (except for the cemetery some distance east of town), it seems to have been a major fire during early June of 1904 that pretty much sealed the little town's fate. Here's how The Chariton Patriot of June 9, 1904, reported on that blaze:

Wayne County Town Suffers a $15,000 Loss

New York, in Wayne county, about twelve miles from Chariton, suffered a serious loss from fire early Saturday morning, the 4th. The total loss is conservatively estimated at $15,000, five business houses being destroyed. The fire originated in the rear of F. Belknap's general store and burned everything in the building, consisting of a large stock of general merchandise valued at $12,000. Among the other losses are F.A. Burton, $175 on building; Odd Fellows room, $1,000; Charles Olmstead, $175; W.A. Pray, burilding, $300; and one other dwelling damaged. About one-fourth of the loss is said to be covered by insurance. There is no clue to the origin of the fire. It is a serious catastrophe to the enterprising town of New York but we trust through the well known energy and thrift of the business community all the ubildings will be at once rebuilt and the town resume its customary prosperity.

That rebuilding didn't occur. The post office was discontinued during the year after the fire, the Masonic lodge removed to Confidence, the old soldiers died and, during 1913, the village of Millerton was platted a couple of miles west along the projected route of the Rock Island Railroad.

There once were at least three congregations in and around New York. The New York class of the United Brethren in Christ was the "mother church" of United Brethren congregations surrounding it, including Otterbein in Lucas County.  It's unlikely this congregation ever had a church building, however. Its usual practice was to meet in school houses. The earliest records of this class are at the Lucas County Historical Society in Chariton.

The New York Methodist Episcopal Church, built about 1874, was discontinued when the Millerton Methodist congregation began and, according to the late Warren H. Burton, the building was torn down and its lumber used to build the Methodist parsonage there.

The New York Christian (Disciples of Christ) Church, organized by Morgan Parr during 1853 in the Bethlehem-New York neighborhood, built its first building at New York before 1871 and the second, after a fire destroyed the first building, in 1887. That building long outlived its congregation, but was conserved by one of its families and survived intact until a need for it arose when a lightning strike took out the church at the Round Barn Site east of Allerton. At that point several years ago, the old New York church was loaded on a flatbed and hauled to a new home.

Even the New York Church of Christ, a much later building on the Fetters farm across the creek and uphill from the New York Cemetery, is gone now, its congregation removed into Chariton.

But those of us who remember some vestage of old New York still see sometimes the few scattered buildings that remained when we were kids --- and can take you on a tour (necessarily brief) at any time.

The New York Christian Church, now at the Round Barn Site.


Ken said...

Our 4-H club used to meet in the basement of the New York Christian Church. I knew it was gone, but I had no idea it had ended up in Allerton! (And I must say it looks to be in much better condition than when I last saw it.)

Frank D. Myers said...

The New York Christian Church, now at Allerton, is in great shape and has been fully restored with all contents, including the communion set, intact. You'd enjoy the Round Barn Site --- house, round barn, school and church about a mile east of Allerton on gravel.

D. Ray said...

This is not the way I remember the Christian Church looking when we had 4-H club meetings and widely-attended home grown stawberries and homemade ice cream socials at the New York church. There was a set of centered setps up to double doors. Immediately inside the entrance and to the right were the stairs down to the basement where the meetings and socials, etc., were held.

Frank D. Myers said...

I checked Ortha Green's 1963 "Churches of Wayne County, Iowa" and you are quite right. At that time, the front door was double with a glass transom over. I think the change to single door was made before the church was moved, but have no idea when. Thanks for your comment!