Emily’s Brookton Baptism

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07 Apr 1907, fifteen people that included Emily Mills and Jessie Brewer are baptized at Brookton Congregational Church, in a service officiated by Reverend Annis Ford Eastman on one of her last visits to Brookton.

April 7, 1907. The following names were added to this Church roll, 15 in all.

Miss Marian H. Toby Dead

" Alma Personius Letter

" Jessie Shurter (Brewer)

" Emily Mills

" Susie C. Westfall (Lawrence)

" Ellen E. Lounsbery (Denman)

" Lettie Personius Dead

" Pearl Annis letter

" Alleine M. Johnston

Mrs. Curtis Shurter, Mother &

Miss Louise W. Shurter, Daughter letter

" C. Esther Vorhis Sister &

Mister Edward Vorhis, Brother

" Howard V. Miller Letter

Mr. Deforrest McWhorter

These all united on confession of faith.

Rev. Annis F. Eastman of Park Ch. Elmira N.Y. (a former Pastor) received them into the Ch. Baptism by sprinkling, except Miss Johnston who had been immersed a short time previous.

The sermon was from the text “Strive to enter in at the straight-gate” Luke 13-24. Communion service at the close. Three Deacons present, Cantine Lounsbery, Harvey Smiley & O. Munson

Digitally scanned entry in Congregational Church 1868-1933 Minutes of Meetings and Membership, used with permission from Caroline Valley Community Church. View largest available size.

07 Apr fell on the Sunday after Easter in 1907. It was the final year of Edward’s life. He and his second wife Hannah had both been members of the Church for just over a decade at that point, and depending on Edward’s health at that time, we can assume that he and Hannah would have been present for the ceremony that day.

Reverend Annis Ford Eastman returned to Brookton to officiate. The Reverend made history by becoming one of the first women ordained in a Congregational Church while she was pastor of Brookton Congregational Church (now Caroline Valley Community Church) from 1889 to 1891. The Reverend wrote of her time in Brookton, including an account of her ordination, in "The Making of a Woman Minister" in the book Enjoyment of Living by her son Max Eastman. The Church’s historical records also include an account of her ordination, including the names of the members of the “picked council” she refers to in her account.

After Reverend Eastman left Brookton, she became a very prominent religious and literary figure in New York and beyond, lecturing widely and counting among her friends the Reverend Thomas Beecher, brother of Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Mark Twain, for whom she wrote the eulogy for his funeral service in Elmira, but which had to be delivered by her husband due to the Reverend’s declining health. The Reverend died in 1910, so this may have been her last return visit to Brookton. So, needless to say, her presence this day was planned well in advance by the Reverend, and it was a very significant honor that hints at a rich context to this event that we can only speculate upon now.

(Interestingly, Mark Twain made his last visit to Elmira that very week, attending the dedication of a new organ at Park Church in Elmira, Reverend Eastman’s church, on 03 Apr 1907. Twain was interred in Woodlawn Cemetery Elmira almost exactly three years later.)

The scripture verse used in the sermon is cited carefully, and uniquely identifies it with the King James Version of the Bible. Therefore, we can know some of the exact words spoken that day by Reverend Annis Ford Eastman:

Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

— Luke 13:24, King James Bible

This passage from the Gospel of Luke emphasizes the narrow and difficult path to eternal salvation that requires effort and a commitment to live according to God’s teachings that few will achieve. In particular, the gate is a powerful symbol of the need for each individual to exercise free will and consciously choose the righteous path.

This baptism and its recording are unusual in several respects, and deserve further investigation. The record itself is quite unique in the amount of detail compared to similar records elsewhere in the same book. The number of people being baptized in one event also seems unusual for a congregation that size (it seemed more typical to have a small handful of people baptized in a year, and to not necessarily be grouped together) and may be related to the other notable fact: that eleven of the fifteen people are unmarried women (and two others were first degree relatives of women in that group of eleven). Add to this, the fact that Reverend Annis Ford Eastman returned to officiate this event, and a rough outline of what was happening begins to suggest itself, along with the significance that the cited scripture had for the Reverend and these women.

The following is a summary of information about the participants. Click on column headers to affect the sort order accordingly.

Order listedTitle at baptismNameYear bornYear diedAge at baptismAge first marriedAge at death
1MissMarian Hart Tobey1847191560na68
2MissAlma (Personius) Leonard18801925272945
3MissJessie M. (Shurter) Brewer18811974264293
4MissMary Emily Mills1858193749na79
5MissSusie C. (Westfall) Lawrence18851977223392
6MissEllen (Lounsbery) Denman18891986182597
7MissLettie Delphene Personius1892190915na16
8MissPearl (Annis) Delmage18921953152061
9MissAlleine M. (Johnston) Van Order Peck18891973182184
10Mrs.Sarah (Ward) Shurter1860194047na80
11MissLouise Ward (Shurter) Henderson18881972192984
12MissCharlotte Esther (Vorhis) Pancoe18931964142471
13Mr.Edward C. Vorhis1895196012na65
14Mr.Howard V. Miller1894194813na54
15Mr.Deforrest McWhorter1863193044na67

Click column headers to change sort order. Download source data.

I could not find an account of this baptism in the Ithaca Journal, but there is this entry over a week later in the Elmira Gazette and Free Press, that, despite some glaring inaccuracies that can be explained, appears to reference the event:


—The Rev. Annis Ford Eastman was the guest of Mr. and Mrs. R. I. Denman in Brooklyn over Sunday. She occupied the pulpit of the Congregational Church in that village and fifteen persons were received into the congregation.

17 Apr 1907, Elmira Gazette and Free Press, Elmira NY, p5, newspapers.com. View largest available size.

At the time that the Reverend Ford Eastman was pastor of Brookton Congregational Church, Emily’s mother Mary Ann was the only one in the family on the Church rolls, so it is unclear how much exposure Emily had to the Reverend while she was pastor. During the Reverend’s tenure, she also gave occasional public lectures at the Congregational Church. In the Reverend’s account of her first visit to Brookton, one imagines that it is likely that Mary Ann, and possibly Emily too, were among those who “waited in the dim light of the smoky kerosene lamps to speak to me.” (From Enjoyment of Living by Max Eastman, pg 70.) And perhaps the referenced kerosene lamps had been purchased from Mills' store.

This is Brookton Congregational Church as it would have looked on the day of the ceremony:

13 Jun 1907. Digital photograph of print photograph, used with permission from Caroline Valley Community Church. View largest available size.

A view of the church as Emily would have approached it from her home and store:

Digital photograph of print photograph, used with permission from Caroline Valley Community Church. View largest available size.

This photo of the altar is also from the early 1900’s, likely the 1920’s:

1920, Digital photograph of print photograph, used with permission from Caroline Valley Community Church. View largest available size.

The Deacons listed are:

  • Cantine Lounsbery (1831-1910)
  • Harvey Smiley (?-1917)
  • Orange Munson (1834-1910):
    • Via findagrave.com: “Orange, the son of Joseph, was born Aug 4 1834; married Mary (his 2nd cousin) Feb 18 1855; and after her death he married Johanna Ada Richardson. He was a farmer in 1880. They resided in Brookton NY [Src: Munson Record V2. Myron Munson. p. 1091, 1112]” Church records indicate that Orange Munson “was granted a letter by of the Ch Aug [unclear] 1908 to unite with the Methodist Ch at Erin N.Y.” (Congregational Church 1868-1933 Minutes of Meetings and Membership)
ORANGE MUNSON, a highly esteemed resident of Snyder Hill, in the town of Dryden, for over forty years, until a couple of years ago when he removed to Erin, Chemung Co., died at his home in Erin on Tuesday, March 29, ages 75 years. Mr. Munson is survived by his widow, one son, West Munson, of Utica, and four grandchildren. The funeral was held at this late home on Thursday, the remains being yesterday brought to Snyder Hill Cemetery for interment.

29 Mar 1910, from the historical records of Caroline Valley Community Church. Original source unknown. View largest available size.


Orange Munson.

Orange Munson died at this home in Erin, N.Y., March 29. He was a resident of Dryden for over forty years but removed to Erin about three years ago, where he has since resided. He was 75 years old and leaves a widow and one son, West Munson, of Utica. Funeral services will be held at his late home tomorrow and the remains will be brought to Snyder Hill cemetery for interment.

30 Mar 1910, Ithaca Daily Journal, Ithaca NY, p6, nyshistoricnewspapers.org. View largest available size.


(Special to The Star-Gazette.)

Erin, March 30.—At the age of seventy-four years occurred the death yesterday at his home here of Orange Munson. He is survived by his widow, one son West Munson of Chambersburg, Pa., four grandchildren and five great grandchildren. He was a native of Dryden, Tompkins County.

Mr. Munson was a faithful member of the Methodist Church in which he held the office of steward. He was also member of Caroline Lodge, No. 681, F. & A. M., of Dryden.

The funeral will be held at the family home Thursday afternoon at 2 o’clock and burial will be made Friday morning at 1 o’clock in Snyder Hill Cemetery in the Town of Dryden in charge of Caroline Lodge.

Elmira NY, p10, pnewsapers.com.. View largest available size.


Orange Munson, who died at his late home in Erin, March 29, was a member of Caroline Lodge, No. 681, F. and A. M., of Dryden, N. Y. Interment will take place April 1, at 10 o’clock in the Snyder Hill Cemetery in the town of Dryden in charge of Caroline Lodge.

31 Mar 1910, Ithaca Daily Journal, Ithaca NY, p9, nyshistoricnewspapers.org. View largest available size.

Selected data on the participants:

Jessie (Shurter) Brewer (1881-1974)

  • Married Lewis William Brewer (24 Jun 1882 to 10 Sep 1963) in Danby, 27 Jun 1923. According to the Permanent Membership Roll Book 2 of Caroline Valley Federated Church Records 1930-1960, “Mrs. Jessie Brewer and Mrs. Susie Lawrence have the longest membership records in church and Ladies’ Aid.” — History of the Congregational Church, Brooktondale, New York. Compiled and edited by Mrs. Amy Atwater on the occasion of The Centennial Celebration of the Caroline Valley Federated Church, Brooktondale, New York, June 16th, 1968. Used with permission from Caroline Valley Community Church.
  • Jessie M. (Shurter) Brewer lived in the Shurter House, which originally sat between Six Mile Creek and M. E. Mills. Jessie eventually purchased the Mills’ home and continued Emily’s store under her own name after Emily’s death.

Susie C. (Westfall) Lawrence (1885-1977)

  • Married Woodley Lawrence (1885-1931).

Lettie Delphene Personius (1892-1909)

  • Lettie Personius died at City Hospital Ithaca of gangrenous appendicitis when she was only 16. Lettie was the daughter of Postmaster Jacob Wilson Personius (1866-1906) of Caroline Depot, who was killed by a Lackawanna freight train near his home on 14 Dec 1906. Lettie’s death is also noted in the journals of George Jansen.
Deaths Miss Lettie Personius died Jun 26, 1909 at the Ithaca City Hospital, aged 16 years. The funeral was Jun 29 at 2 P.M. from the home of her grand parents Mr and Mrs Henry Personius of Caroline Depot, funeral sermon by Rev. Wallace Brown of Ithaca. She united with this Ch Apr 7, 1907.

Digitally photographed entry in Congregational Church 1868-1933 Minutes of Meetings and Membership, used with permission from Caroline Valley Community Church. View largest available size.



In the death of Miss Lettie, the beloved granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Personius of Caroline, who departed this life at the Ithaca City Hospital, has cast a gloom over the entire neighborhood where she was so well known. Her pleasant ways and cheerful disposition were admired by all who knew her.

Besides her grandparents, to mourn her loss, she Leaves one sister, Nellie, and a brother, Bradford Kirk. Besides the neighbors and friends who attended the funeral, the following were present: Mrs. Coryell of Corning, Mrs. Dibble and her daughter, Lenora, of Rochester, Miss Fay Straight of Homer, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Bennett of Montour Falls, Mrs. George Personius of Milport, N. Y., also the Candor High School class of which the deceased was a member.

Six young ladies acted as honorary bearers and six young men as active hearers. From Ithaca these persons attended: Mrs. Harker, Mrs. Hazen, Mrs. Caroline Quick, Mrs. William Quick, Mrs. Margaret McCarthy, the Misses Culvers and John Kelly.

02 Feb 1909, Ithaca Daily Journal, Ithaca NY, p9, nyshistoricnewspapers.org. View largest available size.

Lettie Personius, granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Personius, of Caroline Depot, died on Tuesday, Jan. 26th, in the Ithaca City Hospital, where she had submitted to an operation for appendicitis, aged 16 years. The young girl was a student in the High School in Candor, and was in attendance as usual up to Thursday evening. On Friday she was not feeling well, and on Saturday was brought to the hospital here for treatment from her home in Caroline, with the result named.

26 Jan 1909, from the historical records of Caroline Valley Community Church. Original source unknown. View largest available size.

Charlotte Esther (Vorhis) Pancoe (02 Aug 1893 to 19 May 1964)

  • Descendants confirm she commonly went by Esther.
  • Married George W. Pancoe (1895-1969).
  • Esther’s father was Frank C. Vorhis, co-owner of the Vorhis Milling Co. (the lower grist mill) and a former owner of the Mills’ home.
  • “She was a member of Caroline Valley Federated Church, the Ladies Aid of that church and a former member of Brooktondale Home Bureau. She has been employed throughout the area as a practical nurse for many years.” (19 May 1964, The Ithaca Journal, Ithaca NY, p2, newspapers.com.)

Finally, there is another record of Emily being baptized as a young child in the Reformed Dutch Church of Port Richmond. Other than that, I do not have direct evidence of Emily attending any church prior to her Brookton baptism.

DateBaptizedParents’ NamesBorn
1859, Nov. 30Mary EmilyEdward Mills & Mary A. Pine

Jan 1923, Records of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church on Staten Island, New York City, v2, transcribed and edited by Royden Woodward Vosburgh, v2, p70, Staten Island, Richmond County, NY Genealogical Resources, FHL Film 514656 Item 5. Partial transcription.View largest available size.