By Robert A. Saal

~ Churches ~

Commack Methodist Church c.1905

     Built in 1789 Commack's Methodist Church building is the oldest in the state of New York. It is also considered to be one of the finest in the way of original condition with very few alterations being done over the past 200 years.
     The Methodist meetings began during the Revolutionary War when James Hubbs brought a British soldier named John Phillips, who had been preaching around Cow Harbor, to Commack to speak. Hubbs had heard him a number of times by this point that he himself wanted to start a Methodist Society here. After hearing Philips preach some of his neighbors attending and their negro slaves  formed the society with great enthusiasm. The meetings where then rotated regularly amongst the homes of the various members in the group.
     Six years later the church was built. It was a plan structure with no plaster on the inside walls and foot warmers were required in the winter months. When the congregation now met the women and children sat to the left side and the men on the right. The upper gallery had seating for the negro's and slaves.
     In 1839 a small Seminary was built behind the church. Here young men were to be taught to become Ministers. The building was long and narrow having three windows along each side with red shutters. The front door led into the coat room where there was another door leading to the class room. On the roof near the front was located a large brass bell. At first enrolment was good but it steadily declined and they closed five years later. The building was sold in 1844 to the Comac School District to replace the first north school house.
      For many years the Methodist Church would be the focal point of the community arranging day trips to the beach and picnic outings to The Grove at Eaton's Neck. There was a Sunday School taught by Mrs. Mae Shea, a Woman's Aid Society and also a Young Peoples Society. Sundays would also be a time for people who were busy working on their farms to meet up with their neighbors and talk outside after service, exchanging news and talk about the family and crops.


When I was a kid my mother used to have to take us up to Sunday School, she would drive the horse and buggy up there, my father would go later. That was the place were you could meet people, you see you didnít get out much. My father and the other farmers here would go in their horse and wagons to talk because you didnít get out much then. - Ralph Moreland

     We were Lutherans but attended the Methodist church here until they built the Lutheran church in Huntington. My family was one of the original congregation. Mrs. Shea was the Sunday school teacher, and there was a priest but I canít remember his name. I liked him very much, he had traveled all over the world. We would go the parish house and sit with him and he would tell us stories of were he had been. He liked the kids and even helped us to publish a small paper for the church, but we only did a few issues. I think then he went to another church, but he was a very good man. - Dr. Charles Werle

James Hubbs founder of the Commack Methodist Church and Hannah Ware the oldest grave 1791

The Stillwellite Church was located on Commack Road. In 1919 the building was converted in to a two family house

The Methodist Church had been going though some major changes around 1822. One of the members named John Stillwellite along with a number of others, including John Wicks, formed a division in the church. There is no reason remembered today by anyone as to why the congregation broke in two, but William Stillwell's was said to have led his followers in trying to take over control of the church. When this proved unsuccessful he took his following to a church that was made available to them in Centerport. They met there for several years until one day they were offered the church building if they wanted it. In the winter of 1830, using horses pulling log sleds, they moved the building over the snow packed frozen roads very slowly to Comac where it was set down on the east side of Townline Road between what is now Havemeyer Lane and the entrance to the Commack Cemetery. With their new church in place they officially broke away from the original Commack Methodist Society.
     Later the church would be moved again to the west side of Commack Road across from whatís today Genesee Lane. It then go through some changes becoming a Congregational Church and then a Presbyterian before finally closing in 1919. The building was sold and the buyer converted it in to two family apartments.

     One of the two Commack churches, the south church, for lack of support ceased to be represented in the conference, and ministers of various denominations spoke there at different intervals, until finally the congregational synod took it in hand and for awhile a minister was installed.
     While under the Stillwellites they had a minister by the name of James Smith, a native of the North Ireland, and a determined and outspoken man. One Sunday, after having failed to arouse the sinners as he wished to do, he began to berate them in no measured terms. He said  ďI have preached in many of the United States, and in several of Her Majesties dominions, but I have never met before such a Heaven daring and hell deserving set as I have found in Commack. This so aroused his hearers, though not in a way he wished, that he did not remain much longer in that church.
- George Strong Carll "Old Times In Commack" -  The Brooklyn Eagle, 1908

     I got up at 4:30 and my mother and I would milk the cows. Then we had a separator which removed the cream from the milk. After that I would deliver it, and do the same thing again in the afternoon. There were six people that I delivered to in town. One of the families lived in one of the apartments built in the old Stillwellite church. - Charlie Harned


This site created and maintained by Robert A. Saal 2013

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