Building art

History of Gates Presbyterian Church

A little band of Christians met at the home of Eleazar Howard on October 15, 1828, to organize a “church”. The Howard House was the town tavern in Gates at the southeast corner of Buffalo and Howard Roads. The name that was chosen for the new organization was “The First Presbyterian Society of the Town of Gates”.

Services were held in the ballroom of the Howard House and Sunday School classes were conducted in a brick school house. On March 8, 1831 the trustees met with a commission from the Rochester Presbytery to consider organizing a church in Gates.

Some time passed and Mr. Howard donated a half acre of land on which the first church, a small frame building costing $400, was built. The first meeting was held in the new church in October 1840, twelve years after the society was organized.

Within 5 years they needed a larger building, so they sold the original and it was moved away to be used as a dwelling. The second church, built on the old site, cost $1,000 was dedicated on January 23, 1845. Sheds to shelter the horses and carriages were built in 1854. The Rev. James Ballantine became the first regular minister “at a salary of $350 the first year and $400 each year thereafter for as long as he remained.” He was installed by a committee of Presbytery on September 23, 1845 and served for 16 years.

An entry in church records on September 14, 1862 reads, “Our young men’s Bible class appears to be broken up, most of them having joined the army.” Few men were left in the church during the Civil War period, most having gone to war. On the occasion of the Centennial of American Independence, the pastor Rev. H. Wickes delivered a sermon on July 2, 1876 in which he stated, “On the great moral question of the day, the church has been right. Her numbers strongly advocated the great anti-slavery movement which culminated in the overthrow of the system.”

Old Church
Old Church at Buffalo Rd near Howard Rd

By 1871 the church was badly in need of repair, and renovations done at that time served well until the building was destroyed by fire in January 1906, just 9 months after they had secured the first insurance policy. Services were held in the nearby Union Hall until the third church was dedicated on May 12, 1908.

You may notice that the plaque in the narthex gives dates for the buildings from 1833-1908 that are not completely consistent with the church documents we have drawn information from. History is complex!

By 1950, church school enrollment had so increased that the classes could no longer be accommodated in the basement; so 7/8 of an acre of land adjoining the church was purchased and a new education wing was dedicated on November 28, 1954.

By the mid ’60’s the congregation had grown to the point that even two Sunday morning worship services were not enough to accommodate everyone. So a larger parcel of land was purchased on Wegman Road and ground was broken for the fourth edifice of Gates Presbyterian Church on June 23, 1968. The first service was held in the present building on November 16, 1969.