Past Exhibitions

Orient Congregational Church at 300

The Congregational Church in Orient, located on the Main Road, is the oldest of that denomination in New York State. The accepted date for its organization in 1735. However, the first meeting house on this same site was built in 1717 and that edifice is the cause for this anniversary celebration, as the current church grew out of that building and those events of three hundred years ago.

Oysterponds historian, Augustus Griffin, lived from 1767 until 1866. Much of our knowledge of the history of “this secluded place” (as he calls it) is owing to his writings – including the history of the Congregational Church’s three separate buildings. In a manuscript volume Griffin devotes several pages to these structures – even including a sketch (an enlargement is on view in the gallery). The story of these buildings can best be told in his words:

The scite [sic] for the Congregational meeting house in Oysterponds (now Orient) was purchased in 1700 for the consideration, or sum of one dollar & 25 cents – It contained about 12 square rods of ground – In 1717 Our Fathers erected on said lot a meeting house, which was about 28 by 30 feet – It was finished off with ceiling, as there was not any lime, nor mortar, used in the building-

A Mr Daniel Brown, of Rocky point, was the head workman in finishing said house, which was completed, in a very plain way April 25th 1725 – The form of the house was thus [sketch] From the ground to the vane, It might have been 35 or 40 feet, that is the 2 first stories 9 feet a piece – the little small story above those two 8 feet, and then to the top 12 or 14 more, although I should say not more than 12 making the amount 38 feet. It was altogether considered by those who viewed it, when near 100 years old, a curious odd constructed building – It certainly was so to us in these days. This Antique house of worship, in which the celebrated George Whitefield preached, once, or twice, was taken down in the summer of 1817, and the same season another, something larger, and of a very different modle [sic] errected [sic] on the scite [sic] of the old one – Mr Joseph Glover Jun, was the chief carpenter – He finished it in a much better stile [sic]according to our moderns, than was the old one…. This 2nd Church edifice, was taken down in August 1843 having stood only 26 years – The house appeared to be too well and firmly built to be taken down, but It appears that the money part of the members of the Church wished a handsomer, and more stately place of worship, and so they built one to correspond with their minds – A Mr Joseph Lamb, was the builder Master of this last one. It is 33 by 45 feet – has a moderate handsome steeple – And they are this day (9th May 1844) puting [sic] in a pretty handsome, good sized Bell – It (the house) stands on the Site of the two former churches, but they have added a number of feet to the lot of land….In 1843 they added to the [1717] site, or land, about 8 or 9 square rods, for which they paid about 50 Dollars.

Various records and photographs of the church are on view, although there are gaps in those records; many losses are presumably the result of a late-eighteenth century fire and another in the early nineteenth century. We are very grateful to Karen Munson for kindly photographing the stained glass windows especially for this exhibition.

Exhibit Items


  • Land purchased from David Youngs for $1.25



  • The first Meeting House was built; its dimensions according to Augustus Griffin were 28 feet by 30 feet.
  • Daniel Brown of Rocky Point (now East Marion) was in charge of construction.
  • Augustus Griffin’s description and history of the building is shown on the wall; the original is on display in the case below.



  • Augustus Griffin writes that the first Meeting House was “finished off” in April 1725 by a Daniel Brown.
  • Griffin goes on to say: “This curious building…was raised in 1717…but it appears did not reach a partial finish until 1725, which was twenty-five years after the ground was bought for one dollar and twenty-five cents to set this edifice on.”



  • The Congregational Church in Oysterponds was officially organized.
  • It is the oldest Congregational church in New York State.
  • Jonathan Barber, a graduate of Yale, was the first pastor.
  • Augustus Griffin writes that Barber was “a man greatly and justly beloved by his congregation.”



  • The Congregational Church Bank Articles were drawn up on May 1, 1739 by Rev Barber as a way of paying the minister and financing the church for future generations.
  • Subscribers raised 616 pounds, 18 shillings.
  • The Bank Articles stated that the minister had to be a “dissenter of the Congregational way.”



  • George Whitefield, an Englishman, was one of the most widely known clerics of his day. In 1740 he traveled to America where his preachings became known as the “Great Awakening.” The old Meeting House in Oysterponds was the site of one of his revivals.


  • A fire at the home of Deacon Azariah Tuthill of Rocky Point (now East Marion) destroyed the earliest church records.



  • The old Meeting House was taken down in the summer of 1818.
  • The second church building was erected on the same site.
  • The builder of the second edifice was Joseph Glover Jr. of Southold.
  • Augustus Griffin describes it as being “finished in a plain, substantial manner,” but no image of it has been discovered.



  • A formal re-organization of the church was attempted, but was not accomplished for several years.
  • One of the current windows (Christ Holding the Lamb) pays tribute to those who initiated this. The dedication on the window reads: “Deacon Peter Brown (1781-1857) Phoebe Rackett – his wife – (1782 – 1860) with three others re-organized the church -1828.” The window itself dates from the early twentieth century.



  • Temperance becomes an integral part of the re-organized church.
  • The resolution adopted stated: “Resolved unanimously, that no person hereafter be admitted into this Church without expressing the determination never to use Ardent Spirits as an ordinary drink….”



  • In July 1840 the church was organized as “The Orient Congregational Society” by the Rev. Daniel Beers



  • The second church building was demolished on August 1, 1843.
  • It had stood for only twenty-six years.
  • On August 26, 1843 Augustus Griffin writes: “They raised the New Church on the site of the one just taken down.”
  • The building is still in use today.
  • According to Augustus Griffin, the reason for building a new structure was that certain members of the church “wished a handsomer and more stately place of worship.”
  • Joseph Lamb of Sag Harbor was the builder of the new church.
  • On November 29 Griffin writes: “This day Joshua Payne put on the spindle on the Steeple of our new meeting house – perhaps its [sic] 70 feet high.”
  • Griffin states that the church “had a bell, too, to notify the hour for worship.”
  • The new church was dedicated on December 28, 1843.
  • Additional land was acquired at this time for carriages and a shed. The cost was fifty dollars.
  • The new church had an organ, and according to one source “a graceful gallery around three sides of the interior.”
  • The Ladies’ Benevolent Sewing Society was founded. This important church group continued for well over one hundred years. The Society charged a membership fee of twelve cents for women, and twenty-five cents for men.



  • Augustus Griffin writes in his Journal that from 1849 to 1855 Orient had the finest church choir in this part of the world.



  • There was a scandal in the village: all parents who were allowing their children to attend a dancing school in the village were reprimanded by the church with the following resolution: “Resolved, that it is with unfeigned grief and sadness of heart that we have heard that there is a dancing school in our village to the detriment of our fair name and the injury of the morals of the inhabitants.”



  • A committee was established to provide a plan for enlarging and improving the church.



  • The church building was lengthened by 16 feet.
  • A pipe organ was installed.
  • A quote from a church publication at this time says that the “audience room has been entirely renovated, beautifully decorated, and furnished throughout in the very best manner.”
  • The cost was about $8500 – a considerable sum in those days.
  • The builder was J. H. Young of Orient; the interior work was done by O. H. Clewes of Greenport.



  • On January 22, 1868 the church was re-dedicated.



  • The church sold a parcel of land just to the east to the school district for a new school building.



  • The church was draped in mourning in late September on the occasion of the death of President Garfield.



  • The 150th anniversary of the official organization of the Congregational Church in Orient was celebrated on October 20 and 21, 1885.



  • The Women’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society was founded as part of the Congregational Church.



  • The church was draped in twenty-five great flags to celebrate the U.S. victory in the Spanish-American War.



  • A new pipe organ was placed in an extension at the rear of the building.
  • Many familiar Oysterponds names are listed as donors to the new organ; this document is on view in one of the cases.
  • The extension was turned into an apse-like space in the 1949 renovation when the pipe organ was removed.



  • In December of 1904 one of the Sunday services was conducted over the telephone party lines because the roads were impassable.



  • A newspaper article reports on a renovation that was underway: “when the work is completed, the old church will be almost a new church, new seats and entirely new furnishings.”



  • The renovated church was finished and the church was re-dedicated for the second time.
  • New memorial windows were unveiled.
  • Two of the stained glass windows were made by the Payne Studios of Paterson, New Jersey.
  • The makers of the other windows are unknown, but may have also been the Payne Studios, a well-known manufacturer of church windows.
  • The choir space was enlarged.
  • New pews (those still in use today), a new pulpit, and a new gas plant were all installed.
  • An acousticon was installed (a sort of hearing-aid system).
  • New oak wainscoting was fitted.



  • The parsonage was destroyed by fire on June 2, 1907.
  • The Angel of the Resurrection stained glass window was erected in memory of William Youngs and his wife Polly Maria Petty by their children.



  • A new parsonage was built for $4200.
  • The builder was Brewster Smith.
  • The architectural plan chosen (Kriths #892) had been published by an architectural firm in Minneapolis.
  • This structure is the current parsonage.



  • The Ascension stained glass window was erected in memory of Ernest Preston Beebe and his wife Maud Latham.



  • The Play Shop was organized at the Congregational Church by Mrs. Herbert Morrell, wife of the minister. This group organized theatrical events in Orient for years to come. (Many of the playbills for Play Shop productions are on view in the Entertainments exhibition).



  • This year marked the 200th anniversary of the organization of the Congregational Church in Orient.
  • A brochure with a history of the church was published.



  • A Hammond organ was purchased to replace the pipe organ that had been installed in 1899.
  • Fund raising by the Play Shop paid for the new organ.



  • The Congregational Church loses its spire in the great hurricane of 1938.



  • A new steeple or spire was built and dedicated on July 23, 1939.
  • The builder was Harold Reeve and the cost was $2007.65
  • A sealed, copper-lined box containing a history of the church, records of various church organizations, and a poem was secured within the peak of the forty-two foot high spire.



  • The 100th anniversary of the church edifice (the third church building on the same site) was celebrated on August 15, 1943.
  • The Ladies’ Benevolent Sewing Society of the Congregational Church celebrated its 100th



  • Another major renovation took place in 1949.
  • The old organ pipes were removed.
  • The north wall was pushed back about nine feet into the area formerly housing the works of the pipe organ creating an apse-like space.
  • The re-decorating of the interior began in January, 1949
  • The total spent for the 1949 project was $6611.98.
  • The first service in the newly redecorated church took place on April 10, 1949.



  • A special meeting was held on December 28, 1958 regarding a “resolution to change the name of the Society to the Orient Congregational Church and to authorize the trustees to do and perform every act and thing necessary in order to complete such change of name.”



  • On November 3 members of the church voted to join the United Church of Christ, which was formed in 1957 when the General Council of Congregational Christian Churches in the U.S. merged with the Evangelical and Reformed Church.



  • The name was officially changed from the “Orient Congregational Society” to the “Orient Congregational Church” on August 25, 1961.



  • The 250th anniversary of the construction of the first Meeting House in Oysterponds was celebrated.



  • The members of the Orient Congregational Church voted to declare theirs an “open and affirming” church: “We are an open church, affirming the dignity and worth of every person….”



  • The 300th anniversary of the construction of the first Meeting House in Oysterponds is being celebrated.
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