The first mention of Methodist work in Onondaga County was made in the general minutes of 1803 when the Pompey charge is reported with a membership of 174 which would imply a circuit of considerable extent, possibly including occasional preaching in the Valley, the settlement of which began in 1788.
In the year 1822, John Pattison and his three sons came to Onondaga Valley or Hollow. They were weavers, and located on the east side of the valley, having nearly thirty looms in operation. Arthur was the youngest son and was destined to be an important factor in the establishment of Methodism here. He married a Miss Bunnell from Connecticut and resided in the house owned by Aaron Henderson whose premises also contained the weaving establishment. This residence became the Methodist preacher's home.
Homes where the preachers were entertained were often called "Methodist preachers' taverns". Methodism could not have been established in many centers had the preachers not found the latch strings out.
According to incorporation papers filed with the Onondaga County Clerk's Office, St. Paul's Methodist (Episcopal) Church is the oldest Methodist Society in Syracuse. It was formally organized in the year 1816 under the pastorate of Rev. George Densmore at the house of Arthur Pattison, an Irish Methodist and an early settler of the Valley. The first Methodist service we find historically recorded was held in Arthur Pattison's residence in 1820 and conducted by Rev. Densmore.
On February 25, 1825 William H. Sabine and Sally, his wife, gave to the trustees of the Ebenezer Methodist Episcopal Church (now St. Paul's United Methodist Church) and congregation in Onondaga Hollow· (Valley) a deed of land in the Webster Mile Square on Valley Drive.
FIRST CHURCH BUILDING
In 1825 a church edifice was built by the united efforts of the Protestant Methodist Episcopal and Universalist Societies and was occupied alternately by them. The building was a plain wooden frame structure with two rows of windows all around. It was called "The Onondaga Hollow Church" and was the leading point of the Onondaga Circuit which was served by a preacher in charge and also an itinerant preacher.
The interior of the first church had the pulpit located between the vestibule doors while the floor ascended toward the east end. There were two aisles directly opposite the doors. The pews each had footrests on which to kneel and shelves along the top of the seat backs. The pulpit was a high one supported by two pillars. It was five-sided With a door in the south side and had a cupboard under it. The altar rail was supported with plain balusters. There were galleries on three sides, the choir occupying the east end, opposite the pulpit. The clatter of the late comers with their cowhide boots, the length of the bare floor in aisle or gallery may be imagined. Needless to say the late-comers of today can sneak into church with as little noise as possible. There were two square pens one on either side next to the stairs.
The men and women were separated, the men occupying the south side and the women the north side of the meeting house. The choir was led by John Gilmore, a harness maker. The tunes were pitched by a tuning fork and a tune book was written with so-called "buckwheat" notes. The preacher was penned in, and if another was seated with him, and if restricted in action, was obliged to make up for this with vehemence of voice, which he usually did. Loud preaching and praying was the order in pulpit and pews and often many prayed aloud together especially in revival meetings. Piety seemed not only earnest but genuine. Class meetings were held immediately after the preaching service and were usually attended by the preacher.
The Onondaga circuit comprised the following appointments with the accompanying amounts apportioned for the support of the preachers, one of whom was a married man. Orville $100, Onondaga Hollow (Valley) $100, Jamesville $70, Indian Reservation $100, Stone Schoolhouse south of Jamesville $30, Huddle $30, Horton's $20, Houghtail Hollow $10. The total for the year of 1834 was $460.00.
In the Valley the small Methodist society prospered and grew until approximately 1863. But soon after interest in the society began to wane - not so much from lack of financial support as from small congregations - so that no services were held until October 3, 1860 when J.B. Foote, presiding elder, preached. Services were continued through the year by Ebenezer Arnold. In 1870 Dr. D.D. Buck was appointed. He undertook the remodeling of the inside of the church. The pulpit and altar were moved to the west end. He put a floor over the gallery breastwork, took out the seats, leveled the floor, and made new seats. A prayer room was partitioned off from the east end of the gallery.
SECOND CHURCH BUILDING
In December 1883 the old church and parsonage were sold for $1,100. The new site of the second church (on Milburn Drive) was purchased for $1,500. The cornerstone was laid September 23, 1884 by Dr. B.I. Ives. The church was dedicated on November 4, 1885. On June 10, 1872 the name of the church became St. Paul's Methodist Episcopal Church and since that time, With only two exceptions, the church has borne this designation. The word Episcopal was dropped and then "United" was added in 1968 when the Methodist merged with other smaller denominations.
Through doing this historical sketch of St. Paul's, nowhere could we find how we received our present name. The only conclusion we can reach, is that because we were for a time associated with the Anglican faith, the name St. Paul's was derived from them.
The St. Paul's Methodist Episcopal Church (second church) is a wooden frame structure of a splendid meeting house style. A comparatively large tower surmounts the southeast comer of the building. The cornerstone had the following inscription, "St. Paul's M.E. Church, Erected 1884".
The auditorium, with balcony in the rear, is modeled after the English chapel and consists of oak pews seating approximately 350 persons. In front there is an elevated pulpit platform or rostrum enclosed by a wooden railing. In back of the platform is a beautiful pipe organ and choir loft. The windows are of stained frosted glass.
THIRD AND PRESENT CHURCH BUILDLING
Under the able leadership of Charles R. Benton, St. Paul's outgrew its home at 300 West Seneca Turnpike, and a larger church was needed. The congregation worked with dedicated effort, and a dream became a reality.
Three acres of land was purchased from the Onondaga Valley Cemetery Association for $10,000. This parcel of land is located on the west side of Valley Drive in the 2000 block abutting Webster's Pond. The ground breaking ceremony took place on June 22, 1958 and the church was officially dedicated on Palm Sunday 1959. The church was built at a cost of $129,000 and today is valued in excess of $1,000,000.
Dr. Warren G. Odorn followed Charles R. Benton, and during his tenure, Rockwell Methodist Church, Nedrow, New York merged with St. Paul's on September 24, 1969. During this period, we received our first Assistant Pastor, Charles Ackley, who served St. Paul's from 1966 to 1967.
When Dr. Odorn left St. Paul's to become Conference Executive he was succeeded by Gordon Knapp, and during Gordon's pastorate, St Paul's had another first. Patricia Jelinek became Christian Education Director in 1972, Assistant Pastor in 1976, and Associate Pastor in 1979; the first woman to serve St. Paul's as an assistant minister.
R. Richard Vogel was pastor at St. Paul's with the assistance of an Associate Pastor, Bruce Webster. Under Richard Vogel's direction many things came to pass and St. Paul's became a "progressive" church in this community.
Some of the accomplishments during his tenure were:
Development of Lay Ministry and Lay Speakers' program;
Onondaga Indian Reservation Mission as part of our church's ministry within the community of believers;
Active participation in the Valley Ecumenical Council;
Establishment of a Church Accessibility program for the handicapped;
Development of the VIP's, a senior citizens group, as a ministry to other seniors.
During Harold Bruen's tenure a security system was installed at a cost of approximately $14,000 and the sanctuary was insulated. The parsonage on Bryn Mawr Drive was upgraded with siding, a new roof, a deck added and landscaping.
Today, St. Paul's has experienced a downward trend in attendance due in part to deaths within an older congregation. However, under new leadership, a transformation and rebirth is happening.