The Sennett Federated Church represents the congregations of two early pioneer churches of Cayuga County.The pioneer church served not only the spiritual needs of its members but also was an extension of law and order, a social welfare agency, a center for social activities,as well as a forum for moral and political issues of the day.Both the Baptist and Presbyterian congregations reflected in this 1928 merger adopted anti-slavery articles of faith early in the anti-slavery movement of Central New York.
In 1798, the Baptist Association was formed in the barn of Deacon Ebenezer Healy. In 1799, the church was organized as the Third Baptist Church of Aurelius.
At the regular church meeting in April of 1842, the following resolution was approved:
" Voted that we adopt the following resolutions respecting slavery, and that we send them to the Baptist Register and Christian Reflector for publication.
Whereas we believe the system of slavery to be a sin of the most aggravated character and believing that sufficient light and truth has in the providence of God been presented to the conscience of every intelligent mind of the enormity of this crime, and knowing as we do that this sin is practiced by a portion of the professed church of Christ we do as a distinct portion of this great compact, solemnly and we trust prayerfully deem it out duty to pass the following resolution.
Resolved that we have no fellowship for the System of Slavery nor for any engaged in the traffick in any way, or any attempting to justify the practice of this enormous crime."
The First Congregational Church of Brutus was established in September of 1815.The first church meetings were held alternately at the house of Captain Wilson, the school house at the new Genesee Road, Dr. Hamilton's Settlement and Jacob Sheldon's tavern.As the region became more populated, the congregation amiably divided with the northern portion forming in 1825 the First Presbyterian Church of Weedsport and the remainder of the congregation forming the Congregational Church of Sennett.This church became Presbyterian in 1869.
On November 11, 1815, the congregation voted that "the money subscribed for the purpose of building a meeting house was to be expended.The meeting house was to be 42 ft. by 48 ft.On March 11, 1817, a vote was taken to raise money for a parsonage.The following October, the congregation voted to build the parsonage.
The Reverend Charles Anderson began to supply the pulpit in Sennett in 1842 while he was a student at the Auburn Theological Seminary.Anderson, a son of a Scottish minister was born August 18, 1812 in Schnectady, New York, a year after his parents arrived in America.He graduated Union College and the Auburn Theological Seminary in 1843.That same year on November 14, he was ordained and installed by the Presbytery of Cayuga as pastor at the Sennett Church where he remained until 1864.Abolition and Prohibition were the causes to which he devoted his talents with all the encouragement of "an ardent nature."So great an interest did he take in the Southern slave that his home in Sennett, while he was pastor of a congregation there was made one of the underground stations for runaway bondsmen and much of his time was occupied in caring for the fugitives.This is confirmed by letters written by freedom seekers to William Still while staying with Anderson in Sennett Charlotte Gildes and Harriet Eglin were cousin who were enslaved by Captain William Applegarth, who had a shipyard in Baltimore but resided in Dorchester County, Maryland where Harriet Tubman was born and raised.They made their escape by dressing up in mourning clothes.Their owner even went through the railcar that they were on but did not discover them.He unsuccessfully sued the railroad line for letting his two slaves escape.
Sennett, June 1856
Mr. William Still: Dear Sir: I am happy to tell you that Charlotte Gildes and myself have got along thus far safely.We have had no trouble and found friends all the way along, for which we feel very thankful to you and to all our friends on the road since we left.We reached Mr Loguen's in Syracuse, on last Tuesday evening and on Wednesday two gentlemen from this community called and we went with them to work in their families.What I wish you would do is to be so kind as to send our clothes to this place if they should fall into your hands.We hope our uncle in Baltimore will get the letter Charlotte wrote to him last Sabbath while we were at your house, concerning the clothes.Perhaps the best would be to send them to Syracuse to the care of Mr. Loguen and he will send them to us.This will more certainly ensure our getting them.If you hear anything that would be interesting to Charlotte or me from Baltimore, please direct a letter to us to this place, to the care of Revd. Charles Anderson, Sennett, Cayuga Co.N.Y.Please give my love and Charlotte's to Mrs. Still and thank her for her kindness to us while at your house.
Your affectionate friend,
Sennett, July 31st, 1856
Mr. Wm. Still: My Dear friend-I have just received your not of 29th inst. And allow me dear sir, to assure you that the only letter I have written, is the one you received, an answer to which you sent me. I never wrote to Baltimore, nor did any person write for me there, and it is with indescribable grief, that I hear what your letter communicates to me, of those who you say have gotten into difficulty on my account. My Cousin, Charlotte who came with me, got into a good place in this vicinity, but she could not content herself to stay ehre but just one week-she then went to Canada-and she is the one who by writing (if any one), has brought this trouble upon those to whom you refer in Baltimore.
She has written me two letters from Canada and by neither of them can I ascertain where she lives-her letters are mailed at Suspension Bridge, but she does not live there as her letters show. In the first she does not even sign her name. She has evidently employed some person to write, who is nearly as ignorant as herself. If I knew where to find her I would find out what she has written.
I don't know but she has told where I live, and may yet get me and my friends here, in trouble too, as she has some in other places. I don't wish to have you trouble yourself about my clothes. I am in a place where I can get all the clothes I want or need. Will you please write me when convenient and tell me what you hear about those who I fear are suffering as the result of their kindness to me? May God, in some way, grant them deliverance. Oh the misery, the sorrow, which this cursed system of Slavery is constantly bringing upon millions in this land of boasted freedom.
Can you tell me where Sarah King is, who was at your house when I was there? She was going to Canada to meet her husband. Give my love to Mrs. Still & accept the same yourself. Your much indebted & obliged friend.
The "difficulty" about which Harriet expressed so much regret in the above letter, had reference to a letter supposed to have been written by her friend Charlotte to Baltimore about her clothing.It had been intercepted, and in this way, a clue was obtained by one of the owners as to how they escaped, who aided them, etc.On the strength of the information thus obtained, a well-known colored man, named Adams, was straight-way arrested and put in prison at the instance of one of the owners and also a suit was at the same time instituted against the Rail Road Company for damages-by which steps quite a huge excitement was created in Baltimore.As to the colored man Adams, the prospect looked simply hopeless.Many hearts were sad in view of the doom which they feared would fall upon him for obeying a humane impulse (he had put the girls on the cars).But with the Rail Road company it was a different matter: they had the money, power, and friends, etc., and could defy the courts.In the course of a few months, when the suit against Adams and the Rail Road Company came up, the Rail Road Company proved in court, in defense, that the pros-ecutor entered the cars in search of his runaway, and went and spoke to the two young women in "mourning" the day they escaped, looking expressly for the identical parties, for which he was seeking damages before the court, and that he declared to the conductor, on leaving the cars, that the said "two girls in mourning, were not the ones he was looking after," or in other words, that "neither" belonged to him.This positive testimony satisfied the jury, and the Rail Road Company and poor James Adams escaped by the verdict not guilty.The owner of the lost property had the costs to pay of course, but whether he was a wise or better man by the operation was never ascertained.
Sennett, October 28th, 1856.
Dear Mr. Still: I am happy to tell you that I am well and happy, I still live with Rev. Mr. Anderson in this place.I am learning to read and write.I do not like to trouble you too much, but I would like to know if you have heard anything more about my friends in Baltimore who got into trouble on our account.Do be pleased to write me if you can give me any information about them.I feel bad that they should suffer for me. I wish all my brethren and sisters in bondage, were as well off as I am.That girl that came with me is in Canada, near the Suspension Bridge.I was glad to see Green Murdock, a colored young man, who stopped at your house about six weeks ago, he knew my folks at the South.He has got into a good place to work in this neighborhood.Give my love to Mrs. Still, and believe me your obliged friend,
P.S. I would like to know what became of Johnson, the man whose foot was smashed by jumping off the cars, he was at your house when I was there. H.E.
The congregation also supported Anderson's anti-slavery position.Two years into his ministry in Sennett, the congregation unanimously adopted the following resolution:
"Whereas, we the members of the Congregational church in Sennett, believing the system of slavery to be a great sin against God and man' and that all men are in duty bound to lift their voice against it, but especially the church of Jesus Christ, that the blood of the slave or slave-holder may not be found in their skirts at the day of Judgment. And as it is the practice of many church members to hold slaves, and thus perpetuate the evil system:
That we will not in any way support slavery; nor will we invite any individual who is a slave-holder or an advocate of the system to preach in our pulpit.
That we will not receive into our communion a slave-holder or an apologist for slavery nor will we invite one to sit with us at the table of the Lord.
That we heartily disapprove the course of those ministers and laymen who attempt to prove slavery right by the Bible.
That in our opinion it is the duty of the church to testify against this heaven-daring iniquity, and by every means in her power to wash her hands clean from the pollution and guilt of slavery.
That these proceedings be published in the Northern Advocate, the New York Evangelist and the New York Observer."
The following is an excerpt of one of Anderson's sermons. This one was delivered at the Baptist Church in Sennett on November 27, 1851 and was published in the Frederick Douglass Paper in Rochester, January 8, 1852.
"Then my dear hearers, would we be a blessed nation-then would we be a happy people, prosperity would then indeed spring up everywhere and cover the land-then would all the members of this great confederacy love each other as brethren-then would not the charge of hypocrisy be preferred against us by even our own selves, as well as by every other people.Our rules would not then be as, alas, too many of them now are, among the vilest of earth's inhabitants: then would oppression, with its untold enormities, be unknown; the cry of the poor slave would be unheard; the panting fugitive fleeing for liberty, would not from day to day be witnessed in our streets, followed by the bloodhounds of a pro-slavery government eager to devour or carry them back into the hell of slavery from which they had escaped:...."
Anderson left the Sennett Church in 1861.His succeeding pastorates were at Union Springs, 1864-1868; Savannah, 1868-70; Sennett again, 1870-77; Castile, 1877-78; Sand beach at the foot of Owasco Lake, 1879-81.He then retired from active work.He spent the remainder of his life living in retirement on Seward Avenue in Auburn where he died January 4, 1900.The Sennett Presbyterian Church dedicated a stained glass church window in his honor.
Stork, Elliot, History of Cayuga County, D. Mason and Company, Syracuse, New York , 1879, pg. 345
Church records of Sennett Baptist church, microfilm, Cayuga County Historian's Office.
Church records of Sennett Congregational (Presbyterian) Church, microfilm, Cayuga County Historian's Office
Church records of Sennett Presbyterian Church, microfilm, Cayuga County Historian's Office
Obituary of Anderson, Auburn Daily Advertiser, Thursday, January 4, 1900, microfilm, Cayuga County Historian's Office.
Still, William, The Underground Railroad. Porter and Coates, Philadelphia, PA. 1872,p.222-223.
Church records of Sennett Presbyterian church, microfilm, Cayuga County Historian's Office.
Frederick Douglass Paper, Rochester, New York, January 8, 1852. Sermon by Reverend Charles Anderson preached at Sennett Baptist Church November 27, 1851.