West Groton Bible Church was established in 1816. Our family looks back with thanksgiving for the Lord's faithfulness to our congregation over these last two centuries. We are anxiously anticipating our bicentennial celebration in 2016. Rejoice with us over this witness for His Gospel in Groton and Lansing, NY.
The tale of West Groton Bible Church takes us back to the early part of the 19th century and combines the history of two local churches in Tompkins County, New York, the East Lansing Baptist Church, and the West Groton Congregational Church.
The original founders of the church arrived in central New York following the Revolutionary War. The Finger Lakes region was first known as "The Military District," because the land was set apart as "bounty land" to be given to the victorious soldiers of the Revolutionary War. Tompkins County was said to be filled with a "rough lot of men" who were in desperate need of a Gospel witness. The towns of Groton and Lansing were originally named Locke and Milton in the late 1700s and early 1800s. West Locke in particular (current day West Groton) had several businesses at this time including a tannery, an ashery, a carriage shop, a small woolen mill, and a saw mill, as well as several others. A good water supply brought many people to this area.
March 27, 1804 - The Second Church of Milton was constituted at the Philmore Barney home. They met in his barn which stood a little beyond John Cutter's home and afterward in Benjamin Buck's barn.
1816 - A number of inhabitants of West Locke assembled at the house of Ichabod Brown for the purpose of being organized into a church should it be thought expedient. Five people, Ichabod Brown, John Seaton, James Travis, Dinah Whiting, and Anna Hall solemnly entered into a covenant with God and with each other and were constituted a regular Congregational Church called the Church of West Locke. John Seaton was the church's first deacon.
1817 - The Second Church of Milton changes their name to the East Lansing Baptist Church, and the Church of West Locke changes their name to the West Groton Congregational Church once the town lines of Tompkins County are altered along with the town names.
July 7, 1817 - The first meeting of the West Groton Congregational Church on record was held at the school house near Isaac Allen's home. Rebecca Steeves, William Tollman, Anna Tollman, Mrs. Miller, William Whiting, Susanah Allyn, Mary Seaton, Olive Brown, Christina Hogg, and Daniel Brown were present.
December 17, 1822 - The East Lansing Baptist Church "resolved that subscription be drawn for the purpose of erecting a meeting house." The following years will be exceedingly challenging as the church strives to remain faithful while waiting for the completion of the church building.
1825 - Rev. E. W. Martin was the first settled pastor of East Lansing Baptist. The records of his date of calling are now lost. He left the church sometime in the year 1825.
1821-1832 - The small band of West Groton Congregational worshipers continued to meet in the school and private homes. A minister would be present to administer the ordinances and examine new members about once every three months. It was difficult going during these early days, and the church voted not to dissolve and continue on with the work of the Lord.
1831 - Rev. Marcus Harrison, the West Groton Congregational Church's fist pastor was engaged to serve. He remained with the church for a period of two years. His salary was $300 a year, paid one half in money and one half in wheat.
November 20, 1832 - Dedication services were held for the East Lansing Baptist Church house of worship. The building was completed at a cost of $2,000. Sermons were preached by Elders Benjamin, Andrews, and Comstock.
1832 - The West Groton congregation voted to build a house of worship. Six trustees were chosen and $50 was given to purchase the land. Deacon Gale and his son William built the church "in good time." The first service was held on May 3, 1833 and four persons received into membership in the service. There was no paint inside or outside the church for many years.
1834-35 - Rev. B. Andrews leads the East Lansing church through two glorious years of revival. Evangelist Knapp holds meetings in the summer. 45 new members are added to the church roll.
1835 - The first Sunday school service at the church of East Lansing was organized.
1837 - The East Lansing Baptist Church Bible Society was organized.
1845 - The first Sunday School service at the church of West Groton was organized.
1859 - Horse sheds were built behind the West Groton Church where the Sunday School wing of the building currently sits. Rev. Pomeroy began riding all over the parish on horseback to secure funds for the purchase of a bell. Revivals were held this year, and the Holy Spirit worked to add to His witness in West Groton.
1860 - The East Lansing parsonage was built at a cost of $1,200.
1861 - The West Groton parsonage was built by George Cobb. Mr. Cobb was a capable carpenter who made many repairs and additions to the church facilities during his life. The timber, sawing, digging of the cellar, and the plans were all donated. The church spent $900 on the parsonage.
1868 - The modernization of the East Lansing church took place at a cost of $2,200. The large windows were installed and the platform placed in the front of the church.
1872 - The great renovation and modernization of the West Groton church took place at a cost of $2,000. The pulpit was moved from the east to the west end of the sanctuary. (Those coming in late were no longer embarrassed to walk behind the pastor and in front of the church family.) Straight back pews were replaced with those still in the sanctuary today. Everything was overhauled and brought up-to-date.
1874 - The Woman's Auxiliary branch of West Groton was formed. This gathering of godly women was used as a force of good to bring glory to God for both local needs and worldwide missions for many years of our church's history.
1877 - Rev. John Cunningham is installed as the pastor of the West Groton Church. He serves as the longest tenured pastor in our church's history. His ministry lasts until 1900 providing more than 22 years of consistent leadership to the West Groton Church family.
1884 - The steeple was erected and other improvement were made to the West Groton Church.
1887 - The East Lansing records report that the congregation was increasing and people were staying to fellowship even after the conclusion of the Sunday evening services.
1888 - The Young Peoples' Mission Circle of West Groton was organized to empower the youth of our church to be involved in mission endeavors.
A Postcard from 1906 with pictures of the East Lansing Hall and School.
1908-1915 Rev. John Griffith led a strong revival of the West Groton Church during these years. Thirty one new members were added to the church rolls. Money was raised for the sanctuary's stained glass windows. They cost $150 each.
1916 - The East Lansing Church removed sheds on property to prepare the ground for youth tennis courts.
1921 - Evangelistic meetings were held at the West Groton Church and 14 people accepted Christ and were baptized.
1924 - No services were held during the winter months at East Lansing.
1930 - The East Lansing church holds services all year.
1935 - The East Lansing parsonage burned to the ground in June.
1936 - Under the leadership of Rev. Timmer, East Lansing Baptist Church began to join activities with West Groton Congregational Church. The two youth groups joined together becoming one. Services were held for six months in Groton followed by six months in Lansing. They met in Groton in the winter months since there was no furnace in the East Lansing Church.
1938 - The first bathroom was installed in the West Groton parsonage.
1949 - A new roof was installed in the West Groton church. The average service attendance reached 60 people.
1952 - The West Groton Congregational Church and the East Lansing Baptist Church officially are incorporated as one church under the new name Groton Lansing Congregational Church of West Groton. They continue to meet in West Groton during the six winter months and East Lansing during the six summer months.
July 25, 1954 - The 150th anniversary service of East Lansing Baptist Church was held. Rev. Francis Trimmer, Miss Jane Bennett, and Rev. Scott Swinehart spoke. A parade was held in honor of the church's historic anniversary. The choir was directed by Mrs. Earlene Benson, and Miss. Gale Argetsinger played the organ.
1956 - The Hammond electric organ was installed in the church.
1957 - A bounty supply of fruits and vegetables, both fresh and canned, were brought for display at church. They were donated to the Home for the Aged in Groton and the Reconstruction Home in Ithaca. Norm Benson was the Sunday School superintendent with attendance averaging 117 persons.
1958 - The West Groton choir loft was built in honor of Mrs. J. Paul Munson.
1966 - The West Groton-East Lansing Church board was organized. Bathrooms were installed in the West Groton Church. The combined church families begin to support missionaries again for the first time in many years. The first missionaries served in Kenya, Brazil, and Philadelphia. The 150th anniversary of the West Groton Congregational Church is celebrated on July 13, 1966.
1979 - Due to the difficulty and cost of maintaining the building, the final service is held in the East Lansing Baptist church 175 years after their founding.
September 1985 - Pastor John Terry is installed as pastor of West Groton East Lansing Church. Pastor John faithfully leads WGEL for 14 years.
2001 - New sign installed in the front of church along with new door.
2002 - The West Groton East Lansing Church officially changes our name to the West Groton Bible Church.