Religious Activities

A charter was granted by the state legislature on March 20, 1790 to the Congregational Church of Sunbury. Its Select Men were Francis Coddington, David Rees, James Powell, and John Lawson. Its first and only pastor was Reverend Reuben Hitchcock. He was not a member of Mid­way Church.


Another Congregational church was organized during this period of time by Reverend Stephen A. Hoyt, a Congre­gational minister. It was located close to Byne Swamp not far from the plantation of Joseph Jones. He came to Liberty County from South Carolina after the Revolutionary War and married Margaret Croft, a widow. He was not a member of Midway Church, nor did he ever sign its Articles of Incor­poration.


The two churches were the only Congregational houses of worship ever established for white persons in Liberty County. No church buildings were ever constructed, and there is no record that Midway Church offered them assistance in any way. Both failed in about three years.


The members of Midway Church erected a temporary church building about a year after the Revolutionary War. It had no pastor. The Midway Society looked around appar­ently for someone well connected with the Congregational denomination to fill their pulpit. They found such a person in Abiel Holmes. He was teaching school in South Carolina and was married to Sarah Stiles. She was the daughter of the president of Yale College, a Congregational institution.


The Midway Society invited Holmes to fill the pulpit of Midway Church on a trial basis with a view toward becoming an ordained minister. He accepted the invitation and after a year was ordained a Congregational minister in the chapel at Yale College. His ministry of six years in Liberty County was interrupted by illness. He arranged for Jedidiah Morse, father of Samuel F.B. Morse, the inventor, to fill the pulpit of Midway Church on a trial basis with a view toward becom­ing an ordained minister. Morse accepted the invitation and after a time was ordained a Presbyterian minister. Reverend Holmes departed Liberty County for the last time in 1791.


Reverend Reuben Hitchcock, a Congregational minister who established the Congregational Church of Sunbury, filled the Midway Church pulpit between the ministry of Reverend Holmes and Reverend Cyrus Gildersleeve. But he is not listed as pastor or supply pastor of Midway Church in its official records. Members of Midway Church construc­ted a permanent church in 1792. The first pastor to fill its pulpit was Reverend Gildersleeve. He and all the rest of its pastors were of the Presbyterian denomination.