Ken Gottry - Cambridge NY History

Some of the first settlers on the western edge of our community were Scotch-Irish who came between 1763 to 1765 from Colerain and Pelham near the Connecticut River in Massachusetts. The community was first known as Green settlement, then Scotland or Stevenson?s Corner. Around 1850, when the post office was established, the community received its current name of Coila.

CoilaChurch and Parsonage

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Cambridge Corners was the center for all church people of the community. The first recorded religious service was the baptism of two Selfridge children of West Cambridge by Rev John Culbertson at the house of Ephraim Cowan on 19-Aug-1764.

In the spring of 1775 a frame church building was erected just south of the present village near the old cemetery, though not finished until the close of the Rev War in 1783. Phineas Whiteside, of West Cambridge, was as one of nine original trustees. The church served the union of the Associate and Reformed Presbyterian bodies, long known as the Anti-Burgher and Burgher churches (refer to Church of Scotland history for details).

The former body split from the Union church on 13-Aug-1785, joined with a little group from West Cambridge to form the Associate Presbyterian church of Cambridge, later known as the Coila United Presbyterian church.

In July 1786 an acre of land was obtained from Jonathan French and a frame building was erected where the present brick church now stands in Coila, although it was not completed until 1792. A manse was added in the summer of 1800. 

In 1800 a church was built on the Whiteside property in West Cambridge. For over 30 years, Rev Dunlap, the Coila preacher, held a service every third Sunday for the Whiteside group.

In 1825 the church on the hill was remodeled and on 7-Jan-1826 was officially given the name Whiteside Church. The original trustees were John Whiteside, Thomas Tilton, Phineas Whiteside, George McKie, and Henry Whiteside. No other trustees were chosen until after the last of these had passed away in 1877.

Rev Dr Alex Bullions first preached in the Coila church on 18-Jan-1807. He declined the pastoral call several times, until finally being installed on 13-Apr-1808. The ceremony was held in the grove behind the old Coila blacksmith shop.

Rev Bullions remained pastor for 50 years until 4-Jun-1857. During his tenure the current brick church was erected and began occupancy on 1-Jan-1834. In 1858 the present manse was erected.

Whiteside Church RevGordon LectureToFarmers 1874 09 09 cropped

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In 1820 the Burgher and Anti-Burgher societies in Scotland reconciled and reunited. This reunion split Presbyterian congregations in America, Coila being no exception. Half of the congregation left with Rev Bullions, building the Old Boarding House on West Main Street and using one large room as its chapel. The Colia congregation of about 200 was not reunited until 31-May-1854.

Rev Bullions served as principal of the Cambridge Washington Academy several times and as president of its Board of Directors for 41 years. He organized the County Bible society. He was an early supporter of temperance, banishing liquor from funerals in his region.

The congregation of the Whiteside Church dwindled until 1837 when the building was closed, except for an occasional funeral or meeting. In 1855 repairs were made to the church in a futile attempt to revive it.

Rev Henry Gordon began his ministry in Coila on 1-Sep-1857. In the summer of 1874 Rev Gordon began biweekly services in the West Cambridge church, often making addresses to the farmers, such as the one depicted in the photo (9-Sep-1874). Under his leadership, along with John Shiland, the Whiteside Church was revitalized, culminating in a glorious centennial celebration on 12-Sep-1900.

Rev Gordon was active in the enlistment of soldiers from Cambridge during the Civil War. He served as chaplain of the 123rd Regiment New York Volunteers.

Rev Gordon was a trustee of the Cambridge Washington Academy and of the Cemetery Association. He presided at the Cambridge Centennial celebration in 1873 and played an active role in the formation of the Cambridge Fair at Lauderdale. He served the Coila church for 40 years until his death on 21-Apr-1897.