On behalf of Bill Pomeroy and myself, thank you for joining us in honoring Reverend Francis Pomeroy and the First Presbyterian Church of Lyons. I would like to personally thank Reverend Lee Prong, Les Bartley, the members of the Session and Mark DeCracker for their interest and participation in this project and in making this dream a reality.
In preparing the text for the monument, I had the opportunity to research the life of Reverend Francis Pomeroy. While Francis’ ecumenical life is well documented, his private life is not, so this research has presented many challenges. There’s an old saying amongst genealogists, “If you can’t find the person you’re researching, look at their family and neighbors.” In doing that, a greater pattern has emerged, of which Francis played a part; that I like to think of as a community of faith.
Francis Pomeroy was the first child born to Timothy and Ann (Ashley) Pomeroy. He was baptized in the Church of Christ, in Northampton, Massachusetts, on June 7, 1767. Francis advertised in the Hampshire Gazette as an indigo dyer in March 1795. His uncle, William Pomeroy was a clothier, and we speculate that Francis may have apprenticed under him. Francis lived on land deeded to his father by his grandfather, Lt. Daniel Pomeroy, in Westhampton, Massachusetts, then a part of Northampton. One entry in the journal of Reverend Enoch Hale, the first pastor of the Congregational Church of Westhampton, (and the brother of Nathan Hale), notes the “raising of Francis Pomeroy’s shop house” on April 20, 1795. Francis was about 27 years old at that time, married with children, and appeared to be well established in his trade. Five months later, tragedy struck. Francis and his wife lost two infants on September 4, 1795.
Francis’ name appeared in a notice in the Hampshire Gazette, that listed letters remaining in the Northampton Post Office as of January 1, 1796. Francis and his family were enumerated in the 1800 US Federal Census in Simsbury, Connecticut. How long he was in Simsbury, what he was doing there, and why he moved there remain a mystery to us, but we speculate that this may have been the period in his life when he found his true calling, that of the ministry of the gospel.
Francis’ father Timothy died in Northampton on November 8, 1802. By that time Francis’ brother Timothy has already moved to Canada, and three of his sisters, Anna, Thankful and Lovisa had moved west and were early pioneers of what is now Skaneateles, NY. Francis joined the Church of Christ in Northampton in 1802. Had he moved back to Northampton to care for his parents?
According to the records of the Middle Association published in the Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society, “at a meeting of the committee of the Middle Association in Homer, June 20th, 1805... Mr. Francis Pomeroy appeared... and requested license to preach the gospel. The Committee, having made the necessary enquiries, unanimously approved of him, and accordingly licensed him until the rising of the next annual meeting of the Association.” Francis Pomeroy was ordained in May 1806 and installed at the Congregational Church of Brutus, now known as the Presbyterian Church of Sennett. Thus began Francis’ long career as a missionary pastor. This career would culminate in Francis’ participation in the founding of churches in Ira Center, Huron, Clyde, Palmyra, Rose, and Newark. Francis’ ministry encompassed over 25 years of service.
Francis lived with his third wife, Mary (Sayre) Potter Pomeroy in Lyons, and purchased land on village lot 2, which adjoined the property where this church now stands. Francis died on December 18, 1836 in Lyons, and was buried in the Presbyterian Burial Grounds on this site where we now celebrate his life.
Francis was part of a larger movement by the Connecticut Missionary Society and the Middle Association to provide missionary pastors to open churches along the Military Tract and Western New York. Francis’ contemporaries included Reverend Seth Williston (a distant cousin), Reverend Levi Parsons (a distant cousin), Reverend David Higgins, (related through marriage), and Reverend Hugh Wallis. Francis was by no means “alone in the wilderness”. He was just one of several like-minded (and often times related!) ministers of the gospel who answered the call to bring the word of God to this area. He had family ties in Skaneateles and Pompey, NY. He was also a valued member of the communities he served.
Francis’ second cousin, Dr. Robert William Ashley, settled in Lyons by 1808. Town histories state that Dr. Ashley lived on the east corner of Broad and Queen Streets, which would have made him a neighbor of Francis. According to “Grip’s Historical Souvenir of Lyons”, Dr. Ashley was “a prominent member of the Presbyterian church. He contributed 120 silver dollars to be cast into the bell hung in the first house of worship in the town.” Dr. Ashley’s son, William Frederick Ashley published notices in the Western Argus relating to the administration of Francis’ estate. Dr. Ashley’s daughter, Mary Williams Ashley, married Hiram Gilbert Hotchkiss in 1833!
One wonders how many of the early residents of Lyons were related, and this begs the question “what holds a community together?” Is it kinship, proximity, necessity, prayer? And are these relationships any less vital and necessary today than they were 200 years ago? I think not. Look at your neighbor, you may not think you’re related, but if you go back far enough, you’re likely to find a connection.
Like the pastors who have served this church for 200 years, and the members who have faithfully attended services, this community of faith has built lasting relationships, and will continue to do so, far into the future. Thank you for allowing me to celebrate that community with you.
Remarks given at the dedication of the Pomeroy Anvil Monument at the First Presbyterian Church of Lyons, New York, by Nancy Maliwesky, Director, American Pomeroy Historic Genealogical Association.
© 2009 American Pomeroy Historic Genealogical Association