Many treasures are contained in the archives of First Church, but perhaps none as special as the original Session minute book documenting the founding of the First Presbyterian Society of the Town of Buffalo on February 2, 1812. This 206-year-old document, with barely legible script handwriting, serves as a testament to our origins as the first religious organization of any denomination in Buffalo.

What was life like in 1812 Buffalo when missionary Rev. Thaddeus Osgood organized 10 founding members as a church? According to the archived Half Century Discourse of the First Presbyterian Church in Buffalo, written by Walter Clarke, D.D. in 1862, there were approximately 100 houses and 500 villagers. The first worship service was held in the unfinished Court House, and included the baptism of three children, Louisa, Charlotte, and Lydia. Cabins dotted Van Staphorst Avenue (renamed Main Street) and Schimmelpennick Avenue (renamed Niagara Street). “Woods, clearings, houses, mud— this is Buffalo in 1812” writes Dr. Clarke.

On December 30, 1813 British troops burned the village of Buffalo. Our church ancestors fled to safety on foot and in wagons. Church member Amos Callender rescued the treasured Session minute book, placed it in a pillow case, and rode to safety in Batavia. That minute book is one of very few things remaining from 1812 Buffalo! 

Author: Christina Banas, Business Manager