The Ransomville Free Methodist Church was organized in the town of Porter in 1860 by the Reverend William Cooley. Having no church for worship, services were held in the northern part of town in what was called “the shop.”
A few years later, services started being held in the village at the Wesleyan Church. Out of this fellowship, six classes were formed—Wilson, Randall Road, Ransomville, Youngstown, Zittle’s Corner and “the shop.”
In the early days of the Church, paved roads were unknown. Sometimes the roads were too muddy for horse and buggy travel, causing some members to travel the four miles from North Ridge on foot. They used lanterns to light the way as they followed a bicycle path in order to attend Thursday night prayer meeting.
In 1877, during the pastorate of Rev. W. Jackson, the church was built on North Lake Street, now known as Ransomville Road. The property itself was purchased from the Holland Land Company in 1868. A church shed was erected behind the church for horse and buggy travelers. A parsonage was built alongside the church, which consisted of a one floor structure with a classroom at the rear of the sanctuary. The heating system consisted of coal stoves--two in the sanctuary and one in the classroom.
In 1905, an unforgettable revival was held which lasted for three months, during which time many members were added to the church.
In 1919, the parsonage was damaged by fire when an oil stove exploded during the pastorate of Rev. Clayton Hatfield. The church records were destroyed. The house was rebuilt and used as a parsonage for thirty years. (It was later used as a youth chapel.)
In the early 1920’s, a camp-meeting conference was held in the woods behind the present fire hall. Benches made by Ira Ross (Uncle to Ken Clement) were used. He made them in the basement of his garage in Tonawanda, New York.
Early services had no musical instruments. William Neumann started congregational singing with a pitch pipe in the ‘20s and continued until the ‘40s when a piano was brought in. In the 1980’s, a lovely Knabe Grand Piano was purchased, and with it a two keyboard Allen organ from a Fredonia couple.
Rev. Fred Hessler, Sr. pastored for five years from 1939-1944. During this time a real revival and growth was experienced in spite of World War II.
In 1947, Rev. T. M. Holcomb directed a complete renovation of the church. The building was jacked up off the foundation and moved back ten feet farther from the street. A full-size basement, including a new foundation, was built. It was equipped with a modern heating system, rest rooms, a balcony, and a kitchen. This improvement more than doubled the facilities for Sunday School classes. The cost was approximately $10,000.
Several pastorates have died while pastoring at Ransomville. Rev. Thomas Buckley, an Irish immigrant, was only 33 when he was stricken with typhoid and died February 8, 1883 in the middle of his second year. Rev. Thomas S. Simpson, a former district elder, died at the Lake Ontario campground (now called Lighthouse Christian Camp at Barker) with a heart attack the day after the 1938 camp meeting closed. This was after nearly two years of his second pastorate at Ransomville. Then, in December 1980, forty-one year old Reverend Mendel F. Danningberg died of cancer after being pastor about 2&1/2 years. His funeral services were held at the present church with a full attendance, including about 40 ministers. Both Rev. Simpson and Rev. Danningberg are buried at North Ridge Cemetery.
In 1955, the home of Carl Rennells, on North Ransomville Road (3545), was purchased as the parsonage at the cost of $14, 500. At this time, Reverend H.R. Goodrich became pastor. Sunday School attendance increased to 200, and a group of members began going to the Lockport infirmary once a month for two hours of song, testimony, scripture reading, and visitation. A 30 minute radio program was given by Pedro and Doris Ortiz. Singing was provided by a few members.
The C.Y.C. (an effective youth organization) was established for the purpose of spiritual involvement and training, along with the teaching of crafts.
In August 1961, the church participated in the Niagara Frontier Evangelistic Crusade of the Free Methodist Church. The event was held under a large tent at the corner of Ward and Saunders settlement Road, Sanborn, near the area of Pekin where Free Methodism began under the leadership of Reverend B.T. Roberts. Reverend O.R. Tesserso was a crusade evangelist.
Reverend Thomas B. Simpson (son of the late Reverend Thomas S. Simpson, 1936-37) pastored the church from 1961 through 1969. In 1967, the congregation purchased eight acres of land from Milford Parker for $8,000 in preparation for further expansion. A youth musical group called “The New Image” was organized and directed by Lulu Zinck. This enhanced the life of the church and also inspired other church congregations where they went to hold concerts.
In approximately 1967, the church joined an Inter-Faith Church Softball League. Throughout the summer on Saturday nights, they played groups from other local area Bible Churches. The league included men, women, boys and girls.
Rev. Ronald L. Logan became pastor in 1970 and stayed until 1978. Interest was generated for a building program due to crowded conditions. Plans were submitted, and in the summer of 1971 work began on a new sanctuary at 3924 South Ransomville Road under the direction of Keith Cromwell, a Free Methodist contractor. Church members contributed thousands of hours of work to help with roofing, heating, plumbing, insulating, paneling, painting, and landscaping. All brick work was laid by Ezra Bilborough. The cost value was approximately $200,000. A $90,000 debt was paid off in five years. The old church sold for $18,000.
On Easter Sunday, March 26, 1972, the congregation met at the old church for a short closing service, and then moved to the new beautiful sanctuary, fully carpeted and complete with upholstered pews for their first service.
In May 1972, the church was dedicated by Bishop Myron Boyd. During the ministry of Rev. Ronald L. Logan, the church attendance doubled, and prayer and Bible study groups were organized. A band was also organized by Dr. Arthur Davis. A group of ladies met monthly to provide many needed items for missions mainly in Africa.
With crowded Sunday School classes, it became necessary for additional rooms, so another building project was undertaken in 1976, with the Weipert Brothers as contractors. This annexation was an extension of the north wing of the church, adding another 60 feet, including a basement. This provided space for twelve additional classrooms. The work was performed mostly by the Weipert Brothers contractors with the exception of brickwork done again by Ezra Bilsborough. Shingling and painting was done by the men and women of the church. The cost was $115,000. The present value of the church for 1990 was $350,000.
In 1977, a nursery school was established. It started with 22 students. In the 1981-82 school year, the enrollment increased. Mrs. Lillian Neumann led the school. In 1978, Mrs. Gwen Lewis directed the school the following years with Mrs. Lillian Neumann (’77-’81), Ann Austin (‘79-’92) and Neva Lattimer (’80-’82.) Mrs. Ann Austin became the director in 1992. The school has its own board to set policy and business.
Rev. H.R. Goodrich served as visitation pastor from December 1978 to April 1981. He died suddenly in August 1988 while preaching from the pulpit at the Church of God in Niagara Falls, New York.
Rev. Mendel F. Danningberg became pastor in 1978 and later Paul Lattimer became associate pastor. As Sunday morning services were occasionally crowded, the decision was made to remove the partition in the back of the sanctuary to provide additional room. Rev. Danningberg served as chaplain for the Ransomville Fire Company. Pastor Danningberg faithfully served the church, even to the last Sunday in early December 1980. After his death, Rev. Paul Lattimer assumed full pastorship until Rev. Dr. Paul Lattimer came in May.
In 1980, the church became part of the Ransomville Area Ministerial Association. Our pastors met with other area pastors for fellowship, and conducted Sunday night services during Lent in various host churches. Union Thanksgiving and Easter Sunrise Services were held.
In May 1981, Rev. Dr. Paul Livermore became the pastor with Rev. Paul Lattimer as associate pastor. A new entrance was built in May 1981 on the west side of the church, facing the new black top parking lot.
A new program for closer fellowship was introduced in 1981. On the last Sunday night of each month, the society met in several different groups. Each group within their location areas had a delegated leader, and the service was conducted in one of the homes in the area.
In the fall of 1981, a prayer chain was started to have a way of meeting special needs within the congregation and to provide a network of prayer support for the church. In 1985, Rev. Walter E. Beabout was assigned pastor. He stayed until 1989. For five weeks, District Superintendent Richard Snyder filled the pulpit till the end of June 1989. The Girl Scouts and the Home Bureau also began using the church for their meetings.
On June 30th, 1989, Rev. Roger W. Haskins Jr. was assigned pastor. During his pastorate, the church saw membership growth under his leadership. He became very active in the Community, serving as a member of RAMA, Ransomville Fire Company. He also served on the committee of Wilson Central School in the selection of a new principal and as coach of the Wilson Central Cross Country team. In 1990, Rev. Jerry Sutton came to be the Youth Pastor. The Youth Group grew under his leadership and became very active. He left in December 1991 to further his education at Asbury Seminary. In January 1992, Rev. Lonnie Thomas came to be youth pastor.
On January 26th, 1992, Rev. Haskins announced that he had accepted the call to be Conference Superintendent of the Susquehanna Conference with headquarters in Syracuse, New York. The congregation was saddened to have the family leave.
Geneva Collins (1901-1988), a long time member, left money to the church and her son Clifford Collins, designated the money to be used to build a pavilion. In May 1992, the church trustees began construction and completed it in several days. The pavilion has a large brick fireplace, which was built by Ezra Bilsborough. It is located on the west side of the parking lot.
On June 6th, 1992, the church hosted the first “Yesteryear Fair” under the direction of Jackie Bradley. Events included an old-fashioned horse plowing demonstration, hayrides (provided by Glenn and Sue Zahno), children’s games and food. A campfire, sing-along, and mini-concerts followed. The new pavilion was used, and the event saw a large turn-out of people.
The church began using office secretaries in 1972 when Donna Logan began service. She was followed by Ramona Davis, who left in 1985 for California. Melody Curry assumed the office until 1989. Linda O’Connor stepped in to fill the role in 1992.
Ransomville Free Methodist Church was organized in a town called Porter, 1860 by the Rev. William Cooley.
Early church goers traveled by horse-and-buggy or covered the four mile distance from North Ridge to Porter by foot.
1877: During the pastorate of Rev. W. Jackson, the church was built on North Lake Street, now known as Ransomville Road. The church was a single floor structure with a classroom at the rear of the sanctuary. A church shed was erected behind the church for horse and buggy accommodations.
1901-1988: Geneva and Clifford Collins designated money to build a pavilion.
1947: a complete renovation of the church …the building was jacked up off the foundation and moved ten feet back from the street. Restrooms, a balcony, kitchen, and a modern heating system improved the church facilities.
1955: C.Y.C youth organization was formed and a 30-minute radio program was giving to the church by Pedro and Doris Ortiz.
1961: The church participated in the Niagara Frontier Evangelistic Crusade and Lulu Zinck organized a youth musical group called “The New Image”.
1971: Work on the new sanctuary on 3924 South Ransomville Road.
1972: Dr. Arthur Davis organized a prayer and bible study as well as a band. A ladies group met to provide support for missions in Africa. The church started using office secretaries.
1977: A nursery school was established.
1980-81: The church became part of the Ransomville Area Ministerial Association and a prayer chain was started. A Knabe Grand piano was purchased and a two keyboard Allen organ from a Fredonia couple.