This marker is located at the corner of Montauk Highway (27A) and Church Avenue.

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Local Methodist roots in this area can be traced back more than two centuries and, not unlike other denominations, Methodists shared worship in those early days with their counterparts in nearby villages. In this case, Islip Methodists joined for many years with Methodists to the west in Bay Shore, then known as Penataquit.

According to an excellent church history written by Beth DeCarbo of the United Methodist Church of Bay Shore, worship in the closing decades of the 1700's took place under lay leadership in private homes referred to as "meeting houses." The home of John T. Doxsee of Bay Shore is one of the earliest houses mentioned. The introduction of official worship, that is, services conducted by ordained ministers, does not seem to have occurred before 1810 when there is mention of circuit-riding preachers arriving on horseback to preach on a monthly basis. In the meantime, laymen continued to keep the local religious framework in place.

The path to more organized and formal services was begun in 1828 when a Methodist Episcopal Church of Islip was formed, and a small church (22 x 32 ft) was built on the northwest corner of Saxon Avenue and Montauk Highway to serve worshippers from Islip and Penataquit. Records from the archives of both the United Methodist Church of Bay Shore, and the Islip United Methodist Church tell of replacing that first church with one twice its size in 1849: Bay Shore source material indicates the smaller church had been seriously outgrown, while Islip records refer to a foundation cave-in and related collapse of overhead structures leading to the building of another church. No doubt, both conditions contributed to the new construction. In a handwritten journal titled, The Minutes afthe Trustees, 1847-1932, it is recorded that six trustees were elected to oversee the business of the church in 1847: William Brewster, Eliphalet Clock, Enos Sweezy (spellings in different accounts show Swery and Swezey), Lewis Thompson, Seth R. Clock, and Selden Benjamin.

Although Islip and Penataquit members continued to share worship at the Saxon Avenue church through the 1850's, both groups were exploring the possibilities of becoming separate congregations. The Islip faction had already formed the Methodist Episcopal Church and Congregation of Islip (West) in 1856 [1] and a meeting in 1859 was devoted to a discussion regarding the expediency of selling the church edifice and site on Saxon Avenue and building other suitable places of worship. On October 10, 1859 it was resolved that the building and site be sold as soon as possible and the trustees were directed to look for a "suitable site in the eastern neighborhood" upon which to eventually build an Islip church. Bay Shore records show a similar move toward a separation. Whether as a result of expanding membership rolls, or a desire for local identity, Penataquit members formed a separate class under the leadership of Amos Doxsee in 1850, and between the years of 1854 and 1861, the DeCarbo history reveals

that the Penataquit contingent began acquiring land on Second Avenue in Bay Shore with the intention of building a chapel. In 1860 Bay Shore incorporated as the Methodist Episcopal Church of Penataquit. Islip records show that after much debate a proposed agreement to split the two congregations was drawn and two Islip trustees, Seth Clock and Selah Wicks left that group to serve on the new Board of Trustees for Penataquit.

The Islip church's trustees were very busy during the first half of the new decade (1860's) guiding their own future. The first piece of church property, as described in an original deed in the Islip Church's archives, was purchased from John C. Clock and his wife, Mary in 1860 for $300. Its northern border was South Country Road (Montauk Highway/Main Street) along which it ran for approximately 57 feet, then to the south for 165 feet. It was a modest piece of property for a modest church building, the dimensions of which were resolved at a January 5, 1861 Trustees' meeting to be 52 feet long and 32 feet wide. Enos Sweezy was elected to chair a building committee to look into the construction of this new church, assisted by John C. Clock and Jacob R. Smith. It wasn't until 1866 that Islip Methodists achieved that milestone when a structure known as the "old, red school house," which had been used for services was sold and the new building was begun. (It is unclear from primary source research whether the "school house" was on the church's 1860 property or somewhere else in the vicinity.) Reports have it that lumber from the second Saxon Avenue church (that site having been sold for $750 according to an entry in the trustees' journal dated June 8, 1860) was used in erecting the first official Islip house of worship.

Of course, more property would have to be acquired, and eventually the very small church building would have to be expanded to include a much larger sanctuary. Accordingly, a second property purchase was made in 1881. The new piece was located immediately to the west of the original piece of church property. It ran 68 feet along South Country Road and then south for 169 feet, more than doubling the church's land. The transaction involved James H. Doxsee, who was executor of Eliphalet Smith's estate, and the trustees of the church. The cost of the property was $700.

This was not to be the limit of the church's land acquisition, however. In February of 1888, two wedge-shaped pieces of land, one directly west of existing church property, the other, directly south of church property was sold to the trustees for $750. The owners were Daniel D. Conover and his wife, Catharine E. Conover.[2] (A sketch in the supplemental material shows the shape and size of the parcels.) The Conovers were destined to continue playing a role in Methodist development by the selling off still another piece. An indenture, dated October 8, 1890, shows the transfer of land directly south of existing church property. Measuring approximately 100x150 feet and purchased for one thousand dollars by the trustees, it was to be used for the Parsonage.

The final decade of the nineteenth century saw the Islip church still raising monies and completing the building of the church sanctuary which looks very much the same today. P.J. Hawkins, who was acting as Secretary and Treasurer of the building committee, gave a financial report at the annual meeting in January of1889 listing total bills paid to date as $2587.83. (See supplemental material for a reproduction of the actual journal entry of this report.)

Handwritten records of meetings of the Church Completion Society (1895-1898) reveal the devoted fundraising by that group of men and women to meet the needs of the new and larger church. At a special business meeting of the society on June 15, 1896 it was moved and carried that the society apply all their monies toward the buying of seats (pews) for the new sanctuary. They had, at that point, $500 in their coffers. The final expense for the seats, which they met, was later reported as $750.

The church moved forward and grew physically larger throughout the 20th century. Writing a September, 1988 article about the church in the community newsletter of the Old South Islip Civic Association, Neighborhood News, the church secretary at the time, Bernice Blewitt, included the following information: In 1922 the basement was cleared and the kitchen and dining room were created. The sanctuary was redesigned in 1946 with a center aisle and chancel with dossal curtain. During building renovations in the 1950's, the kitchen was brought upstairs off Fellowship Hall. In 1977 the Thrift Shoppe was opened in the former kitchen space. The church school had been completed in 1889, but in the late '50's the present education building was built on to the south side of the existing structure and Fellowship Hall was redesigned. The old pipe organ was removed and an electric organ was installed in 1945. Part of the oak wood from the old organ was used in making the altar. In 1986, another new organ was purchased.

Of the many community outreach activities provided by the church, (which became the Islip United Methodist Church in 1968 as a result of a national merger of many Methodist churches with the Evangelical United Brethren Church), the most apparent is a memorial carillon system installed in 1983 which may be heard chiming every half hour beginning at 8 am and ending at 8 pm. And twice a day, at noon and at 6 pm, the uplifting music of Christian hymns can be heard throughout the village area.

Today's Islip church is the religious base of more than 260 members and friends (as listed in the 1999 church directory) who contribute much time and energy in service to the institution which hosts Sunday School and adult education, a youth group, choir, Ministries Council, Thrift Shoppe, men's Bible study, food pantry, and a Caring and Outreach Committee. Under the current leadership of the Reverend Douglas Madlon, the Islip United Methodist Church, serving its Lord and Savior, continues along an unswerving spiritual path begun many, many years ago. Fittingly, and quite touchingly, on May 1, 1960, the Islip church and congregation united with their church mates of old, the United Methodist Church of Bay Shore, to rejoice in a shared 150th anniversary and, God willing, they will come together again at the end of this decade to give thanks and praise in a mutual bicentennial celebration.


[1] Due to an oversight, official incorporation did not occur until 1887.

[2] Mr. and Mrs. Conover, who owned severa1 tracts of land in the neighborhood, also sold pieces of their property to the Presbyterian Church of lslip which is located on Main Street on the west side of Church Avenue. 

Additional Notes

The compilation of information to complete this brief outline of the early history and subsequent founding of the Islip United Methodist Church in Islip Hamlet necessarily involves the early history of the United Methodist Church of Bay Shore since the two shared worship experiences and related church activities for more than half a century. I am indebted to the church secretaries, present and past, of each institution.

Donna Lechner, secretary at Bay Shore's church, located at the comer of Second Avenue and Main Street, and Islip's secretary, Pat Bogdanowich, offered unqualified support in placing church background information in my hands, furnishing me with space to work, and making time for my questions. Former Islip secretary Bernice Blewitt, (now living in Florida) who had been personally involved in compiling Islip church history in the past, made me aware of primary source material which was subsequently searched for, located and placed at my disposal by church members Jan Corwin and Pat Dymek.

I have used Bay Shore church member and professional journalist Beth DeCarbo's admirable work copyrighted in 1999, The United Methodist Church of Bay Shore Vignettes From 200 Years of History (1784 -1999), a copy of which is now among the collective data of the Historical Society of Islip Hamlet. Other sources include the original deeds and indentures reflecting property acquisition by the Islip United Methodist Church, The Minutes of the Trustees, 1847-1932, the Records of the Church Completion Society, 1895-1898, the 1999 church directory of the Islip United Methodist Church, a Neighborhood News article, "Islip United Methodist Church," September, 1988, and information gathered orally from Islip church members.

This paper is being submitted to the Historical Society of Islip Hamlet to qualify the Islip United Methodist Church for formal designation as an historical site, building, and institution.

Nancy Porta Libert

October 2000

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