Biography of Rev. Oliver Perry Pitcher


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Pitcher, Rev. Oliver Perry, was born in Martinsburgh, Lewis county, N. Y., August 19, 1821. His father, Moses Pitcher, was a native of Westfield, Mass., and at the age of ten came to Lewis county with his parents, Reuben and Martha (Barrett) Pitcher, together with five brothers and three sisters, their only conveyance being an ox cart; they settled in Martinsburgh in 1802, in what was then known as the "Black River Country." Moses Pitcher married Samantha, daughter of Moses Chadwick, a native of Vermont. and to her Christian character and influence more than to any otherhuman agency, the subject of the sketch attributes his conversion. although his father was a man of more than ordinary ability and tenderness of feeling. His father met his death by accident, being drowned in Black River Bay, in December, 1846. The ancestral line of the Pitcher family traces back to Andrew Pitcher, who emigrated from England and settled in Dorchester, Mass, in 1633, covering a period of eight generations in the lapse of 264 years; from the fact that several baptisms occur along the genealogical record and that at least six of the fathers bore Scriptural names, the religious trend of the family is fairly indicated. Oliver Perry Pitcher received a partial common school education in his native town, but after the great change he experienced In his conversion at Lowville, in 1843, under the labors of Rev. James Erwin, desiring to be useful and realizing his deficiency in education, returned to the common school taught by Rev. J. F. Dayan in East Lowville, and afterwards pursued a course of higher English in the Lowville Academy, at which institution he spent several seasons, attending the academy- in summer and teaching in the winter, which with a little work at harness making enabled him to defray all necessary expenses of the course. During all this time the question of what his life work should be was not fully settled, only proposing to obey God whatever his will might be. Soon after entering into full membership in the church the pastor put in his hands a leader's class book and license to exhort, suggesting to his mind the thought of the ministry. This caused great hesitancy and heart searching, fearing he might attempt to run before he was sent, only finding relief in the persuasion that if such a call was from God be could and would reveal it so clearly as to leave no reasonable doubt of its reality. There the matter rested from year to year, though not without efforts during those years to bring men to Christ. At length while associated with his pastor in a religious service the Holy Spirit was so poured out that at least one soul, a man of influence and standing in middle life, was gloriously converted. This thrilled his heart with heavenly joy and eventuated in such an entire consecration to God as should determine the solemn question of a l)ivine call to the ministry. Henceforth business was cheerfully harmonized with Providential open ings so that in a few weeks being led in a way he knew not, he found himself with a small number of other students sitting at the feet of our modern Gamaliel, the Rev. John Dempster, D. D., who by almost superhuman efforts, crossing land and sea, contending with indifference, and overcoming opposition had succeeded as the apostle of a higher ministerial education in founding the Methodist General Biblical Institute at Concord, N. H., the first theological school of the denomination in the United States, and from which he was one of the five in the second class to graduate in 1851. The Rev. J. B. Foote, D. D., also of Martinsburgh, and his room mate for two years, being the first and only graduate in 1850. It was at the expiration of the first year's course of study at this institution when the way seemed so hedged up as to forbid a forward step, that such a combination of circumstances intervened in the unlooked for provision for the payment of a debt, and the calls to the pastorate of two small churches successively within a few miles of the institute as to reveal the hand of God pointing to his spiritual vineyard as the scene of his future toils, especially as those two years of extra service were crowned with the hopeful conversion of about fifty souls. At the time of his graduation he was lying dangerously ill with typhoid fever which completely prostrated him, notwithstanding, by the blessing of God on means used in answer to prayer, he was raised up, his case passed the examining board, and a diploma was awarded him. This occurred in the autumn of 1851, with body weakened, funds exhausted, doctor's bill unpaid, far from home yet hoping to enter conference in the spring free from debt. In this dilemma the Lord again revealed his fatherly care in sending a call for six months preaching to a small church whose pastor's health had but just failed; with gratitude to God for returning health the call was accepted. During this interim he invited to his assistance an accomplished and devoted lady friend who had already consented to unite her life's labors and destiny with his, and Miss Jane M. Danforth, daughter of Deacon Samuel Danforth of Bristol, N. H., became his wife. Under these auspices his studies and labors in New England closed with all debts paid and a farewell given to the "Old Granite State." In pursuance of the plan of his life service and in harmony with what seemed the ordering of a benign and overruling Providence, on the 26th of June, 1852, his name was entered upon the roll of probationers as a traveling preacher in the "Old Black River" (now Northern New York) Conference, and stationed at Henderson. Here were spent two eventful years, with the blessing of God on his labors, while the sorrow of a great bereavement in the death of his faithful and beloved wife and first born son fell like a pall on his heart and home; their remains were interred in the same grave in the old cemetery in Lowville beside his friends. In 1854 he labored at Carthage, 1855-56 at Rodman, during which term (1856) he was united in marriage to Miss Sarah Putnam Benton of Watertown, N. Y., daughter of the lamented sheriff, Wells Benton, who died in othce at Watertown, June 29, 1857. In 1857-58 Mr. Pitcher was at Black River; 1859-60 Clayton; 1861 at Rome, Embargo street; in 1862 St. Johnsville. At this period the nation was in the terrific throes of the great Civil war; all loyal hearts were moved with patriotic zeal to crush the rebellion and save the union; multitudes rushed to arms; husbands, fathers, brothers and sons all mingled in the uprising host; homes, schools, churches, societies, friends and loved ones, all left behind. How opportune at this crisis was the already organized existence of the Young Men's Christian Association; representing as it did the various churches of the land from whose outgrowth sprang the United States Christian Commission as a general agency through which the great denominations could co-operate under the auspices of the government. between the army at the front and their friends and churches at home. In this emergency an unexpected message came to Mr. Pitcher at St. Johnsville to come to Washington. It was from that broad-minded man of God, Mitchel H. Miller, president of the Y. M. C. A. of the city, calling himself and wife to officiate as missionaries of the association in that many sided and most interesting field of army work in and around the National Capital. As this call seemed so manifestly from God and harmonized so completely with their cherished desires to minister to our brave defenders, that the message was gladly accepted (after communicating with the proper conference authorities and obtaining the consent of his official board) and the work entered upon November 10, 1862, and continued until the close of the war in 1865, with the cessation of only one month on account of inflammatory rheumatism. Finally, after an absence of about five and one-half years, three of war time and two and one half following, in missionary and Bible work in Washington, D. C., on the 9th of April, 1868, he bade adieu to the capital and its people and with his wife and infant son, John Benton, now a graduate of the class of 1895, Syracuse University, and just finishing his three years' course of study in Drew Theological Seminary, Madison, N. J., returned to his native State to resume regular itinerant labor in the old Black River Conference. So after serving the church in this capacity twelve additional years, viz., three years at Champion; three at Port Leyden: three at Cape Vincent; and three at Mannsville, and witnessing the discharge of a $500 parsonage debt, the building of two new parsonages with cost paid and provided for, and the ground purchased and foundation laid for one new church and above all the experience of a comforting hope that many souls, as sheaves from these several later harvest fields shall be finally gathered; together with a much larger number from other and more distant fields, with all the bloodwashed of the church with whom they have toiled and taken sweet counsel into the common garner of the great husbandman above. Being then partially disabled he was constrained by his own convictions to ask at the conference of 1880 a supernumerary relation, in which he was continued until 1888, when he was made superannuated and has remained in that relation to the present (1898), residing at the old home in Adams, N. Y.

Our County and it's people
A descriptive work on Jefferson County, New York
Edited by: Edgar C. Emerson
The Boston History Co., Publishers 1898

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