Richmond Aqueduct

Richmond Aqueduct
Second Largest Aqueduct Built on the Enlarged Erie Canal (1856-1917)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Local Erie Canal History Brought to Life

First Methodist Episcopal Church of Mentz
I had the pleasure of providing a local author with information for her latest fictional book drawn on the essence of early pioneer families' lives who settled in Mentz and Montezuma at the same time the Erie Canal was being built.  Margaret Rose begins all her books with the following: "The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction must be realistic..." She has authored several books to capture the mood and spirit of the area with her "realistic" stories that make local history come alive. Thee Little Country Church -- The Mentz Church is indeed no exception.  This one-room humble church was built on a strong foundation by the local farmers who took pride in their craftsmanship, and those who have followed to preserve it. It is now owned by the Town of Montezuma and is the home of the Montezuma Historical Society.

She tells the story the of the church enriched with the roots where it all began. The church was built in the countryside wilderness by a small congregation that immigrated here mostly from Ireland for the American dream to find a better life and religious freedom.  It begins as settlers bury one of their young in the cemetery in 1813 on land they cleared at what became known as Mentz Corners. Here they later built their church that opened the same year the Erie Canal was completed in 1825. It tells tales of life imagined along a canal town and the excitement and changes it brought to the area. It shares what could have been the joys and sorrows of the families who first gathered for their Methodist camp meetings in the barn of John Gilmore not far from the canal.  As time goes on Margaret Rose brings in Lester Ohara who was baptized in the church and later became its caretaker once it closed.

Although much of the church history was lost, it has been pieced back together by an ancestor of the early settlers who left no (grave) stone unturned in searching his family's roots. Gary Bell came from Michigan to trace and research his family heritage and has written his family story, "How We Came to Be Here, The Bell Family in America" which Margaret Rose used as research for her book.

The book, Thee Little Country Church, may be purchased through the Montezuma Historical Society. Cost is $12 with additional $3 for mailing. Email to order it.

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