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Echoes of the Spirit : History of Lydia Baker

Lydia Baker first appears in the 1865 census of James I. Laurie's household, a lawyer and the founder of the Greenwich Academy. His home was the house next to the Bottskill parsonage. In this census record, she was listed as born "Somewhere South," which seems to imply that she was a recent arrival following the Civil War. However, an image of her was preserved in this family that was later donated to our Church, and on the back of the frame was the following history of her, which tells another story-
" 'Aunt Lydia Baker,' as she was known in this Church was born in the South before the Civil War, living when a child, in ----- Robertson's family. Mary Robertson, one of the children, was never well, and Lydia Baker cared for her devotedly, sitting often in the foot of Mary's cradle to amuse her, and to the end of her life, called her 'My Mary.'
"Judge James Lowrie, born in Jackson, Washington County, N. Y., married Mary Robertson and eventually came to live in Greenwich. He owned the place which now belongs to Judge Herbert VanKirk, and lived there when he died. Lydia Baker was a faithful servant in his home, and remained devoted to 'Her Mary' until death.
"Lydia Baker was a power in prayer, and some of our older members can remember her reverent attitude, as she arose from her seat in the prayer room, facing the audience, her face upturned to God, pleading for His mercy and blessings upon this Church. She was often besought to pray for a son, daughter or a friend, with the confidence that her prayers would reach the throne of grace. Of her it can be said, that she lived the abundant life.
"She died March 14, 1880, aged 73 years, and was buried as she requested, 'at Mary's feet,' in Judge Lowrie's lot in Greenwich Cemetery."

This page included a postscript on it, dated March 24, 1935, which is probably the date that the page was typed and the photograph restored, which said-
"Without any doubt, this picture was given to Bottskill Church by Judge Lowrie after Lydia's death.
"It has suffered some years of neglect. Now, at the request of Miss Lucinda H. Owen (aged 92 year) the frame and glass have been restored, and this picture is again placed on these walls, as a memorial to 'Aunt Lydia Baker,' with the hope that her spiritual influence may forever rest upon this Church, like a benediction."

From the biographical sketch on James I. Laurie in Johnson's county history, we can discover that May was the daughter of Gen. Henry Robinson of Bennington, Vt., and that Lydia Baker was probably 11 years old when she began to care for Mary Robinson. This would mean that she had lived in this area for several decades before the Civil War and was not a refugee from that conflict, which sheds an entirely different light upon her personal experiences.


Echoes of the Spirit


Miss Norrie


  Just at the beginning of the last century Mrs. Carrie Cronkhite embarked for America, returning with three of her children from the missionary school in Burma ( Myanmar) that was founded by her husband, Rev. Leonard W. Cronkhite. While en route, their son Herbert, whose illness was the purpose of their return, died and was buried at sea “at about the place of Judson’s burial.” We can only imagine the depth of their loss.

  The Judson referred to here was Adoniram Judson, another missionary to Burma from 1813 to 1843, who translated the Bible into Burmese.

  Arriving in Boston, the bereaved family met their three older children, who were attending school at Newton Center, and then they returned to Salem Street, April 22, 1899, “with her three youngest children and a native Karen servant girl.”

  She was called Miss Norrie.

  Probably brought along as a practical nurse, it was explained in a later interview with her that the custom of her country at the time was to have only a given name. She accompanied Mrs. Cronkhite to an Ecumenical Conference held in New York City in late April 1900, the New York World reporter who interviewed her describing her native dress as “a brown robe of soft cloth over a fleecy white skirt, elaborately trimmed with gold and silk fringe.”

  Her costume was probably a traditional sarong worn by both men and women called a longyi. The accompanying illustration, “a woman dressed in the old htamein style prevalent until the 1900s,” was probably closer to her actual dress than the reporter’s brief description. She was, by estimate, about twenty- one years old and was born in Bassein, Burma, the site of Rev. Cronkhite’s mission. It is curious to note that Burmah [sic] was then referred to as part of India.

  Miss Norrie appears in the 1905 Greenwich census of the Cronkhite family. In 1906, she was mentioned as in attendance at the 72nd meeting of the Washington Union Baptist Association held at the First Baptist Church in Glens Falls, and was noted as a resident here with the Cronkhite family for the past seven years. This was the last word mentioned of her, having been referred to six years ago as “the only Burmese woman in the United States.”


Echoes of the Spirit


Written On Glass


  There are eleven stained glass windows in our Church with memorial names on them. A total of thirteen names, four refer to previous ministers, two represent early family names, and seven are for individual church members.

  Beginning at the front left side of the church from the altar, in sequence, the names are: Rev. J. O. Mason, Rev. J. B. L’Hommedieu, Fred H. Fenton, Anna Sophia Wilcox, and the Dwelle family. At the very bottom of the rose window in the choir loft at the front of the church is the second early family name, Cottrell.

  Beginning at the right front, the first window has the name of Elder Edward Barber, who followed after the first pastor, Elder Nathan Tanner. Above Elder Barber’s name is the name of Rev. Lewis N. Powell, the most recent minister who can be recalled by present members. Next is Nathan Stewart, followed by Anna Buell Gray. The fourth window on this side has the names of Norman Van Kirk and Kate Van Kirk. The window in the entranceway has the name of D. B. Weir.

  Who were these people, and what can we recall of them?


Rev. James O. Mason


  The first window, on the west wall of the church, is dedicated to Rev. James O. Mason, who followed William Arthur as pastor. Serving for 36 years, from 1844 to 1880, he presided over the building of the present brick church and was pastor during the Civil War. The only window featuring a portrait, it shows him white with age toward the end of his service, unlike this earlier accompanying image from our portrait collection.

  Pastor Mason was born in Granville, attended Hamilton, and was soon afterwards sent as a missionary to Arkansas “which was then a very wild and turbulent State, the refuge of the outlaw and desperado from the older southern States…” (The People’s Journal).

  Along with Elder Tanner, he was the only pastor that we still have records from, his book including baptisms, marriages and funerals from 1840 to 1881, as well as a short sketch that he compiled of chronological events in his life. From that chronology, we may discover that from 1835- 1836, following his education at Hamilton Theological Seminary, he “To Save Expenses & pay my bills Worked in Quarry- Wheeling & Shoveling dirt at a Shilling a cubic yard.”

  He married Relief M. Smith in 1837, a graduate of the Emma Willard School in 1835, who had taught school in Schenectady before her marriage. In August 1838, he went to Boston, where he was appointed a missionary to the Creek Indians, then located west of the state of Arkansas. The couple left Granville for Little Rock on Sept. 8, 1838, and their son Alonzo was born May 20, 1839 at Ft. Smith, Arkansas.

  Pastor Mason attended a council with the Creek on Oct. 8th, and afterwards noted that on Jan. 8, 1840, “after various privations & anxieties growing out of the hostility of the Indians was assaulted.”

  How severe this incident was and the details, are not remarked upon, but the small family left for Little Rock on the following day and removed from there to Granville on April 4th. They arrived in Granville on April 21st, and he was invited as a supply to the Baptist Church in the village of Ft. Ann two days later. For three years he served at Ft. Ann until resigning in April 1844, and then acted as a supply to Hartford from May to August 1844. After an invitation to preach at Bottskill on Sept. 1, 1844, he received a call here in October.

  Also from his sketch, he visited Illinois and Wisconsin in May 1855, and repeated the visit again in June 1865, along with church members, “Mr. & Mrs. Petteys.” His son Alonzo graduated from Rochester University in 1861 and entered Albany Law School the following October.

  Alonzo Truman Mason enlisted in August 1862, and was commissioned as 1st Lieutenant, Co. a, the Greenwich and Easton company, of the 123rd N. Y. State Volunteer Infantry, and later became the company Captain. Wounded during his service, he was later promoted to Major and became aid- de- camp to Gen. Alpheus S. Williams, commander of the brigade that included the 123rd NYSV. After the service, he was the superintendent of the Bottskill Sunday School.

  On April 24, 1864, Pastor Mason would note the passing of his 19 year old daughter Emma, from tuberculosis. The Mason’s son Alonzo would also succumb to the same illness, referred to during the period as consumption, on April 7, 1872, at age 31 years. His father notes that Alonzo went to Cuba in 1869 and to Denver the following year. These trips were apparently for Alonzo’s health, and in November 1870, he visited his son in Denver. Returning to Greenwich in January, both his and Alonzo’s family went to Colorado the following June, and he notes staying at Greeley, Colorado until October.

  After the death of his son, Pastor Mason left the pastorate in October 1872 for his own health reasons and went to South Carolina in March 1873. On May 15th, he left Aiken, S. C. for Greenwich, and on June 26, 1873, the Masons moved into a new home on Cottage Street, supplied through contributions by church members. Later directories for Greenwich give the address as 11 Cottage Street. On May 3, 1874, Pastor Mason began to supply the church at Lakeville.

  A description of his funeral in the Dec. 22, 1881 edition of The People’s Journal, forerunner of The Greenwich Journal, noted the attendance of ten ministers, three from Troy, others from nearby Coila, Easton and Cambridge, and the remainder from the Greenwich churches. The church was filled to capacity. Besides himself, three other brothers entered the ministry, one became a doctor, and the fifth brother remained on the family homestead. It was said that he delivered more than 1500 funeral sermons, baptized more than 2000, and married about the same number of couples.





ottskill Baptist Church - 32 Church Street - Greenwich NY 12834
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