A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

James Otis Denniston, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church of Matawan (1869-1871)

James Otis Denniston
Below are some useful resources on Reverend James Otis Denniston, who served as the minister of the First Presbyterian Church of Matawan for a couple of years after the Civil War. He had served as a lieutenant during the war and was injured at the Battle of Gettysburg. The first item is a wonderful summary published by his alma mater, Yale College, in a compendium of obituaries of their former students.

James Otis Denniston, B.A. 1856, Yale College
Born December 14, 1835, in Washingtonville, N. Y.
Died November 12, 1915, in New York City

James Otis Denniston, one of the eleven children of Robert and Mary (Scott) Denniston, was born December 14, 1835, in Washingtonville, N. Y., which had long been the family home. His father, a graduate of Union College in 1820, was prominent in politics in New York State, and had served in both the Senate and Assembly, and as state comptroller. His mother's parents were William and Mary (Mather) Scott. The son received his preparatory training at his home, and was graduated from Yale in 1856, receiving a Dispute appointment at Commencement.

After leaving college, he studied law in the office of the late Eugene A. Brewster of Newburgh, N. Y., and, being admitted to the bar in 1858, practiced for the next three years in New York City, where for a time he was in the office of Brown, Hall & Vanderpoel. In 1861, he decided to give up the law and study for the ministry, and in the fall of that year entered Union Theological Seminary in New York City. In the summer of 1862, while at home, he assisted in organizing Company G of the One Hundred and Twenty-fourth New York Volunteers, and in September accompanied it to the front as first lieutenant. He was wounded at Gettysburg, and a few months later resigned, holding at the time a captain's commission. Upon his return to New York, he resumed his studies at Union Seminary where, with the exception of a few months in 1864 spent in the service of the Sanitary Commission, he continued until his graduation in 1865. During the summer of that year, he supplied a pulpit at Ludlow, Vt., after which he spent a year abroad in study at Berlin, Dresden, and Halle. In the succeeding years, he served as pastor of Presbyterian churches at Fishkill, N. Y., Matawan, N. J., Erie, Pa., Kingston, N. Y., and at Wappinger's Falls, N. Y. Owing to ill health, he spent the two years from 1883 to 1885 at Newburgh without pastoral charge, but in 1885 he was able to accept a call to the Cooperstown (N. Y.) Presbyterian Church, where he preached for eleven years. His next church was at State College, Pa., and he remained there until his retirement from the active ministry in 1906. Since then, Mr. Denniston had spent much of his time in New York City, and his death occurred in that city, November 12, 1915, after an illness of only a few hours resulting from cerebral hemorrhage. His body was taken to Washingtonville for burial.

Mr. Denniston was a life member and a director of the American Bible Society. He was married in Fishkill, N. Y., June 3, 1869, to Margaret C, daughter of Epenetus and Margaret (Walsh) Crosby, who died less than two months before her husband. Their only child, Mary, survives. Two of Mr. Denniston's brothers — William Scott and Henry Martyn — received the degree of B.A. from Yale, being members of the Classes of 1853 and 1862, respectively. The former graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1856, and died six years later, of typhoid fever, contracted as a volunteer surgeon in the Army of the Potomac. The latter entered the pay corps of the United States Army, and was retired with the rank of rear admiral, for war service, on reaching the age of sixty-two; in 1892, Yale gave him an honorary M.A. Mr. Denniston was a cousin, in the fourth generation, of John Denniston, who received the degree of B.A. at Yale in 1807.
Source: Obituary Record of the Graduates of Yale Undergraduate Schools 1869/70 - 1950/51

He was born in Washingtonville, New York on 14 December 1835. He graduated Yale College in 1856, then attended Union Theological Seminary in New York from 1861 to 1862, then again from 1863 to 1865. He served in the US Army 1862 to 1863. He was in Europe in 1866. He was ordained 4 July 1867 in Poughkeepsie (R D Cl?). He was stated supply at Tironda NY (1867-68), pastor at the Presbyterian church in Matswan, NJ (1869-70); pastor at Erie, PA (1871-72); stated supply at Kingston, NY (1873-75); pastor at Wappinger Falls, NY (1877-83); pastor at Newburgh, NY (1884-85); Cooperstown, NY (1885- ); currently pastor at State College, PA.   
Source: Presbyterian Ministerial Directory, Northern (1898) , pg 236

He was in Washingtonville, NY within the Synod of New York. No further details. Source: Minutes of the United Presbyterian Church USA Directory (1915)

He was born in 1835 and died in 1915. He served as a First Lieutenant, Company G, 124th Regiment, New York State Volunteers during the US Civil War. He was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg and was discharged due to disability. He became a Presbyterian minister in 1866. He married Margaret Crosby. He was living in Washingtonville, Orange County, New York at one time before the turn of the century. Source: Descendants of Alexander Denniston, a genealogy posted at Family Treemaker. The genealogy cites Portrait and Biographical Record of Orange County, Vols I-III (1895) for most of these details.

He (as Rev J Deniston) appeared in the Church Directory on page 4 col 1 of the 1 Jan 1870 edition of The Matawan Journal. Services at the Presbyterian Church were held Sundays at 10 1/2 am and 7 pm, with Sunday School at 9 am.

He (as James Dennison) was enumerated in the 1870 Federal Census as a 34 year old Presbyterian minister born in New York state and living in Matawan, along with his wife Margaret, aged 33 years and also born in New York. Living in the household were Elizabeth Crosby, 45 years old born in New York, who had no occupation, and Catharine O'Neal, an Irish domestic servant aged 26 years. The Reverend had $500 in personal property, while the church was listed as being worth $15,000.

The Park Presbyterian Church in Erie, PA called him to their church on 7 December 1870, while he was serving at Matawan. Source: History of Erie County, Pennsylvania, Part III, Chapter IV (Churches), by Samuel P Bates.

He served at the Presbyterian Church in the Town of Wappinger beginning in June 1877. Source: The History of Dutchess County by James H Smith.

He was a minister on the Narrative standing committee of the Presbyterian General Assembly in 1878. Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the PCUSA (1878)

He performed a marriage at the Presbyterian Church in Cooperstown, NY in October 1886. Source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle-News, 6 Feb 1886

He was a minister in the Presbytery of Otsego. Sources: Minutes of the Synod of New York (1887); Minutes of the Synod of New York (1891)

From the church records of Sept. 1902, we quote an account of a pleasant gathering.

"Three former pastors of the Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown, the Rev. Frederick B. Savage, D.D, late of Newburgh, N. Y., the Rev. James Otis Denniston of State College, Pa., and the Rev. N. W. Wells of Brooklyn, N. Y., being temporarily here, the Ladies of the Congregation gave them and their wives a public reception in the chapel, on Thursday evening, September 4, instant, from 8 to 10 o'clock. The Rev. Charles K. McHarg, D.D., formerly pastor, now resident in the village, with the Rev. Sidney S. Conger, the present incumbent, made in all five clergymen in the chapel who had been installed pastors of this church and congregation. . . ." Source: History of the First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown, New York, by Helen A Ross, an excerpt from Chapter VI, as found in the 4 Apr 1952 edition of The Otsego Farmer, pg 6 col 5.


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