Caldwell Presbyterian Church of Lake George has a long and remarkable history - and this summer, the congregation is observing the 200th anniversary of its founding.
Sunday July 11, Caldwell parishioners will be holding a community celebration, with a worship service at 10 a.m. followed by a reception at 11:15 a.m. The church is located at 71 Montcalm St.
Caldwell Presbyterian was founded in 1810 by James Caldwell. He was an entrepreneur, regional grocer, merchant, land investor and founding father of the village of Caldwell - the forerunner of the present municipality of Lake George.
Caldwell laid the cornerstone and oversaw the construction of the first church building, located on Canada St. overlooking Artillery Cove, where in 1757 French Army General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm landed his troops for the siege of Fort William Henry.
At the dedication ceremony in 1810, Caldwell proclaimed, "This shall be called a Presbyterian Church but it shall be open to all evangelical denominations."
Caldwell's open attitude extended to the church's ministerial staff, considering that its first Presbyterian preacher to serve the church regularly was the Rev. Anthony Paul, a Mohican Indian.
This inclusive attitude exists to this day, church members have said.
Caldwell was fairly isolated in the early 1800s, and there were only about 500 inhabitants by 1820. The first recorded church meeting was held in 1814, although the church was not officially sanctioned by the regional Presbytery, based in Troy.
The Caldwell church's Sunday school, however, was operated with zeal by Laura Baldwn, who in 1830 was instrumental in not only inspiring a religious revival, but she joined other parishioners in aligning with the temperance movement - their spiritual fervor led to reorganization of the church and formal recognition by the regional Presbytery.
The present building on Montcalm St. was constructed in 1855 and 1856 on land donated by heirs of James Caldwell. Then in 1893, an addition - which now houses the "Coffee Room" - was built. In 1957, the middle room, offices and bathrooms were added to the original building. The following year, the Christian Education wing was added, and in 1978, the preschool addition was built.
Through its 200 years, Caldwell Church has been influential in local education and culture.
The first library in Lake George was organized as part of the Caldwell church, and it remained such a center of public information until the present library was completed.
Also, the area's first Kindergarten was held at Caldwell Presbyterian, until the program was taken over by the Lake George Board of Education. In more recent years, the church's preschool program has continued to assist youngsters in their readiness for formal education.
Although the negative economic effects of the Civil War stressed the church's finances, and an 1866 tornado damaged the church steeple, the reunification of two factions of the Presbyterian Church in 1869 prompted financial gifts from summer visitors to relieve the hardship. Due to the new financial footing, the church was able to hire its first full-time pastor, Rev. James Lamb, in 1870.
As Caldwell Presbyterian's centennial approached, an addition was constructed, the sanctuary was refurbished, and the free public library was established. Church membership grew from an average of about 30 to 100 or so.
This strength in membership and finances allowed the church to support local missions at French Mountain and Bay Road.
To this day, the church has maintained its spiritual dedication, inclusiveness and welcoming spirit that has deep roots in its founding 200 years ago.
- based on a history of Caldwell Presbyterian by Jeff Brozyna.