MILAN CHURCH INVITES COMMUNITY TO 185 YEAR CELEBRATION by Susan Juchem
Church Service April 30, 10:00 am: Rowe United Methodist Church, 1376 Rt 199, Milan, NY 12571. Special Service followed by luncheon provided by the church.
Second Program: June 11 2:00pm. Vintage Visitors- Presentations Historic Interpretations “Head to Toe- What they Wore, How They Wore it and Why it Mattered”.
A historic church is inviting one and all to celebrate an important milestone on April 30th. The gathering is sure to be filled with interesting local history, insights into its long connections to its community, and reverence for its continued purpose in bringing people together in worship and fellowship.
The place is Rowe United Methodist Church of Milan. The iconic white building gleams like a beacon, perched on the hill across from the Town Hall.
Many locals have the kinds of associations with Rowe church that are centered around seminal life moments like marriage, coming together for important liturgical celebrations, and for solace in times of the passing of loved ones. The church also is woven into the fabric of its community via charitable and civic minded activities, including things like holding benefits for local food pantries, and overseeing community church yard sales.
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“Shape singing,” as performed here, was a popular method of teaching and practicing the art of singing where notes had different shapes to help with pitch and style.
The upcoming celebration serves as witness for one of the most essential and uplifting aspects of this special place. It has to do with sharing and partaking in a generational connection that is important to keeping any community vibrant. She says that part of the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, has been a residual lessening of face-to-face socializing and gathering. But she believes those kinds of interactions are crucial not only for a church, but for communities.
“Rowe is a welcoming church for all people, and all people can find support here. They can connect with those who are facing some of the same things that they’re facing, and people who want to listen and help. There’s a camaraderie among everyone here that’s certainly valuable.
A Church of Determination and Timely Benefaction Johannes Rowe, a Palatine German immigrant, became the first European descended settler in what is now Milan, when he purchased 911 acres from Robert Livingston, 3rd Lord of Livingston Manor, in 1760. The parcel, known as the Upper or Little Nine Partners Tract of Land, became the site of what is now the Town of Milan. Rowe met Bishop Francis Asbury, the founder of the Methodist movement in America, and became involved in the Methodist movement. After his death in 1771, his son John I. Rowe continued that legacy. The first Methodist Church in Milan was established in 1790. Up until the first Church was completed in 1800, early services were probably held in John’s home with circuit pastors. After a church fire, construction of the current Rowe church was overseen by John I. Rowe and completed in 1838. At that time Milan, officially founded in 1818, contained around 1,700 residents. As a history compiled by Ryan J. Orton in 2013 noted, when the newly completed Rowe Church held its first service, Martin Van Buren, a Kinderhook, Columbia County, native, was President. There were 26 states in the Union. Hudson Valley inventor Samuel F. B. Morse was publicly demonstrating his new invention, the telegraph. Edgar Allen Poe was publishing his first novel. Frederick Douglass was embarking on his perilous journey to freedom from the bondage of slavery. And across the Atlantic, the coronation for a new Queen, Victoria, was commencing England. The years that followed saw many weddings, funerals, celebrations, observances, and services, as Orton’s history recounts. One of the most important benefactors ensuring the church survived as a physical structure in the 20th century, was Irene Kilmer Wilcox. A local native, she married Frederick Wilcox, the son of a silverplating inventor and tycoon, and they lived in the Milan area for many years. Frederick was involved in extensive local reforestation projects that were crucial to local preservation. When Irene lost her husband, and then, soon after, her son Frederick Jr., in a small plane accident in the 1940’s, she responded with remarkable fortitude. She decided to make a number of endowments and grants of her estate holdings while still alive. As a result, lands that have been long enjoyed by Hudson Valley residents such as Wilcox Park, were gifted to Dutchess County. She also gave the Town of Milan it’s beautiful, Town Hall which was designed in the same Greek Revival style as the church she loved across the road. And in the 1960’s, Irene funded a major renovation of Rowe Church that gave the dwelling a basement, and made other improvements. Her charitable endowments still help the church to this day.
There have been many other church members that have contributed generously of themselves and their talents over the years. A few other notables mentioned in the Rowe Church history include Anna Jacoby, a long-time Milan Sunday School teacher, who supplied flowers from her garden to Church Services over many summers. Ferris Jackson, an African American, is remembered as an organist and gifted singer who would arrive early on Sundays to provide beautiful music as the congregants arrived. Ferris also served as Church Treasurer. Susan Juchem has her own personal memories of how a relatively sparse and spread, out Milan community managed to keep making the effort to come together at Rowe Church over the years. “I live on land that my grandparents bought back in the, I believe it was the thirties. My grandfather had a hundred and 70 acre farm. People lived through some tough, tough times like the Great Depression during that time. They all worked very hard on their farms and they survived by helping each other. But one thing my family did was they went to the Rowe church. They would use their horse and wagon or cutter and wagon in winter. I believe attending church helped them spiritually and socially to make it through those hard times. Over the years, the farm was sold but we kept a piece of it, which I live on. Through it all, the church is still there and I’m still attending.
Rowe is joined with four other Churches, Pine Plains, Elizaville, Millerton, and Pleasant Valley, in a Parish, called Mid-Hudson Methodist Ministries. For the 185 year celebration, local sister churches will be on hand. Pastor Nathan Badore will lead the celebration service. In the rich history of the Town of Milan we find evidence of how important the Rowe Methodist Church has been, and that’s the point of the upcoming 185 year celebration. It’s not just about the past, or the present moment. It’s also about the future. Asked why the Rowe Church is important, Susan said: “If a person is troubled, they can find solace there. I think going to church would show you that being kind and caring about other people is a much better way than being angry. If a person feels better about themselves, they can feel better about others. And that’s something important to our church.”