Elder James Benedict

The Pioneer Preacher of the Warwick and Wyoming Valleys




(Mrs. G. M. Van Duzer)

Warwick, New York

(Reprinted from Volume XVIII, Proceedings of the Society.)

Copied from the original records of the Baptist Church in Warwick, N.Y.

Wilkes-Barre, PA


Transcribed for the Internet and

Warwick Historical Society


Published on the Internet with permission of the Wyoming Valley Historical Society
May, 2000
by Albert Wisner Public Library

The first settlers in Warwick, New York, were from New York City, having come into the valley with Benjamin Aske, a New York merchant whose share of the great Wawayanda Patent covered this part of Orange County. Aske was an Englishman, presumably from Warwickshire, as he gave the name "Warwick" to his tract of land. When he sold any of this land he invariably stated that it was from his "farm called Warwick."

The men who came with Aske were soon followed by many Connecticut families who sought new homes on the Wawayanda, or Warwick Creek, at the time that others from that State, many of them friends and relatives, were locating on the Susquehanna River in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania – in Connecticut’s Western Reserve.

In 1764 these New Englanders, in Warwick, missed their Church association so much and longed for the preaching they had been accustomed to in their old homes so strongly, that they accordingly took action on the matter as their old records show. I quote from the minutes of their meetings just as they were set down with a quill pen in 1764.

Be it Recorded that the year of our Lord oneTthousand feaven hundred and sixty four The Lord of his infinite mecy and grace Having Begun and Carying on a gloryous work of Souls Being awakened and convered to Jesuf Chrift as we truft and being Deftitute of thofe minifterant Helpt and ordanances that our

Souls now thurfted after and Being perfonally aquainted many of us with James Benedict who was a member of ye Baptis Church of Chrift at Stratfield Connecticut under the paftorial Care of Mr. John Share-wood and said Benedict Being Lifenced by that Church and other minefters to work of the preaching the gofpel a numbar of us joyntly agreaing togather Drew up a leter and fent to Said Benedict to come over and help us which acordingly he did about ye middel of November 1764 and preached about two weeks to our joy and Satisfaction and then returned home again. fome time in Decembar 1764 Mr. Dakin a Regular minsefter of ye Baptis ordor Came over and preached with us and Baptifed tree perfons.

March 1765 - Some time in march 1764 we again fent a mefengar over to said Benedict to come to our help who acordingly Came and brought a church Covanant with him which when we had heard gave felofhip to it it being agreable to our prinfables and fentaments thofe of us that were Baptifed entered into a follom injagment to be the Lords and gave ourfelves to the Lord and to one another by the will of god and figned the Covanant Then we Drew up a Leater of Requeft to the Church at Stratfield to give up a Leater of Requeft to the Church at Stratfield to give said Benedict to us and fent a menfenger with said Leater who Laid said Leater before said Church who gave felowfship to our Requeft and after Due confideration frealy and chearfully gave up said Brother to us and our Watch and Care and fent a Leater of Recommdation to us which we gave fellowfhip to and Brother Benedict gave himfelf up to us and figned the Covenant.

James Benedict was ordained November 7, 1765 and installed as Elder and pastor of the Baptist Church of Warwick. He thus became the first minister and this Church the first church in the Valley.

For eleven years Elder Benedict was the pastor of this flourishing church in the wilderness. During the Revolutionary war his log meeting house stood in a grove of oak trees to the Eastward of the village.

Here the men of Col. Dearboin’s New England Regiment camped on its march from Fish-Kill ferry to Easton, Pa., to join Sullivan’s Expedition against the Indians.

Meanwhile a number of the Elder’s Church members had removed to Westmoreland, attracted by the accounts of that wonderful region.

In 1776 they besought him to follow them to that place and establish a Church, which he accordingly did. There were Benedicts there before his arrival and Blackmans also. Probably near relations. The Elder's wife was Mary Blackman of Green Farms, Conn.

August Ye 1776 The Church Being met together for befnes our Breatheran at Westmoreland or Lacawano Laid a requeft befor the Church reprefenting Their Scaterd Scurcomftances as Sheep not having a Shepherd and Defierd help from This Church and it was agread and Voted to Send our Elder and two other Breatheran to answer to their requeft or to Act in behalf of the Church as they found matters. When they Came There who accordingly went in Defember and finding twelve of our members that w[ere] in Good Standing namely Jonathan Weaks, Samuel Robberds, Danel Cafh, Daniel Roberts, Hezekiah Roberts, Ebenezer Roberts, Ephraim Sanford femails, Abigail Weaks, Abigail Roberts, Mary Roberts, Mary Cafh, Sarah Roberts, with maney others that ware in Good Standing in other Churches, with Six that ware then baptieft to the number of thirty-two a Church was conftetuted at which time thefe twelve members ware Difmeft from the watch Care of this Church and jond with that and at the return of our members we refeved a Letter of there perfeding that gave us full fellofhip.

March 8, 1777 at a Confarance Meating at Starling it was then unanamoufly Voted the Church under the paftorael Care of Eldar James Benedict Showd Remove Before us to that land and we exfpect to follow after as a foone as porvidence will admit Signed in behalf of the Whole Church

At a Church meating at Worwick Agust 21 : 1777 after prayer to god for his Direction Decon Silfby was Chosen modarater then profeded to Bifnes and in Confederation of a Vote pafed in the Church March the Eighth for the removel of the Church to Weftmoreland Some of the members Looking on Some tempral Deficatyes war Discureged and thought beft to Stop and not go which put the Elder under Grate Defikalty as to his termeral Intraft the Church Confedraing Same Voted that the Church Should Stop removing Wilst* next Spreing and the Elder to perfed to the advanteg of his tempral Intruft.

Warrack September the Third Day 1778 at our place of publeck Worfhep the Church being met together according to appointment to Confeder of Some votes that had bin pafed in the church before Confarning the Church removeing to Weftmorland where the Elder according to the foremenched votes had bin and being drove of by a Saveg Enemey and the whole Countrey laid in Diffolation which rendered it Impofable for the church to remove at Presant the Elder being returnd he was received by the Church again as a Pafteur and anEelder and he suffering Lofe by the Enemey as to temprals voted in the Church to help to Supply that want by Contrebution

After the Elder had escaped with his family and some of his neighbors after the battle, he returned to Warwick and never went back to Westmoreland except to visit.

He must often have thought longingly of the place where he had planned to make a home not only for himself, but for his Church and people.

But "Providence" did not "admit" as the record says. So his own numerous descendants, together with those of his congregation who were "Expecting to Follow after," never became the loyal citizens of Pennsylvania that they doubtless would have done, and had the Old Elder not been "drove of by a Saveg Enemey."

It is a great pleasure for me to be able to give to the Wyoming Valley Historical and Geological Society these records of my fourth (4th) great grandfather.

Elizabeth C. Van Duzer

(Mrs. G. M. Van Duzer.)

Warwick, New York

    1. This Covenant is owned by his descendant, Miss Fanny Benedict of Warwick, N.Y. No doubt the same covenant was used when eleven years later "The said Benedict" founded the Baptist Church in the Wyoming Valley. In a note on Pittston in appendix, Miner’s "History of Wyoming Valley" is the statement, Rev. James Benedict was first minister there.

    2. Many members of Elder Benedict’s Church lived at Sterling, and occasionally meetings were held at that place.

    3. The last passage transcribed by Mrs. Van Duzer from the original record relates the terrible tragedy at Wyoming, Pennsylvania in 1778 called the Wyoming Massacre. The settlers of Westmoreland were ambushed and murdered by the English and a group of Indian warriors. In many accounts Joseph Brant who was a Christianized Iroquois chief was held responsible for the atrocity that took place that fateful day. These same accounts credit Brant with having given Elder James Benedict and his family safe passage away from the carnage. However, many professional historians have deduced from other written records that Brant had nothing to do with the Wyoming Massacre and was not in the area at the time. The Indians were reacting to the intrusion upon their lands, partnering with the English who were trying to maintain control of the American continent for the Crown during the American Revolution.

    Note by transcriber – As you read this original account, you will notice the letter F appears where one might install an s instead. A character which literally appears to be an f often appears in these old documents and is quite characteristic in the handwritten script of the time.

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