Hunters Creek Bible Baptist throughout the years…
Hunters Creek Bible Baptist Church had it’s beginnings in 1865 as the “First Society of the German Baptist Church.” The group met in a building on Philip Fisher’s property on Fish Hill Road.
The 3/4-acre property at the corner of Hunters Creek and Church roads where the church now sits, was deeded to the church members in 1866, by Julia G. and John A. Sleeper, “on the express conditions that the said Society shall build a house of public worship thereon within one year and six months from the above date (March 20, 1866).” The deed was signed by Sidney S. Sleeper, Justice of the Peace.
The new church building was built primarily by Christopher Trank, with the help of church members. The dedication was held on August 24, 1867, just one year and five months from the date of the deed. People walked from Colgate Theological Seminary in Rochester, a distance of about 80 miles, to attend the dedication.
In 1875, the Society purchased a piece of property from George and Cathrine Soph at what is now 7483 Hunters Creek Road for a parsonage. On old tape maps of the area, this parcel of land on Hunters Creek Road is referred to as “The German Baptist Church.” Trustees at the time were Philip Fisher, Jacob Fauldin and Leonard Surgee.
In 1882, a photograph was taken of the church and its members. This framed photograph was donated to the church on August 21, 1976, by Mr. and Mrs. James Bush of Hunters Creek Road.
In 1884, the church had 83 members. The pastor was Rev. Helmrich. Deacons were Jacob Fisher and Lorenz Pickel. Trustees were Philip Fisher, Jacob Faudlin and John Bokman.
The services were held in the German language until sometime in the 1920s. The church was closed in the late 1920s. There is a notation in the church closet, “S.S. picnic Aug 3, 1921”.
The church was reopened in the 1940s by the Underhill family, which repaired the building, put in electricity, and held services there for an undetermined period of time.
The church was reopened in 1945 by American Mission for Opening Closed Churches (AMOC), which is head quartered in Olcott, NY. Rev. Howard Weyant, later a missionary in Martinique, filled the pulpit from 1945 – 1947. The church was featured on the premier issue of the “Latchstring,” published by AMOC.
He was succeeded by Rev. Clifford Chamberlain, who served from 1947 – 1951, when he left to take the pastorate of a church in Freedom, NY.
In October 1952, the Hunters Creek Church was featured on the cover of “Moody Monthly” magazine, the publication of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL. Color copies of the magazine and calendars were sent to members of the church.
Following a four-month church closing, lay minister Julian Scudder and his wife, Bernice, “expressed a desire to come over from Milgrove every Sunday to conduct Sunday School and Worship services… They remained with the church until 1957, when the congregation had dwindled down to two small families.” The church then closed for two months, during the winter.
Up until 1957, the church was heated by the use of a round, oak wood stove. At this time, natural gas space heaters were installed, making use of the area’s abundant natural gas supply.
An American Sunday School Union Missionary, William A. Clancy of Hunt, NY, taught Sunday Schools at the church, starting in the spring of 1958, driving 40 miles each way to do so.
An aerial view of the church was taken in 1960. The original photograph now hangs in the Pastor’s Study.
In the spring of 1960, numbers had increased significantly (25 – 30 each Sunday), and it was decided to hold a worship service, as well. A retired Baptist Minister from Elton, NY, Rev. Reuben Strong, preached for the first three Sundays each month. Mr. Clancy conducted the services on the fourth Sundays.
In 1961, the congregation called Rev. William A. Clancy to pastor. He continued in full-time service with the church until the spring of 1966. He and his wife had eight children, according to a Buffalo Evening News article dated July 31, 1961.
The pulpit was filled by students from Elohim Bible School is Castile until the fall of 1968. At this time, Don Work, one of the students, was called by the congregation to pastor the church. Don, his wife Kathy, and their two sons lived in the church parsonage.
In 1969, members of the church who visited the Holy Land purchased collection plates for use in the church. The church still owns these plates today, although they are not in use currently.
The name of the church was changed to Hunters Creek Community Church in 1969. At the time, there were 45 – 60 children attending Sunday School, which was still associated with the American Sunday School Union. “The total amount of the Sunday School offering on the first Sunday of each month [was] sent to help support the [ASSU] missionary on the field, Rev. Charles Taylor, who resided in Little Valley.” The church was described by a church historian, Edith Bathrick, as being “missionary minded and sends partial support to two other missions families.” She said that the church had 30 official members at the time.
In 1973, the church building was raised, and a basement, furnaces, front foyer, restrooms, and a pastor’s study was added, as well as a well drilled. The estimated cost of the work was between $5,000 and $6,000. The project was written up in the Buffalo Courier-Express on July 18, 1973.
In 1983, the church acquired clear title to both pieces of property. This action was initiated by the church, due to a repossession clause in the church deed. This was a cause for celebration for the congregation, which burned the old deed. David Kennedy was pastor at the initiation of the court action. The final court papers were delivered to trustee Robert Bathrick.
In the early 1990s, the word “Community” was dropped from the church name, and became known as Hunters Creek Church.
On October 18, 1992 Pastor William J. O’Dell Jr. was called to be the pastor of the church. The previous pastor was Alan Moravek, who left to go into evangelism.
On February 20, 1994, Rev. O’Dell was ordained by the Hunters Creek Church. Attendance was over 150, a standing-room-only crowd.
In 1996, members of the church voted to change the church name to “Hunters Creek Bible Baptist Church,” in order to more clearly reflect our heritage and doctrine. Also at this time, a new nursery and a Sunday School room were added.
In 1997, the church grounds were redone, adding a stone parking lot and filling in the drainage ditches around the church property. Also included were a new church sign and flower beds.
The church was mentioned in a October 15, 1998, Southdown’s Citizen article about the history of the area.
In 1999, remodelling of the church’s interior was begun. It was completed in 2000. Remodelled items included new paint, wainscoting, pews, new trim on the balcony, window blinds, window treatments, new center doors in the main auditorium, raised ceiling in the balcony area, new carpeting, a new pulpit area, remodelled pastor’s study, and a complete renovation of the church’s basement, including a new dropped ceiling. The original 12-foot-high windows are intact and contain many of the original 9″x12″ panes of glass.
The church is now 134 years old, and has approximately 50 members of record, not including regular attendees and visitors.
This history of Hunters Creek Bible Baptist Church, dated July 14, 2000, was compiled by Merilu O’Dell. Edith Bathrick’s “A History of Hunters Creek Church” was compiled in 1974 with the assistance of Clarence Kuntz, Fred Fisher, Maude Spencer, and Mrs. Wolgemuth. Also included in this history was material taken from “The History of Erie County 1884.”