WHAT YOU WILL SEE
Most of the roads Finney traveled on are in the same location now as they were back then. As I roamed around the area, I could easily envision a young man traveling by horseback throughout this frontier. The basic geography, the lay-of-the-land, and the remoteness of Northern New York has added much to my appreciation of the Finney story. In many ways, this area is still very much like the frontier it was almost 200 years ago. Unfortunately, some of the buildings (in some cases, whole sections of the villages) have burned to the ground. This changes the historical value of these places and also puts a whole new meaning to the expression "Burned Over District". Some of the buildings have not been able to withstand the test of years of North Country winters. Despite this, I have been able to find several churches that Finney preached in, along with some homes where he stayed and other landmarks that relate to his narrative.
The Northern tour covers parts of Jefferson, St. Lawrence, and Lewis Counties. This tour takes about four hours and is around two hundred miles in length; most of this time is spent driving through remote countryside. The Southern tour, which takes place mostly in Oneida County, is shorter because it is more compact geographically. Some of it involves driving in and near cities. You will also see why Finney thought this was some of the most beautiful country he had ever seen.
The following are a list of sites where Finney preached, all within an hour’s radius of the village of Lowville, where I served as a pastor for over 22 years. It was in this is the area where Finney and Nash worked together off and on for the first few years of the revival. I have limited myself to only include the villages and hamlets that are specifically mentioned in Finney’s Memoirs, or early first-hand accounts of his ministry. I have found buildings and landmarks that correspond with the details Finney' mentioned in his autobiography, which has been my guide for this study. Unfortunately, many of the buildings (in some cases whole sections of the villages) have burned to the ground. This not only changes the historical value of these places but it puts a whole new meaning to expression "Burned Over District". Some of the buildings have not been able to stand the test of northern New York winters, but others have stood surprisingly well. The lay-of-the-land, the unchanged geography, and the remoteness of some of these places will add much to your appreciation of the Finney story. Most of the landscape and the main roads remain the same, allowing you to easily envision a young man moving through this frontier on horseback, bringing revival to the area. In many ways this area is still a frontier and you can expect to see some beautiful countryside, which is a wonderful way to spend a day in prayer.
Using the oldest county maps available, I have been able to locate many of the homes and churches that are mentioned in the story. To confirm if the building standing on the site is the one in the story, I have searched deeds and land records. Beyond this, I have also been assured by the present owners' testimony that the building had not been replaced.
- You can see the original site of the Presbyterian Church were Finney attended. The present building was built many years after Finney left the area. The original clap board building he was in had been moved across the street by the Methodist. It burned in the mid 1800's.
- The woods where Finney prayed, is now an open field.
- The location of Squire Wright’s law office has been determined, although the original building has long been replaced.
- The locations of several homes and businesses mentioned in the autobiography have been approximated using old maps, although no deed work has been done. The location of the homes of some of the people mentioned in his memories. I have also found the home of pastor George Gale's where Finney boarded while living in Adams.
-You can visit the grace site of one of Finney’s most respected prayer partners, Able Clarey.
- In Henderson I have found the Finney family homestead. The last of the buildings, originally built around 1808, was torn down around 1939. Only a bit of foundation and a few fruit trees remain.
- Across the road from the farmstead, is the location of the log school house where Finney taught at age sixteen. The building has long since been removed but an oil painting of the school, painted by a former student, now hangs in the local historical society.
- Finney’s mother's grave has been found. Other family members, including an older sister also are buried in the old neglected graveyard.
- I have also found the place where George W. Finney, Charles younger brother had built a mill. We not search any deeds to confirm this location.
- The location of the Presbyterian Church has been determined from old maps, but the building has long since been removed.
- The Baptist church in Henderson, which held joint prayer meetings with the Congregational Church the Finney’s were members of, still stands but is not in use.
- The site of the stone Presbyterian Church where Finney ministered has been located. The original building is long gone. The remaining part of a second wooden structure has been turned into a private residence.
- I have found the home of Elder Ballard, with whom Finney stayed during his winter in Brownville.
- I found the old Baptist church that related to Finney when he brought revival to this remote hamlet. There are a number of fine stone buildings in the area that allow us a look into the past.
- The location of the homes of the two elders who managed the church has been located using old maps.
- The location of the stone school house where Finney first preached has been verified. A modern school building now stands on the same site.
- The locations of the Baptist and Presbyterian churches have also been found. These two congregations are mentioned in Finney’s Memoirs.
- The Hoover hotel still stands on the same location. The first owner of this hotel, John Hoover was converted during Finney’s time in Evans’ Mills.
- The second school house just outside the village of Evans’ Mills has been located. This was the place where a man brought a gun to the meeting to kill Finney while he preached. It is a fine stone school house now used as a private residence.
- The grave of Samuel C. Kanaday can be seen as you drive past the cemetery. He was a strong supporter of the revival, and a man with whom Finney had stayed while in LeRaysville.
THE “GERMANS” NEAR EVANS MILLS
- The location of the settlement of the Palatine German settlement has been located. The old wooden school house where Finney preached, which is now a private residence.
- The Elders names mentioned in local history books match those on nearby gravestones. A couple of their houses can be located from maps, but no deed work has been done on the buildings now standing.
- Although the US Army removed the entire village, the original location can be seen. There is also a grave yard nearby. (This site is not on the main tour, but it can be visited as a side excursion on the self-guided tour.)
- This is the area where Finney preached and conducted his first altar call.
- The brick meeting house where Finney had preached still stands and is in excellent shape. It is now a Catholic Church.
- The location of the Copeland Hotel where he stayed has been determined but has been replaced by the library.
- One of the first "praying women" Finney met was Polly Copeland. Her unsaved husband, Smith, the hotel keeper who refused to give Finney the keys to the village meeting house. Smith was converted under Finney’s preaching. Their home is one of the finest examples of yellow limestone construction I have seen. Both of their graves can been seen. Smith Copeland’s grave has an open Bible with a sword lying across it.
- The Congregational Church that grew out of this revival can be seen.
DEACON RANDALL’S NEIGHBORHOOD
- William Randall, the Congregational deacon, was harassed to the point that he could no longer conduct church in Antwerp. He lived outside of the village and had invited Finney to his neighborhood to preach. I have found both the school house and the Randall homestead.
- From Antwerp Finney was invited to a neighborhood nick-named “Sodom”. I have located area where this village once was, but the site cannot be accessed because it is part of Fort Drum.
- The Baptist and Presbyterian Church can still be seen standing next to each other, just as they were in Finney’s Memoirs. While the buildings are not original, they still illustrate the story of how these two churches rivaled for the hundreds of souls that came in through the revival.
- I have found the location of where Finney and Nash stayed while in this area.
- I have found the original location of the Presbyterian Church, which grew out of Finney’s meetings. It was being torn down while I was doing this research.
- The DeKalb congregation later moved to nearby Richville and placed themselves under the care of Gorham Cross, the pastor who had been associated with Finney at Sodom and Antwerp. In fact, he had a similar ministry in the DeKalb area and his family has an integral part of the Finney story. Gorham’s church is still going and his original house is nearby. (This site is not on the main tour, but it can be visited as a side excursion on the self-guided tour.)
- Just outside the village of Lowville you can see the grave of Daniel Nash. It says "Labored with Finney" on it. I have also found the location of his church and homestead.
- Nash was a local pastor and there is a small monument to him on the front step of where the church once stood. This congregation half later disbanded after being moved to village of Lowville, where a handsome stone church stands to this day.
THE SOUTHERN TOUR
- I have found the First Presbyterian Church there, which was erected after the revival. There is a second Presbyterian Church of Utica that no longer exists.
- The location of the historic Bagg’s Hotel, which is central to the revival story in Utica, has been found, although the building no longer exists. Only the foundation stones can be seen. (This will not be on this tour, as there is not much to see.)
- The Presbyterian Church Finney preached in is still active there. Some of the descendants of those mentioned in the Memoirs still live in the village and attend the church.
- You can see the Floyd Homestead. He was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Finney had led Floyd’s wife to the Lord.
- I have located the site of the farm rented by Pastor George Gale, who had moved there from Adams after Finney left. Finney stayed with him at the farm during the revival.
- I have found a home that Finney had visited while working in Western.
- Finney mentions that a flow of opposition came out of Trenton. It was a Universalist stronghold in this area for years. In fact, this is the location of the first Universalist Church in New York. The congregation still meets occasionally and a surprising number of very historic buildings still remain in this interesting little village.
- The old stone meeting house where Finney preached in Trenton still stands, and is now a beautiful private residence.
ELMERS HILL & WRIGHTS SETTLEMENT
- There is not much to these two places today. Finney preached in a school house at Elmer’s Hill, which was removed when a large man-made lake was developed in the area.
- In Wright’s settlement, the original homestead where the revival among the young people broke out still stands, although it is no longer on its original location. Another house which was built by the principle family of this godly little hamlet still stands and can be seen on the tour. This village is also the boyhood home of Albert Barns, who wrote a popular Bible commentary.
- There is a Presbyterian Church and a nearby court house, both of which are mentioned in the story of the revival of Rome. Neither buildings are original to Finney’s first visit to Rome, but he preached in this building which now stands on his second visit to Rome thirty years later.
- A handsome brick Presbyterian Church still stands in Whitesboro, which grew out of the revival. There are many buildings still standing right where they did when Finney was there.
-I have found the general location of Finney’s in-laws farm where he often retreated and rested between revivals.
- Part of the training Institute that Pastor George Gale had built in Whitesboro still stands in the village, although it is not recognizable from old pictures.
NEW YORK MILLS
- Many of the original brick mills still stand today. I have been able to determine the specific location of the factory that Finney visited in which he brought the mill to a halt.
- I have found deeds for George Andrew’s house. His house is part of the story because he was Finney’s brother-in-law and Finney had stayed at the Andrew’s farm few time, resting or recovering from illness.
- A large old Presbyterian Church, which was affected by the revival, stands on the original location today.
- Finney’s revival was strongly supported by the local Presbyterian pastor who lived here. The original building still stands in beautiful condition and remains active. It was started by the grandson if Jonathan Edwards.
- The Presbyterian Church that was there when Finney was there has been replaced, but the location remains the same. This is the place where they packed Finney’s bags and invited him to leave town.
- It is believed that when Finney was a young lad he attended school here on the grounds of what is now Hamilton College.
- All that one can see as you stand on the corner where the Finney family farm once stood is a magnificent view of the hill and valleys of this beautiful area. An ancient cemetery remains nearby; the only evidence that people once lived here. (This will not be on this tour)
- There is a Presbyterian Church there, though the building is not the same. Both Finney and Nash are supposed to have preached here.
- This is just an interesting hamlet to pass through on the way to Verona. It is also the place that old timers determined to be the first place in Oneida County to experience the outbreak of revival.
- This little village is noted for being the place where Daniel Nash died. He was almost interned in the grave yard just down the street from the Presbyterian Church.
The tour ends back in Syracuse.