Homer Village Green
The First Religious Society in Homer was organized here on October 12th, 1801, making it the oldest organization in Cortland County. The Congressional Church was built in 1804, and the Baptist Church in 1811 with religious services as early as 1793. The original Congressional Church was torn down and in 1863 the current church was built. Abial Jones was the first moderator of the Congressional Church until he was replaced by Rev. Nathan Darrow in 1802. Education was important to the people of Homer and the church established the Homer Academy in 1819 which was the first school in the village. Today the church still continues to have an influence within the community with many children attending the Homer Youth Center after school. The current moderator of the Homer Congressional Church is Rev. Vicki Burtson.
Backstory and Context
According to New York law enacted in 1784, any local religious group wishing to build a meetinghouse was required to form a incorporated religious society that would own the property, help select a minister, establish his salary, and govern affairs of the congregation. A debate ensued over which denomination should provide the pastor. The Baptists were not favored within the community, and so the Congregationalists ultimately won the debate and appointed Abial Jones as the first moderator of the church. Samuel Goodwin, author of Pioneer History of Cortland County 1885 noted in his book that "it was a common saying, as emigrant families came from New England on to the military tract if you wish to settle among "religionists" go to Homer."
In 1805, Samuel McKinney and Jacob Schuler gave a deed to the First Religious Society, which included six acres of land for them to enjoy. Included in this six acres was the Village Green. The First Religious Society used this New England style common as a place where local farmers could come to graze their livestock. Meetings were also a popular occurrence on the green. In 1804, a Methodist meeting took place at the house of Jonathan Hubbard, and soon after a religious class was formed. Other religious organizations rapidly followed suit. To the people of Homer, religion came first, but education followed not far behind. The Congressional Church of Homer became a member of the Middle Association organized in Marcellus, New York. Seven years later, the church partnered with the Presbytery of Cayuga and Onondaga County, where Rev. John Keep became pastor in 1821. Keep played a strong force in the establishment of Cortland Academy on the Village Green. As noted earlier, education was an important part of early society. However, common schools did not provide the education these early settlers wanted, and so they turned to higher education. As a result, the Cortland Academy was established on February 2, 1819.
The Homer Village Green marker was put in its current location by the Landmark Society. There is not an exact date to when the marker was put there.
By: Joseph Nicolosi, Raquel Berman, John Pawluk, and Rebecca Hartquist
Smith, H. P, editor. History of Cortland County, with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers.
Syracuse, N.Y., D. Mason & co, 1885. Web.. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <lccn.loc.gov/08018098>
Cortland County Sesquicentennial 1808-1958. Cortland , New York. 1958.
Cortland Academy and It's Graduates, Margaret H. Fiske
Martin Sweeny Historian for the town and Village of Homer