Montezuma Historical SocietyMontezuma Historical Society

The Old Mentz Church

MentzChurchHistory-oldNestled at crossroads in the rural countryside of the Town of Montezuma stands the Historic Mentz Church built by the first settlers of the area. The gable-roofed, one room church was erected prior to its incorporation as the First Methodist Episcopal Church in 1825. It was purchased from the Weston family on a lot where a cemetery was located with the earliest burial in 1813. Built by area farmers with timber from their land, it represents a unique example of early nineteenth century architecture in Cayuga County. Virtually intact to its date of construction, the church retains a remarkably high degree of integrity in design, material, craftsmanship and feeling of the early settlers of this area.

This small, humble landmark was one of the first in Cayuga County to be served by roving clergy from the Baptist, Methodist and Protestant faiths until it became incorporated on May 10, 1825, as the First Methodist Episcopal Church of the Town of Mentz. Here worship was an integral part of early life in the small community, and the church helped to serve the needs of area families for 130 years.

Before the church was built, first services were held in the barn of John Gilmore and area homes. The first authentic record of the church’s history was known as a “society.” It joined in circuit with Montezuma and the village of Port Byron and became known the “mother” church.

Later it became part of a three-point charge with the Montezuma and Fosterville Methodist churches. After World War II many families moved to larger cities and only a half-dozen families remained until it closed in 1954. Although closed, it was never forgotten, and through the efforts of the Mentz Fidelas Club and Lester Ohara the church was preserved to stand the test of time. In 2003, the historic church building was donated to the Town of Montezuma by the former North Central Church Conference.  A preservation committee started meeting to make recommendations to the board on how to protect and use it.

In 2005, it was registered on the National Register of Historic Places for its significance in American history. The National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archaeological resources.

There’s something about the church building, that brings us back to days when life was a lot simpler and country folk cared about one another. Probably one of the best ways to describe what it meant to the people that attended services at the Old Mentz Church is a poem written by C. Martin Carr. It represents  what the building meant to people of that era, their values and beliefs that helped develop our community and is still very relevant and important for us today.