Faith of Our Fathers

Doreen McCutcheon, my cousin Doris Lamos’ daughter asked me, a couple months ago, what I knew about the faith of our Dayton fathers.  I believe we Daytons have a rich heritage of the Christian faith.  I’ll tell you what I know of it, and you can decide.  Christian faith is difficult to judge because no one can know the heart of others.  I will have to base my opinion mainly on outward appearance, about which the Bible cautions us.  I believe that most of the time this definition works.  I would also add that Dayton females often live their Christian service vicariously through their spouses and their actual teamwork.  Christian women are often active as nurses, teachers, supporters of missions and missionaries, Sunday School and VBS directors and teachers, organists, pianists, choir leaders, Bible Study leaders, etc.  I KNOW, I know….I’m stereotyping.  We have several Dayton female pastors and church lay leaders.

Generosity (births and deaths spanning the years from 1905 to 2009)

The number one Christian trait in the Dayton family is the generosity in both service and finances. There is evidence of this everywhere we look. For example, among Wilber and Jessie’s offspring:

Flossie, the oldest child, was a schoolteacher and faithful member of the Free Methodist Church in Corinth where she was a part-time Adult Sunday School teacher.  In her later years, she read her Bible daily in foreign languages: English, Spanish, French and probably German.  Her favorite was Spanish. She had daily devotions with the children. She would play hymns on the pump organ while the family sang.  Then she and George would pray.  What she lacked in formal church activities she more than made up for in a sweet, loving and gentle spirit that oozed her love of Christ from every pore of her being.  She was a fine example of the woman of Proverbs 31:10-31 (The wife of noble character).

Charles was a Wesleyan Methodist pastor and church administrator, including terms as President of the Champlain Conference and later District Superintendent of the Champlain District of the Wesleyan Methodist Church.  He was the epitome of aid of all sorts to the underprivileged.  From his own personal resources, he assisted with shelter, food, personal visitation, transportation, friend and counseling of all types.  He often met their needs for sustenance by any means possible, including solicitating help from the likeminded.  He also had a vision and passion for planting new churches.  He wanted to spread the word as far as he could within the bounds of wise financing.   Chop’s generosity was frequently rewarded by the gifts of possession that were repeatedly left to him because the deceased knew he would do good with them.

He was pastor of churches in upstate New York, Vermont and Massachusetts. Following retirement, he assisted wherever an opportunity arose at the Wesleyan Retirement Village in Brooksville FL.   

Chester was a lay preacher, held numerous church offices and was much more than a nominal tither at the suggested 10% level. I know, for a fact, that one year he tithed and gifted 32%.  Other years could have been even more, but he shunned the public eye in such matters.  Chip stood tall in various pulpits as an active Gideon as he shared the importance of distributing Bibles.  He was a Sunday School teacher and lay leader of his local Wesleyan Church in Corinth, New York.  After his second wife, Elizabeth died, he married Marjean Chapman, who was an ordained evangelist in the Wesleyan Church.

Wilber Jr. was a pastor, a seminary professor, Christian college President and prolific Christian author.  He travelled extensively and internationally to lecture, teach and preach.  He was renowned on a worldwide scale. He was an active participant on the team of scholars who translated the New International Version of the Bible (NIV) from the original Greek into English.  He was affiliated with the Wesleyan Methodist Church, was a benchmark for scholarly endeavors and was highly respected and admired by his peers.  His wife Donna held post graduate degrees and was employed in various University capacities including Librarian, and assistant Professor at several Colleges and Universities.

Paul probably held more church offices and performed more gifts of service than anyone in the entire Wesleyan denomination.  Besides official church offices, many building projects leadership, fund raising responsibilities, Sunday School teaching and administration, and youth leadership, he did more behind the scenes physical work than even I, his son, can remember.  For example, he was electrician, plumber, carpenter, snow plower, infrastructure planner and repairer, vehicle mechanic, bus driver, transportation director, orchestra founder, and conductor, etc. Beyond all that, he was a passionate financial backer to the extent that church donations trumped his own needs. Paul annually contributed much more than the nominal 10% tithe.  I believe it was more than double, as, I believe, his brothers might have done also.

So how could poorly educated and poorly financially endowed parents like Wilber and Jessie Dayton raise children who were such stellar members of the Christian faith.  It was because of their example and their consistency in rearing their children.  Click here to hear what Chip had to say on this subject.  Younger generations, please heed Chip’s advice!

My conclusion is that this characteristic of generosity is still at the forefront of Wilber’s grandchildren’s Christian experience, as well as their own descendants.  Generosity “rocks” in the Dayton family.

Wilber and Jessie’s Faith (Wilber 1870-1957)  (Jessie Belle (1880-1958)

A picture containing text, book

Description automatically generated
A can of soda

Description automatically generated

Jessie Belle [White] Dayton, wife of Wilber, wore the spiritual leadership pants in Wilber and Jessie’s marriage.  Wilber loved the Lord and was born again, but his shy disposition and backward social skills left the family training largely to Jessie. I am in possession of Wilber and Jessie’s tithe can (see photo).  We know they tithed. Despite their poverty, they still gave at least 10% to the church and did it before anything else was paid for. Jessie read to her children from the Hulbert Bible story book, an 800-page illustrated book with beautiful black and white etchings, now in the possession of Stephen Dayton.  Family altar was the first priority every day.  Family altar was a time when the family got together for a time of Bible reading and prayer.  It lasted 30 minutes or more.  In Paul’s family, the tradition continued.  After a Bible passage or story, each family member knelt and prayed, from the eldest to youngest, and the session was completed with the Lord’s prayer.  I imagine family altar was practiced in all the Dayton families.   On Sunday, Jessie, Wilber and their children attended the Corinth Sunday School, morning service, “class meeting”, a time of testimony and witnessing, evening prayer service and evening worship.  In the afternoon, they attended Hadley Wesleyan Methodist church, where Jessie was Sunday School Superintendent.  I doubt they had time to eat until after Corinth’s evening service.  They didn’t set aside Sunday as a day of physical rest.  They practiced spiritual rest.

A close up of a newspaper

Description automatically generated
A close up of a newspaper

Description automatically generated

Jessie’s mother, Anna [Flansburg] [White] [Ramsey] Dingman (1855-1935)

We know nothing of Jessie’s father’s faith (Alexander White Sr), but her mother, Anna Maria [Flansburg] White, was a Wesleyan Methodist preacher’s kid.  Her faith was strong, and she was a devout saint. I personally know little about her specific spiritual attributes, although Wilber and Jessie’s children all knew her since she lived until 1935. She was a member of the Hadley Wesleyan Methodist Church.  This could have been the reason Jessie’s family attended there in addition to Corinth.  Hadley certainly would have been the church both Wilber and Jessie called their own.

Rev. William Flansburg, Jessie’s grandfather (1809-1897)

Anna’s, father, Rev. William Flansburg (Jessie’s grandfather) became a “born-again” Christian farmer in the mid-1840’s,  when he was in his early 30’s.  He started his first pastorate just a couple of years later in the Free Will Baptist Church in Johnsburg, New York.  In the mid ‘50s, he joined the Wesleyan Methodist church, and thereafter was a pastor in Vermont, and in Hamilton, Warren and Saratoga counties in New York state.  O.D. Putnam, his friend and colleague, wrote a wonderful tribute which will appear in next month’s newsletter.

Charles and Nancy Dayton (1832 – 1882)

Charles and Nancy were the parents of Wilber Sr.  They died when Wilber was only thirteen, and he never talked about his parents, so we know nothing about them.  Charles was a sheep rancher.  All that we know of Charles’ faith was inferred in a comical folklore story that Chip tells.  Click here to hear that story.  That’s all we know about Charles.

Henry Dayton, grandfather of Wilber Sr (1792-1849)

Henry Dayton was the father of Charles.  The primary spiritual declaration and affirmation of Henry’s faith is engraved on his gravestone.  It reads, “Why stand you weeping round my tomb Wilst I with Jesus rest in peace.  When God has called and took me home prepare my friend to follow soon”   Obviously, he was a Christ lover and follower.  He claimed, with confidence, the presumption that he would be taken to heaven.  He challenged all who read his stone to get their own lives “right with God” so that they too could inherit eternal life.  Regarding church denomination, we know that he was a member of the Methodist Episcopal denomination.  Today, the denomination is known as United Methodist.

A close up of text on a white background

Description automatically generated

David Dayton Jr, father of Henry  (1766-1807)

We know very little of David Jr.’s spiritual situation.  He raised several Christian believer children who were all Methodist Episcopal, so it stands to reason that he too was a Methodist Episcopal believer. I base this opinion on the truth of the adage, “Like father, like son”.  The closest church was across the Hudson River on the road from Luzerne to Buttermilk Falls.  We suspect that David may have used his buckboard to ford the river at a shallow point just upriver from the church.

David Dayton Sr, father of David Jr (Between 1737 and 1739 – 1782)

We also know very little of David Sr.’s spiritual testimony.  In writing our book, Our Long Island Ancestors, The first six generations of Daytons in America 1639-1807, Steve and I have reason to believe that when David and Anne moved to Setauket [Brookhaven] from Egg Harbor, NJ, they attended the Setauket Presbyterian church for a short period of time.  However, the pastor, Rev Elam Potter, was an abolitionist;  David owned a slave, so we suspect David was not welcome in that church.

Henry Dayton, father of David Sr (1706-1759)

He was a member of the Setauket Presbyterian Church in Brookhaven, Suffolk County, New York.  I have a family transcript of the members (including Henry) of that church about 1750.  Curiously, his wife, Abigail, is not listed as a member.  For many of the male members, the roll reads “and wife,” so it isn’t clear why she wasn’t listed.

A close up of text on a white background

Description automatically generated

Abraham Dayton, father of Henry (about 1654 – after 1726)

Records were found of Abraham being a Setauket NY Presbyterian financial pledger both for the salary of a pastor, and the building of a new “meeting house” for the new pastor.  These were all within the Town of Brookhaven (Long Island).  Being a big donor (there’s that Dayton generosity again), it stands to reason that he was a regular attender and probably at some point was a lay elder.

A close up of a newspaper

Description automatically generated

Samuel Dayton, father of Abraham (1624 – 1690)

Steve and I believe, without direct confirmation and primary sources, that Samuel was a Puritan.  We know more about Samuel’s life than any other early ancestor, but there is no mention of a religious choice.  He was a Puritan by baptism (in England) rather than through practice.

Ralph Dayton, father of Samuel (about 1588 – 1658)

Ralph was a Puritan.  Steve and I have a record of his assignment of seating at the meeting house in East Hampton, NY.  (Yes, even way back then, people sat in the same pew every Sunday). Prior to coming to America, he worshiped at St Mary’s the Virgin in Ashford, Kent County, England.  He was a dissident Puritan, meaning that he openly opposed the Church of England and the King.  These dissidents experienced much persecution, but it is unclear whether Ralph experienced it.  It may have been the reason he, and most of his family, sailed to the New World.

Hey Doreen, below is the real answer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s