History of the Historic Mentz Church

Nestled 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 on property sold by 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 Town of Montezuma acquired the church and committed to preserving it by appointing a preservation committee to oversee restoration work and make recommendations for the use of the church.

In 2004 the church received the honor of being named to the State and National Register of Historic Places. A preservation committee met monthly to plan events to be used for the enrichment of the community through cultural, social and local church activities. Beginning in early Spring of 2005 restoration began with many hours of work were donated removing wallpaper, painting, restoring the original front doors, cleaning, window replacement, and restoring the electricity. On Sunday, May 15, 2005, almost one-hundred eighty years to the day of its incorporation, the community honored and celebrated it’s re-opening and listing as a historic place.

In an effort to continue the work on the church the Montezuma Historical Society (MHS) was chartered in March 2006. The MHS  leases to hold programs and work continues on preservation efforts.

The best way to plan for a community’s long-term prosperity is to plan for permanence and to recognize that distinctive historic resources are an important asset not to be squandered. Preservation reminds us that the world does not revolve around just us or our generation, but that the contributions of the people who lived here before us and those who will follow are also important. Gratefully, we have this opportunity once again to put into action a plan for its use as a unique historic resource for our community.