John Young, a Revolutionary War Veteran, founded the present community of DeWitt in the early 1800's. He built his log house on a small bluff above Butternut Creek, just east and south of the present inter-section of Erie Blvd. and E. Genesee St. The church was organized in 1811 and the first structure was erected on land donated by Young. Although originally sponsored by the Methodist Church, DeWitt Community Church has, for many years, been a true "community" church with an inter-denominational membership.
The present church across from Shoppingtown Mall on Erie Blvd., was dedicated in the fall of 1955, but many of us recall worshipping in the earlier chapel that once stood just south of the current facility. This structure was built in 1887 and moved to the corner of Landsdowne and Thompson Roads in 1927. By 1955, the old church was so crowded that four worship services were necessary each Sunday morning.
Part of this congregational growth was due to geographic factors--DeWitt was, of course, in the path of Syracuse's eastern growth and development--but most of it was the result of the dynamic ministry of the Rev. Alexander C. Carmichel. At the time of his call to the church in 1937 there were only about 30 members but when the present church was dedicated in 1955 there were nearly 2000 members. A November 12, 1961, article in the Syracuse Post-Standard, prepared on the occasion of the church's 150th anniversary, referred to him as being, "in every sense the beloved shepherd vitally concerned with the well-being of each member of his flock." Although Rev. Carmichel lost his beloved wife, Betty, several years ago he enjoys a fairly active retirement and still resides nearby.
As a youngster growing up in this community during the 1950's, I have many fond memories of Alex. (He always insisted that "Reverend Carmichel" was a bit too much for a kid to pronounce, and as I was only six when I first attended his church, I, like most others, have always known him simply as "Alex.") His sermons were always spell-binding--and I ought to know because as an altar boy I would hear the same one at up to four services each Sunday. He had the wonderful gift of being able to speak to his parishioners in terms that anyone might understand and to bring moral insights to bear on everyday problems. He augmented his classic oratorical skills with a dry sense of humor and combined prose and poetry in such a way that his sermons took on an almost lyrical style. Anyone who has had the privilege of hearing Alex speak will know exactly the qualities I am trying to describe.
DeWitt, like most suburban communities, has a highly transient population and like many former members of the church, I eventually moved from the area. But I think often of the great influence that Alex and this church exerted on me and many others of my generation. And it is the hope that there are yet others who recall those happy times that has prompted the creation of this web site.
My wife, (the former Jean King of Syracuse), and I were married in the Church in 1961, and I will list below some members of the congregation that we can recall from that era. If anyone reading this has information about any of them, we hope you will share it with us.