In 1832, the Congregational Church of Halfway Brook had been without a pastor for six years—since Rev. Stephen Sergeant had left and gone to the Presbyterian Church. The congregation was meeting in the small school house at Halfway Brook, known as The Village, and the membership had dropped to 50.
The deacons, including James Eldred and Sears Gardner, had taken over the pastor’s responsibilities, and thought the church needed a full time pastor. Sears Gardner, had seen Felix Kyte’s advertisement for a position as minister of a Congregational Church in the New York Observer, and encouraged James Eldred to respond to the ad.
Felix Kyte, a schoolteacher from Lydd, England, was living with his wife and two sons in New York City, where there had been many deaths due to the cholera epidemic. Left with fewer students to teach, Felix was considering leaving.
Felix was also a clerk for the New York Congregational Association, which promoted pure Congregationalism (many churches were becoming Presbyterian, apparently), in New York City and elsewhere. The NYCA had encouraged Felix to advertise in the New York Observer to see if any Congregational Churches wanted a minister.
James Eldred’s first letter invited Felix Kyte to pay them a visit at the Village in Lumberland, at least 90 miles away. Felix wrote back, and asked some questions, which James answered in his second letter: They would pay traveling expenses, and they could afford $5 per Sabbath. Where they met and why the church was down to 50 people, was also explained.
The NYCA agreed that Felix Kyte should go and see if the church at the Village was the right situation for him. Felix Kyte left New York City, in August 1832, and sailed north 64 miles to Newburgh on the Hudson River.
Felix took the stage from Newburgh to Monticello, another 39 miles. Then, another 19 miles in a “private conveyance” (his words), to The Village, by way of Forestburg, to James Eldred home.