A preacher’s eye

09/23/2010 12:00 AM |

Two rare sets of 19th-century photographs taken by a Baptist minister from East Marion have been acquired by the Southold Historical Society.

Loren A. Rowley was born in Broadalbin, N.Y., an upstate farming community, and worked as a minister in Earlville, N.Y., before he became the pastor of East Marion Baptist Church in 1896.

As a photographer, he produced a large number of “stereopticon” images, side-by-side twin exposures that appear three-dimensional when viewed through a stereoscope. The viewers were popular in the 19th century.

Historical society director Geoffrey Fleming said that members of the society had purchased the stereoscopic images on eBay from a dealer of Long Island historic items. Not long after, a local donor gave the society a set of regular photographs taken by Pastor Rowley that chronicle life at Camp Wyckoff in Montauk, where soldiers were quarantined after returning from the Spanish-American War.

The historical society has a stereoscope that can be used to view the three-dimensional images.

Mr. Fleming said that Pastor Rowley used a stamp to identify his work. “He was only here for a brief time, from 1896 to 1904, then he moved back upstate. We don’t know what happened to all his photographic materials,” he said. “It was unusual for that period to be both a photographer and a minister.”

The stereo images in the collection include local street scenes in winter, flowers arranged for services at the East Marion church and one of the church being painted.

“This last image is quite extraordinary as it shows the painter at the very top of the steeple, but is shot nearly on level — meaning Rowley must have been on top of the old East Marion school with all his equipment to take the image,” said Mr. Fleming.

The historical society has catalogued all of the images, which can be seen by appointment by calling 765-5500.

The historical society plans to exhibit some of the images next fall, along with a small book on Pastor Rowley’s work and life.

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