HISTORY OF NEW LONDON COUNTY, CONNECTICUT,
WITH BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF MANY OF ITS PIONEERS AND PROMINENT MEN.
COMPILED UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF D. HAMILTON HURD
J. W. LEWIS & CO., PHILADELPHIA, 1882
PRESS OF J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO., PHILADELPHIA
[transcribed by Janece Streig]
First Congregational Church-Second Congregational Church-Broadway Congregational-Park Congregational-Greenwood Congregational-Taftville Congregational-Christ Church-Trinity Church-Methodist Church, Bean hill-East Main Street Methodist Episcopal Church-Central Methodist Episcopal Church-Sachem Street Methodist Episcopal Church-Greenville Methodist Episcopal Church-First Baptist Church-Central Baptist-Greenville Baptist-Mount Calvary Baptist-Universalist Church-St. Patrick's Church-Roman Catholic, Taftville.
The First Congregational Church of Norwich was organized in 1660. Most of its original members, with their pastor, the Rev. Mr. James FITCH, were from Saybrook.
Mr. FITCH was a native of Bocking, in Essex County, England. He was born in 1622, and came to this county in 1638, with thirteen other young men, designed and in a course of preparation for the ministry. He spent seven years under the tuition of the Rev. Messrs. HOOKER and STONE, of Hartford.
It is not improbable that young FITCH had been a pupil of Mr. HOOKER, in Chelmsford, England, which is in the vicinity of Bocking. John ELLIOTT, the distinguished missionary to the Indians, was an usher in the school which Mr. Hooker taught in that place. From him Mr. FITCH may have imbibed the missionary spirit which he afterwards exhibited.
In 1646 he was ordained and installed pastor of the church in Saybrook. The Rev. Messrs. HOOKER and STONE assisted in the ordination services; but so jealous were the people of their rights as an independent church, subject only to Christ the Supreme Head, that the imposition of hands was by a "presbytery" chosen from the church for that purpose.
As early as 1653 or '54 a company was organized in Saybrook for the planting of a colony at Mohegan. Capt. John MASON was one of the leaders of this enterprise. The township was purchased and preparations for the settlement made in 1659. But it was not till the spring of 1660 that Mr. FITCH with the great body of his church and other members of his congregation removed to Norwich, and here, uniting with others from other places, "were incorporated into a Religious Society and Church State."
In 1694, Mr. FITCH was disabled by a stroke of the palsy. The town, however, continued to vote him £30 to £50 a year till 1702, when he retired to Lebanon to spend the evening of his days with his children. He survived but a few months, and died November 18th, aged eight.
Mr. FITCH was twice married. By his first wife, Abigail, daughter of the Rev. Henry WHITFIELD, he had two sons and four daughters. She died at Saybrook. After removing to Norwich he married Priscilla, daughter of Capt. John MASON. By her he had seven sons and one daughter. He was a large landholder. His residence was on the southeastern side of the green.
Mr. FITCH was distinguished for the penetration of his mind, the energy of his preaching, and the sanctity of his life. Cotton MATHER characterized him as "the acute and holy Mr. FITCH." He was one of the leading men of his day. Many of the younger ministers studied theology with him, one of the last of whom was the Rev. Samuel WHITING, the first minister of Windham.
Soon after coming to Norwich he was invited to settle in Hartford. His laconic answer was, "With whom shall I leave these few sheep in the wilderness?" He preached to the Mohegans in their native tongue, and gave them of his own lands to induce them to adopt the habits of civilized life, but with little success. Uncas, their chief, through friendly to the whites as a matter of policy, was an enemy to their religion, and opposed its introduction among his people.
A sermon preached by Mr. FITCH on the death of his wife's mother, Mrs. Anne MASON, and published in 1672, is still preserved. He published an election sermon in 1674, and letters concerning his labors among the Indians. In 1675, "the bloodiest year of Philip's war," he drew up a covenant, which was solemnly renewed by the church.
In 1683 he published a treatise concerning the judgments of God upon New England, and another upon the Sabbath.
On the retirement of Mr. FITCH, his son, Jabez FITCH, then a member of college, was invited to supply the pulpit. After preaching a year he was called, in January, 1695, to settle, but declined the call. He was afterwards settled in Portsmouth, N. H. In December, 1696, Mr. Henry FLINT was invited to preach six months, with an allowance of "twenty shillings a week, with his board and horse meat." The next April he was invited to settle as a permanent pastor,--salary, £52 while he remains unmarried; when married, £50 in money, £20 in work or grain, and sixty loads of wood, to be increased after the death of Mr. FITCH, besides one hundred and fifty acres of land on Plain Hills. This call was declined.
Three years later he was chosen Fellow of Cambridge College, his Alma Mater, and was soon after appointed tutor. This office he retained for nearly fifty years. He never married, and to this fact Dr. Allen ascribes "the few foibles which he exhibited."
In 1698, Joseph COIT supplied the pulpit for a time, but declined to settle on the ground of disagreement with the church on the matters of church polity. At length, in October, 1699, Mr. John WOODWARD, of Dedham, Mass., accepted a call, and was ordained in December following. During his ministry of sixteen years the church was constantly agitated by controversies and dissensions respecting "the order and exercise of church discipline." The pastor, who was one of the scribes of the convention which framed the Saybrook Platform, urged the adoption of that platform as the basis of church government. The church insisted on their independence, in accordance with the Cambridge Platform.
Sept. 13, 1716, Mr. WOODWARD was dismissed, and retired to a farm which he owned in East Haven, where "he lived in private life and good state till he died," in 1746.
The third pastor was the Rev. Benjamin LORD. He was a native of Saybrook, born in 1693, graduated at Yale College in 1714, appointed tutor in 1715, ordained Nov. 20, 1717, elected member of the corporation in 1740, and received the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1774. At the time of his ordination the church, by a formal vote, renounced the Saybrook Platform, and adopted "that form of church government called CONGREGATIONAL, as formerly practiced by the generality of the churches in New England, and according to the agreement of the Synod at Cambridge in 1648." The church has ever since maintained its independence, and adhered to the Congregational form of church government.
The pastorate of Dr. LORD extended over a period of sixty-seven years. In the year 1745 some irregularities, which he greatly deplored, in connection with religious excitement of the times, resulted in a secession from the church, and the establishment of a separate place of worship. Dr. LORD was an earnest friend of revivals of religion, and had the satisfaction of witnessing several in connection with his own labors. He lived to see eight religious societies grow out of the one of which he had charge. He published several occasional discourses, and died in April, 1784, aged ninety-one.
Dr. LORD was three times married. His first wife, Ann, was the daughter of the Rev. Edward TAYLOR, of Westfield, Mass., not by his first wife, Elizabeth FITCH, but by his second, Ruth WILLIS, of Hartford, His second wife was the widow of Henry TISDALE, of Newport, R. I., His third was Abigail HOOKER, of Hartford. His children, five in number, were all by his first wife. Two sons, Joseph and Ebenezer, were graduated at Yale College in 1753.
The fourth pastor was the Rev. Joseph STRONG. He was a son of the Rev. Nathan STRONG, of Coventry. Born in 1754, graduated at Yale College in 1772, received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Princeton College in 1807, and in 1808 was elected Fellow of Yale College. He died Dec. 18, 1834, aged eighty. During his ministry two seceding congregations became extinct, and a considerable portion of their members returned to the church.
Dr. STRONG is described by one whose youth was passed under his ministry as "in person of more than middle size and stature, with a calm dignity in his movements, appearance, and address, blended with gentleness and courtesy of manner. In the pulpit he was grave and reverent; in prayer, impressive and solemn. His sermons were short, explanatory, natural in arrangement, and abounding in quotations from Scripture. His ministrations, in general, were distinguished rather for the mild and soothing than the fervent and awakening. In all the social and domestic relations of life he was most exemplary. His conversation was genial, enriched and illustrated from the results of his long experience. His old age was beautiful, like a soft twilight after a serene day."
The fifth pastor was the Rev. Cornelius B. EVEREST, a native of Cornwall, born in 1789, graduated at Williams College in 1811, ordained pastor of the church in Windham in 1815, installed college pastor with Dr. STRONG in 1829, and dismissed in 1836; settled in Bloomfield, dismissed, preached in Pequonnock. Since 1858 has resided with his children in Philadelphia, is a member of a Congregational Church in that city, and retains his connection with the Congregational ministry.
The sixth pastor, Rev. H. P. ARMS, D.D., was born in Windsor in the year 1799, graduated at Yale College in 1824, ordained pastor of the church in Hebron in 1830, dismissed and settled at Wolcottville in 1832, and installed at Norwich in 1836; received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from the University of the City of New York in 1864; was elected Fellow of Yale College in 1866.
On the settlement of Rev. W. C. SCOFIELD, Feb. 20, 1873, Dr. ARMS became pastor emeritus. Rev. Charles T. WEITZEL, the present pastor, was ordained and installed April 18, 1876.
The following is a list of deacons from organization of the church to the present time: Thomas ADGATE, Hugh CALKINS, Simon HUNTINGTON, Christopher HUNTINGTON, Simon HUNTINGTON, Christopher HUNTINGTON, Thomas ADGATE, Thomas LEFFINGWELL, Ebenezer HUNTINGTON, Hezekiah HUNTINGTON, Simon TRACY, Simon HUNTINGTON, Joshua LATHROP, John BACKUS, Caleb HUNTINGTON, William CLEVELAND, Charles LATHROP, Samuel CASE, James STEDMAN, Edward A. HUNTINGTON, Lewis A. HYDE, DeWitt C. LATHROP, Elisha H. MANSFIELD, Samuel CASE, Lewis A. HYDE, Daniel F. GULLIVER, John H. PECK.
The Second Congregational Church.-It was one hundred years subsequent to the settlement of the town before a church was organized in what was called "Norwich Landing," now the city of Norwich. As this part of the town gradually increased in population, in consequence of facilities for commercial pursuits, the few resident members of churches became organized into a Congregational Church, and immediately provided for the support of the ministry.
The ecclesiastical society was organized Nov. 28, 1751, and the church July 24, 1760, with Rev. Nathaniel WHITAKER, Nathaniel BACKUS, John PORTER, Isaiah TIFFANY, Nathaniel SHIPMAN and Seth ALDEN among the members.
The first pastor was Rev. Nathaniel WHITAKER, who remained until 1769. He was succeeded in 1771 by Ephraim JUDSON, who was dismissed in December, 1778. Rev. Walter KING became pastor in 1778.
The first of the seven pastors who to any considerable extent have served this church within a century was Rev. Walter KING. Rev. Mr. JUDSON left his work here very soon after the Declaration of Independence. It is true he returned within a year and continued for some time nominally pastor, but was too much of an invalid to render any great service. For a full decade after his dismission the church was pastorless. It was a period of intense political excitement. War, with all its direful accompaniments, distracted the minds of the people. In reference to spiritual things, mournful apathy was generally prevalent. This church the while had various temporary supplied, but to Judge NILES, as he was always called, far more than to any other preacher, she owed the preservation of her life through all those years of peril. He was a scholar, but a man of affairs; a licensed preacher, but never ordained. He was largely devoted to secular work, yet Sabbath after Sabbath he preached abler and more carefully considered discourses than hundreds who devote all the week to preparation for the pulpit. The judge then resided in Norwich. "Afterwards," says Rev. Mr. PALMER, "he removed to Vermont, and it is a singular fact that, preaching there a score of years in his own house or barn, according to the season, far more than any other minister, he moulded the religious character of my mother's girlhood, and therefore, through her influence, the character of your present pastor. In ways we little think the past reappears in the present."
Though in the dark days of Revolution Judge NILES preserved this church alive, yet when Mr. KING came in 1787 he must have found himself obliged to "lay the foundations," almost as though they had never been laid before. Mr. KING's work opened most auspiciously. The first year of his ministry forty were added to the church, the first additions for more than a decade. In the end his light went out in a tempest of needless dissension, 1 yet as a whole his work was fruitful. During his twenty-four years of service more than one hundred and seventy-five new members were enrolled. When the old church edifice on Main Street was burned, the place of worship was transferred to this now "holy hill of Zion" which is very desirable site for a sanctuary. [ 1 This unhappy dissension sprang up suddenly in 1810, and was concerning the scriptural lawfulness of a man's marrying his deceased wife's sister. It resulted in a Council, which, without criminating Mr. KING in the least, advised the dissolution of the pastoral relation.]
Next followed the brief but precious pastorate of Rev. Asahel HOOKER. The gift of Mr. HOOKER to this church was a signal providence. He was exactly the man to enter upon a ministry while yet there were wounds of strife unhealed. His short fifteen months of service not only proved him pre-eminently the "judicious HOOKER" that he has often been called, they also prepared the way for that illustrious life-work of Rev. Alfred MITCHELL which followed.
Seventeen years that man of God went in and out before this people. He came here in all the freshness and vigor of early manhood. While yet in the high noon of life's day he was translated to his reward, yet suddenly though his work was cut off, strangely though he was taken from his labors, he achieved much more than many who live on to the ripeness of old age. To meet the demand for more room which his ministry had created the house of worship was greatly enlarged, and this enlargement was brought about in no slight degree by his own pecuniary contributions.1 The membership of the church was no less signally increased. In a single year of his pastorate eighty-nine were added to the roll by profession of faith; sixty the year following,--forty-four at one communion service. [1 Mr. MITCHELL contributed one-fourth of his salary that year to help forward this work.]
The Rev. J. J. DICKINSON was pastor for less than thirty brief months, yet he was a priceless gift of God. In that short pastorate one hundred and seventy-one professed faith in Christ. At its close the resident membership numbered about three hundred and twenty-five. There were three hundred and sixty names on the roll, and only about one hundred and thirty families, including some six hundred persons in all belonging to the parish. More than fifty per cent, of the entire number were profession Christians. Such was the state of things when Alvan BOND, D.D., entered upon his thirty years' ministry in this city. There was very little room for enlargement. It was for him simply to "keep the measure full." This however, Dr. BOND, then in the midst of life, soon found a very unsatisfactory work. Numbers were added to the roll from year to year, but they came mainly by letter. After seven years of such toil the Broadway colony went out, and thus the way was opened for free expansion. The pastor girded himself anew for his great life-work. He summoned his people to most earnest endeavor. The gloom which forty vacant pews spread over the assembly was quickly dispelled. The people caught their pastor's enthusiasm, and "had a mind to work." At the very next sale of pews every slip was taken. For twenty-eight years Dr. BOND supplied the pulpit an average of fifty Sabbaths a year. Only a single instance in all that time was he absent from a communion service.
The full list of pastors from the organization of the church, July 24, 1760, to the present time is as follows: Rev. Nathaniel WHITAKER, installed Feb. 24, 1761; dismissed March 24, 1769. Rev. Ephraim JUDSON, ordained Oct. 3, 1771; dismissed Dec. 15, 1778. Rev. Walter KING, ordained May 24, 1787; dismissed July 5, 1811. Rev. Asahel HOOKER, installed Jan. 14, 1812; died April 16, 1813. Rev. Alfred MITCHEL, ordained October, 1814; died Dec. 19, 1831. Rev. James Taylor DICKINSON, ordained April 4, 1832; dismissed Aug. 20, 1834. Rev. Alvan BOND, D.D., installed May 6, 1835; dismissed Dec. 28, 1864. Rev. Malcom M. G. DANA, installed Dec. 28, 1864; dismissed April 10, 1874. Rev. William S. PALMER, installed Sept. 28, 1874, present pastor.
The first church edifice was completed and occupied in 1766. It was located on Main Street, and was forty-one by thirty-seven feet, and had thirty-six pews. For a while the bell was suspended on the limb of a tree, as a steeple was too expensive a luxury. This house was destroyed by fire in 1783, and Dec. 23, 1795, a second church edifice was dedicated. This was injured by fire in 1844, when it was decided to take it down and rebuild on the same site. The present substantial stone edifice was dedicated Jan. 1, 1846. It is located on Church Street.
Broadway Congregational Church.-As early as the year 1834 the house of the Second Congregational Society (the only one of this denomination in this part of the town) was filled to overflowing. Investigations were made which revealed the fact that a very large number of the inhabitants of the city were entirely deprived of an opportunity to attend upon public worship. The importance of providing enlarged church accommodations in some form was urged by the pastor and others, and was generally admitted. Numerous meetings for consultation were held, which resulted, in January, 1838, in the call of a society meeting, at which a committee was appointed to ascertain what families were disposed to associate in forming a new church, and what funds could be raised for the erection of a new house of worship. Efforts were also made to secure a site for the new church, with the expectation that the building would be erected by the entire society before a separation should take place.
These consultations and efforts, extending through a series of years, finally resulted, in January, 1842, in the withdrawal of a portion of the congregation to the town hall, where they established public worship.
On the 1st of June, 1842, the church was organized under the title of the Fifty Congregational Church, with one hundred and twelve members.
On the 31st of August following Rev. Willard CHILD was installed as pastor.
In 1844 a house of worship was commenced, and was dedicated on the 1st of October, 1845. It stood on Main Street, upon the site now occupied by the Central Methodist church.
Mr. CHILD asked and received dismission in August, 1845.
Rev. John P. GULLIVER was ordained and installed Oct. 1, 1846.
By a vote passed April 9, 1847, the name of the church was changed to Main Street Congregational Church.
On Sunday evening, Sept. 17, 1854, the house of worship on Main Street was destroyed by fire.
During nearly two years following the congregation worshiped in the town hall.
On the 13th of October, 1857, the present church edifice on Broadway was dedicated.
By a vote passed subsequently the name of the church was again changed to Broadway Congregational Church.
In May, 1864, a member of the church gave one thousand dollars as a fund for the foundation and maintenance of a library for the use of the pastor. By vote of the church the fund is known as "The Buckingham Fund." The library now numbers one hundred and seventy-three volumes.
Rev. Mr. GULLIVER resigned his office as pastor Oct. 7, 1865, and was dismissed by the action of a Council convened October 24th of the same year.
In the summer of 1866 a chapel, costing with the lot five thousand five hundred dollars, was erected on Boswell Avenue, and given to the society by a member of the church for religious purposes. It was furnished by the ladies, was dedicate din December, 1866, and has since been occupied by the Avenue Chapel Sunday-school.
The church remained without a pastor until June, 1868, when Rev. Daniel MERRIMAN, then a student at Andover Seminary, was called. He was ordained and installed as pastor Sept. 30, 1868.
He was dismissed June 30, 1875. The present pastor, Rev. L. T. CHAMBERLAIN, was installed Oct. 5, 1877.
Deacons.-Horace COLTON, June 14, 1842, to Aug. 12, 1845; Lewis EDWARD, June 14, 1842, to Aug. 12, 1845; William A. BUCKINGHAM, June 14, 1842; Charles CLARK, June 14, 1842, to Aug. 12, 1845; Othniel GAGER, Aug. 12, 1845, to Jan. 25, 1858; Charles LEE, Aug. 26, 1845, to May 8, 1846; Chester R. PARKHURST, Aug. 26, 1845, to --, 1845; Jedediah LEAVENS, June 12, 1846, to April 30, 1855; Lewis EDWARDS, Jan. 6, 1852; Jedediah LEAVENS, Jan. 27, 1863, to July 9, 1867; William HUTCHISON, Jan. 28, 1868; Sherman B. BISHOP, Jan. 28, 1868; Gurdon A. JONES, Jr., Jan. 25, 1869; Frank J. LEAVENS, Jan. 25, 1869.
Clerks.-Charles CLARK, June 6, 1842, to Aug. 12, 1845; Amos W. PRENTICE, Aug. 12, 1845, to Jan. 29, 1866; George W. WHITTLESEY, Jan. 29, 1866, to Jan. 26, 1869; Francis A. DORRANCE, Jan. 25, 1869, to June 23, 1870; Charles A. BURNHAM, Sept. 8, 1870, present incumbent.
Third (Greeneville) Congregational Church.-The village of Greeneville (which became a part of the city of Norwich in 1874) owes its existence to the power which the river here affords for manufacturing purposes. This remained unemployed till 1829, when "The Norwich Water-Power Company," which was incorporated the year before, purchased a tract of land on both sides of the river and commenced operations. IN 1831 the foundation of the first manufactory was laid. IN the following year others were laid, and dwellings rose in rapid succession, and were rapidly occupied.
William P. GREENE, Esq., originator and president of the company, and William C. GILMAN, Esq., the secretary, were its permanent and efficient directors. From the beginning they manifested a deep interest in the moral and religious welfare of the community which was to be gathered on their premises. A prayer-meeting was established in the spring of 1829, which was sustained by Deacon Horace COLTON and other brethren of the Second Congregational Church. IN the summer of 1832 fifteen children and youth became the nucleus of a Sabbath-school, and meetings were established for the worship of God on the Sabbath. ON the 1st day of January, 1822, an Ecclesiastical Council was convened in an "upper room," and a Congregational Church was organized, consisting of twenty members.
The meeting-house was commenced in the autumn of the following year, and dedicate din April, 1835. In 1867 it was enlarged and improved to meet the wants of the growing congregation.
The Rev. Dennis PLATT was chosen pastor in 1833, and entered upon the duties of the office, but by mutual consent the arrangement for his settlement was never consummated.
The Rev. John STORRS was its first pastor, installed March, 1834, and remained till April 17, 1835, when an Ecclesiastical Council dissolved the connection. The pulpit was supplied for about two years by Rev. Spencer F. BEARD and others.
In the spring of 1837, Rev. Stephen CROSBY became pastor-elect, and moved his family into the parish. It was a year of great pecuniary embarrassment, which delayed the settlement of Mr. CROSBY, who continued to labor, and successfully, till disease laid him aside, and death ensued June 5, 1838.
Rev. A. L. WHITMAN was the next to sustain the pastoral relation, and retained the position from Dec. 4, 1838, to March 25, 1846.
His successor was Rev. C. P. BUSH, who was installed Dec. 8, 1846, and continued till January, 1856, when his resignation was accepted.
Rev. Robert P. STANTON, after preaching two Sabbaths in February, was proffered the pastorate, which was accepted. The installation took place June 11, 1875.
The present pastor, Rev. Andrew J. SULLIVAN, was installed Feb. 11, 1880.
Present membership, two hundred and ninety-five.
Park Congregational Church. 1 -The manifest northward tendency of the growth of the city of Norwich occasioned the movement which resulted in 1874 in the beautiful edifice of Park Church. The enterprise originated in the Second Church, and the first plan was that this church, as a body, should remove from the Landing to the new building, and that a new church should be organized for the West Side. But after the building had been completed and tendered to the church for its acceptance, it appeared that a majority of the Second Church were unwilling to leave the old home. Consequently it was only a colony of the Second Church, consisting of a large number of its most useful and influential members, headed by its pastor, Mr. DANA, and strengthened by accessions from other churches, which removed to the new house. Mr. DANA remained as pastor of Park Church until 1878, when he removed to St. Paul, Minn., and was succeeded by Rev. Leonard Woolsey BACON, D.D. [ 1 Contributed by Rev. Leonard Woolsey BACON, D.D.]
The edifice of the Park Church is notable for the beauty of its architecture and of its position. The chime of ten bells and the clock were the gift of Mrs. Gen. WILLIAMS; in Ludwigsburg, Germany, was presented by James L HUBBARD, Esq.; and the three largest memorial windows were given by Mr. John F. SLATER, Mrs. WILLIAMS, and the family of the late David SMITH.
Congregational Church, Taftville.-This church was organized Dec. 3, 1867, with the following members: Samuel PRENTICE, Mrs. Sophia B. PRENTICE, Andrew T. PRENTICE, Mrs. Mary WELLER, Mrs. Betsey RENOUD, Miss Lucy. A. GREENMAN, John RENOUD, Jedediah WATERS, Mrs. Aurelia WATERS, Mrs. Caroline FENTON, Miss Annis WATERS. First pastor, Rev. Hiram A. TRACY, also Rev. W. A. BENEDICT, Rev. John T. REA, Rev. Charles L. AYRE, Rev. George DODSON, Rev. T. M. MAY, and Rev. A. C. HURD, the present pastor. Samuel PRENTICE, deacon. Present number of members, 27 male, 43 female; total, 70.
The first meeting held at Taftville, July 8, 1866, by Rev. John EDGAR.
Sabbath-school organized first Sunday in November 1866, assisted by Deacon Edward HUNTINGTON, of Norwich Town.
Ecclesiastical society was organized June 5, 1867. Meetings held during this time in Boadine House, adjoining the old Fame House. Preaching for two or three years in connection with church at Eagleville.
Congregation at this time about 200. Sunday-school average about 150.
Christ Church.-There is a tradition that an Episcopal Church existed in this town at a very early period, and that its house of worship stood upon the green in Norwich Town. It was a small building, erected by a pious lady from Salem, Mass., principally for herself and family, and was occasionally supplied by the Rev. Mr. CLEVELAND, of that town. The earliest record of a church in this town bears date Jan. 7, 1746-47, to decide matters relative to the erection of an edifice "for the service of Almighty God, according to the Liturgie of the Church of England, as by law established."
The officers appointed at this meeting were Rev. Mr. PUNDERSON, moderator; Capt. Benajah BUSHNELL, treasurer; Capt. Isaac CLARKE, Mr. Thomas GRIST, Mr. Elisha HIDE, building committee.
A piece of ground for the site of a church edifice was given by Capt. Benajah BUSHNELL, "at the north-east end of Waweequaw's Hill, near the old Landing Place," and on the 7th of January, 1746-47, a meeting was held at the town-house.
The funds for building were raised by subscription, eighty-seven names being enrolled on the subscription-list, and the sum obtained £678. The greatest amount by one individual was £50 by Andrew GALLOWAY. The three gentlemen who formed the building committee subscribed £40 each. Mr. PUNDERSON afterwards collected in Rhode Island £138, and Capt. BUSHNELL, in Boston, £178. All this was probably old tenor money, or bills of credit of reduced value.
The land and the church, when erected, were conveyed by deed to the committee, in trust,--
"for the use of the 'Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts,' and their successors for evermore, to be appropriated for an Episcopal church and churchyard, for the benefit of an Episcopal minister and members of said church, and for no other use, intent, or purpose whatsoever."
This edifice stood upon the site now occupied by Christ church. According to tradition, it was a substantial structure, but plain and unadorned, with neither porch nor spire, and a single granite block at the door for a threshold stone. It was completed in 1749. The number of pew-holders were twenty-eight; they built their own pews, and held them as their proper estate. The first church officers were Capt. Benajah BUSHNELL, Capt. Joseph TRACY, wardens; Capt. Isaac CLARKE, Capt. Thomas GRIST, Capt. Daniel HALL, vestrymen; Elisha HIDE, clerk of the church; Phineas HOLDEN, society clerk.
Rev. Ebenezer PUNDERSON had the prime agency in forming this church, and was its first officiating clergyman; but in 1751 he was transferred by the society in England to New Haven.
Soon after the settlement of Mr. TYLER the Revolution broke out. Episcopacy was English, therefore no tolerance nor patience was had with it; and so the church-gates were closed for two years. Yet was the liturgy still heard, whispered low in private dwellings here and there, and at the fireside of the loyal and earnest pastor, with doors barricaded, to keep in peace and keep out persecution. Then was it uttered publicly again, but it was mute where king and Parliament were prayed for. The church had to live down a rampant prejudice (strange enough, too, when WASHINGTON and many of the leaders of the time belonged to it), and that long rectorship of fifty-four years was consumed before these days of misapprehension were ended.
When the church was again opened the prayers for the king and Parliament were omitted, but the congregation had dwindled to an audience of about twenty persons. Under the popular ministry of Mr. TYLER, however, the society gradually increased in numbers and influence. In 1780 the church was repaired and a porch, bell, and steeple added. But the location was considered inconvenient, and in 1789 the society decided on removing to a more central position. A lot was proffered by Phineas HOLDEN, near the east end of Main Street, "opposite the house of Capt. Stephen COLVER," and accepted by the parish.
To this spot the old edifice, which had stood about forty years, was removed, and there enlarged and remodeled. The former owners of the pews relinquished their rights, the seats were sold, and the money applied to parochial uses. The new purchasers were thirty in number.
The committee for removing and reconstructing the church were Maj. Ebenezer WHITING, Barzillai DAVISON, Benadam DENISON, and James CHRISTIE.
It was dedicated May 19, 1791, by the Rev. Dr. SEABURY, Bishop of Connecticut, to the worship of God, "according to the liturgy of the Church of England accommodated to the civil constitution of these American States." Ebenezer WHITING, Ebenezer HUNTINGTON, wardens; Jabez HUNTINGTON, society clerk.
The designation of "Christ's Church in Chelsea" first appears on record in 1785.
Mr. TYLER died Jan. 20, 1823, in the eighty-first year of his age, after a pastorate of fifty-four years. He was an interesting preacher, his voice sweet and solemn, and his eloquence persuasive. The benevolence of his heart was manifested in daily acts of courtesy and charity to those around him. He studied medicine in order to benefit the poor, and to find out remedies for some of those peculiar diseases to which no common specifics seemed to apply. His pills, ointments, extracts, and syrups obtained a great local celebrity. During the latter years of his life he was so inform as to need assistance in the performance of his functions.
Rev. Peter J. CLARK served as his assistant for two or three years, and was succeeded by the Rev. Seth B. PADDOCK, who on the death of the venerable incumbent became rector of the church. The age and long infirmity of Dr. TYLER had operated against the growth and efficiency of the parish, and when Mr. PADDOCK's pastorate commenced the congregation was small and the sacred edifice itself in a decaying state. During his rectorship a new church was built.
Mr. PADDOCK resigned the pastorate in 1844, and took charge of an academy in Cheshire, Conn., at a place he died in 1851. He was a man of great integrity and piety, amiable in all the relations of life.
Records of Christ Church since Mr. PADDOCK:
Rev. William F. MORGAN, in office twelve years and a half, from September, 1844, to March, 1857. He then accepted a call to St. Thomas' Church, New York.
The parish at that time reported 206 families, 210 communicants.
Rev. J. Treadwell WALDEN, in office six years. He resigned in March, 1863, in order to take charge of St. Clement's Church, Philadelphia.
Two churches, both costly and imposing edifices, were erected by this society within the compass of twenty years, from 1828 to 1848. The first was during the rectorship of Mr. PADDOCK. It stands on a lot extending from Main to Church Street, a few rods west of the former church. The whole cost, including organ and furniture, was about thirteen thousand dollars. It was consecrated by the diocesan bishop Rev. Thomas C. BROWNELL, July 29, 1829. This has since changed it designation, and is now Trinity Church.
In 1846, during the rectorship of Mr. MORGAN, the society decided to resume for church service the old BUSHNELL site on Washington Street, from which the church was removed sixty years previous, and which had since been used as a cemetery. On this spot, over the ashes of the dead, the present church edifice, of an antique style of architecture, was erected at a cost of nearly fifty thousand dollars.
The corner-stone was laid by Bishop LEE, of Delaware, Aug, 31, 1846, and the church consecrated in 1848.
When the society removed to this new edifice they carried their designation, Christ Church, with them, and the house they left was for a short time closed. It was soon, however, reopened as a chapel, or dependent upon Christ Church, but this arrangement was of short duration. In 1850 a new and independent parish was organized, the edifice purchased, and a second Episcopal Church inaugurated, with the title of Trinity Church.1 [ See history of Trinity Church.]
The rectors since Rev. Mr. WALDEN have been Rev. David F. BANKS, the Rev. John BINNEY, now professor in the Berkeley Divinity School, Middletown, and the Rev. Samuel H. GIESY, D.D., form June 1, 1874, to present time. During the seven years of his pastorship Dr. GIESY has baptized 204 persons, officiated at 45 marriages and 141 funerals, and presented 118 candidates for confirmation. The contributions of the parish, during the same period, have aggregated
$67,272. Trinity Church. 2 -The organization of Trinity Church parish took place A.D. 1850. The reasons therefor are given in the following "copy of the original association":
"Whereas, by the blessing of Almighty God the Episcopal Church in this city has been so far prospered that His people have been enabled to build two commodious and substantial churches, and now, and for months past, more sittings have been called for than could be furnished in the new and larger edifice on Washington Street. And, inasmuch as the time seems to have come when the interests of the Church would be still more prospered by the organization of a new and independent parish to occupy the old church edifice;
"And whereas, the parish of Christ Church have agreed to sell the said old church, organ, and all the other fixtures, etc., appertaining thereto for the sum of five thousand dollars;
"Therefore, we, the undersigned, agree to associate and organize ourselves into a new Episcopal parish by the name of Trinity Church.
"F. W. BUSHNELL, F. B. LEE, Charles C. HILLARD, Alby C. THOMPSON, Albert A. BAILEY, Denison P. COON, William G. BROWNING, D. B. CHAPMAN, Samuel TYLER, Edwin GAVITT, Charles GALE, I. L. SPARKS, Z. R. ROBBINS, William H. HYDE, Wheaton COTTRELL, William LEWIS, A. L. BENTLEY, Edward KING, Alvin G. RAWSON, Joel W. WHITE, William W. KINNE, George E. COOLEY, E. P. COTTRELL, P. St. M. ANDREWS, E. C. BEACH, Whitman POTTER, Charles BALL, John W. HAUGHTON, John H. CALLAHAN, Avery SMITH, Samuel STORY, R. W. ROATH, D. M. PRENTICE, O. W. FREEMAN, E. D. ROATH, James L. GEER, George AVERY, Christopher CULVER, Thomas ROBINSON.
"Norwich City, Jan. 7, 1850."
[ 2 By Rev. Edward H. JEWETT, S.T.D.]
The Rev. Edward O. FLAGG was called as the first rector April 10, 1850. Since his removal to Baltimore in June, 1853, the following gentlemen have occupied the position of rector: The Rev. Benjamin H. PADDOCK, now Bishop of Massachusetts, from June, 1853, to January, 1860; the Rev. Giles A. EASTON, from June, 1860, to June, 1862; the Rev. John V. LEWIS, from August, 1862, to August, 1865; the Rev. Andrew MACKIE, from October, 1865, to July, 1868; the Rev. William W. SILVESTER, from October, 1868, to May, 1874; the Rev. Storrs O. SEYMOUR, from November, 1874, to April, 1879. The present rector, the Rev. Edward H. JEWETT, S.T.D., assumed the position in May, 1879.
The church owns a substantial stone edifice, erected in 1828, a valuable rectory on Washington Street, and a recently-erected mission chapel, with adjoining lot, on Mount Pleasant Street. The contributions for the past year, as reported in the convention journal, were $5910.10. The following-names gentlemen form the vestry at the present time: Edmund D. ROATH, Harry L. PARKER, wardens; Albert A. BAILEY, William H. CARDWELL, N. Douglas SEVIN, Frederick R. WASLEY, S. Alpheus GILBERT, John H. KEEP, Hugh KING, John F. SEVIN, vestrymen; Charles B. CHAPMAN, clerk and treasurer.
Grace Church Parish (Episcopal), Yantic, was organized November, 1853, through the instrumentality of Mr. and Mrs. Erastus WILLIAMS, when John W. BULKLEY and E. Winslow WILLIAMS were elected wardens.
Its first rector was the Rev. Z. H. MANSFIELD, who continued his connection with the parish until his death in 1857. He was succeeded by Rev. A. L. BREWER, who in 1860 resigned, to be followed by Rev. G. M. BARTLETT and G. H. WARD.
In 1864, Rev. E. L. WHITCOME accepted the rectorship, which position he filled for five years. The Rev. Wm. WALKER< of St Johns, New Brunswick, succeeded, to be followed in 1872 by Rev. G. W. HOFFMAN, who resigned in 1880.
The present organization is: Rector, Rev. C. W. KELLEY; Wardens, E. Winslow WILLIAMS, Chester PARKHURST; Vestrymen, James SMITH, Wm. DOBSON, John BESWICK, Marvin HANNA, Arthur GLEASON, Chas. CONGDON, Chas. H. CARPENTER, Amos HOBBS, Samuel HARRISON, Samuel B. BLAKE, Thomas DERRICK, David SMITH, Paul SMITH; Treasurer, Samuel HARRISON; Clerk, Charles LONGDON.
According to parish register, there have been christened 234; confirmed, 126; married, 136; buried, 118.
Methodist Episcopal Church, Bean Hill.-A class was formed at Bean Hill as early as 1796, which never lost its organization. The first meetings were held in the "Old Academy" at the foot of the hill. In this extemporized chapel many of the early noted itinerants preached in their rounds. Here LEE, ASBURY, and other messengers of the church proclaimed their message. Here MAFFIT delivered one of the first of his flourishing effusions on this side of the water. When the eccentric Lorenzo DOW was to preach the bounds were too narrow, and the audience assembled in the open air, upon the hill, under the great elm. Among the prominent early members were Solomon WILLIAMS and Capt. James HYDE. The society was first known as "Norwich," subsequently "Norwich North," but latterly is designated as "Bean Hill." The first church edifice was erected in 1830, and the society became a separate charge in 1834. The first pastor was Rev. Daniel DORCHESTER. Among those who have filled the pulpit since are mentioned the names of A. U. SWINERTON, W. LIVESEY, R. W. ALLEN, E. BENTON, B. OTHEMAN, L. DAGGETT, Jr., A. PALMER, L. W. BLOOD, G. M. CARPENTER, P. T. KENNEY, N. G. LIPPITT, and G. W. BREWSTER, the present pastor.
East Main Street M. E. Church.-In 1833 the Methodists residing at Chelsea Landing, near Norwich City, petitioned the Conference for permission to supply themselves with local preaching. The petition was granted, and Rev. D. N. BENTLEY was appointed preacher in charge. Measures were soon after taken for the erection of a church edifice, which was commenced in 1834, and June 17, 1835, was dedicated. This church has been known as "Norwich South," the "Landing," and "East Main Street." It has been known by its present appellation since 1855. Among the pastors of this church have been Rev. D. N. BENTLEY, G. MAY, W. LIVESEY, A. U. SWINERTON, R. RANSOM, G. F. POOL, S. BENT, D. DORCHESTER, F. GAVITT, J. HOWSON, J. LOVEJOY, G. M. CARPENTER, J. D. BUTLER, M. CHASE, G. W. BREWSTER, J. B. GOULD, F. UPHAM, E. B. BRADFORD, E. F. CLARK, H. W. CONANT, E. J. HAYNES, J. D. WEEKS, F. H. NEWHALL, A. P. PALMER, A. ANDERSON, S. O. BENTON, William C. KELLOGG, George N. KELLOGG, George A. MORSE, and E. M. TAYLOR.
The Central M. E. Church.-This church was organized in 1854, and held its first meetings in a large hall upon Central Wharf. Its early ministrations were conducted chiefly by Rev. L. D. BENTLEY, a son of Rev. D. N. BENTLEY. The church edifice stands upon the site once occupied by an Episcopal, and subsequently by a Congregational church. It was founded as a free church, and continued as such until a few years since. Among the pastors who have officiated in this church are mentioned the names of C. R. WILKINS, L. D. BENTLEY, F. GAVITT, R. PARSONS, C. BANNING, N. G. LIPPITT, Mr. CARTER, M. P. ALDERSMAN, Ensign MCCHESNEY, W. T. WORTH, W. V. MORRISON, Mellen HOWARD, Hugh MONTGOMERY, E. F. JONES, and Ezra TINKER, the present incumbent.
Sachem Street M. E. Church. 1 -Methodism at Norwich Falls dates back as far as 1813. At that time the Methodist societies of the county were united in "New London Circuit," the Revs. J. STEEL and W. MARSH, preachers in charge. The only church in Norwich was that on "Bean Hill." The services at "the Landing" were held in a room in the upper story of a building on the north side of wharf bridge, where the market now stands. There was then a "class" regularly organized at "the Falls," with Mr. Jeremiah LADD as its leader. [ 1 Contributed by Rev. Joseph H. JAMES.]
When the church at "the Landing," between the bridges on West Main Street, was swept away by the flood, Feb. 23, 1824, Mr. D. N. BENTLEY, the patriarch of Methodism, now (July, 1881) in his ninety-seventh year, moved in the matter of building a house of worship at "the Falls." This building stood on Sherman Street, near the bridge over the New London Northern Railroad. Its site is now occupied by a carriage manufactory.
The church was dedicated June 19, 1825, Rev. J. A. MERRILL, then presiding elder, officiating. Until 1831 the church was, with the others of the region, on a circuit. At that time the town of Norwich was made a pastoral charge. In 1836, after a remarkable ingathering of members under the labors of the Rev. W. LIVESEY, "Norwich Falls" was placed under the care of the Rev. A. C. WHEAT, who remained till 1838, when the Rev. D. N. BENTLEY "supplied."
In the year 1854 it was deemed advisable for the church to have a more eligible place of worship. That occupied by the Congregationalists, located on Sachem Street, was offered for sale, and was purchased. The following Ecclesiastical Society was duly incorporated under the title of the "Centre Methodist Episcopal Society:' Asa MANNING, Amos E. COBB, William HULBERT, William H. HAMILTON, Nehemiah UPHAM, Maxon P. LEWIS, William GREENMAN, Charles H. ALLEN, Edwin S. BARROWS.
The pastors of the "Falls" Methodist Episcopal Church have been as follows: 1839, C. D. Rogers; 1840-31, E. BLAKE; 1842-43, W. H. RICHARDS; 1844, L. LEFFINGWELL; 1845-46, F. FISK; 1847-48, S. DEAN; 1849, J. MATHER; 1850-51, B. M. WALKERS; 1852-53, W. LEONARD; 1854-55, Sachem Street, T. ELY; 1856, J. M. WORCESTER; 1857-59, E. H. ELA; 1860-61, J. LIVESEY; 1862-63, H. W. CONANT; 1864-66, E. F. CLARK; 1867, G. W. ALEXANDER; 1868-70, T. M. HOUSE; 1871, W. H. STETSON; 1872-74, N. G. LIPPITT, 1875, W. A. COTTLE; 1876-77, W. A. LUCE; 1878, E. M. DUNHAM; 1879-81, J. H. JAMES.
The following are now, July, 1881, the regularly constituted officiary of the "Sachem Street Methodist Episcopal Church:" Pastor, the Rev. Joseph J. JAMES; Sunday-school Superintendent and Class-leader, Daniel T. ADAMS; Stewards, C. W. HOPKINS, C. H. Allen, G. PARKINSON, G. W. NASH, B. M. PRINCE, B. M. UPHAM, W. GREENMAN, A. E. COBB, W. T. ROGERS; Treasurer, C. W. HOPKINS.
Ecclesiastical Society.-A. E. COBB, E. S. BARNES< W. GREENMAN, C. H. ALLEN, W. HULBERT, M. M. UPHAM, M. P. LEWIS, S. HOPKINS, C. W. HOPKINS, S. SUBUB, J. BABCOCK, D. D. WOODARD.
Society Committee.2 -C. H. ALLEN, B. M. UPHAM. [2 One vacancy, caused by the death of R. M. LADD.]
The statistics in April, 1881, were: membership, 115; Sunday-school teachers, 16; Sunday-school scholars, 106.
M. E. Church, Greeneville.-The first Methodist class at Greeneville was formed prior to 1834, and consisted of the following: Hannah CRANSTON, Sabra BUSHNELL, Roxanna STARKWEATHER, Sarah DENNISON, and Belinda ROOD. Jesse DENNISON, an exhorter, was the first class-leader. Among the early leaders were John B. TRUMAN, Richmond CRANSTON, Samuel WILBUR, James BABCOCK, and Martin OBERNAUER.
The first church edifice was dedicated in 1840, which was subsequently enlarged. Among the ministers who have officiated for this church were the Rev. George MAY, the venerable D. N. BENTLEY, D. N. ROGERS, E. BLAKE, S. BENTON, L. DAGGETT, Jr., A. PALMER, M. P. ALDERMAN, Charles MORSE, B. M. WALKER, W. O. CADY, W. TURKINGTON, J. PACK, N. G. LIPPITT, F. UPHAM, E. B. BRADFORD, E. F. CLARK, H. W. CONANT, J. E. HAWKINS. The present church edifice was dedicated April 7, 1864.
First Baptist Church.-The first regular Baptists within the bounds of the present town of Norwich were Ephraim STORY and Elijah HERRICK. "These men," says Miss CAULKINS, "had been members of neighboring churches of Separatists, and soon after 1790 began to hold night meetings 3 at their own houses for mutual edification. Whenever they were visited by the neighboring Baptist elders, and the congregation was too large for a private room, they assembled in the school-house, or, if the weather was sufficiently mild, in a grove upon the hillside, or in a neighboring rope-walk. At first they were recognized as a branch of the church at Kingston, R. I., but were organized as a church July 12, 1800. [ 3 The term night meetings was at first used by way of reproach, as meetings after sundown in the evening were at that time unusual in the regular religious societies.]
"The origin of the church is thus related in a document emanating from the church itself:
"In the year 1800 it pleased the Lord to collect and unite from a broken and scattered condition a few brethren and sisters, to the number of about 20, who were constituted into a church in fellowship with the Groton Union Conference. On the 25th Dec. following our beloved Elder was ordained and took the pastoral charge of the Church.'
"This beloved elder was John STERRY, who had been for some time previous an acceptable leader in their meetings. Christopher PALMER, of Montville, had also labored among them, and assisted in their organization.
"The ordination services were performed in the Congregational church. Elder Silas BURROWS, of Groton, preached the sermon. Dewey BROMLEY was at the same time ordained as first deacon of the church.
"The frame of a house of worship was raised by the society in 1801, and the building so far completed that services were held in it before the end of the year, yet it remained long in an unfinished state.
"This church gathered in most of the inhabitants of the West Side. BROMLEY, GAVITT< HERRICK, WILLETT,--these are names identified with West Chelsea and with the Baptist Church.
"In 1811, Eleazar HATCH left a bequest in his will of three or four thousand dollars, the interest of which was to be applied to the support of the Baptist ministry in West Chelsea.
"Elder STERRY died Nov. 4, 1832, in the twenty-third year of his ministry, and fifty-seventy of his age. He was a native of Preston, but had resided from his youth in the First Society in Norwich.
"His successor as pastor of the church was Elder William PALMER, who commenced his labors April 1, 1824, and continued in charge about ten years. He was a grandson of Elder Christopher PALMER, who has been mentioned as one of the forefathers of the church. In the mean time the congregation outgrew the meeting=house. It was removed in 1832, and a new house of worship erected on the same spot, which was dedicated in July, 1833.
"After the departure of Elder PALMER, the pastoral duties were discharged by Messrs. Samuel S. MALLORY, Josiah M. GRAVES, and Russel JENNINGS in succession, neither of them exceeding two years of service. These frequent changes and other unfavorable circumstances, operating against the prosperity of the church, led to a new Baptist enterprise, which issued at length in the establishment o the present Central Church. At this period the church at West Chelsea almost died out. The meeting-house was closed, and finally sold to cancel a debt of fifteen hundred dollars that had been incurred.
"In 1841, Elder PALMER, the former pastor, was prevailed on to resume the office, and the meeting-house, hired for the purpose, was again opened for religious services. He resigned in 1845, but continued to reside in Norwich till his death, which took place Dec. 25, 1853.
"Elder PALMER was one of the eleven ministers who organized the New London Baptist Association in 1817; had served from year to year as its sole clerk, and was the last survivor of the eleven originators.
"Mr. PALMER's successor in the pulpit was Miner H. RISING. The church-members at this time were but few in number, as the BROMLEY family and others who had united with the new church did not return. But in 1845 and 1846, through the influence of a revival which commenced with a protracted meeting, conducted by Rev. J. S. SWAN, great accessions were made to the church, and the total membership reported two hundred and seventy-six.
"The church edifice was at this time redeemed, and Mr. RISING ordained. The health of the pastor, however, soon failed, and he was laid aside from ministerial duty. Since 1849 the ministry has been several times changed."
Central Baptist Church.-On the 1st of April, 1840, the First Baptist Church in Norwich obtained the service of Rev. M. G. CLARKE, who continued to supply them until August following, when it was believed the many difficulties under which the Baptist interest labored might be much lessened, if not removed, by a change of location. So many embarrassments, however, seemed to attend this proposition that it was abandoned; but it was finally decided to commence a new interest in a more central and advantageous situation.
Accordingly, on the evening of Sept. 15, 1840, thirty-seven persons residing in the place, but not connected with the First Church, et a t the house of Avery BROMLEY, on Union Street, and organized a Second Church, to be called the Central Baptist Church of Norwich. Articles of faith and church covenant were adopted, and Rev. M. G. CLARKE was chosen to be their pastor.
A Council called to recognize the new church met on the 22d of the same month, consisting of delegates from the following churches: First Norwich, Bozrah, Lebanon, Colchester, Packersville, Jewett City, Voluntown, and Preston City; besides which, were invited Rev. I. R. STEWART and Rev. E. DENISON. The church was duly recognized, and in the evening public services were held at the town hall, where a sermon was preached by Elder Tubal WAKEFIELD, and the hand of fellowship extended to the new church, through their pastor, by Elder B. COOK. At the next meeting of that body the church was received a member of the New London Association.
The town hall was engaged as a place of worship, and so much did the congregation increase that the place was soon nearly filled. About this time also, the First Church being destitute of a pastor, many of its members took letters and united with the Central Church. The first deacons were Elisha W. BECKWITH, Erastus REGWIN, and George LOVIS.
It now became evident that the comfort and prosperity of the church depended much on their having a house to worship in. But after the sever struggles through which they had passed, few in numbers and feeble in means, it was difficult to see how such an object could be attained. But after prayer and consultation, trusting in God, it was decided to go forward and make the attempt. A lot centrally and favorably locate don Union Street was obtained, and in the following spring a house was commenced, which was dedicated Dec. 14, 1841, Elder R. H. NEALE, of Boston, preaching the sermon. Cost of the church edifice about $11,000.
Among the pastors of this church have been the following: Revs. Miner G. CLARKE, Edward T. HISCOX, Joseph A. GOODHUE, Frederick DENISON, Samuel GRAVES, and John DAVIES. In 1863 the church was enlarged and beautified at the expense of about $7000. The present pastor is Rev. John D. HERR.
Baptist Church, Greeneville.-This church was organized with one hundred members in 1845, and a house of worship erected the following year. The first pastor was Rev. D. B. CHENEY, who was succeeded in April, 1847, by Rev. Lemon MUZZY.
The church edifice was destroyed by fire in February, 1854, and the present brick building was erected in 1854, and December 21st, same year, was dedicated, Rev. J. B. SWAN preaching the dedicatory sermon.
The Universalist Church.-In the autumn of 1772, John MURRAY, a Universalist preacher, first visited the town and delivered his message to the people. He had been in America about two years, and had preached in several places south of New York, from which city he started with the intention of visiting Newport, R. I. On his journey through our State he stopped with a friend in Guilford. Here he was persuaded to preach. Some Norwich gentlemen, and among them a Mr. Samuel POST, heard him, made his acquaintance, and urged him to come to Norwich. He came. A small house of worship was procured for him. It was probably the house occupied by the Separatists. It not being sufficiently large, the doors of the great meeting-house, occupied by Dr. LORD, were opened for his accommodation, and he says they "never afterwards were shut against him" Here he preached Universalism to a large and attentive audience, from these words, "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a law-giver from between his feet, until Shiloh come: and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be." Gen. xlix. 10. He tarried but a short time, and continued his journey to Newport. The first sermon preached in Norwich in open advocacy of Universalism was delivered by John MURRAY, eighty-seven years ago, in Dr. LORD's meeting-house. For several years afterwards Murray visited the town annually, and sometimes oftener, and at every coming the number and attachment of his friends were increased and the influence of his sentiments was extended in the community.
A society was formed, probably about the year 1791. It was prospering when Elhanan WINCHESTER, an eloquent preacher of the doctrine, visited Norwich, in 1794. He visited this town several times during the two or three years preceding his death. He was warmly received by many admirers. Rev. John TYLER, of the Episcopal Church, rendered him marked attention, and allowed him, as he had MURRAY, to preach in his church. In 1775, WINCHESTER delivered a sermon, which was greatly admired by all classes, before the Masons, on the occasion of the St. John's festival. He died in Hartford in 1797.
New the close of the year 1820 the present Universalist society was organized under the name "Society of United Christian Friends in the towns of Norwich, Preston, and Groton." The first meeting was held at Paul HARVEY's, in Preston. David TRACY was moderator, and Gurdon BILL was clerk. A committee, consisting of David TRACY, Gurdon BILL, and H. K. PARK were chosen to draft a constitution. The meeting adjourned to Poquetanoc, at which place the constitution was adopted, and the society fully organized by the choice of the proper officers.
In 1821 the Rev. Charles HUDSON, since a member of Congress for Massachusetts, came into the neighborhood, and preached one-fourth of the time in this society. During this year the first meeting-house of the society was built. It was dedicated July 21st. Rev. Edward MITCHELL preached the dedicatory sermon.
The site of the church was the one which this occupies, and it was bought by David TRACY, George MOORE, and Daniel CAREW of Nancy and Ebenezer CAREW, of Norwich, and Simeon CAREW, of Stonington, for sixty dollars. The site has been enlarged by a more recent purchase.
Zephaniah CROSSMAN was the next preacher in the society. He preached about a year.
In 1825, Zelotes FULLER became their preacher, and continued his labors till July, 1827.
From 1827 to 1834 the society had no settled minister. In 1834, Rev. Asher MOORE, then of New London, was engaged to preach for them once a month. In 1835, Rev. John H. GIHON took the pastoral charge of the society.
On the 6th of February, 1838, the present church organization was commenced with eighteen members.
In July of 1838, Rev. Henry LYON became the pastor of the society, and continued with it until April, 1840.
In 1840, Rev. J. V. WILSON succeeded Mr. LYON. He encouraged, by advice and material aid, the erection of the church in which the society now worship, which was completed and dedicate din the autumn of 1841. His connection with the society was dissolved in the early part of 1842.
In May of the same year Rev. R. O. WILLIAMS commenced his labors here, and continued till the autumn of 1844.
Rev. L. C. BROWN was the next pastor. He was installed Nov. 5, 1845. He resigned his pastoral charge in September, 1848.
Rev. Elhanan Winchester REYNOLDS, his successor, commenced his labors in the October following, and was installed as pastor of the society Nov. 15, 1848, at which time this house, as then enlarged, was dedicated. His resignation occurred in September, 1850.
Rev. A. L. LOVELAND immediately succeeded him. He left October, 1853.
Rev. Benjamin WHITTEMORE commenced his labors in April, 1854. The society was originally called the "Society of United Christian Friends in the towns of Norwich, Preston, and Groton." the name did not express the belief of the society, and in 1836, during Mr. GIHON's ministry, it was changed, and it was called "The First Universalist Society in Norwich." It was legalized by an act of the Legislature in 1842.
The pastors since Rev. Mr. WHITTEMORE have been as follows: R. P. AMBLER, 1862-65; J. R. JOHNSON, 1865-69; Asher MOORE, 1869-71; J. M. PAINE, 1871-72; J. J. TWISS, 1873-75; L. P. BLACKFORD, 1875, present incumbent.
Roman Catholic Church, Taftville.-For some years the Catholics of Taftville were attended to by the Roman Catholic clergy of Norwich. In October, 1872, they were assigned to the pastoral care of Rev. J. B. REYNOLDS, of Jewett City, and have since been in charge of the Catholic clergy of that village. Mass was said in the school-hall. Father REYNOLDS having died in December, 1874, Rev. John RUSSELL succeeded him. To his zeal and energy the Catholics of Taftville owe the beautiful church which now crowns the village heights. It was dedicated with imposing ceremonies April 18, 1878, by the late Bishop GALBERRY. The same year Rev. Thomas R. JOSEPH became pastor. The congregation numbers upwards of 1600, two thirds of whom are natives of Canada.
Roman Catholic Church. 1 -The following footnote, on page 472 of Miss CAULKINS' "History of Norwich," appears to be the first known instance of a Catholic visitation in Norwich: [ 1 Contributed by Daniel LEE.]
"The committee of this (First Congregational) society appears to have been almost indiscriminately liberal in the loan of their church to itinerant preachers. Witness the following newspaper item of Nov. 14, 1793:
"'On Friday evening last Mr. John THAYER, Catholic missionary, delivered to a large audience at the Rev. Joseph STRONG's meeting-house, in this city, a learned and ingenious discourse, in which he undertook to prove that the Catholic Church was the only true church of Christ."
On Sunday evening following, at the same place, he delivered a discourse on the propriety and true piety of invoking departed saints and the utility and efficacy of addressing prayers to them.
With the above exception, until 1824, no mention is made of the existence of a single Roman Catholic within the limits of the town. "In that year the same authority states that the population of Norwich was about 4000, and Edward MURPHY was the only 'exile of Erin' among them" He probably was the pioneer Irish Catholic of Norwich. In the year 1831 the Catholics became numerous enough to have a priest visit them occasionally for Worcester, Mass., then the nearest Catholic mission, and the first mass known to be celebrated in Norwich was offered up by the late Rev. James FITTON, the so-called pioneer priest of New England, who continued his occasional pastoral visits until 1845.
The first sacrament recorded as administered in Norwich was the baptism of Catherine, daughter of John and Eleanor CONNOLLY, born June 8, 1835, and baptized May 15, 1836, by Rev. James FITTON; sponsors, Thomas CONNOLLY and Judy DONNELLY. The first marriage recorded is that of John SAVAGE and Mary MELVIN, June 30, 1840, by the Rev. James FITTON, and the first male child born and baptized in the Catholic faith was James, son of David and Johanna SHAUGHNESSY, Aug. 18, 1836,--Aug. 21, 1836.
St. Mary's church was commenced in 1843, and occupied for religious services for the first time on St. Patrick's Day, 1845. Its proportions, although meager, were sufficient for the congregation of that period. Rev. John BRADY took charge of the mission, which included Norwich, in May, 1845. He was succeeded by Rev. William LOGAN, who in turn was succeeded by Rev. Peter BLENKINSOP, the latter remaining in charge of this and neighboring missions until September, 1851. The Catholic population of Norwich and vicinity by this time had increased to nearly three thousand souls, and Rev. Daniel KELLY was appointed the first resident pastor, and remained so until August, 1866, when he was removed to Providence, R. I., and was succeeded by Rev. Peter KELLY.
At this period St. Mary's church had been raised and enlarged several times to meet the necessities of the ever and rapidly increasing congregation, and being still insufficient to accommodate them, the project of erecting a new church edifice was practically commenced. Although Rev. Peter KELLY remained as pastor only about one year, he purchased two adjoining lots on Church Street, having a commanding view of the Thames River and that portion of the city lining either bank, at a cost of $10,000, and ground was broken for a new church on St. Patrick's Day, 1867, but as the location was not considered suitable to the church authorities, it was abandoned for church purposes. Rev. Peter KELLY was soon after succeeded by Rev. Bernard TULLY, who, however, remained but a few months, and on Jan. 20, 1868, Rev. Daniel MULLEN was appointed pastor.
He was at one time chaplain of the Ninth Regiment of Connecticut Volunteers in the war of the Rebellion. Previous to his appointment to the parish various project looking to the erection of a new church were commenced and abandoned, and the people became almost dispirited. He, however, carefully considered the matter, and finally selected a plot on Broadway, the most beautiful portion of the city, which, with the buildings thereon, were purchased at a cost of $17,000. This location was chosen not only on account of its beautiful surroundings, but also because of its being so near the centre of the scattered parish, which extended from the village of Yantic on the north to Thamesville on the south and west, and Greeneville and a portion of the town of Preston on the east.
Ground was broken on St. Patrick's Day, 1870, with imposing ceremonies, by Rev. Daniel MULLEN, and the blessing was given by Very Rev. James HUGHES, of Hartford, vicar-general and administrator of the diocese, in the absence of the late Bishop F. P. MCFARLAND, then in Europe, in the presence of the city and town authorities and a large concourse of people. During this year monthly collections were instituted to establish a fund for the commencement of the great work, and on Good Friday, April 7, 1871, the men of the congregation assembled with shovels, picks, etc., and accompanied by numerous horses and carts, formed in procession, and headed by a band of music, marched to the ground and commenced the work of excavating for the foundation walls. This portion of the work was completed in three days, and was entirely a free offering by the enthusiastic people. The work now commenced in earnest, and the collection of funds kept pace with the work. The church was built in the most substantial manner, the foundation walls, towers, and rood all being done by day work, more attention being given to good material and good workmanship than cost or speed. On July 13, 1873, the corner-stone was laid by Bishop MCFARLAND, assisted by a large number of priests, with imposing ceremonies, in presence of the civil authorities and many thousands who were assembled. On this occasion over then thousand dollars were contributed, the largest amount ever realized at a similar event in the State. The work so well begun progressed steadily until the fall of 1877, when Father MULLEN was taken sick, and died shortly afterwards, leaving the church walls, roof, and towers up the peak of the roof completed; and his successor, Rev. P. P. STRAHAN, who assumed control in April, 1878, with is accustomed energy at once took the responsibility of finishing the work so well begun.
It was estimated that the building cost up to this time over two hundred thousand dollars, and that it would cost one hundred thousand dollars more to finish it in keeping with the work already done. Contracts were made for the completed tower with Messrs. MCCAULEY & LAWLOR, of Springfield, Mass.; for the plastering and stucco-work with Andrew MCDERMOTT, of East Boston; with Edmund O'KEEFE, now of Norwich, for the woodwork and various other contracts, such as plumbing, heating, frescoing, painting, stained glass, organ, etc., and so rapidly was the work carried on that the first mass was offered up, although not entirely completed, on St. Patrick's Day, 1879, and on September 28th of the same year St. Patrick's church was dedicated by Bishop MCMAHON, of Hartford, in presence of Archbishop GIBBONS, of Baltimore, Md., who preached the sermon, Bishop SHANAHAN, of Harrisburg, Pa., and Rev. James FITTON, of East Boston, Mass., who, thirty-six years previous, offered up the first mass and built the first church in Norwich, and assisted by numerous array of clergymen from all parts of the country.
The following brief description of this magnificent specimen of church architecture is appended. The walls of the church are a light-blue granite from the Monson, Mass., quarries, cut and trimmed in blocks, and around the doors and windows are highly finished and carved. The building is two hundred and ten feet long, one hundred feet wide in the transept, with three towers, the main one being two hundred and sixteen feet high, exclusive of the finial and cross. The main entrances are approached from the sidewalk by an easy grade, and the grounds in front are tastefully laid out and heavily curbed, presenting an elegant appearance, in keeping with its aristocratic surroundings. With its five massive entrances, every door of which opens outward, the more than two thousand people who can find accommodation within can find easy egress to the street in less than five minutes. The interior presents a grand and imposing appearance, the arched ceiling rising to a height of seventy feet, and is divided into richly grooved and intersected panels, which with their carved bosses of various emblematic designs present a unique and harmonious arrangement. The walls throughout are frescoed in water-colors, except the closed panels around the clestory and in the rear of the three alters, which are oil paintings executed with marvelous skill, the subjects being chosen with wondrous taste and judgment. The columns along the aisles are surmounted with richly gilt capitals, on which rest groups of nine smaller columns, from which spring the artistic groined ceiling. On the four main columns which support the arches which span the four corners of the transept at its intersection with the nave stand four winged angels, with closed hands, in reverent attitudes. The devices on the capitals and bosses are numerous and varied, but all of a highly religious character, such as lilies, flowers, monograms, chalices, and instruments of the passion. The grand alter is a perfect chef-d'œuvre, with its numberless tapering pinnacles, massive and rich covering, and illuminated turrets and towers. The transept windows are of the finest stained glass, the north one representing the Annunciation, and the south one St. Patrick before the royal family at Tara, defining the mystery of the Trinity with the symbolic shamrock, and each costing sixteen hundred dollars, the latter dedicated to the memory of Rev. Daniel MULLEN by the parishioners.
On the gospel side of the main alter is a magnificent marble alter, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, and donated by the Rev. Daniel MULLEN in his will, and immediately to its left is the marble slab raised by his friends to commemorate his services towards the great work. Even the stations of the cross, which are usually framed pictures representing the sufferings and death of our Saviour, are composed of carved figures, and are importations from Munich, Germany. This church will seat comfortably nineteen hundred and sixty persons, while the chapel in the basement, reserved for the children, will seat over a thousand. St. Mary's will seat about twelve hundred, and the chapel of the Sacred Heart, at Norwich Town, all in one parish, will seat about four hundred. Total seating capacity about four thousand five hundred. There are from one to three services every Sunday morning in each of the churches.