Can you answer these Questions about our Church?
Rich Jeynes Historian
Following the initial “Who Knows?” in last month’s Parishioner, some inquisitive people asked “why” and “how” the church got started? Exactly what happened? Last month we stated that the parish of Amity (First Church) was established by the Connecticut General Assembly in Hartford in 1738. But how did they get to that point? Here’s the story.
In colonial days the part of New Haven west and northwest of the main town was called Chestnut Hill. At the same time the area in the northern part of Milford including Orange, Woodbridge, Bethany and the present day South Naugatuck (See the map from the Milford Tricentennial book, 1939) was called North Milford. The dividing line between Milford and New Haven started on the shoreline, Long Island sound, and divided the towns to the north. Today, this division line is Milhaven Rd. in Woodbridge. Due to the difficulty of travelling to worship services in either Milford or New Haven, in 1734 the general assembly of Connecticut granted the request of the inhabitants of Chestnut Hill and North Milford the right to “winter preaching” for five years and absolved them from paying taxes during those winter months.
Imagine yourself living in Chestnut Hill or North Milford in the 1730s. The hills were wilderness, back country. They were inhabited by only the hardiest descendants of the original Puritan migration. These farmers were totally self-reliant, capable of withstanding backbreaking toil in the most adverse conditions. And they were also believers. They wanted to worship year round. The granting of “winter preaching” in 1734 provided the impetus for the establishment of The Parish of Amity five years later.
Who Knows ?
1) This home (pictured above) is located at 1194 Racebrook Road. Historically significant as the home of two prominent Woodbridge families (Newtons and Baldwins). Parts of the home were built as early as 1740 as a Newton homestead. In this home was born the Reverend A)_________(1795-1865). He married in 1813 Betsy Baldwin the daughter of Silas Baldwin and Mary Smith. The First Church of Christ sponsored him along with other missionaries to help the B)______________ (name the tribe) in 1821. Unfortunately, Betsy and her infant boy died during the journey west. After being a missionary Reverend Newton was among those who settled San Antonio, Texas. He died in 1865, three years after the death of Samuel Houston. Later the home pictured became the Woodbridge Hunt Club, 1911 – 1930. (Answers in March Parishioner)
The modern First Church of Christ in Woodbridge is a Greek Revival building. The original temple fronted structure is rectangular in plan with a gable roof and a three stage bell tower. A ridge to street
wing was added in 1881 for a church parlor. The flash board facade displays a full pediment with a recessed porch defined by fluted columns, flanked by broad pilasters.
1) Which two persons built the church?
2) What year was it completed?
3) How many fluted columns does it have?
The key committee of the First Church of Christ (and most congregational churches in Connecticut) was the Ecclesiastical Society; it controlled all monetary issues and the direction the church was pursuing.
The General Assembly of the colony of Connecticut created the Parish of Amity in October, 1738 and created the Amity Ecclesiastical society. There was no church building for four years. The first temporary minister was Stephen White, born in Middletown on 8 June, 1718. He was a member of the class of 1736 at Yale.
1) Who was the first permanent settled minister who served for forty-two years? (1742-1784)
2) In what town in Massachusetts was he born?
3) Who wrote his epitaph? (the inscription on his tomb)
4) Both the first permanent settled minister and the prominent man who wrote the epitaph were in the same graduation class at Yale. What Year?
Answers can be found in the February Parishioner