OUR NEIGHBORHOOD CHURCHES

DURING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

By Mrs. Albert Hastings Pitkin

[Notes from the histories of the churches of Hartford, Windsor, Wethersfield, East and West Hartford, Glastonbury, Farmington, Simsbury and Middletown.]

” Our Revolutionary Parson.” What was he like? Backward over the years we send him a grateful thought, remembering that he had no mean share in establishing America’s freedom and independence, blessings that might have long been delayed, but for his timely aid and influence, and we believe when the war was over he was in harmony with the jubilant company who rejoiced that their enemy, obstinate old King George, was conquered.

A description of the Rev. Eliphalet Williams, pastor of the church in East Hartford from 1748 to 1801- a period which covered all the Revolution, and years before and after—may serve as a type of the personal appearance of the Revolutionary parson. ” He wore the old-time minister’s dress, which consisted of a black straight-buttoned waistcoat, with the ends of its broad white bands showing on his chest, long black stockings and knee breeches, with shoe and knee buckles ; a big white wig, so large that a child once called it a lamb, covered his head. On the top of all this he wore a large, stiff, broad-brimmed hat. He had a high sense of the dignity and sanctity of his office. To him the clergy were as ` Lords over the heritage of God.’ ” He was not, by nature, tolerant. He was never cordially loved ; and no doubt he did call some of the wood his parishioners were obliged to bring him ” crooked stuff,” and ” had the making of all the letters of the alphabet in it.” Upon which remark, the owner drove promptly home, and left none of the wood. One of his pet phrases, and one which he put into Governor Pitkin’s epitaph, pictures him to our conception most palpably “as scattering away evil with his eye,” especially since we are told that the children would crawl under the fences and hide when they saw him coming along the street. He clung to his dark views of what in the unlovely phraseology of that day was known as “Infant Damnation,” until many mothers withdrew from his preaching.

The minister’s position was well expressed by the word Parson. (The par-son with a capital). This was very august. He had the complete monopoly of all the material of the intellectual and spiritual life of the people, with no competition.

” The requirements were many and varied. He must be as full of facts as an encyclopedia, and full of the knowledge of human nature ; interesting as a play ; close to life as a newspaper. He must have the style of Ruskin, the eloquence of Carlyle, the prophet-tone of Emerson and the imagination of Shakespeare. To say nothing of calling on everyone, before he called on any-one else. A kind of miniature omnipresence.”

In those good old days people were taxed for the minister, just as they were taxed for highways, and evidently intended to keep the roads well open to the next world, as they were in this.

” From the lowly little structures first used for worship, like the one now standing in Salem, Mass., they had now advanced to good, roomy ` meeting houses,’ and these buildings were used for court houses as well as for church purposes. What is known as the square meeting house, of which the Old South, Boston, is a typical model, needs no further description.”

All kinds of notices were posted on the meeting house, and the stocks, whipping-post and pillory—until about i800—graced the meeting-house green.

In the middle of the century paint became cheaper, and a gay rivalry obtained in church decoration. For instance, the new meeting house in Pomfret was painted a bright yellow, and proved a veritable apple of discord through-out the county.

Dr Williams House
DR. WILLIAM’S HOUSE.

Copied from the Memorial History of Hartford County by permission of the publisher.

Windham and Killingly quickly voted their meeting house colored like Pomfret’s ; and Brooklyn, Conn., ordered the body of the meeting house to be a bright orange, the doors a warm chocolate, and the weather and corner boards white. One old writer speaks quite scornfully of the bad taste which prevailed from the example of the foolish and useless colouring of the Pomfret meeting house.”

Inside all was simple enough. Sanded floors beneath, rafters above, a few pews and rows of benches, and looking down the middle aisle, the formidable pulpit. ” It was reached by a staircase on the north side “—this is a description of Farmington church—” and was overhung by a sounding-board, a wondrous canopy of wood, with a roof like the dome of a Turkish mosque. Along the front of the pulpit was the deacons’ seat, and on the right the minister’s pew, and on the left the pew for widows. From this a door opened into a closet under the high pulpit, which was reserved for the tything-man for unruly boys.”

One old church reserved until the middle of the present century as its sole decoration, an enormous, carefully-painted, staring eye, terrible and suggestive to all wrongdoers. Sounding-boards were variously decorated by carved and painted rosettes, ivy leaves, as in Farmington, grapes, pomegranates, appropriate texts and mottoes, hanging fringes, and thus formed a great ornament to the church.

When the parson arrived the people arose and stood in token of respect until he had entered the pulpit and was seated. It was also the custom for the congregation to remain standing in their pews until the minister descended from his pulpit, opened the door of his wife’s pew, and led her with stately dignity to the church porch, where they greeted the congregation as they slowly passed out. They were great respecters of persons in those days, as was shown by the great attention given to seating the congregation for public worship ; which custom was not abandoned in East Hartford and Windsor until 1824. A committee designated where people should sit, according to age, military service, office and wealth, and fines as high as twenty-seven pounds were imposed for non-conformity thereto. We find, in fact, in old church and town records, that each person, deacon, elder, singer and even the boy, had his allotted place, as absolutely assigned him in the old meeting house, as was the pulpit to the parson. In a law book in which Jonathan Trumbull recorded the cases which he tried as justice of the peace, was found this entry : ” His Majesties Tythingman entered this complaint against Jonathan and Susan Smith, that on the Lord’s Day, during Divine Service, they did smile.” They were found guilty and each was fined five shillings and costs. Poor smiling Susan and Jonathan. One Deborah Bangs was fined five shillings “for Larfing in Meeting House in time of public worship,” and a boy at the same time paid ten shillings. Perhaps he laughed louder and longer. The cruel Hart-ford church folk ordered that the Hartford boys who misbehaved or played in a time of public worship ” shall be punished publicly, before the assembly depart.”

Pleasant it is to think of the church appearance of some of the good wives. One garb is described as a ” blue mohair petticoat, a tabby bodice, with a red lining cote, a laced neck-cloth or cross-cloth, a scarlet cloak over all this finery, with cut-work coiffure with long wings at the side, and a silk or tiffany hood on her head.”

In the Revolutionary times, after divine service, special contributions were taken for the benefit of the army, and large quantities of valuable articles were thus collected, not only in money, but finger-rings, ear-rings, watches and other jewelry, all kinds of male attire, and produce of all kinds were brought to the meeting house to give to the soldiers. Even leaden weights were taken out of window sashes and clocks and made into bullets and brought to meeting.

On one occasion, Madam Faith Trumbull rose up in Lebanon meeting house, where a collection was being made for the army, took from her shoulders a magnificent scarlet cloak, which had been made a present to her from Count de Rochatnbeau, the commander-in-chief of the French allied army, and advancing to the altar, gave it as her offering to the gallant men who were fighting not only the British, but terrible want and suffering. The fine cloak was cut into narrow strips and used as red trimmings for the uniforms of the soldiers. The romantic impression of Madam Trumbull’s act kindled warm enthusiasm in the congregation and an enormous collection was taken, packed carefully, and sent to the army.

Notwithstanding the lengthy sermons with their twenty-seventhlies and twenty eighthlies, when the parson would show his godliness and endurance by preaching four and five hours, notwithstanding the prayers of one hour long, during which the custom was to stand, of all dismal things of that period of our nation’s history, that of the music was most helplessly forlorn, and the singing bad beyond belief. Some psalms of 130 lines, when lined and sung, occupied a full half hour, during which the congregation stood. Of one “leader ” it is said that he set “York ” tune, but the congregation went over to ” St. David’s ” on the second verse, do what he could. The total effect was summed up by one writer as follows : ” It sounded like 500 different tunes, sung at the same time, with perpetual interfering with one another.”

Still, confused and poor as must have been the singing it was undoubtedly the source of unceasing delight, “foretaste of heaven.” In 1779 lining the hymns was abandoned in Worcester, later in other towns. Many new psalm books appeared about this time, with no hint of Great Britain in them, and, as indicated by their titles, ” Federal Harmony,” ” Continental Harmony,” ” Columbian Harmony,” ” United States Sacred Harmony,” showed the new nation.

Mr. Billings printed in 1770 his ” Psalm Singer,” and these tunes were played on the battle-field with drum and fife, to inspire the American soldiers. When this hymn book was first introduced, some of the older people went out of the church after the first verse was sung. Some of the clergymen preached from the text, ” The songs of the temple shall be turned into howlings ” ; and another, when fugue singing was introduced, preached from the text, ” Those that have turned the world upside down are come here also.” Mr. Billings paraphrased the 137th Psalm, ” By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, we wept when we, remembered thee, oh ! Zion ! ” as follows : By the rivers of Watertown we sat down, and wept when we remembered thee, oh ! Boston ! ” We were well into the present century before any cheerful and simple music was heard in our churches.

The Church of England had early sent out missionaries to this country, and had tried, as early 1766, though unsuccessfully, to create an American Episcopate. There were just a score of clergymen of the Church of England in Connecticut at this time, with twice that number of churches, and a pro-portion of one to twelve non-Episcopalian. Nowhere in the colony was the church so strong as in Fairfield county; Newtown, New Haven, Branford, Norwich, New London, Middletown, Milford and Stratford all had flourishing parishes. But a storm was now gathering which was to burst upon the church and arrest its prosperity. Amid the popular discontents and tumults, what was now the course of the Church of England? These clergymen were natives of the colony, born and educated here, knowing all the prejudices of the people, and expecting to share the fortunes of the colony. We read that these ministers sought to guide their flocks to peace and quietness. Not stopping there, were using their influence in England to procure a relaxation of the obnoxious policy of the home government. Their good Christian lives caused them to be respected, even when they stoutly refused to sacrifice any of their principles to gain popular favor. The clergy could not officiate publicly, and use the prayers for the king and royal family, according to the liturgy, without exposing themselves to inevitable destruction, and to omit these prayers was contrary to their oath and views of duty. Therefore, to avoid the evils of this dilemma, a convention was held in New Haven, July 23, 1773, Mr. Jarvis, of Middletown, presiding, when they resolved to suspend a public exercise of their ministerial functions, and all the Episcopal churches of Connecticut were thus for a time closed—except those under the care of Abraham Beach, of Newtown, which were kept open during the war, using the full liturgy. How this was done during the winter of 1779, when General Putnam’s command was stationed there, does not appear.

Rev. Dr. Nathan Perkins

REV. DR. NATHAN PERKINS

Copied from the Memorial History of Hartford County by permission of the publisher.

Mr. Beach’s course gave great offense to the Sons of Liberty, and more than one attempt was made to bring him under congressional rule. When warned of personal danger if he persisted, he replied with the spirit and firmness of a martyr, that he ” would do his duty and pray for the king till the rebels cut out his tongue.” A squad of patriots watched him one day as he entered his desk, and a loaded musket was pointed at him as he proceeded in the forms of the liturgy, evidently intending to take his life if be used the prayers ” for our most gracious sovereign, King George and the Royal Family.” But God withheld the hand of the assassin, or rendered the shot harmless. One loyal divine had prayed so long for our excellent King George, and after the war commenced, he inadvertently used in his pulpit devotions the stereotyped phrase, but saved himself in time from the vengeance of his flock by immediately adding, ” Oh ! Lord, I mean George Washington.”

Samuel Peters, of Hebron, was without doubt the most unwise in his intense loyalty, and it soon involved him in serious trouble. A mob of three hundred people assembled at his house in August, 1775, and made known their desire to obtain an acknowledgement of his intentions. He assumed for protection his official robes, for which they had little respect, seized him violently and carried him to the meeting-house green, where he was forced to read a confession.

At Middletown there were a number of men on both sides now exerting an influence. Middletown had long held a place of importance in the Colony. In the days of the first pastor, Mr. Collins, Cotton Mather writes of this church as follows : ” The Church of Middletown upon Connecticut is a golden candle-stick which illumines more than that Colony.” The Rev. Enoch Huntington was fourth pastor of the Church, and served during the period of the Revolution. He was a trustee of Yale College, and many distinguished and useful men studied under his care. President Dwight was of his pupils, and thirty years later placed his son under his care. Rev. Mr. Huntington engaged warmly in politics, taking sides against England. Several of his sermons are preserved. So great was his popularity that his people would not consent to his dismissal. He was the brother of Samuel Huntington, President of the Continental Congress and Governor of Connecticut.

The rector of the Episcopal church at this time was Rev. Abraham Jarvis, afterward bishop of the diocese. Whether this church was actually closed is uncertain, but the parish register shows that he performed baptisms, marriages and burials very frequently during the war. Some of the prominent people of the town were sympathizers with the king, one, at least, Dr. John Osborne, who named his son William Franklin, for the Tory Governor of New Jersey, then in confinement in the town.

A number of prominent citizens held high positions on the patriotic side, Nehemiah and Elijah Hubbard, Jabez Hamlin, Comfort Sage, Col. Jonathan Johnson, Major Robert Warren, Col. Return Jonathan Meigs, Samuel Holden Parsons, and Titus Hasmer, whom Dr. Noah Webster called ” one the three Mighties,” with Samuel Johnson, L. L. D., of Stratford, and Oliver Ells-worth, o f Windsor. H e was a member of the Continental Congress.

In Glastonbury the ministry of the two cousins, Eels, spans the whole period of the Revolution, in which the people of Glastonbury deeply sympathized from the outset, and did all in their power to promote the cause of freedom, though she seems to have had a few tories among her sons. Two prominent individuals were complained of before the General Assembly, asking their removal to a place of safety, Ralph Isaacs, Esq., and Abithar Camp, though Mr. Camp subsequently took the oath of fidelity.

Rev. Timothy Pitkin

REV. TIMOTHY PITKIN

Copied from Pitkin Genealogy by permission of A. H. Pitkin.

On the church records is a list of twenty-five members who died in the Revolution. No Episcopal church was established till long after, in 1806.

Prominent citizens were Col. Howell Woodbridge, Col. Elizur Talcott, Elizur Hubbard and Samuel Welles.

I have already mentioned the Rev. Eliphalet Williams’ long reign as
pastor in East Hartford. He was the brother of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and tradition says that he was somewhat English in his tastes, but he nevertheless, by his utterances evinced his faithful adherence to the cause of his people in those troublous times. He reached sermons on Fast days and Thanksgiving prescribed by the Governors. His sermons written on scanty sheets of paper, arc utterly undecipherable, showing merely crooked pen strokes across the page. Several of his printed sermons remain, one on the terrible earthquake entitled, ” The Duty of the People Under Dark Proviidences or Symptoms of Approaching Evils to Prepare to Meet Their God.”

Rev. John Marsh

REV. JOHN MARSH

Copied from the Memorial History of Hartford County by
permission of the publisher

Many antique belongings to his home are still preserved. Dr. E. P. Parker has his old arm-chair. A letter is still preserved from a lady in London, expressing great sympathy
with the colonists, copied in Dr. Williams’ hand and there is no reason to doubt his loyalty to the cause of the Colonists.

Among the church membership was Col. Jonathan Wells, once in command at New London and Groton, Col. George Pitkin and Timothy Cheney.

There was no lack of patriotism on the part of the people. They gave hospitality to French troops on their march, and the meeting house was used as a hospital for the sick.

In Manchester, or what was then known as Orford Parish, the church society was only just formed, and had called a pastor, the Rev. Benajah Phelps. He had a severe experience in connection with the war. His home was in Nova Scotia and his sympathies with the royalists. He was put to the alternative of leaving the town or taking up arms against his king. He escaped, leaving his family and all his effects.

In West Hartford, the Rev. Nathan Perkins was pastor, first preaching in 1772, in the pulpit made vacant by the death of the Rev. Nathaniel Hooker He continued to labor with great diligence and fidelity during the long period of sixty-six years. In the course of his ministry he preached ten thousand sermons, attended more than one hundred ecclesiastical councils, assisted one hundred and fifty young men to prepare for college, and had under his care thirty theological students. In 1774 he; married Catherine Pitkin, daughter of Rev. Timothy Pitkin, then pastor of the Farmington church. She was spared to him for sixty-three years. They had six sons and three daughters. In Sprague’s “Annals” it states that the most prominent attributes of his character were judiciousness, sobriety, equanimity, patience and perseverance. His mind had acquired a habit of expanding any subject which was presented to it, so that Dr. Strong, when Dr. Perkins expressed a wish that some hint which had been given by some member of the council might be “spread out ” on paper, replied with his usual facetiousness, ” I should like to see it spread out, too, and I nominate Brother Perkins to do it.” His conversation was rich in interesting anecdotes, in respect to the past, and he numbered not a few distinguished men of this country among his personal friends. A number of his sermons have been preserved, and many are in the possession of the Connecticut Historical Society. One he preached June 2, 1775, to the soldiers who went from West Hartford to the defense of their country. (” Being the day before they marched from that place. Published at the desire of the hearers.”)

Farmington ! ” Well may that beautiful old street have a dignity and serenity all its own, conscious of the interest that attaches to its quaint home-steads and lofty trees, and remembering, too, that once upon a time, it was the largest town in the county. It is still a town of charming scenery, sturdy people, and institute of learning, and has contributed materially to the welfare of humanity, both before and since the time when it was a commercial center, when Burgoyne’s captive soldiers found life worth living amid such surroundings, and when Revolutionary soldiers were paid off in rum and molasses at Squire Lewis’s tavern.”

Rev. Benjamin Boardman

REV. BENJAMIN BOARDMAN

Copied from South Church History by permissioy of Rev. Dr. E. P. Parker.

If the Rev. Mr. Smalley, in New Britain, did not determine which cause to espouse at first, there was no doubt in the mind of the pastor of the church at Farmington, the Rev. Timothy Pitkin. His pulpit rang with fervid discourses on liberty. He visited his parishioners in their camp, and wrote them letters of encouragement and sympathy. To Amos Wadsworth, in camp at Roxbury, he writes : “Truly I feel for my native, bleeding country, and am embarked with you in one common cause. My hope is yet in God, the Lord of Hosts and God of Armies.” To the first company of soldiers marching to Louisburg he preached a farewell sermon from these words : “Play the man
for your country, and for the cities of seemeth to Him good.” He lived to welcome the soldiers home from their victorious struggle—their beloved pastor and faithful friend. Among those in the war actively engaged, of ” his communion,” were William Judd, Captain of the Continental Army; John Treadwell, Samuel Richards, Roger Hooker, Nodaiah Hooker, Timothy Hosmer, Col. Ichabod Norton and Elijah Porter. The manuscripts of Gov. Treadwell contains this description of him. The Rev.
Timothy Pitkin was a fervent and godly man, distinguished for his courtly and dignified manners, his warm and winning address from the pulpit, his solemn and searching prayers with the sick. Of his sermons, little more than the heads or leading thoughts were committed to writing and usually filled up in delivery. Mr. Pitkin married the daughter of President Clap, of Yale College, and when he brought his wife home they rode from New Haven to Farming-ton in a sort of phaeton or four-wheeled carriage. The older and more respectable men of the town went out on foot to meet the pastor and his wife, and so escorted them home.

In the town of Simsbury, the Rev. Samuel Stebbins was pastor from 1777 to 1806. Rev. C. E. Stowe writes “that Mr. Stebbins was an odd and eccentric genius, and no doubt expressed himself after his fashion on passing events.” In the Connecticut Historical Society is a copy of one of his sermons on the ” Policy of the Devil to Hinder the Success of the Gospel.” This sermon fills thirty pages of very fine print, and is full of quotations, evidently aimed at the sympathizers with the crown, as follows : “Ye enemies of religion ! Ye haters of God ! See yourselves and tremble ! What if I am plain as John ! What if ye persecute me with bitter invectives and cut off my head ! ”

There were very distinguished officers in this church and congregation. Col. Noah Phelps commanded the most daring expedition of the war, against Ticonderoga ; Col. Hezekiah Humphrey, Maj. Elihu Humphrey, Abel Pettibone, Ebenezer Bissell, Samuel Stoughton and Andrew Hillyer, who was Colonel of the Connecticut State Dragoons. Mr. Stowe adds these words : “This church, like the gate of heaven, has never been closed.” St. Andrew’s Parish of Episcopalians in this town is one of the oldest in the State, the church building was erected in 1740, with six members. In 1743 there were twenty-seven members. The Rev. Roger Vets was pastor during the Revolution. He was a zealous churchman and is said to have been confined at Hartford for assisting British prisoners to escape from the prison at Newgate, He removed to Nova Scotia, where he subsequently died.

When the courier who was sent to spread the alarm throughout New England of the fight at Lexington, reached Windsor on the following day, a distance of about one hundred miles, he found the people attending the funeral of their beloved pastor, Rev. Mr. Russell. While they engaged in these services, either at the church, or assembled around his open grave, a rider drew up his panting steed, and told of the battle of Lexington. At once, Thomas Hayden, one of those present, mounted a horse and bore the news to Suffield. The funeral services ended, men hurried to their homes and seized their muskets. The dread war had come ! That night was one of preparation. Many a wife or mother equipped a soldier to go forth on the morrow. When mustered in on the 23d of April, there stood twenty-three men, who at once took up their march to Boston. One year later the Rev. David Rowland was settled over Windsor Church. He came from Providence, R. I., where his zealous defense of the patriotic cause made him so obnoxious that he made his escape during the darkness of the night. Stiles says of him : “That he not only impaired his fortunes in the cause of his country, but equipped a son and sent him into the field, where he continued during the whole war.”

Among those who distinguished themselves in the service of their country was Oliver Wolcott, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Major General of Connecticut troops. During the war he was either in the field or attending Congress. He commanded at the battle of Long Island. His public services were continuous and important for many years. Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth, later Minister to France ; Samuel Wolcott, Commissary to the Army ; and Erastus Wolcott, Brigadier-General of the Continental Army.

In Wethersfield, the Rev. John Marsh was pastor from 1774 to 1821. This congregation was large and influential in the State. There were times when it contained as many as thirty college-bred attendants.

Rev. Nathan Strong

REV. NATHAN STRONG

Copied from the History of the First Church of Hartford by permission of Dr. George Leon Walker

Timothy Dwight, of whom it is said that he learned the alphabet at a single lesson, and at the age of four could read the bible correctly and fluently—went to Wethersfield with his class from Yale, when the students there dispersed, owing to the tumult and panic occasioned by the war. After a few months he received an appointment as Chaplain in Gen. Parson’s brigade. He served more than a year, and made the acquaintance of many distinguished officers of the army, especially Washington, who afterward honored him with his friendship.

The Rev. Mr. Marsh was young, earnest, and burning with patriotism. Mr. Sprague in his ” Annals ” writes : ” Perhaps he wore the last white wig in New England.”

The church edifice, now in use, was begun in 1761, and was modelled after the Old South, in Boston. In 1838 its sounding-board was removed and slips substituted for ancient pews. In 1883 a general renovation took place, and some of its most interesting features were sacrificed.

Within its walls Washington and the elder Adams attended divine service.

The capture of Fort Ticonderoga, May 10, 1775, but for the assistance furnished by the citizens of Wethersfield, might not have been so successful. The Hon. J. Hammond Trumbull has conclusively shown that the plan for that enterprise was formed in Hartford, and that Samuel Holden Parsons, of Middletown, Col. Samuel Wyllys, of Hartford, and Silas Deane, of Wethersfield, first projected taking that fort. Ezekiel Williams was one of six signers of a note for five hundred pounds to defray the expenses of this expedition. There were forty-seven prisoners captured at Ticonderoga, and these were distributed among the people of Hartford and Wethersfield. They were allowed, and some embraced the opportunity, to attend divine service at Dr. Marsh’s church.

Of this membership was Captain Chester, whose company was called the ” Elite Corps ” of the army ; Lieut. Samuel Webb, father of General James Watson Webb, and grandfather of General Alexander L. Webb, now President of the College of the City of New York ; James Lockwood, Ezekiel Williams, Col. Thomas Belden, Stephen Mix Mitchell, Silas Deane, the confidante of Washington and member of the Continental Congress in 1774.

In Hartford, the Rev. Elanthan Whitman, who had been preaching at the South Church, died in 1777, and the church was without a pastor until 1784. The records of the church since 1767 have been preserved, and testify to the ” Darkness of that day declension and considerable demoralization prevail.” This church called, in 1783, the Rev. Benjamin Boardman, who had been achaplain in the war. Tradition says that by virtue of power to make himself heard in exhortation and prayer, he had earned for himself from the soldiers the soubriquet, ” Big Gun of the Gospel Boardman.” His portrait in the Connecticut Historical Society, indicates a man of great personal vigor. Dr. Parker has a number of his sermons, two of which were preached at the Camp at Roxbury. His diary is also extant, a “relic rather than a treasure.” In which the good parson jots down his own idea “that General Washington sets no great by chaplains.” Of this membership, prominent in the war were Col. Nathaniel Stanley, Thomas Seymour, Daniel Bull, William Hooker and James Church.

It is said of the pastor of the First Church, at this time the Rev. Nathan Strong, ” Few men in New England had during this period in which he lived so much influence as he.” He graduated in 1769 at Yale with highest honors in a class conspicuous for illustrious names. At the death of the Rev. Edward Dorr the church called him, and January 5, 1773, he was duly installed. Mr. Strong was hardly settled in his ministry before the war broke out, which in its issue gave us our independence. His energies were all enlisted in his country’s cause, and he rendered every service he could cheerfully. For some time he served in the capacity of chaplain. His vigorous pen was often at work in vindication of his country’s rights and to quicken the public pulse to a higher tone of patriotism. He published many valuable articles, notably a series of twenty in respect to the adoption of the Federal Constitution. I quote a few words from one of his sermons delivered before the people ” who have collected to the execution of one Moses Dunbar who was condemned for high treason against the State of. Connecticut and executed March 19, 1777.” His text was “Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days.” Ile writes:
” There is room for prayer that this day may be blest for our good and that the unhappy criminal may receive forgiveness of his sins unto God though he cannot have forgiveness of the State of Connecticut with public safety. My discourse will not be calculated, as has been usual on such occasions, for a dying creature who is to appear immediately before a great Judge, but to assist my hearers in making use of the event for their improvement. This event is an awful and affecting demonstration of the danger of sin. May this awful scene do us good.”
The Wyllyses—Samuel, George and Hezekiah—the Wadsworths, Bulls, Talcotts and others were of this ” communion.”

Sometimes a father with his eight sons, all full grown men, could be seen in the ” Meeting House,” all members of the church and representative men in the parish. Society was a unit, having similar aims and occupations. All the inhabitants except a few negroes were of one race.

Now, the people of American birth and descent are but a handful compared with other nationalities which throng our streets, but it is worthy of note that so many descendants of the old stock are here, and the names so prominent in the earliest records are names familiar to us to-day in the social and church life of our city.

The Connecticut Quarterly October, November, December, 1897 Vol.III. No.4