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The USGenWeb Project Fairfield County, Connecticut
Darien, Fairfield County, Connecticut


Barber sketch, Darien 1836

Sketch made by John Barber of
the First Congregational Church, Darien.

John Warner Barber's Connecticut Historical Collection was first published in 1836 following an extensive tour of the state. The following is his record of the town of Darien. For more information about John Barber or his book, please see the CHS exhibit.

This is a small township, formerly the parish of Middlesex, in the town of Stamford. It is bounded N. by New Canaan, E. by Norwalk, W. by Stamford, and S. by Long Island Sound. It was incorporated as a town in 1820. The soil is generally a rich gravelly loam, fertile, and well adapted to tillage and grazing.

The following is a representation of the Congregational Church in Darien, 5 miles southwest of Norwalk. It stands a few rods to the left as you pass the main road to Stamford: this church was erected in 1740. During the Revolutinary War, a considerable number of persons disaffected to the American cause resided in this vicinity. On Sunday, the 22nd day of July, 1781, a party of British troops, consisting chiefly of refugees, surrounded this church and took the congregation prisonsers. The Rev. Moses Mather, D.D. was a this time pastor of the church, a divine distinguised for his piety, learning, and most exemplary life. It was the intention of the refugees, or Tories, to have taken the congregation prisoners during the morning services, but some of the members of the congregation who were particularly obnoxious to them, not attending church in the forenoon, they kept concealed till the afternoon services commenced. While the congregation were singing the first time, the refugees, commanded by Capt. Frost, sprung over the fence and suddenly surrounded the house. Two or three young men, who happened to discover them in season, jumped out of the window and effected their escape. Two guns were fired at them by the refugees, who did not think it prudent to fire any more, as the firing of three guns would have been the signal of alarm agreed upon by the inhabitants of this place, to give notice of any invasion of the enemy. The men of the congregation were taken out of the church, tied two and two, and Dr. Mather was placed at their head. The refugees then took about forty horses belonging to the congregation, mounted them, and marched their prisoners to the shore; and thence conveyed them to Lloyd's Neck on Long Island. From this place they were soon after marched to New York, and confined in prison.

Some of the congregation who were taken off, never returned; these probably perished in prison, others were paroled, and some returned after having suffered severely by the small pox. A writer in one of the British publications of the day, in giving an account of this expedition, made himself merry in describing the outcry which the women and children made at the time the men were taken prisoners, as though it were nothing to have husbands, fathers, and brothers, separated from them by an armed enemy, and taken off to a distant prison. The son of Dr. Mather was more fortunate than the rest; as the refugees enterd the church, he sprung under the seat, and the women sitting before him, their clothes hid him form observation.

"Dr. Mather having been taken into New York, was confined in the Provost prison. Here his food was stinted, and wretched to a degree not easily imaginable. His lodging corresponded with his food. His company, to a considerable extent, was made up of mere rabble; and their conversation, fromwhich he could not retreat, composed of profaneness and ribaldry. Here also he was insulted daily by the provost marshall, whose name was Cunningham, a wretch, remembered in this country only with detestation. This wretch, with other kinds of abuse, took a particular satisfaction in announcing, from time to time, to Dr, Mather, that on that day, the morrow, or some other time at a little distance, he was to be executed."

"But Dr. Mather was not without his friends; friends, however, who knew nothing of him, except his character. A lady of distinction,* having learned his circumstances, and having obtained the necessary permission, sent him clothes and food, and comforts, with a very liberal hand."-Dr. Mather died Sept. 21st, 1806, venerated by all who knew him, in the 88th year of his age. He was educated at Yale College, of which he was a fellow thirteen years.

*According to the information obtained in Darien, this lady was the mother of Washington Irving, the American poet.

© Copyright 1996 to 2016. Created January 2004. Updated January 2016.

If you have questions or comments, please contact Darien TC, Amanda Goodman.

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