THE FIRST ORGANIZED CHURCH
IN
NEW LONDON COUNTY
A HISTORICAL STUDY
BY
HON. RICHARD A. WHEELER
Read before the New London County Historical Society,
 at its Annual Meeting, Nov. 26th, 1877.
 
Part Two
 
    During the year 1669 Mr. Miner makes this entry in his diary June 30th, saying "that I was at New London and had testimony from the Church for me and my wife being owned to be under their watch."  His testimony was given to him in writing and is recorded in his diary and is as follows, viz.: "These are to signify to all whom it may concern, that we whose names are underwritten, being members of the Church of Christ at New London, do own Thomas Miner and his wife members with us, and under our care and watch, and they do live for aught we know or hear as become Christians."
                                                                    JAMES AVERY,
                                                              WILLIAM DOUGLASS,     Mr. Bradstreet's records of the first Church of New London commences October 5th, 1670, which, according to Trumbull's history of Connecticut, was the day of his ordination;  but Thomas Miner in his diary simply says that Mr. Bradstreet was ordained October 1st, 1670.

    Previous to this Mr. Miner says under date of July 27th, 1670, "that I and my wife were at New London, and Goodman Royce and Goodman Haugh were received into the Church there."

    Who will say, in view of these diary records of Mr. Miner, that no church existed in New London before October 1st, 1670;  and further, Mr. Blinman after he left New London and in contemplation of his return back to England in 1659, sold his house and lot at New London to William Addis, and his farm at Harbor's Mouth to John Tinker.  In these deeds the form used is "I, Richard Blinman, late pastor of the Church of Christ at New London."  As early as 1654 Mr. Obadiah Bruen, one of the most prominent men of Pequot, and Town Clerk at the time, in a written memorandum speaks of Mr. Blinman as "Pastor of the Church of Christ at Pequot,"&e.

    Mr. Blinman was an educated man, and an ordained minister of the Protestant Church of England, a Puritan of the straightest sect, and knew beyond the possibility of a doubt the difference between the minister of a town and the pastor of a Church.

    Thus we have testimony of Mr. Blinman, Mr. Bruen, Mr. Miner, Mr. Douglass and Capt. James Avery, that a Church existed in New London before 1670, and we may add Mr. Bradstreet's first record in proof, for he uses the simple caption "Members of the Church," not the persons who began the Church, or were embodied in the organization of the Church.

       Considering the character of the men whose records and statements in writing I have introduced, and their opportunities for knowing whereof they testify, must convince every candid mind that a Church existed in Pequot in 1654 and doubtless before, because Thomas Miner in his diary record of the Church meeting of 1654 speaks of former offenses being considered and settled, referring to some difficulty in the Church before that time.

    The first Church of Norwich consisted of a majority of the first Church of Saybrook organized in _______ 1646, who with their minister, the Rev. James Fitch, came to Norwich as the first planters thereof in 1660.  They continued their Sabbath services in the new settlement precisely as when at home in Saybrook.  This emigration weakened the Saybrook Church, but did not discourage and leave it desolate.  for as early as 1661 they engaged the Rev. Jeremiah Peck, of Guilford, Conn., to supply their pulpit.  His services were not acceptable, and a controversy arose between him and the Church, which resulted in his leaving them, June 30th, 1665.

    In February following the town hired Mr. Thomas Buckingham to supply the pulpit, who came and preached for them as a supply until the spring of 1670, when he was ordained over the Church.

    From that time forward the Old Saybrook Church has had an uninterrupted and successful career.  Unfortunately all her records before 1732 are lost.

    The records of the Norwich Church for a number of years cannot be found.  But all the authorities concur in saying that the Church should take its date from the year of the settlement of that town, viz., 1660.  For no sooner were Mr. Fitch and his brethren located there, than they commenced and continued worship as a Church.

    The general association of the Congregational Churches of Connecticut regards this Church as being organized in 1660, and it will be so found and stated in the statistics thereof.

    Now let us apply the rule recognized and established by the Association and other authorities relative to the Church of Norwich to all the facts and circumstances that stand connected with the organization of the first Church of New London.

    First, all the authorities concur in saying that Mr. Blinman came to this country from Steptow, Monmouthshire, England, before 1640.  That there came with him a number of gentlemen of good note with their families, and nearly all of them accompanied him to Plymouth that year.  But after a short stay they removed him to Green Harbor, now Marshfield.  But they were not contented there, nor could they agree with the planters who had preceded them.  So they crossed the Bay to Cape Ann, Now Gloucester, and pitched their tents in that place in 1641.  During the year of 1642, joined by a few of the previous planters of Cape Ann they organized themselves into a Church with Mr. Blinman for their minister.  At first all was harmonious, but in a few years dissensions arose in the Church, and out of it, caused mainly by their new friends, and Mr. Blinman was most unkindly treated by them, and when the call from Pequot came to Mr. Blinman he was not long in accepting it.

    His old friends who had been  with him at Plymouth and Green Harbor decided to go with him and share his fortunes.  So the, a majority of the then Church of Gloucester, after disposing of their homesteads, followed Mr. Blinman to Pequot in the early spring of 1651.

    Mr. Blinman and Ralph Parker preceded them and came in the fall of 1650.  So during the summer of 1651 Mr. Blinman, with his Gloucester Church friends and friends at New London, assembled for public worship in Mr. Robert Park's barn meeting house.

          "And the sounding aisles of the dim woods rang with their hymns of lofty cheer."

    So beyond all controversy when the majority of the members of the Gloucester Church of 1642 under their regular installed pastor, in unison with other Church members, assembled for public worship in New London in 1651, taken in connection with all the facts, precedent and subsequent thereto relating, is the time when the first Church of New London was established there.

    Facts and circumstances of almost the same character and conditions stand connected with the first Church of Norwich, Conn., as those incidental to the first Church of New London, and serve to establish its existence there in 1660.  The first church at Saybrook survived the migration to Norwich, and the first Church of Gloucester survived the migration to New London.  But the Church at Gloucester was more reduced thereby than the Saybrook Church.  The remnant of the Gloucester Church employed Mr. William Perkins to succeed Mr. Blinman as a laborer in spiritual things, though it is not known that he was ever set apart for the work of the ministry by ordination, or that he was recognized by the ministers of his time as a fellow laborer in their calling.  He was in Gloucester from 1650 to 1655, when he removed to Topsfield, Mass.

    Mr. Babson, the historian of Gloucester, in a recent letter says "that the removal of Mr. Blinman and his friends to New London left the Church very weak, and no minister was regularly ordained over it till the settlement of the Rev. John Emerson in 1661.  A regular succession of pastors taught the ancient faith till 1834, when a Unitarian clergyman was settled, which occasioned the secession of the orthodox members of the Church and Society."

    It should be stated that Mr. Blinman's church at Gloucester did not bear so large a proportion to the previous settlers there as they did at Pequot, nor did Mr. Fitch's church embrace all of the first planters at Norwich.

    The first Church at Windsor, Conn., was formed at Plymouth, England, in 1630, when they were preparing to embark for New England; and came over the Atlantic and settled together at Dorchester, Mass.

    In 1635 the majority of this Church removed to Windosr, Conn., and transplanted their Church in that place.

    The remnant that remained at Dorchester convened a council April 11, 1636, to reconstruct the Church, but the council deferred the matter till  August 22d of that year, when a new Church was organized, and a convenant subscribed to by seven individuals was adopted.

    So the Windsor Church dates its organization at 1630, though twice transplanted, hence our beautiful State motto:-

                    "He who transplanted still sustains."

    The first Church of Milford, Conn., was formed in New Haven August 22d, 1639, where the members lived at that time, but soon after its organization they removed to Milford, where they continued their worship without regard to their change of residence.

    In March, 1658, the General Court of Connecticut passed an "Act that henceforth no persons in this jurisdiction shall in any way embody themselves into Church estate without the consent of the General Court, and approbation of the neighboring churches," and the colonial records of Connecticut have been searched in vain to find the consent of the General Court, either asked for or given to any one for the organization of a Church at New London or Norwich, either prior to, or subsequent to the date of said Act of 1658.  So it appears beyond all doubt that no Church was ford by Mr. Fitch and his friends when they settled Norwich in 1660, nor at New London when Mr. Bradstreet was ordained in 1670.  Had Mr. Fitch or Mr. Bradstreet attempted to have organized a Church either at Norwich or New London, after the passage of said Act, the General Court would have thundered their anathemas against them, and the colonial records would have contained their proceedings chapter and verse.