Sketches of Church Life in Colonial Connecticut
Being the Story of the Transplanting of the Church of England into Forty Two Parishes of Connecticut,
with the Assistance of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel
TO the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts the Episcopal Church in Derby owes its origin. The parish was established in 1737, under the leadership of the Rev. Jonathan Arnold, who began the erection of a church, but before its completion left Derby to take charge of another parish. He was succeeded by the Rev. Theophilus Morris, who, after a period of service of less than two years, tired of his charge and returned to England. Then the Rev. James Lyons came from England to take charge of the parish, but after a short time he was transferred to another.
The Rev. Dr. Richard Mansfield was the next clergyman in Derby, and the parish was then called Christ's Church, it being the custom to so call all churches at that time, that had not been consecrated by any other name. Dr. Mansfield was born in New Haven, 1724. His parents were Congregationalists, and he, therefore, was educated in the faith of his parents. He graduated from Yale College in 1741, but remained there two years after his graduation. It was during these two years that he became an Episcopalian. Dr. Mansfield was the Dean's Scholar at Yale, and this university conferred on him the honorary title of D.D., he being the first Episcopal clergyman to receive this title from Yale University. In 1748 Dr. Mansfield went to England and was ordained on August 7th of that year, in London. His first charge was Derby, with which several other towns were connected. His life was not an easy one, in fact so many dangers beset a clergyman in those days that when he went to England to receive Holy Orders, his sister prayed that he might be lost at sea. Dr. Mansfield had as his assistants the Rev. Edward Blakeslee and the Rev. Calvin White, the latter of whom was one of the first converts to the Roman Catholic Church when it was established in Derby.
Dr. Mansfield had charge of this parish for seventy-two consecutive years, from 1748 to 1820. He died in Derby, April 12, 1820, aged ninety-six years. There is a tablet in St. James's Church to his memory, bearing this inscription:
Since Dr. Mansfield there have been fourteen Rectors, the present Rector being the fourteenth in succession.
The first church edifice in Derby was commenced in 1738, and complete in 1746, taking nine years to build.
On September 21, 1746, a Convocation of the Clergy of Connecticut was held, at which time Bishop Seabury admitted four candidates to the Diaconate, and also delivered his second and last charge to the Clergy of Connecticut, and set forth his Communion Office, which is substantially the office which we now have in our Book of Common Prayer.
On June 7th, 1797, the annual convention of the Clergy of Connecticut was held, at which time the Rev. Abraham Jarvis was elected Bishop.
The second church edifice was consecrated as St. James's Church by Bishop Jarvis, November 20, 1799. At this time a Convocation of the Clergy was held, at which the Office of Institution was set forth, and it was presently used for the first time in this church.
The present church edifice was consecrated on April 11, 1843, as St. James's Church, by the Rt. Rev. T. C. Brownell. At Derby (now in Ansonia), Conn., the house is still standing which was bought for the use of a Rector in 1747, and was the home of the Rev. Dr. Mansfield during his long life in Derby.