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
THE early history of St. Paul's parish, Wallingford, is closely connected with that of St. John's, North Haven. Lay services were held in the latter place as early as 1723, and some kind of an ecclesiastical organization was formed in which "Professors of the Church of England, inhabiting in Wallingford," which then included Cheshire and a part of the present town of Meriden, had a part.
In 1740 a closer organization was brought about under the direction of the Rev. Theophilus Morris, missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, as witness the following minutes:
"March ye 21st, 1740. At a meeting of the members of the Church of England inhabitating in Wallingford and North Haven, Rev. T. Morris made choice of Thomas Ives, and the parishioners of North Ingham, as Church Wardens" and six vestry men were selected.
"March ye 21st, 1740. At a Vestry held at the house of Mr. Thomas Ives, Voted, That the parishioners of Wallingford and North Haven be united into one church, by the name of Union Church."
They soon built a suitable church-house in the southwestern portion of the town, convenient to the members scattered over so wide an area. Probably one reason for the choice of this location was to place the church on a tract of glebe land of about twelve acres that a board of trustees, of which the Rev. Mr. Mansfield of Derby was a member, held in trust for the use of the church in Wallingford from the S. P. G.
The number of communicants is not known, but in a report sent from Wallingford to England in 1744, four years after retirement of Mr. Morris, the following statement is made: "There are twenty-five masters of families, members of the church, who in the absence of a clergyman, meet together every Lord's day and edify themselves as well as they can by reading."
The Rev. James Lyon followed the Rev. Mr. Morris, and the Rev. Ebenezer Punderson succeeded him.
In 1752 the Rev. Ichabod Camp, a native of Middletown, and a graduate of Yale College, who had gone to England for Holy Orders, returned to Middletown and the Union Church was added to his charge. Under his ministrations the church so increased in numbers and strength, that it was thought best to make different arrangements. So the Union Society was dissolved in 1757, and the Wallingford parishioners took steps towards the formation of an independent organization and the erection of a church building in the village. This was finished in 1762, and is said to have been handsome in appearance and quite churchly in style of architecture and in its appointments.
At first the title by which the Wallingford parish was designated was "The Old Society," the name St. Paul's not appearing on record till 1765. The funds for the erection of the church came in part from subscriptions of the parishioners and possibly in part from the proceeds of the sale of the glebe land in 1765. It was used until 1832, and we have three mementoes of it in our possession: one, a mahogany table, which served as an altar: another a Prayer Book of the Church of England, and the third a silver chalice dated 1767, which was presented by Capt. Titus Brockett, then senior warden, and which has been in continuous use ever since.
There is also in existence a Royal Coat of Arms, but it was taken to St. Andrew's, New Brunswick, after the Revolutionary War, where it still remains.
The following record is found:
"Jan. 29, 1761. Voted, That there shall be preaching a proportionable part of the time, according to what they pay, at the old society in Wallingford, Cheshire, and North Haven." This action probably had in view the return of the Rev. Samuel Andrews of blessed memory, who had acted as lay reader here, and who at the time was in England to receive Holy Orders at the hands of Dr. Sherlock, Bishop of London, under whom were all the colonial parishes.
He was a native of the town, brother of the Junior Warden and a graduate of Yale. He returned the following year as missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to Wallingford, North Haven, and Cheshire, where he remained for about twenty-five years, an able, faithful, and successful clergyman, winning the warmest affections of his people and the honor and esteem of all who knew him.
Being while here a missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, he received a stipend from that source of £30 sterling per annum. In addition to this the three parishes jointly stipulated to give him £50 sterling per annum, a house, and a glebe of fourteen acres for his better accommodation. Under his ministrations the Church in all these places grew exceedingly and received from his strong character, his staunch churchmanship and his wise and abundant labors an impetus and impress that long governed them.
We have no means of knowing the strength of the parish at his return, but eight years afterwards we find in the century discourse delivered before the people of Wallingford in 1770, by Rev. Mr. Dana, pastor of the Congregational Church and his own warm personal friend these words:
"There are sixty-three families of Episcopalians within the original limits of the Historical Society: 86 communicants, and baptized (by Mr. Andrews), 165. In New Cheshire, the families are 47, communicants 64, baptisms 86. In Meriden 6 families, 14 communicants, 20 baptisms."
Mr. Andrews remained in charge until after the close of the Revolutionary War, when he transferred his labors to St. Andrew's, New Brunswick, where he died, honored and lamented, in 1820.