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
IN the year 1735, Mr. John Davies came to Litchfield from Winton, England. He was a devoted member of the English Church, but did not find many here who agreed with him in sentiment. His wife, writing home to her friends in England, declared that "she was very lonely, having no society except that of Presbyterians and wolves."
In 1745 Mr. Davies found a number of people, who, owing to the disturbances arising from the preaching of the Rev. Mr. Whitfield, were discontented with their ecclesiastical surroundings. Thirteen heads of families met together in the house of Mr. Jacob Griswold, about a mile west of the village, to consult about establishing divine service according to the rites of the Church of England. It was determined to build a church, and this was done in 1748. In the meantime services were held in private houses. The Rev. Drs. Johnson, Cutler, and Beach all at different times visited the church people and read the service. The church was built on the hill a mile out of the village, and was used for services until 1810, when a new building was erected in the village on the site occupied by the present church. During the Revolutionary War the church was closed for a time, A body of soldiers in passing it threw stones to break in the windows, but were reproved by General Washington, who was with them, saying, "that is the Church of which I am a member."
In 1754 Mr. Solomon Palmer, a Congregational minister in Cornwall, where he had served for thirteen years, to the great surprise of his people announced that he had "become an Episcopalian in sentiment." Immediately after he went to England and was ordained Deacon and then Priest. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel appointed him Missionary for Litchfield, Cornwall, and Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He preached here till 1763, when he was called to New Haven to take charge of Trinity Church. At this time the Rev. Thomas Davies, a grandson of Mr. John Davies, who was graduated from Yale College in 1758, and in 1761 had been ordained by Archbishop Seeker, was appointed to succeed Mr. Palmer as Missionary in Litchfield County. New Milford and Litchfield were where he chiefly labored, but he went into almost all the towns in the county. He travelled on horseback. Through winter storms and summer heat he executed the duties of his office wherever opportunity offered. One of the entries in his private register reads, "officiated at Litchfield on St. Pompion's Day." This was what he called the annual Thanksgiving Day, and by pompion he meant what is more generally known as "pumpkin." Mr. Davies's ministerial life was a short one. He died in New Milford, May 12th, 1766. At this time the Rev. Mr. Palmer came back from New Haven and again took charge of the work here under an appointment from the S. P. G. and here his earthly labors came to an end in the year 1771.
In 1772 the Rev. Mr. Mosely was sent by the Society as Missionary, but for some reason there was objection made to receiving him and he withdrew. In consequence of this, the home Society refused the next year to make any appropriation for Litchfield. But through the good offices of the Rev. Mr. Bostwick of Great Barrington, the grant was renewed. At some time in its history the mission received a library from the Venerable Society, but the books have none of them been preserved.
The only missionary in charge here during the Revolutionary war was the Rev. James Nichols, a Yale graduate of the year 1771, who that same year went to England for ordination. He resigned his charge in 1784. At that time a parish was organized under the laws of the State. The first Rector was Ashbel Baldwin, who was the first clergyman to receive Episcopal ordination at Bishop Seabury's hands. This event occurred at Middletown, Aug. 3d, 1785. This parish was named St. Michael's, at the request of Mr. Davies, who gave fifty acres of land for the support of the Missionary on condition that if lawfully demanded by himself or his heirs one pepper-corn should be paid by way of rent on the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels. The last time this rent was offered was on the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary. At this time the Rev. Thomas F. Davies, Jr., now Rector of Christ Church, Norwich, son of Bishop Davies of Michigan and descendant of John Davies, assisted in the service. To him the rent was offered and declined.