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
THERE are very few records of the early history of the old Gilberttown Church, as the old church in. Easton was called. The record reads as follows:
"At a general assembly of the Governor and company of His Majesties English Colony of Connecticut holden at New Haven in said colony on the 2nd Thursday of October Anno Domini 1761,
Whereas, upon the memorial of John Gilbert and others, inhabitants of the parish of Greenfield and of the parish of Stratfield and North Stratford, all in the county of Fairfield, praying to be made a distinct ecclesiastical society. The General Assembly holden at Hartford in May, 1762, did appoint Comfort Starr, Richard Fairman, and Joseph Clatt, Esq. a committee to repair to and view the circumstances of the memorialists and make report to this assembly, which committee have reported that the inhabitants being within the following bounds and limits,"--the record goes on to give the exact bounds of the parish. "Resolved by this Assembly, That the memorialists and all other inhabitants living within the limits and boundaries aforementioned be and they are hereby made and constituted a distinct ecclesiastical society, with all the powers, privileges and immunities by law belonging to the other ecclesiastical societies in this colony, and shall be called and known by the name of the society of North Fairfield."
The church building was raised November, 1762. The parish was organized as early as 1763 under the care of the London Missionary Society, and was supplied with ministerial services by it for about 20 years. Rev. Philo Shelton, the first Episcopal minister ordained in the United States, was then called as rector in 1784 and continued until 1818. The first church edifice was a rude structure and was never completely finished. It was never plastered in the inside and never painted. It had large galleries on three sides and in early days was always filled. It stood until about 1850. There are a few people still living in what was then North Stratford, now Tashua parish, who can remember going in large sleigh loads to the Gilberttown Church to Illumination, as the Christmas eve service was called. The church was decorated with Christmas greens and lighted throughout with candles; candles being arranged in all the small panes of glass of the windows above and below the galleries, making the church beautiful without and within. It was known as the North Fairfield Episcopal Church at Gilbert-town.
In 1873 a new chapel was built near the academy at Easton center, the old parish having been divided into Easton and Weston parishes. The chapel at Easton has always been rather a missionary station than an independent parish. It has a fund which was given as a memorial of the Rev. Philo Shelton, first rector of the church from 1784 to 1812. This chapel is open every Sunday for service and is kept in good repair. The exterior is being painted this summer.