Project Canterbury

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

Written by Members of the Parishes in Celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the Society

Edited by Lucy Cushing Jarvis

New Haven, Connecticut: The Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Company, 1902.

Christ Church, Watertown

WATERTOWN was originally a part of Waterbury (Waterbury included the whole or parts of seven of the now surrounding towns, and was considered sufficiently large to support thirty families). For many years no settlements were made in the outlying country, the danger from Indians leading the people to settle closely together; but later, as the colony grew stronger, some of the descendants settled within the limits of the present Watertown, and, in 1739, a society was organized by the name of Westbury.

In 1759 the Rev. James Scovill was sent by the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, to the Waterbury Mission. He resided at Waterbury and officiated one-half of the time there and the other half at Northbury and New Cambridge (now Plymouth and Bristol). Family tradition states that Mr. Scovill was born at Westbury, in the part called Nova Scotia Hill. He was educated at Yale and went to England for ordination. Through the labors of Mr. Scovill, the number of Churchmen within the limits of his mission so greatly increased that a separate parish was formed in Westbury. This was in 1764, when twenty people agreed to hold worship in Westbury on those Sundays when there was no preaching in Waterbury, and also to make arrangements to erect an Episcopal church in Westbury. They met in the house of James Doolittle in winter, and of Ensign David Scott in the summer.

In the following May, 1765, the first Episcopal church was erected, on a piece of ground donated for the purpose, by Capt. George Nichols of Waterbury. It was near the present old cemetery, the business part of the town being in that locality years ago. The building was 45 by 36 feet, with a steeple. In the latter part of October it was so far completed, that services were held in it. It was named Christ's Church. The Rev. Samuel Andrews delivered the dedicatory sermon. An arrangement was made by which Mr. Scovill was to officiate every sixth Sunday. This continued until 1771, when the parish had grown so strong that a new arrangement was made. Mr. Scovill agreeing to give one-third of his time to the Westbury Mission.

The society continued to prosper, and in 1773 they finished the lower part of the church, together with the pulpit, chancel, canopy, etc.; but they never entirely completed the building, for the war between the mother country and the colonies began, and most of the Episcopal clergy in Connecticut suffered--they being opposed to the war. A Presbyterian deacon said publicly, "that if the colonies carried their point, there would not be a church (English) in the New England States." The windows of Christ's Church were demolished and the principal members were confined to their farms, and not allowed to attend public worship. There is a tradition that Mr. Scovill was imprisoned in his barn for several weeks, to escape persecution as a Tory. He had the courage to stay with his people through the war, though it is believed he did not preach. After the war, the church people were much discouraged, but in a few years they again prospered and built another church. The present Christ's Church was built in 1854, and the parish continues to prosper.

Project Canterbury