Sheldon B. (Sheldon Brainerd) Thorpe.

North Haven annals : a history of the town from its settlement, 1680, to its first centennial, 1886 online

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sermon, and the Rev. D. W. Havens, of East Haven,
offered the dedicatory prayer. A large congregation
united in giving thanks for so pleasant and commodi-
ous a house of worship.

From that time the "lines" of this church "have
fallen in pleasant places." During the ministry of
the Rev. Mr. Reynolds,* 350 communicants Avere
added, and its membership January i, 1893, was 313.
There are two Societies of Christian Endeavor, three
Circles of King's Daughters, one company of The Loyal
Legion, one White Cross Society, one Ladies' Benevo-
lent Society and a Suiiday school of 500 members con-
nected with it. Its weekly offerings have risen from
small sums to $1,328.53 in 1890; §1,851,49 in 1891;
$1,817.38 in 1892.

One will search' in vain for anything startling or
sensational in the history of this ancient church. It
has sought rather to keep quietly the faith of its
founders, than found new faiths for its followers. The
last quarter century has brought about more changes
in its policy than occurred in all its former history.
Among the more radical of these may be mentioned
the recommendation that its constituency, as well as

♦ The Rev. William T. Reynolds tendered his resignation April i, 1893, this date
ending the unusual period of thirty years' ministry in the same sacred desk. His
deasion was reluctantly assented to by- church and society. Both bodies tendered
their warmest thanks, and the former unanimously made him pastor emeritus.


applicants for membership, abstain from the use of
intoxicating liquors; the privilege granted its female
members to vote in the church meetings; the use of
unfermented wine at the Lord's Slipper; the restric-
tion to a five years' olBcial term of its deacons (unless
re-elected), and the abolition of the afternoon service.

According to the most trustworthy accounts, in all
1,541 persons have been connected with it since its
organization. It is not probable this number fully
covers its membership, as its early records were
negligently kept. Four catalogues have been issued
in the following years, respectively: 1832, 1871, 1886,

Two hundred ten families in the parish are con-
nected with it, many of these living from two to three
miles distant from the place of worship. The average
Sabbath congregation may be placed not far from
550. The hour of morning service is 11 o'clock, and
that of the Sunday school 12.30. The Society of
Christian Endeavor meets at 6 o'clock in winter and 7
in summer, and the evening church service is held an
hour later. The mid-week prayer meeting occurs on
Thursday nights. There is also service in the Clin
tonville chapel every Sunday evening.

Twenty-four deacons have been associated with its
history, some of whose terms were of 48, 44, 39, 37, 35,
20 years' duration. Its discipline has been in harmony
with Congregational usages of the current time, and
though always profoundly jealous of its rights, its
record appears singularly free from those internal
dissensions wont to harrass the early churches. All
honor to it ! It was the Genesis of this New England


The formal organization of the Congregational
church Sunday school took place in 1825.* At this

• Published report of the Conn. S. S. Union, 1827.


time it had a membership of eighteen teachers
and ninety-five scholars. Deacon Byard Barnes was
chosen superintendent. Previous to this a board oi
six directors f had for four years conducted, in a
general way, Bible study. The library numbered 187

The following gentlemen have served as superin-
tendents :

Dea. Byard Barnes, Dea. Whitney Elliott,

Jude B. Smith, J. Boardman Smith,

Eleazer AVarner, Solomon F. Linsley,

Willis Tuttle, Sheldon B. Thorpe,

Ezra S. Munson, Dea. H. P. Shares,

Dea. Frederick L. Barnes, Dea. Cullen B. Foote,

George J. ^Merz.

Weekly class contributions and teachers' meetings
were begun by Deacon Elliott in i860. Sunday school
concerts, at one time so marked a feature in its his-
tory, owed their success to S. F. Linsley, 1870-2. Dur-
ing the past thirty years no efforts have been spared
to make this organization most popular, and to-day it
enjoys the rare distinction of carrying almost the
entire resident membership of the church on its rolls.
On January ist, 1893, it numbered five hundred two
members. In 18S2 its benefactions were $572.47. It
elects its officers and makes its owm regulations, and
receives at all times the co-operation of the church.


The Prudential Committee of the "Episcopal
Society " had administration of its local affairs until
1842, when, by statute, the wardens and vestrymen
were made the governing body, as was the practice
before the Revolutionary war. In 1S77 the Legisla-

+ Jacob Eassett, Joel Ray, Eleazer Warner, Justin Bishop, Hervey Smith, Kj-.i"l

* Gathered from the unpublished Mstory of the parish by the Rev.
Lusk, Jr.


ture passed an act, taken advantage of in 1882
by the Society, whereby it became organized as a
"Parish of the Episcopal church in Connecticut."
So that it may be said that St. John's Parish, as organ-
ized by the canons of the Diocese of Connecticut,
that is, under law, dates not from 1759, but from 18S2.

The Rev. O. P. Holcomb, as noted [see Chap. IV],
officiated here a part of the time, 1818-1822. "With
him was associated as an alternate the Rev. John M.
Garfield, a man of attractive parts and a favorite with
the younger portion of the people. During 1 824-1 82 7
the Rev. Joseph Perry, of New Haven, one of the
older clergymen, visited the parish often as his
divided labors would allow. In these four years the
church came well nigh being stranded from very few-
ness of members and means. If ever the providence
of God in the care of his own is made manifest, here
was an illustration. They were "saved so as by fire."

Between 1828 and 1832 the Rev. Ashbel Baldwin,
then in his 71st year and residing in Wallingford,
added the North Haven church to his already
over-burdened field, and visited it from one-third
to one-fourth of the time on Sundays, and as
often weekly as circumstances permitted. The lat-
ter visits were made to private houses, where brief
services were often held.* Mr. Baldwin's position
was so unique and his work so beneficial, that he
deserves here more than mere mention of his name.
Born in Litchfield, Conn., he was educated a Congre-
gationalist and was graduated from Yale College,
1776. He acted as tutor for a time in a Church of
England family in New York state, and while in that
capacity assisted as a "lay reader" in the local place
of worship. This led him to become a Churchman.
He was also a patriot in the Revolutionary war.
He organized the present Sunday school of St. John's

♦The first recorded instance of neighborhood religious meetings.


Church, in 1828, with four teachers and nineteen schol-
ars. He was also the first to introduce a distinctive
literature for the young, in the fomi of The Children's
Magazine, and in 1831 laid the foundation of the
present Siinday school library. His salary was Siii.n
per year. Among his official acts here was the bap-
tism of Hobart Baldwin Bigelow, afterwards Gov-
ernor of Connecticut. He was a firm friend of Levi
Bigelow (father of the late Governor), and generally
made this gentleman's home his stopping place when
in North Haven. At that time Mr. Bigelow lived on
the place now owned by Willis Hull.

In 1832, through the efforts of Ezra Stiles, an
organ was purchased, at a cost of $105. It came origin-
ally from Wallingford. Captain David Cook brought
it from England, and in 1762 it was set up in St.
Paul's church. At this time it was a plain wooden
box, containing pipes, bellows, air chamber and a
spiked cylinder. Attached to this cylinder was a
crank which, when turned, operated on certain pipes
and produced music. It was historic, too, in that it
was the second instrument of its kind brought into
the state, the first being set up in Stratford, 1756. A
few years before it came to North Haven a bank of
keys was substituted for the cylinder, and it was other-
wise improved.

Such was the first organ set up in the old church
of 1760, and Ezra Stiles was its first organist. Wlien
the present church was built it was placed in the
alcove of the gallery.

Mr. Baldwin was followed by the Rev. Charles W.
Bradley, a descendant of William Bradle}-, the New
Haven planter. He was a young man of twenty-six,
and speedily gathered about him the young men of
the parish. A part of his time was spent in North-
ford. It was during his ministry that the main part
of the present brick church was erected.

This building stands a little south of the old site,






on land originally belonging to Dr. Trumbull. Its
corner-stone was laid by the Rev. Mr. Bradley, June
12th, 1834. The architect was Sidney ]M. Stone of
New Haven, and the master mason one Miles Barber.
Its cost in money was $3,551.65, with some indebted-
ness provided for by notes. Its dimensions were
44x36, with a tower in front 13X 12. The latter was
finished with wood, but remodeled in 1871. The bricks
were made by Horace Stiles and 92,000 were used in
its construction. The interior was finished in plain
wood-work. At the east end of the nave was the chan-
cel, protected by a light railing, in the rear of which
rose a high pulpit reached by winding stairs. In front
of this, and considerably lower, stood the prayer and
reading desk, and on the left was placed a semi-circu-
lar Communion table.

A year w^as consumed in building and the edifice
was consecrated by Bishop Brownell in June, 1835.

The model was Trinity church, New Haven, and
on its completion it was pronounced one of the hand-
somest edifices in the diocese. For the parish it was
a brave undertaking. Aside from the sale of the old
building (which realized $80.00), the entire cost was
met by subscription and donations by its members. Not
a penny was raised from outside sources. Truly the
chiirch history of the North Haven people. Congre-
gational, Episcopal, Baptist, shows them, cast in a
heroic mold, doing such deeds in the name of Jehovah
as must win the admiration of all time.

It is noted of ^Mr. Bradley that he was the first to
wear the surplice in the chancel. He ofiiciated until
1836. Afterwards he became Secretary of State for
Connecticut (1846), and later was made U. S. consul
at Singapore, and still later consul at Amoy and
Ning-Po, China. He became a member of many
learned societies at home and abroad and was distin-
guished as an orientalist. He died in New Haven,


Between 1836 and 1846 the Revs. Robert Shaw.
John W. Woodward, Alonzo B. Chapin, author <.:
the "Primitive Church," Servillius Stockinii: and
Henry Fitch oflSciated in turn, and in such measure-
as circumstances would allow. Lay-reading, how-
ever, was in the intervals relied upon.

The next clergyman in order was the Rev. Charles
W. Everest, who, having a semi-military school in
Hamden, consented to officiate in the North Haven
church one-half the time, 1846-9 inclusive. The
assistance of this helpful man was of incalculable
value to St. John's. His ministry was a sunny period
in the parish history. The Congregational churches
stood equally ready to accord him honor as a poet, a
scholar and a divine. Through his efforts the women
were brought forward to take part in material work,
for up to this time no carpeting had been laid in tlie
church. In 1S47, enough was puixhased to furnish the

The Rev. Seth B. Paddock succeeded Mr. Everest
and officiated for two years alternately at Cheshire
and North Haven. In the last report made to the
Bishop, he says: "There are sixty persons in North
Haven, mostly heads of families, who call themselves

In 185 1-2 the Rev. Frederick Sill officiated here
and at Northford? He brought his family and was
the first Episcopal clergyman to reside in the town.
Like Mr. Baldwin he was educated a Congregation-
alist, but was confirmed in Norwich, Conn., in early
life. His salary was $320.00 per year. He is re-
membered as an earnest worker and a large-hearted

During his ministry the present church bell (first
in the parish) was placed in the tower. It weighs
1,030 lbs. and cost in working order $301.39. Tlie
funds \vere raised by subscription (with exception of
one hundred dollars), of which forty-six Congrega-


tionalists paid $93.05, and the Episcopalians the
remainder. The founder of the movement was Jared
Mansfield, who left a legacy of §100.00 for that pur-

The Rev. Alonzo G. vShears followed Mr. Sill in
1852, and likewise divided his time with the St. An-
drew's Church in Northford. At first he resided in
the town, but later removed to New Haven. Bishop
Williams made his first visitation in the parish during
this period and confirmed thirteen persons. Mr. Shears
remained with the church until 1855, when he estab-
lished his " suburban school " in New Haven. He died
in 1888. Toward the close of his ministry here — 1S54
— the church" came into a legacy of $5,000.00 on the
death of one of its oldest members, Ebenezer Pierpont.
Itwas a munificent gift and marked the turning point
in the history of the church. Behind it lay one hun-
dred thirty years of scarcity, of struggle, of sacrifice;
before it was to stretch away a long record of com-
fort, of beauty, of rest. Mr. Pierpont's bequest was
supplemented four years later with another of $1,000
on the death of his widow. Thus was laid the foun-
dation of the present .prosperity of St. John's Parish.

On the removal of Mr. Shears to New Haven, the
Rev. Seth Davis came from Woodbury, Conn., and
officiated part of the time. During his term the
present rectory was built — 1S55 — and he was its
first occupant. He remained two years and was
succeeded by the Rev. Joseph Scott. This clergyman
was the first, in the long list of clergymen, to be
"called" as rector. He gave his whole time to the
people and became greatly beloved by them. His
salary was $500 and the use of the rectory. But in
the midst of all his work and promise he was stricken
with serious illness and compelled to give up his
labors. He returned to Naugatuck, Conn., and died
1859. A son, Seabury S., married Laura, daughter of
Roswell Jacobs of this town.


The next incumbent was the Rev. Cuthben C.
Barclay, an English clergyman and possessed of
means. He came xfrom Syracuse, N. Y. In manv
respects Mr. Barclay was an unusual man for a quiet
country town. Possessed of great energy, of pro-
nounced ideas and thoroughly devoted to his calling,
he infused fresh zeal into the parish and taught it
many new ways. Most prominent in this line was
the enlarging of the church building by an extension
fitted for a recess chancel and vestry room. The cost
of this improvement was near $600. The stained
glass chancel window, so effective in the decoration
of the church, was the gift of Mr. Barclay as a
" Memorial '' of his mother. Modern chancel furni-
ture was procured and the queer high pulpit disap-
peared. All these changes were radical in the ex-
treme, biit they were educational nevertheless, and
bear witness to-day to Mr. Barclay's taste and judg-

Another important end gained was the better
observance of Lent and Easter. At the latter festi-
val, April 24, 1S59, occurred the looth anniversary
of the founding of' the parish. It was celebrated in
a becoming manner by special services and the assem-
bling of the New Haven County Convocation. An
historical sermon was preached by Mr. Barclay, which
was published by request.

In i860 the Rev. Enoch Huntington came to min-
ister to the people and remained nearly three years.
On his retirement there were sixty families in the
parish and eightj^-four communicants. The Sunday
school also had nearly doubled its membership. Mr.
Huntington was one of the most genial of gentlemen
and preachers, and was beloved by the whole com-
munity. He was a strong Union man, and when by
the hard fortune of war any North Plaven lad was
brought home to be laid in his native soil, no more


loyal sotil than he was ready to do the poor bit of
clay honor.

One of the brightest young men who ever stood in
the chancel of St. John's Church was the Rev. Arthur
Mason, who came in 1863. The very date carries with
it almost a shudder. It was the time when the utmost
patience and courtesy in the pulpit as well as out was
needed to pilot the churches through the fierce heat
of the hour. Mr. Mason was a man of culture, refine-
ment and musical ability. He fell very naturally into
his place and was rewarded with the entire confidence
of the people. His salary was made $600 and the
rectory was enlarged. The stone baptismal font now
in use was his gift; the first person baptized from it
was his own daughter Alice. He remained until in
1866 and went to St. Paul's mission (now St. John's
Church) in New Haven.

The Rev. Stephen P. Simpson followed Mr. Mason
in 1866. He was a young man, a fine singer, and
inclined more to ritualism than any of his predeces-
sors. Up to this time the gown contintxed to be worn
by the officiating clergyman, but he emphasized the
distinction between that and the surplice.

Notwithstanding Mr. Simpson's " advanced views,"
the church steadily gained in prestige and the num-
ber of communicants was increased. The offerings
for 1867 amounted to $84.50, — much the largest sum
so far raised.

Except by the grace of God and the deliberate
purpose of the people, no church with such frequent
changes of leaders could have proved effective, and
yet the end of brief ministerial terms had not come.
The Rev. Joseph E. Wildman, the next rector, was
admitted to the diaconate in June, 1S67, and four
days later began his rectorship. In the following
March he was ordained priest by Bishop Williams, the
first instance of the kind in the parish. His salary
was $800. Mr. Wildman resigned June 29th, 1869. A



short time afterward he was called to St. Paul's, Wal-
lingford, Conn., where he has been the loved and
efficient rector since 1870.

Under his care here the most noted advance was
made in the offeringrs of the parish. In 1869 from all
sources they reached $493-37- Also in the latter vear
an excellent plan of enlargement and repairs was
carried out on the church building. The main walls
were extended twenty-four feet eastward. A recess
chancel with vestry room and organ chamber was
constructed, modern pews were added, and the pres-
ent organ purchased. The floors were also newly
carpeted. The committee who managed this matter
were Henry H. Stiles, Samuel A. Sackett, Bennett
Todd and Ezra Stiles. The total cost, inclusive of the
present organ, was $5,068.12. During the repairs,
services were held in Academy Hall. The church
was re-consecrated by Bishop Williams, October 29,
1869. This is the present church.

'fl 11 [h|) . 1 ilr-^Tv^ ' 1-^1 -Iff

St. Joh.s's Church and Rectory.
\_From a P/ioio by the author. \


Just previous to the consecration of the church
above noted, the Rev. Ephraim L. Whitcomb came to
the rectorship. He remained a little more than seven
years, the longest continuous term of any one up to
that time since the day of "Parson Andrews." The
salary was increased to $900, with added gifts. Mr.
Whitcomb's ministry was eminently successful.
Among other things, he introduced the plan of holding
service occasionally Sunday evenings. His resigna-
tion was regretted not only by his own people but
by the community. He went to Brookfield, Conn.,
where he is now officiating. He married for his
second wife, while here, Miss C. E. Bishop, an esteemed
North Haven lady.

A year now followed in which " supplies " minis-
tered to the parish, and it became involved in debt.
In August, 1877, the Rev. John Coleman came from
Michigan and took up the duties of rector. He
also assumed the care of St. Andrew's Church in
Northford at the same time. From both sources he
received $1,100 salary. Probably up to his coming
there had never been so stirring a worker in the
parish. His vitality was wonderful. Among the
reforms introduced by him was the Ladies' Guild;
service on every Sunday evening, on holy and saints'
days and every Wednesday and Friday, the issue of
a local newspaper called The Record, additional chancel
furnishings, a memorial of Mrs. Jennie Lyman Good-
year,* an alms chest, etc., etc.

In spite of his excessive zeal, the parish, on his
departure in October, 1S79, was less united than at
any previous time in its history, and the indebtedness
was much increased. Though outwardly he wrought
many changes, and generally for the better, it must
be said that a large proportion of the parish felt
that they had been etfected more by importunity than

* Wife of Dr. R. B. Goodyear, died March 21, 1878.


by a warm love for the church. The closing;- year
of his pastorate was marked by a decline of intcrL>i
throughout the parish.

The Rev. William Lusk is the present rector. He
is a descendant of the Lusks of Newington, Conn.—
1747, — the son of a Presbyterian minister, and was
born in Oneida county, N. Y. Union college and
Princeton Theological seminary both enroll hi:n
among their gradviates. He came into the diocese i;i
Connecticut from that of Albany, N. Y., in 1876, and
was called to St. John's Church January ist, liSSo.
As previously intimated, he found a parish divided,
badly in debt, and a people dispirited. To overcome
this and -bring about again that unity which had stood
the old church so well for a hundred thirty years was
his first work. The people responded quickly to his
toiich, and in an incredibly short time all parts were
in harmony again, and all indebtedness cancelled.

In 1882 the old organization known as the Second
Ecclesiastical Society (then reduced to five members)
gave way to the formation of a new body under the
law of 1877. The change was a wise one. The pres-
ent condition of the parish is prosperous in tlie
extreme. It has 95 families and 195 communicants.
The confirmations have numbered nearly 100. About
300 baptized persons are connected with the congrega-
tion. The Sunday school numbers 140 members, wii'n
a library of 900 volumes. In 1880 the salary of the
rector was §800; in 1S87, $900, and since 1SS9, Si,oao.
The total contributions since 1880 amount to $35,414-05-
The parish has received within the last forty years
legacies amounting to something over $11,000, and an
approximate like sum awaits it in the near futiirc.
The "free seat" plan was adopted in 18S8. This re-
form has proved so beneficial that no return to tlic
old system would be tolerated.

The working branches are the Ladies' Giiild. the
Woman's Auxiliary to the Board of Missions, a society

The Rev. William Lusk,


of the King's Daug-hters, and a chapter each of ihe
Daughters of the King and the Brotherhood of St.
Andrew. The day of "'small things" in the first cen-
tury of this parish is evidently over. It will undoubt-
edly enter the twentieth century endoAved as are few
country churches.* Contrasted with its humble be-
ginning in 1723, one may well exclaim, "What hath
God wrought I "

* A movement is on fodt^^iSj^ — to erect^an' entirely new church upon the old




Following is a partial list of old dwellings which
have disappeared, from decay and other causes. In
many instances their tenants have likewise perished.
Some of the dwellings were so long since removed
as to be absolutely forgotten, while in other cases a
slight depression in the earth, a bunch of tansy or
asparagus, a few bricks, or a venerable lilac bush.
marks the spot men and women once called home.
These localities are scattered throughout the town.
Only the very oldest of the citizens remember them
with any distinctness. Two types of building were
prevalent, the "square" house and the "lean-to" or
"linter" as corrupted.

The former appears to have been the favorite
design. The writer is indebted to the late Hon. Ezra

Online LibrarySheldon B. (Sheldon Brainerd) ThorpeNorth Haven annals : a history of the town from its settlement, 1680, to its first centennial, 1886 → online text (page 29 of 32)