First Congregational Church


In 1648, the first "non-native" American entered. He came on the river, the only thoroughfare, to erect a trading post on an island in the Housatonic, near the current Lover’s Leap bridge. He was a squatter, never having obtained the deed for the land. (In fact, the first time that the land was ever "legally" deeded was in 1703 when the Indians conveyed the area known as Weantinock to include "islands". The purchases were the 109 people of the New Milford Land Company.)

The trader, a Mr. Stephen Goodyear, was a businessman of the New Haven Colony and a neighbor of one Captain Benedict Arnold. He was different from those that had been there before. This man attempted to establish structures for business, not only shelter. He attempted to take from the land, not merely to survive, but to trade for profit. If he were to find himself on the moon, it would have been no more lonely a place in terms of friendly faces and no less uninviting to the average person. He was completely cut off from the known civilized world, pushed by the motives of profit, adventure, and a desire to move from given to hostile; to settle; to fight; to be independent; to do with his life as he wanted. . .the valley returned to it’s natural state less than a year from his arrival. . .

The first meeting house, other than the former residence of Mr. Read, was started in 1719 and finally finished in 1731. This period serves to point out the economic limitations of the church. The building, a bare structure with hard wood benches, no stove to heat it in the winter, nor any sort of musical instrument with which to lead song, was forty feet in length and thirty feet wide and located at the site of the present historical society.

The method of calling people to the service was to go through the town beating a drum, a job that was assigned annually. The people came to the church and were seated after 1729 according to "their age, dignity and estate." The pew nearest the pulpit stairs was the highest in dignity. The tithing men, two or three in number, stood ready to fulfill the duties of their office, principally to keep the worshippers awake during the discourse. As the sermons were often hours long, and the services could last a full day with no heat, except that provided by individual foot stoves; these men may well have been poking bodies to ascertain the presence of life. While services seemed harsh by today’s standards, the motivating factor may well have been the spiritual implications involved in non-attendance: rather a live, tired believer than a sleep-in, dead, witch

As change and technological advances increase exponentially, we reach out and realize there are certain truths that are not instant, but everlasting. Our children may come to believe that two and two are four with no more substantiation than that is the number that appears on a screen, but we hope to leave them with a desire to hold on to other truths which are enduring. You who read this in the future will judge best how well we were able to do just that. In fact, know that we came to realize that the truth of Love is everlasting; that truly loving or caring for others is not always the quickest, easiest way to solve problems, but the best. Know that truly loving another, more than oneself, the golden rule of our God, was our aim. Also know that leaving you a church proud of its tradition, loved for its symbology, and as a token of our continuing goal of pleasing God with our lives was our aim.