In 1705, just seventy years from the settlement of the Connecticut River towns, a Baptist church was organized in Groton, by the Rev. Valentine Wightman, who removed to that town from North Kingston, Rhode Island. There had been previously a few scattered Quakers and Episcopalians within the limits of the colony, but this appears to have been the first attempt to establish a departure from the Congregational church order in Connecticut.
The Rev. Valentine Wightman remained pastor of the church in Groton forty-two years, till his death at the age of sixty-six. He was descended from the Rev. Edward Wightman, burnt at the stake in England in 1612, the last man who suffered death for conscience sake in the mother country by direct course of law. He was followed in the pastorate, after an interval of nine years, by his son, the Rev. Timothy Wightman, who retained the office forty years till his death in 1796, and was succeeded by his son John G. Wightman, who was pastor of the same church from 1800 to 1841, when he died. Thus the three Wightmans, father, son and grandson, sustained the pastoral office in this church one hundred and twenty-three years. Of the descendants of the Rev. Valentine Wightman, nineteen have sustained the pastoral office with usefulness and honor.
The church in Groton remained the only Baptist church in Connecticut for twenty years. In 1726 another was organized in New London, and in 1743 a third in North Stonington. From these beginnings, small at first and slow in progress, have arisen, amid much opposition and many discouragements, we are told, the eight associations of Baptist churches in this state, embracing in 1850, 121 ministers, 113 churches, and 16,617 communicants.*
The Baptists have been supposed to have received considerable accessions from the Separatists of the last century. But it appears that out of twenty-five churches of the Separatists, not more thau four or five joined the Baptist denomination.
* Hollister's History of Connecticut, Vol. II., p. 560.
[From Leonard Bacon, editor, Contributions to the Ecclesiastical History of Connecticut, 1861, pp. 262-263. Document from Google Books. Formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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