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The Baptists of Connecticut
The Baptist Encyclopedia
     Connecticut began her career with the Puritan doctrine of church and state. The standing order was Presbyterian, -- now Congregational, -- and held the ground by law until the opening of the present century. The new constitution, giving full freedom of conscience, was adopted in 1818, and the article on religious liberty was drawn by Rev. Asahel Morse, a Baptist minister from Suffield. The leaven of liberty was early introduced into the colony by the Baptists from Rhode Island, and gradually wrought the transformation of the State.

     The first New Testament baptisms were solemnized in Waterford in 1674, the persons uniting with a church in Rhode Island. A great excitement followed, and the Legislature was invoked to suppress the innovation. The first Baptist church was organized in Groton, in 1705, by Rev. Valentine Weightman, a man of liberal education for his time. The second was formed in Waterford in 1710. A third was gathered in Wallingford in 1735. Three more were planted in 1743, -- one in North Stonington, one in Lyme, and one in Colchester. A seventh was formed in Saybrook in 1744. In the latter place "fourteen persons were arrested for holding a Baptist meeting, . . . tried, fined, and driven on foot through a deep mud (in February) to New London, a distance of twenty-five miles, and thrust into prison, without fire, food, or beds, where they remained, enduring dreadful sufferings, for several weeks." In this State, however, Baptist principles began to spread more rapidly on account of the Great Awakening, which. gave birth to evangelical sentiments and to a strong party in the standing order, known as Separatists and New Lights, who appealed to the New Testament. Yale College took ground against the reformation and expelled some who favored it. The colony was in a ferment from 1740 to 1760. Abont forty separate churches were formed. The Separatists "generally turned Baptists." Among some in this transition period, and for a time after, there was a mixture of ecclesiastical views and some experimental affiliations. Baptist principles, however, eventually triumphed, and the standing order was greatly modified and mollified, and the Baptists stood forth in all their proper distinctness and independence.

     The Stonington Union Association was formed in 1772. In the Revolution the Baptists were ardent patriots. In 1789 they counted about 30 churches and 20 ordained ministers. The Groton Union Conference, a mixed association of Baptists and Separatists, had but a temporary existence. The Hartford Association was organized in 1789. In 1795 the State contained about 60 churches, 40 ministers, and 3500 members. The New London Association was formed in 1817, the Ashford Association in 1824, the New Haven Association in 1825, the Fairfield Association in 1837. In 1848 the State counted over 100 churches, and more than 16,000 members. The Connecticut Baptist Education Society was organized in 1819, the State Convention was formed in 1823, the Christian Secretary was started in 1822, the Connecticut Literary Institution was founded in 1833, the Connecticut Baptist Social Union was formed in 1871, and the State Sunday-school Convention was organized in 1877.

     Evangelization and education were early pursued by the denomination, and efforts have been constant and systematic for domestic, home, and foreign missions, and for Sunday-schools and a denominationa1 literature. Yale College to-day gladly admits the Baptists to its halls and privileges. Truth has conquered its way to an open field. The present Baptist statistics of the State are as follows (given in 1879): 6 Associations, 119 churches, 20,767 members, 1 institution of learning, 1 periodical, 1 education society, 2 Conventions, 1 social union, various missionary societies.


[From The Baptist Encyclopedia, 1881; reprint, 1988, pp. 268-269. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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