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By Cyrus Henry Brown, 1916


     The First Baptist Church was organized in 1743. Elder Wait Palmer was chosen its pastor and ordained the same year.

     At the time this church was organized there was but one other Baptist Church in the State of Connecticut. The First Baptist Church of Groton was organized by Rev. Valentine Wightman as pastor in 1705. This church has the unique distinction of having the father, Valentine Wightman, his son Timothy, and his grandson, John Gano Wightman, successively pastors for one hundred and twenty-five years. Your essayist was present at the unveiling of a tablet commemorative to the memory of these three worthy pastors of this old church at its 200th anniversary in 1905. It must be borne in mind the founding of this church carries us far back into the early settlements of the country, seventy years before the American Revolution. Probably the oldest Baptist parsonage in the country is the one built by Valentine Wightman, 211 years ago, still standing three miles west of Old Mystic, near the Turnpike, on the north side of the road. This church was located three miles west of Old Mystic, where, afterwards the society built their new and commodious meeting house. With this church Stonington Union Association met in 1845, the first association I attended. The Rev. Charles C. Weaver of Voluntown preached the sermon and William C. Walker was ordained. Many of the North Stonington people before 1743, attended this church, who had a leaning toward the Baptist faith, although members of the Congregational Church. The distance traveled in those days was not a potent factor. Elder Wait Palmer was baptized May 27, 1711, and Mary Brown, his wife, daughter of Eleazer Brown and Ann Pendleton, was baptized June 12, 1704, at the Road Church.

     First Baptist Church in North Stonington was organized in 1743 and Elder Wait Palmer was chosen its pastor and ordained the same year. Its house of worship was located eight miles from Pawcatuck bridge and two miles south of Pendleton Hill. Ten years after it was built a road was surveyed and laid out from Pawcatuck Bridge to Voluntown line, which passed this church. My great great grand-father, Daniel Brown, with Thomas Holmes gave the land for the meeting house, and it was without paint inside or outside. Elder Palmer received no support from the church. He owned a farm of ninety acres. He was a plain man, common education, yet of strong, vigorous intellect, of sound practical sense. Elder Palmer was an active patriot in the Revolution, soon after which he died in 1790, nearly ninety years old. Interment was half a mile south of the Pendleton Hill meeting house in an unmarked grave.

     The second pastor of this church was Eleazer Brown who came from the Second Baptist Church as a licentiate and served four years. He was ordained as pastor June 24, 1770 The church now numbered ninety-seven. A great awakening came in 1791 and the church received an accession of fifty-two. Elder Brown was a man of strong native powers, of vivid thought and conception and of a flowing, rapid delivery. He was rightly esteemed as one of the most eminent preachers of his day. This was his only pastorate and the longest of this church.

     The third pastor of this church was Peleg Randall who succeeded Elder Brown. and his pastorate was by no means unfruitful in the conversion of souls, He closed his labors with this church October 8, 1813.

     The fourth pastor was Rev. Jonathan Miner, ordained at the First Church of Groton, February 14, 1814. During the first three months of his ministry fifty-six members were added to the church by baptism. The work of grace continued from year to year, as revival followed revival up to the close of his ministry. The next great awakening came in the autumn of 1822 and extended till April 1823.

     Dr. A. G. Palmer said on the occasion of the one hundredth anniversary of the church "These were days of childhood to many of us; but they left an impression upon our hearts which neither time nor eternity will ever efface." The membership now is 231. All these years of the existence of this pioneer church, till 1830, they worshiped in the old meeting house and here had been gathered a large and flourishing body of spiritual believers. But the time had come for the church to enlarge its house of worship. Accordingly in 1830, they rebuilt on that beautiful plateau, Pendleton Hill, commanding a most magnificent view of the surrounding country and of the ocean, fifteen miles away.

     The Rev. Mr. Miner said to his people, "You have increased in numerical strength and built a new meeting house and you ought now to give your pastor a little salary." Up to this time the church had paid their minister no salary. But they did not comply with his request, and he soon resigned. and removed to New York in 1834.


     This church was organized in March, 1765, with Elder Simeon Brown pastor. He was converted under the preaching of Whitefield in 1745. He was baptized by the Rev. Wait Palmer in 1764, being ordained the same year. With the assistance of his brethren he built the meeting house where he preached for fifty years and eight months without salary. He is buried in Brown Cemetery, north of the Miner meeting house, so-called, with his ancestors, children, grandchildren and relatives. A towering monument marks his resting place. He was succeeded by Elder Asher Miner, who had been for ten years associate pastor with Elder Brown, and at his death; he became pastor and served until his death, September, 1836. The day of his funeral I well remember. During Elder Miner's pastorate the church membership was 480.

     The first meeting house was without paint outside or in. It had three galleries with square family boxed pews, unlike any other church I ever saw, except the church at Nooseneck Hill, Rhode Island, which was burnt about 1860. The old meeting house was taken down in l845 and the present structure as it now stands was erected, I have seen forty or more horses tied around the old church, the most of the people coming on horseback, a man with his wife on a pillion and oftentimes with a child in her arms. They came from Old Mystic, Stonington and Westerly in the olden times and as late as 1845 in large numbers.


     This church was organized in 1828, and by the rapid growth of the church the present house of worship was built in 1833. The first acting pastor of this new church was Rev. Levi Walker, M..D. He had three sons that were Baptist ministers Rev. Levi, Jr., William C. and Orrin T. Walker. This church had the reputation of having a number of most excellent preachers. who had short terms of service. Very large congregations gathered in this church from 1845 to the time of the removal of the writer to Boston in 1856.


[From Days and Recollections of North Stonington, by Cyrus Henry Brown. This is a portion of a paper read before the Westerly, Rhode Island Historical Society, November 9, 1916.]

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