Brief History of the First Congregational Church of New Milford, CT
By Ross Detwiler
In the early 1700s, if you came to this area, you’d have seen the wide, shallow, rocky river flowing from what we now call the Berkshires. Entering the valley of New Milford, the river made its last mountain meander, came to the broad flood plain south of town, passed through a narrow chute surrounded by rock walls, and flowed to the sea.
Were you to have looked down from high above, you would’ve seen no sign of mankind. Lowering the observation altitude, stepping stones across the rapidly moving river would appear just South of today’s Veteran’s Bridge area. A huge rectangular lodge also blended into the woods on the top of the hill behind the today’s Big Y. Footpaths ran from the lodge down to a summer encampment site near the current Lovers’ Leap Bridge
White people came to the area around 1703. Originally they travelled back down river each winter to Milford from whence they came. But by 1707 they settled and started to “civilize” the area. The very first community organization was the Congregational Church of New Milford. The church was the civic and religious center of life. Over the coming years, that church would support Mother England with troops for the French and Indian War. Its own pastor served as a chaplain to those troops. With the coming of the American Revolution the town became home to some of the strongest advocates for the cause of independence.
The first minister of the church became a friend to Waramaug, one of the great East Coast Sachems for the entire native population.
During the Revolutionary War, there was an encampment of nearly 5,000 soldiers near the current junction of the Rt. 67 and Rt. 133. The second minister’s daughter dated one of the officers of that army. While the minister was willing to give his life for his country, as proved by his military service, he dragged his feet on blessing his daughter when she considered moving to Virginia.
One of the first deacons of the church authored the famous “Connecticut Compromise” that broke a deadlock over how states would be represented in Congress and allowed the Constitution of the United States to be completed.
The current structure is nearly 200 years old. In our great auditorium, on the very benches we sit on today, people first heard of the fall of the Alamo, and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The minister’s sermon concerning Lincoln’s death is chilling. “What do you expect when you forgive people that wanted slavery?”
In the 1930’s older members’ eyebrows were raised when young men raced their horses to church and tied them in the horse sheds that stood in the current parking lot.
There’s a lot more. Have a look. LINK TO ENTIRE HISTORY HERE.