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Two hundred years of Second Baptist Church history is revealed in a story-like format based on significant events that occurred in the life of the church, in Suffield town history, and across the nation to enable the reader to experience a tiny portion of the past.
Whenever possible, detail was given to weather, landscape, and emotional atmosphere within each event based on historical photographs of the area, dated journals, and numerous reference materials listed at the end of the book.
These pages illustrate the struggles of Second Baptist Church to establish, endure, and evolve into a church respected by the community and cherished by its congregation.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
All Bible Verses included in this book are from the King James Bible.
This book is dedicated to the original fifteen members
of Second Baptist Church.
Suffield men with mud on their boots and granite in their characters, and their womenfold with callouses on their hands and a sense of duty in their consciences, no doubt felt, as the great Virginian [George Washington] did, that churchgoing, however dull and mediocre the preacher’s discourse, could not fail to inspire them to better living and loftier ideals, instill in their blood the resolution to uphold the right, and steel their backbone to serve God and the kingdom of righteousness.
Dr. E. Scott Farley’s historical address at the One Hundred Fiftieth Anniversary of Second Baptist Church
We applaud your conviction.
Two hundred years of Second Baptist Church history is revealed in a story-like format based on significant events that occurred in the life of the Church, in Suffield town history, and across the nation, to enable the reader to experience, firsthand, a tiny portion of the past.
Whenever possible, detail was given to weather, landscape, and emotional atmosphere within each event based on historical photographs of the area, dated journals, and numerous reference materials listed at the end of this book.
Research compiled in collaboration with
The Second Baptist Church Bicentennial Historic Committee Members
Arthur Sikes, Jr.
This is a work of creative nonfiction.
I owe a debt of gratitude to Reverend Paul Hayes, who convinced me to take on this project after I continually told him I’m a fiction writer. He encouraged me to write the history of the church in a story-like form to appeal to a larger audience when I had no idea of where to begin.
My grateful appreciation goes out to Pam Berry for putting up with my constant disruptions into her office and endless list of questions. She is truly a saint. I am thankful to Joe Harry for gathering old documents from the safe deposit box for me, and to Judy Johnson, for the personal tour of the backrooms of the church and her interesting tidbits given during the tour. Judy generously answered questions for me on numerous occasions. Thanks to Dick Begin, for my second tour of the church seen through the duties of a custodian, such as the fact that several years ago, one needed to go up to the attic to hand crank the lights on the ceiling down low to change the bulbs. Thank you Linda Isham for placing in my hands the perfect research books on the history of the Baptist faith. And thank you Frankie and Bill Connelly for always being helpful anytime I called with questions about the past.
Many thanks go out to Reverend Gordon Swan and David Battle for helping me obtain the last picture for the book, just hours before it was submitted.
I especially want to thank David Johnson, Nathena Fuller and Dot Kent for allowing me to badger them with questions about the history of the church. It is amazing the wealth of information that they have retained over the years. Thank you for sharing the old stories for the benefit of this book.
Arthur Sikes, Jr. led the Bicentennial Historic Committee members and I on an informative tour of the hideaway organ pipes and then up the steep narrow steps to the attic to see the old wooden beams of the original structure. When I placed my hand on the wood, centuries old, I was deeply moved by its historical significance and thankful for the experience.
My deepest gratitude goes out to the employees of Kent Memorial Library for their generous help with any questions or information I needed to obtain. If the information existed, they knew where to find it. Thank you all for your continuous support in my writing endeavors.
Of course, this book could not be done without the endless support of every member of The Second Baptist Church Bicentennial Historic Committee Members. Their monthly reviews of the content of each chapter kept me on my toes and made me cross-reference every fact included in this book.
To my mother-in-law, Rosa Torone, who continually supported me by always asking how my writing was going.
And last, but not least, my heart goes out to my husband, Eugene, and my three children, Jamie, Justin, and Jessica, who shared the living room this past year with dusty old documents, piles of reference books, and endless stacks of scribbling on paper. They listened to my continuous ravings on the wonders of history and how it affects us all. And they endured quick-fix meals when the writing took on a life of its own.
Long ago, in the murky waters of the Jordan River, a man stood clothed in camel hair with a leather belt tied about his waist. Beside him stood another man who had traveled from Galilee to be here. Words were exchanged between the two men before John the Baptist placed his hand on the top of Jesus of Nazareth’s head and plunged His body under the water.
A simple act that opened the heavens, announced the arrival of the Messiah, and began the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Some believe that moment gave birth to the Baptist Church.
Although, most modern historians trace the roots of the early church back to a man named John Smyth in the year 1609.
John Smyth formed a community of believers in Amsterdam, which consisted solely of members that signified their faith through adult baptism. Smyth’s theology rejected the thinking of the time that infants were born with hereditary guilt or original sin. He believed that infants were born into a state of innocence, which did not require baptism if they should die in infancy.
Thomas Helwys, Leonard Busher, John Murton, and others followed his lead, expanding on John Smyth’s thoughts and ideas over the years. Some writers faced imprisonment by the king for their heretical beliefs.
Over the course of time, Baptist Churches flourished in Europe and eventually made their way to America, namely Rhode Island, in 1639, led by a man named Roger Williams.
A rocky road followed the establishment of that first church. Many men paid fines, received whippings, and other punishments to fight for religious liberty for all. Laws were created to persecute all dissenters from the established religion.
In spite of all the obstacles, Baptists made their presence known throughout the colonies by the seventeenth century.
Years later, the ideas of John Smyth and Roger Williams trickled down to a group of believers living in a little town located on the fertile valley of the Connecticut River.
The following story illustrates the life of Second Baptist Church, the struggles to establish, endure, and evolve into a church respected by the community and cherished by its congregation.
The Years 1805-1839
*Astericks denote additional detail found at bottom of page.
Italicized phrases and other subjects are cited at end of book for reader’s reference.
Every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters..
May 22, 1805
The inevitable spring thaw melted the snow-covered land of southern New England, greening the fertile hills and valleys of the burgeoning township of Suffield, Connecticut.
Horses trudged through roads thick with mud. Carriages rolled behind them carrying men and women anxious to reach the nearby schoolhouse* on Feather Street, not far from their farms. A festive mood embraced them all. This special morning, fleeting smiles crossed the faces of even the most stoic of men.
A splash of new life doused Feather Street* in rich colors of spring. Bright green leaves adorned the thick stark branches of the towering oak trees. Apple trees sprouted coats of delicate pink and white blossoms while clusters of wildflowers popped their fragile heads through the softened earth.
Farther down the lane, the land gently rolled out before them. In one direction, acre upon acre of freshly tilled fields, most used for cash crops of tobacco*, stretched out as far as the eye could see. In another direction, a creek swelled over its muddy banks, spilling onto grassy fields where black and white cows grazed in lazy multitudes. Farmhouses scattered along the road with clapboard siding and bordering white picket fences. Smoke swirled from stone fireplaces set in the center of cedar shake roofs.
The crisp morning air filled with the earthy scent of freshly tilled soil and the lingering fragrance of newly flowered apple blossoms.
A clearing revealed the river bank where John Reynolds began building a bridge this year to cross the Connecticut River from Suffield to Enfield*, the first span across the river for its entire length.
The rejoicing began at Brother Dan King’s house on the night of May 4, 1805*, a meeting that determined the need for a second Baptist church in town.
The meeting was unanimous in the opinion that the time had come to organize a second Baptist church. They adopted the articles of faith and covenant of the First Baptist Church in Suffield and voted to call a council for the purpose of organization.
The good news spread like wildfire among the determined group, relieved that their prayers had been answered. Most of them could think of nothing else until this day arrived!
It seemed fitting that the council would convene today in the same little schoolhouse on the eastern edge of town where they had been gathering since the end of 1804. Elder Stephen Shephard of Wilbraham, Massachusetts kindly organized the religious services there for them each week.
The horses must have sensed the eagerness of their passengers for their legs began to pick up speed as they neared their destination.
Carriages, buckboards, and wagons pulled up in front of the small schoolhouse. Theodore and Tabitha Simons,* Chester Stebbins, Elisha Adams, Polly Adams, and Cynthia Brunson arrived dressed in their best clothes for the occasion.
The women wore empire waistline gowns with muslin mantles in spring colors of pink, yellow or green. Their hair styled in corkscrew curls or rolls, topped with a bonnet that they carefully tied beneath their chins.
Gone were the breeches and long-tailed coats of the eighteenth century. The fashionable men wore long dark trousers, white starched shirts with stiff standing collars beneath a short waistcoat that donned a similar stiff collar around the neck. They were clean-shaven for the day with their hair no longer wigged or powdered, but styled short in a more casual manner like the president, Thomas Jefferson.
The men steered their carriages beneath the old maple tree before stepping down to wrap the horse’s reins over the hitching posts. Women gathered the bulk of their lengthy skirts into their arms while their husbands circled around to help them down from the buckboards.
This would be a new day for all of them. Just as spring snuggled its warming blanket across the cold earth, spurring new life, this fellowship of believers would spread the warmth of God’s everlasting love over this beloved community.
Chairs were placed in the room for the women to sit upon, but most remained standing. Anticipation prevented them from sitting. Greetings were exchanged among the group as John King, Rufus and Aurelia Granger, and Anne and Jonathan Kent entered the room.
Elders and brethren from First Baptist Church on the other side of town, and other Baptist churches from neighboring towns, namely West Springfield, Wilbraham, Windsor and Groton were all invited to share this momentous day with them.
John Hastings strode into the room, son of notorious Joseph Hastings, founder of First Baptist Church, the church that planted the seeds for many other Baptist churches in the surrounding area. The rumors spread over the years about his father and the incident that occurred in the Congregational Church* over sixty years ago. His exact words scandalous even now when he stood up at the end of worship and loudly proclaimed,"Come forth, you Nicodemuses, you ministers and magistrates, you bloody persecutors."
What gave John Hastings’s father the courage to shout out his feelings against the state-established church? Did he attend a George Whitefield* revivalist meeting to make him act the way he did? Evidence existed that two years prior to his outburst, the traveling evangelist visited neighboring towns, Northhampton, Springfield, Windsor, and Hartford, spurring the crowds with eloquent speeches to seek salvation for their souls. Even Benjamin Franklin attended one such speech, vowing not to contribute a penny to the cause. Before leaving, he emptied the entire contents of his pockets into the collection dish.
By 1747, Joseph Hastings left the Congregational church and joined a group of Separatists, seceders from the state-established church, which met in private homes for several years. John’s father, however, went beyond the Separates’ doctrine to become a Baptist. In 1769, he established First Baptist Church, the first church of that faith in Suffield and all of Hartford County.
There were a few from their fellowship that had attended the First Baptist Church on Zion’s hill on occasion, but the distance from their farms made it inconvenient if not impossible at times to attend. Of course, that never stopped the adamant Deacon Bolles.
Deacon Bolles used to walk from Hartford, fully eighteen miles, in time for service Sunday morning and return after the afternoon service. He thus entered a protest (thirty-six miles long) against the unscriptural practice and oppression of the State Church, which he might have attended near his home. His homeward journey may have been with much weariness to the flesh, but it must have been with much exultation of the spirit.
Excited whispers were murmured among the group gathered together at the schoolhouse as the last arrivals Seth King, William Lewis*, Hannah Pease, and Lorain Pierce* walked in the room. A quiet triumph hummed among the fifteen* that gathered to worship here each Sabbath.
Today would not have been possible without the revolutionary thoughts of Roger Williams nearly two hundred years ago. He was the first to believe in the idea of religious liberty for all and argued against the rules of the rigid state-established church, which eventually led to his banishment from the Massachusetts colony. Thank heaven, a good man like Roger Williams could not be silenced. He went on to establish a Baptist church in Providence, Rhode Island, the first on American soil. A haven for the religiously persecuted and a colony that drew a distinct line between church and state.
Most people in town didn’t see the need to change from the state-established church and tried to persuade each member of this fellowship from becoming one of those religious fanatics.
Those families couldn’t understand what their fellowship was trying to do. At every social gathering, they were reminded that they’d still have to pay taxes to the Congregationalists or pay the penalty of fines or jail. How could anyone afford to support two churches, they asked? Would religious freedom be worth all that?
A collective yes would be declared from every member of this group. There had to be a separation between matters of religion and state government. The Bible, and the Bible only, is the guide in all matters of religion. They solemnly believed in the baptism of adults just as the Bible told them John baptized Jesus. And just as the fellowship individually proclaimed their faith for all to hear.
Elder John Hastings stood at the front of the room and brought the meeting to order and Elder Thomas Rand served as clerk*. Eleven ministers and twelve lay delegates were present.
After consultation and prayerful deliberation as to the advisability of organizing a second church of the same faith and order in town, and on examining the articles of faith, the council voted…
A single candle was lit.
Today, May 22, 1805, the council gave birth to a new house of worship in Suffield, Connecticut, christened Second Baptist Church.*
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
Summer of 1810*
A horse and rider, racing from farm to farm with urgent news, burst through the peaceful calm that settled over the land at an early hour. He crossed vast fields that contained tobacco plants nearly two feet in height with huge green leaves wilting in layers off the stem, tall stalks of corn ripe for the picking and square acres of golden wheat and rye. Cattle mooed in annoyance for the disruption while chickens and hens pecked their morning feed in total disregard of all around them.
With the passing of five years, bittersweet memories accumulated amongst the newly formed fellowship of Second Baptist Church, some good and some bad. Twenty-three were added to their tiny fold within the first year, yet the town still thought them religious zealots and no amount of evidence to the opposite would change that.
There were those that refused to repent their sins, forcing the church to withdraw fellowship from them. Brother Nathan Porter became the first member to be excommunicated from their fold on August 17, 1806.
"We feel ourselves in duty bound to withdrawn our fellowship from you, & take off our watch care over you. For the fellowship reasons, 1st for your disorderly walk in profaning God’s Holy Name, which is a breach of the Moral Law, & also Christ’s commandments, 2nd for your breach of Covenant in refusing to hear the Church & make satisfaction in a gospel manner, after repeated labors with you, both in private & public…
Soon, the women would awaken the children and get them ready for the day’s festivities. An abundance of food had been prepared and packed into baskets made from strips of ash or reed. Hours earlier, the men gathered stones and timber into their wagons and left for the center of town.
The raising of a new church would give them all a permanent meeting house for their growing families to worship, a place they could finally call their own and would put an end to the traveling they did to different schoolhouses each week.*
The horse and rider continued to race across the hills and valleys of the eastern edge of town. The farmers instinctively knew only bad news traveled at such a rapid pace.
The small fold of believers never thought it would take so long to get to this day especially since over two thousand dollars* had been subscribed* by its members less than a year after Second Baptist Church officially organized.
Elders Shephard and Utley took the general oversight of the "new interest," and alternated their services as circumstances would permit. When neither of them could be present their places were filled by Elders Bigelow, Todd, and others.
After gathering the money and forming financial and building committees, the church petitioned the town for a lot located on the southernmost part of the town green. Although they gained new members, the town wasn’t ready to accept a group of Baptists setting their church in the center of their beloved town. The town’s decision on the matter confirmed that fact.
March 20, 1806. To see if the town will agree that the meeting house proposed to be built by the Baptist Societies in said town may be erected on the southern most part of the Green in Highstreet, nearly opposite the mouth of the road leading to West Suffield, or in the most convenient and suitable place on said green as per the request of the petitioners dated March 13th 1806. – Voted in the negative, 68 to 65. The meeting broke up.
Instead of discouraging the fellowship from continuing in their pursuit, it increased their determination. They felt they had every right to share grounds with the "old establishment"* and would not be deterred by the growing opposition in town against them.
A new lot became available for purchase on the south side of Bridge Street. Unfortunately, in their excitement to gain the lot and begin building, a clear title was not obtained and to make matters worse, Seth Austin, the owner, died before they gained legal title to it. The executor of his estate didn’t care much for Baptists and refused to hand over the title.
Even after all these years, his actions still riled the group. All those precious church funds wasted in litigation to gain title to the land. Eventually, Mr. Thomas Archer purchased the lot and agreed to sell it to the fellowship.
It took awhile to collect the bricks and stone needed for the foundation, timber for framing and trimming. Families with children needed to supply a quarter of a cord of three foot wood* for each child in school, which made it difficult to contribute supplies for the meetinghouse, but they gave what they could afford.
The rider came to a stop at a neighbor’s house, a fellow member of Second Baptist Church. Without dismounting his horse, his agitated voice broke through the silence of the morning. He explained that the men had found the church lot in disrepair when they arrived at the church site and needed all the women to come down and help as soon as possible.
Before the neighbor could respond, the rider raced off to another farm.
The women gathered the children as quickly as they could without worrying them unnecessarily. After giving them a quick breakfast of milk toast* and wild berries or something of that nature, all the while fighting back tears, they placed them into the wagons and started toward town.
The horses trotted at a steady pace down the road, giving them all time to gain control of their emotions. They passed by the wooden sign labeled Suffield, boasting a population of 2,680. Next came the General Store, which the little ones begged to stop at for something sweet, but they were hushed quiet by mothers with something more troubling on their minds.
The future site of the church came into view as soon as the wagons and carriages rounded the corner onto High Street. Neat piles of timber were sawed or axed to pieces, some piled in the brook, other logs scattered about the lot. Looking at the damage done to the materials they painstakingly collected, a few women could no longer hold back their tears. For years, they had waited for their own place of worship, only to have it destroyed before they were finally ready to begin.
Such was the Christian spirit in Suffield.
Once everyone arrived at the lot, they gathered together in prayer.
With renewed determination, the fellowship began cleaning up the site. Plans were made to protect the materials on the lot. They forthwith set a watch against them day and night…
The men began digging the trenches for the foundation. Everyone, no matter what the age, lifted up the stones, some light and some heavy, and handed them to the men laying the footings of the building. Stone by stone the height of the foundation grew before already tearful eyes filled with a purpose that would not be denied.
It would take awhile longer to raise the walls of this fine church, but today, they made certain it had a firm foundation that would last for many years to come.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven..
Change never did sit well on the outspoken, plain folk of Second Baptist Church, especially when it came to the meetinghouse they affectionately dubbed "the old barn." Not a dry eye in sight, woman or man as they sat and listened to the last sermon preached within the simple wooden structure.
Seeking the kingdom of heaven within, they were happy in the absence of glorious stained glass, gilded images, eloquent genuflexions, exquisite altar pieces and operatic anthems.
Seasons flowed from spring into summer, fall into winter, as each new year dawned. A smooth transition from one into the next, except for the cold summer of 1816 when it felt like winter in July and August*.
A line of presidents served the country over the past nineteen years, beginning with Thomas Jefferson and ending with the current President Martin Van Buren. During most of this period, the adding of new territory occurred on a yearly basis, with nine new states added to the seventeen already in the union.
Suffield grew and prospered. West Suffield’s own Simeon Viets began manufacturing these "Havana type" cigars in 1810, eventually building his own factory on Ratley Road, the first in the nation.
The Eagle Mill, over on Stoney Brook, now supplied paper to the United States Government.*
In 1833, the Connecticut Baptist Literary Institute opened its doors for the first time to educate young men for the ministry.*
The old barn served them well over the years. Once the walls were raised, Second Baptist Church became a permanent structure in the center of town, a location that had been previously dominated by the Congregational Church.
Tearful eyes studied the interior of the building, no doubt conjuring up memories of years passed.
…A carpenter’s bench left standing behind the minister’s desk, until the installation of pews, pulpit and galleries fifteen years later, … served as a reminder that the founder of Christianity was himself a carpenter…
Unconsciously, a hand lovingly caressed the smooth wood of the pews. For years, they sat on crude wooden benches without backrests and only foot stoves for heat. During those years, only the families of Col. Luther Loomis*, Luther Hathaway, and Jonathan K. Kent had special settees with armrests, backrests and cushions to sit on during the service. Some changes were good, they must have thought, relaxing against the back of the pew.
There was nothing striking about this house except its plainness... And yet, they were happy to meet for the worship of God under their own "vines and fig-tree," be the covering never so rude. It cost them much anxiety, perplexity, labor, and great self-denial to secure it, hence it concerned them little what others might think or say about it in scorn, since it was their own. God had wonderfully helped them to obtain it, and their own feelings were laid too often upon the altar not to appreciate it.
Many pastors blessed this congregation with their wisdom over the years. The first, Elder Caleb Green, an educated handsome man, supplied the pulpit for several months before being asked on May 25, 1810, to begin his ministry here. He was well liked by the members of First Baptist Church where he served in the previous year as assistant to Pastor Hastings. Many of his closest friends and supporters followed him here, and rumors circulated amongst a few that he wanted to break up the first church and unite with Second Baptist Church but that never came to be.
Poor Elder Green spent most of his time trying to keep the fold on the straight and narrow.
The horse-sheds in the rear afforded shelter for the animals, and seemed a convenient place for the "noon dinner," which was generally washed down by the "hale farmer’s cider," a beverage which in those days seemed to be very religious, for it almost invariably found its way to church on Sabbath morning in the old farm wagon.
Committees were formed to interview errant church members and decide whether they should withdraw fellowship from them. The congregation felt a dire need to stand out as upright law-abiding citizens since all of their actions were considered a reflection on the church they attended. Although, there were a few that disagreed with rulings made by the committee.
Hannah Woolworth wrote a letter to the church council stating her opinion on a particular matter.
I have been told by one of the Church that I have caused the Brethren trouble by attending other meetings and if I have hurt any of your feelings I’m sorry but I want liberty to attend meetings where my mind is led – Freedom is better than bondage…
A couple of church members from the committee eventually visited Sister Woolworth, interviewed her and reported back to the committee, who voted to withdraw fellowship from her.
Sister Corriana Mckinsly had her fellowship withdrawn because she attended a dance. Council saw the seductive movements as sinful, an exercise in display and sensuality.
A vote passed forbidding more than three consecutive absences on communion Sundays. …[One woman] absented herself five, and then brought a charge against the church for breaking their covenant, because no one had visited and labored with her according to the scriptural rule.
Not only did the committee have to create the rules but they also had to deal with members making certain that they were enforcing them.
Money began trickling into the church by 1818 after the Connecticut State Constitution became law, a portion of it drafted by the local pastor of First Baptist Church, Reverend Asahel Morse. Words that demanded notice and helped reshape the thinking of Suffield residents.
…Each and every society of Christians in this state shall have and enjoy the same and equal powers, rights and privileges; and shall have power and authority to support and maintain the ministers or teachers of their respective denominations, and to build and repair houses for public worship by a tax on the members of any such society only.
The separation of church and state didn’t result in immediate action. It took awhile for the ruling to settle in the minds of all concerned, this being a small rural town that didn’t take kindly to change. At first, local law officers ignored the new mandate but eventually the unjust taxes were laid to rest.
Many years had passed since Second Baptist Church officially organized. Families watched their children grow up in this church, marry and produce children of their own.
Numerous pastors followed in the steps of Elder Green. On May 14, 1815, Elder Bennet Pepper, came over from Southwick Baptist Church to answer the call. During his time at the pulpit, the interior finishes were completed on the church and a record one hundred seventy were baptized and nine received by letter.
With sadness, they dismissed by letter one of the original fifteen members of their fold, Brother John King, who moved to Ohio to join some of his sons.
The walls of the old barn seemed to heave a weathering sigh, recalling the struggles that nearly collapsed the church when Elder Pepper first suggested the idea of singing during the service. Strong feelings came out for and against the idea. And even now, several years later, some questioned the advisability of it all.
In the midst of the grappling over singing, during an active revival period, the worst occurred.
Elder Bennet Pepper was deposed from the Christian ministry by a regularly convened ecclesiastical council, "for intemperance, immoral and disorderly conduct," and soon after was excluded from the church for the same. …after prayerful struggle, and by the advice of the council, on February 8, 1823, they withdrew from him the hand of fellowship.
These were not good days for their beloved church. Gamaliel Fowler kept pressing the need for a choir even after Elder Pepper had been dismissed. Eventually, a choir formed and Gamaliel Fowler joined the church in order to lead the singing.
Henry Archibald answered the call to preach on May 28, 1823 but he resigned only a few months later. Assumptions were made and probably rightly so, that the discord he found at the church shortened his stay.
Next came Elder Tubal Wakefield on May 24, 1824, but he only remained four months, then Elder Elisha Cushman had been asked but he declined altogether. During those dark days, word of their church troubles traveled quicker than a runaway horse. With the moral fabric of the people at an all time low, they lacked respect for the pastoral office and shouted words of admonition at the end of every service.
Finally, in August of 1825, the church called Elder Calvin Philleo, who restored dignity to the pulpit and respect for the church in the town.
He approached the pulpit with a new spirit of revival that energized the congregation and touched the lives of many in the community.
Strong men were seen by the wayside imploring God’s forgiveness. Some shut themselves up in barns, beseeching the Lord to have mercy on them, while others ran to their neighbors and friends begging their prayers in behalf of the salvation of their souls.
For a time, the church blossomed with little discord until the idea of Sabbath school was suggested. The notion of adding more hours to an already lengthy Sabbath service, as well as the added costs, caused quite a commotion amongst the congregation. Some church members had already organized a Sabbath school of their own during the summer months and kept pressing the need for school during the year. Finally, in April of 1825, a vote passed recommending Sabbath school during the church year as long as it wouldn’t cost the church a penny.
During one of Elder Philleo’s moving sermons, a young boy of seventeen, named Dwight Ives, sat listening intently to him preach. The words stirred his soul to the point that he could think of nothing else. Years later, the young boy would return to Second Baptist Church to lead the people in one of the greatest revival periods of its history.
Elder Philleo left at the end of 1829 after baptizing one hundred forty-nine and receiving sixteen by letter. He moved to Pawtucket, Rhode Island to become a pastor there for a time until the death of his wife. Eventually, he remarried and moved with his new wife to Illinois.
Coincidentally, his second wife, Prudence Crandall, would also be leaving a lasting impression on Connecticut but not in the same manner as her new husband. She caused quite a scandal at the private school she ran for young women in Canterbury, Connecticut when she began a school for the education of young ladies and little misses of color, an unheard of idea at that time, and years ahead of the antislavery movement. A movement, which would begin the friction between the fragile union of states, as well as create discord among the Baptists churches in the north and south.
Her influence extended over to her stepson, Calvin Wheeler Philleo, who eventually settled in Suffield. He’s noted for the articles that he wrote for the New York Tribune, and the numerous lectures he gave on antislavery. He was a friend to Harriet Beecher Stowe and fought endlessly for the antislavery cause. Unfortunately, his growing literary career was cut short by his sudden death at the age of thirty-seven.
In June of 1830, Elder Amos Lefavor began his ministry. Then came the pastors, George Phippen, Nathan Wildman, Miner Clarke, and Horace Seaver, the latter answering the call on October 6, 1838. He resigned sometime during the same year.
A time to tear down and a time to build…Ecclesiastes 3:3
The old meeting house had become ill suited to the wants of the society, which had rapidly increased in wealth and numbers.
In March of 1839, a committee formed to purchase a lot from Deacon David Hale to build a new meetinghouse of brick and parsonage of wood. In exchange for $1300 and the old barn site, excluding the structure of the old barn, Second Baptist Church received twelve acres of land, a much larger site that would accommodate their growing community.
Last month, they broke ground for the new church.
With the rising cost of wood, the building committee decided that the timber from the old barn should be used in the construction of the new church.* A lasting memory of the struggles they endured bringing forth this church and an added comfort for all those having trouble saying goodbye to the cherished structure.
The thick wooden doors of the old barn firmly closed.
When they opened again, Elder Dwight Ives* will be standing at the doorway of the new building ready to welcome all into a new chapter in the life of Second Baptist Church.