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Fairfield Citizen

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

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Fairfield 375: First Church Congregational, as old as the town

Updated 4:36 pm, Wednesday, April 9, 2014

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  • First Church Congregational was destroyed in a fire set by an arsonist the night before Memorial Day in 1890. Here onlookers survey the smoldering ruins. Courtesy: Fairfield Museum and History Center Photo: Contributed Photo / Fairfield Citizen
    First Church Congregational was destroyed in a fire set by an arsonist the night before Memorial Day in 1890. Here onlookers survey the smoldering ruins. Courtesy: Fairfield Museum and History Center Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Fairfield, established in 1639, is one of Connecticut's oldest communities. From its settlement 375 years ago by English colonists on "four squares" of land that Native Americans called Uncoway to the vibrant town of nearly 60,000 residents that it is today, Fairfield's history is a chronicle of compelling events and colorful characters.

The Fairfield Citizen will highlight vignettes from that rich history throughout this 375th anniversary year on a regular basis.

First Church Congregational, at Beach and Old Post roads, is aptly named as it was the first house of worship in Fairfield, founded in 1640 when it also served as the new settlement's meeting hall. The church's first minister, the Rev. John Jones, arrived in 1644.

First Church served the entire area of what is now Fairfield, Westport, Easton, Weston, Redding and parts of Bridgeport. But by 1763, there were seven other churches in the area, all established by former parishioners from Fairfield's First Church.

The congregation continued to move into newer sanctuaries through the years. After a British attack on Fairfield destroyed First Church's meeting house in 1779, another was built, the congregation's fifth. The night before Memorial Day in 1890, that sanctuary also was destroyed by fire, likely by an arsonist.

The current Neo-Romanesque stone sanctuary was dedicated in 1892. Two architectural features of special note are Tiffany stained-glass windows which were given to the church by the Jennings and Saltus families, and church bells given by J. Pierpont Morgan in memory of his wife Amelia Sturges.

Today, First Church Congregational still stands opposite Town Hall Green. Although its mission has evolved from the Puritan standards that governed early Fairfield, the congregation's history is a direct link to the town's first days.

For more about First Church Congregational, go here: www.firstchurchfairfield.org

To keep tabs on Fairfield's 375th anniversary events, visit: www.fairfield375.com