The manufacturing industries have brought to Plainfield a new era. The old interests have faded almost away, and with the coming of the factories and workshops, railroads and a new class of people, a new era is open to her. To the notice of the churches and other institutions that belong to this era of the present day we propose to devote this chapter.
Previous to the year 1800, Methodist preachers found their way into this town, preaching in different neighborhoods, and organizing a class and society which in time held services in the old Separate meeting house. But the first beginnings of the organic life of the Methodist Episcopal church in ‘this town of which we have definitely learned were in 1825, when the locality was included in the Norwich Circuit, under the joint pastorate of B. Hazeltine and 0. Robbins. A class was formed with E. Dunlap as leader, and it was composed of Nathan M. Brown, Eunice Brown, Eliza Bass, Mary Torry, Susan Stowell, Bridget Starkweather and Jesse Ames. The first quarterly conference held here was in January, 1827; Edward Hyde, presiding elder. In 1829 Plainfield was connected with Thompson Circuit, under I. Bonney, I. M. Bidwell, 0. Robbins and P. Townsend. In 1830 John Lovejoy, with others, was appointed on the Thompson Circuit; and in 1831 Mr. Livesey and others. In 1832 Plainfield reported thirteen members, with B. Paine as pastor. He was followed in 1833 by E. Benton (for two years), Z. Loveland, J. Ireson, N. Culver, H. Thatcher and A. B. Wheeler. During the pastorate of the latter two important events took place: the purchase of the ” Union church ” in Moosup, March 24th, 1842, which was the first house of worship owned by this church; and the withdrawal of sixty-five of their membership to constitute the Danielsonville church, which was done September 3d, 1842. In the meantime a great revival prevailed, in which many were added to this body. Beginning with 1843 and coming down to 1870 this charge has been supplied successively by the following pastors: D. Dorchester, V. R. Osborne, C. C. Barnes, J. Mather, G. W. Brewster, W. Emerson, J. F. Sheffield, W. Turkington, Peter S. Mather, G. W. Rogers, R. Parsons, J. M. Worcester, P. Crandall and George de B. Stoddard. In 1870 the membership reported was one hundred and forty, with seventeen probationers. Under the pastorate of L. E. Dunham, which continued two years and ended in April, 1872, a new house of worship was erected, the dedication of which occurred in February, 1872. He was followed by E. M. Anthony, W. W. Ellis, G. W. Hunt, E. J. Ayers, R. D. Dyson, F. A. Crafts and John McVey. The church is in a prosperous condition and has a membership of about one hundred and seventy-five.
The Plainfield Union Baptist church, located at Moosup, was organized October 16th, 1792, with nineteen members. On November 9th, of the same year, Reverend Nathaniel Cole, of Swansea, Mass., was called to become the pastor. The church soon had a membership of one hundred. Elder Cole labored here forty-one years, retiring from the ministry in 1833, at the age of seventy-seven years. The second pastor was Reverend C. S. Weaver, who served the church for three years, during which term fifty-three members were added to the church. by baptism. The following pastors then successively served the church about two years each: Chester Tilden, Thomas Barber, John Read, James Smither and Frederic Carlton. The present house of worship was dedicated January 5th, 1843, at the close of the ministry of Elder Read. The pastorate of Reverend J. P. Brown began in April, 1849, and continued until May, 1871, a little more than twenty-two years. During this period three hundred and five persons were received into the church, two hundred and ten by baptism. In 1866 the bell, weighing 1,015 pounds, was purchased at a cost of $670, which with other improvements swelled the extra expenses of that year to $1,000. In 1867 the church edifice was raised and a vestry placed under it at a cost of more than $2,000.
In 1871 Reverend G. F. Raymond, of Brown University, was ordained to the pastorate. He resigned in the following August. In 1873 Reverend M. J. Goff was called to the pastoral office, but his labors soon ended with his death. In October, 1874, Reverend F. B. Joy began as stated supply, continuing until August, 1875. In October following Reverend C. B. Rockwell began a pastorate which lasted two years. Reverend L. W. Frink was pastor from the fall of 1877 to the spring of 1879. He was succeeded by Reverend J. N. Shipman in June, 1879. He continued until April, 1885, when he resigned to accept the pastorate of the Baptist church in Peabody, Mass. On November 5th, 1882, the house of worship was rededicated after extensive repairs and improvements, costing upwards of $2,000, had been made upon it. Reverend Robert Pegrum, of East Marion, L. I., commenced his labors here July 1st, 1885. In September, 1888, he resigned this pastorate to become pastor of the Congregational church of Middle Haddam. The membership of the church at present is about one hundred and ninety. The deacons are Joseph Vaughn, Joshua Hill and P. M. Peckham. The church clerk is Waldo Tillinghast.
The Congregational church of Central Village was organized from membership having connection with the church at Plainfield street, in 1846, with forty-seven members. Jared O. Knapp was the first pastor, and under his labors a great revival refreshed the church and resulted in adding to its membership twenty-two persons by profession. From 1846 to the beginning of 1856, there were added two hundred and fourteen members, and losses occurred in that time by forty-four deaths, and many removals. The present membership is about seventy-six. The following list comprises the names of all the men who have served this church as pastors for any considerable length of time. After Mr. Knapp came N. A. Hyde, 1S52, dismissed 1853; James Bates, 1853, dismissed 1855; William E. Bassett, 1856, dismissed 1859; George Hall, 1859; Paul Couch, 1862; J. K. Aldrich, 1863; George Huntington, 1864; J. K. Barnes, ordained October 5th, 1865, dismissed 1866; J. D.. Moore, installed July 2d, 1867, dismissed 1868; G. J. Tillotson, began July 1st, 1870, continued about three years; John Avery, July 2d, 1873, continued till 1878; J. Marsland, 1579, continued till i880; H. L. Reade, 1881; William B. Clark, 1882, about two years; A. H. Wilcox, 1884, till January, 1886. From January, 1886, to May, 1887, there was no settled pastor. Dighton Moses was pastor, May 1st, 1887, to September 1st, 1888. This church had a time of great refreshing in 1857, when twenty-one were added by profession; and again in 1880, when twenty-two were added. The deacons now in office are Henry C. Torrey and Henry H. French.
In the early part of the year 1853 a company was formed for the purpose of manufacturing cotton goods, in the northern part of this town, and at the May session of the legislature it was incorporated under the name of “Wauregan Kills,” taking the old Indian name of the locality. which means ” Pleasant Valley.” The first mill was built in 1553 and 1854, and families then began to settle there. In the early part of 1854 a Sabbath school was formed in the old school house, which stood where the new house now stands; and that Sabbath school has been continued without interruption till the present time. Prayer meetings were held among the families, but there were no Sabbath services nearer than Central Village, a mile and a half away. In 1855 the company built a hall for public worship, and the first sermon was preached in it September 24th of that year, by Reverend G. J. Tillotson, then pastor of the Trinitarian Congregational church in the adjoining town of Brooklyn. The place was supplied by different ministers till January 1st, 1856, when Mr. Charles L. Ayer, a licentiate of Windham Association, was engaged as stated supply. A church was organized by a council of Congregational ministers and deacons June 17th, 1856. The church thus formed was composed of the following members: Samuel 0. Tabor, Benjamin Wilson, Charles L. Ayer, Joseph Chatterton, Nathan A. Chatterton, Mrs. Frances Taylor, Mrs. Mary E. Wilson, Mrs. Mary B. Ayer, Mrs. Fanny D. King, hiss Ann M. Woodward.
Mr. Ayer continued to preach till April 1st, 1858, when he resigned to accept a call to the churches of Voluntown and Sterling. The membership was then seventeen. From September 14th, 1858, to April 1st, 1859, Reverend Edward F. Brooks was engaged as a supply. December 19th, 1859, Reverend S. H. Fellows was engaged as acting pastor, and still remains, thus filling a term of nearly thirty years, and how much longer it may be must be left for the future historian to write. The whole number who have been connected with the church during its thirty-two years of existence has been one hundred and sixtyfour. The largest accession in a single year was in 1878, when thirty-four were received. The twenty-fifth anniversary of the organization of the church was celebrated with appropriate exercises, at which only one of the original members was present, though all except one were living. December 21st, 1884, the pastor preached a sermon in review of his twenty-five years’ work here, which was published by request.
Services were held in the hall without any active effort to build a church until October, 1872, when Mr. James S. Atwood, agent of the manufacturing company, secured from them an appropriation of $10,000 for the erection of a church, to be expended under his direction. The ground was broken April 1st, 1873; the corner stone was laid. with appropriate ceremonies, May 10th; and the church was dedicated January 29th, 1874. The building is of the Gothic style of architecture, with a chapel in the rear. The audience room has a seating capacity of about three hundred. It is supplied with a pipe organ, is lighted with gas, and is one of the most neat and commodious churches in the county. The membership of the church at the present time is about ninety.
The Roman Catholic church at Moosup, called All Hallows church, was dedicated by Right Reverend F. P. McFarland, bishop of Hartford, in July, 1859. The successive pastors of this church since that time have been as follows: Reverend P. B. Daily, appointed in July, 1859; James Quinn, appointed in June, 1861; J. J. McCabe, appointed in October, 1869; Ferdinand Belanger, appointed in April, 1870: John Quinn, appointed in November, 1872; D. Desmond, appointed in July, 1874; P. M. Kennedy, appointed in October, 1876; J. A. Creedon, appointed in October, 1878, to the present time.
Source: History of Windham County, Connecticut, Bayles, Richard M.; New York: W.W. Preston, 1889