North Stamford Congregational Church is Now Known as North Stamford Community Church
Over 236 years of Faith and Service
Located at the southern end of Cascade Road, you will find the North Stamford Congregational Church. This church, founded in 1782, has a history that goes back to the early 1740s.
The history of the North Stamford Congregational Church is tied to the founding of Stamford itself. Stamford was founded in July, 1640. Puritan Captain Nathaniel Turner, who was an agent for the town of New Haven, negotiated the sale of land from two Indian chiefs: Ponus, Sagamore of the Rippowan and Wascussue, Sagamore of the Shippan.
At the same time, a rift arose amongst members of the Church of Christ in Wethersfield in 1640 and 29 men agreed to depart and found a new colony. These settlers arrived in 1641 in Stamford, and since the church and government were deeply interwoven, one of the first structures built was their meeting house, that served as a place of worship and of the government. It was located close to the intersection of present day Atlantic and Main in downtown Stamford. The First Society of Old Stamford Town was formed.
By 1655, the borders of Stamford were fixed at 8 miles wide – from the Five Mile River to the Mianus River, and 16 miles from the coast to roughly the present day NY state border. During the next hundred years, new societies were established – Greenwich, Bedford, Canaan, Middlesex (Darien), Stanwich and eventually North Stamford. At the same time as new societies (towns) were being settled, the names Davenport, Scofield and Weed could be found on city records as buying tracts of land in the Woodpecker Ridge area (today known as the Long Ridge and High Ridge areas) and Scofield town areas deep in the woods north of the original Stamford settlement.
Accounts from visitors to the area into the mid 1700s uniformly tell of the poor road system in the area. Reports of rocky outcrops, ravines, swamps and poor bridges all attest to the hardship of land travel. From the very beginning in 1641, all Stamford residents were expected to attend worship every Sunday and financially support their church. Because of the poor roads and harsh winter conditions, some of the early Woodpecker Ridge settlers began to gather in local homes for worship in the winter months in December of 1742. These meetings were not approved by the First Society of Stamford, but as time went on the settlers were granted relief from paying three months dues to the First Society. Later the exemption was extended to four months. Benjamin and Hezekiah Weed were appointed to receive and disburse the funds.
By some time in the 1760s, a meeting house for worship was built in North Stamford, again against the wishes of the original church in Stamford. Although hardly noted at the time, this action was to have considerable significance since it proved to be the deciding factor in granting sanction to a new society some 20 years later.
In 1779 during the American Revolution, after apparently tiring of being tied to the apron string of the First Society, or perhaps imbued with some of the liberty being fought for in the Revolutionary War, the residents of Woodpecker Ridge demanded to be separated as an independent society. Their action started one of the most vigorous and hotly contested issues that had ever arisen in Old Stamford Town. Representatives of both parties besieged the state legislature, which, with its hands full of the sore problems of waging war with England, had little patience with either side. The Supreme Court of Connecticut hesitated and finally, after what appears as exhaustion on both sides as well as the Court, postponed a decision for one year.
The next legislative session in 1780 had to act. It appointed a committee of Lemuel Sanford, Mathew Mead and Clap Raymond to survey the boundary of the proposed society. Pressures upon this committee prevailed in favor of the North Stamfordites, and a survey line was established. In the committee’s report one sentence proved to be the difference. It reads:
“There is a number of considerable farmers in the place, where they have already built them a meetinghouse, and it will admit of considerable improvements, and many more inhabitants.”
Documents report: “In the face of this fact accomplished, the fears of utter weakening of the parent society collapsed. The pleas of the opposition could not counter-balance the weight of the meetinghouse which was already built, Col. Charles Webb, who had led the opposition as spokesman for the First Society of Old Stamford Town, could not prevail.”
In the spring of 1781, almost simultaneously with the victory of the American patriots over England, the legislature sanctioned the new society. The church was not officially organized as the Ecclesiastical Society of the Ridges until June 4, 1782. It consisted of 22 members. Local settlers donated 67 acres of land surrounding the church building.
The Original Twenty Two Members of the North Stamford Congregational Church
Elizabeth Reed Ambler – 1730-1819. Wife of Joseph. Buried in North Stamford Cemetery.
Joseph Ambler – 1727-1799. Husband of Joseph. Buried in North Stamford Cemetery.
Rebecka Curtiss – Thought to be buried in North Stamford Cemetery.
Ebenezer Dean – 1765-1847. Veteran of the Revolutionary War. Buried in North Stamford Cemetery.
Kezia Dean – Thought to be buried in North Stamford Cemetery, 1824.
Mercy Hoyt – 1747-1800. Buried in North Stamford Cemetery.
Mercy Hoyt, Jr.
Zebulon Husted – Thought to be buried in North Stamford Cemetery, 1794.
John McCallum (McCollum)
Mary McCallum (McCollum)
Elizabeth Scofield – 1800-1865. Buried in North Stamford Cemetery.
Reuben Scofield – 1742-1835. Veteran of the Revolutionary War – Captain in Joseph Hoyt’s Company, Chas. Webb’s Regiment. Buried in North Stamford Cemetery.
Abigail Weed – 1796-1860. Buried in North Stamford Cemetery.
Amos Weed – 1753-1820, Veteran of the Revolutionary War as Pvt. in Nathaniel Webb’s Company and John Mead”s Regiment which marched to the aid of New York.
Benjamin Weed – 1750-1821. Sgt. in the 9th Militia Regiment, although he is called Captain in cemetery records. Buried in North Stamford Cemetery.
Ebenezer Weed – 1795-1843. Buried in North Stamford Cemetery.
Miles Weed – Married Joanna
Prudence Weed – Thought to be buried in North Stamford Cemetery, 1813.
Note: All first names are said to be of Biblical origin including Kezia, Dean (see Job 42:14).
The North Stamford Congregational Church Cemetery is located on Lakeside Drive – west of the bridge. The cemetery is no longer active. Star Osborne, an infant daughter of the Rev. and Mrs. Hendricks M. Osborne, reportedly was the last to be buried in the 1950s. She was interred in the McCormick family plot.
The preface to the Covenant of the NSCC continues to be used today:
“We….do enter into covenant with God and with each other to walk in all of the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, and to watch over and assist each other in love and faithfulness, and to devote ourselves with all we have to the service of Christ, and to promote the interests of his kingdom…”
The founding pastor of the new society was the Rev. Soloman Wolcott, who was ordained on March 23, 1784. Over the next 236 years, 46 pastors have served the congregation.
For the next 35 years, the Society of The Ridges exercised authority over The Ridges. Church records report of numerous trials. Some of these dealt with civil cases, some dealing with efforts to “reclaim a female member from her sinful ways” in her efforts to leave the congregation and join the Methodist Church.
Almost ninety years later, on the night of May 18, 1873 the original meeting house of North Stamford Congregational Church, which by this time was over one hundred years old, burned to the ground. It was subsequently discovered that the fire was the result of arson. Only days earlier the congregation dismissed the pastor. This action so outraged Charles Peabody, the pastor’s teenage son, that he set fire to the church building as a personal vendetta. The unfortunate lad was later sentenced to “six years in the state reformatory”.
Upon the foundation of the original building, a new church was built at a cost of $7,900 with sixteen horse sheds. The new building was dedicated on February 23, 1874.
Across from the church at the end of the 1800s was North Stamford’s only school house. This one room structure was moved up Cascade Road prior to 1920 to just north of the church building and became the church office and meeting room. It was dedicated to Margaret W. Givens in 1952 and is called the Guild House. Close to its original site, on November 28, 1925, the cornerstone of the Stone House was dedicated in the memory of Helen and Henry Lockwood, by their son, Judge Charles Davenport Lockwood. To this day, the Stone House (also known as the Community House) serves a wide number of local Stamford groups, including local cub and boy scout troops.
In 1882, the Church had its centennial celebration.
In 1904, the parsonage was destroyed by fire. A new home was built the following year and stood until 1990 when it was replaced by the current parsonage.
In 1907, a Scarlet Fever epidemic caused closing of the church for one month during March and April, but probably not for the first time. Church records indicate the following deaths: Sep 1852 – A child of (illegible) – scarlet fever. 1853 – 3 children of John Hoyt – scarlet fever. During this period consumption was an often cited cause of death.
In 1904, the Church incorporated under the Connecticut Statues under the corporate name North Stamford Congregational Church.
In the 1950’s the Church was graced with Jackie Robinson, the famous Brooklyn Dodger baseball player, and his family. They lived within walking distance on Cascade Road. For many years after Jackie’s death, the Church and the Robinson family remained close.
In 1961, the North Stamford Congregational Church became a member of the United Church of Christ.
In 1979, the exterior of the sanctuary was restored.
In 1982, the Church celebrated its bicentennial by making a quilt. Today, the quilt can be found hanging in the Sanctuary. Click here to read more details about the quilt.
For over 236 years the congregation has been actively supporting programs and organizations in the greater Stamford area. Some of these are the Smith House, Person to Person, including the Christmas Dove program, Christmas in April, the Stamford Counseling Center, and many others. The Outreach Program of the church remains one of its cornerstones.
The congregation invites all to come and join us on any Sunday. Like the buildings and grounds that have stood for 236 years, the congregation exists for the community.
–Researched and written by Joe Carena and Marilyn Penfield