Woodbury‘s North Congregational Church was built by the Strict Congregational Society, organized in 1816 by members who had left the First Congregational Church of Woodbury. Work on building the church had already begun in 1814, two years before the society was officially organized. It was completed around 1818 and was dedicated on January 7th of the following year. The sermon at the dedication was given by Rev. Lyman Beecher.
Jabez Bacon (1731-1806) was a wealthy merchant who is thought to have been Connecticut’s first millionaire. In 1758 he acquired property on Hollow Road in Woodbury where he erected a grand residence by 1762. The house has original paneling in five formal rooms that each have a distinct design. The property, unusual for Connecticut, has the original detached summer kitchen with an intact smoke room on the second floor. This structure was once referred to as the “slave quarters.” Although Bacon had at least one indentured servant, Matthew Lyon, he is not known to have owned African slaves. There is also an early barn on the property. Bacon built a store next door, which is now used as a private residence. In 1834, the Bacon family sold the property to the Curtiss Family, who owned it until 1927. The next owners of the house were the Marvin family. Harlan H. Griswold (1910-1989), a leading Connecticut preservationist, purchased the house in 1953.
As a man he was one to make an impression on every one that came near him. The energy of the man was amazing, and, this directing all his powers to the single business of accumulation, wealth flowed into his coffers on every side. He was for years the sole merchant of this town and all the neighboring towns; and so large at times was his stock in trade, that, it is credibly reported, merchants from New Haven sometimes visited Woodbury, and purchased from Jabez Bacon goods to retail afterwards in that city.
His way of doing business was often rash, apparently, and seemingly no safe rule for others. An aged merchant of New York told the writer of this many years ago, that he (Mr. Bacon) would sometimes visit his store, make him a bid for a whole tier of shelf goods from floor to ceiling, amounting in value to thousands of dollars, and have the whole boxed and shipped in an hour to the sloop at the foot of Peck Slip bound for Derby. His vast wealth also, together with his business skill, sometimes gave him the command of the New York market so that, to a degree moderns can hardly credit, he could, with a turn of his hand, ” put the screws” on an article, and make its price in the great metropolis rise and fall like a barometer. An anecdote, an unquestionable fact, illustrates this. He was a large dealer in pork, this being the “circulating medium,” it would seem, for this region, judging from the vast quantities of it that found their way to “the old red store in the hollow,” as it was called, thence down to “Darby Narrors” where it was shipped to New York. The old gentleman had once shipped an exceedingly fine lot of this article for the city, but when he arrived there he found his purchasers indisposed to his price, as two immense ship loads were that day expected from Maine. The old gentleman merely set his teeth firm, an ominous trick of his in a bargain, and left the store. He instantly took a horse, rode some six miles up the East River shore, to about what is now Blackwell’s Island, boarded the sloops as they came along, and purchased every pound of their cargoes, staking his whole fortune for it. This at that day put the whole New York market in his hands, and tradition says he cleared forty thousand dollars by this single operation.
He was kind-hearted, open and generous, though in a bargain close to a fault. His hospitality was unbounded. A long table was kept set forth in the west parlor of what is now the residence of Daniel Curtiss, Esq., the whole year round. This might have been policy, but it was also a part of a large heart, that took pleasure in giving in this form. As a citizen he was public-spirited and useful for his day. As a husband and father his affections were endearing and indulgent, and he was the centre of a large circle of relatives and friends. But it was as a business man where he deserves to be noted; where he deserves signal mention for posterity. He was the centre of a great commotion; the main-spring of a mighty watch, such as we in this day almost consider apocryphal; and with him has passed away a business era, such as shall not soon be seen in this valley again.
The house at 218 Main Street South in Woodbury was built about 1798 or a little earlier by Lee Terrill, who sold it just two years later. In 1816, owner Herman Stoddard sold part of the property to the First Congregational Church to build a new meeting house.
The Woodbury United Methodist Church, located at 4 Church Street in Woodbury, was erected in 1839. It replaced an earlier church the Methodists had built on the same site in 1824. The origins of the church are described in the History of Ancient Woodbury (1854) by William Cothren:
About the year 1790, before the general conference was formed in 1792, the first Methodist sermon in Woodbury was preached in the open air, in the street under the Rock, on which the Masonic Hall stands, by Rev. Samuel Wigdon, who was sent to preach in Litchfield circuit. This town was added to that circuit, and there was occasional preaching here after that to such as would “hear the word.” The first class was formed some time between the date of the first sermon and the year 1800. The church continued in a feeble condition till 1812, when Elijah Sherman, senior, better known to the people of this communion, and of the town, by the name of ” Father Sherman,” became dissatisfied with the Episcopal church, on account of some difference of opinion, as is understood, in relation to the adoption of the Episcopal church constitution, joined the Methodist denomination, and became very active and zealous in advancing its interests. The exact date of this transaction is not now at hand, but he was appointed the first regular class leader in 1812. Previous to this, the several ministers who had officiated here, had fulfilled the duties of that office. At this organization of the class, in 1812, the number of communicants was forty. From this time till 1824, “Father Sherman” threw open the doors of his house, and it became the place of public worship for this church. Having increased in numbers and means, they erected the first meeting-house on the site of the present church edifice, in 1824. But the class and social meetings of the society continued to be held at the house of Mr. Sherman, till the erection of the present commodious church, in 1839. This edifice is furnished with a good basement, and from that date the social meetings of the church have been held in it. The society here continued to constitute a part of some other circuit till 1832, when the circuit of Woodbury was formed, and this became the place of residence for its ministers.
The house at 57 Main Street North in Woodbury was built c. 1769 by Elijah Judson. The next year he sold the property to David Terrill. It had many owners over the years, including Jabez Bacon (c. 1795). The house has an extension that was probably used as a joiner’s or carpenter’s shop and later as a summer kitchen and woodshed.
The house at 14 Main Street South in Woodbury may have been built as early as 1748, but was more likely built c. 1796 by Elijah Sherman on land he had acquired in 1791. As related in the c. 1900 book Woodbury and the Colonial Homes:
The Sherman place is now occupied by Chas. Roswell, and the stone door step still bears the date May 19, 1791 A. D., chiseled on it. In the basement of this house, a tannery was located, later being moved across the street.
Elijah Sherman (1754-1844) was born in Stratford, (or perhaps New Milford?). As related in a biography of his son, Rev. Charles Sherman, who became a Methodist minister [Vol. VII of Annals of the American Methodist Pulpit (1861), by William B. Sprague]:
Elijah Sherman, removed in early life from New Milford, his native place, to Woodbury, where he lived till January, 1844, when he died in his ninetieth year. He was a man of vigorous mind and excellent character, and was several times a member of the State Legislature. He commenced the Christian life at the age of forty, and was ever after an active and devoted member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
He had earlier been a member of the Episcopal Church but, as described in The Town and People (1900), edited by Julia Minor Strong:
At what exact date is not positively known, but previous to 1812, Elijah Sherman, Sr., known as “Father Sherman,” became dissatisfied with the Episcopal Church, joined the Methodist denomination, and became very active and zealous in advancing its interests. In 1812 he was appointed the first regular “Class Leader,” the several ministers who had officiated here, having previously fulfilled that office. His home was the house now owned by the Methodist Society, and used as its parsonage. The exact date of its erection is lost, but the ancient grain bins and “smoke house” in the garret, attest to its great age, and it is probable that it was built previous to 1800. After his appointment as “Class Leader,” if not before, his “long kitchen” became the place for all the meetings of the Methodists, and was so used until the erection of the first Church, in 1824, on the site of the present edifice. Even after the church was built, the class and social meetings were still held at Mr. Sherman’s home, until the building of the present church, in 1840.
Elijah Sherman is further described in William Cothren’s History of Ancient Woodbury (1854):
The temperament of Mr. Sherman was humble, earnest, and eminently conscientious; firm in his adhesion to what he deemed to be the line of duty. He could not adopt Calvihistic opinions, then ardently pressed upon the public mind, in all the Congregational pulpits. Swayed by an enthusiastic spiritualism, his sympathies were with those humble heralds of the cross, so efficiently blessed in the morn of Methodism. For twenty years, with some few companions, himself an elder, the worshipers in this faith, assembled in his own house. His religious experiences gave him new developments in Christian duty. Chastened by the death of several children, his faith and zeal and knowledge grew deeper, more ardent and expanded. He became an eminent example of Christian excellence. Under that humble roof, from subdued and pure hearts, prayers gushed forth, not surpassed in pathos and piety by a Massillon or a Bourdaloue. Souls now looking to the great judgment seat with confidence and holy hope, recall with devout gratitude his ardent aspirations in that lowly temple. Had he received the advantages of early education and training, with the compass and melody of his voice, he would probably have made an eloquent and powerful preacher. He lived to see the erection of a Methodist church on his own homestead, and a numerous and devout company of believers worshiping there. He was gathered to his fathers at the advanced age of ninety, in the month of January, 1844.
The Methodist Church sold the house in 1937 and it has since been a private residence.
Jabez Bacon was one of the wealthiest merchants in Connecticut in the eighteenth century. On Hollow Road in Woodbury, next to where his grand residence still stands, Bacon constructed a gambrel-roofed store around 1760. In the 1830s the house and store were acquired by Daniel Curtiss, a successful businessman and entrepreneur. The store was converted into residence around 1933 by Hobart Upjohn. Read the rest of this entry »