The religious sentiment of Willimantic is now represented by six churches, viz., Congregational, Methodist, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Protestant Episcopal and Spiritualist. These have all been built up here since the year 1827. Up to the close of that year there was no church nearer than Windham Centre, nor any stated meetings except such as were held in a school house or in private houses. In the year mentioned a few persons here applied to the directors of the Connecticut Domestic Missionary Society for a minister. [. . .]
January 22d, 1828, an ecclesiastical council was called, of which Doctor Samuel Nott, of Franklin, was chosen moderator, and this council organized the First Congregational church of Willimantic. [. . .]
A church edifice was immediately erected, and was dedicated October 17th, 1828, Doctor Joel Hawes preaching the sermon. This was the first house of worship in the place. The expense of building it was a burden from which those who undertook it delivered themselves only after a determined struggle. The present society was formed soon after the church was built. [. . .] In 1843 the house of worship was considerably enlarged. [. . .]
On the acceptance of the call of Reverend Horace Winslow, the question of a new house of worship was earnestly advocated, and on February 24th, 1869, the society resolved to proceed to the work, and accordingly appointed a building committee composed of John Tracy, Allen Lincoln, William C. Jillson and the pastor elect. In July of that year the corner stone was laid, and in one year from that time the main edifice was dedicated to the worship of God. The expenses of this enterprise were provided for in various ways. To begin with, the society had from subscriptions and the sale of the old house $19,578. This fund was steadily increased by special efforts, so that when the main portion of the building was completed the debt was only a little over $9,000. In May, 1871, the chapel was completed and dedicated to the service of God. In about a year from that time it was proposed to pay off the whole debt of the society, which amounted then to $12,600. This amount was raised by the 1st of October, 1872. The whole cost of church, grounds, chapel, furniture, organ and all, amounted to $46,700, and it had all been paid, so that the society was free from debt. A service of praise and gratulation was held in view of the auspicious financial condition. Since then money has been raised and the chapel and adjoining rooms have been painted, carpeted and seated. The size of the main edifice on the ground is one hundred by sixty-three feet, and the chapel addition and adjoining room is ninety by thirty-six feet.
In 1747 residents of Hebron voted to crate a second Congregational parish within the town. Located in the section called Gilead, the new church was formally incorporated in May 1748 and the first meeting house was erected the following year. This building was torn down and replaced by the current Gilead Congregational Church, located at 672 Gilead Street, in 1838.
On Washington Green is the H-shaped parish house of the First Congregational Church of Washington. It was erected in 1874 and was originally called The Hall on the Green. Owned by the Washington Hall and Conference Room Association, it served as a meeting hall, chapel and library. In 1927 it was deeded to the church and extensively remodeled. It was dedicated on June 21, 1929 and called the Judea Parish House after the original name of Washington’s church: the Parish of Judea.
it was accepted as completed according to contract September 14th, 1815. It was not finished as it was intended eventually to be but so that public worship could be held in it. Neither pews, slips nor pulpit were provided, but the people went up with joy to the courts of the Lord, to worship Him in His own house. After a number of years a steeple was built upon the east end of the meeting house, a bell procured in 1837, the pews or slips were constructed, and a lofty pulpit placed for the elevation of the minister. Thus they intended to have their pastors settled over the people. Many years after, one of the pastors expressed the earnest wish to have the pulpit brought down from its great altitude, that he might be among his people as one of them, saying when his Master wished him to come up to heaven he hoped he should be ready, but while he was upon earth he did not wish to be placed somewhere between earth and heaven. The pulpit was brought down as he wished, and yet it was too high for some of his successors, and it has been brought down several feet lower, and now it has only the elevation of the modern pulpit. A number of years since, the people feeling the need of a lecture room or vestry, moved the meeting house about fifty feet on the hillside, and constructed a very commodious vestry under it, where the evening meetings and other religious and social gatherings are accommodated. Thus the same meeting house has been occupied during the entire history of the church, except for a short time when worship was held in the Center school house.
The Congregational Church in Eastford was organized September 23, 1778. A meeting house was soon erected on Lieutenant John Russel’s land. The present church, located at 8 Church Road, was dedicated on December 23, 1829. The old church was removed, as described in Richard M. Bayles’ History of Windham County, Connecticut (1889):
Esquire Bosworth purchased the old meeting house, removed it from the common and made it into a dwelling house. The day for the removal was fixed, men were invited with their teams, and all was ready for the start, when a delegation came to Esquire Bosworth, saying the oxen would not draw unless the teamsters were treated. Esquire Bosworth had recently identified himself with the temperance cause, and the “rummies” hoped to bring him to terms, but they mistook their man. The words of his pastor at his funeral, “He was one of the firmest oaks that ever grew upon Mt. Zion,” were well spoken. Instantly the reply came, “It will rot down where it is, first.” Enough teams were unhitched to prevent the moving that day, but immediately an offer came from neighboring towns to furnish teams that would draw though the teamsters were not treated. Esquire Bosworth left a legacy of a thousand dollars, the interest to be applied to help support a settled orthodox minister, and for the support of no other.
Today the Congregational Church of Eastford is a nondenominational church.
The Willington Baptist Church was organized on December 18, 1828 and the Baptist Meeting House was completed the following year. Albert Sharp, a local carpenter, was the builder. Members of an earlier Baptist church, established in the north part of town, joined the congregation of the new church. A conference room and Sunday school room were added to the building in 1842. Willington’s Baptist and Congregational Churches merged in 1911 to form the Federated Church of Willington. The federated congregation built the Clara Hall Elliott Memorial Church that same year and sold the old Congregational church building to the town in 1924. The Federated Church holds services in two buildings, from late September to Easter Sunday in the Hall Memorial Church and in the summer at the former Baptist Meeting House, now called the Hill Church.
The first meetinghouse of Bethany’s Congregational Church was erected between 1769 and 1773. It stood on Meetinghouse Hill on what is now Dayton Road. In 1831, the building was dismantled and material from it was used in the construction of the current Congregational Church, located at 511 Amity Road. The new church was designed by Ira Atwater and it is said that architect David Hoadley sat on the advisory committee. Among various alterations over the years, in 1866 the front portico was enclosed to enlarge the vestibule and in 1931 the church was moved back several feet to accommodate the widening of Amity Road.