Trumbull Congregational Church is the oldest established church in Trumbull, actually predating the founding of the town by 67 years. You are standing in what is our 4th building. By 1670, a handful of Stratford farmers, led by Richard Booth and Isaac Nichols, began to expand their farms by carving new fields along the Indian trails running north into the deep forest. Since the church was the established “body politic,” our very first residents continued to return to Stratford for worship lest they lose their rights to vote. In 1725, the number of families having increased, they petitioned the Connecticut General Court for the “liberty of village privileges,” and thus when finally granted allowed our first service of worship which was held on November 18, 1730 on Pulpit Rock (the current site of Christian Heritage School). Our first building was then constructed diagonally east on the corner of White Plains Road and Unity Road (where the Lutheran church is). The cemetery there is our first burial ground.
Soon after, in 1747, our 2nd building was constructed on Church Hill Road right next to (east) of the Helen Plumb Building. It was this church building which created the name “Church Hill Road.” This building was to serve us for over a century, but by then had become too small and in some ways a danger to the town. Over the years, as the road expanded, it had moved closer to the building and due to the speed of descending the hill, especially with icy conditions, many horse and wagon met its demise running into the corner of this building. So in 1842 our 3rd building was constructed on the same site, only further back toward the bank of the Pequonnock.
On the night of April 20, 1898, fire swept through the church and the building was quickly leveled. The cornerstone for the building you are standing in was laid on September 28, 1898, and dedicated on May 11, 1899.
The portico is part of a major upgrading and handicapped access program which began in 1990. Originally, this portico was a cover through which the gentlemen would drive the family carriage, allowing women and children to enter church unhampered by inclement weather; and then the horses and the wagons would be left in the barn, which was located just south of what was then Reservoir Avenue.
If you look out the windows of the portico you will see our Mary Jean Martin Memorial Garden, which is dedicated to the honor and memory of all the women who have labored in the vineyards of faith. During the construction for the ramp the original and well-worn first step into the church was removed and is now the bench from which the garden can be enjoyed.
On May 5, 1999, the Connecticut Historical Commission listed our Church, the Nichols Building and the Parsonage on the State Register of Historic Places.
The Memorial Garden and the Oval of Remembrance located on the upper front lawn in front of the large stained glass window was dedicated on November 1, 2009.
The restoration of the beautiful 1898 Church Building’s stained glass in the sanctuary, choir loft and round room began in the summer of 2010. The most recent upgrade to the property is the remodeled kitchen in the Christian Education Building, completed in 2013.
For those who may not be native New Englanders, this is a quick history of Congregationalism. This is the group we most often think of at Thanksgiving time, when known as the “Pilgrims,” they and their ship the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. As both a political and religious community in one, these Pilgrim and Puritan groups soon carved out what we know as New England. One of the keys to New England colonial governments was that a church had to be settled before a town could be granted a charter. This is why the first town meeting for the founding of Trumbull was held in our 2nd building in 1797. When driving through Connecticut or Massachusetts you’ll see “First Church of town name.” It was the church that allowed that town to be settled.
For those of us of old Yankee stock, our building is not quite what we would think of as “congregational architecture” with the white wooden and steepled church on the green as our former church buildings were. The reason however, for our current structure is quite old Yankee. Throughout our history we have had two fires and a steeple blown down so the decision was made to build a church in a location and out of material so this misfortune wouldn’t happen again. The granite was quarried from the Everes Quarry (Quarry Road north of Beardsley Park). The total cost of construction, including furnishings, was $15,141.78. When originally built, our church was a single story plus the bell tower. In 1929, the decision was made to dig a basement for Sunday school and social activities. As you can imagine it all had to be done by hand and often on hands and knees.
One of our church treasures is the pipe organ. In early New England tradition, organs were not considered acceptable. In fact they were considered an instrument of frivolity and quite unsuitable for worship until well into the mid-1800’s. It is interesting to read in church records of the 1820’s, ‘40’s and ’50‘s and see how brutal some of the church fights were over installing an organ. Our first organ was installed in our 3rd church in 1842 and was destroyed in the fire.
Our current organ is a registered historic organ built in 1898 by A.B. Fegelmaker of Erie, Pennsylvania. It is “tracker action” which means that it works by the mechanical action of wooden plugs, leather thong and springs. It is a physical exercise to play. If you look on the right side you will see the pump handle to the bellows where a young lad would be paid a penny a service to pump the organ. Fortunately it has since been electrified.