Click on the history links below to explore the various topics relating to Killingworth's History in the State of Connecticut.
Emmanuel Episcopal Church
Emmanuel Episcopal Church was organized in the late eighteenth century as the Episcopalian Society of North Bristol (now North Madison). The Society organized itself as a parish on July 10, 1800. Nineteen of the original members were from North Bristol and two were residents of North Killingworth. An influx of members from North Killingworth soon after changed the balance of the Society and it became known as the Episcopalian Society of North Bristol and North Killingworth. In 1802, the Society voted to construct a church in Killingworth on land belonging to Bezaleel Bristol “near Miss Lucy Blatchley’s.” Construction began in May of 1803 and a group of members from North Bristol decided they would build their own church in North Bristol. The church was never built and the members compromised in 1805 by naming the church in Killingworth the Union Church. Bezaleel Bristol quit-claimed the land to the church in 1807. The church was completed in 1816 and the sanctuary was consecrated by Bishop Hobart of New York in 1817. The first minister of the church was Nathan Bennett Burgess who had been rector of Christ Church in Guilford and St. John’s in North Guilford. In 1869, Dr. Samuel Fuller, who served as priest in charge from 1867 to 1874, suggested the name be changed from Union Church to Emmanuel Church. A chancel and a sacristy were added to the original structure. In 1884, a bell and a bell tower were added. The church received an extensive restoration in 1970.
The Rev. George B. Gilbert became Priest-In-Charge of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in 1909. He was a graduate of Trinity College and of Berkeley Divinity School in Middletown. He was known for giving a helping hand to hundreds of families in Middlesex County, many of them entrenched in poverty, especially during the Depression. He was elected to the State legislature and campaigned for better roads, cheaper electricity, and more adequate housing. His informal style and populist political views sometimes drew the disapproval of the church hierarchy and some of his church members, but his desire to serve the people drew wide admiration. The Christian Herald sponsored a nation-wide contest to select a typical country pastor and Gilbert was selected in 1939 from 1,000 nominees. He revitalized the church and made it known to the world with his famous book “Forty Years a Country Preacher” published in 1939.
The Congregational Church in Killingworth
The first pastor of the Congregational Church in the Second Society was William Seward. The Rev. William Seward was born in Guilford, July 27, 1712, the son of Deacon William Seward of Durham. He graduated from Yale College in 1734 and received a second degree in 1737. The Rev. Seward was 26 at the time he became Pastor in North Killingworth. During his ministry, the small parish grew and became strong. It was said that he was not eloquent, but impressive and knew the Scriptures well. He was much respected and beloved among his people. During his pastorate, he received 158 into full communion, and 466 owned the covenant. He baptized 1,343 in his own parish, and married 307 couples. His ministry in Killingworth lasted 44 years until his death in 1782 at the age of 70. This, as well as Jared Eliot’s, stands as one of the longest ministries in a single church in New England. The second pastor was the Rev. Henry Ely for whom the Ely house was built in 1783.
In 1816, the Second Ecclesiastical Society voted to build a new meetinghouse. The present Congregational Church building was raised in 1817 and completed in 1820. It was dedicated to the service of God on May 31, 1820. The design of the meetinghouse, as the church was referred to then, has traditionally been attributed to Ithiel Town, a well-known architect of the period from Connecticut. The plan is typical of the churches of this period with the long axis at right angles to the highway, a vestibule at the front end, and a rectangular audience room with the pulpit at the far end. The building is 62 feet long and 48 feet wide, with a graceful belfry of three major stages in front. A gilded weather vane of wrought iron rises from a turned finial on the apex. The front entrance steps and foundation are built of quarried gray gneiss. One of the stones on the west wall of the foundation bears the incised date July 2, 1817. The exterior walls of the church are covered by narrow pine clapboards. There are twelve windows on the north and south sides in two tiers of six and seven windows in front. The beams that form the frame are oak; the larger ones are broad ax hewn, while the smaller ones are sawn.
Asahel Nettleton, was a noted evangelist in the first part of the nineteenth century. He was born in North Killingworth April 21, 1783. He entered Yale College in the fall of 1805 and graduated in 1809. He became an evangelist, and, over the next several years, preached throughout Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts. In 1820, he led an “ever-to-be remembered revival” in Killingworth in which there were a total of 162 converts. Rev. Nettleton urged sinners to repent immediately and is credited with bringing 30,000 people into New England churches. He contracted typhus fever in 1822, an illness from which he never completely recovered. In 1824, he completed Village Hymns, a hymn book that was very popular at the time. He died on May 16, 1844.
One of Killingworth’s most notable citizens was Titus Coan who was missionary to the Hawaiian Islands from 1834 to 1882. His long course of service has few parallels in the annals of missionary life. Titus Coan was born in 1801 in a house located on a now unused portion of Titus Coan Road. The house no longer stands but there is an inscription on a stone nearby noting his birthplace. As a boy, he worked on his father’s farm and received his early education in the Killingworth schools and from Rev. Asa King, the pastor of the Congregational Church. When a child, he was rescued from drowning by a friend and neighbor, Julius Stone. Later, he taught in the green school house on Roast Meat Hill Road and in neighboring towns. In 1829, he felt called by God and decided to become a minister. He entered the Auburn Theological Seminary in 1831. In 1834, he received instructions as missionary to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaiian Islands) from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. He toured the islands preaching to the people and enduring great hardships fording rivers, climbing mountains, and facing tropical rains and sun. He was very popular with the people, and his church in Hilo grew until it numbered in the thousands, making it the largest Protestant Church in the world. He baptized over 14,000 persons and is sometimes called the “Saint Peter of Hawaii.” Titus Coan died in 1882 and is buried in the Homeland Cemetery in Hilo.