By Alessio Gallarotti.
The Founding of our Beloved Ancient Church: The First Congregational Church of Haddam
The First Congregational Church of Haddam, now at 905 Saybrook Road in Haddam, was officially founded, or congregated, during the year 1700. According to a quote from Reverend Fiske, the second pastor in the pastorate, fourteen men officially congregated on November 14, 1700 before the first pastor Jeremiah Hobart. Many claimed over the years that the church should have been dated to 1696 when official baptism records were found which cited the church at Haddam, though since no official pastor was at the time, the date remains 1700.
The People of Haddam are said to have come down from Hartford around 1662. The first meeting place for the congregation is said to have been built little more than a decade later near “Little Meadow.” After the incorporation of Haddam in 1668, there were two potential pastors before Hobart eventually received the title. The first, Jonathon Willoughby, son of the Deputy Governor of Massachusetts was well received by the people, who also began to build him a home. Though he poorly handled his finances and left shortly after. The other, Nicholas Noyes, was better received.
A Harvard graduate in 1667, he two years after moved to Haddam and was that year offered the official title of pastor of the church which he refused. He preached, albeit without official title, in Haddam for 13 years when he declined another offer from the town of Haddama relocated to Salem, Massachusetts (where he would unfortunately become one of the most infamous persecutors of witches during the Salem Witch Trials). Another, Mr, John James, was asked to fill the void left by Noyes. He stayed one year and left in 1691. It was at this point the church began to coalesce and 9 years later Jeremiah Hobart was officially named the first pastor of the Church of Haddam.
The successors to Hobart were as follows. Phineas Fiske, Aaron Cleveland, Joshua Elderkin, respectively. Phineas Fiske was officially named Pastor on January 26, 1714 and with great enthusiasm from the people. He died at age 46. His only child, a Yale graduate, was the tenth deacon of the church. During the first quarter century, the church of Haddam grew in prosperity with the establishment of a second meeting house quoted to have been near an “old cemetery.” This house had twice the seating capacity of the old and with new comfortable seats attracted more people than ever. Mr. Fiske was a pioneer of the early church of Haddam, skilled in medicine as well as theology, he is credited with growing the church rapidly.
Aaron Cleveland was pastor from 1739-1746 when he resigned due to poor finances “caused by the influence of the war upon the currency.” He was asked to resume duties eight years later and declined. Joshua Elderkin served only four years due to poor health. At this point, or after these two pastors, the modern church was born with the entry of Pastor May. On June 30, 1756, an official account reading 100 names of members of the church was written. The history of the church from this date onwards sees official and highly detailed records. Mr. Mays appointment therefore marks the ending of the founding of our church of Haddam.
The Two Hundredth Anniversary of the First Congregational Church of Haddam (1902). The De Vinne Press; Haddam.
Modern photo from the church’s website.