History of Norfield Congregational Church
A History of Norfield Congregational Church
Barely a month after the Connecticut General Assembly created the Norfield Society, David Coley, Nathan Morris, and David Godfrey summoned the first meeting. The month was June and the year, 1757; about thirty years after permanent settlement began in what would become the town of Weston. The petition had been drafted by men from parts of the Green's Farms and Greenfield Hill Societies, then Fairfield,and from a small part of the Norwalk Society - thus the name Norfield. It was to be an ecclesiastical society founded in the Puritan tradition with all the responsibilities and privileges of other societies similarly founded. The new society could levy taxes, build a meeting house, schools, and roads, as well as direct the spiritual and social life of the members of its congregation.
Among the business matters at that first meeting was the summons of Rev. Samuel Sherwood as the first minister. His salary of "fifty pound lawful money for the first three years, from this dait, July the fourth Day,1757 with a bonus of Sixty pound a Yeare annually..." proved to be a sound investment, with the Rev. Sherwood ultimately ministering to the society for the next 26 years. Samuel Sherwood was born in Green's Farms, now part of Westport, in 1730 and remained with Norfield until his death in 1783.
With a minister in place, Norfielders recognized the need for a meetinghouse. After some initial disagreement as to the location of such an important center of the community, a site was chosen near the present intersection of Kettle Creek Road and Heritage Lane. Financing of the meetinghouse was difficult and work progressed slowly. Church minutes taken at meetings during the next decade make it clear that the building was at best a very crude structure, perhaps never even completely finished.
In 1784, with the Revolutionary War barely over, the people of Norfield found themselves embarrassed by the miserable sight of their meetinghouse and set about rectifying the situation. Part of the problem seemed to be the location and after a fierce debate a new site was chosen on land donated by Samuel Rowland "so long as the said inhabitants shall maintain a House of Public Worship..." The new site was near the present intersection of Norfield and Old Hyde Roads.
With the new meetinghouse came a new minister, as Rev. Sherwood died in May, 1783. The following November, Rev. John Noyes, a young man fresh from Yale, was invited to settle in Norfield. Noyes rejected the offer, claiming he was young and unprepared to make such a commitment. A year later another offer of seventy-five pounds and forty loads of wood a year, plus a bonus of one hundred pounds to be paid for over four years was still not enough to convince him. The following spring Norfield again made their offer and this time it was accepted. Rev. Sherwood served the church for twenty-six years and Rev. Noyes remained almost twice that long.
Yale educated John Noyes married Eunice Sherwood, the daughter of Rev. Samuel, and they eventually became the parents of seven sons and two daughters. Although Rev. Noyes was an ardent patriot, a devout Christian, a powerful speaker and well-liked by the parishioners, church membership dropped significantly after the war.
In the face of declining church membership, Rev. Noyes did his best to maintain the church. In March, 1806, his health began to fail and a year later he asked to be released. No permanent minister followed him, and it was not until 1835 that Rev. Noyes was able to officially retire.
In 1829, the congregation decided to build the third and present meetinghouse on the parade ground given the parish by Thaddeus Burr many years earlier, for military parades, drilling exercises, a school, and whatever else "as the People Shall think proper..." The Building was dedicated in 1831 with hope that the future would hold more promise for the Norfield Society than previous years.
Indeed, the building and the congregation have prospered over time. The meetinghouse, underwent major renovation in 1989-90. And today, approximately 560 members share in faith and fellowship in the white meetinghouse atop the hill inWeston, Connecticut.