“Sometimes we need to look at our history, troubled as it may be to see the hand of God
leading us in the struggle through human heroes that are sent to guide and console us.”
[Rev. Canon Leonard L. Hamlin, Canon Missioner and Minister of Equity and Inclusion at
Washington National Cathedral.]This to a large extent was the message of our Diocesan Archivist Greg Farr, who visited with the
members of the History Project. Greg is the Archivist and Record manager for the Episcopal
Church in Connecticut Church and manages its historic archival records, manuscripts, and
artifacts as well as its properties all over the State. He is also the person with a historical
perspective who provides collection management for the vital and historic archival records,
manuscripts, and artifacts of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. He is also in charge of
performing duties related to the acquisition of such materials, their organization and
administration, and their long-term preservation.
As the History Project participants begin their research on the history of St. Paul’s on the Green
there is a lot reading and research that has started. One of the many books we are reading for
information is titled “African American Connecticut Explored,” and if you are interested in
following what we are doing do please read along with us. We invited Greg to visit with us to
get a sense of whether we are on the right track. His visit affirmed for us that we are. His advice
to us: “ Find out who the players are and then make connections to the community.” He
stressed more than once to us the importance of involving the congregation at St. Paul’s in our
work as we discover who we are as Americans, through our research of our parish history.
Did we know that most of our priests during the period of slavery owned slaves? Or that the
Church in Connecticut was involved in both Education and Governance during these times? Or
that because of the presence of mills in Connecticut we were one of the northern states that
opted for gradual emancipation. In 1800, Connecticut still had more than 1,000 people held in
slavery, a number that would diminish slowly but steadily over the following years.
Connecticut’s gradual emancipation act freed children born to enslaved women after March 1, It did not free the mother, the father, or any other adults. Neither did the children gain their full freedom until they reached, for men, age 25, and for women, age 21. It would not be until 1848 that the state completely abolished the practice. St. Paul’s was also one of the wealthier parishes at this time. It is in our current space that the third church was erected, pewed and furnished in 1786, and consecrated by the first Anglican bishop in America, Samuel Seabury, on July 15, 1786. His altar or communion table remains along the west wall of the nave close to the pulpit in the current Church.
These and other facts which we shared with Greg are just a tip of the iceberg and there is so much more to discover. Greg assured us that we were on the right tract and left us with these words: “If the community is in need of salvation, then doing this work is a good way to start.” He also left us with an important gift, a digital flash drive which contains our parish registers. This is an important gold mine for us as we will be able to see the people who were part of parish life between 1790 and 1848. Those who worshipped, were baptized, married and died here. We also hope that we will find out more about the enslaved persons who were part of our parish. We look forward to learning and growing through this work and getting you more involved and interested as we learn more about who are were and are at St. Paul’s on the Green.