WESTFIELD CHURCH HISTORY
JILL A. MOSSEY
CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY 105
Dr. Brian Donohue-Lynch
I decided to do my research project on the history of my church.
I thought for a while about what topic to choose. We were told
to take an "anthropological" look at our community. I thought
what better to look at than our church. Our church gives a lot
to the community and to its members. I have found a bond with
the members that I have never found with any other group of people.
Church is a part of my culture. As Rev. Fine states, "Westfield
is an active and vibrant congregation. There is a special bond
The information for this project was given to me by Mr. Robert
Spencer, Church Historian and Rev. William Fine, present pastor.
OUTLINE HISTORY OF WESTFIELD CHURCH
1. Ecclesiastical Background
- 1715 The First Church in Killingly was organized. The meeting
house was built in 1714 on a site at the foot of Killingly Hill.
Rev. John Fisk (1715-1741) and ten others were organizers.
- 1746 Removal of the church membership to a new meeting house, more
central, on Breakneck Hill. Known as the First and South
Society Church of Killingly. Rev. Nehemiah Barker (1745-1757).
- 1757 The church building was removed from Breakneck Hill to Killingly
Center on Providence Rd. (now Rte.101) between Cook Hill Rd.
and Cat Hollow Ext. Dr. Eden Burroughs (1760-1772) was minister.
No regular meetings were held after Dr. Burroughs left and a
period of stagnation set in.
- 1785 The building was turned over to the town for a meeting house.
The church organization was not dissolved, making the next
church a direct descendant of the First Church, since it was
established by the members of families of the older church.
2. The First Westfield Church
- 1796 The above church members joined others in building
a church in "the West Field" of Killingly on land donated
by Dr. Penuel Hutchins and Mr. Robert Howe on the east side
of the road to Worcester, now North Main St. A number of
church members mortgaged their homes to finance it.
- 1801 Thirteen people joined together to organize the "New Church
of Christ in the West Society of Killingly". The meeting
took place in Dr. Penuel Hutchins' home, on the site of the
present Killingly Memorial School. Cost of building - $3,000.
- 1804 Rev. Gordon Johnson served this congregation until 1809.
The name Westfield began to be used for the new church, as well
as the community in which it stood.
- 1813 Rev. Roswell Whitmore served as pastor until 1843, longest tenure.
- 1820 The first Sunday School (one of the first in the country) opened
under Isaac T. Hutchins.
- 1835 The Westfield Psallonian Society was formed for signing and
- 1839 The first Westfield Choir was formed.
- 1842 Until this date Westfield was the only church in this area,
when the Methodist Church was organized. Others came soon after.
3. The Second Westfield Church
- 1855 On July 1st the first service in the present church building
was held. Built on land donated by Capt. Samuel Reynolds.
It cost was about $20,000. Seventy people joined on that Sunday.
- 1856 An organ was installed in the balcony with the choir.
Dr. Woodbridge was the first organist.
- 1872 The present church bell was installed, a gift of George Danielson.
Old bell given to St. Albans Church on Broad St.
- 1874 A parsonage was erected on Broad St. for $6,000 or so, on
land now occupied by the Knights of Columbus.
- 1877 The steeple was blown down by a gale. The clock was ruined
and replaced by subscription.
- 1886 A new pipe organ was installed in the front of the Sanctuary.
- 1901 At the centennial celebration Dr. Sherberne Mathews revealed
much historical research in a series of sermons.
- 1923 The Parish House was built and considerable remodeling of
the main church was done. Three front doors and three
sets of steps were reduced to one front door and the new
- 1929 Masons bought parsonage then sold to Knights of Columbus,
which in 1948 burned.
- 1937 $4,479 annual church budget - now $100,000.
- 1938 The great hurricane toppled the steeple and part of the
church front, requiring also a new roof. Cost $15,000.
Paid by 1944.
- 1951 Sesquicentennial celebration; also dedication of an Allen
electronic organ to replace the 65-year old pipe organ.
- 1955 Mr & Mrs. Robert Spencer came to the church. Both directed
choir until 1988.
- 1956 An old carriage shed to the rear of the church was removed
to make room for a parking lot.
- 1957 Baptismal font, Offering plates, Communion table and cross
were donated. (Still used today.)
- 1958 Church School rooms were installed by dividing up space on
the third floor of the Parish House.
- 1960 On October 30th the congregation approved accepting the
merger of Congregational Christian Churches and the
Evangelical and Reformed Churches, and the designation
UCC (United Church of Christ) was added to the church name.
- 1961 The parsonage on Dorrance St. was purchased for about $34,000.
- 1964 The church kitchen was remodeled.
- 1966 The church administration offices were set off from the gymnasium.
- 1967 Westfield Church became the owners of the property next
door on Reynolds St. The Chapin property. This was held
for several years, but by 1980 the upkeep had increased and
the income was inadequate, and the property was sold. The
money was invested.
- 1975-76 The 175th anniversary of Westfield was observed, and a
55 minute historical narrated slide show was presented
by Mr. Robert Spencer, Church Historian.
- 1978 Ground officially broken for Westfield Village Retirement
Community on Broad St. The Good Samaritan Corp. oversaw
all arrangements, and are officially in charge of operation.
- 1979 On May 3rd the new Allen Digital Computer Organ replaced
the primitive electronic instrument of 1951.
- 1979 Nov. 4th Westfield Village was dedicated. There are 43
units housing 51 persons.
- 1981 Rev. Sikkel left Westfield to take a position as senior
minister in the church at Exeter N.H. He had completed
sixteen years of service to Westfield, longer than any
minister since 1843.
- 1982 Rev. James Bronwell and family arrived. That same year
church records had outgrown the space available and a four
drawer fireproof filing cabinet was obtained to preserve
these valuable documents. Also, that year the Westfield
Folk Choir was formed.
- 1987 In June, Rev. Bronwell left to take a position at the
Old Stone Church in East Haven CT. In Sept. of that year
Rev. Emily Craig became our interim pastor.
- 1989 In January, Rev. Craig retired. On Feb. 19th Rev. William
Fine and family arrived to commence the pastorate which is
ongoing at the present time.
- 1990 In the summer, a numerous improvements to the Sanctuary:
office equipment upgraded, new carpeting, new chandeliers,
refinishing and repainting of pew, walls and ceilings.
At this time the noisy and squeaky floor boards also were
screwed down tightly. Cost $27,000.
- 1994 338 members as of January. Also new handicap ramp started.
Ministers of Westfield
- 1804-1809 Rev. Gordon Johnson
- 1813-1843 Rev. Roswell Whitmore
- 1845-1856 Dr. Thomas O. Rice
- 1858-1861 Rev. Thomas T. Waterman
- 1861-1868 Rev. William W. Davenport
- 1869-1871 Dr. Jeremiah Taylor
- 1874-1877 Rev. Adelbert F. Keith
- 1878-1889 Rev. James Dingwell
- 1890-1895 Rev. Edward Anderson
- 1895-1898 Rev. Herbert S. Brown
- 1899-1905 Dr. Sherberne Mathews
- 1905-1917 Rev. Clarence H. Barber
- 1917-1925 Rev. Walter B. Williams
- 1926-1937 Rev. Harding W. Gaylord
- 1938-1944 Rev. Harold E. Craw
- 1944-1952 Rev. Oliver H. Cowles
- 1953-1954 Rev. Ernest A. Gooding, Jr.
- 1955-1959 Rev. James R. Blanning
- 1959-1966 Rev. J. Thomas Leamon
- 1966-1981 Rev. J. Raymond Sikkel
- 1982-1987 Rev. James Bronwell
- 1987-1989 Rev. Emily Craig
- 1989- Rev. William Fine
Westfield Church Outreach
From early times Westfield Church has had an outstanding record
of concern and support for the needs of others, and for providing
At least thirteen of its pastors have built on their Westfield
years of experience in later assignments to other parishes.
Some fifteen to twenty former members have gone into the ministry.
Some eight to ten former members have gone into mission work, some
home, most in foreign fields.
A number of former members have gained national acclaim in the
field of education.
Westfield helped support the Kriska's in the Japanese mission field;
the Robert McGowan family, medical missionaries in Angola;
the South African blacks through contact with Dr. Albert Luthili,
Nobel Prize winner, as President of the South African National Congress.
Westfield helped support post-war families in Europe;
foreign orphan or underprivileged children through international agencies;
famine areas via "Heifer Project";
World Hunger via "OxFam".
Westfield gives substantial financial support to foreign mission work
via the Missionary Society of Connecticut, since 1953, and to
Vellore Mission School in India.
Westfield gives annual contributions to the foreign mission work
through "One Great Hour of Sharing".
Westfield gave assistance this year to destitute families by providing
Westfield gives annual contributions to the home mission work
Westfield helps to support the following agencies: Elon Home
for Children; Wider City Parish; Church Homes, Inc.; Charles
Hall Youth Services; Back Bay Mission; Upland Retirement Center;
Emmaus Homes, Inc.; in Puerto Rico: Ryder Memorial Hospital and
Evangelical Seminary; Seamen's Home; Silver Lake Conference.
- Westfield has spearheaded local needs for elderly housing through
its work in promoting Westfield Village.
- Westfield contributes to local fuel assistance program by contributing
to the Killingly-Brooklyn Council of Churches.
- Westfield has supported the People's Store by donations of used clothing.
- Westfield is supporting the Community Kitchens, Inc. by donations.
- Westfield supports the K-B Council of Churches food bank by regular
- contributions of food, for area needy.
- Westfield gives contributions to the Senexet House, and to the
- Battered Women's Project.
- Westfield supports the Quinebaug Valley Counseling Center by contributions.
Westfield Church has opened its facilities to the following:
- Worship Services for displaced Estonian families following World War II.
- Regular monthly meetings of the Killingly-Brooklyn Woman's Club.
- Annual Men's Fellowship Dinners.
- Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquets.
- Red Cross blood donor program on continuing basis.
- Boys' and Girls' Scouting programs and meetings.
- Christian Women's Club nursery.
- Adult Education: Literacy Program, High-School Equivalency Program,
- Hearing Impaired Program.
- Quinebaug Valley Pastoral Counseling Center.
- Quinebaug Valley Community College classes.
- Connecticut Clergy and Laity Concerned.
- Narcotics Anonymous.
- Northeast Repertory Theater.
Go to Anthropology/Sociology Projects Page Go to the Killingly
Historical Society Page
Last Revised, Jan. 1997