Our Beginnings

The 16th Century in Europe was a time of great upheaval and religious reformation. During the 16th century, 1534 to be exact, King Henry the Eighth separates from the Roman Catholic church for a number of political and personal reasons. The Church of England forms as a result. This is where the Anglicans and later Episcopalians come from.

But after this initial separation there were reformers that believed the Church of England did not go far enough. These individuals wanted to further “purify” the church. They became known as “Puritans”.

These reformers believed in the independence of each church congregation, and were opposed to any type of church hierarchy. They believed each congregation should have the power to choose and dismiss their own ministers. Their “meeting houses” were starkly plain, with no pictures, statues, or stained glass windows.

This group of people who were disenters and nonconformists, also known as Separatists, decided to leave the Church of England and form churches of their own. At first they were tolerated, but when King James (who is known for the King James Bible) became the monarch of England and its empire, the Separatists needed to flee to Holland to escape religious persecution.

After spending a decade or two in Holland, a decision was made by one congregation led by John Robinson to emigrate – to become Pilgrims -- to the new land of America. This group secured financing and transportation on The Mayflower to come to America. They landed in 1620. The survivors of the Plymouth Bay Colony, who we call the Pilgrims, and later those from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who we call the Puritans, combined in 1648 to form the Congregationalist church. *The above test are excerpts from Pastor Damon’s morning worship Sermon on November 18, 2012.

Our Town and Church's History:

1733 Settlement known as "Lower Ashuelot" is surveyed and granted by Massachusetts

1734 The first settlement is established in Lower Ashuelot

1734 The Great Awakening Religious Revival is started in New England by Johnathan Edwards

1735 In May, 63 house lots of 3-4 acres each were laid out as the first division of territory in the township of Lower Ashuelot. Sixty proprietors would each have an equal share, one lot to be used for a school, one lot for a minister and the remaining lot for the cause of the ministry.

1735 In October, a second division of undivided land in the township into 63 shares of about 8 acres each was made

1736 In September, a third division of undivided land in the township into 60 shares of 20 acres each was made

1737 In March, a fourth division of undivided land in the township was made with each lot containing about 65 acres.

1737 The first area saw mill is built by Ephraim Jones in West Swanzey near the falls

1737 In October, the fifth division of undivided land in the township was made with each lot containing about 100 acres. At this point, more than ½ of the total land in the township is divided.

1738 George Whitefield precipitates the Great Awakening Religious Revival in America by a tour from 1739 to 1741

1739 John Wesley founds the Methodist religious movement

1740 Nathaniel Hammond builds the first house in the township of Lower Ashuelot (Swanzey)

1740 Settlers in Lower Ashuelot are informed they are NOT within the jurisdiction of Massachusetts and thereby are not entitled to protection by the state of Mass. against the Indians. They also lost all legal claims made through the State of Mass. to their lands in Lower Ashuelot.

1741 The Congregational Church in Lower Ashuelot (Swanzey) is organized on November 4th

1741 Rev. Timothy Harrington begins as minister in Lower Ashuelot (Swanzey) (Fast Forward 270 years....)

2010 Rev. Damon Anderson from Pennsylvania begins his ministry at First Congregational Church of Swanzey, UCC.