Lyme, Conn. Second Church and Society
The colony of Saybrook, founded in 1635 at the mouth of the Connecticut River, extended some twenty miles along the shoreline from Clinton to the village of Niantic. In 1665, in what is known as the "Loving Parting", the township of Lyme was established on the eastern shore of the river, and with it, the Ecclesiastical Society of Lyme, now known as the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme. By 1718, the families on the eastern side of this township had successfully petitioned the General Court of Connecticut to grant a separation from the Lyme church so they did not have to travel so far on the Sabbath. In May 1718, the legislature authorized the inhabitants of the “Second Society of Lyme to embody themselves in church order and settle an orthodox minister.” The first meeting was called on February 15, 1719, and the Reverend Mr. George Griswold, a recent graduate of Yale College, was chosen as minister. Rev. Griswold's family owned thousands of acres of land on the east side of the Connecticut River; he had graduated from Yale in 1717, before the college moved from Saybrook to New Haven. Besides his duties in his own church, he held a commission from the “Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England” as missionary to the local Nehantic Indians.
In 1722 a small wooden meetinghouse was built in the center of the community, where Society Road and Riverview Road intersect today. During the Great Awakening of the 1740s, the small congregation added 116 members, including 15 Nehantics, but in the second half of the century the membership gradually dwindled, eventually totalling “only two aged females,” and the condition of the wooden meetinghouse deteriorated.
The church's deterioration prompted an anonymous author to write a parody entitled "The Last Will & Testament of the 2nd Society of Lyme Sirnamed Niantic," the digitized version of which is available below. The church was saved from its anticipated demise, however, when another religious resurgence in the 1790s led to a revitalization of the congregation and repairs to the meeting house. The church continues to serve the community today as the Niantic Community Church.
In this parody, the anonymous author lays out "The Last Will & Testament of the 2nd Society of Lyme Sirnamed Niantic." The document is written with a great deal of sarcasm; the church bequeaths its ignorance, folly, knavery, and religion to various local congregations. The "will" is witnessed by Orange, Oswegotche and Spithead.
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