Church History

Meetings were held as early as 1801 in private homes in Franklin Hill and New Milford, until the old South Schoolhouse was built, and then meetings were held there. Among the early settlers were the seven smith brothers, all tall well-formed men, with vigorous constitutions, who were characterized by a spirit of independence that would be truly refreshing in these times. They were staunch Presbyterians, and brought up their families in that faith. Four members of this family, Anson, Winfield, Scott, Irman, and Norton, entered the ministry and others became teachers.

In 1805, Anson Smith, one of the brothers, while working on a farm (later known as the Charles Lawson farm) was cutting down a tree, and a limb struck him on the head fracturing his skull. He suffered for nine weeks and then died. Upon his death, there being no public cemetery in the township, ground was selected from two adjoining farms, and the ground purchased from Rufus Lines, where Nicholas Maskaly now lives, and Ephraim Smith, where Albert Wells now lives, and Anson Smith became the first person to be buried in the cemetery. There was no church building on the hill at the time, just the cemetery, and in that sacred enclosure nearly all the first settlers of the area now rest.

Forming of the Church

On the 28th day of September, 1813, the Lawsville and New Milford Union Congregational Church was constituted. The meeting to form the church took place at the home of John Hawley in New Milford under the direction of the Rev. Ebenezer Kingsbury, a missionary from Connecticut and the Rev. Joseph Wood, pastor of the First Church in Bridgewater. The first communion service was celebrated at the home of John Hawley, in New Milford, on Oct. 3, 1813, the Rev. Joseph Wood officiating. At this time Mrs. Hawley and her daughter Mary Ann Hawley, were baptized.

The Rev. Oliver Hill of Connecticut was called as first pastor, after be examined and accepting the call. The next day he was ordained at a meeting held in Ephraim Smith’s barn. Mr. Hall served from 1814 to 1820, dividing his time between Lawsville and New Milford.

On Aug. 1, 1814 Deacon Ichabod Ward presented the new church with two silver communion cups. One of these cups is still used in part of the communion service.

During Mr. Hill’s ministry the South Schoolhouse was a stated meeting place, but service was often held in the Smith barn as it seated more. Mr. Hill was followed by the Rev. Lyman Richardson of Harford, who left to go to Wysox. Mr. Enoch Conger took his place and established the first Sunday School.

In 1836 the Church became Presbyterian and five elders were chosen. They united with Liberty Presbyterian church in the support of the Rev. Joseph Barlow as pastor. He served them until his death by fire in the manse in may 1858. On Jan. 28, 1850, the church became an incorporated body, being duly chartered as the “First Presbyterian and Congregation of Franklin”. The first church edifice was erected on Cemetery Hill in 1824 at the cost of $1400.

In 1846 it was repaired and greatly improved, and in that condition was used for twenty years. In 1866 it was removed and the present edifice erected in its place, with dimensions of 32 x 50. A clear-toned bell was installed in the belfry. The building was formally dedicated on Nov. 8, 1866, by the rev. A. Miller of Harford. The manse was built in 1860 on the site of the one burned in 1858, when Rev. Barlow met his death. This place is known to most of us as the Vida Lowe property.

In 1866 Elder James Leighton presented the church with a communion service, which was used until a quite recent date, and then replaced by a larger service by the Ladies’ Aid Society of the church.

An expression that was often used in the old minutes was “Having been examined relative to their experimental acquaintance with the religion of Jesus Christ Mr. _______ was this day received into this church”.

Also we find in the minutes that when people did wrong, it was brought to the attention of the church. In fact the people were reprimanded, and if the wrong was not corrected they were dismissed from church membership. There were instances where a “confession” was written into the minutes and thus members were restored to active membership. This church procedure we find during the years 1824-1846. If one brother had a quarrel with another, two members of good repute were appointed by the session to bring about reconciliation. In 1886 the congregation had a harmonious membership of seventy five persons and was in good condition financially. The Sabbath school had ninety members.

Following is a list of the ministers that served the church from its forming until the present time:

  • Oliver Hill
  • Enoch Conge
  • Burr Baldwin
  • Ebenezer Kingsbury
  • Mr. Darnell
  • T. A. Strail
  • Mr. Philips
  • Elijah Buck
  • Mr. Manderville
  • Mr. Conklin
  • Mr. Babbett
  • A. H. Raymond
  • Mr. Law
  • Mr. Frazier
  • Mr. McCreary
  • Mr. Wooley
  • Sabin McKenny
  • J. W. Raynor
  • Joseph Barlow


  • Mr. Diament
  • I. W. Smith
  • C. Judson
  • J. H. Doremus
  • J. C. Calnon
  • J. H. Atkinson
  • Joseph Calclough
  • G. G. Burns
  • l. W. Church
  • A. B. Kerr
  • A. I. Dickerson
  • S. B. Bedickian
  • W.H. Johnston
  • W. A. Yeibley
  • H. L. Somers
  • Charles B. Smith (1944-1949)
  • Joseph Grottenthaler (1949-1953)
  • Robert Daffiin (1953-1958)
  • William A. Mitchell (1959- )


During recent years, improvements have been made to help the congregation meet the needs of the community. In 1946 when the schools of the township were consolidated, the school on Franklin Hill almost opposite the church was put up. for sale, and while Rev. Charles B. Smith was pastor, it was purchased by the church with money furnished by the Ladies’ Aid Society, to be used as a social and recreational hall.

In 1952 under the gentle prodding of the pastor, the Rev. Mr. Grottenthaler, a kitchen was built on the back of the hall. The lumber for the project was donated by Mr. Albert Wells from material of the demolished Kerr house which was on Mr. Well’s property. The Ladies’ Aid Society provided the money for such fixtures as the sink and other items, and Mr. Frank Lewis built the cabinets and counters.

In 1958 the exterior and interior of the church Was painted, and the church was much improved by plastering inside, a new chimney built on the south side, and an oil heater installed to take the place of the two space heaters, which had been used to heat the church prior to this time. In 1962, drapes were hung on all the windows of the church as a memorial .to Miss Vida Lowe and Mrs. Ethel Jones.. Recently, a sidewalk and outside lights were put at the hall by Mr. Frank Lewis.