Norwalk, Being an Historical Account of that Connecticut Town
Deborah Wing Ray and Gloria P. Stewart, published for the Norwalk Historical Society,
Phoenix Publishing, Canaan, New Hampshire
“Not until December,1653 do we find any mention in the Town Proceedings of a house for the minister. At that date the town assigned Ralph Keeler and Walter Hoyt the task of constructing a house for Mr. Hanford with instructions to finish the work by April. The frame house, sixteen feet wide and thirty-one feet long, was roofed over with shingles. The minister’s house was probably somewhat larger than those of the other inhabitants because it was designed to serve as home, temporary meeting house. and school.”
“Hanford’s house is a typical example of the customary way of providing town buildings. Under the Congregational system the minister’s residence, as well as the meeting house built a few years later, were considered town buildings. The meeting house served both as a house of worship and as the place where inhabitants met to discuss and vote on town business.”
“It is not likely that Norwalk’s meeting house was ever warm during the cold winter months - - -”
“Any matter involving the town had to be taken up at a town meeting which all adult male inhabitants were required to attend.”
“Selectmen, usually 5 in number, were responsible for seeing that decisions were carried out. - - - As the town’s highest officials they enforced CT law as stated in the Code of 1650, the Ludlow Code, and in General Court statutes. One of the Selectmen’s most important duties under the Code was to provide for local defense, ensuring that powder, bullets, and “good firelock muskets” were on hand at all times.”
“The constable was another important official. He collected taxes, proclaimed new laws. and attended to a host of legal tasks. His law enforcement duties included “Pursuits of Hue and Cryes” after felons and the apprehension of Sabbath-breakers and minor miscreants. The Code of 1650 provided harsh punishments for most crimes since lawbreakers were regarded as violators of the law of God as well as that of the state.”
“A variety of lesser officials were selected by vote at the annual town meeting in December. Posts seemingly low in prestige - chimney viewers, gate keepers, leather sealers, branders and surveyors - provided absolutely essential services. For this reason, every man was expected to accept the position to which he was elected.”
Back to top
About 1679, a new meetinghouse was built on the site of Goodman Hoyt’s Hill.
“To spruce up the meetinghouse for Buckingham’s ordination in the autumn of 1697, to which prominent elders and messengers from other towns were invited, they added a spacious gallery.”
“When a new Meeting House was built the town voted that it was to be used for church purposes only. Town meetings were to be held elsewhere, another indication of the more distant relationship between citizen and church.”
“The almost do-nothing attitude of town officials toward maintaining roads, bridges and public buildings was nowhere better illustrated than in the shameful condition of the Town House on Mill Hill. Rebuilt after the war, it had been allowed to become so dilapidated that in 1835 some anonymous “regulators” took it upon themselves to tear it down one dark night, leaving the debris in a prominent spot by the roadside. The town then erected a handsome red brick Town House but again allowed it to fall into such disrepair that visitors often wondered at its disgraceful appearance."
“The African Methodist congregation was too poor to build a church, however, and for decades continued to use the Town House as a place of worship free of charge.”
“When in 1886, the First Congregational Church gave its Lecture Room to the Bethel AME and it was moved from Lewis Street down Mill Hill to a site on Knight Street the tiny congregation had its own home at last.”
The Romance of Norwalk, by Danenbring
In 1659 the first meeting house was built at what is now the comer of East Ave. and Fort Point Street. It was probably made of logs. It was 30 feet long and 18 feet wide.
They beat the drum to call people to meetings. They had bare benches with no backs.
For religious services, the men sat on one side and the women on the other. There was no heat in the building. Church services lasted 3-5 hours. Morning and afternoon services, even for children.
They agreed to build a new meeting house in 1678 - (probably actually built about 1680). In 1683 the old meeting house was sold. The new meeting house was to be square with a roof like the Fairfield Meeting House. It was built on East Ave. about 1 block from the old building.
August 17, 1720, work began on a new meeting house. This building was not to be used for town business - only religious services. Town business was held in the “North” or “Upper” school house. In 1726, they decided not to build a new building, but to add an addition to the school house. The held town business meeting there. In 1746, a Town House was built near the sit of the present Town House. In 1779 the building was burned and another built on the same site.
Back to top
Ancient Historical Records, by Edwin Hall
From Proprietors Records
Jan. 3, 1659, it was voted that a meeting house would be built, 30 feet in length and 18 foot in (?) to be set upon posts in the ground, 12 foot in length, - -
Dec. 12, 1660, the town agree to claboard the meeting house with inside, so high as the window, this work to be done by January the next.
Dec. 17, 1678, they are trying to decide where to put the new meeting house.
Feb. 19, 1683, the old meeting house is to be sold to Josiah Gregorie. They also vote to have more comfortable seats.
Oct. 25, 1697, it was voted to add a gallery to the meeting house.
Feb. 3, 1703 It was voted that a bell was “to be fetched from Ralph Keeler’s and hung up in the meeting house.”
August 17, 1720, the town votes to build a new meeting house, “such men and so many as Mr. Samll. Grummon, carpenter, shall think needful -”
Dec. 11, 1723, the town resolves that no town meetings shall take place in the new meeting house. Only pure and special services of God.
“[Note: After the town were shut out of the meeting houses, they met, generally in ye “North,” or “Upper” School House.]
On Dec. 9th 1726, the town determined to build an addition to the school instead of building a Town House.
Dec. 8, 1746, the town agreed and voted to erect a town house on ye southerly side of the road near where the old house stood (34 feet long, 24 feet wide).
1st Monday of August 1779, thc town voted to have a town house built as soon as conveniently may be. (The dimensions to be 45 feet by 30; posts 16 feet; lower story 12 feet in height, a convenient chimney at each end; and to be set on the Westerly part of the Town House Hill.)
Back to top