A Brief History of First Church
By Dan Shine, Church Historian
The first settlers to enter what is now West Haven arrived here in 1638. In the decades to follow, the “West Side farmers” grew in number and established a small settlement on this side of the West River.
By 1700, the farmers and their families had grown tired of the long Sunday trip, on the muddy cart-paths that led them to worship on New Haven Green. Thus, they petitioned to form an Ecclesiastical Society of their own, and in 1719, this was approved. The farmers procured a minister and erected a small structure on what is now West Haven Green. The Green was little then but a piece of marshy ground, an area used for grazing and watering livestock. The new structure served both as a church and a municipal hall, in the days when there was no legal separation of church and state.
In the earliest days, the congregation was called to worship by the beating of a drum. Later, a church bell was purchased, and it was used to call in the faithful.
The original church building was replaced in 1851 at a cost of $4500. This building burned to the ground in 1857; in 1859 our present church building was completed at a cost of $10,000. This building remained virtually unchanged until a hurricane destroyed the steeple in November of 1950. That steeple was replaced in 1952.
From this church have come many who have volunteered: some were called to the ministry; some were called to missionary service; some have served in many capacities as leaders in this community; and a great many have joined in the uniformed services of this country.
First Congregational Church, therefore, has a long and proud history as the first organization of any kind to be established in West Haven. Our rich history is thus filled with centuries of proud and important ministry and service to this community. Well done!
Dan Shine, Church Historian
Deacon Daniel R. Shine is a lifelong member of First Church, and has been the Church Historian since 2004. His work is inspired by previous Church Historians, Deacon D. Robert Shine and Deacon Edward Chase.