Milford history: First Baptist Church was incorporated in 1895

Jennyfer Holmes will tell the history of the First Baptist Church at the next meeting of the Milford Historical Society on Monday, March 19, at 7 p.m. at the Mary Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church, 168 Broad St.

Holmes is the Baptist Church historian and a second-generation member of the congregation.

The program is free, and all are welcome to come and learn the parallels between the founding of the church and the development of the Town of Milford.

Until 1893, persons of African American descent in Milford had to travel to New Haven, 10 miles away, to worship at Immanuel Baptist Church with other people of color. The trip could be long and wearisome, but they made that trip by carriage, cart, on horseback or any way they could to get to worship on Sundays. At that time, the people were inspired by Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., who served as the pastor of the Baptist church in New Haven from 1889-1893. His dynamic sermons motivated and encouraged the people to establish a church home in Milford.

It wasn’t long before they found a meeting place on the second floor of a building on Daniel Street. In 1895 the church was incorporated under the laws of the State of Connecticut.

In the same year, the members purchased land at 28-32 North Street, in what is now a Historic District. The larger of the two buildings they bought had once been a school, a factory and a general store.

The small congregation converted part of their purchase into the First Baptist Church sanctuary, at last having a more formal gathering place of their own. The church steeple and stained glass windows were added later.

The founders were Alexander A.R.B. Taylor, Frank Wallace and George Fayerman who lived by one of the church’s guiding principles: "...not only to 'have' church, but to 'be' the church."

The old structure on North Street served members well for more than 70 years. However, in 1965, plans for a new building started to take shape under the pastorate of the late Rev. Charles D. Walker.

The fund-raising building campaign was called “An Adventure in Faith” and was mounted not only by the 56 members of the congregation, but also by the Milford community. The new structure was completed on May 19, 1968 and continues its very active ministry.

The church is part of the Connecticut Freedom Trail that highlights the history of African Americans. On the front lawn of this church, there is a memorial marker to six soldiers who fought in the American Revolutionary War: Job Caesar, Pomp Cyrus, Juba Freeman, Peter Gibbs, William Sower and Congo Zado.

All are welcome to the program. Non-perishable food will be collected for the Milford Senior Center. For more information call 203-874-2664.