A Brief History . . .
In the winter of 1822, two missionaries from the Christian Church, Abigail Roberts and Levi Hathaway, visited our area. They were to kindle the spark that altered our course in history.
By the summer of 1830, eight persons had decided to “unite together, to watch over each other for good, and to maintain the ordinances of the Gospel.” Thus the First Christian Church of Danbury and Patterson was formed.
During the next few years, membership grew. We were sometimes blessed with a pastor, but more often not.
In December 1845, a meeting was held for the purpose of selecting land and building a house of worship. Since most members of the congregation lived in northwestern Danbury, they chose the corner of King and South King streets. The monies were raised by subscription, land was purchased, and in 1846 construction began.
Before the building was completed, the wife of Aaron Pearce, the church clerk, passed away. For her funeral, the parishioners brought in planks and made seats. Burial followed in the King Street Cemetery, next to the church. The cemetery dates to May 1822, when Lydia Barber, eight-year-old daughter of Azor and Abigail Barber, was buried.
Early records say that the social event of the year was a free-will offering bestowed on the pastor in autumn or early winter. The Donation, as they called it, was held during full moon, making the drive by horse and buggy safer. The ladies provided an excellent meal, after which a basket was passed. The Donation varied from $40 to $90, depending on weather and crops.
The church did not own a piano or an organ. Instead, a leader who pitched the congregation with a tuning fork conducted singing. Later, a melodeon was added, and in the late 1870s, the church bought a little pump organ.
In 1889, the home of Asa Hoyt, near what is now the corner of King Street and Delno Drive, was purchased to be used as a parsonage. Previously, the preacher and his family had lived wherever rooms were available.
About this same time, the church was renovated and the original, boxed-in pews removed. It was still a custom, however, for men to sit on one side and ladies on the other.
The church had a pretty, five-pointed spire that added much to its appearance — but around 1900 a terrific whirlwind tore it off, and it landed point-down in the cemetery. Sadly, no pictures of this bizarre event seem to have survived. Many years were to pass before the King Street steeple wore its crown again.
The early 1900’s were difficult times. The church was often closed from January through April because of bad weather and traveling conditions. The building sorely needed repair, and the congregation dwindled to a handful. Still, the faithful held on, filling the pulpit with supply ministers or divinity students.
As the farms began disappearing after World War I and the Great Depression, clusters of homes sprang up. By 1946, nearly a century after the little meeting house was built, the community’s growth inspired plans for a parish house. Cinder blocks were sold for 50 cents, and a basement was added at the rear of the church. For seven years it hosted Sunday school and social events.
Finally, in 1955, for the first time in the church’s history, we went into debt, borrowing to complete the upper story. The new room was named after the Rev. Harry S. Martin, whose dream it was to complete the addition. Today the Martin Room is best known as a place for socializing after Sunday worship.In 1960 the old Hoyt house was sold and the lovely parsonage on South King Street was built.
In 1963, with the help of the Missionary Society of the United Church of Christ, we received a grant to help pay the salary of a resident minister, who at that time was the Rev. Stoddard Williams. Within a few years, we built membership and pledges to a point where could manage by ourselves.
The area continued to grow, and in 1967 our Education Wing became a reality. In 1980, after attendance had grown dramatically, the decision was made to enlarge the sanctuary by using part of the Martin Room. On August 21, 1980, our 150th anniversary, we proudly consecrated our remodeled church.
Another notable event occurred in 1989, when, thanks to several members, a steeple — an exact replica of the one that had dived into the cemetery — was built and raised to the tower. We staged a gala parade down South King Street, where parishioners cheered as a crane lowered the long-lost spire into place.
King Street United Church of Christ has a remarkable heritage, as proven by the generations of devoted members who have kept this house of worship alive — fulfilling the covenant laid down for them in the early days of the church, to “watch over each other for good, and to maintain the ordinances of the Gospel.”
– Barbara Westby, King Street Church Historian Emeritus