Brief History of the Meeting Houses of the
Groton Congregational Church
In colonial times, the area now known as Groton, was considered the East side of New London, and for settlers of this area to attend church, they either had to cross the Thames River to attend services in New London or after June of 1674, travel to Stonington to attend services in the newly founded Stonington Congregational Church.
In 1687, it was voted in a town meeting that the people on the east side should have “…liberty to invite the minister of the town to preach for them on every third Sabbath, during the most inclement months…” In 1702 a separate organization was granted with the privilege of building a meeting house, 35 square feet, of organizing a church, and of hiring a minister whose salary should be 70 pounds a year. The first meeting house was raised on May 27, 1703, located near the present day junction of Routes 184 and 117 in Center Groton, which was the approximate geographical center of the town, until Ledyard became a separate town in June of 1836. Two years later, Groton became incorporated on May 10, 1703. The first pastor of the church was Rev. Ephraim Woodbridge who was so well thought of by his parishioners that, after 10 year of service, his salary was increased to 100 pounds. In addition, he was also presented with a farm of 100 acres, and the town volunteered “…to cut and cart his yearly firewood…”
The second meeting house was constructed in 1767 and was located very near where the Holiday Bowl bowling alley stands today because the “…Groton Bank was evidently increasing in population…” The white oak siding apparently discolored over time and took on a very dark hue. Consequently, the church was known by some in the community as the “black meeting house”. However, in 1769, the church called
Rev. Aaron Kinne, and therefore, the structure became also known as the “Kinne Meeting House”. On September 6, 1781, all of the male members of the church with the exception of one very old man were killed at the Battle of Groton Heights, and it became his daunting task to console the sixty widows and three times as many orphans, all made such in one day.
As with the case of the first meeting house, the church membership had to either make extensive repairs to the structure or construct a new meeting house. As the area of Groton along the Thames River had grown to a “fair-sized” village, and as the church now ministered to this district in particular, it was decided to locate the structure built in 1833 on the east side of Thames Street, just north of Broad Street.
Once again, after considering the making of extensive repairs, the church decided to build a new structure, which is the one we are presently located in. This structure was dedicated on October 16, 1902. The western entrance was built of stones taken from localities connected with the history of the church and town. There are some from the old church lot at Center Groton, some from the old “black meeting house”, and many from the home lots of the early pastors.