Friday Flashback #163

This Sunday (October 13), Saugatuck Congregational Church celebrates the dedication of its new organ.

Founded in 1832, it’s been an important part of town life for nearly 2 centuries. The 1835 announcement about the incorporation of the town of Westport was nailed to the meeting house door. For years, town meetings were held there.

But “there” was not its typical New England site: the back of a broad lawn, on by Myrtle Avenue. 

The church was first located diagonally across the Post Road, up the hill and a bit east, near the current site of the Sunoco gas station and the Fairfield County Bank branch that no human being has ever been seen going into or out of.

In 1950 the church was moved — carefully, and over the course of a long day — to its present spot. The event was featured in Life Magazine. I’ve written about it before, on “06880.”

There will be a big crowd Sunday, for the organ dedication and concert. Will anyone there remember when the church was here?

(Photo courtesy of Don Willmott)

11 responses to “Friday Flashback #163

  1. “Fairfield County Bank branch that no human being has ever been seen going into or out of.”

    Thanks Dan – that is my smile for the morning

  2. Kelly Marr Asbury

    I remember my father, Douglas Marr being the Associate Pastor under Gibson Daniels in the 1960’s. We lived in the parsonage next to the church for a couple of years. My Mother, Nancy Gilbert Marr started the Saugatuck Nursery School in 1968. She was the Director for well more than a decade before she was disabled with Huntington’s Disease and was forced to resign. It is an absolute disgrace that her friend, Patty Doolittle, who housed our family for a summer when we didn’t have a home, has taken credit in publications, the church fire, for example, for starting the amazing program that was my Mother’s idea. My Mom is not represented anywhere and that is just so sad. We were told at her memorial, which was held at the church in 1999 (she died on August 31, 1998) that the church would create a memorial for her near the entrance to the Nursery School. Not only did they not… they let someone else take credit for everything she started. The logo of the white, black, white stick figures for the school was Nancy Gilbert Marr’s idea… in 1968.

    • Loved your Mom. She was very much the one in charge and did such a wonderful job when my son was there must have been 78 or so

    • Alison Buttrick Patton

      Hi Kelly! Forgive me: I replied to your post in a comment below, rather than in a direct reply to you. Just wanted to make sure you saw it. Thanks!

  3. Mary Schmerker

    Kelly, I do hope that someone takes notice and places, as promised the Memorial Plaque. History is important.
    Where I live now I have worked on a number of Memorial projects for our church. Don’t be shy. Remind the of their promise and your mother’s contribution. sometimes it just takes time but sometimes staff changes and information is lost in the transition.
    I do remember the church when it was across the Post Road and I remembered it when it was moved. My Grandmother Otis was the organist when the church was across the Post Road. I wish I could attend on Sunday. For the record here is another piece of Saugatuck Congregational History.
    A letter mailed from Francestown, N.H.
    August 22, 1960 by the Rev. Gibson I. Daniels to my grandmother, Ella Otis.
    Rev. Daniels has just learned of the death of Mrs. Roman Henry Heyn and he is talking about a Memorial service to be held for her before the dedication of the new organ.
    Newspaper article: (date not preserved) “The. Rev. Gibson I. Daniels pastor of the Saugatuck Congregational Church has announced the gift by Mrs. Roman Henry Heyn of Owenoke Park to the church of a memorial pipe organ in memory of her mother Julia Jessup Hotchkiss. Announcement was also made of the creation of a permanent trust fund to maintain the organ. The major portion of the trust fund was the gift of Gershom Bradley in memory of his wife Nettie Hale Bradley and is sister E. Louise Bradley. Julia Jessup Hotchkiss was the daughter of Charles Jessup, of Bridgewater, a distant cousin of Major Ebenezer Jessup, an original settler in Westport and builder of the present Congregational parsonage. ”
    While the original dates of the newspaper articles have not survived, we know form Rev. Daniels letter that The year is 1960. Mrs. Heyn died August 19,1960. A memorial service was held at the church and it was preceded by a 30 minute recital on the donated organ by Mrs. Frank Evans on the organ given in memory of her mother by Mrs. Heyn.
    So, the “roots” of Saugatuck Congregational Church go all the way back to the founders of the town of Westport.

    • Mary Schmerker

      P.S. I wish I could go back and correct a few typos. I found that I have several other articles about the organ donated by Mrs. Heyn. One is from The Bridgeport Telegram , dated August 24, 1960. It states that the Memorial will be held on Thursday. Another newspaper article states that a recital dedicating the organ will be held on Sunday, October 9th at 5:00p.m. at the church. And for our Jewish friends here is this tidbit: among those giving the dedication will be: John Huston , organist at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York City .

  4. Arline Gertzoff

    Yes As a little kid my late father took me to watch the church being moved .I t was very exciting at the time

  5. And didn’t the church Social Hall get moved to the Westport Women’s Club, on Imperial Ave., at that time?

  6. Thanks, Dan, for sharing this bit of Saugatuck Church history, and for all of you who have chimed in and added your own memories! It’s been 7 1/2 years since I became the pastor of Saugatuck Church, and I continue to learn new details about our history. Fun fact: My own parents now live next door to the daughter of Gibson Daniels, up in Concord, NH. Kelly: Each time I’ve heard the story of the nursery school’s founding, I’ve heard it described as an undertaking by two or more women. I have only known Patty, because of her continued membership in our congregation. I’m so glad to know that you have another piece of the story. I’d love to get together for coffee/tea and conversation (do you still live in town? We could compare notes about living in the parsonage!). The founding of the Saugatuck Nursery School, in the wake of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is a proud part of our shared history. I am confident that Patty Doolittle, Saugatuck Nursery School and Saugatuck Church all want to honor that history, including your mother’s part in it. Please drop me an email or call me at the church office if you’d like to talk more.

  7. Does anyone remember that Rev. Daniels and Joseph Cotton were never seen together in the same room?