Part 5: Connecticut Missionary Society
After the expulsion of the French from North America in 1763, and still more after our treaty with Great Britain in 1783, the tide of emigration set in strongly northward into Vermont and westward into New York, and what is now Ohio. The new settlers were either too poor or too indifferent to secure church privileges, and there was great danger of the growth of irreligion in the frontier communities. To prevent this, the Christians of New England began home missionary work, both to furnish the pioneers with preaching and to reach the Indians near the new towns. The state which contributed very largely to this emigration was Connecticut and it was natural, therefore, that the Congregationalists there should take the lead in efforts to make these new communities Christian. The General Association of Connecticut met at Mansfield in June, 1774, and there voted in favor of raising funds to send missionaries to “the settlements now forming in the wilderness to the westward and northwestward,” that is, in New York and Vermont. The churches responded so favorably that in September the Association voted to send two pastors in the spring of 1775 on a tour of five or six months through the new regions, provided the funds necessary for their support were then in the hands of the committee. The skirmish at Lexington and the outbreak of the Revolutionary War necessitated the postponement of the plan, but contributions were received, even during the dark days of struggle, and in 1780 the General Association asked two pastors to go to Vermont as missionaries. The churches continued the discussion in 1788 and 1791, and in 1792 they approved a missionary. At the same time they secured permission from the legislature to solicit contributions from the parishes throughout the state. The response was so prompt that, in 1793, eight pastors were named as missionaries to go on tours of four months each. They were to receive the munificent weekly compensation of $4.50 and an additional $4.00 a week for the supply of their pulpits. One of these missionaries was the Rev. Samuel J. Mills of Torringford, Connecticut.
Another important step was taken four years later. In 1797, the Connecticut General Association consulted the local associations of the state regarding the formation of a missionary society, and on June 19, 1798, it constituted itself a missionary society “to Christianize the heathen in North America and to support and promote Christian knowledge in the new settlements within the United States.” Five years later, the Connecticut legislature granted a regular charter to the Connecticut Missionary Society. In 1800, the friends of missions in Connecticut began the publication of the Connecticut Evangelical Magazine.
Part 6: Home Missionary Movement