The history inscribed in New England's meetinghouses waits to be told. There, colonists gathered for required worship on the Sabbath, for town meetings, and for court hearings. There, ministers and local officials, many of them slave owners, spoke about salvation, liberty, and justice. There, women before the Civil War found a role and a purpose outside their households. This innovative exploration of a coastal Connecticut town, birthplace of two governors and a Supreme Court Chief Justice, retrieves the voices preserved in record books and sermons and the intimate views conveyed in women's letters. Told through the words of those whose lives the meetinghouse shaped, Forgotten Voices uncovers a hidden past. It begins with the displacement of Indigenous people in the area before Europeans arrived, continues with disputes over worship and witchcraft in the early colonial settlement, and looks ahead to the use of Connecticut's most iconic white church as a refuge and sanctuary. Relying on the resources of local archives, the contents of family attics, and the extensive records of the Congregational Church, this community portrait details the long ignored genocide and enslaved people and reshapes prevailing ideas about history's makers. Meticulously researched and including 75 color illustrations, Forgotten Voices will be of interest to anyone exploring the roots of community life in New England.
The book is the joint project of the Old Lyme meetinghouse and the Florence Griswold Museum. The museum will host a major exhibit in 20192020, exploring the role of the meetinghouse.