Historical Notes Relevant to the Founding of Copper Hill Church
From East Granby, the Evolution of a Connecticut Town by Mary Jane Springman and Betty Finnell Guinan, published for the East Granby Historical Society by Phoenix Publishing, Canaan, New Hampshire, 1983
Separation of church and state came very slowly to Connecticut.
Until 1727 by law all Connecticut citizens, whether church members or not, had to pay taxes to support the Congregational church. All inhabitants of an ecclesiastical society voted on church doctrine. All participated in setting the local rates or taxes, choosing the minister, fixing his salary, and building and maintaining the meetinghouse. P. 32
In the era in which Copper Hill Church was founded, law and church ethics were intertwined. Here is a quote from the annals of justice of the peace Andrew Hillyer from 1812.
Lyman Phelps personally appeared before me, Andrew Hillyer, and confessed that he was guilty of a breach of the Sabbath for that he, the said Lyman, did on the 12th day, being the Sabbath, labor in making hay – fine $1.67 to the town of Granby and $.25 cost. Reuben Winchell admitted himself guilty of profane swearing and paid a fine of one dollar to the treasurer of said Granby in cash. p. 119
In May 1816, in an attempt to bolster their waning support, the Federalist General Assembly repealed the fine for absence from church on Sundays. That October they voted to distribute to the churches most of the money they had received from the federal government for expenses of the war of 1812, which had ended a year before. Members of churches other than the Congregational felt the Standing Order were trying to buy their support. Some, like the Methodists at Copper Hill, rejected their share of the money. p. 108
The 1818 state constitution prohibited the government from favoring any particular church, but in some ways the law continue to support the Puritan way of life. For example, the revised laws of 1821 reaffirmed observance of the Sabbath and days of public fasting and Thanksgiving. On these days, secular business, labor, recreation, and travel “except from necessity or charity” were subject to fine. P. 119
Copper Hill United Methodist Founded about the time that Separation of Church and State Became Effective in CT
In this milieu, just at the time in Connecticut state history when the Congregational church was losing its place as the established church of Connecticut, the history book of East Granby records the founding of a Methodist church in Copper Hill by three families.
Seth Griffin, Aristarchus Griffin, and Calvin Gillett, with their wives, organized the Methodist Episcopal Church at Copper Hill in 1816. This church, usually called the Copper Hill Methodist Church, became part of the Granville (Massachusetts) circuit and shared a minister with other churches in the Association. In 1844 it became an independent station with its own minister. Members hold their meetings in private homes and schoolhouses until 1839 when they built a meetinghouse for approximately $1400…The Methodist meetinghouse became the social as well as the religious center of the Copper Hill community with its sociables, rummage sales, fairs, and suppers similar to those held at the Congregational meetinghouse. Pp. 126, 127