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Bethany Connecticut History


Bethany, located in what had been New Haven Colony, was founded as an ecclesiastical society, a "daughter" parish of the Congregational Church in New Haven. Bethany had originally been a part of another daughter parish called Amity, but as the population of northern Amity grew, the inhabitants petitioned the General Court in New Haven for permission to hold winter services there, due to the hardship of the weekly trip to the Amity meeting-house for worship services. The court granted permission for winter privileges. Later, the court granted full privileges, which allowed Bethany to hire a full-time preacher and collect taxes for his support. 

Bethany, in the New Testament, was a village in Judea about two miles east of Jerusalem, a “Sabbath day’s journey.” Bethany was the hometown of Jesus’ friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and  was the place where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

The backstory of Bethany explores the religious motivation for the founding of New Haven, of which Bethany was a part, and of the Protestant Reformation, which had so profoundly affected Britain and which led to the Puritan theology and political philosophy that was at the heart of New Haven Colony. Why is this important? Religion was not just a part of life in the early period; life revolved around religion.

There aren't many stories from the earliest period of Bethany history; the inhabitants were too busy working to carve out farms to supply their needs in an area that was a wilderness. We might find it hard to imagine the virgin forests that existed in early Connecticut:

"...Seeing this I can realize how this country appeared when it was discovered . . . We have but a faint conception of a full grown oak forest stretching uninterrupted for miles, consisting of sturdy trees from one to three and even four feet in diameter, whose interlacing branches form a complete and uninterrupted canopy —Henry David Thoreau, Journal entries November 9–10, 1860.

The primeval virgin forests had been cut down to clear land for farming, to build houses, barns, mills, and meeting-houses, to supply firewood for heat and cooking, and to build ships for the shipping trade. Charcoal was another commodity supplied by Bethany's forests throughout the 18th amd 19Th centuries. As the populations grew, the demand for wood increased. By 1820, only 25 percent of Connecticut was forested. Connecticut is more wooded now than it was then, but with second and third growth forests.

As time went on, church and municipal records, newspaper articles, books and magazines, diaries, and the account books of tradesmen, provided the resources from which the articles on this website were created, and are presented as stories.

The articles are arranged in chronological order from top to bottom


For further reading see:

The Forests of Connecticut, USDA publication: