West Suffield Congregational Church Remembers Its Past

Print More

It was a busy week preparing for the annual Fall Rummage Sale at WSCC this past September when a couple walked into the church hall inquiring about the church. The couple introduced themselves as Samuel and Ann Webb from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. They were on a mission, visiting the area to see the town and church where Sam’s fifth great-grandfather, John Graham Jr. was the first pastor.

John Graham Jr. was born on August 22, 1722. He graduated from Yale University in 1740, and was the first pastor of West Suffield, ordained by his father John Sr. His congregation gave him a house and 32 acres of land and he was paid L50, half in produce and 40 cords of wood a year. He married Mary Sheldon, daughter of Capt. Jonathan Sheldon of West Suffield in 1748 and after her death he married Ruth King of Suffield.

The origins of WSCC go back to November 10, 1743 when Suffield‘s Second Ecclesiastical Society was formed. In 1744, the first meeting house was built on the southwest corner of the West Suffield Cemetery that at the time was known as “Ireland Plain”. The building was replaced in 1795 at the present site of WSCC and in 1839-1840 was replaced by our current church, being built on the same foundation.

In 1756 John Jr. replaced his father as Chaplin for the Second Expeditionary Force to Crown Point, in the French and Indian War. Journals of his recount the “horrors and wicked ways of the men he served with” and record hundreds of deaths from Yellow Fever. By the age of 34 he was chronically ill but was able to minister to the congregants of the church and was pastor for 50 years. He passed away on April 20, 1796 in West Suffield at the age of 74 and was buried in West Suffield Cemetery where his burial stone still stands.

John Jr. raised 17 children. Reverend Sylvester Graham, son of John and Ruth, was the inventor of the Graham cracker that is still a popular cracker in many homes across our country. Another son, Narcissus Graham (son of Mary) moved to South Carolina after the Revolution. His son, James Edward Graham went to Alabama in the 1830’s. Samuel Webb is James Edward Graham’s descendent.

Sam is a retired professor of history at the University of Alabama (Birmingham) and now teaches part-time at UA in Tuscaloosa. His wife Ann Webb is also a historian who earned her doctorate at UCONN in Storrs.

We appreciate the memories that Sam and Ann rekindled in our church and hope that they will journey here once again!

Comments are closed.