Way Back When... 1870
Published 12:00 am, Sunday, December 3, 2017
Talmage Hill Community Church, a tiny chapel located at the far northern end of town, was organized in 1870.
According to church history, Minot Kellogg gave the land in 1870, and Noah Weed had been among those instrumental in getting the Chapel built. It was called the Flat Ridge Hill Chapel at first. The railroad from New Canaan to Stamford had just been completed in 1868. The station, just down the hill, had nearly been named “Smith Station” for the numerous Smith families living close by, but because William Talmadge had given a considerable amount of land for the project the stop was named for him. The Chapel also later took the name of Talmadge Hill Chapel.
The church was begun and completed in the fall of 1870 in a concerted community effort by the residents of the Flat Hill Ridge area with both financial and moral support being given by other Darien and New Canaan citizens, according to the church’s website.
From its founding in 1870, the Chapel known as the “Flat Ridge Hill Union Christian Society” was the center of the social life of the community. Since there were few if any automobiles in the county before 1920, there was little opportunity to move about freely. Occasional day trips to visit relatives were made by horse and buggy or a very occasional trip by train for a vacation with relatives at a distance.
In 1904, a summer resident from New York City, David Schuyler Bennett, took a lively interest in the affairs of the church and became superintendent of the Sunday school until about 1924. Recently, Bennett’s granddaughter was married at the church.
From about 1909 to 1929, the pastor of the Methodist Church of New Canaan, the Rev. Daniel M. Lewis, held Sunday afternoon services at the Chapel. In 1917, a room was added to the church in which to hold Sunday school classes and also to serve for entertainment and social activities which were becoming more and more necessary as a means of providing revenue for operating expenses.
The Chapel, which had been incorporated about 1904 as the Talmadge Hill Union Chapel Association, was “in a very prosperous condition.” The history of the Chapel since that time has continued to alternate between a series of crises and vigorous efforts that bring at least temporary stability to the church.
In 1917, the annual income of the church was $305.61, and the expenditures were $287.52. In 1930, a contribution of $1,000 made possible the enlargement of the Sunday school room to twice its former size.
The chapel is located at 870 Hollow Tree Ridge Road, Darien, across the street from the historic Stephen Smith Home.