First Congregational Church, Stockbridge // 1824

Stockbridge, Massachusetts was settled by English missionaries in 1734, who established it as a praying town (an effort to convert the local Native American tribes to Christianity), for the Mohican tribe known as the Stockbridge Indians. The township was set aside for the tribe by English colonists as a reward for their assistance against the French in the French and Indian Wars. From this, a Yale-educated missionary, John Sergeant began converting native people to Christianity, essentially stripping them of their own religious culture and practices. Although Massachusetts General Court had assured the Stockbridge Indians that their land would never be sold, the agreement was rescinded. Despite the aid by the tribe during the Revolutionary War, the state forced their relocation to the west, to New York and then to Wisconsin. The village was then taken over by British-American settlers who created the township.

The first congregational church here was formed by Sergeant in 1734, and later succeeded by Jonathan Edwards, another minister. During his time in Stockbridge, Edwards wrote his masterpiece, Freedom of the Will, which remains one of the most studied works in American theology. Edwards later left the church to become the President of The College of New Jersey, now known as a little school by the name of Princeton. The first church was built in 1739, later replaced by a second church building that stood from 1785 to 1824. The present brick building was built in 1824 in the Federal Style. The space was occupied for town functions until the 1840s, when an official town hall was erected next door, demarcating the separation of church and state. The stunning church marks the immense influence religion had in the early colonial days of New England and the impact it had on native peoples (for better or worse).

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