LEROY BLAKE, D.D., pastor of the First Church of Christ (Congregational), New London, Conn., since March 30, 1887, was born in Cornwall, Vt., December 5, 1834, a son of Myron M. and Lucy (Stone) Blake. His first ancestor in this country, it is said, was John Blake, of Maiden, England, who settled in Middletown, Conn., in the seventeenth century, and died there in 1690.

The descendants of John Blake are numerous, and include many distinguished men. Stephen Blake, great-grandfather of Dr. Blake, was born in Middletown, Conn., April 27, 1767; and Myron Blake, his grandfather, was born November 5, 1790. The latter married Laura Hopkins, of Pittsford, Vt., a second cousin of President Millard Fillmore, and reared one daughter and seven sons.

Myron M. Blake, son of Myron, was born in Castleton, Rutland County, Vt., April 12, 1812, and died in Salisbury, Conn., September 2O, 1893. The greater part of his life was devoted to the pursuit of agriculture. In March, 1834, he was united in marriage with Lucy Stone, a native of Cornwall, Vt. She was the daughter of Eli and Polly Stone and grand-daughter of Silas Stone, a Revolutionary soldier, who died on the march from Bennington to Troy. Mrs. Lucy S. Blake died April 22, 1894, in Westfield, Mass., aged eighty-three years, six months, and is buried with her husband in Salisbury, Conn. They were members of the Congregational church. Four children were born to this couple, three of whom arc now living: S. Leroy, the subject of this sketch; Lyman IL, pastor of the Second Congregational Church of Westfield, Mass.; and Clarence E. Blake, Ph.D., a successful teacher.

S. Leroy Blake fitted for college at Burn & Burton Seminary, Manchester, Vt., and entered Middlebury College in the fall of 1855, graduating in 1859. For some time after his graduation he was engaged in teaching: in West Randolph, Vt., in 1859 and 1860; at Lancaster, Mass., about a year; and at Pem broke, N. H., in 1861 and 1862. In the spring of 1862 he entered Andover Seminary, from which he graduated in 1864; and on December 7, 1864, he was ordained and installed pastor of the Congregational church in Pepperell, Mass. His succeeding charges were: the South Church, Concord, N.H., where he began work in January, 1869; the Woodland Avenue Presbyterian Church, Cleveland, Ohio, November, 1877; the Calvinistic Congregational Church, Fitchburg, Mass., April, 1880; and the church in New London, which is his present charge. He received his degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1883 from Iowa College. The Rev. Dr. Blake is an able preacher, a zealous worker for the interests of his congregation, and wields a facile and powerful pen. He is the author of the book, "By Whom and When was the Bible Written?" (published in Boston in 1886 by the Congregational Publishing Company), and "After Death, What?" (1890), "The Early History of the First Church, New London, 1897," besides a number of pamphlets and published sermons.

The church of which he is pastor has an interesting history, and the roll of its ministers includes some illustrious names. It was organized in Gloucester, Mass., in May, 1642, by Richard Blinman, who was driven from Cheapstone, England, by Archbishop Laud in 1640. The Rev. Richard Blinman settled first in Marshfield, Mass., and went thence to Gloucester. In 1650, and with the majority of his congregation, he moved to New London, where he was settled on a salary of sixty pounds per year. Eight years later he left this place, and in 1660 he returned to England. He died in Bristol in 1679 or 1680. His successor was Gershom Bulkeley, a son of Peter Bulkeley, of Concord, Mass. This gentleman settled here in 1661, and, leaving in 1664, was succeeded in 1666 by the Rev. Simon Bradstreet, son of the Governor of the Massachusetts Colony and his wife, Ann Dudley, famous as the first poetess of America. The Rev. Mr. Bradstreet died in August, 1683. His successor, Gurdon Saltonstall, took charge of the church in 1688. He was ordained here in 1691, and was pastor until 1708, when he was chosen Governor of Connecticut; and he occupied the gubernatorial chair up to the time of his death in 1724. During the pastorates of Bradstreet and Saltonstall the church was disturbed by the Rogerine movement, which was confined mostly to this county.

Mr. Saltonstall's successor, Eliphalet Adams, of Dedham, Mass., was ordained and placed in charge of the church in 1709. In 1740, during his ministry, occurred the great revival in New London; and his congregation was decreased by the defection of about one hundred members who followed the lead of Joseph Davenport, of Southold, L.I., the inaugurator of the Separatist movement. These Separatists established a theological seminary in New London. Mr. Adams died in October, 1753, closing a pastorate of more than forty years. His successor, the Rev. Mather Byles, of Boston, settled here November 18, 1757 and ten years later was made rector of an Episcopal church in Boston. The next incumbent was Ephraim Woodbridge, of Groton, Conn. He took charge of the church, October n, 1769, and died September 6, 1776.

In 1787 Henry Channing, of Newport, uncle of William Ellery Channing, D.D., was installed as pastor. Mr. Channing, who was a kind and scholarly man, became imbued with Unitarian sentiments, which were distasteful to his congregation; and in May, 1806, he resigned. In October of the same year the Rev. Abel McEwen took charge; and in the fifty-four years of his ministry several changes took place, and the church membership was augmented by a series of revivals. In 1835 the Second Congregational Church was colonized; and in June, 1856, the Rev. Thomas P. Field was installed as associate pastor to Dr. McEwen. Dr. Field resigned in the autumn of 1876 to accept a professorship in Amherst College. He was succeeded by Edward W. Bacon, son of Dr. Leonard Bacon, of New Haven, who was active in ministerial work until October, 1886. He resigned on account of ill health, and died in California in June, 1887.

This church began worship in Robert Parks's barn, which, fitted for the purpose, was used until 1655. Then the building known as the Blinman Church was erected; and in 1680 the second house of worship, known as the Bradstreet Church, was first used. All these buildings were on Meetinghouse Hill. The first church, sold to James Avery, was moved to Poquonnock Plain, and used as a dwelling-house until July 20, 1894, when it was destroyed by fire. The Bradstreet house also was burned, and a new one completed on the same site in 1698 was called the Saltonstall Church. This was in use until 1785, when the fourth house of worship was erected on the site of the present church. The last structure erected, which was finished in 1850, is a large and handsome edifice of solid granite.

Biographical Review   Volume XXVI
Containing Life Sketches of Leading Citizens 
of New London County Connecticut
Biographical Review Publishing Company
pgs 375 - 377

S. Leroy BLAKE D.D.
Francis Nelson BRAMAN
Capt. Dudley A. BRAND
Charles Erskine BRAYTON
Edward P. BREWER M.D.
Frederick H. BREWER
Louisa J. BREWER
Alfred Fanning BROWN
Henry Augustus BROWN
Israel F. BROWN
James A. BROWN
Lucius Dwight BROWN
Theophilus BROWN
William J. BROWN
Capt. Billings BURCH
Horace O. BURCH
William Henry BURDICK
Austin J. BUSH
William Herbert BUSH


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Anne Taylor-Czaplewski

April 2002