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