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[photo]
The First Church of Christ congregation welcomed the Mende on their first arrival in Farmington
Photo courtesy of the Farmington Historical Society

The First Church of Christ, Congregational, the third building on this site, was designed by architect and master builder Judah Woodruff in 1771. It is the only original Congregational church in Connecticut with a side entry--the traditional, colonial New England plan for churches. The Greek Revival style church is well-known for its unusually slender and graceful steeple. Farmington abolitionists were prominent members of the congregation, and their minister, the Reverend Noah Porter, supported their cause.

On their arrival in Farmington on March 18, 1841, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the rulings of the lower courts, the newly freed Mende were welcomed by the congregation at a meeting in this building. The meetinghouse was the center of civic and social activity in Farmington at the time the Amistad survivors lived in the town. Required by the defense committee to attend First Church of Christ, Congregational, the Mende attended Sunday services and oral tradition indicates they were seated in the balcony to the left of the pulpit, along with the other young people of the congregation. The Mende also were taken to different parts of New England and asked to participate in various fundraising events. With the money raised at these events, the defense committee hoped to establish a Christian missionary in Africa and pay for the Mende's transportation back to their homeland. Within a few months, it became clear that the Mende were anxious to return home.

Shortly before the Mende returned to Sierra Leone, friends from Farmington and eight surrounding towns gathered at the church for a farewell service on November 17, 1841. At this service, Cinque spoke; Kinna, Kale, Fooli and Margru read from the Bible; and all the Amistad survivors sang a hymn. More than $1,300 was pledged at this service for a special collection to help defray the expense of returning to Africa and for the planned Christian mission in Sierra Leone.

The First Church of Christ, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 75 Main St. in Farmington. It is open to the public; regular services are held Sunday at 10:00am. Call 860-677-2601 or visit the church’s website for further information. The First Church of Christ has also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey.

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