The Baptist Browns of Ledyard
In 1842, twenty members of the First Baptist Church in Groton, Connecticut presented a petition that they be allowed to organize a separate branch of the church in Ledyard. The proposed church would be much more convenient to serve Ledyard since the First Baptist Church of Groton was over six miles away (on the present-day Cold Spring Road near Route 184). Of these twenty petitioners, eight were members of the Brown family of Ledyard including Avery W. Brown, his brother Albert Brown, and their uncle Aaron Brown who for one dollar gave a parcel of his land for the new church located north of the highway opposite the burial ground that is a few hundred feet north of sawmill (refs. 1, 2). Meetings of the new congregation were held at Aaron’s house near the sawmill prior to construction of the new building. The new church building was completed in late 1843 at a cost of about $1000; it still stands today as a private home.
The Peckham Church
The church became known as the Peckham Church or Meeting House after the first pastor the Reverend Elder Stephen H. Peckham. Their denomination is called Baptist for a reason, and the nearby sawmill pond was conveniently located for immersion baptisms. It seems that the 19th century Ledyard Baptists were hardy in both soul and body: there was one “immersion of six” that took place in January. Peckham remained as pastor until his death in 1863. In the decades after his death there was not a permanent minister, and by 1884 the church was “nearly disorganized”, but continued into the first part of the 20th century (refs. 2, 3).
The burial ground across the road from the church is now known as the Peckham Cemetery or the Peckham-Brown-Main Cemetery. The burial ground itself is older than the church – there is at least one grave marker from 1799. Members of the Brown family who operated sawmills on Lee's Brook from the 1790s to 1870s still lie a-mouldering there, only a few hundred feet from the brook.
1. Ledyard, Connecticut Land Record 1, 626. Ledyard Town Hall.
2. Avery, John. History of the Town of Ledyard, 1650-1900. Norwich: Noyes and Davis. 1901. pp 58-60.
3. Bell, Janice W. and Smith, Carolyn E., eds. Historic Ledyard Vol. II. Ledyard Center. Ledyard, CT: Ledyard Historical Society. 1987, pp. 29-31