Happy birthday, Greenwich! Town marks its 373rd Founders’ Day

First Selectman Peter Tesei, at left, delivered a proclamation officially declaring today, July 18, to be the 373rd Founders Day. He was joined at the Sunday ceremony at The First Congregational Church of Greenwich by Selectman David Theis and town Ambassador at Large Bea Crumbine. — Ken Borsuk photo

First Selectman Peter Tesei, at left, delivered a proclamation officially declaring today, July 18, to be the 373rd Founders Day. He was joined at the Sunday ceremony at The First Congregational Church of Greenwich by Selectman David Theis and town Ambassador at Large Bea Crumbine.
— Ken Borsuk photo

A little more than a week after it celebrated America’s birthday at Town Hall, Greenwich did some celebrating of its own milestone with a special proclamation marking the 373rd Founders’ Day.

The actual Founders’ Day is today, July 18, but the town got an early jump on the occasion with the official proclamation on Sunday, July 13, at The First Congregational Church of Greenwich. First Selectman Peter Tesei, Selectman David Theis and town Ambassador at Large Bea Crumbine all stopped by the historic Old Greenwich church to present the proclamation as part of the congregation’s regular Sunday services.

Mr. Tesei called upon all citizens to join the town, the Greenwich Historical Society, the Greenwich Point Conservancy and the church, which had set up a special exhibit for Founders’ Day, to mark the date with “great pleasure and pride.” He said it was a great way to recognize what everyone had done to make Greenwich the community it is today.

“We recognize our heritage and the people and organizations that preserve our town’s past for the enjoyment of residents today and for the future,” Mr. Tesei said.

In his proclamation, Mr. Tesei gave a bit of a history lesson as well. He discussed the July 18, 1640 purchase by colonial Watertown, Mass., neighbors Robert Feake and Daniel Patrick of land in Old Greenwich from the Munsee Indian tribe that lived there. Due to the land lying outside the puritanical English town of Stamford, the Patricks and Feakes were forced to recognize Dutch sovereignty over their property until 1656 when it was formally confederated by the New Haven Colony, which brought it under English sovereignty.

Mr. Feake’s wife Elizabeth was the one who purchased land known by the Munsee tribe as Monakwego that soon after became known as Elizabeth’s Neck and by the far better known names of Tod’s Point and Greenwich Point. Because of that, Greenwich Point is viewed as an integral part of the town’s history.

“The preservation of Greenwich Point’s natural beauty and history is emblematic of the town of Greenwich’s respect for our environmental heritage and the rich tapestry of our history,” Mr. Tesei said in the proclamation.

The location for the proclamation was significant, too. The tradition at the time in 1640 was that a town could not be formally founded without a church at the center of it. The First Congregational Church was that founding church, linking the history of the congregation with that of the town itself. The church has stained glass windows prominently on display that shows the 1640 landing of Greenwich’s first settlers and pays tribute to the major names in the town’s history.

The Rev. John Collins, the church’s interim senior minister, told the Post that this is a responsibility the church takes very seriously.

“The Congregational churches in New England usually were founded at the same time of the towns because the towns could not be incorporated until they had a full-time minister,” Mr. Collins said. “It’s very appropriate to have this here. We are very tied into the rich history of this town. It’s fabulous to have these ceremonies here because the church was not only founded with the community, but we’ve been a very integral part of the community for all that time and we continue to be.”

Mr. Collins said the church has, for its entire history, sponsored outreach programs designed not just to benefit the congregation but all of Greenwich, including food and clothing drives with an eye on the history of both the town and the church.

“We are where it all started and I hope that everyone feels a sense of celebration today,” the church’s associate pastor, the Rev. Daniel England, said during the service.

While this Founders’ Day was a subdued affair, a big date for Greenwich is in the near future. On July 18, 2015, a mere two years away, the town will be celebrating its 375th birthday, an event that is likely to involve many celebrations of Greenwich’s history as well as a lot of work for people like Ms. Crumbine and the members of the Historical Society, who have taken an active role in preserving and promoting the town’s history. Because of that, Mr. Tesei said the town would be looking for help from its citizens.

“We’re looking for volunteers right now to help put on a rather extensive celebration of our town’s history,” Mr. Tesei said. “We have two years, and that’s 24 months, to do this. Think about how you can help us celebrate.”

 

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