Simsbury UMC
Friday, November 16, 2018
Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.

Our History

Simsbury United Methodist Church was founded in 1818.  The original SUMC congregation was made up of typical Americans who were dedicated to providing a better life for their children.  The history of the church is closely tied to the growth of Methodism in post revolutionary America and is a microcosm of the building of the American dream – improving one’s life spiritually, economically, and socially.  

Strongly influenced by traveling preachers, it was about 1800 when Methodists first began to meet in Simsbury, eventually evolving into the Simsbury Methodist society.  In 1818, presiding elder Ebenezer Washburn called the first “quarterly meeting”, reportedly attracting more than 500 participants.  The meeting was held at The Farms in what is now West Simsbury and was a critical step forward in increasing the size and importance of the Methodist Society in Simsbury. 

By 1839 Simsbury’s Methodist Society was part of a circuit that included a number of neighboring towns and the decision was reached to build a new Methodist Episcopal Church (as it was then called) in Simsbury.  After much controversy, the more central location of Hopmeadow Street was chosen over The Farms in West Simsbury.  A small white wooden church with a box-like construction and bell tower was erected and dedicated on the last Sunday of September in 1840. 

From the time the church was conceived, it was the “baby” of Joseph Toy of the Ensign-Bickford Company.  This early church went through many renovations and each time Joseph Toy spearheaded the fund raising and personally made up any shortfalls.  This tradition carried through the family after Toy died in 1887 and only ending after the death of Robert Ensign Darling in 1969.

In 1843, Simsbury became a separate station on the circuit, and the Reverend Thomas Ellis was appointed pastor.  For a brief period from 1848 until 1857, Simsbury was again united in a circuit with North Canton and Washington Hill, it then returned to its status as a single station and has remained so ever since. 

Key milestones throughout the balance of the 19th century included: the building of the first church parsonage in 1858; extensive remodeling and rededication of the church in 1882; the installation of a pipe organ in 1888 and the rebuilding of the parsonage after it was burned in 1889.  During this time the church was led by 34 different pastors.

In 1908, the old church structure was demolished to make way for a new church building designed by renowned Hartford architect George Keller. The new church was late English Gothic in style and was constructed in a cruciform plan using native red sandstone and terracotta for the roof.  The beautiful new church was dedicated on June 10, 1909 and included a magnificent stained-glass chancel window given in memory of Joseph Toy. This window, as well as two additional windows given in 1914 and 1918, is a classic example of the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany.

The church flourished and continued to grow under the leadership of eight pastors throughout the first half of the twentieth century.  The Men and Women’s Bible Class established in 1911 continued through 1952. A Centennial Reception marking the building of the first Methodist Church in Simsbury was held in 1940.  And in 1951, a new addition was dedicated that provided Sunday School classrooms, auditorium, kitchen, parlor, coatrooms and a choir room. 

The 1960’s and 70’s were filled with activities, growth and progress. The church celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1968.  The 1980’s were marked by significant expansion including improvement to the Sunday School wing to support the many new young families who had joined the church, creation of a new Church Annex and a new off campus parsonage.  The church was also enhanced in 1986 by the gifts of a world-class carillon and pipe organ by Charles W. L. Foreman.  

The church’s impressive record of growth accelerated in the 1990’s. Little Lambs and Ivy Child Care Center was conceived and built, opening in 2000, and the barn and office facilities on Plank Hill Road were funded and refurbished.  From that time through today, adult classes and Bible study groups have increased in number and attendance, the Women’s, Men’s and Youth Fellowship groups have grown, and outreach programs both locally and abroad have expanded, including ongoing support to areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.  Today, SUMC is led by Pastor Woody Eddins.

Throughout its almost 200 year history, SUMC has prospered through the steadfastness and devotion of the men and women who have selflessly dedicated their time, talents, and resources to build a place of worship and a community of believers united in Christian fellowship. 

A complete history of SUMC is contained in the book A Fruit of the Spirit – The Story of the Simsbury United Methodist Church. Copies of the book are available from the church office.