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God's Acre

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The New Canaan Parish was established in 1731 to serve families who lived some distance from the coastal towns of Norwalk and Stamford. On November 4th of the same year it was agreed to construct the meetinghouse where St. John's Place presently intersects Park Street, south of the present-day Congregational Church. But it was not until April 1732 when the meetinghouse was partially constructed that the Proprietors of Norwalk officially granted the "inhabitants of Canaan Parish all the common land where their Meeting House standeth and thirty rods from the meetinghouse that is common and highway there."

In 1773 a common was formally established on land set aside for the church by a deed that describes property "lying near unto the Canaan Meeting House for the Proprietors of the Parish of New Canaan to be used and improved for the benefit of the whole community."

The use and appearance of God's Acre changed over the years. At least some of it was initially used as a burying ground until the 1840s when the gravestones were removed. At that time it started to develop the park-like appearance that it has today. There are reports of a town whipping post and signpost being maintained south of the meetinghouse, near the road.

The present First Congregational Church build in 1840 is the third Congregational Church constructed near the Green. The second one was built in 1750. The importance of the green as a religious center was reestablished in 1834 when St. Michael's Church was built across from the northern tip of God's Acre, and again in 1953 when the Christian Science Church was built at the southern tip.

As well as being the religious center of the community, God's Acre has also been the center of civic and educational activity. In 1825, a building for town meetings was constructed not far from the green at 13 Oenoke Avenue where it still stands. Until that time, meetings were held at the Congregational Church. The first public school was erected near the southern point of the green where it stood from at least 1800 to 1835. In addition, an academy was operated just north of the Congregational Church. The Federal-style house at One Park Street was part of the academy complex.

God's Acre was established in the 1730s and has remained the religious center of the community.



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