Doing family research this week brought home how unique Connecticut was in its relationship with religion, and the influence it had on the congregation's daily life.
I grew up in a small rural town in northern New Jersey and was reading the history of the town and how it evolved. My ancestors moved to the area before 1800 and acquired large parcels of land which they farmed, and later divided between sons and grandsons. People of many nationalities, although primarily Northern European, came for the rich farmland, water power and minerals. The Dutch Reformed came from the north, the English Presbyterian and Methodists from the east and the German Lutherans from the southeast - a variety of cultures, religions and trades. Indeed the first church building in my town was a "Free Church" and shared by several congregations.
Contrast that to Connecticut settled in the 1600's by English Puritan congregations moving together from the Boston area or from England, each to create their own town around their church. Thomas Hooker is the best known example of a religious leader who brought his congregation first from England to Cambridge and then to the wilderness to settle Hartford. Most of the early towns in mid state and along the shoreline were similarly settled. The church was first, the government grew around that core and the state came together out of necessity from concern about the Indians and later the French.