Please enjoy this special guest blog from Wyn Lydecker.
When Darien resident Peter Eder hosted graduate seminar students visiting the U.S. from China, he took the two young men on a tour of Darien. When he showed them the murals in the Town Hall auditorium they were amazed. Not knowing much about the American Revolution, the students loved learning about the role the Town played. If you have never seen the murals, go take a look. They were painted during the Great Depression as part of the federal government support for artists under the Public Works of Art Project when Town Hall was Mather Junior High School.
My personal favorite depicts the Tory Raid on the Middlesex Meetinghouse, the forerunner of the First Congregational Church of Darien. On July 22, 1781, five years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, local residents and members of the church who had remained loyal to King George III, secretly planned and staged a raid during Sunday worship. They and British militia arrested the Rev. Moses Mather, his son Deacon Joseph Mather, Thaddeus Bell (founder of Darien), and 47 men in the congregation for treason against the King and took them by boat across the Sound to a prison on Long Island. Several of the men died in prison, but Mather and others were released in a prisoner exchange.
Raid on the Middlesex Meetinghouse
A few months later, Tories raided the Joseph Mather homestead, still standing today as a National Historic Landmark, to steal valuables the townspeople had hidden there.
On Saturday, October 23, 2021, you can see reenactments of these historic events and participate and learn more about life in Darien during the Revolution. The 23rd is Darien Heritage Day (rain date: Sunday, October 24th), part of the Town’s Bicentennial Celebration. The festivities will kick off at 10:30 a.m. at the Museum of Darien, 45 Old King’s Highway North, where members of the Fifth Connecticut Regiment, dressed in period costume, will conduct colonial cooking and artisan demonstrations. At 12:45 p.m., you can stroll up the road to witness history come alive when a reenactment of the Tory Raid on the Meetinghouse will take place at the First Congregational Church of Darien, 14 Brookside Road. All the action will take place outside of the church on the front steps.
At 2:30 p.m., the adventure continues with a reenactment of the raid on the Mather Homestead at 19 Steven Mather Road. Additional activities include a military drill, cannon firing, and an exciting demonstration of a skirmish between British and Colonial troops, ending at 4:30 p.m.
As a member of the Congregational Church, I’ve been fascinated by the church’s history and the resolute bravery of Rev. Mather railing against the tyranny of King George in his sermons. A marble plaque by the front doors of the Church commemorates the Tory Raid and arrest of the minister and church members. When Darien children were in fifth grade, they read “Tory Hole,” which included the raid on the church as the climax of the novel. The event reminds us that not everyone in the 13 American Colonies favored the Revolution.
When the call was made recently to participate in the reenactment, my husband, John, and I decided to audition. At the audition, we saw Peter Eder, whom I served with on the At Home In Darien Board of Directors. Peter told me that he wanted to be in the reenactment because “it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” He also worked on creation of the time capsule that is part of the Bicentennial Celebration, because he is “proud of our town and what it does. The historical dimensions made me feel good.”
Wyn Lydecker and Peter Eder were founding board members of At Home In Darien over 11 years ago.