History Committee

Dixwell Church was founded in 1820 by Simeon Jocelyn, a lay leader, along with 24 formerly enslaved and free African-American residents of New Haven.  Some of the founders emerged from Center Church, the first and oldest Congregational church in New Haven founded in 1638 as well as from United Church originated  in 1742. The founders met clandestinely in their homes, before forming the African Ecclesiastical Society and then moved into the Temple Street Church at 105 Temple Street.  History was recorded for over two hundred years in many documents written by ministers and leaders in the church’s three locations.

The present members of the History Committee are responsible for documenting, researching, preserving, digitalizing and storing the Church’s archival information and keeping the archives safe. The Committee is mandated to collect and provide accurate information about Dixwell Church and its members over generations.  Resources utilized are electronic documents, newspapers, other written media, television and national museums, libraries, historical societies and church members’ memorabilia and primary source materials. In developing its guidelines to document the heritage and legacy of the church, the Committee incorporated the UCC Statement of Faith, denominational ethics regarding archives as well as the constitution and by-laws of Dixwell Church.
The History Committee was firmly established in 2005. At that time, Margo Johnson Taylor was elected chair by committee members.  Prior to that time, Barbara Winters, Mabel Draper and Janet Mays Priestley were devoted members who organized and maintained the archives. Thereafter in 2007,  Rev. John Henry Scott, III named Mrs. Taylor Dixwell Church Historian, the first person to be so designated to serve and collaborate with a UCC initiative implemented by the national office for Church Life and Leadership and developed within the Connecticut Conference. Many projects have been advanced because of the history largesse including the story of Dixwell as an Underground Railroad stop,     (Thomas Lovia Brown, PhD and Margo Johnson Taylor), the Story of William Grimes by Regina Mason (assisted by Barbara Winters ), Living Into Legacy Dixwell’s Music History with the Yale Institute of Sacred Music (developed by Nicholas Alton Lewis, Charles E. Warner, Ed.D., Reverend Frederick J. Streets, Ronald Pollard), Helen Hagan, Dixwell Music Director, Yale School of Music graduate, composer and teacher (Dante Anzolini and Charles Warner, Jr.), The life of Francis Cardoza, A Brief Moment in the Sun: Francis Cardozo and Reconstruction in South Carolina by Neil Kinghan ( assisted by Margo Taylor), research by Ainissa Ramirez, PhD,  on Sarah Marshall Boone, who patented improvements to the ironing board and member of Dixwell Church  (assisted by Margo Taylor and Althea Norcott), and the Life of Timothy Cesar Revolutionary War Soldier ( Catherine Overton, assisted by Margo Taylor).
Dixwell’s history is intertwined with New Haven history and articulates singular as well as collective stories of courage, faith and perseverance.