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Stepney Methodist Episcopal Parsonage c.1905

Hello once again. This week we’re heading over to the west side of town, specifically to Stepney Village - or Upper Stepney as it’s more commonly known today. Back in early January we received a request from a former resident who was interested in any history we might share with him on the house that formerly stood at 9 Hattertown Road. He had grown up and come to age in the house and clearly had a strong emotional connection to it, sharing that the best years of his life were spent there and that he someday wishes to recreate the house in memory of his recently departed mother. Well, we history types are sentimental old souls, so we did our best to accommodate his request and now we’d like to share the details with all of you.

According to the society’s internal records, the house was built c.1807, but the society has no records currently to indicate its original inhabitants. In time that will have to be researched separately by tracing the land ownership records in the Monroe Town Clerk’s office. However, the earliest indication of residency we do have is seen on the 1856 Clark’s Residential Map of Fairfield County which labels the property as the Methodist Episcopal Parsonage. We again see it labeled as the Meth Parsonage on the 1867 Beers Atlas Map of Monroe. So these map references alone take us back over 165 years.

Those of you who are familiar with Upper Stepney are likely aware that the Methodist Episcopal Church was located on the east side of the Stepney Village Green, a twin to the Stepney Baptist Church across the way to the west. Monroe’s two separate Methodist Episcopal Churches, once on opposite sides of town, eventually merged and in 1973 a new consolidated Methodist Church was built on Cutler’s Farm Road. In that same year, their former church building on the Stepney Green became Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel, a conservative Roman Catholic Church that still celebrates the traditional Latin Mass.

Today we often think of a parsonage as being immediately adjacent to the church, but this was seldom the case back in the 19th century. The parsonage was typically an already established house that need only have been conveniently located to the church. This was the case with almost every church in Monroe, and such was the case with the former house at 9 Hattertown Road. As an example, on the 1856 Clark’s map, we see that the home adjacent to the Methodist Episcopal Church was at that time the parsonage for the Stepney Baptist Church across the way. In later years the properties adjacent to each church were eventually purchased and have been used as their dedicated parsonages ever since.

We have located and attached a number of intriguing images from the archives of the Monroe Historical Society. A hand-written note found on the back of an old postcard image of the parsonage provided us a clue that this was once the home of Thornton Blakeman. We’ve done some further investigation and have learned that this is a reference to David Thornton Blakeman (1892-1967), who was originally from the East Village district of Monroe. He and his young bride from Stepney Village, Vera Medora Blakeman, née Hubbell, (1894-1952) lived in the house and presumably raised their four children there: Vivian, Sterling & the twins Roberta and Robert. The Blakeman’s were very active within the Methodist Episcopal Church and Vera led many church choir rehearsals in their home. Prior to marriage and motherhood, she was a beloved teacher across town in the East Village schoolhouse. We have included a class photo of her with her students in 1912.

In the years following Thornton’s death, the house was purchased to be used as a rental property, as many of the older homes in Upper Stepney have been. In more recent years the house had fallen into disrepair and the controversial decision was made to demolish it - a terrible loss to the community by any measure. The Stepney Volunteer Fire Department was called in and burned it as a training exercise on December 5th, 2010. We have it on good authority that two architecturally significant doors from the house were salvaged with permission before the fire was set, and to date at least one of them has been repurposed into another home which is also on Hattertown Road.

Sadly the old parsonage is gone now but its history lives on in our memories and stories. Do any of you have personal memories of the former parsonage house or members of the Hubbell or Blakeman families? We expect that some of you very well may. Please use this forum to share your memories or any other comments you may have and remember to share this posting with your family and friends to keep them up to date on Monroe’s rich history. Thanks for stopping by and reminiscing with us.

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