The Reverend Joseph Bellamy was a dynamic preacher, author, and educator during the 18th century and a long-time resident of Bethlehem, Connecticut. Known for having a commanding presence and booming voice, Bellamy was not only among Bethlehem’s earliest residents, but he also gave the town its name and became its wealthiest citizen.
A native of nearby Cheshire, Bellamy completed four years of study at Yale University in 1735, at the age of 16. He then began a year and a half of studying under the famous theologian Jonathan Edwards. After turning 18 and receiving his license to preach, Bellamy became an itinerant Congregationalist preacher, traveling around Connecticut and spreading that religion’s word of God wherever possible. He spent much of this time in Bethlehem, where local residents eventually requested he become the town’s preacher in 1740.
Congregationalist Preacher, Writer, and Educator
Bellamy preached the traditional Puritan belief that an abundance of material possessions corrupted the soul. He also believed in original sin and the role of God in granting salvation and limiting free will. His message appealed to the people of Bethlehem and Bellamy became a very successful and respected leader in the town.
With the approval of his congregation, Bellamy spread his message beyond the boundaries of Bethlehem. Traveling extensively in the early 1740s, he spoke more than 450 times over a two year period. He then settled back into life in Bethlehem where he cut back his sermons to once or twice per week.
In addition to spreading his message from the pulpit, Bellamy published 22 books over the course of his life, including the highly acclaimed True Religion Delineated in 1750. Out of his home, he operated the first theological school in America, educating such famous students as Aaron Burr and Jonathan Edwards II.
Joseph Bellamy died in 1790 at the age of 72, after battling illness and paralysis for the last three years of his life. Upon his death, Bellamy left his house to his son, David, whose provisions kept it in the family until 1868. After several changes in ownership, Caroline Ferriday took over the property and in the latter half of the 20th century restored much of the home’s original character. Ferriday also oversaw the development of elaborate gardens on the grounds and ensured the property’s preservation by deeding it to the Antiquarian and Landmarks Society (now Connecticut Landmarks) upon her death in 1990.