The Winthrop Baptist Church’s beginnings can be traced to 1729 when a group of men and women embracing the Baptist tradition began meeting at the home of Job Bulkely on Cedar Swamp Road in what was then Saybrook.
Fifteen short years later, 14 group members, including a baby, were arrested. They were tried in front of a magistrate, fined, and subsequently marched through a snowstorm to New London where they were to be imprisoned.
Their crime? Holding a “meeting contrary to law on God’s holy sabbath day.”
At that time in Connecticut, the official state church was the Congregational Church, and the arrest was made after the General Court’s 1742 repeal of the 1708 Act of Toleration which allowed denominations other than the Puritans to practice their faith in God.
After spending the remainder of the winter in jail, the early Baptists were eventually released after paying their fines. When they returned home, they immediately began to organize a Baptist Church. And on July 15, 1744, the First Baptist Church of Saybrook was formally organized with Job Bulkley, William Wilcox, and Amos Potter as the prime movers and first deacons.
With no church building, the worshippers continued to hold services in private residences. In 1773, however, the first church meetinghouse was erected on the present property, and in 1867 the church members purchased the present-day building from the Deep River Methodist Episcopal Church. It was moved to its current location in 1868 and remains as the church Sanctuary today.
The fellowship hall was dedicated on Jan. 26, 1958. Originally built in 1927 on land donated by Robert Jones, it was the Winthrop Willing Workers Hall. Jones donated the building in 1957 and it was moved across the street to where it now stands. Further additions were made in 1989 to include renovating the fellowship hall and kitchen and adding bathrooms, classrooms, and office space. The church steeple was repaired in 2018.
The congregation celebrated its 275 anniversary in 2019.