Rev. Richard Mansfield

1724 - 1820

Reverend Richard Mansfield, the first resident Church of England clergyman in Derby, lived from 1724 to 1820 and served for 72 years, a period marking the longest rectorship recorded in the United States. He was born in New Haven and his father was a deacon in the Congregational Church. However, while studying at Yale he became interested in the Episcopal faith. In 1748, he sailed to England, was admitted to Holy Orders by the Archbishop of Canterbury and swore an allegiance to the king that would later cause him some difficulties at home.

Upon his return to America, he was assigned to Derby. There he married Sarah Anna Hull in 1751. When the Revolutionary War broke out, Dr. Mansfield found himself in an awkward situation having pledged his loyalty to the king. When a pro-British letter that he had written to British authorities in New York fell into the hands of patriots, he had to flee for his life to Long Island in 1775. He believed that the colonists should remain loyal subjects of the King of England (As did many others in Derby at the start of the War!). He fled Derby from his pulpit on a Sunday morning just ahead of a pursuing band of patriots who didn't take kindly to his pro-British sermons. 

Though he escaped safely to Long Island, while he was away, both his wife Anna, and their infant daughter died while living in the Episcopal Glebe House Rectory. Following the war he returned to Derby and took up his old rectorship at St. James' Church. The animosity prevalent because of his pro-British stance seemed to fade as the citizens turned to building their new country. Mansfield was a very active clergyman serving all of Derby including Seymour and Oxford.

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He died in 1820 and is buried in the old cemetery on Elm Street in Ansonia which had been the site of the first Episcopal church in the Valley.

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