Historic tour: Steeple and people of 18th-Century Wilton

In light of its 225th anniversary, the Wilton Congregational Church will be hosting a tour of the Wilton Historic District on Saturday, June 13, at 1 p.m. It will be a free event open to the public and refreshments will also be provided. Reservations are required.
The district is comprised of the church building, Old Town Hall, Comstock House and Barns, and other homes in the vicinity. Author, historian, and Wilton first selectman from 1993 to 1999 Bob Russell will be leading the tour, which includes a venture inside the church steeple. Having been in Wilton since 1969, Russell has vast knowledge of its history.
“After I’d been a first selectman for six years, one of the last things we did was organize a committee to celebrate our 200-year anniversary of our [Wilton’s] separation from Norwalk,” Russell said last week. In 2004, Russell wrote a book sponsored by the Wilton Historical Society documenting the town’s history.
“My wife and I were co-chairs of the event. I thought, as a part of it, we should have a Wilton history book. There’s a lot of typewritten material and smaller books that people did over the years, but there’s never been a thorough history,” said Russell. “That’s why we did that.”
The book is Wilton, Connecticut, Three Centuries of People, Places and Progress.
When asked how he became so interested in Wilton’s history, Russell said, “Ever since we moved here, I was involved with preserving the history of the church. Then I also got involved with the Wilton Historical Society and the Wilton Library.”
He is especially fond of Wilton’s “feeling of friendliness, a community that welcomes people, and also preserves its history and environment.”
One of his more memorable experiences was contributing to a project with the historical society. “About 20 years ago, they did a log on just about all of the houses in the town that date back to the 1800s.” It helped him learn a tremendous amount about the town’s roots, he said.
“Any of the Connecticut towns have wonderful histories behind them. In many cases, the founding families of these towns from the 1700s still have descendants who are here,” said Russell.
To make a reservation for the tour, call Wilton Congregational Church at 203-762-5591.