Many of the members and friends of the Athens Universalist church in the late 1800s lived in Litchfield township, across the Susquehanna river from Athens. The Wolcott family was the most numerous, and most of the Universalist Wolcotts were descended from Elijah Wolcott and his wife Elizabeth Park.
Elizabeth Park Wolcott was born in 1788 to Thomas Park and Abigail Nesbit. Her family came to Litchfield in 1800; they were the first white settlers in the township.
In 1871, toward the end of her life, Elizabeth Wolcott wrote a history of the Park family for the local newspaper, the Athens Gleaner. She included some of the early history of churches and preaching in Litchfield:
“The first church organization in Litchfield must have been at a very early period though I am unable to give the date. There used to be meetings quite frequently at my father’s house, Methodists, Baptists and Universalists preaching. Noah Murray and Moses Park [no relation] were the leaders of the Universalist persuasion.”
About 1820, an effort was made to build a community church in Litchfield. The frame was erected but the project went no further. Elizabeth Wolcott asked two of the oldest residents of Litchfield why the church had not been completed. One said that no one had calculated the cost of the building before they started, and, after the frame was built, they found they couldn’t raise enough money to finish the project.
The other resident said that
“the reason was that the church was to have been for all denominations, and, after the frame was raised, the people came with their tools and contributions of material, nails, shingles and lumber. As they were about to begin their work, someone made a remark about it being free to Universalists as well as to other denominations. The majority decided to exclude the Universalists, and so all those who believed in that faith, and some who did not, gathered up their tools and contributions and went home. The others became disorganized and the work was abandoned.”
Litchfield’s loss was Athens’ gain. About 100 of the 500 people named in the Athens Universalist church records were from the Wolcott, Hadlock, Park, Munn, and Merrill families of Litchfield.