The Wightmans: A Legacy of Generational Ministry

The Wightmans: A Legacy of Generational Ministry

Early in 1612, Edmund was arrested for preaching “that the baptizing of infants is an abominable custom; that the Lord’s supper and baptism are not to be celebrated as they are now practiced in the Church of England; and that Christianity is not wholly professed and preached in the Church of England, but only in part.” Later historians noted that “they found him guilty of many heresies, some of which were probably unknown to him, even by name. What kind of man was he? He is known for his faithful, passionate love of Christ, and his uncompromising zeal for God’s truth.

Edmund’s son John (1598-1663) moved to London shortly after his father’s execution, married, and had many sons, the youngest of whom was George Wightman (1632-1772). This young twenty-year-old immigrated to “Ye Wilderness in 1654 and married Elizabeth Updike. George and Elizabeth were Baptists too, like their father and grandfather before them, and he served in the church as deacon. They had five sons, the first of whom was Valentine Wightman (1681-1747).

Valentine had received a substantial education during his youth, something very rare in this time, studying at the Kingstown school with professor Edward Whaley, who used the pseudonym, “Theophilus Whale.” When he was twenty-one, Valentine married Susannah Holmes, daughter of Rev. John Holmes, the pastor of First Baptist Church, Rhode Island, grand-daughter of Obadiah Holmes, and great-granddaughter of the founder of Baptists in America, Roger Williams.

In 1705, a dozen religious Dissenters (six men and six women) in Groton, Connecticut called Valentine to establish a church under the terms of the Act of Toleration of 1689. Here Valentine served as pastor of the First Baptist church of Groton, the congregation to whom he faithfully ministered for the next four decades as the first Baptist pastor in Connecticut colony, essentially the founder of Connecticut's Baptist tradition. Valentine was part of the First Great Awakening movement that swept the Colonies from the 1720s through the 1740s, and heard George Whitefield preach.

When Valentine stepped into Heaven in 1747, his son, Timothy Wightman (1719-1796) became pastor of the same church. Timothy Wightman succeeded his father in the pastorate of the Baptist Church at Groton. Like his father he was active in planting new churches and leading the Baptist Association, comprising congregations all across Connecticut, and who regarded the Church at Groton as their “mother church.”

At his death, Timothy’s son, Rev. John Gano Wightman (1766-1841) served the same church for more than four decades and later, John Gano Wightman’s grandson, Rev. Palmer G. Wightman did the same, from 1864-1876.

We remember this month the dedicated and steadfast fathers who have instilled into their children the love and honor of God, and those who have served him faithfully throughout their lives.
“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you,
then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve,
whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates,
or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.
But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua 24:15
-Karen O’Dell Bullock
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