[p. 24]FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, LIVERMORE.
THE first settlers of the Town of Livermore came about the year 1780. In a church history, printed in 1894, we find this statement: "For a number of years the people lived without the means of grace, and it is doubtful whether there was more than one soul who had experienced the saving grace of God." In 1793, this condition was changed and a revival of religion was enjoyed. One of the early settlers, a Mr. Delano, attended a meeting in Winthrop and listened to a sermon by a Baptist preacher that led to his conversion. Returning to his home he immediately erected the family altar, and being active in christian work, soon succeeded in leading others to Christ. From this time the revival progressed under the united labors of Elders Case and Smith, aided by the prayers and testimonies of the new converts. This movement met with great opposition, but the power and grace of God proved to be the stronger and righteousness prevailed.
On the 7th day of August, 1793, the First Baptist Church in Livermore was organized with seventeen constituent members and was "recognized as a Church of Jesus Christ upon the old apostolic platform."
The following are the names of the constituent members:
Daniel Holman, Pelatiah Gibbs, Isaac Lovell, Elisha Williams, Otis Robinson, Henry Bond, James Delano, Zebedee Delano, Thomas Wyman, Peter Godding, David Reed, Anna Gibbs, Hannah Robinson, Mary Delano, Susanna Wyman, Grace Delano and Catherine Walker. Four of the men who composed this little band subsequently became useful ministers of Jesus Christ.
Some three or four years after the organization of this church the first house of worship was erected. It was small and never fully completed. The reasons given "that the Church felt to be [p. 25] too poor; and besides they hoped at some future day to be able to build a more commodious one." In this unfinished building, it is recorded, that such was the ability and endurance of these old pioneers that they constantly attended the services of the Church. In the most severe winter weather, with no means of warming the house, they would gather to preach and pray, and sing:
"Christians, if your hearts be warm, Ice and snow can do no harm."
In 1806, the frame of a new and larger meeting-house was erected at what is now called North Livermore Corner. It was later completed and was considered "a valuable house and an honor to the enterprising people who built it." It was two stories high with galleries on three sides. In this house the church met for worship for more than forty years, often witnessing the manifestation of the power and grace of God in the salvation of souls. On the evening of April 11, 1847, this house was destroyed by fire, with no insurance.
Because of this great loss, the church was a good deal disturbed, but not discouraged. Under the faithful leadership of Pastor Pendleton and the noble corps of church officials, steps were soon taken to rebuild, and in the following January, in a more suitable location, the present neat and comfortable meeting-house was completed. This house cost in building $1,839.50, and when finished there was left in the hands of the building committee, in place of a troublesome debt, a balance of $2.50.
During the pastorate of Rev. Carlton Parker, 1871-1874, the meeting-house underwent extensive repairs. Other and minor repairs have been made as occasion required, the church always endeavoring to keep their house of worship in as good condition as their financial ability would allow. In the year 1903 some needed repairs were made; chimneys rebuilt; and the outside of the house was painted.
No record of the organization of the Sunday-school can be found, but as early as 1844, in the Minutes of the Oxford Association, the First Baptist Church of Livermore reports a Sunday-school with twelve teachers and sixty-five scholars, and with a library of two hundred volumes. Ten years later, in 1854, the Sunday-school reports eleven teachers and sixty-seven scholars, with three hundred and sixty books in the library. Since those [p. 26] early days great changes have taken place in this town, both materially and religiously. There are not nearly so many families, and what there are are much smaller. Families of ten or a dozen children, as in the olden time, cannot now be found, so that the numbers to draw from in the maintenance of all the services of the church are but a fraction of what they were fifty or sixty years ago. At the present time the Sunday-school, while small, is well sustained and doing a useful work in the community. Present membership, six teachers and about fifty scholars, with a good average attendance.
ln the earlier years of the history of this church revivals of religion were of more frequent occurrence than in recent years. During the first nine years of its history, before the church had a settled pastor, conversions were frequent and more than one hundred were added to its membership by baptism, and since that time showers of Divine blessing have often watered this branch of the Lord's planting, and many have been added to its membership by the ordinances of the gospel. At different times members from this church have been dismissed for the purpose of forming churches in other localities. In 1799, the old Baptist Church in Jay was organized by a company of members dismissed from this church. In 1810, the church in Hartford; in 1811, the Second and Third churches in Livermore (the latter now the church at Livermore Falls), and in 1815, the church in Peru, were organized in a similar manner.
The First Baptist Church in Livermore has not only been a prolific mother of churches, but of honored and faithful pastors who have nobly served the cause of Christ, not only in the home church but in other churches in our own state of Maine, and in other states. She has also raised up and sent forth ambassadors of the Cross to the "regions beyond," to carry the light of the gospel to heathen lands.
The first pastor of this church, Sylvanus Boardman, was one of her own spiritual children who, after serving for several years with distinguished ability, was called to the pastorate and publicly ordained to the gospel ministry on February 3, 1802. He held this pastorate from that time until 1810, when he resigned and became pastor at Yarmouth, Maine. During his ministry more than sixty were added to the church by baptism. [p. 27] It is said of him, "As a pastor and preacher he was wise, able and beloved, and much people were added to the Lord."
Rev. John Haynes was the next pastor. His pastorate began in 1811 and closed in 1821. During his ministry more than seventy were added to the church by baptism. Rev. David Nutter came to the pasterate in 1828 and continued to minister to this people for ten years, during which time more than one hundred were received into the church by baptism. Elder Nutter was called a "great preacher" and a man who formed strong attachments, and drew from his friends the same strong feeling.
In 1835, Rev. Nathan Chapman was on this field and served as pastor for two years. During his pastorate seven were added to the church by baptism. From April, 1840, to April, 1844, Rev. C. Miller or "Father Milller" as he was called, was the pastor. Of him it is said: "No other man ever performed a better service for the church in four years. His sound spiritual preaching, godly life, and conciliatory spirit was just the oil upon the troubled waters which the church most needed at that time." It was during his pastorate that, aided by Evangelist John Butler, occurred what is often referred to as the "great Butler reformation." At that time sixty-one were added to the church by baptism. One of these is still a resident member, active and useful in the work of the church, Brother P. S. Gibbs.
Rev. John Billings served this church as pastor from July, 1844, to November, 1845. There were no baptisms. In July, 1846, Rev. A. B. Pendleton was called to the pastorate. He did faithful work, and while there was no addition to the church by baptism during his term of service, it is said of him: "The church was greatly strengthened by his labors, and the way prepared for more successful work." The enduring monument of pastor Pendleton's faithful labors is the neat and pleasant church edifice in which the people now meet for worship.
ln April, 1846, Rev. David Nutter again became the pastor and continued in this relation until January, 1853. During this time two were baptised. From April, 1853, to July, 1858, Rev. Lucious Bradford served this church as pastor with great acceptance. He was considered a successful minister. The people loved him. During his pastorate the church was strengthened by receiving twenty-six new members by baptism. Among [p. 28] this number are four of our present membership, still in active service, Deacons A. J. Ryerson and Thomas M. Wyman, and sisters Eliza Merrill and Julia Coolidge. Mr. William A. Dufee commenced his labors with this church as a licentiate in April, 1859, and on the fifteenth of the following June was ordained to the pastorate. Three were baptized into the fellowship of the church during his ministry here which closed in December, 1860.
Rev. E. S. Fish began his pastorate in June, 1861, and closed in April, 1870. He baptized into the fellowship of this church eighteen, some of whom are now faithfully sustaining the cause of Christ at home. Others are serving as pastors and helpful members of other churches elsewhere. Of pastor Fish it may well be said: "He was a workman that needeth not to be ashamed." Rev. Carlton Parker assumed the pastoral care of this church in January, 1871, and toiled unceasingly and effectively for the Master until his death in the summer of 1874. Those were years of rich blessing to the church. During his pastorate the church gave spiritual birth to twenty-five who were baptized and received into its fellowship by Mr. Parker. Among that number were Rev. J. M. Wyman, now a pastor in Massachusetts, and Rev. John E. Case, a missionary to Burmah.
In January, 1875, Rev. J. R. Herrick was called to the pastorate and served in this capacity for nearly five years. These were years of ingathering, some forty being added to the church by baptism. During this pastorate, Rev. Carl Herrick, now the successful pastor of a Baptist church in Charleston, Massachusetts, was born and here he spent his infant days. In 1881, Rev. L. P. Guerney took the pastoral charge of this church and for three years they enjoyed his strong preaching and abundant labors. He baptized four. Of him it is said: "His presence was a benediction to the whole community."
In February, 1881, Rev. W. H. S. Ventres was called to the pastorate. He labored here one year. Of him it is recorded: "He was a hard worker, an industrious student, a good preacher, and a kind and sympathetic pastor." In 1885, Rev. O. Richardson became the pastor and for three years served the church with great acceptance. One was baptized.
Rev. G. W. Colby entered upon a pastorate of six and one-half years June 1, 1890. Pastor Colby was abundant in labors, a good manager, always watchful of the spiritual interests of the church, [p. 29] and not unmindful of its temporal welfare. During his pastorate the church observed its Centennial anniversary, one of the most impressive and profitable meetings in its history. To the zeal and push of pastor Colby much credit is due for the successful planning and carrying through of this undertaking. During his pastorate ten were added to the church by baptism.
Rev. A. D. Graffam served this church as pastor from January, 1897, to March, 1899. His sermons are said to have been "able and interesting." During the summer of 1899, the church was most acceptably served by having the pulpit supplied on alternate Sabbaths by Rev. H. W. Tilden, D. D., of Livermore Falls. His sermons were strong and well seasoned.
On May 20, 1900, the present pastor, Rev. E. H. Doane, entered upon his duties here and met with a most cordial reception. In October of 1901, his work was suddenly interrupted by being stricken down with paralysis while visiting among his parishioners. For six months he was confined to his home. During this time the pulpit was frequently supplied by neighboring pastors, who kindly gave their services. On March 16, 1902, the pastor was able to occupy the pulpit again and has continued to serve the church as best he could with slowly increasing strength. He is now entering upon the fifth year of his pastorate. Five have been baptized.
The names of those who have been received to membership in this church and afterwards ordained to the Gospel ministry, are, as nearly as we can ascertain, as follows: Revs. Sylvanus Boardman, Zebedee Delano, Elisha Williams, Ransom Norton, Otis Robinson, Henry Bond, William Godding, Thomas Wyman, Jason Livermore, A. R. Hinckley, William Wyman, Drew T. Wyman, John E. Case, J. Monroe Wyman.
Among the able and successful ministers of the Gospel who had their early religious training in the bosom of the old First Livermore church, perhaps the best known to the denomination at large, was Rev. George Dana Boardman, son of the first pastor and the noted missionary who followed Judson to Burmah.
This church has also been served by a noble corps of deacons. The following are the names of those who have thus served: Henry Bond, Zebedee Delano, Pelatiah Gibbs, Oliver Peabody, Oliver Fuller, Ransom Norton, Oaks Thompson, Sarson Chase, West Robinson, John Elliott, Charles Barrell, Ira Thompson, [p. 30] Elbridge Ricker, Wm. K. Wyman, Andrew J. Ryerson, T. M. Wyman, J. O. Palmer. The three last named are doing efficient service at the present time.
In 1886, the house owned by Deacon E. Ricker, with two acres of land was purchased for a parsonage, the price paid being $775.00. This is situated in one of the most pleasant localities in the town, and makes an admirable home for the pastor and his family. Suitable repairs and changes have been made from time to time as needed, and at present is in excellent condition.
Valuable legacies and timely gifts have been received by this church from both resident and non-resident members and friends. The first of the larger gifts was a legacy left by Mr. Isaac Lovell in 1833 of seven hundred dollars, which was found to be of great help when the church was building its present house of worship. In 1873, while extensive repairs were being made on the meeting-house, Mr. Erastus Thompson of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, a former resident of this town, presented the chandelier which is now doing service. In 1884, Mr. Arad Thompson, of Bangor, presented a fine bell in memory of his father and mother, Deacon Ira Thompson and Mrs. Sophia Thompson, who for many years were valued members of this church. In 1902, Miss Caroline S. Whitney, of Portland, another former resident and member of the church, left a legacy of one hundred dollars, to be used by the church as needed. In the same year E. B. Gibbs, Esq., of Brookline, Massachusetts, another former member of this church who removed to a field of larger opportunity and service, presented to the church an individual communion service in memory of his mother who for many years was a valued and helpful member here, but has now gone to her reward. Other minor gifts have been received and appreciated.
In comparing the present condition of this church with that of former years, many things have to be taken into account. A large number of families, who in past years were identified with this church as strong supporters, have moved away or have been called from this world by death; and in most cases those who now occupy their former homes are not interested in religious matters and very seldom attend a church service of any kind. Though absent, those strong, hearty and efficient helpers of other days are not forgotten. The church misses them and mourns their loss. Another difficulty which we have to meet at the present [p. 31] time is that nearly all our young people feel obliged to leave home to attend school, or to seek employment at an age when they would be most useful to the church. Others marry and move away. While we may deplore this condition, we cannot change it. Notwithstanding these drawbacks and disadvantages the services of the church are fairly well sustained. Financial obligations are all promptly met, and compared with other churches of its class in scattered country communities, the First Baptist church in Livermore may be said to be in good condition. Harmony prevails among the members. Pastor and people seem to be well united. The church contributes of its means not only for the work at home, but offerings are sent to help support missionary enterprises elsewhere. A Ladies' Mission Circle has been sustained for years and is still maintained with a fair degree of interest.
The church is praying for and expecting a continuance of Divine favor, and hope that many who are now strangers to Christ's redeeming love may yet be led into the fold of the Great Shepherd, and take their place in the church to its strengthening.
During the one hundred and eleven years since this church was organized more than five hundred have been added to its membership by baptism and more than one hundred and thirty by letter and experience. The present membership, greatly depleted by death and removals, is only forty-eight, with a resident membership of thirty-nine. A loyal band of Christian workers, cast down perhaps at times but not discouraged because of their faith that Jesus Christ, the great Head of the church, is "The same yesterday, today, and forever." Our great need as a church today is a stronger faith to take hold of the promises of God and for each member to realize that as individuals "We are laboring together with God." The days of a large membership and large congregations may have passed with us, but the work of the church is still the same, and He who more than a century ago planted this vine, and has cared for and nourished it all these years, often using the pruning knife, is still watching over and caring for it and has said: " Lo, I am always with you, even unto the end."