[p. 77]HARRISON BAPTIST CHURCH.
THE Harrison Baptist Church was organized March 26, 1827, at the house of Samuel Scribner. Ebenezer Bisbee was ordained deacon, and Nathaniel Burnham chosen clerk. Among the twelve members were Ebenezer Bisbee, James Grey, Nathaniel Burnham, Edward Lowell, Sarah Scribner, Eunice Bisbee, Hannah Scribner, Sarah Willard, Martha Lowell, Anne Burnham, Louisa Bisbee, Ellis Burnham.
The church was joined to the Oxford Association in 1829, and a meeting-house, the first in town, was built in 1829, for the joint use of the Baptist and Congregational churches. This church was built near what is now called "Summit Spring Hill," and this hill was for many years a Baptist community. Meetings were held in this church from time to time, until that part of the town had ceased to be of the Baptist faith.
For several years, from 1860, there was no settled pastor, but the church was occupied for a time by Christian Baptists. The following were the pastors up to this time: Revs. Ephraim Harland, John Haines, Reuben Miller, William P. Grant, Robert C. Starr, M. Lawrence, Jacob Bray, Levi Burnham, David Jewell, to 1856; and A. Snyder, to 1860.
In 1877, the Oxford Baptist Quarterly Meeting met with us in connection with our Semi-Centennial, at the Congregational Church in the village. The Historical Address was by H. C. Estes of Paris, and was full of interest and information. It is to be regretted that the address cannot be found at the present time. Dr. Estes always showed great interest in this church, and while we had no pastor he came to us many times and twice performed the rite of baptism. This was the beginning of brighter days for the church.
[p. 78] In 1879, Rev. Andrew Hopper, of Newark, N. J., hearing of our small, struggling church, came to our assistance. Thinking that a church in the village would make it more successful, he devoted himself physically, professionally, and financially, to the work of aiding the organization.
Part of the year of 1879, meetings were held at the town hall. In March of the same year was organized the Harrison Baptist Church Corporation, with the following officers: Philander Tolman, Moderator; Chas. E. Tolman, Clerk; Howard M. Thompson, Treasurer; P. Tolman and Samuel Abbott, Trustees; P. Tolman, Samuel Abbott, T. M. Tolman, Building Committee.
This was preliminary to the taking down of the old edifice, situated two miles east of the village, and building another at the village, using the lumber thus obtained as part of the material. The same year, June 27th, the house was raised, and October 12th the Society was enabled to worship in the vestry, which was thus occupied until 1886.
In January, 1880, Rev. J. C. Andrews became our pastor. He served us for three years, and again we were without preaching services. ln March, 1885, Rev. N. G. French, State Missionary, came to us when everything was so dark we could not see one ray of light. No one present will ever forget the first conference meeting. When he was urging us to take up the work, one member was heard to remark that it was darkest just before day, and so it proved to be. During the six weeks he was with us, meetings were held nearly every night in different parts of the town; and good seed was sown.
We were supplied during the summer by Frank Davis, a student from Newton. Meetings were continued in the Centre District, and in September, Rev. Mr. French came to us again and baptized five candidates.
Rev. William Beavins was our next pastor and at this time the audience room was finished and furnished. May 23, 1886, ten persons were added by baptism and one by letter.
June 23d was a red letter day in the annals of the church, the occasion being the dedication of the church edifice, an epoch in the history of the society long to be remembered with pleasure. The Dedicating Exercises commenced at two o'clock, P. M., and the Dedicating Sermon by Rev. Dr. Small upon The Saving Power of Christ, was an able and instructive discourse and was [p. 79] greatly enjoyed by the large audience. His text was John 12-32: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." Among the pleasant things of the dedication was the presentation of a nice pulpit bible by Dr. Small and his members of the Portland church. The bell was presented by Rev. Andrew Hopper.
The programme comprised the following:Voluntary.—Choir. Invocation.—Rev. W. W. Cochrane, of West Sumner.The deacons have been,—Ebenezer Bisbee, Edward Lowell, Reuben Burnham, Alanson Cary, David Jewell, William. P. Harmon, Philander Tolman, Samuel Abbott, Howard Thompson.
Singing.-—Hymn No. 1. Tune, Rosedale.
Reading of the Scripture.—Rev. N. G. French, State Missionary.
Prayer.—Rev. G. B. Hanniford, Methodist, West Paris.
Singing.—Hymn No. 2. Tune, Evan.
Dedicating Sermon.—Rev. A. K. P. Small, D. D., of Portland.
Singing.—Hymn No. 3. Tune, Turner.
Prayer of Dedication.—Rev. W. H. S. Ventres, Canton.
Dedication.—Rev. Charles Perkins.
Since the organization, there have been added about one hundred and seventy-five members. Present membership, twenty-one, with only three resident members. We were supplied in 1887, by George R. Hovey, of Newton. Since then there has been no settled pastor.
Owing to the shutting down of the Wire Factory, in 1887, the members were unable to obtain work and were obliged to seek employment elsewhere, hence the closing of the church.
What the future has in store for us, none can tell, but our faith is strong that there is work yet to be done. We are at a disadvantage, being so far away from other Baptist churches,—twelve miles being the nearest,—but the church has had a varied experience; many revivals have been enjoyed; then by removals came discouragement, but it can surely be called a Missionary church, as many churches in the west have been helped by our dismissed members, as well as churches of other denominations.