[p. 100]MECHANIC FALLS BAPTIST CHURCH.
DURING the Winter of 1853, a number of brethren and sisters, belonging to different Baptist churches but living in, and near the village of Mechanic Falls, came to the decision to try and hold conference meetings. And this they did with a good degree of interest during two or three years. They had no house of worship, but in the Autumn of 1856, the Free Baptist Society offered them the privilege of using the Free Baptist and Methodist meeting-house one-quarter of the time. This offer was accepted and Rev. A. K. P. Small, then pastor at Buckfield, was hired to supply for one year.
Up to this time there was no church organization but at the regular conference meeting, held in September, 1857, after much deliberation and prayer, the brethren and sisters voted to organize themselves into a church to be called the Baptist Church of Mechanic Falls. Isaac C. Bumpus was chosen clerk and invitations were sent to the Paris, Hebron, Buckfield, Turner and New Gloucester churches to send delegates to sit with them in council the 27th day of October, 1857, for the purpose of completing the organization.
The council, was convened and Rev. Adam Wilson was chosen Moderator, and John Rounds, Clerk. After the usual ceremonies, the moderator gave the hand of fellowship, to forty-two persons composing the new formed church, whose names are as follows:
Joseph Bucknam, Eunice Bucknam, Edmund Chase, Joseph W. Chase, Mary Ann Chase, Nabby Chase, Anna Chase, Comfort Crooker, Judith Crooker, Russell B. Andrews, Isaac C. Bumpus, Benjamin Merrill, Nizolla Merrill, Sarah G. Moore, Nancy Woodman, Laura Record, Zilpha B. Mitchell, Elvira Merrill, Mary Bearce, Polly B. Hawkes, Ebenezer Drake, Harmony Drake, Lucy Chase, Alden Chandler, Hepsebeth Chandler, Peter [p. 101] B. Dennen, Clarissa Dennen, Sarah Dennen, Hannah Hayes, Hannah Shaw, Lydia Holbrook, Patience Staples, Esther Knight, Sarah Holmes, Sarah J. Coy, Hannah Barton, Isaac Barton, Rebecca Barton, Sally Thayer, Elbridge G. Coy, Betsey Milliken, S. L. B. Chase.
It would seem that the church was greatly prospered during the first few years after its organization, and that it shared largely in the great revival of 1858-'59, for during the latter year they reported twenty-six baptisms and a membership of seventy-seven.
Rev. Adam Wilson served the church as pastor in 1860, and during this and the following year, the membership was increased to ninety, the largest number reported as belonging to the church at any one time. For nearly thirty years after this time the church had few pastors and their terms of service were brief, and, while from time to time some additions were made, yet with few exceptions, each year a decrease in membership is reported.
Rev. Horace Perkins served the church as pastor in 1863, and he was followed by Rev. Abner Morrill in 1865. In the Convention report that year appears the following:
"The church at Mechanic Falls has been blessed with revival influence and hopes to receive some members by baptism. At present they are somewhat hindered by being compelled to worship in two different houses on alternate Sabbaths."
After the departure of Mr. Morrill the church was supplied for a short time by Rev. T. J. Swett. In 1868-'69, Rev. R. J. Langridge served the church as pastor. During the next eighteen years the church had no settled pastor and only occasional supplies. Under such conditions it is not strange that the church decreased in membership so that in 1887, they reported but thirty-one members.
But during this season of religious declension and discouragement the church was blessed with a few faithful members who were earnestly praying that God would visit and revive the church. And we cannot doubt but what their prayers were heard and their petitions granted, for, in 1887, Rev. C. E. Harden, then pastor at Hebron, became interested in the situation and supplied the church, preaching on Sabbath afternoons and [p. 102] in the Minutes of 1888, reporting this church, we find the following:
"Through the personal efforts of C. E. Harden this church has put on new strength and beauty. The house of worship has been repaired and re-dedicated.
"Rev. W. H. Clark has recently been called to the pastorate and has entered upon his work. The outlook is one of the most promising, three have been baptized and one added by letter."
And so by the coming of Pastor Clark and through the generous gifts of the State Convention (contributed toward remodeling the house of worship, and support of preaching) there commenced a new era of prosperity. This pastorate continued until 1895 and twenty-four were added to the membership. During the year 1895 the church was supplied by Charles L. Chamberlain, a licentiate, and at the time a student at Colby College. There was quite a revival during the year and eleven were baptized.
Rev. George S. Chase was pastor from 1896 to 1899. The services of Evangelist Harry Taylor were secured for a few days in 1898, resulting in a season of revival, and during this pastorate eighteen were added to the membership. Rev. L. H. Clark was ordained here and became pastor in 1899 and continued to serve the church with excellent success for four years, when he resigned to become pastor of the church in Gardiner, There were thirty-one added to the church during this pastorate and a troublesome debt which had been resting on the parsonage was removed.
After the departure of Mr. Clark the church was served for a few months by Rev. S. E. Packard who was followed by the present pastor, Rev. W. H. Whittier, who commenced his pastorate under favorable circumstances and four have been added to the church. The church owned no house of worship until 1861, when they bought the Methodist interest in the union house which was owned jointly by them and the Free Baptists. In 1867, they purchased the Free Baptist interest thus becoming sole owners of the house. This was thoroughly repaired and remodeled in 1888 at a cost of about three thousand dollars, making a very convenient and sufficiently commodious house.
[p. 103] The building of the parsonage was begun in 1892 and finished the following year at a cost of about twenty-six hundred dollars.
The following persons have served as deacons:
Isaac C. Bumpus, A. B. Dwinal, Ebenezer Drake, Joseph Bucknam, Sullivan Woodman, Gilman Thayer, Silenus Hawkes, W. Scott Strout, W. S. Gould, W. E. Morton, Frank Brown.
The following have served as clerks:
Isaac C. Bumpus, A. B. Dwinal, W. S. Millett, J. S. Merrill.
Russell B. Andrews was licensed by this church and Rev. S. L. B. Chase, so well known throughout the State was baptized into this church, October, 1857.
A Sabbath-school was organized very soon after the formation of the church and has been well sustained and instrumental of much good. The membership, reported at different years, has varied from thirty to eighty-five.
This church was connected with the Cumberland Association until 1893; then for two years it was a part of the Bowdoinham; and then it joined the Oxford in 1895.
There have been two hundred and thirteen persons connected with the church. The present membership is seventy-three.