[p. 80]PARIS AND WOODSTOCK, OR NORTH PARIS BAPTIST CHURCH.
THIS church is not a pioneer in the adoption and dissemination of Baptist sentiments in this vicinity; for a church had already been formed in Paris, whose central place of worship was on the Hill, but whose increasing members were locating themselves far distant from their home church. Some had settled in the vicinity of North Paris, and these, together with a few members from Woodstock, on the occurrence of a revival in the Winter of 1829, thought it best to organize a church in this vicinity.
A council convened, March 11, 1829, which proceeded to organize a church composed of twenty-one members, ten males and eleven females, as follows: Stephen Washburn, Cornelius Perkins, William Berry, Zibeon Field, Ebenezer Drake, Jr., Luther Perkins, Luther Whitman, Jr., Seth Perkins, Cyrus Perkins, Charles Perkins, Ruby Field, Mercy Perkins, Deborah Berry, Abigail Harris, Esther Benson, Lydia Field, Harmony Drake, Sally Perkins, Lodicie Perkins, Mercy Davis, Desire Perkins.
There has been added to the church by baptism and by letter and experience, two hundred and fourteen names which, with the original twenty-one, aggregates two hundred and thirty-five. In an early history of the church found in the Minutes of the year 1851, it gives a membership of one hundred and one; but, by losses caused by dismissals, death and removal, the membership has been reduced to forty-seven, at the present time.
The places of worship in the early stages of its history, were in private dwellings of individual members and at school-houses. The first and second meetings of the church after its organization [p. 81] were held at the home of Isaac Davis in Woodstock, where Caleb L. Morrill now lives. The ordinance of baptism was administered at both occasions, first by Elder John Tripp and second by Elder John Haynes.
After a few years the Methodist society undertook to build a meeting-house; and, failing in procuring an adequate amount of subscriptions to erect a house solely for their own use, the Baptist society joined with them, and received by agreement one-half of the house. Subsequent to this event a law was passed in our state legislature giving to pew owners of different denominations the right of using the house for their respective societies, in proportion to the number of pews owned by each several society. Under this law, the Universalists put in a claim for the portion owned by them, and obtained the use of the house, one-quarter of the time leaving three-quarters to be divided between the other two societies. The first record of the church meeting in a house of worship is October 28, 1835. The church was built in 1833. About the year 1880, the meeting-house was improved by a thorough remodeling of the interior. The frame-work of the building, however, is the same as at first erected.
After a few years the Universalists relinquished their claim and the house was used equally by the Baptists and Methodists until the year 1894 when the Methodists withdrew and built for themselves a separate house.
The name of this organization was originally called the Paris and Woodstock church on account of its members living in both these towns. About twenty-five years ago, the people gradually began to call it the North Paris church and, although the name was not legally changed, it has finally come to be known simply as the North Paris Baptist church.
The first clerk was Luther Perkins, who officiated until he moved to Weld to take pastoral care of that church. He was succeeded by his brother, Cyrus Perkins, who retained the oflice faithfully a long while. Seth Benson next held the office for a considerable time. Joseph Childs then became clerk, but after a few years he moved away. Freeman L. Wyman has since performed the duty, with but one exception, when Joseph Littlehale officiated. Since Brother Wyman again assumed the office, three years ago, he has been doing double duty, being both clerk and treasurer.
[p. 82] The first deacon, chosen at the organization of the church, was Cornelius Perkins, who was useful and beloved. William Berry was the next chosen to fill the office and his Christian integrity and deportment was such that his decease caused deep and heartfelt mournings. The third was Ziba Andrews. Then in 1847, Brother Gibbs Benson was chosen and Stillman Berry in 1849. Some years later Brother Enoch Whittemore was chosen. Twenty-nine years ago, while Deacons Benson and Whittemore, both elderly brethren, were still living but too feeble for duty, W. W. Dunham and Addison J. Abbott were chosen to perform the duties of deacons, and still hold that office. In these later years the burden and heat of the day has mostly fallen to the lot of Deacon Dunhain, but he weathers the storms and faces the difficulties as only a true soldier knows how, and will, faithfully to the end.
The church records present no history of any settled pastor until the ordination of Luther Perkins in the Fall of 1835, but it was supplied occasionally by ministering brethren from abroad. Elders John Tripp and John Haines preached and baptized the same season that the church was organized. Philip Chamberlain and Elder Macomber also preached for the church. Brother Perkins continued his labors with the church about four years after his ordination.
He was succeeded by J. Hutchinson in the Winter of 1839-'40. About this time the church was favored with the faithful and successful labors of Elders Daniel Hutchinson, Manasseh Lawrence and J. Bray. Rev. Ransom Dunham was employed to labor with the church one-half of the time for one year and was aided by Elder Millner until May, 1846, when Addison Abbott commenced his labors with the church. He was ordained in the September following, and continued with the church until 1853. Several times during his pastorate he was interrupted by sickness, when a supply would be secured, among them, at one time was Rev. John Butler.
The following notice of Brother Abbott's sickness and death is quoted from A. Wilson, who was chairman of the committee on obituaries of the twenty-eighth anniversary of the Oxford County Baptist Association, held at Bridgton in September, 1856:Thus passes the lives of great and good men. "Their works, do follow them." Brother Abbott's descendents still live in this vicinity and are an influential people.
"Brother Addison Abbott departed this life at North Paris in November. 1855. He was born within the limits of this body, at Bethel, in 1803. After studying for a season at [p. 83] Thomaston, in a Theological Seminary which has now passed away, he was ordained at North Paris which was his only pastoral charge. His ministry, though often interrupted by ill health, was highly valued by his people. His sermons were evangelical in doctrine, well studied, and always delivered in a kind and Christian spirit. He was a man of sound judgment, and his manner of life commended itself to the community in which he lived.
"During months of evident decline he looked forward with entire composure to his approaching passage over the dark river. If calmness in prospect of death were proof of safety, few of our race could furnish equal proof. In his case it was manifest that his calmness did not result from any want of a proper perception of human depravity or human guilt, or from any inadequate view of the Divine Justice, or from any false view of the Divine Mercy. His rest was on the cross, his faith in the atoning blood. The same grace which pardoned his sins, adorned his life. He has left among his friends a spotless name; and memories of his life and labors are still doing good among his people and will continue to do good for many years to come."
ln 1856, Ziba Andrews, a licentiate, took up the field of work and much good was accomplished. Several conversions took place. The labors of C. Perkins were then engaged for one-fourth of the time.
Rev. Manasseh Lawrence, a man of considerable experience, next moved into the community and took up the pastoral work of the church. He came from a long pastorate at East Sumner. Through his untiring and faithful services religious sentiment began to brighten. It was during his pastorate, in the Fall of 1859, that the Oxford County Association was held here when the people came in crowds to the meetings, so many that the church was not large enough to hold them and an overflow meeting was held in the yard. That Fall and Winter occurred a great revival and very many were converted and brought to Christ, among them the present clerk and treasurer of the church. Brother Lawrence was suddenly called home, and although his was a pastorate of only two years duration, it was full of fruitfulness for the Master, and his people cherish him in their memories with deep reverence and love.
[p. 84] After this the church was supplied for a time by Rev. Mr. Barrows, Rev. E. M. Bartlett, Rev. O. Richardson and, in 1863, Rev. W. Beavins, who remained a year or two. Rev. R. B. Andrews came in 1867. During the years, 1869-'71, Rev. G. W. Fuller occupied the field. Although Brother Fuller was here about three years, nothing particular is recorded concerning the pastorate. It is presumed that good was accomplished.
From 1872 to the coming of Rev. T. G. Lyons in 1875, the records do not show any settled pastor, and there had been no regular meetings for some time. Brother Lyons again awakened interest and caused the church, once more, to go onward and upward. Revival meetings were held and many were called to repentence, and added to the church by baptism; among which were the present deacons and many others. Brother Lyons also organized a class meeting for the Methodists. He remained with the church three years.
Rev. H. C. Estes supplied the pulpit in 1879. Dr. Estes was a very scholarly and powerful speaker, who endeared himself to the people. Next in order was Rev. A. A. Smith, in 1881. Rev. J. E. Cochrane, under whose pastorate the church prospered, came in 1884. Many new converts were added to the church. He was succeeded by his brother, Rev. W. W. Cochrane, in 1886.
In 1891, Rev. Seth Benson served as pastor untill Rev. A. P. Wedge came in 1893, who was pastor for about two years. In 1897, Rev. H. A. Roberts assumed the care of the field. In 1899, Rev. Seth Benson returned from his pastorate in Addison, to his home at North Paris and preached for the church until poor health compelled him to retire from the work and all study. Brother and Sister Benson endeared themselves to the people, who ever found in them a sympathizer and friend.
Rev. H. A. Brown, a returned missionary from India, took up the work successfully in 1901 and '02. His wife, who was a professional singer, greatly aided his labors. Rev. H. H. Bishop, pastor of the church on Paris Hill, supplied in the years 1903 and 1904. A few of the pastors have been settled among the people, but more have taken up the work in connection with some other adjacent field and lived either at Sumner, Paris Hill or Bryant's Pond, and one in the early history came from Norway.
In the Spring of 1904, the Free Baptist church at West Paris expressed a wish to unite with this church in helping to support a [p. 85] settled pastor. The official boards of both denominations decided that this might be wisely done. Accordingly, Rev. E. A. Davis, state missionary for this section, secured Rev. A. J. Parker, a returned missionary from Assam, who served the people for one year and then resigned on account of ill health. Since then Missionary Davis has been supplying the two churches. Brother Davis brings with him great inspiration and courage and it is expected that a pastor will soon be secured for these fields. Other ministering brethren have probably preached here whose names are not on the records.
The church has licensed four brethren to tell the wonderful story of the cross, viz.: Luther Perkins, Charles Perkins, Ziba Andrews and Seth Benson. Four have been set apart to the Gospel ministry by ordination: Luther Perkins, December 3, 1835; Addison Abbott, September 9, 1846; Russell B. Andrews, July 11, 1861; George W. Fuller, 1866.
The church has been faithful in entertaining the Association once in about ten years ever since its organization.
The church is located in a thinly populated country surrounded by beautiful hills and farms. The resident members are widely scattered and many members live out of town. But with the prospect of union with the Free Baptist church at West Paris, thus securing a settled pastor to live among the people, good results are expected.