[p. 64]PERU BAPTIST CHURCH.
PLANTATION Number One, from which, in 1821, was incorporated the town of Peru, was settled about the year 1800. Some Baptist families were among the early settlers. At the request of these resident Baptists a council was called September 9, 1818, at the house of Benjamin Wormwell for the purpose of church organization. This council consisted of delegates from the Baptist church at Dixiield, and the First and Second Baptist churches of Livermore. The nine constituent members were: Jabez Delano, Grace Delano, Brada Bailey, Nancy Bailey, Benjamin Wormwell, Anna Wormwell, Robinson Turner, Gilbert Hatheway, Samson Freeman.
From the time of organization until 1843 the church had no regular pastor and supplies only a part of the time. Rev. Jackson Palmer Haines and others preached occasionally. In the early days two brethren from this church were licensed to preach: Gilbert Hatheway, August 25, 1821; and Larnard Cummings, April 22, 1833.
May 8, 1830, Rev. Elias Nelson from the Third church in Livermore united with the Peru church and remained three years preaching a part of the time. May 12, 1830, the church voted to unite with the church at Dixfield and in later years a number of pastors supplied Peru and East Dixfield churches. From the organization of the church until 1843 about twenty-five were taken into the church.
Services were held in school-houses and private residences for at least thirty years when the Baptists began to occupy the Methodist meeting-house at Peru Center. In 1894, the meeting-house was purchased by the Baptists. Repairs to the amount of about one hundred dollars were made at that time. March 14 and 15, 1843, a Quarterly Meeting was held at Bethel and a [p. 65] council composed of delegates to that Quarterly Meeting ordained Brother S. Wyman of the Peru church for the gospel ministry. Brother Wyman became pastor of the Peru church and remained until September 20, 1868. During his pastorate twenty-six joined the church by baptism, fifteen by letter and nine by experience.
Of this number nineteen became members through the efforts of Rev. R. B. Andrews, who came to the church for special meetings in 1865. Elder Andrews came as one of a committee from the Association to visit and hold meetings for three days with feeble churches. In about four years from this time Brother Andrews worked with this church in connection with the East Dixfield church and great results were felt. It was not a time of revival but of reformation. A great many who were converted at that time became members of the Free Will Baptist church and many also were added to the Methodist church in Peru. From the resignation of Rev. S. S. Wyman until June, 1869, Elder Andrews was pastor of the church.
In 1869, Rev. Carlton Parker supplied the church in connection with the Canton church and his work was greatly appreciated. During 1870 and 1871, Rev. R. Dunham from Bryant's Pond supplied the church occasionally.
In 1872, Rev. C. H. Wyman preached at Peru and East Dixfield and in 1873 Rev. J. R. Herrick supplied the same churches. A few years later Mr. Herrick was called to Peru to baptize three candidates. Rev. A. B. Pendleton came in 1875 and remained three years in connection with the church at East Dixfield. Three were baptized and united with the church during that time. Then, for about three years, the church was without a pastor until Rev. G. L. Lewis came to Peru and Canton in 1881. In 1883 Rev. W. E. Morse supplied Peru and East Dixfield.
During 1885 Rev. W. H. S. Ventres was pastor at Peru and Canton and in 1886 became pastor of Peru church only. During his pastorate eight were baptized and united with the church. Rev. J. M. Long from Canton supplied the church in 1887 and 1888. Mr. Long proved himself to be a man of deep earnestness and thorough scholarly attainments.
Again for four years the church was without a pastor. During 1893 and 1894 Rev. H. M. Purington from Canton preached once each month and held a prayer-meeting each week. In 1895, Rev. [p. 66] S. D. Richardson from Hebron supplied once in two weeks. Mr. Richardson baptized two who united with the church. Rev. J. D. Graham from Rumford Falls church supplied during 1897 and 1898. Rev. H. G. Clark from Canton preached during 1901.
Since that time the Peru church has been supplied by students and others for short periods of time but the membership of the church has become so small that a pastor could not be supported throughout the year. State Missionary E. A. Davis new has an oversight of the field and helps by sending supplies and doing personal work among the people. Three were baptized by Mr. Davis and united with the church during 1904.
A Sunday-school has been maintained for about fifty years and in the last few years the Sunday-school interest has been good even when we had no other church service. The average attendance is about twenty.
The Deacons who have served the church since its organization are: Gilbert Hatheway, James White, Scammon Starbird, Sumner Robinson, Winfield Shackley, W. H. Walker, Charles Lapham.
Those who have served as clerks are: Gilbert Hatheway, J. C. Wyman, Sumner Robinson, Sumner Robinson, Jr., Benjamin Allen, W. S. Shackley, W. H. Walker.
A legacy of two hundred dollars was left the church by Deacon Winfield S. Shackley. About sixty have been added to the church by baptism and about twenty-five by letter and experience since organization. The present membership of the church is twenty with a resident membership of twelve.