[p. 115]RUMFORD FALLS BAPTIST CHURCH.
PREVIOUS to 1890, Rumford could have been called absolutely Methodist ground, and the same may be largely true to-day of the rural communities. The development of Rumford Falls water-power and industries brought together a large and mixed population from widely separated towns and cities. Each family and individual brought here something of their previous religious sentiment and brought together bodies of Christian people representing many different denominations. There were Baptists among the first who came to plan and develop the present populous community. Early in the nineties, when religious privileges were meagre, some of the Baptists identified themselves with such religious work and workers as opportunity afforded, and when the Methodist movement started at Rumford Falls, there were Baptists prominent in their church and Sunday school work. This was in 1893, and when D. F. Faulkner, the first Methodist pastor, arrived on this field, he met Rev. A. T. Dunn, D. D., Corresponding Secretary of the Maine Baptist Missionary Convention, at the hotel and invited him to preach for him at his first service the following Sunday. This service was held in the only available room, the school-house, then only recently built on the site of the present Methodist church.
The first meeting held to consider the matter of organization of the Baptist interests of Rumford Falls was held on August 24, 1895, at the residence of Hon. George D. Bisbee, on Franklin street. There were present Mr. and Mrs. George D. Bisbee, Levi L. Lincoln, Everett K. Day, Edgar N. Carver, E. A. Tibbetts, Mrs. Ephiram Kerr, Mrs. Francis Tucker, Mr. and Mrs. Charles A. Mixer. It was agreed that another church was needed in Rumford Falls, and that it ought to be a Baptist church. It was agreed to arrange for regular preaching for a few Sundays after [p. 116] Rev. B. F. Lawrence of Buckfield exchanged with Rev. G. B. Hannaford, who was then the second pastor of the Methodist church, which had become well established with a respectable house of worship. It was decided to ask the Methodists for the use of their house Sunday afternoons, which was willingly granted. Brethren Carver, Day, and Mixer, were chosen a committee to arrange for place and preachers.
Accordingly services were held during the fall of 1895 and early winter, the following named preachers supplying: Revs. H. N. Purington, Canton; N. T. Dutton, Fairfield, H. S. Burrage, Portland; T. J. Ramsdell, South Paris; Nathan Hunt, Bryant's Pond; Carl Herrick, Waterville; A. T. Dunn, Waterville; W. N. Thomas, Lewiston; F. M. Preble, Camden; J. R. Herrick, Greene; Rev. Mr. Burhoe, of Massachusetts, lately returned from Mission work in Burmah; Charles L. Chamberlain, Waterville; W. D. Plummer, Lisbon Falls; C. E. Owen, Houlton.
At the second meeting of the Baptist associates, resolutions were adopted whereby the undersigned agreed to ask for letters of dismission from their several home churches for the purpose of organizing a Baptist church at Rumford Falls: Chas. A. Mixer, Nellie M. Mixer, Edgar N. Carver, Florrie H. Carver, Everett K. Day, Edward A. Tibbetts, Edith M. Flagg, Francis W. Tucker, A. Louise Bisbee, Lottie E. Kerr, Etha H. Carroll, Grace E. Calhoun, Wm. W. Small, Nellie V. Small, E. C. Jackson.
The meeting for the organization of the church was held on the evening of February 6, 1896, at the residence of E. N. Carver, corner of Knox Street and Plymouth Avenue. There were present Mr. and Mrs. Chas. A. Mixer, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. W. Small, Mr. and Mrs. Geo. D. Bisbee, Mr. and Mrs. E. N. Carver, Nathan Carver, Hiram A. Ellis, Everett K. Day, Edward A. Tibbetts, John H. Longley, Mr. and Mrs. John J. Calhoun, Mrs. Etha H. Carroll, Edith M. Elagg, and Rev. A. T. Dunn, D. D., who was moderator of the meeting, and was of great assistance in perfecting the organization. The day was a stormy one, several inches of damp snow falling and a heavy rain setting in early in the evening. The inclement weather detained some expected from considerable distance, but others braved the elements against great difficulties. The spirit manifested was prophetic of the character of the church, as up to the present time no regular public service of the church has been [p. 117] omitted, except in a few instances when union services could be promoted by joining our forces with others for a special occasion.
The organization was completed with a roll of seventeen members, and the following list gives the name and location of the church from whence each came: Hiram A. Ellis, Julia A. Ellis, Edgar N. Carver, Florrie R. Carver, Baptist church, Canton; Nathan Carver, Baptist church, East Dixfield; A. Louise Bisbee, Frances H. Tucker, Susan P. Longley, Baptist church, Buckfield; Etha H. Carroll, Edith M. Flagg: Second Baptist church, Waldoboro; Grace B. Calhoun, Baptist church, Exeter, N. H.; Wm. W. Small, Nellie V. Small, Free Baptist church, Haverhill, Mass.; Edward A. Tibbetts, Baptist church, Holliston, Mass.; Charles A. Mixer, Nellie M. Mixer, First Baptist church, Providence, R. I.; Everett K. Day, Baptist church, Salem, Mass.
These officers were elected. Deacons: C. A. Mixer, E. N. Carver; Superintendent Sunday-school, C. A. Mixer; Clerk, W. W. Small; Treasurer, E. K. Day; Trustees, H. A. Ellis, E. K. Day, E. A. Tibbetts, E. N. Carver, C. A. Mixer, G. D. Bisbee, L. L. Lincoln; Standing Committee, C. A. Mixer, E. N. Carver, W. W. Small, A. Louise Bisbee, Grace E. Calhoun; Auditing Committee, Geo. D. Bisbee, W. W. Small. Committees were appointed to arrange for recognition services and the immediate prosecution of church work.
At the first business meeting, March 3, 1896, the committee reported that they could secure the vacant store of A. Z. Cates on Bridge Street for holding meetings, which report was adopted. This place was furnished with pulpit, organ, books, and unpainted chairs for seating about seventy-five persons. At a business meeting, April 15, 1896, it was voted to call to the pastorate of this church, Rev. J. D. Graham, of Brunswick. This pastorate began June 1, 1896.
Recognition services were held June 4, 1896, at the meeting place selected, the Cates store on Bridge Street, which was named Berean Hall. At this service the following churches were represented by delegates as named: First Paris, Rev. H. A. Roberts; First Livermore, Rev. G. W. Colby, Deacon J. O. Palmer; East Sumner, Rev. A. G. Murray, Deacon Thomas Stevens; Norway, Rev. J. A. Harding, W. S. Pratt; Weld and Carthage, E. F. Goodwin; Canton, Rev. H. M. Purington, Dura [p. 118] Bradford; Turner, Rev. F. S. Leathers, C. K. Dillingham; Bryant's Pond, Rev. Nathan Hunt; Mechanic Falls, Rev. George S. Chase; Buckfield, Rev. B. F. Lawrence, Deacon W. H. Atwood; South Paris, Rev. T. J. Ramsdell, Deacon H. P. Dennison; Jay, Rev. N. G. French, C. E. Tolman, Lewiston, Rev. W. N. Thomas; Auburn, Rev. C. A. Towne, Dr. J. W. Beede; State Convention, Rev. A. T. Dunn, D. D.
At the evening service, Rev. A. R. Crane, D. D., of Hebron, preached the sermon and Rev. G. B. Hannaford gave the welcome to the community. This service was held in the Methodist church. The Bible school was organized with an attendance of twenty-five the first Sunday in June, 1896, upon the missionary plan, that is, the school to be maintained and supported by the church and all offerings of the school to be devoted to missionary and benevolent purposes. The first annual meeting of the church was September 7, 1896.
Immediate steps were taken to secure a let for the erection of a meeting-house in the resident section, and at a special business meeting, September 28, 1896, a committee of the trustees reported favorably upon a location at the corner of Washington Street and Plymouth Avenue, three lots numbered 385, 386 and 387. It was further reported that the corner lot with a small dwelling upon it could be purchased for nine hundred dollars. The other lots the Rumford Falls Power Company had generously offered to give to the church. This gave a total area of sixteen thousand square feet, or one hundred and sixty feet frontage on Washington Street, and one hundred feet on Plymouth Avenue. At this meeting a general soliciting and building committee was chosen to raise funds and build a parsonage on lot 386, and to raise funds for a new church.
Located on one of the lots donated by the Power Company was the small school building owned by the town but not in use, which had been moved from its original location on Franklin Street, it having been the first school building in Rumford Falls, and used by the Methodists in their first church services. This was put in older for church services, the furnishings moved from Berean Hall here, and the building opened and dedicated as a chapel, November 15, 1896; Rev. A. T. Dunn being present and officiating. The following January a baptistery was placed in the chapel, and frequent baptisms held during the following [p. 119] months. Revival meetings were held by Evangelist J. W. Hatch and wife in March and April resulting in quite a number of conversions. During the Summer of 1897, the parsonage was built and opened by a reception given the pastor on November 3, 1897. In October, 1897, the first action was taken leading to the organization of a Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor.
At a business meeting, July 19, 1900, it was voted that the trustees be a building committee, and that they proceed to secure funds, information and plans for a suitable house of worship. December 3, 1900, the committee submitted plans such as they had perfected. Further plans were submitted at a business meeting held January 29, 1901, examined by the members present and adopted by vote. At a business meeting, February 12, 1901, the building committee was instructed to proceed to build according to the plans adopted. During the Summer of 1901, the church foundations were put in and raised up to the sills and the lot graded at an expense of about two thousand dollars, and paid for by local and other subscription.
In the Spring of 1902, the erection of the church edifice was begun, following plans perfected by the building committee and architect G. Wilton Lewis, of Boston. W. I. White was contractor. The contract price for the building complete as to exterior, except doors and windows above the basement, and including a complete and finished basement except as to kitchen, toilet room and stairways, was six thousand dollars. Before completing this contract the building committee directed the contractor to furnish the kitchen and toilet rooms, which, with furnishings, made the total expenditures for church property in 1902, $7,944.91.
The contract was completed in a very thorough manner, and the large vestry room in the basement was furnished and ready for use the first time on Thursday, November 27, 1902, Thanksgiving Day. On Sunday, November 30, special dedicatory services were held at which Dr. A. T. Dunn, of Waterville, and Dr. F. M. Preble, of Auburn, officiated.
On January 4, 1903, Evangelist Herbert L. Gale began a series of meetings in the new meeting-house. He was assisted by Brother Brittain as singer. Pastors and people of the Rumford Falls Methodist Church and the Mexico Congregationalist church united with us in these services, which continued two weeks and [p. 120] four days. Within a few weeks after these meetings eleven young people were baptized and became members of the church, with four received by letters.
Rev. J. D. Graham resigned the pastorate of this church, May 10, 1903, after seven years of faithful service. Rev. B. F. Turner, of Buckfield, was called to the pastorate, by vote of the church, October 12, and began this service November 1, 1903.
In aid of the new church, the Maine Baptist Missionary Convention donated one thousand dollars. The largest personal gift. was five hundred dollars by Hugh J. Chisholm.
The first Bible-school Superintendent was Charles A. Mixer, who served continuously and efficiently from June, 1890, to January, 1904. He was succeeded by E. N. Carver. The first Deacons of the church were C. A. Mixer and E. N. Carter. E. N. Carver served continuously as Treasurer of the church from September, 1890, until November, 1904.
During the pastorate of Rev. J. D. Graham, sixty were added to the church by baptism, thirty-one by letter, and two by experience. The present membership statistics are: Constituent members, seventeen; added by baptism, sixty; by letter, thirty-eight; by experience, two. Losses: dismissed by letter, twenty-one; by deaths, ten; excluded, one; erased one. Present membership, eighty-four; resident, about sixty.