History of the West Sumner Baptist Church

Source: Deacon George B. Crockett, Consolidated History of the Churches of the Oxford Baptist Association, State of Maine, and a Historical Sketch of the Association (Bryant's Pond, Me.: A. M. Chase & Co., Printers, 1905).

[p. 95]

THE founding of the West Sumner Baptist church was largely the result of the labors of Rev. Manasseh Lawrence, pastor of the church at East Sumner, and well known in all the surrounding region. For many years previous to the organization of the church he had preached regularly at West Sumner on the fourth Sunday in each month and held a conference meeting on the preceding Saturday. As a result of this work, quite a company of christians were gathered together, most of whom were members of the church as East Sumner.

On January 2, 1858, James Lawrence and twenty-four others petitioned the Sumner church, located at East Sumner, to be dismissed in order that they might be organized into a church at West Sumner. The petition was granted, and a council was called to organize the church. The council, consisting of delegates from the churches of Sumner, Buckfield, Turner, Hebron, Paris, North Paris and Canton, met on February 4, 1858, and duly organized the West Sumner Baptist church. The constituent members were twenty-seven, as follows:

James Lawrence, Joel Barrows, Abel Stetson, Leonard Benson, William H. Drake, Charles Y. Tuell, Alonzo F. Benson, James S. Benson, Abigail Lawrence, Adaline Stetson, Miranda Barrows, Lydia Benson, Achsah Lawrence, Nancy Cummings, Sarah Benson, Emily Tuell, Olive Stetson, Polly Benson, Demarious Barrows, Harriet Tuell, Nancy Pulsifer, Abigail Chandler, Silvia Howe, Martha Lawrence, Berlinda Heath, Mary Heath, Elizabeth Bates.

The church adopted the Articles of Faith approved by the State Convention in 1846, and added the following: "Resolved, That we, the professed disciples of Christ and members of this Christian church, cannot consistently fellowship, or receive to this church any person who is in the habit of using intoxicating liquors as a beverage, or of aiding and abetting its use by others."

[p. 96] The letter of the church to the Association in 1858, reports thirty-seven members as having been received by letter, and twelve by baptism.

Work was soon begun on a church building. It was reported as in use but incomplete in 1859, and as complete in 1860. Its cost was about four hundred dollars. In 1878, the building was remodeled at a cost of about one thousand dollars. It was re-dedicated, January 2, 1879, with a sermon by Rev. H. C. Estes, D.D.

Most of the pastorates have been brief, and for considerable periods there have been only supplies, so that it is difficult to give any adequate account of the different pastorates. The first pastor was Nathaniel C. Whittemore. He preached one-fourth of the time for a year, beginning in 1858, soon after the organization of the church. Orin Richardson was the pastor from 1859 to 1860, or 1861. Three baptisms were reported to the Association in 1859, four in 1860, and three in 1861.

E. W. Pray appears as the pastor in 1861. T. J. Swett was the pastor for about a year, beginning in December, 1862. He was assisted in revival meetings during the Winter of 1862-'63 by R. B. Andrews. The result of this revival appears in nine baptisms reported in 1863. Alonzo F. Benson was licensed by the church on December 26, 1863, and acted as supply until 1866. He was ordained by the church on October 26, 1866, and served as pastor from that time until July, 1868. During his service as supply and pastor, six baptisrns are reported in 1865, and one in 1868.

After the close of this pastorate, A. O. Herrick acted as supply for a time. George W. Fuller was supply from the Spring of 1869 until June, 1870, when he was ordained by the church, and continued as pastor, preaching one-half the time, until April, 1872. R. B. Andrews acted as supply part of the time in 1873. Henry A. Stetson was pastor from the Spring of 1874, until 1876, in connection with the East Sumner and Hartford church. He was ordained by the two churches at East Sumner, in June, 1876.

Rev. R. G. Farley was pastor, preaching part of the time, from October 8, 1876, until 1878. During the Spring of 1877 there was an extensive revival, so that the report of 1877 shows twenty-six added by baptism, the largest number in any year in [p. 97] the history of the church. Rev. L. A. Freeman was the stated supply in 1879. Rev. A. A. Smith was pastor for three years, beginning December 28, 1879. The baptisms reported during this time are five in 1880, two in 1881, and four in 1882.

Robert Scott was pastor from 1883 to 1884, after which there were supplies for a time. Wilbur W. Cochrane was pastor from 1885 to 1886, and was ordained by the church, June 8, 1886. A. P Wedge was the stated supply in 1888, and J. E. Cochrane in 1889. S. D. Richardson was supply part of the time from 1890 to the end of 1892. In 1890, seven baptisms were reported.

John E. Berry was pastor from January 1, 1893 to the last of August, 1895. A. G. Murray was pastor from 1895 to 1899. Benjamin F. Turner was pastor from November 4, 1900 for three years. H. H. Bishop was the stated supply, preaching part of the time, from December 1, 1903, until June 1, 1904. E. O. Taylor has been the stated supply from November, 1904, until the present time.

The Sunday-school was organized at about the same time as the church, if not before, since it appears in the first report to the Association in 1858, althougli the membership is not reported in that year. In 1859, the membership was reported as consisting of five teachers and forty scholars. In 1861, there were five teachers and fifty-two scholars with an average attendance of thirty-five. In 1865, eight teachers and sixty scholars with an average attendance of fifty. In 1875, the membership is given as fifty-five. In 1885, the membership was sixty-eight and the average attendance, fifty. In 1895, the members numbered sixty, and the average attendance was fifty. At the present time, the membership is twenty-five, and average attendance, fifteen.

A Young Peoples' Society of Christian Endeavor was organized in August, 1888, and was a great help to the church for several years. In 1896, the membership had diminished so that it seemed advisable to discontinue the organization.

The following have been licensed and ordained by the church:

Alonzo F. Benson, licensed, December 26, 1863, ordained, October 26, 1866; George W. Fuller, ordained, June, 1870; Henry A. Stetson, ordained by this church and the East Sumner church, June, 1876; Wilbur W. Cochrane, ordained, June 8, 1886; George R. Berry, licensed, August 21, 1886; John E. [p. 98] Berry, licensed, November 26, 1892, ordained, June 30, 1893; Henry H. Berry, licensed, December 23, 1892.

Alonzo F. Benson was born near West Sumner and after his pastorate there went to Buckfield and then to Weston, Mass., where he died a few years later. George W. Fuller has done good work, as a pastor, and has been located chiefly in Massachusetts. Henry A. Stetson was in the ministry many years and died not long ago. Wilbur W. Cochrane is a graduate of Colby and of Rochester Theological Seminary and has been a missionary of the American Baptist Missionary Union to the Shan states in Burmah since 1890.

John E. Berry, Henry H. Berry and George R. Berry are children of the late William D. Berry, an active member of the church. Their mother, who is still living, is a daughter of Rev. Manasseh Lawrence. John E. Berry is a graduate of Newton. He has been pastor in Vermont at Montgomery Center and West Halifax, and has recently become pastor at North Troy and Jay. Henry H. Berry is a graduate of the divinity school of the University of Chicago. He has been pastor in Illinois at Marley, Wilton Center, Lockport and Joliet; and a few months ago became pastor at Ord, Nebraska. George R. Berry is a graduate of Colby and Newton, and studied for a time at the University of Chicago. He was pastor for three years at Liberty and is now Professor of Semitic Languages at Colgate University, Hamilton, N. Y.

The deacons in chronological order of election are:

A. S. Benson, Abel Stetson, Whitney Cummings, Charles Y. Tuell, John E. Berry, Moses D. Dow and George C. West; the last two being the present deacons. All have been men of earnestness, faith and power in the work of the church.

According to the yearly reports in the Minutes of the Association, one hundred and four in all have been added by baptism and seventy-six by letter and experience. The present membership of the church is forty, the local membership being twenty-three. The largest number of members reported by the church is seventy-seven, in 1882; the membership continuing the same for a year or two after that. In 1880, seventy-two members were reported and in 1877, sixty-seven.

The story of the ministers whom the church assisted to train in their work is not exhausted in what has been said concerning [p. 99] those licensed by the church. Several other young men practically began their preaching in supplying this church, who have become efficient ministers of the gospel. Here may be mentioned A. P. Wedge, Sumner Bangs and W. E. Lombard.

Through all its history the church has been characterized by a spirit of activity and self-help. There have been many periods, longer or shorter, without preaching; but, at these times, some service has ordinarily been maintained. Usually there has been a prayer meeting and Sunday-school; and sometimes a sermon has been read. The membership is small at the present time, yet these few have something of the same sense of responsibility and are seeking to do the work of the Lord with confident trust in Him, as in the past.

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