Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Church in Pleasant River Valley Before 1820

The Church in Pleasant River Valley

Before 1820


Clarence Day:

The pioneers who came to this down-east valley ‘now over’ two hundred years ago had keen eyes for both beauty and utility. They viewed the bold headlands and the sparkling waters of the bay and the rugged mountains in the distance, the broad marshes heavy with salt hay for their stock, and the primeval forests filled with towering pines for their sawmills and named their future home—Pleasant River.

Their settlements were not compact like those at Machias, but families were scattered at intervals here and there along both shores of bay and river from Cape split to the head of tide and beyond. For many years their only road was water.

Not only were the people scattered, like all frontiersmen they were poor. Lumber was almost their only source of income, and during the seven lean years of the Revolution English vessels patrolled the coast and ruined the lumber trade. The settlers were self-sufficient but they had little surplus for such things as schools and churches. In 1780 the number of people living within the present limits of the towns of Addison, Columbia Falls, and Columbia did not greatly exceed two hundred. More than thirty years elapsed before the pioneers at Pleasant River secured legal titles to their homesteads or had formed a town government.

While the Pleasant River settlements were slowly growing, the religious life of New England was experiencing profound changes. The established church was Congregational and its ministers were supported by taxation. They were influential, highly respected, and most of them were college graduates. For more than a century established church had the entire field to itself, but in the later decades of the eighteenth century new denominations had arisen, of which the Baptists and Methodists were most active. Their ministers, with notable exceptions, had little formal education, and their preaching was less intellectual and more emotional than that of their Congregational rivals.

The field was large enough for all. In fact it was too large for the number concerned. The district of Maine was growing rapidly and numerous settlements were too new and too small to support a settled minister even had one been available. The Reverend James Lyon of Machias was the only regular Congregational minister in Washington County from 1771 until his death in 1794. As late as 1820 Maine had only seventy-one congregational ministers and the pulpits in sixty-one churches were vacant. The same situation with the other denominations prevailed.

Methodists attempted to meet this challenge through their system of circuits and circuit riders. Congregationalists sent out men from time to time who made long journeys through the frontier settlements, preaching sermons, distributing literature, marrying and burying, baptizing infants and converts, and organizing little churches wherever a few earnest believers could be gathered together. Baptists did the same except that they did not believe in infant baptism.

One of the earliest and most active of these dedicated itinerants was the Reverend Daniel Little, pastor of the congregational church at Kennebunk from 1851 to 1801. He made so many visits to Eastern Maine that he was sometimes called “the Apostle of the East.” His first mission was in 1772 under the auspices of the “Trustees for Eastern Mission.” In 1774 he spent several weeks between Castine and Gouldsboro, and came east again several times after the Revolution. While there seems to be no existing record that he ever came to Pleasant River, it would appear probable that he visited here several times.

Edward E. Bourne, in his History of Wells and Kennebunk, wrote of Mr. Little: “His labors were very arduous. There were no roads, and he was obliged to travel on horseback through forests, and much by boat among the islands and on rivers, and was occasionally in much peril.” However, he “pursued his way with a cheerful heart. ‘The more labor, ‘ he says, ‘for the good or others, the more peace and comfort within.”

Of the Congregationalists, the Reverend Jotham Sewall, 1760—1850, labored most abundantly of them all. The Reverend Calvin M. Clark of the Bangor Theological Seminary wrote: “He had beyond question assisted in ordaining more Congregational ministers, and in forming more congregational churches, in every part of Maine, than any other Congregational minister in the whole history of these churches.

On his many missions to eastern Maine, “Father” Sewall preached 43 times at Addison, 30 times at Columbia, and 233 times at Machias. His first journey was in 1801 under the auspices of the Massachusetts Missionary Society. Sept. 13, he wrote in his diary: “rode to Columbia and preached in the evening to quite an assembly, and God graciously offered his aid both in preaching and in prayer, a solemn season. Thanksgiving and praise to my good Master.” Sewall went as far east as Eastport and on his return in October preached one afternoon at Columbia and that evening at Addison. One or two candles lighted the meeting place only and the dimness added solemnity to the occasion.

In spite of the labors of Little, Sewall, and others, Congregationalists never organized a church or gained a firm foothold in the Pleasant River Valley, perhaps because the Baptists were too strongly entrenched. In 1785 the Reverend John Whitney, then of Gouldsboro, preached for some time in this area. “Several persons professed piety and the character of the people considerably improved,” testified the Reverend Joshua Millett in his History of the Baptists in Maine. Whitney was a Free Baptist itinerant and was active at that time in preaching “in the eastern country.”

The first Calvinist Baptist of record to labor in the Pleasant River Valley was Elder Elisha Snow. A prominent businessman in Thomaston he was converted to the Baptist faith at a series of meetings held there by the Reverend Isaac Case, who later married his daughter. Mr. Snow was pastor of the Baptist church at Thomaston from 1794 to 1821.

Elder Snow visited Columbia in 1786. “He preached the gospel to them, “wrote Millett, “light celestial dispelled the darkness from many minds; the doctrines of grace supplanted their works of righteousness, and many became converts to the gospel as preached by Elder Snow. At their request he embodied them into a regular church. Although favored with but little preaching for many years, and in the midst of various modes of opposition, they lived in unity and love and prospered.”

The Baptist Church at Columbia was the first Baptist church east of the Penobscot, and the second Protestants church of any denomination in Washington County. It later became the mother of Baptist churches in Addison, Indian River, and Harrington. One would like to know more about this early church and its members but, as Millett says, “much of their early history remains in obscurity.”

Their first and only regular minister for nearly thirty years was the Reverend Joshua Young who served as their pastor from 1794 to 1797. Again Millett, who was at one time pastor of the Baptist church at Cherryfield, tells us that “Mr. Young found himself in the center of a vast community, comprising several settlements nearly destitute of the gospel. Among these he labored most assiduously. Nor were his efforts in vain. God blessed them. In 1796 a revival was experienced in Columbia and Addison, and was extended to other places.”

Alexander Baring, who later became Lord Ashburton, was in Pleasant river in 1796, and wrote: “It (Pleasant River) presents more the appearance of cultivation and of old countries than any other and I should certainly prefer it as a place of residence. The people are agreeable and when we were there they were getting their church ready by subscription and had appointed their clergyman and built him a handsome mansion.”

The same year James Murphy, a Baptist from Nova Scotia, who later served as pastor at Cherryfield and then at Eastport, joined the church by letter and received a license to preach. “Now commenced a train of circumstances adverse to their influence,” wrote Millett. “In 1797 Mr. Young and Mr. Murphy ceased their labors in Columbia, and for seventeen years the church had no pastor. In 1799 a Methodist minister came among them, who scattered seeds of contention, the fruits of which were, much wrangling and disputing about the doctrines “Divine efficiency,” ‘election’, and final perseverance. In their extremity Elder Case visited them and with the skill of a wise peacemaker he allayed the strife, and placed things again on their proper basis.”

Elder Case had already had experience with the Methodists who had built the first Methodist meeting house in Maine in Readfield where he had organized a Baptist church of which he was pastor. Some were fearful that the newcomers might try to make proselytes among his members but he declared that they were “Case-hardened.”

The Reverend Isaac case came to Maine from Rehoboth, Mass., and was pastor of the Baptist church at Thomaston from 1784 to 1792 and of the one at Readfield from 1792 to 1800. He was active in home mission work during that time and after 1800 devoted the remainder of his long life to that service. As Millett says: “Many of the churches in Maine owe their existence to his efforts, and multitudes of souls, their salvation to his instrumentality.” He earned a place beside Father Jotham Sewall in that respect.

Elder Case was probably in Columbia and Addison in 1796, since he aided Elder Young in holding revival services and organizing a church at Cherryfield that year. He came eastward many times later and was most helpful in keeping the little church alive and prosperous when they were sheep without a shepherd.

Elder Case preached at Addison in October 1805 when converts were made and thirty-four members were added to the church. The following December he visited Steuben, Columbia, Addison, and other places in Washington County. At Addison he baptized (by immersion) six persons. He noted in his diary: “The tide had ebbed about six inches, had it continued ebbing it would not have been so convenient; but as the Lord would have it, there came in an undertow, as they call it, and the water was higher than before. I think I was never in any place where Christians were more engaged in religion and where people took more pains to attend the word. Some came as many as twenty miles.”

Ministers of the established church were supported with tax money by the town. These taxes were extremely unpopular with Baptists, Methodists, and other newer sects. They had to maintain their own minister and help support the orthodox minister as well. So much opposition finally developed that the custom was abandoned. Two votes taken by the town of Columbia throw a ray of light on this situation. In 1801 the town voted to raise $75 for the support of the gospel and chose Deacon David Wass to secure a minister, presumably a Baptist since that was the only church in town. The next year the town voted that the $50 raised for that purpose be used instead for the support of schools.

From 1797 to 1814 the Baptist church was without a minister, but it was visited from time to time by itinerants among who besides Elder Case were Elders Henry Hale, Robert Low, and John Haines. In 1814 Elder Benjamin Lord of Surry was engaged as minister. He remained until 1816 and then returned to Surry. While he was here “another revival blessed the community and the church, ‘Second Addison’ was constituted,” under the leadership of Elder Isaac Bridges, with twenty-five members. It was at first called the Jonesboro and Addison church and was apparently located at Indian River some distance from the parent church.

The departure of Elder Lord issued in another time of trouble for the original church, which was now a member of the Eastern Maine Baptist Association. Millett relates the story: “1819 was a year filled with darkness, division, and painful trials. Elder McMasters, who was their minister, labored in vain to restrain the raging elements. Two parties, claiming to be the church, existed, and each reported itself to the Association as such. A committee was sent by the Association to look into their state, who visited them, and after examination and deliberation, reported to these brethren, that it was their decision that all those members who could unite in a renewal of ‘covenant’ was the church. Whereupon, a large majority of both parties signified union and fellowship, and soon most of the minority joined them. This method of settling the difficulty was accepted by the Association. It was not considered a re-organization, but a restoration of union.”

Meantime Methodism had come to Pleasant River from Canada in the person of the Reverend Duncan McColl of St.Stephen. Duncan McColl was a Scotsman who had served in the British Army in the War of the Revolution. He came to St.Stephen in 1785 and soon began to preach the gospel according to the Methodist faith. He continued to labor there and at Calais until his death in 1830. He was also endowed with the missionary spirit and preached at times in the smaller towns on both sides of the international boundary.

One of his excursions,” says the author of the Annals of Calais and St.Stephen, “in 1787, reveals the condition of things then, in several respects. He went to Pleasant River in Maine, and spent several weeks in preaching and trying ‘to Build up Zion.’ Being ready to return; the good people of the place gave him as the reward of his labor, $3.50 in money, and three cheeses. He started homeward a happy man. He reached Indian Point in safety, but found there no vessel to take him home and no road leading up river. But go he must; and shouldering his three cheeses, he walked along the pathless shore of St.Andrews Bay, all the weary way to Robbinston. There he found a boat to take him to St.Stephen. The generosity of Pleasant River, the absence of roads, and the hardihood of the man, are characteristics of the times.”

However, not until the coming of Jesse Lee was any organized attempt made ot plant the Methodist flag in the Pleasant River Valley. Jesse Lee has with reason been called the father of Methodism in Maine. He was one of the greatest of the early Methodist evangelists and his field of labor extended from Canada to Florida. He made several journeys to Maine, preaching, baptizing, and organizing churches. He preached what he considered the first Methodist sermon in Maine at Saco in 1793, and dedicated the first Methodist meeting house in the District two years later. He made two or more journeys east of the Penobscot and came first to Pleasant River in 1795.

Blueberries on the Barrens

Blueberries on the Barrens:
By Ronie Strout

Did you know that Washington County, Maine can be proud of the fact that the first naval victory in the War of the American Revolution was won in Machias Bay? Washington County can claim other first, the first sardines, the first lobsters, and the first blueberries were canned “Down East.” Clarence Day writes that Washington County was canning blueberries for a generation or more before they were canned commercially elsewhere in the United States.
The blueberry industry began on “the barrens,” a wild, desolate treeless tract of land many thousand acres in extent. The barrens are located chiefly in the towns of Beddington, Deblois, Cherryfield ,Columbia, and townships numbered Eighteen and Nineteen.
Tradition says that the Indians were burning over the barrens to promote the growth of blueberries long before the first white settlers entered the valleys of Pleasant River and the Narraguagus.
Mr. Day writes that the first reference to the barrens seems to be made by Alexander Baring who saw them while on a journey through Washington County in 1796. Alexander Baring wrote: ”In the corner of No. 12 (now Columbia) between 11 (Cherryfield) and 5 (Harrington) there is a plain of two or three miles in diameter very poor and barren. The soil is perfectly barren and covered with a short kind of heath and no wood. It has the appearance of having been burnt but the soil is so hard that it can never have been good.” Here is the evidence that the barrens had been burned over many years before 1796 and that they were then much smaller than now.
Gathering blueberries on the barrens was a public privilege for more that a hundred years after the nearby towns were settled. Whole families came from near and far to obtain berries for their own use and for sale. A news item of 1860 reads: “The pickers are doing a smashing business on Epping Plains just now. They gather about forty bushels a day and sell them for seven cents a quart. Purchasers carry them to Rockland and to Bangor to market.”
The Civil War brought a demand for canned food for the Union Army, and several factories began to can fish, lobsters and blueberries. It has been stated that as early as 1866 blueberries were being canned in Cherryfield, and Milbridge. The berries were gathered from Epping Plains and some days they used 300 bushels of berries.
About 1868 Arthur L. Stewart began to can blueberries at Cherryfield and founded the oldest blueberry canning concern now in business in this country.
In 1883, Maine’s Secretary of State, in his Statistics of Maine, lists only six factories that were packing blueberries. They were: Cherryfield, A.L.Stewart; at Columbia Falls, Joseph A. Coffin and the Columbia Falls Packing Company; at Harrington, A.M.Nash & Co.; at Machias, Burnham & Morrill; and at Milbridge, Jasper Wyman & Co. The six factories employed sixty-two hands during the packing season.
For several years after the canning business began, the public still considered the berries on the Epping Plains to be common property; that all changed in 1871 when William Freeman, a lawyer living in Cherryfield decides that the public was trespassing.
Freeman asked the packers to pay him a royalty of half a cent a quart on the berries that they received from his land, since he believed they had stolen from him. Most all agreed except the William Underwood Company and Freeman filed a suit against the company. After a five year legal battle the case came before the Supreme Court of the State of Maine. That court upheld the verdict of the lower court and awarded Freeman damages amounting to $1,176. The court also established the right of owners of blueberry land to collect “stumpage” on berries gathered on their property.
About this same time the blueberry rake came into use, some were made of wood and wire sometimes called saltbox rakes. Around 1882 Abijah Tabbut, already making metal rakes, adopted the ideas of another Columbia Falls man, Franklin P. Tabbut, and the present Tabbut rake came on the market. The fanning mill that was ever-present in the fields was the one used by farmers for winnowing grain.
The berries were picked and shipped by boat before the Washington County Railroad was opened in 1899. A writer of those early days says: “During the fall of the year flat-bottomed vessels from Boston would come up the Narraguagus River and often swap flour and other needed commodities for blueberries.”
Eben Allen of Columbia Falls reported that in the season of 1899 it was estimated that the Wyman factory at Cherryfield put up eleven thousand bushels and the other four factories in Cherryfield, Harrington and Columbia Falls, seven thousand bushels each. This made a total of thirty-nine thousand bushels in the three towns. At $1.28 a bushel paid by the factories the value of the fruit would be nearly $50,000. Add to this, Allen said “the money paid by the factories for wages and the money received for berries shipped fresh, and it will be seen that the amount of money distributed is no small sum.”
In 1922 the frozen blueberries came onto the market and increased from less than six percent to 21 percent of the total crop. The canned berries averaged about eleven million pounds annually during the period of 1938 to 1942.
Today the blueberry crop has involved from people gathering berries on the barrens by hand, by the Tabbut rake in 1882 and machines in 2004. Now more than 230 years later another lawsuit is going on with the growers and the Companies on the price of berries.
My father Orrin L. Worcester told me how his parents would go onto the barrens and pick berries to send to the market fresh by train every summer. They would take large tents and spend days there on Township 25. After all the expenses were taking out their profit for the year 1916 were $221.97. and in 1917 their profit was $269.38. and in 1922 my grandmother Ronie Worcester wrote that they earned better than $300.00. In my grandmothers journal she wrote that they were paid to haul the blueberries at 40 cents a bushel and paid to pick the berries anywhere from $1.50, $2.50 to $3.00 a bushel.

Follow up on Church.....

Can't do a thing because we had only a verbal contract. Deputy said there is nothing I can do about it because of conflicting statement. In other words you believe the minister as he has rights. Or unless I want to hire a lawyer and go to civil court over it. The church bank account does not have that kind of money to spend, and the other folks of Columbia just does not care.
As far as the property that is missing, it probably will never be found or returned.
So the moral of this story is have a contract when you out of the goodness of your heart let someone use the church or anything. You can't trust anyone.
All I can say now is what goes around will come around and the good Lord knows the truth.
I checked into the restraining order. I can't get one to keep him away from the church property, only if he tries to do harm to me, but this is now in the system so if it happens again to someone else they will have documentation of this if they press charges.
Maybe with folks knowing what has happened in this little town is all that needs to be done as everyone will know what kind of a person he is.
I just got a dead bolt for the church, now need to get someone to put it in for me and see if it will keep out honest people.
12:45 p.m on March 31, 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Church items missing March 28, 2010

I have had a very trying day, March 28, 2010 as I had to confront a minister about items taken from the church that he had been preaching in. I actually had to walk in to his office and new place of worship to get back the Church Bible, candles, communion dish, and piano bench, note book on the church and the key. He had three keys on the holder and said another person also had a key.
I asked him to return the light bulbs all 15 of them, and the candle holder that is missing and found later that he had taken the emblem off of the cross that he left in the church.
He gave me this look like how did she find out?.... He even took the latch off the back door of the church. ( He said he had not been in the church for a few weeks, well I was in it a week to half ago and the latch was on the door which I found in the box of candles that I got back)
I asked him if he was going to take the garbage out and the wreaths down from the windows that he left. He and his family, along with another family followed me to the church...
They did take garbage out but than said another man said the items were his to give to them...
I told this minister how can you give away something that is not yours and that belongs to the church? I had been trying for a month to get in touch with this so call minister and left messages for him on his phone and with his friends that I needed to talk with him. Today -I did talk to him after their church service because I went to his new place of worship!
To say that I am upset is one thing but I am really upset that I was that gullible to be taken in by a man of the cloth....I hope I have learned my lesson...
How can a minister steal and still preach and get away with it?
I have found a picture of the candle holder and cross with emblem on it for proof to show what is missing.
Plus on top of this he has taken the hymnals that were in the church and accuses this other man for given him the stuff.
I am debating on rather I need to call the police to get to the root of this. If only he would return the items and not LIE about it.
And on top of this he was working under the Aspire program for money!

Now I need to find someone to change the locks on the door at the church.
Posted at 2:11 P.M.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Well this week I started to clean the attic, what a chore that is.... I had the roof shingled last fall and did not get to clean up from that mess and what a mess it is. I decided on the first day to go through some boxes of papers that had been stored up there for over 25 years. That was a mistake, as I got bogged down, and could not get out of my tracks. The second day I decided to forget those boxes and just pull them out in one spot, to go through later.
First I had to vacuum the floor and take off the sheets, wow, I found stuff on my genealogy that needed to be sat aside, not to look at, but off in a spot that I would later get back too!
Where do I start --- well as I came to realize even though I don't want to know what is in these boxes that have changed colors and seemed to rot away all of those years that flew by on me. I found papers of the children that I saved, can't get rid of those can I? No but can weed out other stuff.
I called to see if the 8th grade wanted anything that I found ie....coats, curtains, sheets, blankets, puzzles, books and anything I thought they might want. Hopefully they will come and get this stuff or off it goes to the recycle bin in Columbia Falls.
I took garbage bags and started filling up what I wanted to get rid of. Seven bags to be taken to the dump and magazines. What is left in the middle of the floor is empty boxes that will have to be burnt.
I ran across photo albums of Carroll, my husband when he was a baby, cute guy, I wonder what happened to him since then. LOL....
Found my daughter Didi's Barbie Doll that I got her one year, the 3 foot one., baby clothes that was the kids, blankets, sheets, stuff I still need to sort through.
My daughter Michelle needs to come and get the rest of her stuff so I can get busy with that area to clean. I think I found two boxes for Zachary that he needs to take out of the attic. Zeb and Didi are the only two left that should have something here. I did find a picture that Matt drew when he was in H. S for a competition. Will save that, he might like to look at it sometime.
Christmas decorations, should be sorted and repacked someday, the Worcester Reunion stuff should be checked and revamped one day. Really need to put scouting stuff in one section, books that I had acquired and info. I did take what scouting magazines and gave them to some scouts on the bus this week.
Well today is Sunday I don't think I will go to the attic today, a rest day, feel like doing nothing except did write my news article on town meeting & DownEast Idol stuff.
This week did get some walking in, here and there in my spare time. On Monday went to Auburn with my husband for his appointment, what a long ways, 177 miles one way, I was beat when we got home. That's it for the day.