Early Calvinistic Baptists in Bethel, Maine – Part 6

I have finally been able to pick up a copy of East Bethel Road by Eva Bean to get some information that was not accessible via the Google Books limited view.20140726_070312

Here are some tidbits about the early Calvinistic Baptists in Bethel, Maine:

1. The first entry in the records of the church, probably from 1795, said “Having been enabled by Divine Grace to give ourselves to the Lord, we believe it is our duty and esteem it a precious privilege to give up ourselves to His visible church and make a public declaration of our faith in the Doctrines of Christ and order of His church.

2. Their 1795 “Articles of Faith” contained 16 articles and four “expressions of belief”.

3. A note dated July 15, 1802 said:

“Met at the house of Asa Kimball and favored with a sermon by Elder Cole from Titus 2:11 ‘For the Grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” This was by the blessing of God made a happy season to our souls, and on the same day Brother Stephen Estes, Brother John Kilgore and Brother John Kilgore Jr., were received into church communion and fellowship.”

The “Elder Cole” was Benjamin Cole from Lewiston, Maine.

4. In 1817, while Daniel Mason was pastor, the qualifications for church membership were listed as:

  1. A scriptural Christian experience.
  2. Correct doctrinal views, including a plan of salvation, ordinances, and church polity.
  3. A sober, regular outward deportment
  4. Godly conversation!

5. In 1847, during Joseph B. Mitchell’s pastorate, reasons for being “investigated” (with or without dismissal) were listed as:

  1. Immoral conduct
  2. Intemperance
  3. Embracing universal faith
  4. Embracing Mormonism
  5. Non-attendance at gospel meetings
  6. “Mingling too much with the world in vain talk”

6. In 1904, the church clerk Millie H. Clark said: “The future is open before us and may we press on with renewed devotion and courage, and while we continue to labor in His name, may it be in the spirit of the prayer which say  ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. At that point the church had been without a settled pastor for 24 years! I have no idea what happened to the church after 1904.

Listen to this Post

Early Calvinistic Baptists in Bethel, Maine – Part 5

Since my last post, I made a quick and ugly website which represents some of the information I’ve gathered on the Calvinistic Baptist church in 18th/18th century Bethel, Maine. The website is intended to be a one-stop, one-page place to visit and learn about the history of this New England Baptist community. It is very much a work in progress.

Yesterday I was able to pay a visit to a meeting house which the early Calvinistic Baptists in Bethel, Maine used. It’s on Intervale Road in East Bethel. My GPS had some wrong information and it took me on a dead end road which turned out to be rocky, quite abandoned, and flooded. Nevertheless, I was able to navigate around and found the property quite easily afterward.

The building is owned by the Bethel Historical Society and was built in 1831. Multiple denominations carried out their services there.  There is a graveyard out back.

Here are some photos of the meeting house.





I explored the graveyard a bit. I saw the graves of many family names who played an important role in the church in the 18th and 19th centuries (such as Estes, Mason, Kimball, Foster, Bean, and Bartlett. Here are some photos of the graveyard, ending with a photo of the grave of Deacon Eli Foster, who I featured in my last post.




Listen to this Post

Early Calvinistic Baptists in Bethel, Maine – Part 4

051812142425_01 051812151152_01In this series, I’ve previously posted Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Here is Part 4, providing more information about “First Baptist Society in Bethel, Maine”, a Calvinistic Baptist church in Oxford County, Maine, which seems to have disappeared from the scene at some point in the early 1900s.

To the right are pictures of the meeting houses they utilized. Special thanks go out to Matthew Jones for graciously providing permission to post these. On the right is the Middle Intervale building (built in 1816) and on the left is the East Bethel building (built in 1830).

A List Of Pastors

By tying various sources together, I’ve been able to infer an approximation of the settled pastors as well as some of the men who helped with pulpit supply. I am still working on this list and it still has some gaps. I have my eye on a source which may help get this list into better shape. Sadly, it appears that from 1880 and onward, they lacked a settled pastor. As of yet, I see no evidence that the congregation existed beyond 1904.

  • 1795-1807 – No settled pastor (Visited by Oxford county area ministers such as John Tripp, James Hooper, John Chadbourne, Nathaniel Chase)
  • 1807-1811 – Ebenezer Bray
  • 1811-1817 – Thomas Wyman
  • 1818-1835 – Daniel Mason
  • 1836-1846 – Benjamin Donham
  • 1846-1846 – Joseph B. Mitchell
  • 1848-1848 – No settled pastor (Pulpit supply by Ransom Donham and Hiram Cushman Estes)
  • 1849-1853 – Levi Burnham
  • 1853-1853 – No settled pastor (Pulpit supply by Ransom Donham)
  • 1854-1855 – David S. Hawley
  • 1857-1862 – William Beavins
  • 1863-1863 – No settled pastor (Pulpit supply by Ransom Donham)
  • 1864-1865 – Thomas J. Sweatt
  • 1867-1869 – Edwin M. Bartlett
  • 1870-1875 – Otis B. Rawson
  • 1877-1879 – William M. Harthorn
  • 1880-1884 – No settled pastor (Ottis B. Rawson for 6 months in 1880 and William Beavins returned May-Nov 1884)
  • 1887-1892 – No settled pastor (Pulpit supply by William B. Hutchinson, Woodman Bradbury, William W. Wakeman, and William T. Green)
  • 1899-1904 – No settled pastor (pulpit supply by William H. T. Bock, David W. Lovett and Ralph Sherwood)

Deacon: Jonathan Abbot Jr (1808-1887) was “an exemplary man, a good farmer and citizen” and lived on a homestead near Walker’s Mills. He served as a deacon in the church in the 1830s.  It’s interesting to note that one of his sons was named Stephen SPURGEON Abbot. Stephen was born in 1859, during the prime of Charles Spurgeon’s ministry, and presumably that is the source of Stephen’s middle name. Stephen served as the town clerk, “noted for his accuracy and thoroughness of work”. In the 1880′s, Stephen left Maine and became a lawyer in Denver, Colorado. Jonathan had another son named Jonathan FLAVEL Abbot, presumably named after the prominent Puritan John Flavel.

Deacon: Eli Foster (1802-1873) was the son of Asa (1765-1831) and Anna Foster.  He married Dorcas Barlett and settled between Locke’s Mills and the Androscoggin river. Eli was said to be of limited education, but significant natural abilities. He was chosen as deacon in the church and served until his death. He was respected as a farmer and business man. He was thrifty and kind. His wife was industrious, skilled in spinning, knitting and weaving. Eli left a forest in the vicinity of his buildings, which largely consisted of sugar maple trees, noted in 1899 as still standing and “one of the finest sugar orchards in town”. On his gravestone is inscribed: “The memory of the just is blessed”.

Member: Sumner Estes (b. 1827) was the son of Eli and Clarissa (Kimball) Estes. He was born in Bethel and was educated at Gould’s Academy and also Hebron Academy. At the age of 11, he joined the Baptist church and years later, after attending Waterville College in the early 1850s, he was licensed to preach. In 1853, he was ordained in Canton, Maine and continued there until 1854. He also pastored churches in Sidney, Thomaston, Machias, Pembroke, Cherryfield, Lisbon Falls (1869-1871), and Sanford.  Due to “disease of the throat” and other illnesses, he was forced to leave the ministry. He then went on to become a druggist and apothecary.  He was married to Sarah M. Holt of Bethel and his son Charles went on to write a book,  Christian Missions in China, which was published in 1895.


  • Frederick Clifton Pierce, Foster genealogy, Part 1, 357.
  • Edwin Emery, The History of Sanford, Maine, 1661-1900, 447.
  • History of Bethel: formerly Sudbury, Canada, Oxford County, Maine, 1768-1890 , 239.
  • Third General Catalogue of Colby College, Waterville, Maine. 1820-1908, 192.
  • http://oxfordcounty.blogspot.com/2010/02/history-of-canton-baptist-church.html
  • http://genealogytrails.com/maine/androscogginco/andro_history_part_twenty_two.html
  • http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=59097190
  • Eva Bean, East Bethel Road
  • Numerous other sources

Listen to this Post

People From Essex, Ontario: Frederick Erdmann Smith

fullsizeFrederick Erdmann Smith (also known as Fred Smith or F. Erdmann Smith or Erdmann Smith) lived in my town (Essex, Ontario) as a child. He also was a graduate of Essex High School.

In 1961 Frederick wrote a letter to the Essex Free Press, which outlined a few biographical details. I found it fairly interesting to see where this Essex resident ended up.

It turns out that Frederick became the dean of Oklahoma Baptist University (1907-1921). He was also professor of Psychology and Education at William Jewell College (1921-1924), and president of Ottawa University in Kansas (1924-1931).

Frederick was active in American Baptist life, being the president of the American Baptist Publication Society (where John Newton Brown had been editorial secretary a century earlier) in the 1930′s for 6 years and also served as secretary of the American Baptist Convention’s Budget Committee. He also pastored three large churches: Austin Baptist Church (Chicago, IL), Delmar Baptist Church (St. Louis), and First Baptist Church (Denver).

Frederick considered his days in Essex High School to be “the most exacting, and best years of [his] education”.


  • Photo: Unknown, “F. Erdmann Smith, President of Ottawa University,” in Franklin County Kansas Historical Archive, Item #52159, http://www.franklincokshistory.org/repository/items/show/52159 (accessed July 10, 2014).
  • Essex Free Press (Essex, ON), 28 Jul 1961, p. 1

Listen to this Post

Out And About (2014/07/14)



Dubious Quotes

  • Did G. K. Chesterton say “When man ceases to worship God he does not worship nothing but worships everything”? This article convincingly argues no.


Listen to this Post

First Multi Site Church? (Pastor: Son of A Celebrity Pastor)

“The Pennepack Church was founded…by Pastor Elias Keach, son of the well-known London Baptist minister [Benjamin Keach]…Elias Keach had come to Philadelphia from London in 1688, a young man of twenty who thought it sportive to garb himself as a clergyman. Because of the prestige of his father, the Reverend Benjamin Keach of London, he secured invitations to preach. At his first service, he suffered pangs of conscience and thereupon confessed his imposture…From then on he preached at Pennepack with unusual effect. Indeed he extended his parish to include a large circuit of congregations in Trenton, Chester, and other small towns in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. When the Pennepack Church was organized, these Baptists united with its membership. The entire membership was to gather together twice a year, in the spring and the fall.” – Robert Torbet, A History of the Baptists, p. 210



Listen to this Post

Anthony Binga Jr: Virginia Baptist Leader Born in Amherstburg, Ontario

anthonybingajrIntroducing Anthony Binga Jr

Anthony Binga Jr. (1843-1919) was born in Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada, where his parents (Anthony Sr. and Rhoda) had found refuge from slavery in the U.S. For over forty years, he served as pastor of the first distinctly black congregation in Richmond, Virginia–First Baptist Church of South Richmond. William Cathcart called him “A good preacher, a judicious conselor, a warm friend of higher education”.

In 1865, as a young man, Anthony left Canada to be a teacher in Kansas. He fell ill and returned to Canada, and was converted and baptized “in a river” in 1867, probably the Detroit River. Eight months later he was ordained and called to be a preacher and principal in Ohio. It is not entirely surprising that Binga should go into the ministry, his father was also a minister, the first pastor of First Baptist Church in Amherstburg, Ontario.

In 1869 Anthony married Rebecca Bush. By 1871, due to the way his position as principal interfered with his preaching, he quit his job at the school.  He then returned to Canada, though he didn’t stay in Canada long. The next year he was welcomed to Richmond, VA by former Amherstburg resident William Troy. He then took up a call to what is now known as First Baptist Church of South Richmond.

First Baptist Church of South Richmond

During his time in Richmond, Anthony became the first black teacher in the Manchester, VA public school system. He would serve as principal as well. One account says he was “a stern disciplinarian, but his students…always expressed respect and affection for him”.

In 1874 Anthony became the recording secretary of the Virginia Baptist State Convention. He was also the  first chairman of the Foreign Mission Board of the Baptist Foreign Mission Convention and was appointed a trustee of Richmond Theological Seminary. Not only did Binga participate in state-wide endeavors and lead his congregation spiritually, he also seemed to be a bit of an amateur architect. When his congregation built a new building he also drafted the initial designs on a chalkboard.

During his time at First Baptist Church of South Richmond, Anthony baptized over 1,000 people. There was plenty of controversy in the black church at the time. For instance, one significant controversy of his time was the question of the role of women in the church. Though Anthony firmly stood on the traditional position–that the Scriptures disallowed female pastors, he was quite supportive of making women more involved in the life of the church–having them actively involved in teaching Sunday school, voting on church matters, and participating in prayer meetings.

His Printed Sermons

In 1889, a book of Binga’s sermons was published, Sermons on Several Occasions. Here is a short excerpt from God’s Matchless Gift to Man, a sermon on Isaiah 9:6:

“Thus we understand that Christ is born to regal dignity; born to rule. The government of the physical and spiritual world is upon His shoulder. The laws which keep the sun in his burning course, and hold each planet in its orbit; that give wings to the flying clouds which are led about as moving reservoirs to subdue the raging fires of earth; that restrain the mighty floods from breaking by their ancient boundaries, and all other laws governing our earth, find their origin in Christ. Likewise the government of His Church is upon His shoulders. Her constitution, government, and ordinances are dictated by Him.

In the preface to the collection of Anthony’s sermons, J. E. Jones noted that “It is not too much to claim for Rev. Binga that he has endeavored, as much as in him is, to benefit his fellows by his rich endowments. He has been untiring in his efforts to elevate the race in manners, morals, and religion…He is a man of unsullied character, and his word or endorsement is as good as any other citizen of his community…He has a large, unselfish, sympathetic and responsive heart.” Even the Confederate officer and Alabama congressman Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry had high praise for these sermons, saying that he will “treasure this volume of sermons”.

The respect which Anthony commanded is not isolated and Carter Woodson, in his history of the black church, regards him as a figure worth noting and calls him “a churchman of scholarly bearing, who wrote important dissertations of a theological nature”

His Later Life

In 1907, Anthony’s wife Rebecca died and he married Mary Young in 1909. As late as 1914, Binga was described as “now a man of some years, but his vigor of intellect seems unabated and his excellent character has won for him  the universal esteem of the sound thinking people of Richmond. His influence is positively for good and this State would  be fortunate to have more such reliable men as leaders of the  Negro race.”

At some point, Binga had received an honorary doctorate from Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. He died in 1919 due to arteriosclerosis and was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.


Listen to this Post

William Troy: Virginian and First Baptist Minister in Windsor, Ontario

Believe it or not, the first Baptist pastor in Windsor, Ontario, Canada was a black man from Virginia, Wiliam Troy (1827-1905)–the first pastor of First Baptist Church of Windsor.

Troy was a free man born in Essex County, Virginia. His father was a slave and his mother, who was half white, was free.  He was secretly educated by white friends of the family, breaking the laws of the time. Troy became a Christian in June 1843 and became a Baptist. Eventually, Troy became disgusted with his church’s support of slavery, saying that “the law of the country knew me as a thing, [and] the church knew me in the same way”.  He married and in 1848 he moved to Cincinnati and studied to be a minister and then moved to Canada. He is said to have lived in Amherstburg, Ontario for three years, pastoring a church there before he became the founding pastor of First Baptist Church of Windsor, Ontario in 1853, where he preached to a community of runaway slaves.

In 1861, William wrote a book, Hair-breadth Escapes from Slavery to Freedom, which was a set of accounts of fugitive slaves. It was published in England and he traveled through England to raise money for the new Windsor, Ontario church, a congregation “composed chiefly of fugitive slaves”.

In the preface of William’s book, Arthur Mursell says “Of Mr. Troy’s mental qualities, and his graphic powers, I need say nothing, as both speak out in the narrative he has written. But of his sterling attributes of heart, those only who know him intimately can form a true idea. A real man and a finished gentleman, the author of this little book stands forth as another living contradiction of the doctrine which disparages the African as gifted with inferior intellect and possessed of baser feelings than the European; and he shows that colour is no barrier to the attainment of high culture and scholarship, and no hindrance to the possession of a delicately attuned emotion.”

Simultaneously, in 1857-1859, William also pastored Second Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan.  Apparently, some (or all?) baptisms in Windsor were performed in the Detroit river, as is confirmed by a biographical note about Rev. H. P. Davis, who had escaped from Alabama and was baptized by William.

William is recorded as saying: “I rejoice to be able to say that God has added his blessing to my labours in Windsor and the region adjoining: and I pray that I may be of even greater service to the people for whom I am laboring.”

William did encounter racism in the Windsor area. He said: “The coloured people in this part of Canada have had, and still have, much to contend with from the prejudices of the white people, which may be considered as the result of the influence of their contact with Yankees. The prejudice is being removed slowly”.

At some point after the civil war, William moved back to Virginia and became pastor of Second Baptist Church of Richmond, VA.  In 1865, he became the first president of the Consolidated American Baptist Missionary Convention. By 1875, he would leave and found Moore Street Baptist Church and remain there until 1881.Apparently, in 1890, William preached an ordination sermon in King William County, Virginia. The text was Titus 1:5 – “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you.” It seems that William died in 1905. I hope to be able to write more about him in the future.


Listen to this Post


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: