Carthage Union Church
By Minnie Archibald (date unknown)
To know the Church and spiritual life in the town of Carthage, one must travel back through the ages of time and history of 83 years.
The first pioneer to start religious activities was Captain John Getchell, a traveler, who took to the rugged terrain of this area.
Carthage had three meeting houses in the early year of 1826. One of these was situated at Berry Mills, one at White's Schoolhouse, and the other at the meeting house at Popple Hollow. There were many denominations at this time but the people were served by only one preacher at a time.
Rev. Luther Perkins, who resided just over the town line of Weld, preached until his death. Then along came a traveling preacher name Rev. Asa W. Cummings, who gave the people spiritual guidance. At this time, there were many Advent people in the community and these were served by Rev. A.A. Abbott.
The first pioneer to really start religious activities was Capt. John Getchell, who was desirous of having a central permanent house of worship, and was the instigator of forming a committee to get the farmers to help erect a church. By so doing, the foundation was erected and actual erection of the church building was accomplished by the townspeople having a "bee". The men did the carpentry work while the women brought food and served dinner to these men.
It is known that those who worked in erection of the church were assigned a pew for their labors and material furnished. Capt. Getchell was one of the main laborers who constructed these pews. In order to raise funds for the balance of the pews not assigned to the laborers and their families, pews were sold to other citizens and in turn some of these pews were later resold. Therefore, the price of pews went high. It is noted that a receipt for pew #7 sold to Charles Hanscome went as high as $27.25 dated 1881. Finally, all pews were sold and everything was in order for services.
It is known that there were four religious denominations represented among the builders and pioneer supporters of the Church. These were Baptists, Universalists, Christian Adventists and Free Will Baptists.
After the erection of the church in 1880, the several denominations drew lots to see who have the honor preaching the dedication sermon.
The Adventists won and the dedication sermon was preached by Elder Kilbrith of Brettuns Mills. The dedication took place September 22, 1891 - Elder Starbird, first minister of the church, was master of ceremonies.
Rev. H.C. Munson, a Universalist, one of the early ministers of the church, composed a beautiful and scholarly hymn for the dedication service.
The church bell was purchased and hung in the belfry in the year 1895 or 1896. We take notice that the church had no bell for its first fifteen years.
In order to have a church organ, it is noted that John G. Coburn, Sr. solicited the townspeople by popular subscription, raising $150, for the purchase of the organ, this being some years after the church was built.
Before the organ was installed, there being no musical instrument available, the singing leader would pluck the tines of a tuning fork for the proper pitch so the congregation could sing.
The first chaplain was Luther Hutchinson. A contingent of Baptist ladies from Wilton organized the first ladies' church group, this being the same year the church was completed. This group of ladies selected the name of The Berry Mills Ladies' Circle for their group.
These ladies worked diligently for the church and bought the chandelier for the church and kerosene lamps and a carpet for the floor.
Around the turn of the century, approximately 1905, a stable was built behind the church. This building housed the hearse which the ladies' church group helped to purchase.
This horse drawn hearse was used for many years by the townspeople for funerals, until the services of the morticians' ambulances were available.
The Ladies' Church Circle has been revised many times and their by-laws have been changed from time to time, but this group still remains an active part in the church and its work.
Remembered now only by a few of the old times, but a real part of the church history was the old camp meeting grounds and meetings held there each August. The grounds consisted of about one acre, where stately pines stood erect with their spires looking skyward.
On the grounds, a stage, pulpit and choir platform were built which consisted of a roof and two sides of the building were enclosed. This building faced the grove of pines. In front of the pulpit and ascending the slope were rows upon rows of benches arranged in a semi-circle around the pulpit.
There were three cottages situated in the rear of the grove and owned by local people. These were occupied day and night during the yearly revival meetings.
A great many people from long distances attended these revivals coming to stay with friends in town as their only means of travel were horse drawn wagons. It is noted that as many as 3,000 were in attendance at one of the revivals.
The correspondent's mother, who is 81 years old, attended these meetings with her parents and has recalled many pleasant occasions at these gatherings. These were an annual event, and a real old fashioned revival was carried on with many people worshiping, singing, and testifying. There were also baptismal services held periodically in the river in front of Etta Berry's homestead, with the complete immersion of the initiated by the minister all clothed in their "Sunday best".
As the years went by, these meetings gradually faded out and the stately pines were cut down and sold. Some of the proceeds from the pines went to put new roofing on the church.
The stable that housed the hearse was sold and the old camp meeting grounds were no more. This took place about 1907.
The Carthage Union Church was incorporated and recorded at the registry of deeds in August 1945.
Many times this church has had to close its doors for lack of ministers and financial aid, but somehow by the interest of a few has managed to reopen its doors.
In 1933, the interested parties of the Carthage and Weld made plans to hire a minister as neither town had one. This minister would live in the parsonage in Weld and serve the churches of both towns. Rev. George F. Currier was hired to serve both churches and worked diligently until time untimely death in 1959.
The last minister to serve, Rev. Richard Hetzel, was called to South Dakota after being here 18 months. At this time, the idea of a Larger Parish was being planned.
For its 83 years, the Carthage Union Church has had its cycles of full pews, its eras of affluence, and of want, its years of service and neglect, its joys of matrimonials and conversions and its sadness of last rites. But down through its life, the mere fact of its presence has greatly contributed to the spiritual needs of its worshipers and has spread inspiration and influence to all who have lived in the shadow of its proud spire.
At the present time, the Larger Parish has been formed, which consists of the towns of Carthage, Weld, Phillips and Allen's Mills.
These towns are working diligently to get this Larger Parish organized and on its feet.
In the future, a Sunday School, young peoples' groups, and church couples' groups are being planned.
Although the old records are lacking in date, they reveal how the pioneers have labored for their spiritual needs up to the present time and although the old changeth giving place to new ideas, the spirit remains the same and we are confident that the white church on the knoll with its mellow bell will continue to serve generations to come.
The following is provided by Mary Pearson:
In 1969 the Carthage Church was closed, except for a Sunday School which was
held Sunday mornings by Mr. Tom Powell, a missionary of the American Sunday
School Union. Mr. Powell spoke to Rev. Nat Pearson, who was in Andover, about
his wish that church services could again be held in the church. Mr. Pearson
spoke with Mrs. Isabelle Hutchinson, and they agreed to attempt to start up
church services again. This was done and a small number of people came. (I
remember Arthur and Wilhelmina Hutchinson among the first there.) Mr. Pearson
felt it would be good to hold Bible classes in homes for more Bible teaching,
and this was started in the home of Nancy Williamson. Nancy and Lorna
Hutchinson were among a few who faithfully attended these.
Mr. Pearson was
called to be pastor. He stayed from 1969 to 1987. During that time a
Christian Education building was built by local workmen, which provided space
for Sunday School classes and a gathering place for social events. Also
during that time, the Church became a member of the Conservative
Congregational Christian Conference, a group which stresses the teaching of
the whole Word of God. The Carthage Union Church continues to be a member of
this organization today, in March, 2008
Rev. Warren Mason was the Pastor for the Carthage Union Church in 1994.
In January, 1997 the Carthage Union Church held its annual meeting under the leadership of Michael Woodrell. Mr. Woodrell and his wife, Linda, moved to Weld, Maine and began a joint pastorate of the Carthage Union Church and the Weld Grace Covenant Church.
Today the Carthage Union Church is attended by a few dedicated parishners and a minister is shared with the Dixfield Common Church. Slowly they are trying to build their numbers and have onging concerts and other events involving the community.