History of Methodism in Phillips 1822

History of Methodism in Phillips 1822 – 1967

This was compiled by Alice Douglas, Marcia Gould, and Maude Sparks

Rev. F W Schuster, Advisor


Establishment of Methodism in Phillips 1790-1835

"The advent of Methodism in Maine", as Rev. Stephen Allen, Church Historian has rightly said, "forms an important epoch in the religious history of the state; the labors of the itinerants, afford examples of heroic endurance hardly surpassed in the history of the county."

It has been 10 years since the close of the Revolutionary War. The magnificent harbors, and splendid rivers of Maine, with a large area of excellent soil at low prices, free grants of land to ex-soldiers, offered rare inducement to settlers. A tide of immigration had set in, and people from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and foreign lands poured in, until Maine boasted of a population of 100,000.

The settlements at first were on the seaboard and the banks of rivers. Settlers came up the Sandy River Valley. A Deacon Francis Tufts, in 1800, purchased land around Curvo-Falls, now known as Phillips, with the water rights. He erected his log house, mill and blacksmith shop. This was the nucleus of the coming village of Phillips. We find Strong and Avon as settlements in 1793.

Methodism, as this time in Maine, was in its infancy. The church consisted of eight travelling ministers, a few local preachers, and 1197 members. Three or four modest houses of worship have been built, while barns, school houses, and farmers’ kitchens often sufficed. The minister traveled large circuits on horse back and found a welcome among the neglected people in the sparsely settled portions of the state.

Emerson once said that "any institution is the lengthened shadow of a great leader." So in the since, World Methodism was John Wesley; American Methodism, Francis Asbury; and Maine Methodism was Jesse Lee. Jesse Lee was born in Virginia, March 12 1758. He was appointed Methodist Class Leader in 1778. He became a Trial Preacher in the North Carolina Conference in 1783 and was assigned to the Stamford Circuit in Connecticut in 1789. In 1790 he preached on the Boston Common and from this date on he had all of New England for his field. For three years he was the Chaplain of the House of Representatives in Washington D.C. and two years later he was Chaplain of the Senate. In 1793 Lee was appointed to Maine, preaching first in Saco on September 6, 1793. His itinerary included Farmington. In 1794 he was made Presiding Elder of a district which included Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. Strong and Avon were visited that year.

Jesse Lee was fired with missionery zeal, and was a man of great moral courage. He was of vigorous physique, imposing presence, and great power of endurance; he weighed 250 pounds. He rode horse back as did the other circuit riders of the day. He was a skilled horseman but in most of his travels he needed two horses, one for relay when the first horse was exhausted.

His supplied stored in saddlebags consisted of a Bible, a hymnbook, a few other books and necessary clothing. He went among strangers preaching, singing, praying, - in barns, schoolhouses, or in the open, wherever he found listeners. Whenever two or three were willing he formed a society.

Lee’s third trip to Maine was in November 1794. On November 26 he set out for Sandy River. It was a lonesome road; at one place there was no house for seven miles. He ate dinner in Farmington at Esq. Titcomb’s, then came on to Strong where he preached the next day. His text was Col 3:19. He came to Strong later in August of 1800, and again on August 30, 1808, his last visit to Maine.

The hasty trips of Lee to the Sandy River Valley and his "Pauline" labors were productive. Some of the leading families of the region were converted and brought into the Methodist Church. Among those were the Soules and Dudleys of Avon. The Methodist Historian Allen says, "No preacher in Maine ever moved the people like Jesse Lee".

Some of the families were converted were: The Titcombs, Knowltons, Gowers, and Gays of Farmington; the Clarks and Reads of Strong, and the Soules and Dudleys of Avon. There were substantial well know, and their decendents were contributed largely to the strength of Methodism.

The conversion of the Soule Family of Avon under the preaching of Jesse Lee meant much to the founding of Methodism in Strong, Avon, and Phillips. Preaching services were held at the Soule homestead, and Joshua Soule, later became a Bishop. His sister, Polly, who married and moved to Phillips greatly influenced Methodism in our town as you will read later.

Joshua was born on August 1 1781, at Bristol, Maine, and moved to Avon in 1795 with his father and family. When Enoch Mudge and other traveling evangelists came preaching, Soule was converted in June 1797. He was anxious to share in the heroic labors for the Lord. Joshua Taylor, then Presiding Elder in Maine, saw beneath the rudeness and rusticity of this country youth the promise which later distinguished his career. He took him as a traveling companion and assistant. In 1799, he was appointed to the Portland Circuit to assist Timothy Merritt.

In 1808 Soule drafted the plan of a delegated General Conference, one of the essential features of our Methodist Church Organization. When the church divided at the General Conference in 1844 over the slavery question, he chose to identify himself with the Methodist Episcopal Church South. He died in 1867 in Nashville, Tennessee.

A Methodist Society flourished for 20 years in Avon, and the Societies of Avon and Strong missioned to Phillips, then known as Curvo. In the year 1806 there were 20 families in the township of Phillips. In 1814, they quadrupled. In 1806 the first day of school was taught in the west end of the Greeley’s barn, on what is now called "Whip-o-Will Farm".

It is hard to establish the beginnings of Methodism in Phillips. In the year 1810, Mr. Peasley Hoyt, became the first Methodist to become a Phillips resident and its first Methodist Local Preacher. His son Henry was the grandfather of Cony M Hoyt and the late Daniel F Hoyt. He preached in the local barns and schoolhouses, and officiated at many funerals. Mr. Hoyt was a man of small stature, and somewhat square in build. When preaching, he had a habit of hitting his head, and at other times he would take a chair by its back and push it around. He was rather slow and deliberate in speech. As a minister he always began his sermon with these words. "Be ever ready to perform acts of kindness even to a worm".

A year or two later, Col. Theodore Marston moved to Philips, and established himself as a merchant. His wife was Polly Soule, a woman of great force of character, and a staunch Methodist. Another influential man was a merchant, Col. Joseph Dyer; and a physician Dr. J L Blake who came to settle in 1822. He made his home on the site of the Burchard Smith place, and the hill was named Blake Hill after him.

The year 1816 found many of the Phillips people migrating west. But in spite of the cold year (the year with no summer) there were still a large population in Phillips.

In Oct 1819, "The Methodist Society of North Avon" came into existance as an incorporated body.

Meanwhile Pease’s History says there was a preacher by the name of Wells, a man of singularity, who used to travel the county extensively about the time of the early days of Phillips and appeared occasionally in Phillips. He was reckoned as a Methodist in spite of singularity. However, there does not seem to have been any organization of a Methodist society here until 1822.

An account of this organization according to Pease is given by a Rev. C. C. Mason in 1845. The Methodist Society established in Phillips was in the year 1822. Phillips then belonged to the Strong Circuit, but the preachers seldom visited here, as there were but three members bearing the name of Methodist, one male and two females. At this period Dr. J. L. Blake moved into town and being ardently attached to the cause for Christ and having a particular affection for the Methodists, he invited Rev. Mr. Briggs, an English Methodist, then circuit preacher in Strong and Farmington Circuit, to visit, which he did, and formed a class of the three who were here, and five of the Blake family, and one other making nine in the whole. The names of those composing this class appear to be as follows: John L Blake, Polly Blake, W H Josselyn, Polly Marston, Nathaniel Perkins, Olive Soule, Sarah Perkins, Eunice Reed and Mary Wilbur. The account continues; "Brother John L Blake then took the preacher to the adjoining neighborhoods, and as Methodist preachers were rare in this section then, they attracted the curiosity of the people, who came out in such numbers as to fill the humble log dwellings in which the meetings were held. As soon as people became acquainted with the doctrines and principles of Methodism, they began to get under the banner and flee from sin and iniquity..."

(Pease story)

In 1825 a new era began with the creation of the Maine Conference in Gardiner. "A quarterly meeting was held in Phillips in 1826, with Father Kilburn presiding. Over 1,000 people attended. The place of this meeting was Dr. Blake’s barn. He ordered a shed to be built around teh barn for the accommodation of the barnyard full of people. Good was the result of the meeting". (Pease History)

It is interesting to note the Appointments, made to the churches.

The Strong Circuit, under whose wing Phillips remained until set off with ministers of its own in 1836. In 1825 E. Streeter and D. Copeland; 1826 E. Streeter and N P Deveraux; 1827 H. Ture and J. Smith; 1828 E. Streeter and G. Webber; 1829 B. Burnham, G. Webber and D. Cox; 1830 B. Burnham, H. Crane, and I. Dowing; 1831 H. True and A. Fuller; 1832 W. F. Farrington and E. Hotchkiss; 1833 W. F. Farmington, O. Bent, and J. Farrmington; 1834 J. Adams and J. Farrmington; 1835 R. C. Bailey and H. Dow

These men followed the doctrines and teaching of John Wesley and the humnology of John and Charles Wesley. The whole Bible was taught and thought they had their personal peculiarities, and were sometimes eccentric, they were sincere and mostly upright in character. They mostly fitted well with their pioneer age and were loved by the people.

The year 1835 marks another important epoch in the history of Methodism. In this year the Union Church was erected, and also the First Methodist Church, and both places were dedicated in the same year. The union was wooden, while the Methodist Church was built of brick. Both churches were considered good substantial structures. The utmost cordiality prevailed between the worshippers int he two edifices.

The brick church stood a few rods back from the Maine Street, on what is now called Park Street, and stood alongside that vicinity becuase it was believed that the main part of the village would be located there.

It was largely through the active exertions and liberality of such men as Dr. Blake, Col. Dyer, and Col. Marston, that this sanctuary was erected. The building was 48 feet long, by 40 feet wide. It was well lighted with ten windows, and also had tow front entrance doors, one on each side of the church with semi-circular lights over the doorways. The ceiling was high and elliptical, with choir-gallery over the front entrance, and pulpit to the rear of the church. Pews with straight backs were installed.

Elder Streeter presided at the Dedication Services of the new church. William Reed was the chorister, and Mrs. R. Marston was one of the treble singers. We may imagine the just pride of the Phillipians when they found themselves in the possession of two churches in the village, instead of worshipping in the barns and schoolhouses of the town. It was a great advance in the town’s life and must have proved to be a great and moral stabilizer in the lives of the people.

The services were held on alternate Sundays, and at the hours of 10:30 am and 2:30 pm. Many Methodists attended the Union Church on the other Sunday.

Among the singers in the choir-loft of the brick church, from time to time, may be noted the following:

Osgood Carr, R. W. Soule, Sarah Ross, Marjorie Ross, Miss Florence Carr, Miss Selina Bates, Mrs. Ada Hunt, Theodore Josslyn, the four sisters of Henry Dow, Mrs. Marston, and Moses Harden; with many others. Violins and cellos led the service of praise before the days of the organ. Henry Dow was one of the violinists, while Martin C. Kelley, was one of the celloists.

After purchasing an organ Miss Florida Dill became the first organist. Mrs. Kate Bickwell, and Mrs. Ada Hunter succeeded her. Following the custom of those days, the congregation faced the preacher through the servec with the exception of the praise-period, when they turned around in their pews and faced the organist and choir.

Hallelujahs and Amens were frequent ejaculations during the hours of worship in those days. The worshippers were not afraid to give vent to the happy feelings that possessed them. They were natural and spontaneous and they all seemed to thoroughly enjoy their religion. "All Hail the Power, "Jesus Lover of my Soul", "Rock of Ages" and many other similar hymns were the delight of the worshippers.

Among the leading Methodists worshipping at that time in the church were Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Toothaker, Mr. & Mrs. Luther Toothaker, William Ross, Samuel Blanchard, William Church, Daniel Badger and family, Dr. Houghton, Daniel Gordon, Clark Josselyn, and others with their families. The servies were well attended, with worshippers coming from Madrid, Tory Hill, and miles around, and a goodly number from the village itself.

What is now the home of Mr. & Mrs. Leonard Pratt became the first parsonage, and was much better built than most of the houses of that age. (this house is still standing – ed) The first house beyond the High Street entrance on Ross Avenue became the second parsonage.

In 1836, when Phillips became separated from the Strong Circuit, and headed a circuit of its own, it embraced all of the region above it, including the settlement of Rangeley. The Methodist Society was strong and prosperous for several years. After a time many of the leading families moved West. Meanwhile, the village had grown south from where the brickchurch was located, and a new church building more conveniently located became an absolute necessity.

The names of the ministers were as follows:

C L Browning

I T Thurston

George Child

Camp-Meeting John Allen

It is remembered and related sometimes how Camp Meeting John Allen the evangelist used to shout to the Amen Corner men "Give it to ‘em, Brother and Give it to ‘em" when they would burst out with words of approval

I W Moore

H W Latham

H W Latham & C Phenix

H Chase

C C Mason

CC Mason

1846-7 W Wyman

1848-9 W H Foster

1850 J Hawks

1851 Daniel Waterhouse

1852 no minister noted

1853 –4 S B Brackett

1855 "supplied" (?)

1856-7 S B Chase

1858-9 S E Pierce

1860 S W Hathaway

1861 J Mason

1862 J Moore

1863 E Smith

1864 N D Witham and J P Weeks

1865-6 E T Adams, Jonathan Fairbanks & John Mitchell

It is interesting to note that the first baptism took place on November 12 1859, but the first class-meeting was not held until June 10 1860. There were about 100 Methodists in Phillips in 1869.

In "The year Book and Historical Links of Phillips" by Rev. J. E. Clancy, 1900" there are three biographical sketches from the brick church period. The first one refers to Hon. W. H. Josselyn, who was born in 1813. At the age of 20 he moved to Phillips. For 30 years he maintained a successful business, and was recognized as a man of strict proberty. He held many trusts. He was the mainstay of the church, contributing generously of time and money. He married Mary Marston, a niece of Bishp Soule. Four fine children – two boys and two girls were born to them.

The second relates to Dr. A. S. Ladd, one of the sons of Captain Jesse E Ladd of Phillips. The record states "Dr. Ladd holds a prominent place in Maine Methodism. He has been Presiding Elder in the Augusta and Lewiston districts. During forty years in the Methodist itineracy he served acceptabley many important churches in the East and Maine Conferences. He has been a delegate to the General Conference, and the standard-bearer to the Prohibitionists, having been that party’s condidate for Governor. A brother of Dr. Ladd, the Hon. J E Ladd, has been several times elected Mayor of Gardiner"

The third biographic record related to William Ross, who was born in Bowdoinham in 1813. He came to Phillips in 1839. He was leading member in the church, and an active supporter of the worthwhile things of life. He raised a family of seven sons and four daughters, and died in 1870, respected by all, and mourned by the church.

The year 1867 marks another era in the history of Methodism in Phillips. The second church was built in the lower part of the Village. In 1866 Henry L. Whitcomb, a lawyer, deeded the land for $125 on which the present church stands. The deed stated that the building must be constructed so as not be shut off the lights of the Charles Pease art studio, the home now of Mrs. Corace Wing. Charles Pease was the father of the author of the Pease History often referred to in this booklet. The land in back of the church was sold in 1838 to the Cemetery Associaton.

The bulding committee was composed of William Ross, Daniel Badger, Daniel Gordon, Dr. J N Houghton, and Abner Toothaker. The pastor was Jonathan Fairbanks who was paid a salary of $467 a year. The membership of the church and circuit was 313.

The contractor in charge of building operations went into liquidation before the building was finished involving the Society in serious trouble and expense. Not until the ministry of Rev. E H Symond was the church freed from debt. Mrs. T. Marston gave $500 towards clearing the debt, while last bills of $1,000 were paid by the members of the building committee. There was a bit of a scandal about the building; also when the contractors refused to give up drinking liquor on the job. With the interior of the building complete, it was voted to have the pews free of rent which they have been ever since.

Old church records show in the year 1868 Phillips and West Phillips reported at their quarterly conference members 63; probation members 14; value of the church, $3,000; Sunday Schools, 1; Officers and Teachers 8; Scholars 40.

1869 marked the year of the big flood known as the "Pumpkin Freshet" because of the many pumpkins which could be seen bobing along the flooded Sandy River. "In the year 1879, a gracious revival of religion broke out in West Phillips, which rejoiced the peopel very much and added 55 new members to the church".

The Class-meeting was in vogue at this time, and Messers. N. Wilbur and P. Butterfield were the leaders. In 1879, the Phillips Circuit was composed of the following places: Phillips, West Phillips, Madrid and Rangeley. Two years later we find that Weld and Avon had been added. During this time the interest was high and progress was reported in all church activity by the Recoreding Secretary, G. H. Cushman.

It was in this period of church life and activity that a strong and original personality came forth from Weld. Rev. David B. Holt D.D. who faithfully served the Methodist Church many years. In 1879 he entered the ministry of the East Maine Conference, and served in both of the annual conferences of Maine. He was appointed Presiding Elder (District Superintendent) and served ten years on the Portland District and six years on the Augusta District. The degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred by Syracuse University, for his efficient labors as a preacher and executive.

The Rev. Mr. Symonds (1878-1879) received a Local-Preacher’s License in 1878, and was sent by the presiding-Elder, to supply the Phillips and Weld Circuit. He was afterwards received "on trial" in the Maine Conference, and became an Elder in the Methodist Episcopal Church. He was an intensely spiritual man. And thought only six years in the Ministry, he won 500 people to Christ. He was only thirty-nine when he died. The Phillips Phonograph, a local newspaper which was printed where the Community House now is, gave considerable space to missionary-sermon preached by him in the Phillips, church, on Sunday, November 24, 1878, from the text of St. Matthew 5:7. They felt it was a splendid textual sermon.

At this time the "Love Feast", instituted by John Wesley, was held occasionally in the Phillips Methodist Church and was found to be helpful and inspirational. This service which is still observed each year at the Maine Annual Conference, is a combination testimonial meeting and Holy Communion.

The Social side of the church’s life was not neglected, and various entertainments were in vogue from time to time. The Christmas festivities in 1878 included a Drama, a Farce, and occupied two evenings. Mr. N. P. Noble, (Mrs. Kathleen Toothaker’s father) sang several negro-melodies. People came from Farmington, Rangeley, Strong, Madrid, and Phillips. The newspapers of the day mention other social functions, including the Ladies Circle, remembered for their sewing, and good times. These meetings were held, as many still are, in the homes of members. Once there were seventy in attendance old and young alike.

By this time the town of Phillips had grown considerably with 1,437 inhabitants, and fifty or more places of business. 1879 saw a significant advance with the completion of the Farmington to Phillips narrow-guage railroad, and the arrival of the first train on November 20th of that year, amid the shouts of the people. This event meant much for the future of the town.

At this time, 1881, an educational advance was also made when it was voted to grade the village-district school into three departments, Primary; Intermediate; and Grammar. It was not until ten years later that the High-School became a permanent part of the school system of Phillips.

In 1882, the Rev. M. B. Greenhalgh served the church for one year, with the membership standing at one hundred two. He was followed in 1883 by Rev. W. H. Foster, who also served a like period of time. Rev. Cyrus A Laughton came to the Charge in april of 1884, and did some good service during a two year stay.

The Village of Phillips was incorporated, and its charger approved on March 4th of that year. The town itself had been incorporated as the 193rd town on February 25, 1812.

In was in the year 1885, that a large bell was presented to the M.E. Church, by Captain J. E. Thompson. It weighed 1,000 pounds, and was installed by J. Z. Everett who was a faithful member of the Official Board. For many years its peals rang forth from the bellfry of the church, until it became cracked by inconsiderate people celebrating the Forth of July. Captain Thompson, the donor, was a retired merchant. He was the first signer of the Phillips Savings Bank, June 6, 1852; and for eighteen years he was the general ticket agent for the Sandy River Railroad.

In May 1886, the Rev. J. R. Masterman took charge of the circuit. Several of the Tylers and Cushmans came into the membership at that time. He was followed in 1887 by Rev. Thomas N. Kewley, who remained on the charge for two years. While lliving here he married a woman from Phillips, Miss Selina Beedy, the daughter of Mr. And Mrs. S. H. Beedy. This was Mr. Kewley’s first appointment. He served eleven before he retired. At this time. Mr. And Mrs. James Noble became identified with the local church and for long years their life and willing services proved a blessing. A son of Mr. Noble became an author of some notable books, and a prominent minister in the Congregational Church. Another son the Hon. N. P. Noble bcame a valuable citizen of our town, a banker and Senator.

In 1889, a good and noted member passed away in the person of Daniel W. Badger. Mr. Badger was one of the bulwarks of the church, a loyal member who generously gave money and talent. He was a trustee and steward of the church, and was promnent in the brick church period. Later he was a member of the Building Committee for the new church, and did his share to pay off the final bills. He was born in Industry, Maine. He married Mary Densmore of Anson, at the bride’s town in 1825. Fourteen children were born of this union. In 1851 he moved to Phillips and tooka a farm on the Weld Road now owned by Allen and Beal, where he remained until his death, March 24 1889.

The Rev. George W. Barber came to the church in 1889, for one year. There were then 71 members and 169 in the Sunday School.

The Rev. Melville E. King followed Mr. Barber. Three marriages of interest during his pastorate were in the Ross family; Leland D., W. J., and Fred M. During the pastor’s vacation, taken on account of illness in 1890, Rev. William Wood acted as Supply, for the church and did a fine job. Meanwhile, Pastor King made a trip to Palestine and authored several good books. Much loved, he died at the age of eighty at Waverly, Massachusetts, March 3 1926.

The Conference of 1893 appointed Rev. W. A. Nottage to the church, and for a period of five years he had a most successful ministry. He recieved forty person On Probation. Among those married by him are to be found the following names; W. T. Toothaker, Walter s. Hodges, Charles E. Dill, Arthur D. Graffam, Lester E. Thompson, Walter S. Toothaker, N. H. Harnden, Charles T. Skifield, Daniel F. Field, and W. B. Larrabee. Of these couples still living in 1967 are Mrs. Dill, Mrs. Graffam, and Mrs. Mary Thompson.

A significant happening in the town at this time, 1898, was the installation of Phillips’ fine water system. Hydrants freely placed about town insured speedy help in case of fire.

Rev. Franklin Fickett came to Phillips in 1898. It was during his mininstry that the third Parsonage was purchased ont he Main Street from Mrs. P. H. Saunders for $1,250. Mr. Fickett served for two years. It was he who organized an Epworth League, which met on Sunday Evening, before the evening worship service. This league later became the Methodist Yougth Fellowship. He organized a male quartette. He received 22 persons On Probation, and 14 into full Membership. He died at Bethel, Maine, September 3, 1915.

At the turn of the centery, 1900, Rev. J. E. Clancy came as a young minister to his second charge. He left a valuable legacy behind him in the form of a Booklet, entitled, "The Methodist Episcopal Year-Book and Historical Links of Phillips". It gave a brief sketch of the town, many historical facts, along with local church brieflets. It also contained advertisements including an illustration of the high button shoe popular at that time. It had pictures of the church, parsonage, pastor, and two local legislators namely. There were ninety two members then with ninety seven in the Sunday School.

The conference of 1902 sent Rev. John A. Ford to labor in the church. He spent four happy years in the service. During the second year of his ministry in town, he officiated at the funeral of one of the leading men of his church, Luther H. Toothaker.

Mr. Toothaker was one of the prominent personalities in Phillips Methodism. He was born February 11 1825. Later he came to Phillips where he lived for the rest of his life. He married twice, his first wife being Sophia D. Boodry, who died in 1865. His second wife was Clementina W. Brown. Four sons and one daughter were born of the second marriages. Both Mr. and Mrs. Toothaker were were loyal and devoted workers in the church. He held the office of trustee, steward, member of the Estimating Committee, and member of thirty-one years. He died at Farmington in 1920 at the age of fifty-nine, and was interned at East Wilton.

William A. Millett began his ministry here on November 27, 1909, and remained till October 1912. During his ministry, the difficulty of heating the church satisfactorily was overcome, by raising the entire church floor, reducing the air space within the building. Mr. Millett was a middle aged man in poor health, but still very active. Among the many persons married by him were Mr. and Mrs. Abel Bunnell, and Mr. and Mrs. Fred C. Bangs. Both of those ladies are still living.

From December 1912 until August 1913, the Rev. W. W. Laite took charge of the church. He was formerly of the Evangelical Church in Salem, Maine. Although he supplied the chruch he did not became of member of the Maine Annual Conference until 1915.

Miss Bessie F. Crowell, a native of Nova Scotia, was welcomed to the church in November 1913. She remained on the charge a period of four and a half years until April 11 1918, and was noted for her faithful visitation in the parish. She is fondly remembered by many of the present older members of the congregation, especially by Olive Ross Thompson, who remembers clearly that when she was a teenager Miss Crowell called her a "reprobate".

One coupled joined in matrimony by Miss Crowell was F. Howard Ross and Mattie Bunnell. Howard is a faithful member of our church and has for many years been Chairman of the Board of Trustees and a Choir member.

Coming from the West Paris Church, Rev. Leslie W. Grundy was appointed by the conference of 1918. He and his wife, Olive, did splendid work during a stay of almost five years. Thought not in robust health he was a hard worker. It was during his ministry that the present Upper and Lower Vestries were made, by cutting off a portion of the auditorium for that purpose. A steel roof was placed on the top of the church building, and the tall spire (considered unsafe) was lowered to its present height. All the alterations cost about $2,000. The people were encouraged to give and were aided by a donation of $600 from the Conference Church-Aid Society. Mr. Grundy himself also made several improvements to the parsonage property being skillful at this type of work.

He had a radio sending and receiving set and at one time the church "folks" were at a gathering at the parsonage to listing. It didn’t come in well so Mr. Grundy and several young men including Robert McLeary and Russell Soleg (both local preachers at the time) retired to the stable and transmitted their own radio program to the delight of those gathered.

On March 8, 1921, Kathleen Wood who is now the pastor in East Boothbay was baptized by the District Superintendent, D. B. Holt. We are very proud of our native daughter, who has been such a faithful worked in the Maine Conference.

The date November 25, 1923 saw the Rev. A. W. Wentworth as pastor of the Phillips Church. He also preached occasionally in Freeman and West Phillips. He was a very enthusiastic preacher, and most devoted to his work. Evangelistic messages often came from his heart and lips. He had much to do with the conversion of James B. Ross who went out to preach for several years and then returned to barbaring here in Phillips. Mr. Ross is especially remembered for his friendly contact by letter with all th elocal boys in the service during World War II.

The Rev. George C Smith, originally from England, came to Phillips in 1925, and was able in all aspects of church life. Poor health and the advise of doctors had played a part in sending Mr. Smith, the Pastor, to Phillips, but one would not have suspected it to see him stride down the street. He was not a tall man, but was very energetic. At the Epworth League monthly Socials in the Upper Vestry, he played the games as enthusiastically as those in their teens.

He made it a point to call very frequently and informally at the homes of all his congregation. People remember how he would open the front door and call " ‘ello, ‘ello, anybody ‘ome? This is Pastor Smith, the Pastor."

In March one year he made such a call at the Albert Sedgeley home of Dodge Road. Late that night he called on the telephone. All of the family had long since been asleep. But Lucille, a school teacher in Wilton, who was home for the weekend rushed to the phone to hear Pastor Smith’s asking anxiously if she had seen his palms. He said he had left them on the hall tabled when he called. She hurried to look and found Pussy Willows there. When she related this to Pastor Smith, he reassured here that the Pussy Willows were palms, and that he had planned to use them to illustrate the Children’s Story in the worship service the next day. She promised to see that they were taken to the church the next morning. But before retiring, Lucille’s curiosity led her to the dictionary where she discovered that our local pussy willows could be said to be in the family of palms.

The outside bulletin board was first erected on the lawn while Mr. Smith was Pastor. Later it was placed on the front of the church building. Cement steps were built at the front of the church, the gift of Mrs. F. M. Atwood. Miss Luette Timberlake presented a new tray of communion cups; and the old bell, which had remained silent for many years was taken down and re-cast in a Baltimore foundry at the cost of $445. The parsonage interior was repaired by the Loyal Daughters, a group of women organized by Miss Timberlake, a much loved member. Many Times through the years the record shows the service of the Loyal Daughters who cleaned the church, paid the janitor, papered or painted the interior of the parsonage, and gave to ministorial support.

During Pastor Smith’s stay the will to work and to organize for special projects was in the air. Under the leadership of the Organist and Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Agnes Beedy, several 6th and 7th grade girls became the Rainbow Light Club, and by a series of sales on the parsonage lawn, and selling hulled corn from door to door, etc, earned money for two stained glass windows in the church, and donated toward the repairing of the bell. Several families also responded by adding memorial windows to the church.

Important, also, was the research and time involved in writing a "History of Methodism in Phillips from 1794 to 1927" by Rev. George C Smith. This was printed in the Franklin Journal in several installments and some of the towns people cut it out and placed it in scrapbooks. One is available from the Historical Society of Phillips.

Pastors from 1928 – 1931 included Benjamin J Saw and Harry P. Taylor. During Mr. Shaw’s pastorate some change was made in the arrangement of the platform at the front of the church including the removal of the (Amen?????) on the left. Mrs. Shaw was instrumental in helping the Loyal Daughters raise the money by a huge Sample Sale. Rev. Shaw is perhaps best remembered for his stand against Sunday baseball. The law stated that games could be held unless someone objected. Mr. Shaw did! His position was enthusiastically supported by some and equally enthusiastically opposed by others. Some saw he had more backing from the town’s Baptist than from the Methodists.

Harry P Taylor, who walked with a slight limp from a World War I would, was a fine preacher but served the church only one year.

Continuing the Church’s history since 1931; there was Rev. F. S. Williamson, (1931-35) who great interest in young people probably inspired Mildred Bangs and Kathleen Wood to go into Christian service. Mildred, now the wife of Rev. Robert Holcomb, carries on the life of service for our Master as the wife of an able pastor of the New England Methodist Conference. Kathleen, who has been mentioned before as pastor at East Boothbay, has served effectively in several long pastorates throughout the State of Maine.

In his five years of service here, Mr. Williamson did much visiting in the parish, was interested in school activities, sometimes serving as a judge of dramatic and speaking contests. On Fridays at noon he held a religious service in the local clothespin mill. His real interest in people brought him their affection in return.

A faithful, enthusiastic soul usually present at worship services through the first half of this twentieth century was Zarissa Ross, wife of Raymond Ross. "Aunt Ceris", as everyone fondly called her, was a small but spirited woman. She loved to sing the old gospel songs. More than once she had been known to rise in the church when the congregation was "dragging" behind the organist and say "You sound as if you are dead – lets put a little spirit in it". Forthwith up would go her hands directing the song in a more lively, "peppy" manner. After church her customary cherry chatter made the 15 minutes between the morning service and the Sunday School session as lively and cozy as a family gathering in a kitchen on Thanksgiving. This bit of socializing at the back of the church after the service has perhaps been another reason why our church has been called by many such a friendly church.

Rev. Elijah Mercer (1936), a native of Newfoundland, sensed the need of a women’s group for the younger set, because they were not joining the Loyal Daughters. With five or six interested workers, she formed a chartered group called The Wesleyan Society, later known as the "Wesleyans". Through the years until it finally became the W.S.C.S. it has meant much socially, financially, and spiritually to the church. Because of ill health Mr. Mercer took a Sabbatical Year in 1937 and Rev. R. C. Dalzell served the Phillips Church.

The next pastor was the Rev. George P Sparks (1938-41). Mr. Sparks, also a native of Newfoundland, had been instrumental in encouraging Elijah Mercer to go to Maine to preach. Mr. Sparks was a tall, dignified man with a fine singing voice. The church choir was very active while he was here, and included many of the Wesleyans, joined at this time by the booming voice of Raymond Berry who, with his wife is still a faithful member of the choir. There were lively and interesting evening services with an average attendance, even in winter, of fifty or sixty.

At this time came the union of the three large branches of Methodism; the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and the Methodist Protestant Church, necessitating some reorganization, including changing our name to The Methodist Church. Other changes were the appointment of Lay Leaders for each local church, the formation of the Woman’s Society of Christian Service in place of the former Ladies Aids, and with the discontinuance of the Epworth League. A new group came into being known as the Methodist Youth Fellowship. After four years Mr. Sparks was appointed to the church at York Village where he preached until he retired in 1943.

In 1942 the Rev. W. H. H. Taylor came to Phillips. Although a retired member of the Maine Conference, he served here for three years. He was a native of England, and a Wesleyan Methodist, a lovable soul who was always "sharing" with the congregation some beautiful thought he found in his reading. He introduced the church to missionary leaflets which he placed on the table to stir interest. He encouraged attendance at District and State Conferences to make the congregation aware of the outside world. Being retired, he did not attempt a full scale program but nevertheless did a lot of calling. He was a fine singer and with a united choir put on an especially fine Easter concert.

The years from 1945-47 were a period of scarcity of pastors partly because so many were or had been serving as Chaplains, and other young men were not free to enter the ministry. No one was available for Phillips. But a young man, a resident of Vienna, who wanted to study for the ministry, Donald Stetson, came to supply for morning service and to assist in the Sunday School. While taking the studies for the ministry, the first year, he carried through the Conference program on Visitation Evangelism with some good results. Sunday School and young people’s programs held up fairly well, supported by officers and teachers. Mr. Stetson was forced to return home due to illness in his family and our church was without a pastor. But Rev. Roy S. Graffam, pastor at Strong, supplied the pulpit in the Sunday afternoon service and layman maintained the Sunday School until the spring of 1947.

When the conference appointed the Rev. H. F. Aldrich (1947-49). Coming from the Superintendency of the Augusta District, he was the best preacher the church had had in years, if ever. Self-educated, widely read, versed in the organization of Methodism, yet he was willing to work at anything from gardening to milking cows for a sick neighbor, to painting the vestry floors and acting as janitor. He was responsible for refinishing the vestries, both up and downstairs, for a new floor on the platform in the sanctuary and new pulpit furnishing, rugs, alter drape, cross and candlesticks. He enoucraged members to give as memorials, the communion table, the children’s alter and lecterm used in the lower vestry as a center of worship for evening services and Bible studies. The "horse and buggy days" now being over, the old horse sheds which had served well in the previous era were voted to be torn down in September 1948. He strove to create a social atmosphere through fellowship suppers for church and parish. On Thursday nights he often taught those who came to church from the books of Isaiah and Revelations.

Mr. Aldrich emphasized work with the Methodist Youth Fellowship one year and put on a fine Christmas play. He organized the Dailing Vacation Bible School which had not been held in Phillips since Mr. Williamson’s day. He increased insurance on the church buildings, invited the editor of Zion’s Herald, Emory Buck, and Bishop Lord to visit and preach in our church, on two read letter Sundays he inaugurated the church’s adoption of two German refugee families to whom clothing and food were sent through "Caro" and from whom we received letters in return.

Some of the ladies remember when they worked on a quilt – finishing it off with scalloped edges and were ready to sell chances on it when Mr. Aldrich intervened because to do so would be to encourage and promote gambling. Maude Sparks President of the group, solved the dilemma by selling the quilt to a woman in Strong.

During Mr. Aldrich’s pastor to Mr. Fred Ross, resented the church with the electric organ which over the years has enriched our worship. Rev. Mr. Aldrich went to be pastor of the church at Old Orchard in December of 1949.

For a time the church was dependent on supplies; chief of whom was the late Rev. A. T. Oliver, who was retired after long service as a pastor and District Superintendent. Mr. Oliver was very much liked but age and frail health made an aggressive program impossible. The Sunday Evening Fellowship Suppers of this era are still well remembered especially those luscious pecan rolls Mrs. Olive Thompson used to bring.

With the coming of the Annual Conference of 1950 an accepted supply pastor taking the course of study, Rev. Norman C. Young, came to the church, with his wife and little daughter. They were a young, attractive family. The small room in the parsonage which for many years had served as a study was redecorated and now became a nursery.

Mr. Young continued the program of visitation evangelism, forming a "Fisherman’s Club". Several new people and families joined the church at this time. Groups from the church accompanied by the pastor attended the young people’s camp at Winthrop. Once they went to hear Dr. Pickett, Bishop of India. After three years, Mr. Young went to the church at Danforth, and is now serving the Methodist Church in Belfast.

IN 1953 the conference appointed Rev. Gertrude Harris as the Phillips pastor, who was our second woman minister. A woman of superior intellect and a fine administrator, she delivered thought provoking sermons. She built up the Youth Fellowship, and got the church to give financial aid to boys and girls attending Methodist Camp. She encouraged Bible Study and Prayer Groups, and led the way toward reorganization of the woman’s groups.

A joint Vacation Bible School with the Congregational Church was held. Watch Night Services on New Year’s Eve, as well as a Parsonage open house. She introduced the three-hour Good Friday Service held in the Congregational Church with guest pastors. She gave religious instruction in the Avon Valley School and often a speaker at Business Professional Woman’s Clubs and other organizations. In 1956-57, she also supplied the pulpit in the Fairbanks Union Church. She held regular meetings of the official Board to keep all informed and started "The Lord’s Acre Plan" to help finance the church program.

By the will of Mr. Walter S. Toothaker, who died suddenly in 1953, the church was (?????) a sum of $1,000 which was later used to provide folding doors at the rear of the sanctuary. Mr. Toothaker had served as Recording Steward for over fifty years. At this time his daughter, Mrs. Gladys Guerney, gave $200 requesting that a part of this serve as a memorial to her father and be used for a new pulpit Bible and other appointments in the chancel. Resolutions commanding Brother Toothaker’s faithful service to the church were read. These were adopted by the Official Board and are now to be found in the book of the Recording Steward.

Another great loss to the church at this time was the death of Mrs. Hattie Ross, whose life was full of good works and devotion to the church.

While serving our church, Miss Harris was ordained and became a member of the Maine Annual Conference. In 1957, she went from Phillips to Greenville. In 1967 she entered the retired relationship with the Annual Conference but remains active, and is presently on the staff of the Koinonia Foundation. This group prepares Americans for living abroad by deepening their spiritual resources and teaching them how to adopt to new environments; and gives to persons coming to the United States support and fellowship during their first adjustment period in our culture. During the summer she served as a volunteer co-director of a retreat center called Merrybrook, Inc. In Wells Vermont.

Next came the appointment of Rev. Russell Fowler to the Phillips Charge. He was a pastor to all in the community. He secured 97 subscriptions to Together, Methodism's family magazine. He sponsored a "Fill a Pew" project and a lenten project which increased church attendance. During Miss Harris’ pastorate the Sunday School had increased to doulbe what it had been for 20 years. With all the calling Mr. Fowler did this fine attendance was bettered. Sometime there were over 95. The fine attendance was due in part to devoted churchmen who provided transportation for children from Avon and other outlying areas.

At this time a long range planning board was set up by the Official Board, and the project of redecorating the interior of the church was begun. New tables were purchased. And a dividing curtain drape was installed. Insurance on both church and parsonage was increased, and the pastor’s salary was increased by $500, striving to reach the minimum salary of the Maine Conference.

A sad duty was performed by Rev. Fowler when he was called to officiate at the funeral of Dr. Cecil F. Thompson. His sudden death was a great loss to the town and to Franklin County. A favorite to many homes, he had been a member of the church and its board of Trustees for over 30 years.

Chapter V

In November of 1959, the District Superintendent, Rev. Edward Allen, and Bishop Lord decided to transfer Rev. Fowler to Fairfield because of the sudden death of another pastor, and to appoint Rev. Bertram O. Smith of Unity as pastor of the two churches at Strong and Phillips.

For over 100 years the Phillips church had had its own minister. The church felt strongly that a two-point charge would not be beneficial. Despite opposition to this plan, the hierarchy created the Strong-Phillips Charge. The move was made in late November, and the Official Board welcomed the new pastor, his wife, and family on December 28, 1959, with a special meeting and social evening. The Smiths lived in Strong and during this time, the parsonage was rented to one of our members. During Mr. Smith’s pastorate two fine films were sponsored by the church. The first was "I behold His Glory"; the second was "A Man called Peter" which was shown May 7-8, 1960 to appreciative audiences in the Phillips Theatre.

During this pastorate, Lyman Wheeler, who had served as a Sunday School teacher and a member of the Official Board for many years, passed away. His wife known to old and young as "Bertha" move to New Jersey to live with her daughter Mary. Bertha contributed her talents and wit as a teacher of the adult class in Sunday School, as Recording Steward, and as a president of the W.S.C.S. It was a great loss to the church when she moved away.

In the summer of 1961, Rev. Smith accepted the pastorate of a Congregational Church in Connecticut, and Rev. John O. Hoffman of Maryland came to the Strong-Phillips Charge. In the five years he served the church, he greatly increased attendance at worship. He accomplished much with the combined MYF group from the two churches in his charge. In 1963, they entertained the Main Conference Youth Rally.

In February of 1962, the Church building Committee was formed, and under the guidance of Rev. Hoffman and the chairmanship of Mr. Erlon Voter a plan was formulated to put a basement under the church in order to provide Church School space and a fellowship hall. Boosted by Mr. Hoffman’s enthusiasm the project was launched. By April of 1963, the project was presented to a Church Conference; the estimated cost was $11,500. The congregation voted not to start until money for the initial cost was at hand. The money came in slowly at first from individuals, Church School, MYF, and W.S.C.S. projects and a $500 gift from the National Board of Missions. In addition, $1023.50 worth of stock which had been given to the church by Mrs. Loon Timberland of Portland, was sold. Finally the parsonage on Main Street was sold to Mr. Lawrence Coffren on April 17, 1965 for $3,000.

That same month the excavation {was} begun by K. & H. Foster of Wilton. The Church was jacked up with only one slight casuality. One Sunday morning when the choir burst forth with the anthem, a light shade on the right side of the church came crashing down onto an empty pew. Gradually more and more work was completed. Late in the winter of 1966, the MYF and Church School classes were held down stairs.

In May 1966, the farewell party for Rev. and Mrs. Hoffman was apppropriately held down stairs. In spite of the bare walls, unfinished ceiling, and piles of lumber, the warmth and attractiveness of the gathering were a preview of the future usefulness of this facility.

Mr. Hoffman was a congenial, jovial man who won the hearts and support of all, townspeople as well as the Methodists. Mr. Hoffman left in June 1966, to return to his native state after having served Phillips for four years while a student at Boston University of Theology and one year as full time resident pastor.

The present pastor, Rev. Frederick William Schuster, arrived in June 1966. He is legally blind. His wife Janet helps him by ready to him and driving the car. They have a loveable baby girl who arrived in October. Mr. Schuster is a deep thinker and administrator who has a plan for combining the church commissions for efficient operation.

Our basement now has new lighting and a new ceiling, painted walls and floor, and a kitchen on the way to completion. In the face of a classroom shortage in the public school, it is being used to house a grammar school class. It has been the meeting place for various community groups as well as serving in the traditional way for suppers and receptions.

During this past year we lost of efficient church organist, Mrs. Agnes Beedy, who is ill. Mrs. Beedy had been organist for the church since she was a teenager and had hardly missed a Sunday in over 50 years. She often taught a Church School class, too. And for several years she lead a junior choir.

During the summer of 1967, the church lost another faithful member and worker. Mrs. Olive Thompson moved to Vermont to become a housemother at Johnson State College. The community and the church where she served so well will miss her. Mrs. Thompson sand in the choir, taught Church School, was a delegate to Annual Conference, and before she left was pianist and Church Treasurer. She is also author of two books.

Who are the people who worked with the pastors through all those years? We hesitate to mention them for fear we will forget someone’s faithful ancestor. But here are a few:

The old records mention the names: Toothaker, Ross, Blanchard, Church, Marston, Badger, Gordon, Josselyn, Thompson and others. Later Tyler, Cushman, Noble, Steward, Everett, Atwood, Beedy, Bunnell, Timberlake, Ross, Toothaker, Fairbanks, Morton, Bangs, Fogg, McLain, Wood, Webber, Hardy, Leighton, Thompson, Bean, Berry, Gould, Wheeler, Grover, White, Sedgley, and others. Even now we have many of the same names but new faces with Fairbanks, Voter, Douglas, Sparks, Thompson, Betty, Kinney, Wilbur, Allen, Ross, Heath, Pinkham, Ellis, Wilkins, Masterman, White and others.

The 100th Centennial of the building of our present is to be celebrated September 16 & 17 of this year with a Hyumn sing on Saturday, a worship service Sunday morning with Bishop Mathews as speaker, a pilgrimage to historical Methodist sites in Phillips and a fellowship dinner. A pageant and consecration service for the basement Sunday afternoon will conclude the celebration.

The church has tried through the years to most the needs of people in changing times. As in many other churches, there have been some disagreements. There have been times when everyone wants to be "chief" and no one want to be just an "Indian". As other times leaders have been hard to find. May God continue to bless the people that His church may not be just a building or just a congregation, but a blessing in His name.