April 21, 1821
Mr. Randall Johnson, Clerk of the First Congregational Parish of Westbrook;
Let me not be considered a member of this parish. I am in belief a Universalist.
This statement was published in LB Chapman's Grampa's Scrapebook and led me to consider the significance of Timothy's letter, and to wonder what was happening at the time he chose to write. Mr Chapman devoted several articles under the heading 'Westbrook, the Battlefield of the Religious Clans.' The following contains the names of others who also petitioned to be dismissed from the Congregational Parish. Some of the names will be familiar to people who follow this blog and are interested in the history of Portland, particularly that of the Back Cove (East Deering).
1820 Maine becomes an independent State. The state Constitution is ratified,and modeled after the United States Constitution, contains in Article I,a section on religious freedom which reads:
You will note the names of Timothy Galvin, Joseph M. Sawyer and Brackett Sawyer, all souls interred at the Grand Trunk Cemetery in East Deering.
All men have a natural and unalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, and no one shall be hurt, molested, or restrained in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshiping God in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience, nor for his professions or sentiments, provided he does not disturb the public peace, nor obstruct others in their religious worship; --- and all persons demeaning themselves peaceably, as good members of the State, shall be equally under the protection of the laws, and no subordination nor preference of any sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law, nor shall any religious test be required as a qualification for any office or trust , under this State; and all religious societies in this State, whether incorporate or un-incorporate, shall at all times have the exclusive right of electing their public teachers, and contracting with them for their support and maintenance.
To get a grasp on the importance of Timothy's actions and that of the others, I needed to go back in time to the formation of the Ancient town of Falmouth when Maine was a district of the Massachusetts Bay Colony; a colony within a colony. At this time, Falmouth comprised all of what we know as Spurwink (Cape Elizabeth and South Portland), the Neck (Portland), Presumpscot River (New Casco/Falmouth), Capisic (Stroudwater) Sacarrapa (Westbrook) and Back Cove (Deering), and some of the Islands.
In 1718, when Falmouth was established, there was no separation of Church and State. On the contrary, only 'freemen' were allowed to vote and property owners were compelled under the union of Church and State to pay rates for the support of one legalized church.; explicitly the Standing Order; the Orthodox Congregational Church.
To become a freeman each person was legally required to be a responsible member of the Congregational Church. The person was made a freeman by the General Court of the colony, and also by the quarterly courts of the counties. None but freemen could hold office or vote for rulers. The regulation was far modified by Royal edict in 1664, as to allow individuals to be made freemen who could obtain certificates of their being correct in doctrine and conduct from clergymen acquainted with them. This ruling applied at the initial settlement of the area, but still had implications for those who came after hostilities had lessened from the French and Indian Wars.
On or about the early 1720's Isaac Sawyer and his brothers came to the area. Isaac, his wife and children had come to Maine from Gloucester, Massachusetts. William Willis' History of Portland and the Rev, Thomas Smith in his Diary refer to Sawyer as a proprietor of the First Church of Falmouth as having signed a covenant as one of the first members on July 19, 1727. Isaac sawyer was the grandfather of Anthony, Zachariah and Thomas Sawyer that I have written about in earlier posts of this blog.
The first settled minister was Rev. Thomas Smith, 1727 - 1795. He could rightly be called the 'Traveler' because he ministered to his scattered flock over a very large territory, until age and infirmity brought the Rev. Samuel Deane to be his associate pastor in 1764. Dr. Deane remained an associate Pastor until Rev. Smith's death and then continued to serve as Pastor until 1814.
|Rev. Thomas Smith|
|The Rev. Samuel Deane|
Meanwhile the area closest to the Bay and the rivers grew in population because of the advantages of commerce and trade. After 1783, and the Treaty of Paris, the Port on the Neck became the sixth largest in the nation and "Maine's cultural and financial center."
Deering: A Social and Architectural History by William David Barry and Patricia McGraw Anderson.
The back country which grew as well, but at a slower pace, developed its own unique character and the differences created divisions within the communities. Up to this time, all the business for the district was conducted at the meeting house of the First Parish on the Neck creating hardship for those residing in the scattered villages and corners. The one parish needed division to meet the needs of those who had to travel and whose interests were changing.
On July 4, 1786, the Neck separated from Falmouth and was incorporated as Maine's 46th town and became the town of Portland. The town was comprised of the 'Neck, Casco Bay Islands, and a 'slice of land from Back Cove to Round Cove." The area of what is now Stroudwater, Westbrook and Deering remained a part of old Falmouth.
Cape Elizabeth withdrew from the original Falmouth in 1765. Prior to this, however, the citizens of Stroudwater, about thirty in number, complained about the great distance to the First Parish and petitioned for separation so that they could form their own parish. Some petitioners actually wanted to leave the Congregational society and join the Anglican church which they did in 1765. The remainder ultimately formed what would become the fourth parish whose boundaries encompassed Sacarrapa, Stroudwater, Back Cove to Martin's Point, to the entrance to Deering Oaks from Forest Avenue, to Riverton, Woodfords and Morrill's Corners and Brighton's Corner. The area we know as North Deering was already established by the Quakers.
It's important to remember that Deering did not become a separate entity until 1871 when it separated from Westbrook. The town of Deering was not annexed to Portland until 1898.
Which brings me to reflect on our East Deering/ Grand Trunk Cemetery a bit. Those of you who have had occasion to visit and stop at the kiosk containing the graphic depiction of the cemetery layout, will notice that there are four names given to the sacred ground: first, Presumpscot. That is what you will find on the very old cemetery records, and probably reflects the cemetery's proximity to the River by the same name. Second, Back Cove. That is the name of the first settlement. Third, East Deering, so called once the town of Deering was formed, and last,The Grand Trunk, after the advent of the railroad whose tracks still exist just below the cemetery.
In 1764, the Rev. Thomas Browne was invited to preach in Falmouth, but apparently he was not well received by the Pastors of the First Parish. He had a somewhat controversial
nature and a reputation as a rebel. However, he was officially installed as the Pastor of the new Fourth Standing Order Parish in 1765 and served the parish for thirty two years until his death at the age of 62. The Church and Meeting House was built on Capisic Street, on the corner of Brighton and Stevens Avenue.
|Tombstone of Rev. Thomas Browne Stroudwater Burial Ground|
The original 4th Parish building from 1764 was a simple one story church, 40' x 30', with no pews, only simple benches. In 1884, the church was expanded to meet the needs of a growing congregation. This building was now two stories, with two rows of windows, and a high vestibule. (Description borrowed from Scott Leonard's blog: Old Blue Genes)
In 1799, the Rev. Caleb Bradley succeeded as the pastor of the Stroudwater Parish, and held that post until his retirement in 1829. According to the Westbrook Historical Society, he married some 500 couples and officiated at 1400 funerals. The following documents include the names of members of this parish.
|The Rev. Caleb Bradley 1771 - 1861|
In 1807, the Embargo Act devastated the lumber industry and timber production of the Stroudwater area was all but dead leaving many people in poverty. The same was true for the Port and the people of Portland. Massachusetts abandoned Maine to its own devises during the War of 1812 thus propelling the charge for statehood.
On February 14, 1814, Stroudwater separated from the old Falmouth and became the city of Stroudwater for three months, when it was renamed Westbrook to honor Col. Thomas Westbrook. The town boundaries included today's Westbrook and Deering and were set off by the towns of Gorham, Windham, Falmouth, South Portland and Scarborough.
Although the war created turmoil for many, Westbrook flourished with the building of new mills and factories and trades. This include the area of Stevens Plains and parts of Back Cove. The war had little effect here and instead created some prosperity.
The first town meeting was called by then Justice of the Peace, Archelaus Lewis before the name was changed to Westbrook and held at the Bradley Meeting House.
Early in the 19th century, actually, 1821, about forty members of Parson Bradley's parish, 'Stroudwater Congregational Church, then called the First Church of Westbrook, petitioned to be dismissed because of 'their Universalist tendencies', and not wishing to be further taxed to support the original parish or its minister. They wished to form a free meeting house on Saco Street. According to the Westbrook Historical Society, a church building was constructed on Upper Main Street in 1832, but did not seem to serve the needs of the members. However,at the same time as the separation which took place in Westbrook, in 1821, the First Universalist Society of Portland was instituted. The first church was a wooden building constructed on the corner of Congress and Pearl Streets. The Rev. Russell Streeter became the first minister.
In 1829, the First Universalist Society of Westbrook was founded. In 1867, they built the New Universalist Church on Stevens Avenue at the Westbrook Seminary (which became Westbrook Junior College) and now, the former church is the University of New England's Ludcke Auditorium.
From the beginning of Portland's foundation, with all the changes in names, territories and boundaries, its citizens, whose lives are woven into the tapestry of history, have exemplified courage and fortitude to make their way in those challenging early years of war and peace, poverty and prosperity. I think this was true of Timothy Galvin, teacher, husband and father and free man who made decisions and choices which shaped his future and presented us a true portrait of the lives of our early forbears in the city of Portland and our state of Maine. I have tried to be as accurate with the dates and events while knowing that this is just a partial picture, and there is much more that could be added to the historical record. My hope is that others with more threads will continue to weave into this tapestry.