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Our History

Old South's history is the story of people of faith,

committed to serving God and those in need, since 1814.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                         

 

 

                                             The original Old South Church edifice

 

 

 

In 1780, Stephen Titcomb came to Farmington and erected a cabin, and then spent a long, lonely winter as the first white settler in Farmington. Ten years later, the census showed 494 inhabitants in the township, including 63 children born here, an amazing growth in the fertile land of the Sandy River.

 

In that era, traveling preachers ministered to small towns, and the Titcomb cabin was a regular stop to offer services to the gathered townfolk. When missionary Father Jotham Sewall moved to Chesterville in 1788, his dynamic personality and organizational skills, as well as his superior preaching, gave the area a spiritual boost – and planted the seeds that led to our present church.

 

Most Congregationalists of Chesterville had been going to the Hallowell Parish until 1796 when, under Father Sewell’s guidance, they formed their own organization in Chesterville. The Chesterville church strengthened as some of the Farmington Congregationalists joined the Chesterville group, forming the “Chester and Farmington Church.” In 1803 several denominations got together to build the “Center Meetinghouse,” located at the site of the current courthouse on Main Street in Farmington, as a central place for worship and activities.

 

The denominations shared this space and preachers for about 10 years, and in 1814 Congregationalists felt they had the strength and numbers to stand as a separate organization. Thus began the “First Congregational Society,” now known as the First Congregational Church of Farmington (Old South), which celebrated an amazing 200 years in 2014.  As Jotham Sewall recorded, “The Council met in Farmington and embodied a church consisting of 12 members, Dec. 14, 1814.” Considering that they didn’t have their own pastor, their own church building, or large families within their membership, this was quite a leap of faith.

 

                                              The "new" edifice of Old South, 1888

The church grew slowly but steadily, still gathering at the Center Meeting House, and in 1825 they hired Isaac Rogers as their first full-time minister. By 1836, the growing church had almost 150 members, who built their own Meeting House on the site of the current church. Rev Rogers remained their minister until 1858, helping establish the church's strong foundation.

 

Membership continued to grow, and by the 1880s more than 200 people had joined the church. Members hotly debated whether to build an addition to the overflowing church. The decision was made for them by the great fire of 1886, which destroyed much of Farmington, including the Congregationalist’s church.  

 

Members rallied and sought funds from their connections from all over the United States and beyond, quickly finding generous donations to build a spacious, modern church. Beautiful stained-glass windows both accented the church and served as a fundraising tool, as people memorialized their loved ones. In addition to money, people donated equipment, including the pulpit, three chairs used on the platform, a communion table, the "Bible and Flowers Table," and an elegant Ivers and Pond upright piano. On a glorious day in June 1888, they dedicated their new church, debt-free and truly inspirational, a church which proudly remains the church of today’s congregants.

 

In 1892 the First Congregational Church was incorporated. Two years later, a new organ was installed, ushering in the fine music which continues to this day. The church thrived through the next years, making improvements to the basement and becoming involved in the state Congregational organization, and holding the State Conferences at "Old South," as the church was called to distinguish it from the church building on the north end of town. 

 

                                                             Old South circa 1956

In 1956, members voted to raise $11,000 – a massive sum in those days – to contribute to a Congregational Christian Camp, now called Pilgrim Lodge. This Christian family camp has provided wonderful lakeside summer experiences for the families of Old South UCC and others throughout the state for generations.

 

In 1960 the church voted to join the United Church of Christ. By the 1960s, the church had more than 400 members. The basement was renovated into Sunday School classrooms and a children’s chapel. As the years passed, all parts of the church were renovated and repaired, including the stained-glass windows, the sanctuary, the kitchen, the organ, and the beautiful bell and belfry.

                                                          The Holman Parish House

 

In the 1990s and 2000s, the church footprint expanded with the purchase of the Holman House and the construction of an education annex, the Newman Wing, onto the main church. The Holman House, a large, historic house next door to the church, held the church offices and hosted a nonprofit organization upstairs. The two-story education wing held Sunday School classrooms, a chapel, and a large, all-purpose meeting room.

 

In 2023, the church sold the Holman House to the regional school district, which uses it for the Superintendent’s offices. The church offices are now located in the Newman Wing.

 

As with most organizations, the Old South Church has had its waves of prosperity and of lack, of unity and divisions, and of enthusiasm and apathy. The underlying beliefs and continuing love for each other have always succeeded in keeping the church together, allowing the church to celebrate an enduring and inspiring 200 years.

 

Written by Megan Roberts, August 2014, using information drawn from Old South's 1915 “Centennial of the First Congregational Church” publication, the 1965 “History of Old South Church, Farmington, Maine” by Natalie and Ben Butler, and other church programs and publications. Edited 2024.

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