In 1911 the center of Bangor was swept by a great fire. Two churches were burned and united in their reconstruction to form All Souls Congregrational Church.
The History of All Souls Church
The text that follows is taken from the 1983 booklet “All Souls Congregational Church” written by L. Felix Ranlett and is a revision of his earlier history published in 1962. It recounts aspects of the history of the church and the structure and key church furnishings. (The history of the church structure and furnishings portion of the booklet is located on the "Our Building" page of this website.)
The following links are supplied to make it easier for you to find various sections relating to our church history:
On Sunday, April 30, 1911, the center of Bangor was swept by a great fire that devastated 55 acres, destroyed 100 business blocks or public buildings, 285 dwellings, and 7 church edifices. Among the church edifices were those of the First Congregational Church and the Central Congregational church. First Church stood where all souls now stands, at the corner of State Street and Broadway, facing Stetson square. Central Church, with its parish house, was on the east side of French Street where the First Church of Christ Scientist now stands.
After the fire the congregation of the two churches began to consider the idea of uniting. Following a series of preliminary meetings, the union was, on March 6, 1912, formally voted. From that date the custom then prevailing in New England of having a dual organization of church and parish was followed. On February 15, 1939 was concluded the business necessary to do away with the dual organization and to incorporate the church so that henceforth there might be only one organization – All Souls Congregational Church of Bangor, Maine.
1769 – 1811
In 1769 Jacob Bussell, a cooper, fisherman and boat builder, became the first settler of what is now Bangor. He built his log cabin on the slope of the hill just below where St. John’s Roman Catholic Church now stands. The first pastor of the settlement which grew up nearby was Seth Noble, a rough and ready character, who arrived in 1786. His salary of four hundred dollars a year was raised by subscription among the residents. When the town was incorporated in 1791 under the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, of which the District of Maine was a part, the name of Bangor was chosen and duly included in the engrossed petition carried to Boston by Parson Noble as delegate. The name, Celtic in origin, meaning “high choir” or “white choir” derives from the hymn tune, a favorite of Noble’s, by William Tan’sur (1706-1783), and East Anglican teacher of psalmody. It is associated with the bishopric of Bangor, Caernovanshire, North Wales. Through the years many sets of words have been set to it. In our Pilgrim Hymnal it appears with hymns 149, 159 and 284.
Parson Noble, whose eccentric character had not long endeared him to Bangor, moved in 1798 to New Hampshire. He had been town pastor and was never associated with a single church organization.
In 1803, Eliashib Adams, a gentleman of strict Puritanical views, remarked in his diary that Bangor was a mere Sodom, with Lot dwelling in it by the name of William Boyd. This William Boyd was with William Hasey, Stephen S. Crosby, and William D. Williamson, the historian, one of the prime movers in forming on November 27, 1811, the First Church of Christ in Bangor. This organization soon after became the First Congregational Church in Bangor and so continued until 1911. In 1811, Bangor had a population of 850. Other nearby towns outnumbered it: Buckstown (later Bucksport) 1403, Brewer 1341, and Hampden 1279. On September 3, 1814, incident to the War of 1812, a British naval and military expedition landed at Hampden. After routing the local militia, it proceeded to Bangor which it occupied for three days, moving into the courthouse, several schoolhouses, a tavern and several private homes and taking away twelve vessels and destroying six.
First Church 1811 – 1911
For its first minister the newly formed First Church chose Harvey Loomis who had been graduated from Williams College in 1809. He died in the pulpit on January 2, 1825 at the age of 39 years, following severe exertion climbing State Street hill on his way to church during a heavy snowstorm.
It was not long after the formulation of the First Congregational Church that other churches began to make their appearance in the new town; a Methodist Church in 1814 and a Baptist Church in 1815.
Services of the new First Congregational Church were held for some time in a hall over a store on Exchange Street, later in the court house which afterward became city hall. In 1816, Benjamin Bussey, a philanthropist of Boston, gave to the First Church a Paul Revere bell weighing 1095 pounds. It was hung in the Court House where the congregation was meeting and in 1821 was moved to the meeting house just erected for the church on the sloping lot at the corner of State and French Streets. This was a wooden building. It was burned in 1830 by an incendiary. In the fire the bell fell and was cracked. It was recast, at the expense of Mr. Bussey, and it continued in use until April 30, 1911 when it again fell and was largely destroyed. A large fragment is now to be seen in the Museum of the Bangor Historical Society.
Following the 1830 fire a new meeting house with vestry was erected on the site of the original building. It was dedicated on July 20, 1 831. It was a brick structure, 90 feet by 62 feet with a small wooden belfry with miniature spires rising from the four corners. The entrance was by flights of steps from French and State Streets. The architect was Charles H. Page of Bangor who among other buildings in the city also did Maine Hall (now Whittaker Hall) at the Bangor Theological Seminary.
In 1859 the First Church began an extensive enlargement and remodeling of its meeting house. During this work the congregation, at the invitation of the Central Church, met in the Central Church building on French Street. The entrance to the enlarged First Church meeting house was from Broadway (Stetson Square). The extended building was of brick, using the walls of the 1830 building, with a slate roof and a steeple rising to a height of 187 feet, very high as compared with the present flèche of 100 feet on the All Souls Church which began to rise in 1912. Harvey Graves of Boston was the architect. The weak spot or Achilles heel of the 1860 building was the wooden gutters into which the flying embers from the April 30, 1911 fire cascaded down the fireproof roof, igniting the interior of the building and causing its complete destruction. The adjoining parsonage, a frame building built in 1903, escaped the fire.
Rev. Charles Herrick Cutler was minister of the First Church from November 19, 1886 to December 1, 1911 when the new All Souls organization was set up, with Rev. Charles Albert Moore, final minister of the Central Church becoming the first minister of the new All Souls Church.
The first outgrowth of the First Church was the Hammond Street Congregational Church, organized December 5, 1833. The occasion of the forming of the Hammond Street Church was the inability of people to obtain seats in the First Church.
The second outgrowth of the First Church and also an outgrowth of the Hammond Street Church, was the Central Church, rarely called the Third Church, which was organized in 1847. It was made necessary by the fact that pews were already scares in the Hammond Street Church and again scarce in the First Church. The destructive flood of 1846 had occasioned a considerable influx of building artisans with a resulting increase in the population of the city.
Following Harvey Loomis, ministers of the First Church were Swan Lyman Pomroy (1825-1848), George Barker Little (1849-1857), Edward Whiting Gilman (1859-1863), Lyman Sibley Rowland (1864-1857), Newman Smyth (1870-1875), Stephen Lewis Bates Speare (1879-1881), Nathan Harding Harriman (1884-1886) and Charles Herrick Cutler (1886-1911).
Central Church 1847 – 1911
Of the group of 13 men who early in 1847 organized the Central Church, nine came from the First Church, two from the Hammond Street Church, and one from the First Congregational Church of Falmouth, Massachusetts. One of them was the same Eliashib Adams earlier mentioned.
Preaching services had been inaugurated in New Market Hall as early as February 28, 1847. New Market Hall was situated in the middle of Kenduskeag Stream between State Street and Central Street, on the site later occupied by the Post Office and Customs House, itself later destroyed in the fire of 1911. From 1850 to 1853, the Central Church transferred its services to City Hall, the same building in which, as the Court House, the First Church had once worshipped. During the summer of 1853 the services were temporarily transferred to the High Street Chapel of the Hammond Street Church.
On June 30, 1853 was dedicated the new meeting house of Central Church on French Street about where the First Church of Christ Scientist now (1983) stands. Towle & Foster of Boston were the architects. Leonard L. Morse of Bangor was the contractor. The building was on the slope of the east side of the street. The high auditorium was on the second floor over an above-ground vestry. The three portals were reached by high flights of steps. There was a four-faced clock at the base of the belfry and spire. These rose in five tiers, dominating the downtown section of the city.
The building was taken down early in 1902 and a new building erected on the same site. This building was dedicated on January 11, 1903. It was in the form of a cross, 108 feet in length by 48 feet in width and 65 feet at the transepts. There was a square belfry. The building was of red Magaguadavic granite, some of which still exists in the lower courses of the All Souls Church building. The style was modified English gothic, a sort of English country parish style. There were twelve stained-glass windows, three by Horace J. Phipps & Company of Boston and nine by Louis Tiffany & Company of New York. Adjoining the church was a parish house, half-timbered in Tudor Style. It was dedicated on November 4, 1900. Frank A. Browne was the architect and Howard C. Chamberlain that of the parish house. The whole of this plant was destroyed in the fire of April 30, 1911. Salvaged from the ruins and used in the construction of All Souls Church was some of the red granite, the framework of the two State Street doors, and also the framework of the French Street door (no longer used) of All Souls.
Rev. Charles Albert Moore was installed as minister on November 23, 1905. Upon the formation of All Souls Church he became its first minister. Earlier ministers of Central Church were George Shepard (1847-1856), George Shepard and Samuel Harris, both of the faculty of Bangor Theological Seminary, alternated in the pulpit from 1856 to 1863, George W. Field (1863-1892), Emil B. Bary (1892-1894) and John Simpson Penman (1894-1905).
All Souls Church Founded March 12, 1912
The new All Souls Congregational Church, formed in 1912 and consisting of the united congregations of the two former churches, comprised a total of 576 members of whom 427 were resident and 149 non-resident.
There are at least three types of church names: those based on location (Central Church), those based on chronology (First Church), and those based on a religious idea. It was decided that the new church should represent the third type. A member of the committee to recommend the name said of the choice, “All Souls stands for the ideal of democracy in religion.”
Charles Albert Moore, D.D., the pastor of the new church, and who had also been the pastor of Central Church, was a leading member of the building committee. His excellent taste was imprinted on all the accomplishments of the committee.
Chosen as architect for the new building was the medievalist Ralph Adams Cram (1863-1942), then well established in a career that brought him to preeminence among American church architects. He was already famous for his work at Princeton University and at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He later became architect of such great churches as the East Liberty Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, PA, and the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. His firm was then Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson, of Boston; later Cram and Ferguson; and now Hoyle, Doran and Berry.
Chosen to create the stained glass that was to become such an important feature of the sanctuary was Charles J. Connick (1875-1945), of Boston, leading exponent of the revival of stained glass in the manner of, but not in the imitation of, the medieval French Gothic. He was then well embarked on a distinguished career that was to include, to name only a few examples, the great Western rose window in the cathedral of St. John the Divine, windows in the chapel at Princeton, and windows in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City. The philosophy of his art is comprised in the title of his authoritative book (1937) Adventures in Light and Color.
With the completion of the South transept window in 1981, there are 26 stained glass windows in All Souls. The first fifteen, installed at various times between 1913 and 1944 represent nearly the entire development of Connick’s career. Since 1945, Connick’s firm, Charles J. Connick Associates, has carried on the style and manner of his work. The seven windows acquired in 1947, the three acquired in 1976, and the South transept window of 1982 are their work. The All Souls windows, together with the 26 Connick or Connick Associates windows at St. John’s Episcopal Church and Bethlehem Chapel on French Street, two in the Hammond Street Church, and four in the Universalist Church, comprise a great treasure for a single city.
Ground was broken on Monday, May 20, 1912 for the construction of the church building. The cornerstone was laid on Tuesday, August 20, 1912. The first service to be held in the building was on Sunday, November 16, 1913. The dedication service was held two weeks later, on Sunday, November 30, 1913.
The church site is a lot of 328 front feet on the west side of Broadway, facing Stetson Square. It has 170 feet on York Street, 287 feet on French, and 188 on State. The parsonage is an eight-room house with garage at 214 Broadway, occupying a lot of 52 front feet and 121 feet deep. The church buildings were valued at $2,368,000 in 1983, including $168,000 for the windows and $70,000 for the parsonage. The original cost of the church building alone was $110,000. The church lot was appraised in 1983 by the city for $70,100 and the parsonage lot for $5,200.
The parsonage of First Church, built in 1903, stood at 8 Broadway about where the Arlan A. Baillie building now stands. It was undamaged in the fire of 1911, and it continued to be used as the parsonage until, on August 11, 1943, it was so severely damaged by an internal fire that it was later torn down. The present parsonage (1983) was acquired in 1944 from Rodney C. Warner and his wife, Elizabeth S. Warner, members of the parish.
The church building is modified French Gothic in style. It is of red Magaguadavic granite from St. George, N.B. and Long Beach, ME. The stone portions of the attached Arlan A. Baillie building, erected in 1953, are built of nearly matching red granite from Deer Isle, ME.
About a third of the material of the walls of the church was taken from the ruins of First Church and Central Church. The most conspicuously red granite is the Megaguadavic from Central Church.
Christian Unity in the Puritan Tradition
In relationships with other Christian churches, the ministers of All Souls have encouraged the church to stand in the tradition of the early Puritan divine Cotton Mather. Here’s a little history.
The Puritan churches in New England were strongly committed to religious uniformity. They believed that everything would work better and that society would benefit from just one kind of church. They were not big on tolerance.
In 1684, the King of England annulled the Charter of the Massachusetts Bay colony. This meant that a half a century of Puritan order (including the toleration of only Puritan churches) was finished in a stroke of the pen. Direct royal rule was imposed. This new order, hostile to the Puritan way in New England, persisted and planted seeds for the American Revolution.
The Puritans didn’t just sit on their hands. They sent people to England to try to renegotiate a Charter that would allow self-rule (not direct Royal Rule) for the colony. The Rev. Increase Mather, a prominent Boston minister, was one of the negotiators. Mary Ranlett Mossman’s 6th great-grandfather, Thomas Oakes, speaker of the House in Massachusetts Bay, was sent to England with Elisha Cooke on February 10, 1690, as agents to assist Mather in his negotiations. (Mary Mossman is the daughter of All Soul’s historian Felix Ranlett and a life-long member and a Deacon of All Souls.)
In 1692, Mather and his colleagues returned to Boston with the new Charter. The charter united Plymouth colony, Nova Scotia and the Massachusetts Bay colony. The New Englanders won concessions, but one thing they didn’t get was privilege for their Congregational churches. The King (well, the English Government) insisted on religious toleration. Any Protestant faith would be tolerated and Protestants could freely exercise their religion. This had an effect on taxation and governance (Congregational churches has been supported by general taxation, now any church could receive tax support if a town wanted to be Baptist, for instance). It effected all political and civil institutions.
Many Congregational clergy continued to argue for—and act as if—the religious uniformity of the first Charter still held. Even civil magistrates resisted the changes.
But Increase Mather accepted religious toleration. He said it was a good thing. His influence was significant.
His son, Cotton Mather, not only accepted toleration, he took a position that actually looked something like genuine, modern ecumenism. As historian John von Rohr wrote, Cotton Mather led a third generation in Massachusetts Bay toward a new goal of “Christian unity”. He was influenced by the example of Congregational and Presbyterian clergy in England who had declared themselves “United Ministers”.
Mather believed “that a personal experience of redemption” was basic to Christian identity. To be a Christian, you had to have an experience of redemption—of being saved by Jesus’ sacrifice. He called this “heart religion” – an experience that is available to anyone who has come to know Jesus Christ.
Knowing Christ and having and experiencing His redemption is not enough. Mather “equally stressed the commitment to ‘do good’ as the public form” of the Christian’s personal experience. “He encouraged the founding of numerous societies devoted to programs of human welfare.” This combination of personal faith and conviction and outward moral action “was the supreme work of the Holy Spirit, touching the heart and empowering the will with divine love.”
Von Rohr continues:
“Within this work of the Holy Spirit also resided the hope for Christian union. If doctrine and church organization sometimes divide, the experience of the Spirit can unite. Piety and good works are not . . . limited by the denominational divisions such restrictions often create . . . ‘Godliness’ of life is the key. [Mather believed] there could even be intercommunion among the churches: ‘To see a godly Presbyterian, a godly Independent, a godly Antipaedobaptist [that is, a person opposed to infant baptism], a godly Episcopalian, and a godly Lutheran, all sitting down together in communion at the same Table of the Lord, would be to wise men a very grateful spectacle’.”
[From John von Rohr, The Shaping of American Congregationalism, 1620-1957, Cleveland, Ohio: The Pilgrim Press, 1992. This book was reviewed in the Bulletin of the Congregational Library, Volume44, Fall 1992, Winter 1993, Nos. 1 and 2 by James Haddix. This book won the President’s Award of the Congregational-Christian Historical Society.]
All Souls stands in the tradition of the Mathers of Massachusetts Bay. The ministers of the church are committed to a vision of Christian unity grounded in personal faith and godliness of life combined with the requisite moral action—the commitment to “do good” through various cooperative efforts that contribute to human welfare and the healing of the world. The Pastor-Theologian program in Bangor is only one manifestation of this ecumenical spirit. The pastors do not urge indifference to doctrine or theology, but encourage disciplined thought in such matters as well as a proper attention to the received faith of the universal church. The All Souls Deacons’ policy on Benevolences offers another example of this union of personal faith and public action.