P67 P1 P850 P852 P52 Hope Corner Universalist P851 South Hope United Baptist Church P53 P334 South Hope Universalist & Avent Church P558A P51 South Hope Community Church
(From History of Hope Maine by Anna Simpson Hardy Page 113)
As New Englanders moved westward, their strict moral values contributed greatly to the establishment of law and order. As new towns were set up, proprietors were encouraged to set aside a lot for the church, another as the school lot. This seems not to have happened in Hope. Since most of the settlers were from Massachusetts, they insisted on getting a meeting house built which was accepted as the official religious as well as town meeting place and was located near the Philbrick's land which was considered the approximate geographical center of the town. Even after the new town house was built in 1842, at a time when some groups had their own meeting houses, all religious groups were free to use the town house and it was often the scene of revival meetings.
Ten years after the earliest settlement of Hope, division of religious beliefs began. Protestant denominations which prevailed were Baptist, including the Free Baptist group, Methodists, and Universalists.
There were also those people like Hope's most beloved citizen, Abner Dunton, Jr., who had no prejudices against his fellow man, and lived to the great age of 103. Although he lived in the shadows of a church spire, he attended no religious service in nearly half a century. He had listened to many preachers and heard many creeds expounded, but none ever met his views. He took no stock in the book of Genesis and while he said he believed there is some over-ruling power, he did not believe there is a God in the sense that most Christians do. He had no conception of what the hereafter would produce, but in the fullness of his 103 years, with eternity knocking at the outer door, he did not worry. "The ministers all have theories and different theories but I don't take much stock in any of them" he said.
When the Baptist Association met in 1795 in Readfield, two new groups were added, Barrettstown (now Hope) and New Gloucester. A layman, Ebenezer Cox, laid the foundation of the Barrettstown Church. His evangelistic labors were so fruitful that when Rev. E. Hall of Cushing came into the field in January 1795 he found converts ready for Baptism. Mr. Cox was first a Deacon, then a licentiate and later an ordained evangelist. At different periods in the history of the church for nearly half a century he did excellent service. As previously mentioned, eleven members were meeting regularly at Deacon Sampson Sweetland's home in 1795.
There were traveling preachers of the Methodist persuasion in Maine as early as 1793. The first sermon by a Methodist east of the Kennebec River was in Union in 1797 by Jesse Lee, arranged by a committee of Edward Jones, Amos Barrett and Mathias Hawes. Meetings were held in Rufus Gilmore's barn and a committee was chosen to raise money to hire a Methodist preacher. Aaron Humphrey was the first hired. Interested Hope people may have attended some of the early Union meetings.
In 1801 Rev. Joshua HaIl located in Maine and labored with Joseph Baker one year at Camden, preaching also at Thomaston, Lincolnville, Hope and Northport. Daniel Barrett, early settler of Hope and then living in Camden, was holding Methodist classes in his home as early a 1801 and continued as late at 1826, when a larger site was chosen.
Universalism was first brought into New Jersey and the first organized denomination was in 1770. It did not begin to take roots in Maine until the 1820s. Simply put, they believed, as put forth in their first Declarations of Faith in 1829, that:
1. God is the father of all men and His
purpose is to bring them all to Holiness and Happiness.
2. To be saved is to learn how to live life free from wrong doing.
3. Punishment is the natural result of wrong-doing. We should not wish to escape the punishment but from the wrong doing which is its cause.
These were the beliefs that drew many converts in Hope to Universalism and eventually saw it as the dominant group for many years. There were two Churches, one at Hope and one at South Hope.
Much more information is in the book than is printed here.