The History of the Building and How the Restoration Effort Started

The church. built in about 1890, sits in the center of the village of Great Pond. It is significant as a historic landmark for the community, as the only public building in the town of Great Pond from the second century of the settlement which has not undergone substantial alterations, and the only historic religious building in the town. The church's architecture demonstrates the craftsmanship of local builders at the turn of the twentieth century.

The Old Historic Hall Restoration ProjectThe history of the church is fairly well documented. After settlement of Great Pond in the early 1800s by Joshua Williams, Revolutionary War veteran, the frontier settlement became a lumbering village, where the residents held church sessions in private homes. In 1890, the Ladies Circle of Township 33 (now the town of Great Pond) decided to organize to build a suitable place of worship. The Ladies Circle called on the community to make donations and to build the Free Will Baptist Church. The church lot was donated by James Collar and Ella Garland. Through donations flom 118 residents of the extended area the building was completed. The Hall was used as a place of worship for the community for decades. After an undetermined period of time it was no longer used for religious ceremonies. Recently discovered records show that by at least 1938 it was not being used for regular Sunday services.

Through the 20th century the church was maintained as a historic building by the descendants of the Williams family, who believed they owned the building. In July 2004 at their annual family reunion, the Williams family discussed removing it so that it would not to be a hazard to the community, as it appeared to be in a very poor structural state. Townspeople in Great Pond who heard that news became very concerned. A local attomey researched the title and found that the property did not belong to the Williams family, nor to the Town of Great Pond; it was probably considered abandoned and "wasting for lack of custody."

As a result of these findings, a group from the Williams family and several townspeople met with the three Great Pond Selectmen in August 2004. A general consensus of the meeting was that if at all possible, the parties would work together to form a nonprofit organization to secure custody of the property, and to see if it could be saved to serve as a community meeting place. A joint committee was formed to pursue those goals, and on June 8, 2006, the Maine Secretary of State recognized "The Friends of the Free Baptist Church of Great Pond" as a domestic nonprofit corporation.

Gathering of townspeople around the turn of the century This is an old photo of a large (in local terms) gathering of townspeople in front of the hall around the turn of the century.

After application by the group for custody of the property through the Maine Attorney General's office, a Superior Court Justice in Hancock County Superior Court found the church property in Great Pond "wasting for lack of custody" and signed the Order, dated November 14, 2006, transferring ownership to the "Friends of the Free Baptist Church of Great Pond." On October 14, 2008, after application to the IRS, the "Friends of the Free Baptist Church of Great Pond" was granted 501 (c) (3) status.

The organization has Bylaws, a Board of Directors elected at an annual meeting in July, and an active group of members who have held fundraisers. Funds have been raised by membership dues, donations, musical events, raffles, auctions, and sale of an antique photo of the Church and School House (circa 1905). Fundraising efforts by the group will continue.

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