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Highland Lake Church History Highlights

Prepared by Mrs. Edna Gowen-November 15, 1962
The early history of the church indicates that it was located on several sites before it was moved to its present location.  The church was originally built probably in the late 1700’s and stood near the end of the road which leads past the Portland Water District standpipe in Falmouth.  It was about a mile and a half from this corner and the road at that time was a much traveled highway.  The building was a typical ancient meeting house.  The old families - the Woodburys, Hales, Leightons, Knights, Prides, Gowens - and others all worshipped there.
About the year 1838 the meeting house was moved to a location at the corner where Mast and Duck Pond Roads meet.

Some time after 1857 it was again moved with the aid of oxen to a new location beside the schoolhouse at Duck Pond Corner.
About 1903 the parish bought for $25 a lot of land on present Route 302 on which to build a new church.  The Parish Society was organized about this time to take care of “ways and means”, and is still the governing body of this church.  Mrs. Eliza Hardy is the only living charter member of the Parish Society (In 1962).  The Ladies’ Aid was also organized in 1903 to assist in raising funds, and continued in that capacity for fifty years.  Mr. Alden Verrill was engaged as architect.  Thus from 1903-1907 the community thought of little else than the completion of the new church which had been built largely by the labor of the hands of its congregation.  At the same time the new church was being built, the old church which stood by the school house was being demolished - the best of the lumber being saved to be used in the new building.  Thus the continuity remained unbroken.  This assumes importance when one considers the unique history of this church.  So in whole or in part it has served this community as a church in two towns, Falmouth and Westbrook, and in four different locations for over 170 years. 

Major and minor improvements in this present church have been made possible by the work of two women’s organizations - the Ladies’ Aid, from 1903 to 1952, and the Guild, which was organized on February 11, 1941.  Deserving special mention is Mrs. Carolyn Sawyer who was the hard working President of the Ladies’ Aid for twenty-eight years.
Among the pastors of the church, the Rev. Augustus Blanchard served for the longest period of time - from 1928 to 1950 - twenty two years.  The church was closed at the time he became pastor.  He was particularly adapted for work with young people, and under his leadership enrollment in the Church School increased to the point that the need for more classroom space was urgent.

A room over the vestibule for the small children had been furnished in 1941 by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Phelps as a memorial to their son, Thomas Gray Phelps, Jr.
In 1948 the Men’s Club was organized, and with the financial help of the Guild they converted the basement into a multiple use room with kitchen - plus installation of a new furnace.  At the same time a room which could be used for a classroom was built onto the back of the church.  Mr. Blanchard’s death occurred before the work was completed, but the Blanchard Room (downstairs) became a memorial to a man who understood and loved children.

During the interim period from 1951 until 1959 several supply ministers conducted the church services.  The Rev. Paul H. Burditt of the Pride’s Corner Church (Congregational) has been serving as pastor of this church since January, 1959 (in 1962).  

The church (in 1962) has an active Church School, Adult Choir, Youth Choir and Ladies’ Guild.
The Union Parish Society of Highland Lake/Duck Pond’s Traveling Church
Published in Westbrook Firefighters Prides Corner Hose Company 1999 Yearbook
Compiled by Ken Moody; Article provided by Mr. James Gowen.  -Page 21
On October 19, 1904, twenty five persons met with their pastor, the Rev. F. E Freese, at the grange hall and organized the Union Parish Society of Highland Lake, Westbrook, Maine.  The purpose of this society being to sustain regular religious services.  They also hoped to repair the old church on Duck Pond Road and render it fit for use again, Sabbath service having been held in the grange hall for several years.  After much careful debate it was thought better to demolish the old church and build a new one in a more desirable location.  Cash in the amount of $966 was pledged in the neighborhood at the start.  A parcel of land on the State Highway (Bridgton Road) was purchased from Mr. R.E. Jamieson for $100.  Mr. Alden Verrill of Portland was contracted by the trustees to make plans for the new church.  Mr. Oliver Leighton gave several days work in laying the cellar wall.  Mr. Charles Moody built the chimney.  Mr. James Pride made and donated the granite door steps.  A large amount of the work was done by parishioners and much time was freely spent to get the building ready for use.  James Rumery & Co., Lucas & Kamblen, King & Dexter, Talbert Brooks & Ayer Co., and the Portland Stove Foundry Co. all contributed building materials.  The following people made cash contributions: Mrs. Stephen Staples, Rev. A. E. Kelley, Mr. John E. Warren, Mr. E.F. Burrows, Mr. John Nichols, Mr. Alfred Winslow, Mr. William J. Woodbury, Mr. James A. Wark, Mr. James R. Wescott, Mr. John Reed, Mr. John Fowler. Two unknown friends, to the amount of $97.50.

The furnishing of the Church was undertaken by the Ladies Aid Society, who report that $269.45 was spent to accomplish this.  The Rev. C.H. Crocker tool charge of concert proceeds in the amount of $55.25.  Sunday School of the Sabbath School in Yarmouth donated $24.00.  Miscellaneous donations of $21.00 were also received.  The following non-members contributed a total of $20.50:  Mrs. Mary A. Gowen, Mr. William Smith, Mr. & Mrs. Gilpatrick, Mr. S. Powell, Mrs. Eli Stone, Mrs. Libby, Mrs. Jason Shaw, Mrs. George Bailey, Mr.& Mrs. Winslow, Mr. William Morrell & Mrs. William Lowell.

When walking was the most common mode of travel, it seemed logical to hook up the oxen to the meeting house and move it closer to its congregation.  The local church was built in the late 1700’s on the Hardy Road in Falmouth, on the left just before you reach the pond, across from the Oliver Hardy farm.  Sometime after 1838, it was moved down the discontinued Gowen Road, past the location of today’s Portland Water District Storage Tower, to the corner of the Mast and Duck Pond Roads, at the site of Erwin Smith’s home (in 1999) (3 Mast Road) and was known as the Free Will Baptist Church.  It remained at this location until around 1857, when the church building was again placed on skids and drawn by oxen down through the fields in back of the homes of Nathaniel and James Gowen, across the bridge, and up the hill to a new location beside the former school house at 988 Duck Pond Road.  This particular move was not without a little hitch.  While traveling down the hill towards the bridge, the building got away from the movers and crashed into the little house across from 931 Duck Pond Road, jarring the little house from its foundation.  In 1904, the newly organized Highland Lake Parish Society bought a parcel of land on the State Highway (Bridgton Road) and had the old church razed.  Using as much lumber as possible from it, they built the present building.  This is way, even though the present building was built in1904, it is of a building style of a much earlier time because they used the previously cut lumber and timbers from the older building that they had razed.  The plan for the new church was drawn by Mr. Alden Verrill of Portland, with labor, money and materials donated by the parishioners.