November 30, 1908, Monday afternoon two young ladies discovered smoke coming from the basement of the Congregational Church and with the help of two young men the fire alarm was sounded.
The fire companies responded promptly and the fire was prevented from spreading into the auditorium of the church to a great degree. Although the organ was protected and seems to have escaped without damage, the church walls were blackened.
W.J. Wheeler came to Bethel the following day and “promptly adjusted the insurance very satisfactorily”.
Four days after the fire, on Friday, the Congregational parish met to take action with regard to repairing the church. Dr. John G. Gehring, Hon. John M. Philbrook and Ernest C. Bowler were chosen a committee to make arrangements for church repairs.
It was decided to hold Sunday services in the Garland Chapel until the main church had been repaired.
The Oxford County Citizen reported that “the fire seemed to have started underneath the furnace in the dining room and had evidently been concealed but burning its way out for many hours, as no fire had been in the furnace since the day before. When it did take vent, however, it went forward very rapidly and in a few minutes more would have gained such headway that the damage would have been serious. As it was the flames were kept almost entirely within the basement, the greatest damage above being from smoke. The smoke, however, naturally penetrated every crack and crevice and the church and chapel will have to be entirely gone over.
It will not be possible to use the church for services for several weeks. Garland Chapel, which was injured less than the main church will be put in condition and used for regular services while the church is being repaired.
The morning after the fire, the Methodist society very kindly offered the use of their church to the Congregational Society until the repairs could be made. This offer would have been gladly accepted but for the fact that services would have to be held Sunday afternoon.”
July 6, 1909: It was not until seven months later , the first week of July 1909, that it was reported in the Oxford County Democrat
“The painters and paper hangers have completed their work at the Congregational church and it will now be put in readiness for occupancy”.
News sources: Oxford County Democrat and The Oxford Country Citizen
THE BETHEL JOURNALS—1908 CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH FIRE
Fire Discovered in Congregational Church