Text Box:

In their eyes, perhaps the most valuable possession settlers brought with them was their family  Bible.  In most cases this volume carried their family history of births, marriages and deaths in it.  Martha Fifield Wilkins wrote the following about the Alonzo Fifield house in Riley:

In the parlor bedroom which was the better furnished and second largest room in the house- “Between the east windows there was a mahogany card table with swing top and pedestal base, which was usually covered with a lovely red wool shawl…. On the table rested a round  basket in which were many daguerreotypes of the family. The big family Bible and other books and photographs surrounded a glass globe containing brilliant stuffed birds.” (Sunday River Sketches)

The Fifields also were known to have a “heavy glass decanter which always held the wine saved to offer the minister whenever he came to call (a rare occurrence in Riley) or to conduct a funeral. (p 72 SRS).

In 1827 when Newry voted to expand its school districts from two to four, voters in Sunday River decided to convert the old school (known as the South District School) into a meeting house. (NP)

Locke Meeting House: By the middle of the 19th Century, there were nine families living in the southern or Bethel part of the Sunday River valley.  The 1858 map of Bethel shows what was called the Locke Meeting House standing between the homes on Charles R. Locke and Timothy Hastings on the Sunday River Road.  Methodist circuit preachers were active in Bethel, Newry and Hanover during the early settlement period of Sunday River.  Methodists owned the greater part of the Locke Meeting House.  (P 228 HOB)

Some Sunday River residents joined the church membership formed to support the Newry Union church built at Newry Corner in 1865.  George Atherton paid $33.50 for the second pew in January 1866 (p. 89 SRS)

News from Sunday River in the Oxford Advertiser noted that Sabbath Schools are held weekly at the red school house ; Judge Woodbury from Bethel came to conduct the school. He was a member of and a deacon in the First Congregational Church in Bethel.  The red school house referred to here was not the building that still stands near the brook; the white school house on the National Register of Historic Places in Maine was built in 1895.)

A natural baptism: Jennie M. Littlehale born August 25, 1862 and living in Bethel in 1945 tells this tale about her mother’s (Lorena Leavitt Littlehale) baptism.  She was being baptized in Sunday River near Artist’s Bridge, and the children called out, “Come on! Marm’s going to be duck and soused!”

Church service music:  Herbert M. Kendall was a farmer and lifetime resident of Sunday River (his house still stands in 2009). He was born in Newry on September 19, 1853 and died there on August 29, 1925.  He was very fond of music  and fiddled for dances and town celebrations.  He took his organ in the big wagon to the schoolhouse where religious services were held. He was famous for his “bean-hole beans” which he cooked in quantity for local celebrations.




The Kendall Family:  Mrs. Kendall, daughter Charlotte, daughter Ruth and Herbert.  Taken at their home in Sunday River, 1919 by Martha Fifield Wilkens.  Sunday River Sketches, page 228.

Not everyone in Sunday River was a Methodist, Congregationalist or  Baptist.  “Leroy Stowe always began his haying on Sunday, much to the disfavor of all his neighbors. He was inclined to the Advent faith and considered Saturday his Sabbath, although there was no other sign of his religious belief.”   MFW, page 278.

Other Christian denominations: In the early days of settling Riley, there are stories of a number of Irish settlers coming to the plantation about the same time as Luke Reily came there—circa 1780.  Few if any of these men or families were Roman Catholic according to the Sunday River Sketches.   There is some mention of how the early Irish arrivals soon left “Riley” to settle in Greenwood or maybe the oral history is mixed up and the reference to Irish settlers also meant families in Greenwood. In any event there is no reference of an Roman Catholic society or church in Sunday River.

The Williamson families who came to Bethel and Newry in the 1820’s and 30’s were not Catholic.

1930’s and 40’s: In the late 1930’s, I remember my grandmother, Daisy Crosby, and some of the family who were staying at the Red House going to church service Sunday afternoons at the little school house.  Daisy played the organ which was presumably in the school house at the time. 

Since 1999:  Rev. Donald Coverdale has led a Sunday River Christian Ministry interdenominational program at Sunday River Ski Resort.  During the 1980’s at times members of the West Parish Congregational Church in Bethel would assemble near the top of Barker Mountain for Easter sunrise services.  Participants were given chair lift rides to the area where the assembly was held. 





Text Box: A Brief History of Sunday River
Religious Faiths
February 13, 2009

Restored Sunday River school house where Sunday afternoon church services were held in summer months during the 1930’s and 40’s.

Inside the schoolhouse.  In the corner is an organ which was probably the one Daisy Crosby played for Sunday afternoon worship service in the summer. Photo: Doris Williamson Fraser collection.