How Milo’s First Church Was Born
(from Bangor Daily News, September 1st, 1923)
MILO− There is no more heroic nor impressive incident connected with the early history of Milo than the building of the town’s first church by William Owen, who was one of the town’s earlier settlers. Church building is generally a cooperative affair. All sorts of devices are employed for raising the requisite funds and in cases of the smaller and poorer communities, assistance of wealthier church organizations is commonly sought and secured.
Nothing of this kind preceded the erection of Milo’s first meeting house. There were no circles, no fairs, no solicitations either at home or abroad, Mr. Owen had no assistance of this sort, he simply went ahead and built his church, which he saw the community so greatly needed, and he took a chance on being reimbursed in part or in whole by what his fellow citizens would do after the structure had been erected. In 1850, thirty years after Maine had been made a state and 27 years after the town’s incorporation, Milo was a town of nearly a thousand inhabitants and many of the present inhabitants can recollect when it was no larger. But it had no church in 1850 and there was no present prospect of one. A majority of the citizens realized the need of a place of worship, but they could arrive at no concrete plan for getting busy and building one. Many meetings were held and the question discussed, but that was the end. The lot on the hill which had been reserved as a church site when the town was incorporated, was a village common and no more.
Mr. Owen returned from one of these do nothing meetings one evening thoroughly discouraged. He was a deeply religious man and his chief ambition for the place which he had chosen for his home was that it should have suitable place of worship. He was a taciturn man of few words, but decidedly strong of action.” Mother told me when I was a girl”, relates Mrs. Abbie Stubbs of Forxcroft, Mr. Owen’s only surviving daughter, ” that Father tossed and turned in his bed that night apparently unable to get the subject of the church building off his mind. Finally she said, that he set bolt upright.” “I’m going to build that church myself,” he said, “if no one else will do it.” “Can you do it without ruining yourself?” mother asked him. “I think I can.” was his reply.” All right I’ll help you what I can.” was mothers answer.””
There in a chamber of the little house which still stands on the hill, not far from the church site, was born the project that culminated in the new town acquiring it’s first and for many years, it’s only place of worship.
Mr. Owen did not go around and tell his plans the next day, it was not his way to do more talking than was actually necessary. But he began to collect his material for the new building. It took him a year to complete this part of the job. Then he set out to build. He hired two men to help him and he paid them as he would, had he been building a house for himself.
We may imagine that the other citizens of the town looked on in wonder and possibly admiration, but no one offered to help. Mr. Owen had started the job and it was up to him to finish it. He did. When he had done a meeting house stood on the hill top, provided with pews, pulpit and stove. And Mr. Owen owned every stick of timber, every single nail, and every once of paint that had been put into it. Besides that he had paid for every hour of labor that had been performed in the construction. It was his church.
Mr. Owen was a man of comfortable circumstances for the times, but he was not wealthy or even well-to-do. His enterprise cost him many hours of toil and much self denying on the part of both himself and his wife. It is easy to believe that the tables at the Owen home were not any too bountifully spread during that year, and that not many new cloths were bought.
Mr. Owen looked for reimbursement for the time and money that he had expended from the sale of pews, which the new building contained. But only in part were his hopes realized. He realized enough from the pews to pay about half of the cost of his church.
Mr. Owen was a Baptist, and a Baptist preacher was the first to be employed be the town. Later Deacon Joe Blaisdell came to Milo and was chiefly instrumental in organizing the Free Will Baptist society, which shared the privileges of the church building for a number of years.
The rather unusual arrangement was made for the Baptist minister to preach one Sunday and the Free Baptist the next. This plan continued until within comparatively recent years.
The bell was not placed in the church until during the Civil War. The greater part of the money for the bell was raised by the women of the town who organized what they called a bell circle. They were assisted by an appropriation from the town and the fine bell, which still calls to worship the people of the village, was installed.
Mr. Owen was a tanner by trade and at one time he operated a small bark tannery on the island near the river. The later years of his life he engaged in farming in a small way. But until his age prevented him, the church that he had built was the object of his special care. He opened it mornings, built the fires in winter, and rang the bell. The exterior was little changed for many years from that manner in which Mr. Owen had left it when he completed the work which he believed it was his duty to his Creator to do. Mr. Owen’s son, William H., was a soldier of the Civil War and Milo’s first druggist. A daughter was Mrs. Henrietta Ramsdell, who died a few years ago, and a surviving daughter is Mrs. Stubbs of Foxcroft. Five grandchildren, William S., Charles E., and Mrs. Bert L. Gould of Milo and Ferd K. Owen and Mrs. Lona A. Hunkins of Portland are still alive.
1997 – This building is now the home of the Milo Historical Society Museum
- William Owen
- Born Topsham, Maine 12/15/1805
- Died in Milo, Maine 3/18/1898
- Married Sophronia Hamlin in China, Maine 12/6/1831
- Born in China, Maine 4/23/1806
- Died in Milo, Maine 1/12/1886 Their Children:
- Charles P. — 11/12/1833–3/23/1837
- Henrietta — 3/18/1837
- Henrietta (Etta) married Abner Ramsdell; no children
- Abigail — 10/29/1838
- Abigail (Abbie) married W. T. Stubbs. They had one child: Helen who died young, unmarried.
- Mr. Stubbs gave the organ in the United Baptist Church in memory of his wife and daughter.
- William S. — 12/28/1839–9/8/1840
- William H. — 7/31/1842–9/31/1884
- William Henry Owen started a Drug Store in 1869 in Milo.
- Timothy H. — 3/12/1846–4/12/1846