Old Walpole Meetinghouse historic lectures

Aug 11, 2014

Walpole — On Sunday, Aug. 17 and Sunday, Aug. 24, at 3 p.m. the public is invited to the Old Walpole Meetinghouse to explore this historic building and hear lectures from two local experts on social issues of 1772, the year the meeting house was built.

The first lecture, Religion in the Eighteenth Century on the Pemaquid Peninsula, will be given by Dr. Byron Stuhlman. A retired Episcopalian minister he had parishes in New York and Connecticut and is a former faculty member at Hamilton College. He is now on the faculty of Coastal Senior College.

Although the first Europeans to live in the Pemaquid area were, as Dr. Stuhlman said, “more interested in Cod than God," the permanent settlers were more religious. Unlike the Puritans of Massachusetts these newcomers were largely Scots-Irish and Presbyterian. Although there was little separation between church and state in the early days and meetinghouses were used for both church services and community political meetings, issues began to develop as Baptist and Methodist preachers began to move in and demand equal pay from the towns. Along with violence over competing land claims and great societal conflict that led up to the Revolution, this was a turbulent time.

Phillis Wheatley, the first African-American poet to be published, is the topic of the second lecture delivered by Dr. Harold Schramm. With graduate degrees in both English and Law, Schramm taught for many years at Western Connecticut State University. Wheatley, born in Africa in 1753, came to Boston as a slave when she was seven. Her owners, the Wheatleys, taught her to read and write and encouraged her to write poetry. She was very well educated for a woman of her time, knew both Latin and Greek, and was praised for her poetry by George Washington with whom she corresponded. Even though she was freed by her owners, illness and poverty took their toll on her life.

We in New England are fond of remembering the Underground Railroad and the lives of great abolitionists such as Harriet Beecher Stowe and Elijah Parish Lovejoy, it is true that slavery existed in Maine at the time the Old Walpole Meetinghouse was built and was only abolished nine years later. You can see the seats in the balcony that slaves and indentured servants used.

There is no charge for the lectures, but donations are welcome.

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