A big thanks to Zuke Roofing for their help in restoring the roof of our beautiful meetinghouse. With their generous rates, we were able to put on a new roof and avert serious damage to this magnificent 258-year old structure. Our 1759 meetinghouse is the earliest meetinghouse in Maine and the oldest public building in Biddeford and Saco.
She has been with us before we were a country—when we were just a little town in the wilderness.
She stood proud when all of our forefathers and foremothers gathered to read the Declaration of Independence in July of 1776.
The Biddeford Greats —Jeremiah Hill, Samuel Pierson, George Thatcher, and Benjamin Hooper—sat in her pews.
She was there when the British attacked us during the War of 1812.
Civil war soldiers gathered on her doorstep before they went off to fight and their photos are hanging from her walls.
She witnessed the American Revolution, War of 1812, World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and many other conflicts.
But, she is in desperate need of help. She has been sitting on granite rubble for 177 years and is in urgent need of a new foundation. We only have five more years left and she will start to crumble.
She has been there for us—isn’t it time we are there for her?
The year was 1817. Biddeford had weathered a fierce battle against the British resulting in the complete destruction of Thomas Cutts’ marine store in Biddeford Pool. One of his sloops, the Equator, was damaged beyond repair, and the other, the Equinox, was taken for ransom.
The War of 1812 was a war that very few in Biddeford wanted. Many of our citizens were so fired up that they drafted a petition voicing their disapproval and sent this petition to Congress. Many citizens felt that their Massachusetts government didn’t care that the British were wreaking havoc on our town and our industry.
It was during this period of unrest and discontent that the fifth President of United States decided to pay one of our Biddeford Greats, George Thatcher, a visit.
President Monroe’s goal was simple: He wanted to bring the country together. He wanted to temper the bitter political divisions between the Federalists and Republicans, between the North and South and other rifts that threatened to tear our country apart.
He was intent on cultivating, as one Boston journalist put it, “an Era of Good Feelings.” To usher in these good feelings, President Monroe embarked on goodwill tours from 1817 and 1819 and Biddeford, Maine was one of the first stops on his tours.
It is unfathomable for us in 2017 to imagine the excitement and fanfare of a President visiting Biddeford in 1817. Biddeford was a small place in 1817. There were no mills, no Main Street as we know it and it still had the feel of an agrarian society.
President Monroe presented himself as the consummate statesman on these goodwill tours. He wore his Revolutionary War uniform and tied back his powdered hair in 18th century fashion. He was dashing and evoked valor and bravery.
Many of our townspeople could still remember the American Revolutionary War and no doubt, witnessed one of their own – Jeremiah Hill and his men – marching down Guinea Road to the war front. Many more were present at the Biddeford Meetinghouse when the Declaration of Independence was read in front of the crowd that gathered.
President Monroe, in his Revolutionary war garb, symbolized where we had come as a nation. He never came across as a leader of a triumphant party, but instead as the head of our country. To those who met him on these tours, they said he radiated kindness and peace.
And President Monroe was here in Biddeford, Maine. He was here to have lunch with one of Biddeford’s prominent citizen’s, George Thatcher. George Thatcher was a practicing lawyer, a graduate of Harvard College and a delegate from Massachusetts to the Continental Congress. He was instrumental in helping to sponsor the creation of Bowdoin College because he believed that Maine needed its own institution of higher learning.
Join us as we celebrate this Presidential visit to Biddeford on July 15, 2017 at 11 AM. We will set the stage for this visit, read excerpts from George Thatcher’s letters and give you an inkling of what life was like in Biddeford in 1817.
Biddeford’s most valuable treasure is crumbling. The historic Biddeford Meetinghouse is falling apart. Back in 1840, the top floor of this 1759 structure was raised and the building was put on a bed of granite rubble. This granite rubble has served as a foundation for 177 years, but has only a few years left. The building was given a new roof back in the 1970s, but this roof is a dire need of repair.
Our beautiful meetinghouse is a regal reminder to when our country was going through the transition from a colony to independence. Back in 1776, the entire town proudly gathered to hear the reading of the Declaration of Independence. During the emotional upheaval of the Civil War, it was here at soldiers congregated and it was here in 1867 that some of these same soldiers came to have their photos taken.
Our Biddeford ancestors sat in these pews, listened to announcements of births and deaths, arbitrated legal and religious issues. They celebrated the seasons here and bent their heads in prayer. Our Biddeford great, Jeremiah Hill, came to this very meetinghouse to stand up for his right of free speech and thought when he was tried for heresy.
Please help us to bring this beautiful structure – so central to our history – back to life. Save the historic meetinghouse before it is too late.
In the next 6 months, we will be having events to support our capital campaign to #SavetheBiddefordMeetinghouse. Support this worthy cause.