History of the Advent Christian Campmeeting Association
The Association, known then as the Androscoggin Campmeeting Association, purchased their current property in 1889, 15 acres of land from Walter Smith for the sum of $350. This area was located about one mile south of the village of Mechanic Falls on the Lewiston Road at the site of the present Advent Christian Campground.
Some buildings were already on these grounds, but were removed and the lumber used to build a boarding house. These early campmeetings were yearly affairs held for two weeks at the end of July or the first of August.
In the first two decades a large tent was used for the general meetings, and of course had to be put up and taken down annually. The tables in the boarding house were hoisted to the ceiling to make room for the seats from the tent and storage of water pipes.
Water was carried to the boarding house and cottages but was piped from a spring at the right of the grounds to two horse sheds at the left of the main entrance. These sheds, perpendicular to the main road, were 66 feet long with sloping roofs with a scaffold to store hay.
By 1920, the small grove had grown into tall maples and pines and sturdy oaks, providing shelter from the hot summer sun. The grounds now consisted of a two-story rooming house, a boarding house, some 30 cottages and two stables.
A chapel, called “Victory Hall” was built by the Young Peoples Aid Society, with free rooms for the ministers on the second floor. Some of the trees were cut and the lumber used by communal labor to construct a tabernacle. Some 250 straight backed wooden benches were installed. A preacher’s stand was erected center way with a roof over it, that the speaker could be protected from the hot sun or inclement weather.
The individual cottages were modestly constructed, the majority with two rooms on the first floor, and two upstairs, a sloping roof and an occasional front porch. No plumbing or electricity were provided. A communal latrine was constructed at the rear of the tabernacle and boarding house.
As all the water at the campground had to be hand pumped, baptisms were conducted at natural bodies of water, where the sacrament could be consecrated by submersion, Mink brook at the rear of the campground, a convenient location for this purpose was used frequently at the turn of the century.
Just prior to the evening services, a lamplighter would light the lamps which had been placed on posts, strategically located around the grounds. For many years this chore was performed by Curtis Sawyer. A watchman was appointed to make rounds about the area several times during the evening hours. Ai Twitchell was responsible, about 1920, for the installation of a few electric lights about the area.
From local areas, people came for the day by horse and carriage, to hear an especially good speaker, and left for home again in the evening. The Maine Central and Grand Trunk railroads brought in many visitors to the grounds. Upon occasion special trains stopped at the rear of the campgrounds to discharge or take on passengers. The completion of the electric car line in 1907 also proved a convenient means of transportation, as that line stopped at the front entrance to the area.
Weekday programs were planned for all age groups. An early prayer group met at 6am. A general Bible Study was held for teenagers at 10am. At 1pm, Retha Glover assisted by Ellen Coburn held children’s meetings in the chapel at Victory Hall. They drew pictures for the children, or gave flannel-graph talks. The young Peoples Aid Society held meetings at the chapel at 4pm. Prayer meetings were held at various cottages to pray for the evangelist, that he might have many people accept Christ as their savior. These groups met prior to the evening services which were held at 7pm.
A love feast began at 9 am Sundays, conducted in the tabernacle by an elder or layman.
The regular Sunday morning service was conducted at 11am and another at 2pm. The young people held their meeting at 6pm with a greater part of the service dedicated to hymns and chorus singing.
The service at 7 pm seemed to be devoted to those still unsaved or those who might be wavering from the straight and narrow path. At the close of the evening service, an invitation was extended to those who felt they would like to publicly profess their faith in Christ to come forward to the altar for prayer. As many as 20 souls have been seen at the altar at one time. Loud singing, weeping or an occasional “Hallelujah” or “Amen” during the service were acceptable means to express emotion.
Following the evening service on the last Sunday, communion was served. As it was not wished to give any indication of alcoholic beverages, fermented wine was not used. Raisins were soaked in water and pressed to obtain the juice. This represented Christ’s blood. Ai Twitchell provided home-made unleavened bread, which represented Christ’s body.
In 1955, a public address system was installed with several speakers about the area enabling visitors to sit in their automobiles or on the porches of the cottages to hear the sermons. An electric organ has been loaned yearly by the Baldwin Studios of Portland.
Rev. Mrs. Jessie Jordan, “A very Godly woman,” preached here in 1903. E.P. Woodard started the “Faith Mission Society”. Austin Taylor from Bridgton helped start a missionary society in India. Dr. C.O. Farnum was a preacher noted for his music compositions pertaining to the second coming. Many hymnals today contain his spiritual music. Those people and many others helped contribute to the growth and development of the Mechanic Falls Advent Christian Campground.
Possibly one of the best known figures at the campground was brother John Clothy, who was several times president of the association. He sold his business at Marblehead, MA, and trusting God for his living, began circuit preaching.
During the Presidency of Rev. David Snell in 1961, the society voted to erect a new tabernacle and to use the existing one for young peoples meetings. Lumber on the grounds was cut and sold to help finance this project.
A building of concrete block construction with a seating capacity of 500 was erected near the front entrance to the area. A modern lighting system was later installed, and a dedication service held.
In the past, people of great determination and faith have helped to make the Advent Christian teachings a living doctrine. This campground is ever enlarging, and with the labor of those who follow, the work of Christ will continue to be felt here.
by Donald H. Mills