BINGHAM — In the early 1800s, a settler named Elizabeth Goodrich helped organize church services every Sunday even though it wasn’t considered proper then for women to speak in public.

There was no church building at that time in the wilderness of what was still Massachusetts, so services were held in homes, barns and often in Goodrich’s spacious kitchen, according to an account written in 1955 by Elizabeth Goodrich Jordan, a descendent of the elder Goodrich.

In 1805, seven years before Bingham would be incorporated, nine settlers took an oath “to walk in all the ordinances of the church.” Their group constituted the first official church body in Bingham, though they had no official building.

It wasn’t until 31 years later that their white church in the lower part of town was built. A minister carried Goodrich, then 92, in an easy chair to the dedication on Oct. 20, 1836, surrounded by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

It’s been 175 years since that day, and the town is celebrating the anniversary at 2 p.m. on Sunday at what is now called the Bingham Old Free Meeting House, with a concert by the Portland-based Sunrise Brass Quintet.

Events will continue at the meeting house this fall, with a community choral concert on Sept. 18, and a dedication ceremony on Oct. 23.

Starting Oct. 7, the Old Canada Road Historical Society will feature a special exhibit on the meeting house, displaying old photographs, deeds and communion cups, among other items.

The meeting house is “the first big thing that you see. Everyone I think who passes it looks at it. It’s an old building and it’s well kept,” said Marilyn Gondek, secretary of the board of the Old Canada Road Historical Society.

Over the years the church building was used by Congregationalists, Methodists and the Daughters of the American Revolution. Now owned by the town, it’s used for weddings and other gatherings.

“We’d like to get the town doing more things as a community,” Gondek said. “It’s not a denominational church. It’s a community building.”

The church’s bell was likely made by the son of Paul Revere, Gondek said, and was hauled from Skowhegan on an ox cart. The meeting house is now located, appropriately enough, she said, on Old Church Street.

Erin Rhoda — 612-2368

[email protected]

 

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