Out of Our Past

Spruce Point Chapel, Part II

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 10:00am

After Part I of this article was printed, I talked to Chet Fossett who provided more details about the chapel’s beginnings. His father Charles built the pulpit, the communion table, and other pieces of furniture for the building. Chet also said the piano came from the youngest Barker sister who summered at Spruce Point, and that summer resident Mrs. (Gertrude) Dubois of the point was a very active supporter of the effort.

Uses of the Chapel to 1945

From the late 1920s through the mid-1940s, the Spruce Point chapel was used for services on Friday night at 7:15 or 7:30, Sunday school, weddings, a social hour once a month and other social activities—an all-purpose gathering place. Sometimes the Friday service was called “a service of song with a sermon” in the summer. Besides Sunday school, a Summer Bible School ran for a few weeks on Friday nights. Marion Jenkins supervised the Sunday school, while Charlena Brewer was organist and Rebecca Reed was treasurer.

At times there would be a special speaker, such as a missionary from Japan. Every February a Valentine Social took place in the evening. At Christmas time the chapel put up a tree, local people put on a carol concert, and there were gifts for all. The Christmas concert included recitations as well as songs and hymns. Also from the 1920s through the mid-1940s the Spruce Point ladies held fundraising events: an annual lobster stew dinner for the chapel as well as a rummage sale or a fair in July. Many of the fair items, such as fancy work, were made by the local women.

1945 forward

From 1945 to 1947 the chapel seemed to be rarely used, perhaps because of post-war effects. The only news was that a Ladies Aid Fair was held in the chapel in July 1946. Finally Friday evening services were announced for the chapel in early May 1947, and by July Bible study was held on Tuesday evenings in the parsonage. The chapel seemed to suspend services on Fridays at the height of the summer and resume in September. However by early 1948 they were using the parsonage and homes for chapel events, then started regular Friday services in the chapel in July through to December.

A 1953 memory

Nikk Salata emailed me in 2018 about a 1953 memory. He grew up further north of the chapel on Atlantic Avenue. “I remember the time when I was five, that my grandmother, Ruby Brackett, and I, along with Doris Tomer, walked toward Spruce Point on Christmas Eve in a snow storm and arrived at a chapel about a mile or so on the left. I had never been in a church before and I never remember Ruby ever attending church. The place was packed. We managed to take two or three more steps to get into the foyer. I stood there shivering in my boots but that feeling faded away as I heard the most splendid Christmas music, all the old carols. It seemed to last for just a while but I enjoyed it so much.”

Into the 1960s

The changes in the schedule were seemingly erratic, but that may be due to the irregularity of news in the Register. I believe this pattern of suspension followed by regularity may reflect the limitations of a shared minister. To 1964 the chapel continued to be used fairly regularly for services, though they were changed to the first and third Friday evenings in 1961. Carolyn Smith said Jack Pinkham of Spruce Point preached for a time at the chapel, probably in the 1960s. As before, Sunday school, Bible study, suppers, and fairs were common gatherings. In 1964 Rev, Broyles was the pastor with Stanley Hanson the pianist. By summer 1966 the services seem to have changed to Sunday night and Rev. Hartley was the pastor. I believe the church was not conducting services in other seasons. That was a reversal from earlier decades when the chapel was open every season except summer. A Christmas fair, held at the Harbor Methodist church in late November 1966, included items from all the other Methodist chapels in the Harbor, including Spruce Point’s. In mid-July 1967 and 1968 there was a fair. There was notice of a service in July 1968, the first in the paper since 1966.

Kathy Alley Tibbetts, who grew up on the east side, remembers decorating the chapel for a wedding in the 1970s. During that same period, she remembers a food pantry in the chapel.

The Chapel is shuttered

I believe it was unused for anything of a religious nature in the later 1970s and early 1980s. Even in 1971 the church list of services in the Register never included the chapel. Chet Fossett explained to me that he, lawyer Stan Tupper, and Railway Village director Chet Rittall formed a committee in 1992 to do what was best with the building. The deed provided that it revert to the Snow Meader family who’d owned the land under it, but they didn’t want it since its loss of religious standing would make it taxable.

To the Railway Village

Finally in November 1992 the Register reported, “The Spruce Point Chapel, a fixture on Atlantic Avenue for nearly 70 years, was donated to the Boothbay Railway Museum. The chapel, which has not been used since 1982, will be moved to the Railway Village in the fall of 1993 and opened to the public in the spring of 1994.”

In May 1998 St. Columba's Episcopal Church held its first service in the chapel at the Railway Village; eventually that church built its own building. An inter-denominational community church, which gathered at the chapel for some time, now meets at the Rotary Club building. The Spruce Point chapel presently is used for exhibits, events, occasional weddings, and memorial services at the Boothbay Railway Village.