THE HISTORY OF OTIS BAPTIST CHURCH
To say that Otis Baptist Church has been in existence since 1925 is probably a misconception.
Yes, the building itself was constructed and dedicated in that period, but thanks to the destruction of old church records by industrious church mice, most of those precious facts disappeared from the closet in the front corner of the church.
Research of various degrees and through word of mouth and contact with some of the founding members of the church, we have been able to piece together some of the histories. For some years, Otis was fortunate enough to be visited on various occasions by traveling pastors, who rode about the country supplying sermons to outlying towns. At one time, Mariaville (then called Tilton) entertained and housed some of those men of the cloth. The proximity of Otis and Tilton gave folks from Otis an opportunity to worship with friends, neighbors, and relatives at various places. The pastors often stayed with accommodating folks during their time of ministry in the area. “Church services” were held in diverse places. Folks worshiped in each other's homes when adequate space was available, in open fields on nice days, in apple orchards during hot afternoons, in cleared out barn floors or other shelters of adequate cover during inclement or chilly weather. One historical memory indicates that Otis Baptist church services, before the present church, were held in one of the school houses in Otis. At any rate, the church did exist in one form or another, even if the building did not.
In a look back at a history excerpt from an old town report comes this information. The Otis Baptist Church was started in 1917 by a group of women from the Otis/ Mariaville area. They called themselves “the Sunshine Sewing Circle” and met a couple of times a week. Over the years, this group of dedicated ladies decided they would do something about getting started on a formal gathering place for their church family. After all, the church is a family of people worshiping God, not a building; but a place to gather and nurture that family is also important. So work at the hands of the women began and subsequently on December 11, 1918, those ladies met at the home of Mrs. Jed Salsbury and went about re-organizing the Otis Sunshine Club to begin doing something about getting started on a building project, a church. The officers chosen at that meeting were President, Mrs.Willis Salsbury; Vice President, Carrie Lyman; Secretary, Lora C. Watts; and Lecturer, Mrs. Jed Salsbury. They decided to raise money for a church to be built. They couldn’t do much financially: but they could sew, crochet, knit, and according to Sunshine Records, eat and gossip. Thus began the money raising efforts of 10 ladies and within a very short time, their numbers increased. They made aprons and pillowcases to sell. They also held suppers and raffles and went door to door for lumber donations. Supposedly they conducted a business meeting which was alluded to in the minutes of their records, although their business was never recorded. Good food, fun times and production of articles to sell were the topics covered. Mind you; these ladies gathered at different homes in town on a weekly basis throughout the ensuing months regardless of weather. On Feb. 27, 1919, the snow was deep, but 13 members, six children, and two visitors showed up. Dedication?? March 19th was wet and stormy (12 hardy souls with six children and three visitors). The last recording anyone has located for the Sunshine Club was Nov.19th of 1919. A subsequent meeting was scheduled for Dec. 3rd, but nothing was recorded, and numbers of members present for several previous meetings seemed to have been dwindling. However, it is presumed there were further meetings with additional progress in their fundraising efforts.
In October of 1923, the heirs of Arden S. Young deeded a “small” piece of property from the family homestead to the United Baptist Convention of Maine to be held in trust for the Otis Baptist Parish. Six of the ladies in that family belonged to the Sunshine Circle at that particular time. The church had a home and construction was under way. The building was completed and dedicated in 1925. Over the next 60 years or so the church operated as a seasonal work. Pastors came and went. Often aspiring young seminary students filled the pulpit while staying with local folks during their training time at the church. At one time there was a lady pastor named Louise Edwards of whom we have a photo from many years ago. Rev. Otis Bruce, who died in 1866 at 65 years, was an early Baptist preacher who lived in Otis. Rev. Elliott Kearns (who lived in Mariaville) supplied the pulpit for a time and among the last pastors was the Rev. Clyde Booker who moved on to preach in Mariaville when attendance declined in Otis during cold winter months. One person remembers that during the 1940’s and early 50’s Sunday School classes were conducted in the one room of the sanctuary. Pre-scholars sat at a long table with small benches situated at the front of the room near the stove; older students were grouped together at the back of the room near another stove in the opposite corner. One group met in the corner of the front platform far from the little ones while the teens occupied the remaining back corner. Adults gathered somewhere in the middle of the pews. The ladies of the church mastered a Sunday school even when there was no pastor for church services. When the church closed for the winter months because of heating issues, some of the Sunday school attendees migrated to Mariaville or elsewhere, and some never returned. Attendance declined, became sporadic and for a time there were no services at all. However, the door was never locked. In the spring of 1984, a group of laymen from Columbia Street Baptist Church in Bangor formulated plans to re-open the church on a year-round basis. A new furnace replaced the old wood stoves. Working together with people from Otis, the church re-opened on May 20, 1984. Their plan at the time was to include Bible studies and a Sunday School. The services haven’t ceased since then.
Attendance and membership have grown and fluctuated over the years, sometimes as few as two people in the pews listening to the minister. At one time membership totaled 100 after 1984, although they were not all active at the same time. Growth required adding a Sunday school area to the existing building, moving outside facilities inside to warmer more convenient quarters and upgrades. More people required more space. Additional land was acquired in May of 1994 to establish a clear dividing line between the abutting property that was being sold and the church. It was a bonus for the church. That addition to church grounds made room for a new well, septic system, and more parking space. The expansion was also needed for additional Sunday School rooms, a fellowship area, and a pastor’s office. A large addition was built onto the existing church. The former addition was converted into a kitchen area. In 2012 the church purchased the additional property from a next door neighbor for future expansion, if and when the need arose. Lots of interior amenities have been implemented since 1984 and 30 years down the road, part of the parking lot has been paved. Throughout the years Otis Baptist Church has been very active in community outreach, mission support, and has supported the construction of a Habitat for Humanity home in town. Yes, Otis Baptist Church has grown in physical ways, but all this is superficial information. What matters is the spiritual growth of the church.
Otis Baptist Church has had three pastors since the laymen from Columbia Street Baptist Church opened the doors again. Fred Herman led worship for a short time prior to1999 before Cliff Cain took over the leadership that year and continued until his passing in 2012. Since then the church has had fill-in speakers, interviewed candidates for the pastor and an interim pastor in the person of David Elliott who was officially installed as full-time pastor on September 21, 2014.
The Otis Baptist Church family is growing in numbers and has been blessed in many ways. As Jesus has taught us, we strive to love and respect each other. We are the family of God, and although our faith has been tested over the years, the Lord Jesus Christ has been by our side and led us through some tough trials. We only need to rely on our one true Savior to guide us in our forward journey.
Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh unto the Father but through our FAITH and TRUST in Jesus. That must be the ultimate goal of our Otis Baptist Church family. We are not the building; we need to be the human building blocks with Jesus as our Master.
MEMBERS OF THE SUNSHINE CLUB 1918-1919
- Mrs. Blanche (Willis) Salsbury
- Mrs. Blanche (Jed) Salsbury
- Carrie Lyman
- Lora C. Watts
- Fannie E. Young
- Lyda C. Frost
- Lizzie E. Young
- Clara Jordan
- Rettie Salsbury
- Bessie Salsbury
- Mrs. Nathan Salsbury
- Persis Salsbury
- Mae Jellison
- Laura Lally
- Cassie Johnson
- Lettie Cuthbertson
- Delia Brawn
- Frankie Salsbury
- Mrs. George Black
- Mrs. Charles Bunker
- Maxine Arie
- Clarance Black
- Lettie Cuthbertson
- Mrs. Ralph Lally and little daughter Eva Frances