OTISFIELD — This year’s service at Otisfield’s Bell Hill Meeting House on Sunday, July 26, will mark the 96th consecutive year that an annual summer service has been held at Bell Hill, one of Otisfield’s most historic spots. The service will begin at 2:30 p.m.

The meetinghouse, built in 1839, holds the distinction of being the town’s tallest building. It is actually the second meetinghouse located on Bell Hill. The first meetinghouse, completed in 1799, was really a town building in those days before town and church were separated.

Town meetings were held in the meetinghouse, and the town hired and paid the salary of the first minister, the Rev. Thomas Roby, a Congregationalist. The meetinghouse was located on top of Otisfield’s second highest hill because Bell Hill was then the population center of the young town.

Until about 1845, the town’s militia held its annual muster, or drills, on the flat area surrounding the building. After the first meetinghouse was severely damaged by a hurricane, the Congregationalists erected the present building near the first. It was completed in 1839. The thrifty Otisfield settlers recycled the 1799 building by removing its top floor, which they then relocated a half mile down Bell Hill. It served as Otisfield’s town house until 1905.

The speaker for the July 26 service will be the Rev. C. Danford Carr, a retired Baptist minister who now lives in Hollis Center. A native of New York state, Carr was raised and educated in Virginia. He and his wife, Janet, have served churches in Wisconsin, Illinois, West Virginia and Maine. 

Carr has also written articles and curriculum for the Baptist and Lutheran churches. In June the Carrs completed two years of interim ministry at the East Otisfield Free Baptist Church.

The service will include music by the Otisfield Community Choir, directed by Priscilla Delehanty. Virginia Noble will be pianist. Rehearsals for the choir are scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 23, at Bell Hill, and at 1 p.m. Sunday, July 26, at Bell Hill. Volunteers are also needed for cleaning the church and schoolhouse at 1 p.m. Monday, July 24.

The 1839 brick schoolhouse adjacent to the meetinghouse will also be open for the public on July 26. The building served the town as a one-room schoolhouse until about 1940. Both are now owned and maintained by the Bell Hill Meeting House Association, formed in 1927 with the mission of preserving the meetinghouse and insuring that a religious service be held there at least once each year.

Refreshments will be served outside following the service.

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