|Maine House||District 46|
|Maine Senate||District 22|
|Area sq. mi.||(total) 38.8|
|Area sq. mi.||(land) 38.1|
Total=land+water; Land=land only
The 1835 Union Church was an important community meeting house, then the site of the town offices beginning in 1922, and more recently the home of the Durham Historical Society.
Durham was the home to an early 20th century religious movement know as the Sandfordites, after their leader Frank W. Sandford. Their temple “Shiloh,” built in 1897, along with other buildings was the headquarters of the group.
Another religious society, the Quakers, have a meetinghouse at the corner of Quaker Meetinghouse Road and Pinkham Brook Road.
The novelist Stephen King attended school in Durham.
Durham, which lies between between relatively urbanized Brunswick and Auburn, is a rural area consistently growing in population over the past thirty years.
The small memorial park honors World War II veterans and, according to a plaque nearby, “Joe Wier Famous Scout and Indian Fighter.” It also notes that this area was, in 1820, a busy trading center on what was then the Old Hallowell Road. The park sits at the intersection of Routes 9 and 136, and Ferry Road.
Community buildings cluster near the intersection of Royalsborough Road (Route 136) and Route 9 [ N43° 58′ 35.30″ W70° 7′ 32.05″] :The Town Office, Fire and Rescue, and Community Center.
Durham Bicentennial Report, 1776-1976. Durham, Me. 1976?
Gordon, William Reginald. Frank W. Sandford and The Holy Ghost and Us Society. Thesis (M.A.)– University of New Hampshire. 1953. [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections]
*Maine. Historic Preservation Commission. Augusta, Me. Text and photos from National Register of Historic Places: http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/nrhp/text/xxxxxxxx.PDF and http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/nrhp/photos/xxxxxxxx.PDF
Bagley-Bliss House: 96000242.PDF
Osgood, Nathaniel, House: 85000608.PDF
Shiloh Temple: 75000203.PDF
Union Church: 01000810.PDF
West Durham Methodist Church: 03000291.PDF
Stackpole, Everett Schermerhorn. History of Durham, Maine. Somersworth, N.H. New England History Press, 1979. Reprint of the 1899 ed. published by Press of Lewiston Journal Co., Lewiston, Me.
National Register of Historic Places – Listings
[1290 Royalsborough Road South Durham] The Bagley-Bliss House is a large two-story, five-bay, double pile frame dwelling with a one-story ell. Built about 1770 for O. Israel Bagley, it is considered to be the oldest house in Durham. The unmistakable Greek Revival style characteristics of the main block suggest that this section was either completely remodeled in the 19th century or was built at that time.
At the time it was occupied by Charles Bliss, and it remained in the possession of his descendants until the 1970s. O. Israel Bagley (1747-1797) and his wife Mary (Snow) Bagley were among the earliest settlers in Durham, then known as Royalsborough. He had the first store in the community, a potash factory, and was involved in shoe making and the operation of a wind powered grist mill. The town’s first school was held at the Bagley residence, which was also a public inn.
In 1836 it was acquired by Charles Bliss (1800-1873). Bliss moved to Durham three years after the death of his first wife, Mary (Webster) Bliss. The Blisses had two daughters: In 1843 Bliss married Lydia E. Cox of Brunswick. Their son, Charles H. Bliss, inherited the farm. It remained in the family until the 1960s, when the elderly owners vacated the house. It was remodeled and rehabilitated in 1982.*
Osgood, Nathaniel, House
[Maine Route 136] The Osgood House is one of the best preserved examples of four square hipped roof central chimney 18th-century rural houses in Maine. Its exterior appearance is well preserved and its period interior has survived intact. Nathaniel Osgood and his brother Aaron Osgood moved to Durham in the early 1780s from Deerfield, New Hampshire.
The Osgoods had originally been from the Amesbury, Massachusetts area where Nathaniel apparently served in a regiment of Colonel Bagley in the Revolutionary War. Bagley was the proprietor of Royalsborough, later to become Durham. The Colonal sold lots in Royalsborough to men who had served under him. Osgood probably purchased his land in 1779. The three story farmhouse is a timber frame structure with a hipped roof, a central chimney and clapboard siding.*
[Shiloh Road] Shiloh Temple was built by Rev. Frank Sanford in 1897 as a Bible and Missionary Training School. An unusual example of late 19th century architecture, its surrounding porch and mansard roof give it the appearance of a summer hotel; the shingled tower hints at a church. The Temple stands four stories with a seven story tower. A broad wooden staircase leads to the main entrance on the second story. [See photo above.]
The building is the remains of a fanatical religious movement of the late 19th century, like others bringing suffering, grief and finally disgrace to its leader. Visible for miles around, Shiloh’s golden crown arouses wonder and speculation. In 1893, Sanford gave up his position as Baptist clergyman in nearby Topsham and started the development of Shiloh. He claimed guidance from God through direct communication and visions, inspiring blind faith among his followers. They accepted his orders without resentment, withstood hardship and privation without protest, as God’s will.
In 1897 buildings were erected, starting with the Tower, until a great quadrangle emerged containing over 500 rooms capable of housing 1,000 or more people. In the tower room directly beneath the golden coronet, continuous prayers were said for a period of nearly 23 years. Sanford developed a plan for Christianizing the “heathen” parts of the world by sailing along their coasts and offering prayers for conversion. He acquired a vessel, the “Coronet”, and he and a crew of followers set sail. Even with great suffering, including scurvy, starvation and death, Sanford refused to abandon his mission. The “Coronet” finally limped into Portland Harbor where he was arrested sentenced to jail.*
[744 Royalsborough Road] The 1835 Union Church is a late Federal style frame building detailed on the exterior with Gothic Revival style features and on the interior with Greek Revival moldings. Apparently the Union Church was built primarily by Baptists in the Southwest Bend area of the town. The congregation’s twenty-two members formally organized themselves into the Baptist Church of Durham on in 1835. Church membership declined so that by 1887 it was dropped from the Baptist Association.
It appears that the church building itself continued to be used by other denominations ,as it had since its construction, until the early twentieth century. In 1922 it was deeded to the Town of Durham. It was used as the town hall beginning in 1924 until 1986. Since then it has been the home of the Durham Historical Society, although the building is still owned by the town.
The Union Church is one of a relatively small number of surviving Federal style religious buildings in Maine that are characterized by a central pavilion which projects from the main block, and a tower that either rises through or straddles both sections.
Among the most notable examples of the group are the First Church of Belfast (1818), the First Parish Church in Kennebunk (1770s, with pavilion and tower added c.1800) and the First Parish Church in Portland (1825-26). Late examples of the form, including the Old Union Meeting House in Farmington Falls (1826- 27), and the Union Church in Buckfield (1832).
West Durham Methodist Church
[17 Runaround Pond Road; N43° 56′ 54.22″ W70° 9′ 0.29″] This Church is a well conceived, beautifully proportioned, gable front Greek Revival Church at Methodist Corners in Durham. Identified as the “second oldest active Methodist church in New England” by the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church, the style of the church clearly doesn’t reflect the 1804 date on the plaque affixed to the front exterior wall.
The early history of this little Greek Revival church is cloudy. It has been asserted that “the building remains much the same as when it was built,” which when taken at face value would suggest a construction date of c. 1845-1850. But according to local tradition, town histories and histories of Methodism in Maine, the West Durham Methodist Church was built in 1804, two years after itinerant Methodist preachers first passed through the area. In August of that year, a great revival was held in a grove behind “where the church now stands”.
Official incorporation was granted to the church in 1810, granting official permission to build a church on the site; this is more likely the date of construction. It seems likely that the West Durham Methodist Church was given a significant remodeling in the Greek Revival style in the 1840s. In 1867 it was reconstructed and greatly improved as the Church received both an interior and exterior make-over. It is representative of a rural church design that occurs in Maine in the immediate post-Civil War decades.*