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by Lynne Jones


The First Baptist Church before 1906 originally had no steeple

When Benjamin Randall joined the Berwick, Maine, Baptist Church in 1776, he had some strong feelings about free will and salvation. In order to develop these ideals, he moved his family to New Durham, NH, and formed his new church. Soon after, in 1781, the Free Will Baptist Church in Georgetown Center (later known as the First Baptist Church and now as the municipally-owned First Church facility) was created with these same ideals. It is interesting to note that, according to Agnes Powers’ history of the church (written for and published in The Bath Daily Times in 1949) the Free Will Baptist Church in Georgetown had, by 1827, a membership of 87, while the Calvinist Baptists had only 8 members, the Methodists 43, and the Congregationalists 50. Thanks to Clayton Heald and members still active when they donated the church to the town, the Historical Society now has the old records, starting with the handsome and well-preserved “Parkers Island Monthly Meetings Book” dating from 1798.

In North Berwick the future Rev. Alexander Hatch Morrell was born October 10, 1818. He was the fifth child of Josiah and Sarah (Quint) Morrell, and with his family moved to Litchfield in 1824. With the family’s Quaker background and his own early sense of a call to the ministry, Alexander, at age 18, chose to be baptized in the Free Will Baptist Church of Litchfield. An older sister, Sarah Jane, had married an early abolitionist, Barnabas Springer, and Alexander was exposed often to the ideals of the power for good. The sense of duty toward the poor and oppressed was a force that drove Alexander throughout a life of devotion, until his death at the home of his son, Frank, in New Jersey in 1885. (Morrell/Morrill family info,, and Jeff Morrill’s site,

After his youth in a small Maine town, Rev. Morrell became a merchant in Hallowell, a preacher in Phillips, eventually a teacher in West Virginia, and finally a preacher in Rhode Island. Alexander was involved early on with the newly formed Storer College in Harper’s Ferry, WV. This began life as a one-room school for freedmen and developed over the years into a full-fledged college, open to all races. The Free Will Baptists believed that one who freed the slaves was then morally obligated to educate them to live the lives of truly free men. As Alexander’s health declined, he was sent to be pastor of the Chepachet Free Will Church in Rhode Island, until his death in 1885. (

How does all this relate to Georgetown? In Georgetown in 1807 Thomas B. Seavey married Kezia Hinkley, and they had five children. Their fourth child was Elizabeth (Eliza), born September 8, 1817. Thomas was from Scarborough, but Kezia (Kesia) was from the old Hinkley/Hinckley family that was deeply involved with the First Baptist Church in the center of town. After the Seavey family moved to Monhegan, they found their way to the Hallowell area, where Eliza met and married Alexander in 1845. She was credited with the success of her husband’s ministry, “partially due to her tact and keen perception.” They had three children: Francis H. (Frank), who attended Bates College in Lewiston (another school connected to the Free Will Baptists) and became a school teacher in New Jersey; William H., who also became a teacher; and Eliza J. (Lyde), who married a Davis and was the grandmother of Hollywood star Bette Davis.

How do we know all this? In Georgetown a few years ago during a recycling event at the Transfer Station, Sharon Trabona was given an old diary that had come out of an equally old house in town, occupied for many years by the Heal/Heald family. Aware that the diary was not obviously connected to Georgetown, but that it might be worth saving, Sharon passed the diary on to me, hoping I might find a good home for it. The handwritten diary of Rev. Morrell covered only May 17, 1882, to July 5, 1882, but this fragment of history led to the rediscovery of the story of a life devoted to the abolition of slavery and to educating those who most needed to start new lives. There were several genealogical references in the diary, and I was able to contact a living member of the Steere family still in Chepachet to whom to send the diary. She was a member of the church and planned to give the diary to the church elder as soon as it arrived. After an exchange of thanks, I proceeded to forget about the diary.

Fortunately the Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church was excited to receive such an interesting piece of their church and town history, and a pastor emeritus, Jeff Brooke-Stewart, took on the task of transcribing the diary over the winter of 2006-7. He told me what the gift of the diary meant to his church and informed me of the website he had created. After extensive research into Free Will Baptist history and the life of the Rev. Mr. Morrell, Jeff has collected it in a wonderful website for all to enjoy. A printed copy is at the GHS Library and its on-line address is

There are still such questions to be answered as What is the connection to the Heal/Heald family? and How did the diary find its way back to Maine after Alexander’s death? Maybe someone out there has some information that might help. What I found exciting about this long journey of the diary is the lesson that throughout the life of Alexander and his wife Eliza they never let the lack of wealth, education, or good health turn them from their ideals to make the lives of those even less fortunate better.  And . . . don’t throw out any cool stuff without checking with me first!

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