Friday, December 10, 2021

Church’s iconic weathervane creation part of Raymond’s rich history

By Ernest H. Knight

It has been suggested that as a facet of Raymond history, a subject could be the weathervane on the Raymond Village Community Church, rebuilt and restored to the steeple after a lapse of 40 years or more. As well as being of historical importance, it is surely interesting and unique.

The current weathervane at Raymond Village
Community Church is an exact copy of the
original made in the 19th century by Sumner
Plummer and uses all its original parts except for
those made of wood.
The church building was the culmination of many years of effort by the “Ladies Mite Society” and residents of the village to provide a formal place of worship. Erected in 1878 and dedicated in 1879, it was a typical New England Meeting House of Free Will Baptist affiliation with a resident pastor in spite of a declining population resulting from the changing economy of rural Maine after the Civil War.

But as the church needs a steeple and surely as a steeple needs a weathervane, that deficiency was overcome by Sumner Plummer who lived next door to the church. Besides having the best interests of the church and village in his nature, he was also an artist, tinkerer, maker of unique signs, proprietor of a girls’ school, undertaker, and practitioner of the theology of “laying on of hands.” He also was perhaps a little critical of his neighbors and townspeople.

The present weathervane is an exact copy of the original made by Sumner and uses all its original parts except those made of wood, which had weathered badly in the more than 60 years it faced the elements until removed in the 1940s after storm damage to the steeple.

It has a graceful wooden vane with filigree cutouts above a wind direction indicator, surmounted by a bronze spearhead topping an iron rod which also held a crown of thorns. The crown was made of a sapling hoop of wood wound with pointed strips of lead for thorns. Under the iron plates providing reinforcement for the shaft hole on which the vane turned in the wind was found the original paint, a bright gold color which was copied in the repainting.

But the unique elements of Sumner’s creation was in the vane. On the front, fashioned as a finger pointing into the wind which would sooner or later point in the direction of everyone. And in large letters on both sides of the vane was the biblical scripture “Mat. 23:27.”

The admonition of this verse from Matthew is one that can be given serious thought by almost everyone, excepting “me and thee” of course, and probably Sumner was sending the message intentionally which Matthew gives as “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones and uncleanness.”

And perhaps that reminder is why he erected the heavy and awkward assembly alone at night, a feat that surely warranted divine guidance and protection.

But there are two features of the original design and incorporated in the reconstruction. The heavy five-foot tall wooden bollard interposed between the top of the steeple and the weathervane was omitted as a practical structural safety precaution. Its omission emphasizes Sumner’s sense of proportion and esthetics as the present stubby arrangement does not quite measure up.

And the top edge of the full length of the vane of the original had sharp pointed needles inserted every inch as a deterrent to the roosting of pigeons. There seems to be few pigeons around today. Perhaps there are a lack of horses and oxen to attract a population of those scavengers looking for the easy life.

Raymond Village Community Church was chartered in 1928 and affiliated with the Congregational society. At that time, it was part of a multi-church Presumpscot Union Parish. A vestry was added in 1960 and then later an addition was built for classrooms and office space. In 1986, the Presumpscot Union Parish dissolved, and the Raymond Village Community Church was ready to be on its own with a full-time pastor. The church purchased a parsonage next door, restored the weathervane on the steeple and renovated the sanctuary. <

This article was written by the late Ernest H. Knight, one of the founders of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and contained in his book “Historical Gems of Raymond and Casco.” It was submitted by the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and articles about Raymond history from the historical society will appear regularly in The Windham Eagle newspaper. To find out more about the Raymond-Casco Historical Society, call Frank McDermott at 207-655-4646.     

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