[FNCA History]

The First 7 Years

 

"The Early History of the Fryeburg Assembly: An Adventure in Faith"

an address by the Rev. Harold R. Gustafson,
official FNCA Historian,
covering the FNCA's first seven years:
1921-1927

first presented to the New Church Club, Boston MA, October 11, 1933
and again to the same club on October 9, 1953

 

INTRODUCTION

Now that the leaves are turning color, and a chilly tang is in the air, our thoughts should probably begin to turn toward Winter sports and Winter work — rather than lingering fondly in Summer memories. But we humans are peculiar folks! We seldom do what we are supposed to do when we are supposed to do it!

Finding that my thoughts have thus strayed in reverse, as it were, I should like to ask your kind indulgence this evening as I take you back with me to some memories of other Summer days. They are memories that linger pleasantly and fondly. They are memories of beautiful days spent in beautiful surroundings; memories of days of toil; of sleepless nights of worry; of problems wrestled with and overcome; of friendships made, and developed into that affection which is the fruit of friendship; of ideals dreamed about, and realized!

The subject, as announced, is: "The Early Days of the Fryeburg Assembly". Perhaps a more accurate title might have been: "The Early Days of the Late Summer School at Fryeburg". For I shall have comparatively little to say about the Fryeburg Assembly. I shall have much to say about the Fryeburg Summer School out of which the present Fryeburg Assembly grew.1

At a recent meeting of this Club in 1932, we had the pleasure and inspiration of hearing an essay from Rev. William L. Worcester (an essay which, by the way, was an excellent summing up of a course of lectures which he gave at the old Fryeburg Summer School.) The title of this essay by Mr. Worcester was: "An Adventure with Children". The title of my present effort might well be: "An Adventure in Faith".

In explaining my choice of the history of the Fryeburg Summer School as my topic, I might say several things. In the first place, I am very much interested in the subject. In the second place, I was previleged to have had a part in the organization of the Fryeburg Summer School. In the third place, I took an active part in the management and life of the school during its early days. In the fourth place, I was appointed Official Historian (among other offices) at the meeting of the newly-organized Fryeburg Assembly in 1927. (So I have an opportunity to "kill two birds with one stone" by writing an essay for this Club and by writing a history of the Summer School from the years 1921-2927.) In the fifth place, I know that several of those present have attended the Summer School and that consequently, the topic will be of interest to you. And finally, I am certain that the discussion of the future of the Assembly, in the light of past history, will start a discussion that will not only be the means of bringing back pleasant memories, but will result in arousing an increased interest in it, and perhaps result in some helpful suggestions for its future welfare.
 

BEGINNINGS

The seed of the ideals which have been brought into being in the Fryeburg Assembly go back a long way into the past. When I was a boy of very tender years, I can remember distinctly, being present at the Assembly of New Church people at Weller's Grove, Indiana. I believe that this moment was sponsored, or at least aided, by the Rev. E.J.E. Schreck. We see Mr. Schreck a few years later as head of the Almont New Church Summer School at Almont, Michigan.

When Mr. Schreck removed from Detroit to Chicago, he was succeeded by the Rev. John Whitehead as Pastor of © FNCA 1925the  Detroit Society; and two years later as head of the Almont Summer School. Mr. and Mrs. Whitehead, their three daughters, and two sons were identified with the School up to and including the Summer of 1907. The memories of that intimate association with Almont on the part of the Whiteheads was the first seed, which was later planted to grow into the Fryeburg Summer School.

For a number of years prior to 1921, Mr. and Mrs. Whitehead spent their summer vacations in Fryeburg. There they saw the possibilities for a Summer School in the East. For at least two seasons, they had joined a group of New Church people who had gathered at Center Lovell, Maine, not far from Fryeburg. Another year, a session of a Summer School was held in the church at Portland, Maine. These sessions had been the means of assembling several New Church people, and they had proved both useful and delightful. For some unknown reason, however, the sessions at Center Lovell and at Portland did not result in a permanent organization. And yet from this source, seeds came forth.

Mr. Walter A. Robinson, of Fryeburg and Boston, was a very loyal New Churchman. For many years, he had been a teacher in the Boston Latin School. He was interested in the New Church and in education. He was very much interested in Fryeburg. No doubt he had many a long talk with the Whiteheads about the possibilities of a Summer School in the East, preferably at Fryeburg.

In 1920, the Rev. Louis A. Dole became Pastor of the Fryeburg Society. Mr. Dole had had many pleasant associations with Almont Summer School. Mrs. Dole had attended many sessions of the Almont School. Her sister, © FNCA 2018Miss Alice Sturges, had been a member of the Faculty at Almont for several years. The Doles were both alive to the need for a Summer School in the East. They were interested in education. They were enthusiastic about the natural beauties of Fryeburg. They were kindred souls with the Robinsons and the Whiteheads. Many an hour these three families must have known great delight and joy as they discussed the possibilities for organizing a Summer School at Fryeburg. And, according to all of them, such a school must be at Fryeburg. Why? Because of the beauty of the environment; because there was a Society of the New Church there; because it was easily accessible by road and by rail; because the Fryeburg Society could greatly cut down the expense of such a School through the loan of their church, their hall, and their equipment. With the Doles, the Whiteheads, and the Robinsons together in Fryeburg, something had to happen. Something did!

Were I properly modest, I suppose that I should leave myself out of the picture. But I am not properly modest. And I did enter the picture at this point, for I became Pastor of the Society at Portland, Maine, in the fall of 1920. I had also been inoculated in past years with the Almont virus. I had attended Almont as a pupil; later as a teacher of the boys' class; later as a lecturer. My father had been closely associated with Almont for some years, and at this time, 1920, he was Superintendent of Almont.

When Mr. Dole asked me what I thought of starting a Summer School in the East, naturally I was enthusiastically in favor of the idea. After I had made my first visit to Fryeburg a few weeks later, I was convinced that Fryeburg offered an ideal location for such a school.

So, with these various elements brought together, we should not be at all surprised to find this in the records of the meeting of the Executive Committee of the Maine Association for January 29, 1921:

"Mr. W.A. Robinson addressed the Committee relative to holding a summer school at Fryeburg the first week of August, commencing an Sunday, August 7th and closing on Sunday, August 14th, classes to be held in the morning of each day, the afternoons to be wholly free for recreation, and the evenings illustrated lectures to be given. Mr. Robinson stated that they had at Fryeburg the New Church Hall and dining room, and meals would be given there. He thought that the school could be so as not to need a great sum of money, and could be made attractive. He stated that the Maine Association had surplus funds and he thought other expenses could be guaranteed.

On motion it was
VOTED:— That the Maine Association appropriate One Hundred Dollars2 from its surplus funds towards the summer school, as outlined by Mr. Robinson.

After further discussion, on motion it was
VOTED:— That a committee consisting of the President of the Association, Rev. Louis A. Dole, Rev. Harold R. Gustafson, and Walter A. Robinson and Benjamin A. Newman be a committee to establish and maintain a summer school at Fryeburg, Maine, under the auspices of the Maine Association for the summer of 1921, and that all details in regard to same be left with the Committee with full power."
(Me. Assn. Report 1918-1921 Page 433)
 

THE FIRST SESSION: 1921

The committee appointed planned a program and spread the news of the coming session. The advertising was mostly by word of mouth. The Summer School opened on Sunday, August 7, 1921, with a service in the Fryeburg church, with the Rev. William L. Worcester as the preacher. Fifty-five were present at the service. At the evening service, the sermon was preached by the Rev. John Whitehead, and there were 27 present. The class sessions of the Summer School started on Monday, August 8, 1921. I quote from the Maine Association Journal 1921, page 7, from the report of that first session, as presented to the Association by Mr. Dole.

"The report of the Summer School held at Fryeburg, August 7th to 14th was presented by Rev. Mr. Dole who stated that three courses of lectures were given consisting of four lectures each, one by Rev. W.L. Worcester on "The Christian Value of the Psalms"; one by the Rev. John Whitehead on the "History of the New Church"; and one by the Rev. Louis A. Dole on the "Doctrines of the Church". Two evening lectures were given, one by the Rev. Paul Sperry and the other by the Rev. George H. Dole. The services on the two Sundays were conducted by Rev. Wm. L. Worcester. The teachers at the school were Rev. John Whitehead, Rev. Geo. H. Dole, Rev. H.R. Gustafson, Mrs. L.A. Dole, and Miss Florence Whitehead. Mr. Dole stated that they looked forward to increased attendance next year and hoped to make the term two weeks."

On page 8 of the same report we read:

"In reply to the question of Rev. Wm. L. Worcester, who spoke well of the school, Rev. Mr. Dole stated that the average number present at each lecture was twenty-two, the smallest number being nineteen and the largest number twenty-six, this not including the lecture on missions when fifty-one were present; that sixty-nine different persons were present during the school, not including the mission lecture, and was most encouraging."

The lectures were held in the church; in the morning as I recall it. Mrs. Dole and Miss Whitehead had classes for children, who assembled on the steps or on the grass outside the church. I was supposed to have a class of boys, but for some reason or other, they attended mostly "in absentia".

There were only a few of us that year. My family roomed with the Doles, all four of us in the one room, the two boys sleeping on a mattress on the floor. At that time they were four and six years old respectively. There were about ten of us to gather about the tables in the basement of the New Church Hall at mealtime. Meals were brought in, more or less hot, by the local baker who acted as caterer. They were good in some ways, and "not so good" in other ways. Looking back upon that year and comparing it with the present accomodations and comforts is like looking way back to pioneer days.

And they were pioneer days! I remember that we were all very happy. We had a very good time, eating together, discussing together, playing together. We motored and hiked about the country side. In the evenings, the Doles and Gustafsons and sometimes the Whiteheads and the Robinsons, sat around the Dole's sitting room — and what fun we did have! And what discussions we did have, too! Some evenings we would argue until after one o'clock. I might tell you many interesting things about that first session, but I must hasten on. Suffice it to say that we enjoyed every minute we had together and that we hated to leave when the session was over. (And that has been handed down as a Summer School tradition, even unto this day.)

Pioneer days? Yes! But at that first session there were no "ifs" or "buts". We never talked about the session next year "if there was one". We were positive that there would be one, and each and every one of us was willing to sacrifice a lot to see to it that there was one! Some of them even dug down into their pockets to pay the bills when there was a dificit. The future was certain, and we all knew it. We knew that we had started a good and useful thing; and we also knew that, with the Lord's help, it would grow.

But there were obstacles in the way. There were battles to fight. The sessions of the school closed on Sunday, August 14th. The sessions of the Maine Association were held in Bath on August 27th and 28th. There, we had to give a full report of our efforts. There, we were met with opposition!

It seemed that there were two parties: the "wets" and the "drys".3 While many nice things were said in favor of the effort at Fryeburg; while many testified to the benefits received; while almost all agreed that a Summer School in the East was a good thing to have; the debate on the question as to the place for holding such a school was lively. Some people were decidely in favor of the mountains and the lakes of Fryeburg. Some were as decidedly in favor of the islands, the rocks, and the salty tang of the sea. The question was finally settled (as so many questions have before and since) by referring the question of location of the Summer School for the following year to the Executive Committee of the Association. Incidentally, it might be interesting to report that the Executive Committee, with one exception, was most  heartily in favor of the Fryeburg location. (see ibid. p.10.)
 

THE SECOND SESSION: 1922

In the minutes of the Executive Committee meeting of the Maine Association under date of February 4, 1922, we read the follow:

"VOTED:— That the Summer School be held at Fryeburg, August 13th to 27th, 1922, inclusive.

On motion, duly seconded, it was
VOTED:— That the annual meeting of the Maine Association be held at Fryeburg on August 26th and 27th, 1922.

On motion, duly seconded, it was
VOTED:— That an appropriation of $100.00 be made for the benefit of the Summer School and that Walter A. Robinson, Treasurer of the Maine Association, be Treasurer of the Summer School.

ON motion, duly seconded, it was
VOTED:— That a committee consisting of Rev. Louis A. Dole, Walter A. Robinson, Rev. Harold R. Gustafson, Rev. Paul Dresser, and Benjamin Newman be a committee to arrange all details in regard to the Summer School for 1922, with full power"
(Me. Assn. Journal, 1921, p.12)

At this meeting, it was voted to authorize Mr. Dole to prepare and issue Bulletins of the Association containing news of the three Societies, and other matters of interest to the Association, to be sent to all members of the Maine Association and all others who might be interested in the Summer School. This carried an appropriation of twenty-five dollars.

The committee issued the Bulletin and distributed it more or less freely, thus advertising the Summer School to a wider circle. The result was a slight increase in attendance at the 1922 session.

The 1922 session was held from Sunday, August 12 to Friday, August 25, with the meetings of the Maine Association following on Saturday and Sunday, August 26 and 27. The sermon on the morning of Aug. 13 was by Rev. H. Clinton Hay, with 55 present. The evening service had Mr. Whitehead as preacher with 27 present. From Mr. Robinson's report to the Association (Journal, 1922, p.6) we learn that the average attendance at the lectures was 30.7 (The .7 probably being myself!) This was a gain over the first session; and the total enrollment also showed a slight gain. Unfortunately the Registration Book for the first few years of the Summer School has been mis-laid, and exact figures cannot be given.

Life at this session was very much like that of the first session. We had our meals served in the New Church Hall by the same baker, although this year the price of board had been raised ten cents a day, to $1.35. There were also a few more people present at table. The usual recreations were indulged, and they were very much the same as we have now: swimming, canoeing, hiking, climbing, motoring to nearby points of interest. One of our favorite trips was to Intervale to see the Worcesters, or to see the Burdetts. We often went to Center Lovell or Lovell to see the Werrens and the Barnards. Jockey Cap, Pine Hill, and Starks Hill were, of course, frequently climbed. Many a time have I set out for the top of Jockey Cap with my little son, Robert, carried "Piggy Back" on my back. Mr. Dole would be similarly burdened by my older son, Howard. Mr. Dole had built a canoe, and had made an ingenious carriage out of an old buggy frame and two bicycle wheels. We would place the canoe, and the lunch, water, etc. carefully balanced on this outfit. We would place Mrs. Dole in the exact center of the canoe, and one of my boys in either end. Then we would wheel it all the way to the Battle Ground monument, over the Roosevelt Highway. Said highway was not paved in those days and in many places was nearly six inches deep in sand and dust. But the two of us managed fairly well, to the Monumunt, where we launched the craft for paddle across the pond to Mr. Newman's camp for a steak dinner.

George [H.] Dole spent quite a little time with us this year. We enjoyed him very much, and he was a great asset to the school. This was the beginning of several years of regular attendance at the school. He was always willing to do anything for anyone. He carted the older women from room to church and from there to the New Church Hall for meals and back again. He and his car, from this time until his death, became a part of the Summer School.

Another feature of the Summer School that should be mentioned here is Miss Florence [Whitehead] and her Buick, known as the "Skipper" and the "Toonerville Trolley". She received this appelation because she piloted the Buick. The Car was so christened because it "met all trains".4  Yes! Most of us came and went by train in those days. Mr. Dole was always there to meet us, a smile of welcome on his face; and close to his side was Florence with "Toony" to take us where we wanted to go. She took us everywhere! She met trains at Fryeburg, Conway, North Conway, Intervale, and (I think) even at Portland. She and "Toonerville" became a part of Summer School life during the next few years. Our thanks go to her for her fine generosity and for her beautiful spirit. May she continue to be active at Fryeburg for many years to come!5

But to get back to our 1922 session. Four lectures were given by Mr. Whitehead on the general subject of "The Spiritual World and the Life After Death". I gave a series of lectures on "Worship in the New Church". Rev. Paul Dresser gave two lectures on "The Second Coming of the Lord". Mr. Dole gave a series on "Church History" Mr. Hay, a series on "New Church Psychology". Classes for children were in charge of Miss Whitehead and Mrs. Dole. I gave two illustrated lectures on "The Life of Swedenborg" and "The Holy Land".

From the Maine Bulletin of June 1922, I quote this:

"Half price will be charged for children under fourteen. ----- It will be the endeavor of the School to make it possible for families to attend, and it is hoped that those isolated and not in touch with a New Church Society may find it an opportunity for both recreation and inspirational association with a Church. Plans will also be made to meet the particular needs of the young people, and it is hoped that a large number will be with us."

This appeal resulted in the attendance of one isolated member at the session; and a few, but all too few, young people were present a part of the time. Sessions were held for two weeks this year.
 

THE THIRD SESSION, 1923

The same committee was appointed for the 1923 session. They started their work with courage, although they were faced with several difficulties and some discouragements. The expenses of the 1922 session were $442 and the total receipts were $405.85, leaving a deficit of $36.15. The Maine Association appropriated $100 towards the expense of the school. We also felt that the standard of the meals should be improved, but we did not want to raise the price of the board. Another discouragement was that we all felt that the School should have a larger portion of isolated people, and we tried to devise some way through which they could and would attend. We had always hoped that the young people would come to the sessions of the School; and we were disappointed that they had not attended in greater numbers. Our objectives this year were: to try to get isolated people to come; to increase the attendance of young people; to improve the meals. We solved the catering problem in a very satisfactory manner by hiring a new cook who cooked the meals at the New Church Hall. We advertised more extensively among the isolated in Maine, and as a result were able to make it possible for a few, but again too few, of them to come. To interest the young people was the biggest problem.

Mr. Robinson attempted to solve this for us; and Mr. Dole and especially Mr. Newman, of Fryeburg, helped in a very fine way. Mr. Newman offered us the use of his camp at Lovewell's Pond for a camp for young people. Mr. Fred Burdett loaned us a tent; Mr. Dole built a floor for it. Mr. Robinson attempted to arouse some enthusiasm in the Young Peoples Association in Boston over the possibilities of a summer camp at Lowewell's Pond. A circular was prepared and distributed, announcing the third session of "THE NEW ENGLAND SUMMER SCHOOL FOR BIBLE STUDY", (so we have a new name).

This circular is worthy of quotation. After extolling the merits of the joys to be anticipated, and after telling briefly the history of the School and Faculty, we read this:

"A feature this year will be a 'tent city' near the river especially for our young people. Registration for cots in the tents will close as early as July 1. A director will be in charge of a group of tents for boys and young men; a chaperone, of a group of tents for girls; and tents for families will be located apart from these groups.

The tents will have board floors with two or four cots in each according to sizes, and should be arranged for early in June.

The charge for each individual in the tents will be $2 a week.

There is no charge for attendance at the lectures and classes."

(This circular was made up before Mr. Newman offered the use of his camp at Lovewell's Pond.)

The circular goes on, significantly, thus:

"For the next few years, the management of the School will continue to be in the Maine Association, but it is hoped to build an organization strong enough to be an efficient missionary force for the whole church, and managed by those who promote it. With this in view, membership cards are being distributed."

So we see another custom established: a membership fee. This last statement is significant! The pioneer spirit breathes from it! "An Adventure in Faith" is my title for this paper. Here was a man faced with discouragement and difficulty — but did he give up? Did he lose faith? Not by any means! We see him courageously planning a "tent city" in the intervale! We see him proclaiming his vision of the time when the "New England Summer School for Bible Study", as he calls it, will be weaned from its parent and stand on it's own feet, sponsored and supported by the Church at large because it has proved its worth as a missionary force! Mr. Robinson adventured in faith! Truly others in that group at Fryeburg were adventurers in faith!

The "tent city" did not materialize, but the camp at Lovewell's did. And what a difference it made in the life of the Summer School! My wife and I were in charge of the camp. It was situated about two and one half or three miles from town, off the Brownfield road. There was a lodge; a one room shed affair occupied my wife and I; and a houseboat which had been dragged up on shore for Winter and had not been put overboard again. It was a cozy affair and very comfortable sleeping quarters for one person. Because of its general size and shape it was dubbeed "Noah's Ark". Naturally, the occupant was dubbed "Noah". We had two famous "Noahs", Ted Burdett and Franklin Blackmer. The main lodge was occupied by a cousin of Mrs. Dole's, Mrs. Sturges, of Chicago. She was very hospitable, and her fine personality did much to make life at camp pleasant and jolly. There was a tent nearby for the boys; and the girls slept upstairs in the main lodge. Meals were served in town at the New Church Hall. We depended upon Miss Whitehead, the Doles, Burdetts, and oftentimes "shanks mare"6 for our transportation. The older people had rooms in private homes in the village.

I want to dwell somewhat on this year because it made a change in our whole School life. Prior to this time, we had very little organized recreation in the evening. Now and then we would get together to talk or perhaps play cards. On one or two occasions we had amused ourselves by attending a movie show at the K. of P. Hall (and what fun it was, while we ate peanuts and crackerjack during the intervals while the film was being changed. Yes, believe it or not, they boasted only one projector, and we had to wait a few minutes at exciting points while reels were changed.)

The camp changed our social life. Many mornings were spent at camp (the lectures were held in the afternoons this year); and almost every evening, we went out there for a camp fire. There were bacon bats, marshmallow roasts, hot dog frys, adjective stories, ghost tales, singing contests, etc. almost every evening. What fun we did have together! It brought us closer together in every way.

We were disappointed again in the lack of young people to attend our camp. We had some, usually three or four most of the session; and at one time, we had a few more. But youth has a better time when it travels in gangs and crowds. Those who came had a good time, and carried the good news home to others; but circumstances prevented most of them from returning the following season. Those who were present kept things lively. We had some dances and parties at the New Church Hall; we paddled canoes; swam; and climbed mountains. One evening we danced until half past eleven, went to camp, put up a lunch, got to bed at half past twelve, got up at three, motored to Kearsarge Village, climbed Kearsarge Mountain, and ate our breakfast on the top by eight o'clock. We returned a wee bit late for lunch; and we had to present ourselves at the first lecture in the afternoon in our hiking costumes (in some cases lack of costume). Rev. Paul Dresser was lecturing on the Psychology of suggestion, and he was giving formulae for inducing sleep in cases of insomnia. To prove the value of his teaching, there were at least four tired hikers enjoying peaceful repose and peace in the Land of Oblivion.

This year was significant in marking the date of the first Summer School romance.

The Faculty included Mr. Whitehead with lectures on the "Spiritual Sense of Genesis"; Mr. Dole: "Swedenborg's Philosophy"; Mr. Gustafson: "The History of the Bible"; Mr. Dresser: "Psychology"; Mr. Hay: "The Psychology of the Incarnation". Sermons were delivered by Rev. Mess'rs Hay, Dole, Geo. Henry Dole, and Gustafson.

The dates were Sunday, August 12 to Friday August 24 inclusive. Mr. Dole reported to the Maine Association (Journal 1923, p.6) that the 1922 deficit had been made up in part by members of the faculty (again an adventure in faith); that the expenses for 1923 had come within the appropriation; that the total enrollment had been eighty; that the average attendance had been twenty-two children and sixteen adults.

Features of this session worthy of special mention were: the camp; the afternoon lectures; the young people; and the setting aside of one day each week for an organized trip by canoe or automobile. This year also saw three significant innovations: 1) a membership card and fee; 2) the start of  a building fund; 3) wider advertising.
 

THE FOURTH SESSION, 1924

Once again, the Maine Association sponsored the School and appropriated $100 for its support. Mr. Dole was named as Superintendent. Sessions were held from Sunday, August 10 to Friday, August 22 inclusive. The average attendance at meals was about 14. The average attendance at morning services was 45; evening 37. Average attendance at lectures first week was 19; the second week 24. Thirty-nine people signed the register, meaning that they attended at least one lecture. (I do not think this is a complete record.) The Faculty was Mr. Dole with lectures on "New Church Doctrines"; Mr. Robinson: "Divine Providence"; Mr. Dresser: "Psychology"; Mr. Hay: "Four Lectures on New Church Doctrine"; Mr. Gustafson: "Four Lectures on the Jewish Laws". Although the lectures this year were of a very high standard, this was a discouraging session in many ways. The attendance was not as regular as we had expected; most of the young people who had been present the previous year could not return for various reasons; the weather was bad enough to spoil some of our trips and dampen our spirits somewhat. The camp was available again, but Noah's Ark was vacant most of the time; the Sturgeses did not return; our transportation system broke down; it rained, and the lonely walk in to camp was irksome. A few of us "stuck it out" until the middle of last week, and then we moved in to town. In spite of these trials, we had some good times together; but we missed the rollicking life of the young people which we had had the previous year.

At this session, I was given two new jobs. I was appointed Chaplain, and I was made Business Manager. I had served as Chaplain since the start of the school, and for the past two years had helped Mr. Robinson collect the money. Now my duties had been recognized by official titles, and consequent added labor.

Another significant item is that on Aug. 21 after breakfast, a party of us walked down to the river to look over a site that had been proposed as a camp. It had some attractive features, but we decided against it because of the fact that a part of it was on the intervale and would be under water each Spring. This was the first definite time that we had looked at a site for a permanent camp of our own.

At this session, the time of lectures was changed back again to the morning.
 

THE FIFTH SESSION, 1925

This was a very significant year, and in it we took a very decided step forward. The same Officers were in charge again. The dates were from Sun., August 16 to Friday, August 28 inclusive. Members of the Faculty included Rev. Mess'rs. Dole, Hay, Paul Dresser, Gustafson, and Warren Goddard. Sermons were preached by Rev. Mess'rs. Dole, Gustafson, Hay, and Goddard.

The two things that make this year so significant were these: 1. Through the generosity of Miss Mary L. Gordon of Fryeburg, we were able to hire the Girls Dormitory — Alumni House — of the Fryeburg Academy. Thus we were able to be under one roof, most of us; and our meals were served there. In the second place, our advertising — by the printed circular, but especially by the kind offices of our many friends — was beginning to tell. We had a more regular attendance of people at the school this year than we had ever had before; and we were almost swamped with transients. Our register went up by leaps and bounds, with the added names of those who stopped off for a meal, or for a lecture, or for a day or so, on their way to or from the mountains. People were beginning to know that we were in Fryeburg and they were interested enough to stop off and see us, even though they could not stay with us. In this way, we made many friends. Another significant thing this year was that our poeple came from a much greater distance. Our fame was spreading.

The life together in the dormitory, while not at all ideal, was delightful in many ways. The meals were simple, but of excellent quality. The surroundings were beautiful. The rooms were fairly comfortable. Our life together was congenial and happy, for the most part. But we found that in living together in this way, it was essential that we have a few simple rules, for our mutual benefit. There were some objections to such rules, but I believe that they are necessary to the smooth running of such a communal life. We should allow freedom, but we should not tolerate license.

The camp at Lovewell's was given up, as we had only a few young people. However, it was available for our use, and we spent many happy hours out there.

This year, we saw many new faces and made many new friends.
 

THE SIXTH SESSION, 1926

This session stands out as the banner year of the time covered in this history. I remember, in talking with Mr. Dole about plans for this session, that we felt much encouraged by the prospects. There seemed to be a general interest and we had enquiries from afar, even at an early date. There seemed to be a demand for some more lectures that would be of special use to Sunday School teachers. I had attempted to meet such a demand the previous year in my lectures on Bible Geography. We decided that we should be a series for Sunday School teachers by Mr. Worcester. He gave us some very fine lectures on our opportunities with various age groups and the psychology of these groups. These have been crystallized in his booklet: "An Adventure With Children". Mr. Whitehead delivered four lectures on "Spritism and Psychical Phenomena". Mr. Hay gave some excellent lectures on: "The Psychology of Salvation", "The Miracles", and "The Dual Personality of Jesus". Warren Goddard gave three lectures: "The Lord and Abraham", "The Lord and Isaac", "The Lord and Jacob". Mr. Dole gave four lectures on the "History of the Christian Church"; and I continued my series on "Bible Geography" with four lectures. Miss Whitehead and Mrs. Dole continued as teachers of the children's classes.

We felt that we had a very good program and we set out to advertise it. We had a long list of names to which we sent a printed circular. I think it was this year that I appeared in Boston to talk to some organizations about the School. The Whiteheads also did much personal work in Boston and vicinity. Our many friends spread the word for us. The result was that registrations came in so rapidly that we found our available rooms filling up. Again, Miss Gordon had paid the rent on the Alumni House for the whole season in order that we might be together for the two weeks. She helped us out further, and we were able to hire the Boys Dormitory — Frye House — for this session. We found it in terrible condition, and you would be amazed at the amount of work that we had to do to put it in habitable shape. We cleaned and dug, dusted and swept, wired up beds, moved furniture, tacked on screens, hunted up blankets, carted silverware and dishes, etc. — but we were ready for the people when they came.

Mr. Dole was Superintendent. Mrs. Gustafson was Matron and Hostess. I was General Manager and Treasurer. Mr. Robinson had passed into the Spiritual World.

The School opened on Sunday, August 8 and ran until Sunday, August 22. This was the first session held for two full weeks. The average attendance at Sunday services was: morning 71; evening 46. Average at lectures the first week: 33. Second week: 34. This year, we inagurated the idea of holding lectures at 9 to 9:45 A.M.; then a recess; a lecture from 10 to 10:45; then a recess; and a discussion period from 11 to 11:45. This worked out very successfully and the discussions were very good.

One feature of this session was the fine way in which the social life was organized. This was due to the volunteer efforts of several good women who helped Mrs. Gustafson and Mrs. Dole to keep something going on every evening. Mrs. Asa Goddard, Mrs. John Daboll, Miss Frances Twitchell, and Mrs. Lois G. West were these women. As a result of their efforts, there were no dull times. After evening chapel, there would be card parties, a trip to a movie, games in the dining room, or some sort of a party at the New Church Hall. Among these parties, several stand out in my memory, and I wish I had time to tell you of some of the fun we had. But I must tell you of the surprise party given to my wife and I on our anniversary, August 13. We were really taken by surprise! We were invited to a party at the Hall, and it was innocent enough for a while. Then the Grand March formed. Mrs Gus was given a big bouquet. Mrs. Taft as Bridesmaid and Mr. Daboll as Best Man led the procession downstairs where the dining room was beautifully decorated with flowers by Mrs. Post. We were led to a big table on which was an enormous cake made by Mrs. Charles and frosted by Mrs. West. We were showered with congratulations, were given $15 in gold7, and we each had to make a speech. It was a most delightful expression of appreciation of our efforts to make them comfortable, and it stands out as one of the "high spots" of our days at Fryeburg. We have always felt that many hours of hard work were well repaid when the effort was so greatly appreciated.

These women were the instigators of many other delightful parties; and they were so thoughtful and friendly that they infused their fine spirit into everyone at the School. The atmosphere was most delightful.

Another surprise party was given the following week for Miss Gordon, at which she was most tactfully and graciously thanked for her help to the School.

Our registration had grown. Visitors were numerous. I do not have the exact figures available, but we averaged about thirty at meals; and I count over 35 in a picture taken on the steps of the Alumni House.

This year we had a suggestion box, and there were many good ideas in it. As a result of some of them, we have the signs on the church; the lectures are advertised in the village; we have some simple rules; we start our lectures with a religious service.

We had not forgotten our yearning for a home of our own. We had always held the dream of a permanent home for the Summer School. Mr. Whitehead believed he had found it! We all walked up to see the Evans property, a short distance north of the village. We were quite enthused about it and it looked as though the time had come at last. A committee was appointed to look into the matter thoroughly. The committee was Mr. Whitehead, Mr. Daboll, Mr. Robert Capon, Mr. Worcester, Mr. Gustafson, and Miss Twitchell. After investigation, they recommended against purchase of the property.

But we had come so close to having some property of our own that we were forced to do some serious thinking. So we held a meeting of the members of the Summer School; and we proved then that we were grown up. The baby had shed its swaddling-clothes. It had grown to the self-confidence of youth. It began to assert its self. Instead of following the recommendations of the Executive Committee of the Maine Association, the meeting of the members made several recommendations to the Executive Committee. The forward step toward independence was taken then, and the FRYEBURG ASSEMBLY came into being.
 

SEVENTH SESSION, 1927

As a result of the recommendations of the members of the Summer School to the Executive Committee of the Maine Association, we find the latter august body in session in Harry Cram's office in Portland on January 22, 1927. The business at hand is the planning of the Summer School for 1927. The usual procedure follows. Mr. Dole is appointed Superintendent (but this time in confirmation of the recommendation of the members of the School.) On recommendation of the same body, your humble servant is appointed Manager and Treasurer. On recommendation of the same body, Mr. Asa E. Goddard, Rev. Harold R. Gustafson, and Harry L. Cram are appointed a Committee on By-Laws. On same recommendation, it is voted to change the name to FRYEBURG ASSEMBLY. On same recommendation, Mr. Cram is authorized to report on what is required to incorporate the FRYEBURG ASSEMBLY. The Executive Committee voted $50 to the Assembly instead of the usual $100, as the finances fo the Assembly were so good that that was all that was needed. You can well imagine that several of us were happy people the day of that meeting. For we realized that the dream had started to come true!

The session was held from Sunday, August 7 to Sunday, August 21. The general Subject for the session was "A New Church for a New Age". (I think this was the first year that we had a general topic, but I am not sure.) We had as lecturers; Rev. Warren Goddard and Dr. Frank Gustafson, lecturing on interpretation of Bible Stories; Mr. Dole, with several Doctrinal lectures; Mr. Worcester, with lectures on Revelation; and Professor Lewis F. Hite, with a series of lectures on Swedenborg. The Officers are listed thus: Rev. Louis A. Dole, DEAN (we have grown up); Rev. Harold R. Gustafson, Business Manager; Mrs. H.R. Gustafson, Matron of Alumni House; Miss Frances Twitchell, Matron of Frye House. Miss Florence Whitehead again had the children's class. So, you see, we have Mr. Hite as a teacher; and we have Miss Twitchell in an Executive position. I have been relieved of all lectures, because of the pressures of duties. We again reside at the dormitories of the Fryeburg Academy.

This is the most sigfinificant year in our history. In the first place, the old tie with Almont is knit closer by the presence of Dr. and Mrs. Gustafson and Miss Dora Pfister, two of whom have been members of the Almont Faculty for many years.

Mr. Whitehead and Mr. Robinson have passed on; Mr. Daboll and Mr. Asa Gaddard are beginning to take a more active part in the Assembly.

The interest aroused when we almost bought the Evans property last year as aweakened us to what is ahead; and we now see that we must incorporate if we hope to purchase property for a permanent home in the future. A committe has been working on By-Laws; another committee has been working on the requirements for incororation. The latter committe has reported that to form a corporation, it will be necessary for us to have a set of By-Laws; that seven men must sign an application to prested to a County Justice of the Peace, to enable them to call a meeting within fourteen days to form a corporation and to elect Officers. As a result of this report, we are enthused over the idea of incorporating, and so we proceed with the preliminary steps.

A meeting of the members of the Assembly was called at the church at three P.M. an August 19, 1927. Rev. Louis A. Dole was appointed Chairman. Rev. Harold R. Gustafson was appointed Secretary. I read the report of the last year's meeting, and of the meeting of the Executive Committee o the Maine Association, at which our recommendations were approved. Then Mr. Asa Goddard, as Chairman of the Committee on By-Laws, presented his report. With some amendments, the By-Laws were adopted. The meeting then proceeded to elect the following Officers: President, Rev. Louis A. Dole; Vice President, Asa E. Goddard; Secretary-Treasurer, Rev. Harold R. Gustafson; Superintendent, Rev. Harold R. Gustafson. Executive Committee Member at Large, Miss Mary L. Gordon.

I was a long meeting, and it took us a long while to get this far; but we had just started our important business. Many of us had been taking little trips during the past few days with Mr. John L. Osgood of Fryeburg, to a plot of land bordering the river near the State Line. This land was known as the "Frank A. Kennett property". We investigated it thoroughly. We felt that it was an ideal situation for the Assembly of the future. The property was in two sections, which could be bought separately. The smaller section included an excellent spring.

Mr. Dole brought the matter to the attention of the meeting, and I shall never forget the thrill that came over us at that time. After many questions and some discussion, it was VOTED: That Mr. Dole be authorized to conclude the purchase of the Kennet property north of the spring; and to procure an option on the forest land south of the spring for two years, if possible.

Here, indeed, was an adventure in faith! We had definitely committed ourselves to a debt of $650 for the land alone: with a prospective heavy expense for buildings and equipment. Our Treasury was not too fat! We were not an incorporated body! And yet, no one was afraid to go ahead with the purchase of the property. Some of us asked some practical questions as to finance and buildings, but none of us was afraid to take the step! It seemed to us all like a "Providential offer". We willingly and gladly assumed the responsibility!

We had a Building Fund of four or five dolars, and some money in our Treasery. One hundred dollars was subscribed immediately after the vote was taken. Before the meeting of the Maine Association on August 27 (less than ten days later), $526 had be subscribed; and I had collected and deposited $276 of that. An adventure in faith!

But that was not all that was done at that memorable meeting. It was voted that the newly-elected Executive Committee confer with the Officer of the Maine Association regarding the advisability of the Assembly becoming a separate organization. And it was further voted that after such conference, the Executive Committee be empowered to proceed with Incorporation, if the Officers of the Maine Association approved of such action. An adventure in faith!

This session of the Assembly was significant in many other ways. Some of our isolated people were present at the session. A few young people came — and went. The total registration was: Adults 91, Children 37; a grand total of 128. The average attendance at lectures was 42. Twelve states were represented in the registration. A larger number of Fryeburg people attended the lectures than ever before in our history. We finished the year with all expenses paid and a balance in the Treasury. Although the atttendance at lectures was larger, the rooms in the dormitories were not all occupied a greater part of the session, and were never filled to capacity as in 1926.

Now I want to record another significant item of this session, and I believe it was the turning point in the solution of one of our biggest problems. We had always wanted to have a group of young people at Fryeburg. We had tried all ways to coax them there, and we had been only partially successful. This year we tried an experiment. We asked two girls to come to the sessions to work for their board. And when I say work, I mean work! As I look back on what we did to those girls, I know that we imposed upon them. I have apologized to them many time since. But they were "good sports" and they did their work well and cheerfully. The girls were Mary and Edith Swanton from Washington, D.C. They washed dishes in the hot kitchen, took care of the dining room, and waited on table. Their hours were long and weary, but they had a good time and became enthusiastic "boosters". Their parents and relatives visited them and saw the school. They, too, spread the good word. John and Walter Swanton motored over from Westport to visit the girls. They were impressed. Mrs. Walter Swanton spent a few days with the girls, and she was immensely impressed. She asked lots of questions, and she was enthusiastic when she left. Her enthusiasm did not cool off. Through her efforts, and the efforts of John, Walter, Mary, Edith, and Lucy Swanton, the Assembly got much publicity among the members of the National New-Church League (especially at the meeting of Convention). Reggy Capon, Florence Whitehead, and others, had done some fine missionary work around Boston. The result was that since 1927, we have had a steadily increasing, and enthusiastic group of young people at Fryeburg. Thus, the Swantons helped us to solve a major problem, and we thank them for their help.

I might go on, endlessly almost, telling you of those happy days! But I must spare you. I have not told you of our many delightful trips to the Worcesters and the Werrens and the Hays, or the Burdetts, and of their unfailing hospitality. I have not mentioned the interesting trips to the mountains and lakes; nor have I taken you to the homes and garden of beautiful old Fryeburg. I am sorry I cannot do this, but you will know all these things and will become acquainted with some of these delightful people if you attend the sessions of the Assembly.

I regret that my active contact with the Assembly has been broken, but in the Fall of 1927 I stepped out of this story. Others will have to record the history of the Assembly from that year to the present, and for the years that are ahead.
 

CONCLUSION

I hope that I have not tired you with this rambling account. I hope that I have been able to give you some of the "atmosphere" of those first seven years — the hopes, the trials, the disappointments, the triumphs.

The men who founded the Fryeburg Assembly had a vision and an ideal. They had faith in it! The knew that it was useful and worthwhile! They were willing, yes glad, to work hard for it and to make sacrifices for it! They succeded. (Perhaps we, too, would succeed in some of our undertakings if we had the same spirit.)

The founders of the Assembly visualized an assembly of New Church people who would come together for recreation; for fellowship; for instruction in the Doctrines; for inspiration. They visualized an institution where isolated New Church people could come in contact with other members of their faith to receive instruction, to know the friendship of kindred souls, and to be fired by the enthusiasm that comes from such contacts. They visualized a camp of young people enjoying life together, becoming better acquainted with one another, studying, and strengthening their love for the church. They hoped to develop from this group the leadership that would carry the church forward in the future. They visualized an institution to which one could bring his friends for an inexpensive vacation, and at the same time have them come in contact with the New Church teachings and life. It was to be a missionary project. It was to be a place where Sunday School teachers could receive training in their important work.

These visions became realities. We have the Assembly grounds and buildings. We have the instructions in the teachings of the church. We have the inexpensive vacation. We have the happy family living together, receiving the inspiration of such contact. We have the young people having their goodtimes, making intimate friendships, discussing their problems in the light of New Church teachings, becoming more and more conscious of the fact that the New Church is worthwhile and worthy of their best effort and support. We have had isolated members there, happy in their association with other New Church friends; thrilled at an opportunity to talk with other about the Doctrines; deeply appreciative of the instruction received. We have had Sunday School teachers receiving help and training for their work. We have had "strangers" (meaning non-New Church members) who have come with their friends primarily for the recreational features of the camp. They have been given to understand that they were supposed to attend at least one lecture each day. In this way, they have come in contact with our people. They have learned about the Church and its teachings. They have gone away our friends. They were no longer "strangers".

In a large measure, the visions of the founders have been made realities! I am certain that the use of the Assembly can be, should be, extended. I should like to see the buildings in use for at least six weeks during each Summer. It is too bad to have so much money invested in a property that is used for only two or three weeks each year. We should try to extend the period of the school session. I know that this would be expensive, and that it would require an immense amount of work on the part of the Officers and Executives of the Assembly. But I am confident that such an idea can be worked out, and that eventually it will be worked out. I have visions of a camp in use from six to ten weeks each year; with two week periods, each period stressing some particular aspect of instruction, and particularly meeting a definite use. For instance, a period for boys; a period for girls; a week or so in Leadership Training for Youth; a week or so for Sunday School Teacher Training classes. The possibilities are almost endless. Perhaps a portion of the time could be without lectures, and the camp could be open for New Church families and their friends who wanted to live together, and who wanted to spend some time in the mountains. I realize that there are many practical problems connected with the carrying out of such a scheme as I have outlined, but I believe there are possibilites, and I also believe that some day they may become realities.

In the meantime, we have some very definite things to do. They must be done at once. As soon as possible (not too hastily, however), we should enlarge our facilities to care for a greater number, or at least extend the present period of the Assembly sessions. We should stress the missionary value of the School. We should, perhaps, change the character of our lectures so that they will be of greater interest to "strangers". We should encourage people to invite their friends to attend the sessions, with the avowed purpose of having a good time and of knowing more about the New Church. There are big possibilities along this line of endeavor. We should organize our teaching of young people more systematically. They should have more classes and better supervision. We should make a special effort and and offer special inducements to get isolated New Church people to attend the School. We should keep the price down to the lowest possible minimum, consistent with reasonably good board and accomodations. We should endeavor to get whole families to attend; and we should offer special family rates to make it possible for them to attend.

I am strongly of the opinion that this attendance of failies is very important. Children who have attended Almont year after year from the time they were born have a love for the Assembly and for the Church that is truly remarkable. They have pleasant associations, deep and lasting friendships, a real knowledge of the Church, and a love for Almont and the Church that is abiding. We should strive to build up that same loyalty and love at Fryeburg.

The Summer School has been holding continuous sessions for thirteen years. This last year, my son Howard attended the session. With the exception of some of the Fryeburg children, I believe that he represents a new factor that will be worthy of our attention increaasingly from now on. He went to Fryeburg an 1921 as a child of six. He represents the second generation. There will be many more of him. I have been interested in studying his reactions. He has many "remains" of the old days at Summer School stored up in his heart. Now those "remains" have been awakened. He has felt that the New Church was a small institution. He has been irked somewhat that he has had to be so faithful in his attendance at church and church affairs (he being the Minister's son). This feeling has not been manifested in any great degree of open rebellion, but I have seen sign of it from time to time. After renewing his contact with Fryeburg this Summer, he has definitely grown — spiritually. He feels that the New Church is worthwhile. He feels that other young people, who are his closest friends now, are thinking along New Church lines about the problems of the world. He feels strongly that their opinions are worthwhile. He feels impelled to a new loyalty to the church. He is seeking to ultimate that loyalty and affection in greatier usefullness to the Church. Who knows? Perhaps, some day, there will be a third generation of New Church ministers in the Gustafson family?

My other son, Robert, was four years old when he first went to Summer School. He exects to attend the session next year and that is the topic of conversation much of the time with him at present. He is looking forward to his visit to Fryeburg with great joy and anticipation.

I might tell you of one or two other young people who attended those first sessions and who are today full of the same loyalty. Their number will increase as the years roll on. The planting of such "remains" is decidedly worthwhile.

The hand of the clock are speeding on, and I must stop.

Mr. Robinson and Mr. Whitehead have gone to their reward. Some of their associates remain. Others have taken up the responsibility, and they have the adventurous spirit that comes from faith in the use of the Assembly. As time unfolds, they too will leave us. But the spirit of adventurous faith will live on!

In closing, I shall quote the last paragraph of my report of the 1927 session of the Assembly, as presented to the Maine Association on August 27, 1927: "This year, we have had a very successful School in every way. We have taken many forward strides. Everyone present felt that the Assembly is a useful organization and that it is now premanently established. It has a great future!"

It has a great future! It began as an adventure in Faith. It will continue as an adventure in Faith. When we first looked at the Kennett property, now the Assembly grounds, we called it "The Promised Land". It typified our goal, the realization of our dreams. Today it is the same land; improved, organize, beautified. It is no longer "The Promised Land". Today, it is the "Land of Promise!"
 


1. The author is referring to the name change that happened when the FNCA incorporated in 1928: before then, it was "Fryeburg Summer School"; afterwards, it was "Fryeburg Assembly".

2. This is about $1,200 in 2018 dollars.

3. The two opposing sides of Prohibition were known as the Wets and the Drys.

4. The reference is to "Toonerville Folks", a popular newspaper comic strip at the time, in which a key part of the story is the "Toonerville Trolley that meets all trains" which is driven by a somewhat grizzly "Skipper".

5. Florence Whitehead was active at the FNCA through the 1960s, and several of her painting hang in the Main Building and various cabins.

6. Hoofing it, that is, walking.

7. That's $860 and change in 2018 dollars.

 

[FNCA History]

Main St (Route 302) & Haleytown Rd, Fryeburg, ME 04037 (map)