A Brief History of
the Church on the Cape, UMC
by Tom Bradbury
Our church before
the steeple was added.
View the history of our
The first church was erected in 1727 on
the corner where Route 9 swings into the Mills Road. Here, for the
next thirty years, the religious affairs of the community were served.
However, as the years passed by, the western part of the town along the
river, had increased in population faster than the Cape.
Therefore, calls were made to change the location of the church to a
more central position. When this motion was defeated, drastic
measures were initiated. On the night of April 28, 1763, some men
from the western sector persuaded two boys to set fire to the Cape
church. The building was totally destroyed.
The boys were soon found out yet were not prosecuted for it was realized
that the real blame rested with those men who had directed them. Thus,
the major controversy involved where the new church was to be built.
Following the recommendation of a special town meeting and a committee
of three disinterested men, two from Saco and one from Wells, it was
decided to build on Burbank’s Hill. This site is where the present
First Congregational Church now stands in the Town House section of
Kennebunkport. The residents of the eastern part of the Cape were
vehemently opposed to this arrangement, but it was clear that the Cape
had lost the ascendancy it once held in town affairs. In its
indignation, the Cape ceased to be actively involved with the church
until the Methodist Conference took an interest in the area around the
By the year 1820, the nucleus of a future congregation had been formed
in Cape Porpoise. Lacking the numbers to establish a separate church,
converts to the Methodist Conference met in private homes or in the
schoolhouse and were accepted as members of the church at the Port
village. Until a new church could be built, services at the Cape were
held on Saturday nights.
It was in the summer of 1856 when George Fletcher, Thatcher Hutchins,
and Joseph Huff, the trustees of the “Church on the Cape,” borrowed $400
from James Huff in order to purchase the land and lumber necessary to
erect a church building. The building lot was purchased from George
By April, 1857, the building had
been completed, and on the 30th day of that month, William Farrington
preached the dedication sermon. Reverend John Collins was the
Within a short time, the trustees met and paid back the money and
interest borrowed from James Huff. The finished church, without
vestry, steeple, clock, or bell, had cost $1,500.
Little change was made to the building until 1898. In that year the
vestry was added. The steeple was completed in November, 1902, and the
bell was donated in that same year by a summer resident, Mr. Frank A.
Allen. It was rung for the first time on November 19, 1902. The church
clock was added in 1910. Mr. Allen is said to have made a generous gift
towards the $660 cost of the clock, but a part of the money was also
raised by public subscription. The clock first sounded over Cape
Porpoise on October 22, 1910.
In September, 1956, the adjoining land to the church was bought from the
heirs of Arthur Nunan. This land was cleared, and in 1960 was the site
on which the ladies’ parlor was constructed. In that same year,
additional Sunday School classrooms were built
Changing demographics led to a gradual decline in church attendance and
activity in the ensuing years. But in 1993 a bold decision was made to
attempt to bring the church back to its original vitality. Recognizing
its traditional role as the source of community inspiration, the
congregation reached out to all those who called this town home, whether
year round or for a season.
They drew upon the abilities, time and
talents of those with widely ranging
experiences. Together a new church evolved, with native and newcomer
alike sharing their sense of community and spirituality.
An addition was
added in 1994, which housed the office, pastor’s office and Cargo Shop.
Another addition and many improvements were finished in the fall of
2007, including moving the offices, adding an elevator, a full kitchen,
music room, more Sunday School space and the Carl G. Bartlett fellowship
Hall. Our church continues to gather a congregation unequaled in
ability and enthusiasm.
View our church history folder
Bradbury's presentation on our 160th anniversary.