EATON — There will be many reasons to give thanks this Sunday, when the South Eaton Meeting House holds its annual Thanksgiving service at 3 p.m.

One thing board members will be thankful for this 175th anniversary year is the handsome new carriage shed that was built earlier this month next-door to the non-denominational church that is Eaton’s only structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The 16-by-20-foot carriage shed was erected Nov. 2 by a team of 11 volunteers led by Scott Campbell of Maine Mountain Post & Beam of Fryeburg, Maine.

The timber-frame structure was needed as a place to store materials and gear that the directors use to host their yearly fair, held in early August, as well as for other functions

The land had been purchased in 2017 with funds donated by Lee Harmon for the express purpose of purchasing the land next to the meeting house, with the deed for the new lot recorded March 7, 2017, according to meeting house board chair Elizabeth Jenkins.

Just like a scene from the former, 1844-built Free Will Baptist Church’s past, the barn-raising on the lot next to the meeting house involved plenty of teamwork, sweat and community spirit.

The workers started at 8 a.m., laying the flooring over seven granite posts, which were donated by a local landowner, and the frames. They then broke for a hearty meal of chili, corn chowder and pizza inside the historic meeting house.

After lunch, satiated (and warmed up), they went back to the task at hand.

As the saying goes, many hands make light work, and the building was raised, with the topping off ceremony taking place just after 2:30 p.m.

All present toasted the accomplishment with hard cider supplied by Jenkins, who owns an orchard.

A young hemlock conifer (or “wetting bush”) was placed at the crown of the roof, symbolizing the journey made by the trees used in making the structure, according to Campbell. The wetting ceremony goes back 2,000 years to Scandinavia when trees were worshipped and the forest gods needed to be appeased. The tradition continues to this day.

“It pays tribute to the tree and it’s also good luck,” said Campbell.

The event came about following a meeting last spring, when Campbell, along with Jenkins and other Shed Committee members — including retired Fish and Game Warden David Lovequist, Frank Holmes, Alice Williams and Heather McKendry — met to discuss a design that would serve their needs as well as complement the historic meeting house.

“We are so grateful to Scott for his generosity and support of the South Eaton Meeting House and the passion he shows for historic New England architecture,” said board secretary Catherine Lovequist, David’s wife and a former SAU 9 speech pathologist.

“We are fortunate to have such a talented artisan and great person guiding this project,” she said, noting that Campbell had assembled the sills on site while her husband had laid down the deck of the carriage shed.

The rest of the frame arrived the morning of Nov. 2. Going forward, plans call for metal roofing to be put on for winter and siding to be added, with a completion date set for spring.

Volunteers working alongside Campbell and Lovequist included Don Gemmecke, Jay O’Brien, Dick Fortin, Gary Deconinck-Smith, Harold Gilman and David Evans, plus builder Tom Costello and David Condoulis, who are working on the Eaton Little White Church steeple restoration project up the road. Joining the crew in the afternoon was Conway Town Planning Director Tom Irving, an Eaton resident.

The building features 16 braces made of oak, with a primary frame of 54 hemlock timbers, according to Campbell.

The Maine builder said he gleaned his knowledge of working with old timber frames while growing up in rural Pennsylvania and working on restoration projects with his parents. Today, he is known regionally as the go-to guy for barn and home restorations and historically accurate construction technique.

“It’s probably got 70 pieces to it,” Campbell said of the build, as crews worked in the waning November sun, while other members of the community watched.

The timber framing, he said, is what is known as “a major purlin -- a common rafter on a three-bent frame.” (A bent is a term for a cross-sectional template that repeats along the length of the structure.)

The flooring of shed is pine and the floor framing is hemlock.

“In our neck of the woods, a lot of the historical precedence is to use oak braces with softwoods in the frame,” Campbell noted.

The timber framing, he said, is what is known as “a major purlin — a common rafter on a three-bent frame.” (A bent is a term for a cross-sectional template that repeats along the length of the structure.)

The flooring of the shed is pine and the floor framing is hemlock.

“In our neck of the woods, a lot of the historical precedence is to use oak braces with softwoods in the frame,” Campbell noted.

The timber frame is held together by pegged mortise-and-tenon joinery.

Asked what motivated him to undertake such a volunteer effort, the 50-year-old Campbell — who lives with wife Marlies Ouwinga and their sons Jack and Charlie in Brownfield, Maine — used a term most others interviewed also used: community.

“The South Eaton Meeting House is a huge part of our community,” said Campbell, as volunteers used mallets and chisels to pound the beams into place, their breath showing in the crisp fall air.

“I think it’s really important to have people who preserve old buildings such as the meeting house. It’s also part of my way of giving back.

“I think that projects such as this one involve a lot of emotion, because people enjoy taking part, especially on an old-time thing like a barn raising,” Campbell continued.

“It’s a very social kind of thing, and friendships are made at any barn raising. It kind of takes you back in time — and it’s not that things were easier back then, by any means, it’s just that it may have seemed a little simpler.

“These types of events were pretty commonplace back 100, 150 or 200 years ago,” Campbell said, “and I think it’s important for us to keep that community spirit going.”

The history of the meeting house goes back to a time when Eaton was booming as a farming community in the mid-1800s, Jenkins notes.

“In 1840, William B. Towle donated a plot of land for the express purpose of establishing a house of worship,” southeatonmeetinghouse.com explains.

“Also donated was a ‘goodly stand’ of timber. Trees were felled and hauled to Blaisdell’s Mill (now the Mill at Purity Spring) in carts driven by teams of oxen where they were milled into lumber and then returned over the steep incline known as ‘Horse Leg Hill.’”

It says that “Stephen Allard was appointed leader and oversaw construction of the church by area neighbors.” The congregation peaked in size around the time of the Civil War, and declined thereafter.

Jenkins, who became a member in 1974, noted that in the 1930s, “a Rev. Scammon of the Chocorua Baptist Church tried to convey our property to them and was rebuffed by Mr. Towle who owned two shares in the church, and it was reminded that if the meeting house was not to be used as a church, it would be deeded back to him.

“A Mr. Preston Smart, justice of peace, called a meeting and they decided to regroup as the South White Meeting House Parish, and that was adopted on May 1, 1933,” Jenkins said.

Since then, they have been meeting annually, with the yearly church service and presenting other events, such as a work day and a picnic that coincided with the work day.

“We started the fair in summer 1976 as part of the celebration of the nation’s bicentennial and as a fundraiser, and we have continued that every summer since,” Jenkins said.

According to Jenkins, late Eaton residents Ernest Shackford (who had bought the former parsonage) and former Kennett High English teacher Bruce Acker worked to get the meeting house named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. It is one of 58 places in Carroll County to have that recognition and is described by the register as “a classic example of a Greek Revival meeting house.”

The pews are said to be original and bear the numbers of the subscribers who funded the building’s construction.

The cemetery across from the meeting house is the resting place of several early church members, including original donor William B. Towle, whose photograph hangs inside the church.

The graves of at least one Revolutionary War veteran and Civil War Union soldiers can also be found there.

When visiting the meeting house, two things one notices is the stove at one end of the building and the two organs, one at either end. The one in front was donated to the meeting house in the early 1970s by the First Christian Church of Freedom, when the latter purchased a new organ for their church, Jenkins said.

The other one, in the back, was built by George Woods & Co. of Boston, circa 1890, and was given to meeting house member Rachel Ward by Doris Ashton’s family of Ossipee. Ward, in turn, donated the beautiful instrument to the meeting house.

It was recently renovated by William Boulton of Moultonboro, said Ward, 92, of Center Ossipee. Ward — whose father and mother’s family were part of the original church members as Thurstons and Allards — said the organ is just one of the many things about the church that make it a special place for her.

“It’s a place that many, many people care about, even though it doesn’t have a congregation,” said Ward. “I just love the history of it and the connection people feel toward it.”

The organ restoration was an exacting process.

According to the meeting house website, it meant “first disassembling parts of the organ case to remove the interior assembly, then lifting it away from the case which had been built into the rear pews. The assembly was then taken to the shop where mice droppings and nesting were cleaned out.

“Reeds were cleaned and tested, and reed pan and reed chamber gaskets received new leather to seal them. The octave coupler assembly had several broken pitmans which needed to be replaced.”

George Wiese, director of Mountain Top Music of Conway, said he has played two recitals ( in 2015 and 2017) on the restored organ and has posted one of the shows on his Facebook page.

“It’s a wonderful instrument to play,” Wiese said this week. “Those foot-pump reed organs were all over New England as they were cheaper than pianos, and the George Wood was one of the better companies. It doesn’t require electricity as the pump action powers the air with your feet. It’s quite a workout!

“To see one of those restored to full working order by an organization that cares in really wonderful,” Wiese added. “I am one of the few people around who specializes in playing those instruments. It was a kick to get to play it.”

As noted, the 1890 Woods pump organ is located at the east (back) end. The pulpit sits on the west side, in front. Catherine Lovequist noted, “It’s unusual to see a church with the pulpit at the front of the church, where people walk in — but we say that would keep anyone from coming in late as it would be in front of everyone!”

The names of early church members are found on brass plaques on the pews as well.

The meeting house stands as a tie to the past, not only during Thanksgiving season but all the year round. And now joining it is a brand-new, yet timeless post-and-beam carriage shed, built by volunteers in the classic New England community tradition.

For membership to the South Eaton Meetin House, go to southeatonmeetinghouse.com or call Catherine Lovequist at (603) 651-8635. Memberships are $10 per individual or $15 per family.

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