STOCKTON SPRINGS, Maine — Five years ago, Pearl Seekins watched the steeple of the Community Church of Stockton Springs get taken down because it was starting to rot and was unsafe.
“When it came down, I said I wished I would live long enough to see it go up,” the 90-year-old Searsport woman said.
On Wednesday morning, Seekins, who is an active member of the six-woman committee working to raise funds to replace the steeple, got part of her wish as the white clock tower portion of the structure was lifted into place to the cheers of people standing on the road below.
“Now I wish I live long enough to see the rest of it go up,” the longtime church member said. She and others have been holding yard sales, bake sales, auctions and benefit suppers for years now. They have, to date, raised $189,000 for the project.
That’s an awful lot of pies and biscuits, Seekins said.
“I’m involved in all of it. I haven’t missed one yet,” she said.
She is the oldest member of the group in charge of fundraising, which is sometimes referred to as the steeple people or the steeple ladies. The youngest, Peggy Mace of Searsport, is 74.
“The community really wanted to have it back up,” Mace said, adding that the group is hoping to gain a little publicity for their cause and possibly some larger donors. “We’re all getting very tired.”
The original steeple sat atop the white church from 1860 until 2008, often serving as a landmark for people on land and at sea.
“Even the fishermen could pinpoint it way out at sea,” said Frank Costigan of Stockton Springs, who is married to steeple lady Mary Jane Costigan. “You can see it for miles.”
After it had to be taken down, the church members decided they would try to replace it and contacted Maine steeplewright Robert Hanscom of Greene. He has made more than 50 steeples for churches in the state but has said that this one will be his last, said Audrey Hanscom, his wife.
“This is just really, really hard work,” she said after watching her 61-year-old husband carefully fit the clock tower onto the base. “He likes working with the church people. They’re great folks, no matter what church it is. He enjoys it, but it’s time.”
The steeple committee members need to raise $67,400 more in order to have Hanscom build and erect the final sections, including the tall spire at the very top. A weathervane atop the spire already has been donated as a remembrance gift.
Seekins said that while the church has changed a lot since she first joined it back in 1941, it has always been an important part of her life and the community.
“I was a member of everything,” she said. “It’s a wonderful church. I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”
In order to donate to the final stages of the steeple replacement project, please send a check to Save Our Steeple, Seaboard Federal Credit Union, P.O. Box G, Bucksport, ME 04416-1207, Attn. Darlene.