By Jamie Kingman Rice, Director of Library Services
The archival collection of the Bangor Theological Seminary (BTS) was officially transferred to the Maine Historical Society on November 12, 2013. This transfer includes the historical records for the Seminary, such as correspondence, administrative records, writings, publications, school records (pre-1930s); photographs, theses, as well as materials related to missionary work, the Moulton Library, presidential administrations, convocations and faculty. The library holdings of the Moulton Library itself were transferred to Colby College, an institution with whom BTS shares a long history. This collection measures nearly 300 linear feet in its current state, and will spend the next three years off-site while being prepared for research- courtesy of generous funding provided by the Seminary itself. The collection should be available for research as early as Fall 2016.
The Bangor Theological Seminary is about to celebrate its bi-centennial anniversary over the next six years -commemorating the original charter for the Maine Charity School in 1814 and the first graduating class in 1820. The date of the first graduating class falls in line with the anniversary of the State of Maine, a symbol of relationship between the history of Maine and the Seminary’s many influential alumni such as Cyrus Hamlin, Samuel Fessenden, Daniel Dole and of course, Joshua L. Chamberlain.
While the charter was granted in 1814, the Seminary is thought to have formally opened in the fall of 1816 at Hampden. The school officially moved to Bangor in 1824, with a peripatetic period in-between. Although the institution was legally named the Maine Charity School at the outset, the use of the name Bangor Theological Seminary dominated the decades leading up to the official and legal name- change in 1882. The original goal of the seminary was to provide an opportunity for men who otherwise lacked a formal college education to study the ministry, and was founded in the Congregational tradition.
The image displayed is that of the class of 1913-1914, one hundred years after the founding of the Maine Charity School and directly in the middle of BTS’ long history. Carrie Rideout pictured here is one a few women to attend the Seminary during this period. The first woman to officially enroll at the Seminary was Mrs. Lenora Hawkes Jones of Windham who enrolled in 1904. By 1907, the Seminary officially opened its doors to female students, Miss Rideout being one of only seven women who enrolled before 1920.
The Bangor Theological Seminary Collection is a welcome addition to the collections of the Maine Historical Society. The Brown Research Library is proud to continue the legacy of the Seminary, by providing access to a rich and diverse example of Maine’s commitment to education. The Bangor Theological Seminary continues to operate as the BTS Center, a charitable organization seeking “to equip and support clergy and laity for theologically grounded and effective 21st Century ministries.”