Our Clarke Township Pioneers


Mr. Thos. Hooper

who lives a short distance west of the village at present, was born about seventy-seven years ago in the parish of Thornbury, in Devonshire. He found his way into the township of Clarke and into the village of Orono in the summer of 1845, being induced to come hither by his cousin, the late Mr. Solomon Hooper; who will ever be famous as having erected the first grist-mill in the village, in which, however, becoming entangled in the machinery, he met with an untimely end.

When Mr. Hooper arrived here Orono was a small settlement. The stumps were still standing in many places on the west side of the street, and the blocks of buildings now in existence were represented by a few detached shops and stores. The site of the present magnificent city hall has occupied by an unimposing edifice which was used as a turning shop, a cooperage, and a hospital for cradles which study yeomen had managed to mutilate when cutting their grain. Subsequently, it should be remarked, this building was turned into a grog and grocery store, and it was managed successively by Messrs. Thornton, Chester Bros., Donnelly and John J. Chester. Under the management of the last named it fell a victim to the devouring flames, and thenceforward the site was utilized as a garden, - until the day arrived when Mr. Batten had to hurriedly dig up his potatoes preparatory to the laying of the foundation of the present structure.

There was no church building in Orono when Mr. Hooper arrived. Services were held in the log school-house, which stood near the old cemetery. Here Millerites and Mormons, Universalists and Advents together with the representatives of the Orthodox churches sought to interest and educate the people. Some of the fantastic sects aforementioned often occasioned no little stir by the public debates they evoked and conducted. Mr. Hooper has lively memories of some of their packed and sweltering audiences, and speaks of a Millerite and a Mormon who, on one occasion, nagged to another for three solid hours. The Mormon was squelched by the Millerite who was a sturdy Scot. Mr. Hooper states that there was "a lot of Yankees round here in those days", and so that accounts for the superabundance of gimcrack creeds!

The first church built in Orono belonging to the Bible Christians, and Mr. Hooper and his cousin, who was a class-leader and a local preacher in that denomination for many years, had a hand in its erection. This building is still in existence, and forms the school-room at the rear of the new Bible Christian church, now occupied by the Anglicans. It was opened for divine service on Oct. 26th, 1845. The Methodist Episcopal denomination put up a frame of a church on Church street at the spot where the present church stands - some years afterwards, and for a while worshipped in it in an unfinished state. Blocks and planks formed the seats, and the rest of the fittings were in keeping. Afterwards, when sufficient funds had accumulated, the late Mr. Wm. Thornton, of Kirby, was secured to finish the interior. For sometime he made the building at once his workshop and his home; taking up his residence again in Kirby when the job was completed. This frame building was, of course, much smaller than the present Methodist church, and the gable and door faced the west instead of the north as now.

These were the ante-tea-meeting days. Ecclesiastical gastronomics was still an unknown science. They had not the knack of "eating themselves rich" in order to pay their debts in that dark age. That facile and pleasant method was the invention of a more fully evolved and enlightened era. And so welcome to the time at length when the Bible Christians, the Wesleyans, and the Methodist Episcopalians developed a holy rivalry in the conduct of their respective tea-meetings. When the Methodist church opened - then under Methodist Episcopal auspices - there was a great anserine commotion, and the waiters themselves were served to delectable breakfast of giblet pies! And when the Wesleyan church - since union purchased by Mr. G.M. Long - was dedicated, they did not stop at geese and turkeys, but roasted a whole hog, and engaged the town hall for the exhibition of the mandibular exertions of the congregated host! There are not wanting signs however, that this era in our social and ecclesiastical evolution is passing away. What awaits us none can, of course, divine.

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