The Baptists made their first appearance in Maine, A. D. 1681; when several persons in Kittery, embracing their tenents were baptized by immersion. One of their brethren, William Screven, manifesting great zeal in religion became their leader in worship and devotion. He was born in England, A. D. 1629. [A line is missing]....Cutts,1 and the fruits of the union were eleven children. His tenents were naturally of a splendid order. He possessed a lively imagination, a glowing heart, and was a good English scholar. Edified and enlivened by his rare gifts and ardent piety, his religious associates gave him testimonials of fair character and full communion; representing him to be, in the eye of charity, one whom God had qualified and furnished with gifts and graces of his Holy Spirit, to open and apply the good Word, which through the blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ, might be by him made effectual and useful; commending him to the fellowship of their Baptist brethren in Boston. In his visit to them they encouraged him in his labors of love and zeal, and committed him to the faith and fellowship of the saints wherever God in his providence might call him to exercise his abilities.
The proselytes of this sect, when their sentiments became known, excited so much notice that Mr. Hooke, one of the magistrates, or Provincial Council, and Mr. Woodbridge, minister of the parish, sent a summons to all who attended a Baptist meeting, requiring them to appear and answer for their offence. They presented themselves accordingly, when the magistrate threatened them with a fine of 5s if they presumed again to offend in that way.
Mr. Screven, on returning, was likewise summoned before the General Assembly at their August session; and after being examined upon the subject of unlawful preaching and holding religious meetings, he was fined L10 for his past offences; and ordered never more to have any public religious exercises whatever, at his own house or elsewhere, especially on the Sabbath.
His refusal to submit to the injunction was deemed a contempt of his Majesty's authority, and the Court awarded sentence against him - "that he in future forbear from his turbulent and contentious practices; give bond for his good behaviour [sic]; and stand committed till the judgment of Court be complied with."
Howard Rushworth, RECORDER. August 17, 1681
But against all opposition, a church of eight male members was embodied, September 25; and the next year they with Mr. Screven and their families, removed to Cooper River, South Carolina.2
Williamson's History of the State of Maine, from which the foregoing is copied, adds - "This is said to have been the only instance of religious persecution within the limits of this state." It may further be added, as a significant fact, that the 'sect first persecuted for conscience' sake in Maine, is now the most numerous evangelistical denomination in that large and important state.
1 3rd May, 1665, Richard Cutts, of Portsmouth, was "admitted to freedom [of Massachusetts], and took his oath accordingly."
2 As the result of a long-cherished and well-organized religious intolerance, venting itself in vehement and impassioned persecution, these humble Christians became disheartened and overcome. In less than one year from its organization, the church was dissolved, and the members scattered like sheep upon the mountains; from the dissolution of the church in Kittery, no Baptists appeared publicly in Maine for an interval of 25 years.
"Mr. Screven died near Charleston, S.C. about 1713, at the age of 84 years, leaving a respectable posterity to bear testimony to his worth." He was the founder and first pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charleston.
===============[From a microfilm copy of Christian Watchman and Reflector, January 23, 1851, Volume XXXII, No. 4, p. 1, at the Steely Library, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY. — jrd]
The original constitution of the Kittery Baptist Church is described by the Baptist historian Isaac Backus:
"William Screven sent to the Baptist church at Boston on Sept. 13, 1682 that Elder Hull and others might visit and form them into a church. This was granted, so that a covenant was solemnly signed on Sept. 25, 1682 by William Screven, elder; Humphry Church Wood, Deacon; Robert Williams, John Morgandy, Richard Cutt, Timothy Davis, Leonard Drown, William Adams, Humphry Azell, and George Liter and a number of sisters."* ==============
* Isaac Backus, A History of New-England with Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians Called Baptists, Volume I, Boston, 1777, p. 505.
Maine Baptist Histories
Baptist History Hompeage