In Memory of the Canton Universalist Church

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The Canton Historical Society had been housed in the former Universalist Church since  1975. The church building had major structural issues when it was gifted to the Society, and funds were lacking to address the problems. The members had long been trying to come up with a solution.

In Summer of 2017, when the Canton Historical Society learned that the former Grange building next door was to be demolished to make way for an expansion of the Big Apple Convenience Store, the members faced a choice. Either save one building, or eventually lose both. The Grange building could be rescued - only if it could be moved onto the Historical Society's property by fall of 2017.  It was decided to tear down the church in order to move the Grange building onto a new foundation where the church had stood. See the image gallery for the full story.


The History of the Canton Universalist Church

The former Universalist Church was built in 1855 with funds raised by the Universalist Society of Canton.  The congregation was formed in 1825 and remained active until the late 1950s.  The building was called the First Universalist Meeting House.  The church was repaired and made "more modern" in 1879. A bell manufactured in Boston in 1895, by the Blake Bell Company, was presented to the congregation by  Mrs. Sarah K. Deshon (née Ripley) in memory of her husband and installed in the church’s belfry.  The bell was inscribed as follows:

In memory of John M. De Shon.


Ring in the love of truth and right,

Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,

Ring out the false, ring in the true.

The inscription is from the poem “In Memoriam,” by Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892).  The words may be familiar to you, as it has frequently been put to music—including in George Harrison’s 1974 song “Ding Dong, Ding Dong” that is sometimes played around the holidays.

The Historical Society began using the building in 1975 with the consent of the remaining church members.  Ten years later, the deed of the church was turned over to the Historical Society.

Sometime prior to 1995, the Deshon bell was removed from the belfry and will remain on display outside the Canton Historical Society.

Sources: What Was Ain’t What Is, by Norman A. Vashaw, 1995; and The Canton and Dixfield Register, 1905, published by the H.E. Mitchell Company, 1905.

 By Liz Rothrock