Parsonsfield Seminary

Parsonsfield Seminary, which operated from 1832-1949, was a well-known Free Will Baptist school in North Parsonsfield, Maine, in the United States. Also known as the North Parsonsfield Seminary, its preserved campus of four buildings is located on State Route 160.


In 1832 Rev. John Buzzell and several other Free Baptists founded the school in Parsonsfield. Parsonsfield Seminary was the first Free Will Baptist school in the United States. The seminary's first principal, Hosea Quimby, was active in many other Free Will Baptist organizations. The seminary was deeply involved with the abolitionist movement and was a stop on the Underground Railroad, while Oren B. Cheney was principal in the 1840s. From 1840 to 1842, the Free Baptist Biblical School, the first Free Baptist graduate school for training ministers, was located at the seminary (the school was later renamed Cobb Divinity School and became part of Bates College). Parsonsfield Seminary burned mysteriously in 1854, allegedly by opponents of integration. Over the next 100 years similar arson incidents occurred at black and interracial schools all over rural New England, including the Watchman Industrial School in Rhode Island in the 1920s.

After it burned, Bates College (the Maine State Seminary) in Lewiston was founded in 1855 to take its place with a larger and more centrally located Free Baptist school. But in 1857 a smaller seminary building was rebuilt, crested with a cupola and weathervane, on the same site at Parsonsfield. In 1889, Bartlett Doe, a wealthy San Francisco businessman originally from Parsonsfield, donated funds to repair and remodel Seminary Hall, adding its rear wing and front bell tower. His gift provided for the construction of a new dormitory, to which a large annex was added in 1896. He also established a school endowment of $100,000.

Nevertheless, Parsonsfield Seminary closed in 1949. The facility was subsequently used by the Consolidated School District until 1986, at which time it moved to new quarters. To prevent loss of the historic hilltop campus, it was taken over by the Friends of the Parsonsfield Seminary, a non-profit, non-sectarian organization which continues to maintain it. The handsome Victorian buildings and grounds are used today for weddings, conferences, seminars and graduations.

Notable alumni
  • Oren B. Cheney, abolitionist, principal of Parsonfield Seminary, founder of Bates College
  • Person C. Cheney, senator from New Hampshire
  • Samuel W. Gould, congressman
  • Lorenzo De Medici Sweat, congressman
References and external links
  • Friends of the Parsonsfield Seminary
  • Robert Greenleaf Leavitt, Maude Lougee Boothby, Dr. Bernard L. Towle, and Kate E. Barker Thursto. History of Parsonsfield Seminary: 1932 Centennnial Edition (1932).
  • Musical Spoons at Parsem. Site about Parsem, History, and Musical Spoons played at Parsem, Parsonsfield, Maine.