The Vestry before it was moved from the lot

Moving the Vestry


Many religions in rural Maine suffered from shrinking membership through the twentieth century. This led to a wealth of abandoned curches dotting the countryside, most in poor repair and most available for purchase for little or — if the buyer was willing to move it—nothing. In 1974, Tom and Mary Moser could secure an 1839 church and vestry building from the Northeast District Universalist Church for the token sum of five dollars. They turned the church building and grounds over to the New Gloucester Historical Society, which agreed to take responsibility for the church if they removed the abandoned vestry building.

Moving the Vestry, two pieces on their way to the grange hall

Around that same time, a one-acre lot next to their grange-hall workshop became available, and they bought it. The Vestry was their chance to create the first showroom for the company. This would free up the 1762 gambrel house they had been using as the showroom, and they could then restore and eventually occupy the house as their family home.

Tom and Mary hired Dave Carney, a local weightlifter and rough carpenter, to remove the Vestry’s roof and cut the remaining post-and-beam building into four equal parts. He had the job done in three days by running a chainsaw lengthwise down the center of the seven-by-seven-inch timbers. Although the roof sheathing was rotten, they saved all the lumber. The building was now ready to move in four parts on an equipment trailer owned by an excavation contractor.

Hauling the vestry to New Gloucester

They managed to jack up, load, haul, remove, and position the first three sections of the Vestry without incident. But the fourth one was trouble. With a two-holer privy room protruding from it, it was too wide to fit through the planked sides of the old wooden railroad bridge that spans the tracks of the Grand Trunk railroad. The contractor drove the section onto the bridge but got stuck halfway across.

“What should I do?” he yelled.
“Put her in low gear and go! We can’t just leave it here!” Tom shouted back.

And go, he did! No fewer than six sideboards of the bridge and some small portion of the outhouse tore loose and tumbled onto the tracks thirty feet below. They nailed the boards back to the side of the bridge, but not before the resident policeman came by and asked for their permit.

Starting to set the vestry beside the grange hall

“Permit?” Tom said. “What Permit?”

Since they were nearly done, he shrugged, cautioned them about low-hanging wires, and drove off into the twilight.

All four sections had made it to their one-acre lot, mostly unscathed. They bolted the four sections together, and once in place, they completed the foundation and added a new roof. Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers now had a proper showroom with a wood stove for heat, and the two-holer became a place to store catalogs and administrative supplies.

aerial view of the grange hall and the vestry



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