Third phase, burning of Old South Church, Bath, 1854

Contributed by Maine Historical Society

Third phase, burning of Old South Church, Bath, 1854

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During the summer of 1854 anti-Catholic sentiments were running high. A mob in Bath, incited by a street preacher, ransacked and burned the Protestant church that had been rented by Catholics as a place of worship.

The Know-Nothing party was held responsible for this act.

The hate and bigotry against Irish Catholics in the mid 19th century was chronicled by Mary Agnes Tincker in "The House of Yorke" (1872).

Englishman John Hilling, who had settled in Bath around 1840, recorded the destruction of the Old South Church, also known as the Old South Meeting House. An 1855 article in the Weekly Mirror denounced the prejudice and violence, noting the mob chanted "down with papal power" as they "tore up the pulpit and ripped out the pews." The same article noted the Meeting House burned in less than 20 minutes, and that Hilling's paintings were "perfect representations of the house and its destruction."

John Hilling was born in England in 1822 and arrived in America in the early 1840s, where he settled in Bath, Maine. He remained in Bath until he enlisted in the Civil War infantry in March 1864. He soon rose to sergeant, but received a horrible spinal injury and was honorably discharged on December 12 of the same year. His spinal injury affected him the rest of his life, in which he focused on painting. Hilling died in Wells in August 1894, and was buried in Bath.

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About This Item

  • Title: Third phase, burning of Old South Church, Bath, 1854
  • Creator: John Hilling
  • Creation Date: 1854
  • Subject Date: 1854-07-06
  • Location: Bath, Sagadahoc County, ME
  • Media: Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 46 cm x 61 cm
  • Local Code: A86-821
  • Object Type: Image

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For more information about this item, contact:

Maine Historical Society
485 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101
(207) 774-1822 x230

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