Neat finds and fun stories, New Stuff, Women of Biddeford

Rev. Fiel – Biddeford’s first female pastor(?)

Today I stumbled upon newspaper accounts of a Miss Emma Estelle Fiel, whom I believe to be Biddeford’s first female pastor! She came to the city in 1908 as an interim pastor but did so well and was so well liked she stayed until 1910. She ministered at the First Baptist church on Adams Street – the picture below is from 1910 and so this is exactly Rev. Fiel’s church!

First Baptist Church, Adams Street, 1910 (bid.chu.033)

The very interesting piece is that the church fair mentioned below in 1908 took place at the home of Rev. Fiel’s future in-laws. Rev. Fiel married Mark Wakefield of Biddeford in October 1912 at her parent’s home in Waltham, Massachusetts. Mark was a Baptist minister as well, and the couple moved all over, returning to the Biddeford area often. Eventually the Wakefields did live for a time in the Wakefield family farm at 497 Elm Street, and later at Ocean Park. Mrs. Wakefield was extremely active locally, and spoke regularly at gatherings of the Women’s Missionary Society and WCTU, among other organizations. Mrs. Wakefield – the former Rev. Fiel – died on May 17, 1943 and is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery. Interestingly enough, her husband is indicated as a Reverend on their gravestone, but Rev. Fiel was not. Despite this, Rev. Fiel’s obituary was a lovely memorial to her work for her church, and she was obviously well known locally as a dedicated woman of God.

Biddeford Weekly Journal, December 4, 1908
Biddeford Weekly Record, June 3, 1909
Biddeford Weekly Record, October 13, 1910
Biddeford Weekly Journal, October 11, 1912
Biddeford Weekly Journal, October 18, 1912
Biddeford Daily Journal, May 18, 1943
Biddeford Daily Journal, May 20, 1943

The First Baptist Church (also known as Adams Street Baptist Church) was dedicated on September 12, 1855. In 1931 the congregation merged with the Free Will Baptist congregation on Jefferson Street and became the United Baptist church of Biddeford, moving to the Jefferson Street building. The Adams Street church was sold in 1937 to the Greek Orthodox church, St. Demetrios, who remodeled the church to it’s current look (but moved to a brand new church in Saco in 2000). The historic church is now home of the Synaxis of Serbian Saints Orthodox church.

End Note: As of this writing I don’t have any photos of Rev. Mrs. (Fiel) Wakefield, but I am hoping that as we mine (er, catalog!) the Elite Studio collection one may surface in the future. Fingers crossed!!