Deacon Byron Greenough, 1798-1871
by Douglas Cruger, Immanuel Baptist Church 2010
Twenty-three year old Byron Greenough (Gree·nough | \ ˈgrē-ˌnō \) settled in Portland in 1821, coming to Maine from Haverhill, Mass., to open a retail hats, caps, boots and shoes business. Within a year of arrival he erected a brick flatiron building at the head of Free Street (later occupied by the H.H. Hay drug store, and today by Starbucks Coffee) and set up business. ln 1858 he moved his thriving business to Middle Street where, on the Fourth of July 1866, it was destroyed, along with 1800 other homes and businesses, including 8 churches, all of the city's banks, every newspaper office, every lawyers office, and 7 hotels, in what history now knows as the Great Fire of Portland. Fortunately Byron Greenough was fully insured, and he rebuilt, bigger and better, within months of the fire.
What makes Byron Greenough's story important to us at lmmanuel, however, wasn't his business enterprise but his Christian faith. He was already a Deacon at First Baptist Church in Portland when in 1835 he was called upon to lead the effort to establish a “second" Baptist church, in Portland's west end, to be called Free Street Baptist Church (now the Children's Museum of Maine). Coincidentally, the new church edifice would be a remodeled theatre building ("purged as with fire" to become a temple) just across the street from Byron Greenough & Co.
From 1836 until his death in 1871, Deacon Byron Greenough was the "venerated father" of Free Street Baptist Church. Even his place of business came to be known as 'Baptist Head Quarters.' Calvinistic though he was, and ever attentive to stewardship - his own as well as others - it was Greenough's constant effort and enterprise which contributed to the enlargement and expanding mission of the fledgling “second” Baptist church.
Byron Greenough died in 1871. By his will he remembered his former pastors Dr. George Bosworth and Dr. Albion K.P. Small, the Aged Women's Home, Maine General Hospital, Colby University (now Colby College), and, most of all, the Maine Baptist Missionary Society. From his generous bequest to Maine Baptists came the Greenough Church Edifice Association, organized in 1872 to buy, build, and improve Baptist meeting-houses. Over the last century and a quarter, thousands of dollars have been granted to dozens of churches, all emanating from Byron Greenough's initial $10,000 bequest to the Baptists of Maine.
Our own Greenough Chapel (on map) is dedicated to the memory of Byron Greenough, and four of our members today serve as Trustees of the Greenough Church Edifice Association.