Our town was named after this most famous of colonial characters, the Reverend George Whitefield (spelled with the "e" but pronounced "WITfield") who was a world famous and a VERY important religious evangelist who came here to the 'colonies' from England to preach about his idea of the "rebirth" for Christians , a very NEW and radical idea in its day ! This was a time when the Puritan's ideas about religion were still popular among the people of our growing country.
The Reverend George never came to our area , or hardly even to Maine (He did arrive in York, for a sermon, once ( remember we were part of Massachusetts until 1820!)). But, people all over the colonies, from Georgia (where he started an orphanage) to Newburyport Massachusetts on the New Hampshire border (where he organized a church and ultimately died and was buried) thought he was the greatest Christian leader of the times !
You can find out lots of information about the Reverent George, his colleagues and the role of religion in colonial America at the Library of Congress's site by clicking here.
At about the same time the people in the eastern part of Balltown decided to start their own town named after the then VERY popular new president Thomas Jefferson - Those in the western section, led by people ( primarily the Choats, ) who had come from Newburyport in Massachusetts where in their parish, George Whitefield had attained something of a stature nearing sainthood.
A local historian, Marie Sacks, is exploring the notion that our towns are misnamed. She believes that the character of the people of the part of the town now called Jefferson were much more religious in the vein of Whitefield and the majority of people in the western part of Balltown were Federalists - taken by the notions of the the fathers of our new republic. It is an odd yet interesting idea.
Some internet sites containing additional data on the Rev. Whitefield:
http://www.victorshepherd.on.ca/Heritage/whitefield.htm (his family history)
http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/believers/weishampelthw/THW049.HTM (his conviction and conversion)
http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/wesley/quiz/2a.stm (Phillis Wheatley's poem on the Death of Whitefield)
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