STANDISH — Two teenagers were arrested on charges of setting a fire that destroyed a 114-year-old church Thursday afternoon.
Only one wall of the Richville Chapel remained standing hours after the boys allegedly set fire to the building.
Sgt. Joel Davis of the state Fire Marshal’s Office said the boys, who are 15 and 14 years old, were arrested Thursday night by investigator Danny Young and Detective John Fournier of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office after witnesses identified them.
Davis said the boys are from Standish and Buxton. Each one is charged with arson and burglary.
The church, built in 1898, is on Mosley Road, off Route 114 about four miles north of the Gorham town line.
Authorities are still investigating a string of fires that were set in Gorham this spring. Davis said he has ruled out any connection between those arsons and Thursday’s fire.
“There are just no similarities,” he said.
One big difference, Davis said, is that the boys broke into the church and vandalized it before setting it on fire. The buildings that burned in Gorham weren’t broken into or vandalized.
Thursday’s fire was reported at 1:15 p.m. and was under control by 5 p.m. Davis said the boys were alone in the building when the fire started. No one was injured.
Standing outside the burned-out church, which still smoldered late Thursday, Davis said one of the boys had been on release from the state’s Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland. He said that boy was sent back to the juvenile corrections facility Thursday night while the second boy was turned over to this parents.
The boys’ names were not released.
Though the Richville Chapel was insured, Pastor Greg Martin said the loss of such a historic building and its memories will be hard to overcome.
Martin said his congregation plans to rebuild on the site, in a grove of tall pine trees, but it could take some time.
In the meantime, the town’s nearby Richville Library has offered to donate space to the church for its Sunday morning services. The church has about 20 members.
Martin said the fire destroyed the chapel’s original pews, which were brought in by train in the late 1800s, as well as a few old Bibles, an organ and a piano.
All that was spared was the church sign, which faces Route 114.
“We are going to miss our building, but you can’t let it get the best of you,” Martin said.
Steve Thibeault of Sebago said his mother, Connie Fogg, and his stepfather, Otis Fogg, were faithful members of the church. Both died earlier this year. He said they would have been devastated by the loss of the church.
But, he said, “The church is just a building. It can be rebuilt. It’s the people that make up the church.”
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: