A Mission of Good Will, Part I: Growing Roots

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In 2019, 130 years after George Walter Hinckley purchased the 125-acre plot that would become his life’s legacy, Good Will-Hinckley rolled out a new logo.

If you look closely, you’ll see silhouettes of a young boy and girl reading beneath a green tree, a small school in the background. What I love about the logo is how it captures both the historic roots of Good Will-Hinckley (more on that in a bit) and our promising future, with images and colors that are sharp, focused and purposeful.

What you won’t see in the logo—unless you know Good Will-Hinckley’s past (and some of you certainly do)—is the story behind these elements. It’s a story that captures not only what George Hinckley believed, but who he was as a person.

A heart to help

To understand that we have to go all the way back to the early 1860s. It was around that time that a young Hinckley heard about a local boy who’d been sent to reform school for taking food from another student’s lunch pail.

Instead of reflexively judging the boy, Hinckley asked a simple question: What would drive a young person to steal food? Before long, Hinckley had his answer: The boy had been locked out of his home by his own mother and hadn’t eaten in three days.

Even at an early age, Hinckley was imbued with the belief that no child, no matter how troubled, should be deprived of a loving home—or a warm meal.

A mission of Good Will

A few years later, Hinckley had his second great epiphany. In 1868, while attending grammar school in his native Connecticut, he met a young man named Ben Mason.

Assigned to the school after a tumultuous stint at a New Haven orphanage, Mason quickly became a pariah on campus. In Hinckley, Mason found someone he could confide in. Determined to lend a helping hand, Hinckley invited Mason to stay in his home. Although Hinckley’s parents struggled financially, the family took Ben in anyway,

and the two became lifelong friends.

Right place, right time

Inspired by a long conversation with his Sunday school teacher, Hinckley decided to pursue a career in the ministry, which he saw as the best way of taking his message of “good will” to the masses. He undertook several projects through the 1870s and 1880s.

He launched a boys camp in Guilford (the country’s first, by most estimates). He served as a missionary. He worked in a screw factory. Finally, he settled into a teaching position at school in Kingston, Rhode Island.

In 1881, following two appointments as a pastor, Hinckley took over as pastor of the Rainbow Church in Windsor, Connecticut. His evangelical work soon caught the eye of the prominent American Sunday School Union, which offered Hinckley a considerable salary to represent them in Maine. Over the next seven years, he organized 34 Sunday schools throughout the state—including in some of Maine’s most remote enclaves.

When the Union decided to discontinue his position, Hinckley quickly found work as a traveling evangelist. Yet despite his growing popularity around the state, Hinckley,

unable to heed his mission of helping boys in need, grew dissatisfied. Shortly after moving his family to Newport Village, Hinckley befriended a local farmer who was looking to sell his land.

While the deal fell through, Hinckley was more determined than ever to find a parcel that could support his vision.

In May of 1889, Hinckley took a tour of Chase farm, located six miles outside tiny Fairfield Village. On July 1, Hinckley purchased the property—which included a large house (then called “the cottage”) and a few small barns—from the Fairfield Savings Bank for a price of $1,950. Shortly thereafter, he launched the Good Will Home Association to serve as the company’s financial steward, deeding the land over to the trustees for a single dollar.

Good Will-Hinckley was born.

Growing roots

In the August 1889 issue of the Good Will Record, the monthly pamphlet he’d launched the year prior to raise funds for his mission, Hinckley included an illustration of the Good Will Cottage. In front of the cottage, reaching barely above the pitched roof, stands a humble maple tree—one that still stands today, just feet from our visitor’s center.

That tree, much like Good Will-Hinckley itself, has grown and evolved over the decades. Its boughs are stronger; its branches more plentiful; its roots digging ever deeper.

So now, when you look at our new logo, know that you’re not just seeing where Good Will-Hinckley is today; you’re looking at a window into our past.

And yet, at a time when kids need support more than they ever have, it’s important that we not rest on our laurels—that we continue to share our story in hopes those growing branches might give shelter to as many young people as possible.

In that spirit, this is the first of several articles highlighting our organization’s history and legacy, and how those stories have come to inspire and inform our mission today. We hope you’ll join us on that journey and learn more about this great Maine institution—and the adopted Mainer who made it what it is.