Sources for history of Universalist preaching and ministry in New Bedford

Sources for general history of Universalism in New Bedford
Sources on Universalist lay people in New Bedford

Rev. Hosea Ballou preached in New Bedford before 1829, according to History of the Churches of New BedfordNew Bedford: E. Anthony & Sons, Printers, 1869, p. 113.

In 1830, the Universalists in Rochester were trying to obtain regular Universalist preaching: “There is no record of any regular minister for these first few years. July 10, 1830, it was voted ‘to choose a committee to correspond with the Universalist societies in the towns of New Bedford, Fairhaven, and Wareham, in order to ascertain what they will do respecting procuring a minister to preach jointly in the above named towns and in the society in this town.'” [Mattapoisett and Old Rochester, Massachusetts Being a History of These Towns and Also in Part of Marion and a Portion of Wareham, by Mary Hall Leonard, Grafton Press, 1907, p. 272.]

In 1831, one William Morse evidently preached a sermon on Universalism in New Bedford; listed in the 1864 annual report of the Free Public Library (New Bedford, Mass.) is this item: “Morse, W. — On Revival of Religion. A Sermon delivered in New Bedford, April 17, 1831. By William Morse, (Teacher of Universalism.) New Bedford: Printed by Benj. T. Congdon. 1831. 8vo? pp. 20.”

1836 — Abraham Norwood preached in New Bedford and Fairhaven, according to his autobiography, The Pilgrimage of a Pilgrim, for Forty Years, as He Journeyed To, and Through, and From, the Partialist Church, Into and Through Sixteen Years’ Experience in the Universalist Ministry — and Not Done Yet, by Abraham Norwood, privately printed, 1849, pp. 228-231.

“In April, 1836, I was on a preaching excursion in New Bedford, Rochester and vicinity. One evening I had an appointment in a school-house in North Fairhaven, where Universalism had seldom been preached. Learning that Elder Wood preached in the same school-house a part of the time, and that his dwelling-house was near, I sent to inform him that I should be happy to see him at meeting. I could not call on him, conveniently, as I had to preach a funeral sermon in Taunton in the course of the day, and did not arrive at my appointment till night.

“Arriving there alone, I found the house occupied, in a noisy manner, by nearly twenty young persons of both sexes. Most of them were very well dressed, and, I was told, belonged to some of the most respectable families in the neighborhood. Notwithstanding my presence, and their being spoken to by two or three individuals, they continued to act in a most perfectly unbecoming manner. They were all upon one side of the room, and as the congregation gathered together, the tumult increased, for no one who possessed the authority had the disposition to prevent it. A deacon was present, (I think he belonged to Elder Wood’s church,) but I believe he came on purpose to see the row, as he made no effort to allay it. The females were quite as forward, brazen-faced, and disturbative as the males.

“Finding it impracticable to conduct religious exercises under such circumstances, I stood out upon the floor, and gave notice to that effect. ‘But,’ continued I, turning to the disturbers, ‘there are some young people here, who, among other things, have repeatedly inquired, “What is to be your text?” For their especial gratification, and I hope benefit, I will name it thus: “There were certain lewd fellows of the baser sort,” — of both sexes!‘ I proceeded briefly to point out to them the impropriety of their conduct, the disgrace they were bringing upon themselves, their friends and their neighborhood, and the probable unhappy results that would accrue from such a course; and concluded by giving them the best advice in my power. During the address the noise measurably subsided, and the countenance of one after another of the females fell and blushed, and its owner sneaked away from her guilty companions, until but three or four remained with the rest of the ‘lewd fellows.’

“When I had ceased, one of them said, in a bite-me-nose-offish sort of way, ‘Well, we have had a sarmon; we ought to give thanks!’ Another voice exclaimed, in the same dragon-snappish tone, ‘We thank you for your sarmon!’ I replied, mildly, as though I took it all in earnest, ‘I am glad, my young friends, that, vicious as you appear, you have yet grace enough to be thankful for anything; but, especially, for good advice, which we all see you need more than anything else — except the practice of it.’

“As I was about retiring from the house, a man, who stood near the door, expressed regret that the meeting was prevented, and observed, ‘Sir, those young people are church-members; they were all converted and baptized, last winter, by Elder Wood.’ ‘I have no doubt of it,’ said I. He seemed astonished at my credulity, and I explained by saying: ‘In the first place, I have no doubt of their conversion, for by nature people are not made so bad; and, in the second place, I have no doubt they were converted by Elder Wood, for, had the Lord converted them, they would have been made better, and not worse.’

“I understood that Elder Wood was about home, and I am suspicious that the disturbance was the result of the deliberations and advice of older heads and worse hearts than those directly engaged in it. I suppose the agents and the actors all thought they were doing the Lord service, to keep the dreadful doctrine out of their neighborhood, by any means in their power. As I departed, ‘thinks I to myself,’ ‘Well, if these are the fruits of Elder Wood’s doctrine, we can well dispense with it on Cape Cod. To render good for evil is God-like; to render good for good is manlike; to render evil for good is devil-like.’ Elder Wood may make the application.

“But I must not stop, at present, to particularize more cases of opposition upon the Cape.”


1836, Rev. Hosea Ballou preaches at dedication of meeting house

Life of Rev. Hosea Ballou: With Accounts of His Writings, and Biographical Sketches of His Seniors and Contemporaries in the Universalist Ministry, by Thomas Whittemore, J.M. Usher, 1855, vol. 3, pp. 233-234.


“On the 7th of September [1836] the meeting-house erected by the Universalists at New Bedford, Mass., was dedicated to the purpose of public worship by appropriate religious exercises. Father Ballou preached the sermon, and Revs. A. A. Folsom, E. Hewitt, and R. L. Killam, ofiiciated in the other parts. The text was Ps. 26:6—8, — ‘I will wash my hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O Lord: that I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works. Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honor dwelleth.’ ‘The weather on the day of dedication,’ said a writer at the time, ‘was exceedingly pleasant. At an early hour the house was filled to overflowing, by devout and attentive hearers, who listened with evident emotions of satisfaction and joy to the words of eternal life and salvation, as they flowed from the lips of our venerable and beloved father in Israel. The speaker arranged his subject in the following manner: 1, He showed what the Scriptures mean by the house of God; 2, Considered the provisions of this house; 3, The honor of God, and what constitutes it; 4, The necessary preparation of our hearts to worship God; 5, the proper motives to worship; and, 6, the influence of this worship on ourselves and the community.’ Taking the services together, the writer said, ‘Our whole souls were carried forward to that triumphant and glorious period when the blood-washed millions of the redeemed shall unite in the song of Moses and the Lamb. May God grant many such seasons of spiritual improvement, rejoicing and gladness.'”


1836-1841, John Murray Spear

Spear is the subject of a recent scholarly biography: The Remarkable Life of John Murray Spear: Agitator for the Spirit Land, by John Benedict Buescher, University of Notre Dame Press, 2006.

According to Beuscher, during Spear’s ministry, Nathan Johnson became a member of the Universalist church; Johnson was a prominent African American citizen in New Bedford and a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Spear met Frederick Douglass when Douglass came to visit the Universalist church; they later shared the lecture platform on many occasions for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.

From Buescher’s online biography of Spear:

“Spear began his ministry preaching to Universalists in Barnstable (Hyannis), Massachusetts while assisting his brother Charles in nearby Brewster. He was ordained and installed by the Barnstable congregation following the dedication of their meetinghouse in 1830. Though a settled minister there only briefly, Spear continued to preach in the area for six years. He later served Universalist societies in New Bedford, 1835-41, and Weymouth, Massachusetts, 1841-45.

“In the 1840s Spear was a prominent abolitionist. He succeeded in organizing the first Universalist anti-slavery conventions, in spite of opposition from the many Universalists who were opposed to such mixing of politics and religion. With Frederick Douglass and others, Spear spoke frequently in the 1844 ‘One Hundred Conventions’ campaign of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, whose purpose was to spread anti-slavery conviction and to combat the rising influence of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. Unlike the A.F.A.S.S. the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society urged that there be no accommodation or union with the slave-holding states. Late that year, on an anti-slavery lecture tour in Portland, Maine, Spear was attacked by a mob and sustained serious head injuries from which it took him several months to recover.

“A slave, Lucy Faggins, traveled with the family that owned her to visit New Bedford, which was home to a sizable community of free Negroes. Spear was instrumental in arranging the legal process through which Faggins was able to opt for freedom. For depriving the southern family of their household ‘servant’ Spear was vilified in public as a ‘nigger stealer,’ threatened with legal action, and forced to resign his New Bedford pulpit.”


1841, Levi L. Sadler

Universalist Register, 1859 Necrology

“Rev. Levi L. Sadler, of Boston, formerly an approved preacher in New York, Ohio, Massachusetts and Maine, died while on a visit to Brooklyn, N. Y., Oct. 26th, 1857, aged 51 years. Bronchitis compelled him to suspend stated preaching about twelve years ago; but he continued to preach occasionally as health and other duties permitted.”

The Universalist Church in Ohio, Elmo Arnold Robinson, 1923: “L. L. SADLER. A resident of Perry, New York, who toured Michigan in 1833 and Ohio two years later [1835]. He soon moved to Columbus and then to Perrysburg, and also preached at Belpre. In 1839 he went to Maine.” Sadler preached in Columbus before the church there was formally organized.

“Br. L. L. Sadler, late of Bangor, Me. has removed to New Bedford Mass, where he should hereafter be addressed.” Universalist Union, Saturday, December 11, 1841.

“New Bedford, Ms. [sic] Br. L. L. Sadler, late of Bangor, and formerly of New York State, has removed to this pleasant town, and become the pastor of the Universalist Society. Br. Sadler carries with him good wishes and prayers from his brethren in Maine, and we trust that his residence in New Bedford will be pleasant and useful.” The Universalist and Ladies’ Repository, December, 1841, Vol. 10 no. 7.

The 1895 History of Wood County, Ohio mentions Sadler as being present there as follows: “From the records of Wood county the following names and dates are taken, showing the names of ministers of the Gospel, who performed the marriage ceremony here from 1830 to 1852… Rev. L. L. Sadler, Universalist, 1837….” Perrysburg (see previous paragraph) is in Wood County.


1840, Hosea Ballou preaches at Massachusetts Universalist Convention

Life of Rev. Hosea Ballou: With Accounts of His Writings, and Biographical Sketches of His Seniors and Contemporaries in the Universalist Ministry, by Thomas Whittemore, J.M. Usher, 1855, vol. 3, pp. 310-311.

“On June 4th, the record shows that he was at New Bedford, Mass., at the meeting of the Massachusetts Convention, where he preached at the last service. The venerable Thomas Beede offered the prayer. Father Ballou preached from Deut. 32:3, — “Ascribe ye greatness unto our God.” He endeavored to show that we should ascribe to God infinite wisdom, infinite power, infinite, unerring justice, infinite goodness and love. The result of the combination of these attributes was clearly and profitably shown. The discourse was rich and consolatory.”


1841-1843, Thomas Green Farnsworth

Universalist Register, 1884 Necrology

“Thomas G. Farnsworth, of Waltham, Mass., died May 21, 1883, aged 85 years. He was ordained in 1822, and the senior of our ministry at the time of his death. Physical infirmities had for many years kept him from the active duties of his profession; but his love for our church and faith never wavered. He had the esteem and love of all who knew him.”

Matthias Farnsworth and His Descendants in America, by Claudius Buchanan Farnsworth: privately published, Pawtucket, R.I., 1891

“Rev. Thomas Green Farnsworth, born July 3, 1798, a Universalist clergyman, very much respected in his denomination. He was pastor of several churches. He married Mary B. Hollis, daughter of Captain Jesse Hollis of Boston, and died, after a long and faithful service in his calling, in 1884.”

Thomas Whittemore, in his autobiography The Early Days of Thomas Whittemore (J. M. Usher, 1860), describes how he was an apprentice to a shoemaker with Farnsworth; and how Farnsworth converted to Baptism. Later Farnsworth converted to Universalism, and became a Universalist minister; Whittemore attended his ordination on December 12, 1822. Some passages from this book are of interest in showing the conversion of Farnsworth to the Baptist faith, and then suddenly we meet him when he has become a Universalist:

[pp. 133-134] “Among the striking incidents during my connection with the Baptist choir, was the conversion of one of my fellow-apprentices, himself one of the choir, — I mean the present Rev. Thomas G. Farnsworth, of Waltham. He was a nephew of my master, and had lived with his uncle from the time the lad was eight or ten years old. He was a well-intentioned young man, and we all regarded him with friendly feelings. He suddenly began to be gloomy and taciturn, albeit his natural temper was cheerful and social. This, after a few days, strongly attracted my attention; and I was several times on the point of asking him whether he was unwell, or had heard of the sickness or death of any friend; for I knew he had parents, and brothers, and sisters residing in the country. The apparent disconsolateness of our young friend put a check upon our conversation in the shop, and a large share of the day passed in silence. At length, we missed him from his sleeping apartment, and were informed that a chamber had been assigned to him below. On inquiring the reason, we were told that he was under concern of mind, or, in other words, that he was in the first stages of conversion; and Mrs. Baker, being herself a Calvinist in almost every respect, saw fit to separate him from the rest of the apprentices as much as possible, especially at night, that the good work might go on without interruption. How his evenings and mornings were spent I knew not, but I supposed in earnest and very sincere prayers for salvation. In this way passed events for some weeks. We could all perceive that Mrs. Baker was deeply pleased. Young Farnsworth was granted more leisure, and had certain favors shown him that made one of our number express a wish to fall under conviction himself. The matter went on until we were told that our fellow-apprentice had been carried entirely through, or, in other words, had been brought out. He soon went before the Baptist church, where several of us attended worship, related his experience, and was received as a candidate for baptism. On the next Sunday morning, he came into our bedroom before we had risen, and said, with due formality and grace, ” Are you not going to rise, and go down and see your fellow-apprentice follow Jesus into the water in baptism?” They told him they should certainly go, and added, I am sorry to say, that they should be happy to see the distinguished personage whom he named. I have no recollection of attending this service; for although I had no doubt that young Farnsworth was perfectly sincere, it did not make that deep impression on me that it might be expected to have done.”

[pp. 144-145] “There was a singular coincidence in the names of Mr. Baker’s apprentices. Of the five, four were named Thomas, to wit: Thomas Farnsworth, Thomas Warren, Thomas Whittemore, and Thomas White. Three of them, it will be perceived, were Thomas W’s, i. e. their family name commenced with W; and Thomas Whittemore and Thomas White bore a still nearer resemblance. The oldest apprentice was Josiah Field, from Dorchester. He was an honest, benevolent individual, who would part with his last cent to do a friend a kindness. On arriving at twenty-one years of age, he worked as a journeyman for a time with his master, and eventually settled in Randolph, Mass. Farnsworth, as I shall have occasion to show, became a preacher of universal grace. Warren united himself in marriage to Mrs. Baker’s long-tried and faithful aid in the kitchen, Miss Potter, who made him a good wife. She died without issue, some years afterwards. White, poor fellow, left Mr. Baker’s family after remaining there a year or two. He was one of the most generous, social, pleasant young men I ever knew, and O, how deeply did I enjoy his society! His musical talents were great; .and many were the happy hours we spent in the study and performance of vocal and instrumental music. Those hours cannot return.”

[p. 323] “On the afternoon of this day [9 December 1822] I had the satisfaction to attend the ordination of my former fellow-apprentice, and companion in many joys and sorrows, Rev. T. G. Farnsworth, who, in connection with Rev. Jacob Frieze, was ordained to the work of the gospel ministry at this session of the association. I gave to both of them the right hand of fellowship.”

[pp. 290-291] “On the next week I made a journey to Dudley, Mass., and to Stafford, in the state of Connecticut. This was my first visit to either of these towns. On Tuesday, the day after my arrival, I preached in Nichols’ Academy, and on the following day attended the annual examination, and addressed the scholars. Leaving Dudley, I pursued my journey to Connecticut, and spent the rest of the week in that place. On Sunday I preached on exchange with Rev. T. G. Farnsworth, whom I have previously mentioned in this work. On becoming converted to the truth [i.e., to Universalism], I have stated that he prepared himself, as well as he could under his circumstances, for the ministry. His first settlement was in Stafford, to which place he was recommended by Rev. H. Ballou, 2d, who had been the pastor there previously to his removal to Roxbury.”


1844-1846, Silas S. Fletcher

New Bedford printer (and Unitarian) Benjamin Lindsey printed a sermon by Fletcher in 1844: A Sermon on the Fanaticism of the Present Age in which is Shown Wherein Both the Literary and Religious Past are Responsible, and Wherein Brought to Bear Upon the Fatal Delusion of Millerism: Delivered in the Universalist Church, New Bedford, Mass., October 27th, 1844.

Universalist Register, 1885 Necrology

“Silas S. Fletcher, died in Exeter, N. H., on the 29th of March, 1884, aged 60 years. He was ordained in 1842, and commenced the work of the ministry in Orland and Bucksport, Me., the same year. In 1844 he was called to New Bedford, Mass., where he remained as pastor two years. Thence he removed to Bridgeport, Conn., where he remained till 1848, when he became pastor of the church in Portsmouth, N. H. In 1852 he was called to Exeter, and was pastor of the society for two years, in connection with a stated supply at Kensington. Finding Exeter a good place for the education of his children, he made it his permanent home, continuing the supply at Kensington for several years, in connection with other clerical work in that locality. He had but few idle Sundays in the forty two years he was able to preach. He was an acceptable and earnest preacher, a close thinker, sound in theology, always expressing himself in terse, well-chosen rhetoric. He was highly respected in the community, and his death removes another of the strong and faithful men of our ministerial corps.”


— Waldo

A Rev. Mr. Waldo apparently preached for some months in 1849:

“…the Rev. Silas S. Fletcher officiated as pastor to the satisfaction of the society, until 1849, when Rev. Mr. Waldo assumed the pastoral charge.” History of the churches of New Bedford, p. 114; the information about Fletcher serving until 1849 is wrong, however, so the dates for Waldo may be wrong as well.

(The Universalist Register does list a Rev. Josiah Crosby Waldo in this era, who went to Lynn in 1849; perhaps he preached in New Bedford for a few months, and when it didn’t work out went to Lynn?)


1849-1851, Dissolution and reorganization

Church dissolved 1849.

Reorganized 1851. Incorporated as “First Universalist Society of New Bedford” on Dec. 15, 1851. [Report of the Commissioner of Public Records, Massachusetts Record Commission, 1897, p. 95.]


1851-1853, Hiram Van Campen

Van Campen left the ministry in 1853 to pursue a business career, although according to the Universalist Register of subsequent years, he remained in fellowship for some time, continuing to be listed as a minister. He was in the insurance business after he left ministry. Van Campen wrote the history of the New Bedford Universalist church in the Ellis history of New Bedford.

Universalist Registry, 1905 Necrology

“Hiram Van Campen. Although it is fifty years since Mr. Van Campen left the ministry, his continued interest in and active service for the church of his constant love, justifies his mention here. He was born in Amity, N. Y., in September 1817, and died in New Bedford, Mass., March 16, 1904. His name first appears in the Register in 1842, where he is designated as a new preacher, residing at Caton, N. Y. He was ordained at Portageville, N. Y., where he was then pastor, June 26, 1845. Two years previous to this, he had been settled at Mexico, in the same State. His subsequent settlements in New York were at Gainesville and Middleport. In 1851 he went to Rockport, Mass., and a year later, to New Bedford, where he organized and was the first pastor of the Universalist Church. After a two years’ pastorate he resigned and went into secular business, continuing this up to the time of his death, he was still faithful to his church and gave it his heartiest support. The church has seen dark days, but he never lost hope in its successful triumph over its difficulties and discouragements. Some one connected with the church, probably its present pastor, has said of Mr. Van Campen: ‘For thirty-six years he served the parish as clerk, and for even a longer time he has been clerk of the church. His records are models of neatness and accuracy. Seldom absent from the Sunday services, always interested in all that pertained to our welfare, ready and eager to do and give to his utmost, he was a faithful and helpful parishioner. His long experience, his general knowledge, his undivided interest in our cause has made him, it seems, almost indispensable. He lived his Universalism in the home and among men so that he was held in the highest respect and honor by all who knew him.'”


1854-1857, Benjamin Varney Stevenson

During Stevenson’s ministry, the church was re-incorporated as “First Universalist Church,” Nov. 2, 1855. [Report of the Commissioner of Public Records, Massachusetts Record Commission, 1897, p. 95.]

Universalist Register, 1899 Necrology

“Benjamin Varney Stevenson, born in Boston, Mass., in 1815, died at Ware, Mass., Jan. 11, 1898. He was educated in the public schools of Boston and was the recipient of the ‘Franklin Medal,’ bestowed for ‘general scholarship.’ A bookbinder by trade, he was persuaded in his early manhood to fit himself for the ministry and studied under the direction of Hosea Ballou, 2d, D.D. He was ordained at Boston, June 9, 1844, and had his first pastorate at Barre, Mass. Subsequent settlements were at Hingham, New Bedford, Chicopee, Shelburne Falls, Southbridge and Sturbridge, and at Ware and Hardwick, all in Massachusetts. He made a long and honorable record as ‘a good minister of the Lord Jesus Christ.'”


1857-1859, James Johnson Twiss

Universalist Register, 1891 Necrology

“James Johnson Twiss, born Oct. 12, 1820, died at Whitman, Mass., July 14, 1890. He was ordained at Danvers, Mass., Jan. 25, 1846, and had settlements at North Granby, Winstead, Stamford, Stafford, Conn.; Springfield, New Bedford, Lowell, Mass.; Norwich, Conn.; and Auburn, N. Y. In 1875 he took charge of the Unitarian Church at Chelmsford, Mass., and during the remainder of his life preached in the fellowship of that denomination. He was a man of fine attainments, pleasing address and excellent Christian character.”


1859-1862?, Thomas Eliot St. John

St. John is listed as being in New Bedford in the 1862 Universalist Register only; he is listed in Worcester as of the 1863 Register.

Publication: “The Nation’s Trial: A Discourse Delivered in the Universalist Church at New Bedford, Mass., on Thanksgiving Day, November 21, 1861” by T. E. St. John, published by s.n., 1861. Vol. 3, no. 44 of a collection of pamphlets with binder’s title: Civil War sermons.

From History of the Churches of New Bedford:

“Rev. T. E. St. John, formerly professor of anatomy and physiology in the Eclectic Medical College, Cincinnati, was the next settled pastor. His ministry began Oct. 23, 1859, and continued about three years. After leaving this city, he went to Worcester; in 1866, he took charge of the Church of the Redeemer, Chicago, but after a short time returned to Worcester. His superior qualifications for the pulpit have abundantly proved the wisdom of his changing from the medical to the clerical profession.”


1863, Steven Leroy Roripaugh

From History of the Churches of New Bedford:

“Jan 11, 1863, Rev. S. L. Roripaugh accepted the pastorship. He was a sound and faithful Christian minister, but in this climate was so affected with asthma as to labor with great suffering. He closed his ministry beloved by all and having the earnest sympathy of the parish.”

Roripaugh is not listed at all in the 1863 Universalist Register.


1865, George W. Skinner

From History of the Churches of New Bedford:

“His successor was Rev. George W. Skinner, who entered upon his duties Jan. 1, 1865. He was not so successful as to meet the expectations of the parish, and near the close of the year he withdrew.”

Listed in the 1865 Universalist Register as in New Bedford.

Universalism in Gloucester, Mass: An Historical Discourse on the One Hundreth Anniversary of the First Sermon of Rev. John Murray in that Town, Delivered in the Independent Christian Church, November 3, 1874 by Richard Eddy (Procter Brothers, 1892), pp. 67-68:

“The next pastor was Rev. George W. Skinner, who was called in June, 1862, and immediately accepted. Previous to his coming here, Mr. Skinner had been for a few months connected with the Army, as Lieutenant in the 97th Regiment New York State Volunteers. His ministry was during days of trial for the Country, days of anxiety and trial to all faithful ministers. His patriotic utterances in the pulpit were frequent, and he also embraced the oft-recurring opportunities of addressing the citizens at the many War Meetings which were then held, and of further helping them for the discharge of loyal duties; while at the same time he was prompt and responsive to the ordinary demands of the pulpit, and of his people. But his stay here was too brief, and the circumstances of the times too exacting in other directions, to mark his pastorate in any special manner. Mr. Skinner resigned, and his connection with the Society ceased, February, 1865.” [Footnote: “Mr. Skinner settled in New Bedford, Mass., in 1865; in Stoneham, Mass., 1866; Leavenworth, Kansas, 1867; Quincy, Mass., 1869; and Lawrence, Kansas, 1872.”]


1866-1871, Isaac Case Knowlton

From History of the Churches of New Bedford:

“His successor, supplying from the second sabbath in January, 1866, to April 1st, when his settled ministry began, was the present incumbent, Rev. I. C. Knowlton. He was born in Liberty, Waldo county, Maine, Sept. 6, 1819. He first commenced preaching in Albion, Maine, and in 1845 was settled at Durham, in that state. He remained five years, and then went to Lewiston Falls, where he was one year; then to Hampden, three years; then seven years at Old Town, above Bangor; from there to Keene, N. H., two years; then at the Broadway Church, South Boston, whence he came to New Bedford.

“Mr. Knowlton is a man of excellent judgment and good practical sense. He will be very long remembered in this city for the active part he took in originating the Sunday evening free meetings at Liberty Hall. The church has prospered greatly during his pastorship, and was never in so flourishing a condition.”

Proceedings at the Universalist Centennial: Held in Gloucester, Mass., September 20th, 21st & 22nd, 1870, Boston: Universalist Publishing House, 1870. I. C. Knowlton represented New Bedford.

Universalist Register, 1895 Necrology

“Isaac Case Knowlton, D.D., born at Liberty, Me., Sept. 6, 1819, died at his home in West Acton, Mass., March 21, 1894. He learned the cooper’s trade, and while at work at it he studied and fitted himself for the ministry, which he entered in June, 1842, and was ordained in 1845. His first pastorate was at Durham. Me. Subsequent settlements at Auburn, Hampden, Oldtown, Me., Keene, N. H.; South Boston, New Bedford, Mass.; Calais, Me.; South and West Acton, Mass. Having closed fifty years of work as a clergyman, in June, 1892, he formally retired. In recognition of his abilities and industry as a student in many branches of learning, Tufts College conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity, in 1889. Dr. Knowlton was a man of decidedly marked characteristics, original in thought and utterance, sometimes very quaint in the latter. In everything he was profoundly sincere and his praise is in all the churches as a devout Christian, ‘a very able preacher, a strong magnetic speaker, an exceptionally able maker of sermons and a true pastor.'”

Encyclopedia of Massachusetts, Biographical-genealogical, by William Richard Cutter, American Historical Society, 1916

“Rev. Isaac Case Knowlton, son of Ezekiel Knowlton, was born at Liberty, Maine, September 6, 1819, and died at West Acton, Massachusetts, March 23, 1894. He was reared in the family of his sister Abigail. He learned the trade of cooper and was employed in making lime casks at Rockland and Thomaston, Maine. His early education was limited. He was a student for a time in an academy, but he pursued the study of Latin and Hebrew, and fitted himself for the ministry. He began to preach at Albion, Maine, in 1841, and settled in Lincoln, Maine, in 1843, at Durham, 1845; at Auburn, 1850; Hampden, 1851; Oldtown, 1853; at Keene, New Hampshire, 1860; in South Boston, Massachusetts, 1863; at New Bedford, Massachusetts, 1865; at Calais, Maine, 1870; at West Acton, Massachusetts, 1875, and he continued as pastor there for eighteen years, retiring in 1893, after more than fifty years of active work in the ministry. He received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Tufts College in 1889. He was well known among the clergy and laity of the Universalist denomination in New England. He was an able preacher and a forceful writer. He contributed frequently to newspapers and magazines and published two books, The History of Calais, Maine (1873) and Through the Shadows (1885).

“He married, November 27, 1845, Mary S. Wellington, daughter of John and Mary Smith (Winslow) Wellington. Children: Hosea Morrill, of whom further; Mary Alice, born February 7, 1850; Frank Warren, October 2, 1851; Wellington Case, May 14, 1858.”


1871, Cyrus Baldwin Lombard

Biographical Record of the Alumni of Amherst College … 1821-[1896], ed. W. L. Montague, et al., published by Amherst College, 1883. Lombard is listed under Non-graduates for 1855:

“Cyrus Baldwin Lombard; s., Stephen and Hannah (Gale) Lombard; b. Aurelius, N. Y., Apr. 28, 1829; prep., C. L. I., Clinton, N. Y.; A. C., ’51; studied theol. with Rev. W. R. G. Mellon (Univ.) Auburn, N. Y.; Pas., Girard, Pa. ; Mt. Vernon, N. Y., two years; Medford, two years; Shirley, five years; New Bedford, nine months; Springfield, Ill. and Neenah, Wis. m. (1) Sallie F. Monran, Mr. Vernon, N. Y., 1857; (2) Lizzie H. Dillon, Springfield, Ill. One child. P. O. ad., Auburn, N. Y.”

History of the Town of Shirley, Massachusetts: From Its Early Settlement to A.D. 1882, by Seth Chandler, 1883, p. 286:

“In April of the year 1861 Mr. Cyrus B. Lombard came to Shirley, and was engaged as a minister of the Universalist Society for an indefinite period. He entered upon the duties of his engagement without the usual form of induction, and for two years labored in word and deed with a due degree of acceptance to the people of his charge. His pulpit talents were creditable, and his voice and graceful delivery commended him as a public teacher of divine truth. His whole term of service was five years; yet he had periods of absence for months in succession during the latter half of his engagement. During his residence in Shirley he buried his wife, who was a very interesting and worthy woman. He removed to Springfield, Illinois, and became a resident of that city.”


1871-1875, Prof. William Rollin Shipman of Tufts University

Shipman served as a regular supply preacher in these years.

The following information is from the Concise Encylopedia of Tufts History, ed. Anne Sauer:

“William Rollin Shipman (1836-1908), a Universalist minister, served as dean of the School of Liberal Arts for seven years (1900-1907).

“Born May 4, 1836, in Granville, Vermont, Shipman studied at the local academy and taught in district schools before graduating from Middlebury College in 1859. He also received his M.A. from his alma mater in 1862. Shipman served as the principal of Green Mountain Institute in South Woodstock, Vermont, before joining the Tufts College faculty in 1864 as Professor of Rhetoric, Logic, and English Literature. Prior to leaving Vermont, Shipman had been an avid supporter of the establishment of Goddard Seminary. He continued to serve as the president of the seminary’s board of trustees and chairman of its executive committee, while teaching at Tufts. In 1865, Shipman was ordained in the Universalist faith. Although he occasionally preached, he never pastored his own church. He married Martha F. Willis in July 1868 and they had two sons.

“Shipman was secretary of the Tufts faculty from 1869 to 1873, and dean of the School of Liberal Arts from 1900 until his retirement in 1907, at which time Shipman was made professor emeritus. He had been a charter member of Tufts’ Delta Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Shipman died January 15, 1908.”

1873, William S. Bell

In 1873, the Universalist Register lists W. S. Bell as preacher. A biographical notice of Bell appears in Four Hundred Years of Freethought, by Samuel Porter Putnam, Truth Seeker Company, 1894, p. 694:

“William S. Bell was born in Allegheny City, Pa., February 16, 1832. In early manhood he united with the Methodist church and began to preach. In 1858 he graduated from Adrian College, Michigan, and became a preacher in Brooklyn, N. Y. Having outgrown orthodoxy after several years, he applied himself to the study of medicine. In 1872 he went to Harvard Divinity School to prepare for the Liberal ministry. In 1873 he was engaged by the Universalists of New Bedford to supply their pulpit. His sermons, however, were not of ‘the good old-fashioned Universalist style.’ On the last Sunday, December, 1874, he publicly renounced the Christian church. Since then he has been engaged in lecturing before Liberal societies. He has published several books — The Resurrection of Jesus; Anti-Prohibition; An Outline of the French Revolution of 1789, and The Hand-Book of Free-thought.'”


1875-1877, Jeremy Hoadly Farnsworth

Universalist Register, 1900 Necrology

“Jeremy Hoadly Farnsworth, born in West Hartford, Conn., October 2, 1822, died at Natick, Mass., October 27, 1899. A fair common school education laid the foundation for his literary and professional abilities, and labor on the farm and in cotton factories gave him a lasting interest in the laboring classes. Becoming at seventeen years of age a Public School Teacher, he soon ‘heard the call of God to give himself to the Christian Ministry,’ and in the study and under the direction of Rev. A. A. Folsom he prepared himself for the studies and duties of a preacher. He was ordained at Hingham, Mass., Aug. 18, 1844, where he had his first settlement. He was afterwards at Quincy, Mass.; Somers, Poquonock, Williamantic, Conn.; Newark, N. J.; Belfast, Me.; Rockport, Mass.; Pawtucket, R. I.; Meriden, Conn.; Springfield, Va.; Des Moines, Iowa; Medford, New Bedford, Mass.; Lockport, N. Y.; Hallowell, South Berwick, Me.; Westfield, Charlton, Natick, Mass. ‘The churches which he planted were planted on the Rock. The parishes which he led were strengthened in all the graces of real godliness. He was on the right side of all moral reform movements and spoke his earnest word on behalf of Temperance and Freedom and the Rights of Woman and Peace. But he spoke so wisely and so lovingly as to waken little antagonism, and to carry his points without friction or discord…. His home was happy. His churches peaceful and prosperous. God was to him the enduring reality. The burden of his worship was praise. God preserved to him the elasticity of youth and strengthened him for the work of his love and choice, down almost to the closing scene. And then when his hand faltered and his step grew feeble, so that he deemed it wise to surrender his pastoral charge, the message of translation quickly came and ‘he was not,’ for God took him. Having walked with God in loving fellowship on earth, he lives with Him forevermore.'”

Matthias Farnsworth and His Descendants in America, by Claudius Buchanan Farnsworth: privately published, Pawtucket, R.I., 1891

“Jeremy Hoadley Farnsworth, born Oct. 22, 1822, a great-grandson of the same Simeon who settled at Washington N. H., is a clergyman of the Universalist Church, and in that capacity has served that denomination very efficiently at several places. He is now settled at Westfield, Mass.”


1878-1880, William Curtis Stiles

Stiles preached one of three sermons published as A History of the Pocasset Tragedy: With the Three Sermons Preached in New Bedford, by William James Potter, Charles Summer Nutter, William Curtis Stiles, published Chas. W. Knight, printer, 1879. The Pocasset Tragedy was a murder in the Cape Cod community of Pocasset, wherein a father and mother murdered their three-year-old daughter in an apparent re-enactment of the Abraham and Isaac story.

According to an article in the New York Times dated 30 March, 1881, W. C. Stiles left Universalism and became a Congregationalist minister:

“A council of the pastors belonging to the Congregational Church Association of New-York and Brooklyn was held yesterday afternoon in the East Congregational Church, Tompkins and De Kalb avenues, Brooklyn, to examine into the qualifications and religious beliefs of the Rev. W. C. Stiles, of New-Bedford, Mass., who recently left the Universalist Church, and who it was proposed to make Pastor of the East Congregational Church….

“The church was crowded to its fullest capacity at the installation service in the evening. The platform was occupied by the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher…. The charge to the pastor was delivered by the Rev. A. H. Heath, who was Mr. Stiles’s Pastor in New-Bedford, and who was chiefly instrumental in winning him from the Universalist faith. Mr. Heath related how he and Mr. Stiles had been Pastors and friends in the same city; how he had yearned over his friend; how the latter had visited him in his study, and he had seen his way clear to enter the Congregational Church…. He advised the young minister to stick closely to his books and not trouble himself about sectarianism….

“The Rev. W. C. Stiles, the new Pastor of the East Church, is about 30 years of age. Until July last year [1880] he was an earnest Universalist, and for several years was Pastor of the church of that denomination in New-Bedford, Mass., where he lived for many years. Last year he began to doubt the correctness of the Universalist doctrines, and the result was that he finally felt bound to leave the Church and go over to the Congregationalists. He was received into the North Congregational Church of New-Bedford, and gave clear evidence of his sound religious views….”

New York Times obituary, August 16, 1911, p. 7

“Rev. Dr. William Curtis Stiles. The Rev. Dr. William Curtis Stiles of 1236 Fifty-sixth Street, Brooklyn, associate editor of the Homiletic Review, died yesterday at the Bushwick Hospital from a complication of diseases. He was 60 years old. He was a native of Stoneham, Me., and in 1876 was graduated from the Tufts Divinity School. In the same year he married Mary A. A. Newcomb, in New Orleans, where he had charge of a Universalist church. He became a Congregationalist minister in 1880, and was pastor of the old East End Congregational Church of Brooklyn until 1884. He was active in an excise crusade against Mayor Low’s eledtion. Dr. Stiles was for a time pastor in St. Louis, Pittsfield, N.H., Jackson, Mich., and Stonington, Con.; an editor of the Standard Dictionary, a member of the Prohibition Republican Club and of the Manhattan Congregational Association, and a contributor to magazines and religious journals. He was the author of Literary Dozen and Out of Kishineff, a co-editor of Modern Sermons by World Scholars and the Cyclopedia of Illustration. He leaves a widow, two sons, and a daughter.”


1880-1881, Charles Rockwell Tenney

Tenny, the Universalist preacher in Mattapoisett, served as supply minister.

Who’s Who in New England: A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men and Women of the States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, ed. Albert Nelson Marquis, 2nd edition, Chicago: A.N. Marquis & Company, 1916.

“TENNEY, Charles Rockwell, clergyman; born Glover, Vt., Feb. 23, 1854; s. Rev. Timothy J. and Izah ? P. (Gibson) Tenney; ed. pub. schs. and acad., Norway, Me., Gould’s Acad., Bethel, Me.; B.D., Tufts Theol. Sch., Tufts Coll., Mass., 1878; m. Boston, Dec. 31, 1878, Lizzie Goddard, d. Charles P. Brooks, of Charlestown, Mass.; 2 children, Ruth, b. 1881; Miriam, 1883. Ordained to ministry Universalist Ch., 1878; pastor, Mattapoisett, Mass., 3 yrs., Stoughton, Mass., 8 yrs., Dorchester, Mass., 12 yrs., Auburn, Me., 1902-9, Southbrldge, Mass., since Jan., 1909. V.-p. Mass. Universalist Conv. (exec bd., fellowship com.); mem. exec. bd. Bethany Home for Young Women, Boston; visitor lecturer 2 yrs., Tufts Theol. Sch.; dir. Lewiston and Auburn Children’s Home. Mason. Address: Southbridge, Mass.


1882-1891, George Truesdale Flanders

The Universalist Church in Ohio, Elmo Arnold Robinson, 1923: Flanders was in Ohio starting 1841, was “ordained in 1843. Preached in Beverly, Zanesville, Marietta, Dayton, and Cincinnati.” Robinson has an incorrect date of birth. Under the listing for the Beverly church, Robinson has: “Beverly. First preaching by Flanders in a schoolhouse about 1841. Erected a building 1843 and organized 1844.” Under the listing for the Cincinnati church, Robinson says that Flanders was at the first Universalist church there from 1857-1861.

From the Universalist Register, 1898 Necrology

“George Truesdale Flanders, D.D., born in Vershire, Vt., June 28, 1820, died at Tryon, N. C., June 30, 1897. His early education was such as could be furnished by the common schools of his native place and an attendance at Newberry Seminary. He studied for the ministry under the direction of Rev. John Gregory and began to preach at the age of eighteen years. His ordination took place at Zanesville, Ohio, in 1843. His pastorates, according to the Register, have been in this order: at Zanesville and Marietta, Ohio; St. Louis, Mo.; Dayton, Ohio; Baltimore, Md.; Cincinnati, Ohio; New York City; Nashua, N. H.; Chicago, Ill.; Lowell, New Bedford, Rockport, Pigeon Cove, Mass.

“Dr. Flanders was a man of remarkable and varied powers. A scholar on many lines of thought, he aimed at thoroughness and solidity in all that he undertook. Coming into the ministry when Universalism was everywhere misrepresented and spoken against, he was a valiant champion in its defence and had an active part in our controversial period. Logical in his presentation of thought and eloquent in its enforcement, he brought many souls into the light and enjoyment of the truth. He was uncommonly well-versed in Oriental literature and brought all his learning in this and kindred fields to bear with mighty force in making manifest the superior power, worth and excellence of the Christian Religion, in the defences of which few men of our day have been more firmly grounded than he. He was one of the most frequent and valuable contributors of the results of searching investigation and study, to the pages of the Universalist Quarterly, during the last twenty-seven years of its existence. He also wrote not a little of a high poetic order and several of his hymns have long had place in our collections. The last notable production of his pen was Life’s Problems, Here and Hereafter. An Autobiography. It was published as an anonymous work, in 1887 and a year later a second edition bore the author’s name. It discusses in a masterful way the problems which pertain to the existence and personality of God, Immortality, Providence, Prayer and other topics which often engage human attention and it has received appreciation and praise from many competent critics. An edition has also been published in England. It is a truly refreshing and stimulating presentation of its high themes.

“There were marked peculiarities in Dr. Flanders’ temperament and disposition, but a warm, earnest heart was manifest to all who truly knew him and by them he was held in high esteem and honor. Disease bore him down at a time when he was ill-prepared to meet his feebleness, but he was mercifully permitted to reach the sheltering home of his loved ones and to close his days under their tender and loving ministrations.

“The closing words in Life’s Problems, may appropriately find place here. ‘I am at rest. My faith has made me whole. The incidents of this mortal life have for me no terror. Old age has no terror. Death has no terror. I now know that the present, every moment of it, is under the superintendence of an all-wise Father, even to the minutest particular; and the future stretches out into inconceivable realms of light and joy. I can confidently say with the old patriarch, — “Even though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”‘ ”


1892-c.1897, William Frank Potter

Ordained in 1868.

From the Unitarian Year Book, 1911

“William Frank Potter. William F. Potter, after several years of failing health, died September 1, 1910, at the Lafayette Hospital in Chelsea, where he had been cared for during the summer. Mr. Potter was born in Southbridge, Mass., on May 4, 1843, was prepared for the ministry at St. Lawrence University, where he graduated in 1868. He was ordained at Merrimac, Mass., then West Amesbury, in the same year. Later he served the Universalist churches at Wakefield, Arlington, East Boston, North Attleboro, South Framingham, and New Bedford. Later he became pastor of the Unitarian church at Winthrop, a congregation which contained a number of his former East Boston people. His last pastorate was at Revere, where he resigned some years ago, but where he continued to reside. His wife, who did much writing for Sunday-school and church publications, died several years ago, and he had no children.

“Mr. Potter had a rare quality of making friends, and in all the parishes in which he served there are many who remember his influence with gratitude and love. His wife was for many years an invalid, and he gave to his home life and to her care unmeasured devotion.”


1897-1899, no minister


1900-1907, Oliver Howard Perkins

Ordained in New Bedford, October 26, 1900. Member of the national board of the Young People’s Christian Union in 1910 (Universalist Register of those years).

Perkins was a close associate of Rev. Dr. Quillen Hamilton Shinn in the founding of Ferry Beach Park Association, the Universalist conference center in Saco, Maine. Upon Shinn’s death, Perkins was one of the three who ran the Association. From Universalists at Ferry Beach: A History, by Katharine Augusta Sutton and Robert Francis Needham, Boston: Universalist Publishing House, 1948, pp. 67-68:

“Oliver Howard Perkins was made president [of the Association] in 1908 and served until his death on January 8, 1914. He had been treasurer from 1902 through 1906. The historian making the record of this man thirty years after his death, in the town of West Kennebunk, Maine, where he was born on January 29, 1867, is amazed at the unanimity of opinion regarding him and the finality of tone used in expressing it: ‘O. Howard Perkins was a fine man. Well, he was.’ ‘Oh! O. Howard Perkins was solid gold.’ ‘Why, he was so big you just can’t talk about his type.’ In his home town he was known as ‘How’d Perkins,’ to distinguish him from his father, Oliver Perkins. His mother was Mary Webber Perkins.

“Mr. Perkins was tall, nearly six feet, slight of frame, with brown hair and hazel eyes. He was sincere, courteous, helpful, universally kind, and very much a gentleman. He had an innate goodness greatly noticeable by all who met him and a delightful sense of humor which helped when there were endless lamps to fill and pillows to round up and blankets to chase from one end of the place to the other. There are many to attest to the fact that he was equally at home with the men in a business meeting and with the ladies on the porch, and just as many to say he was the best person to make the parlor fire burn.

“O. Howard Perkins graduated from Westbrook Seminary and, after teaching school for several years, became principal of Snaford high school. He knew Dr. Shinn first in Galesburg, Illinois, and admired and loved him greatly. Upon his return to the homestead in West Kennebunk, he trained for the ministry at Tufts, encouraged all the way by Dr. Shinn. After an extended pastorate in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Mr. Perkins served under Dr. George Perin as assistant pastor at Every Day Church in Brookline. From there he went to Brockton, Massachusetts, serving as pastor there until his death.

“At the Ferry Beach Reunion at Franklin Square House, Boston, February 1915, Rev. Dwight A. Ball introduced the idea to the Board of Directors to name the grove the “Perkins Memorial Grove.” No formal vote is recorded, but the idea proved a popular one, and trees were purchased and used as memorials to those particularly distinguished or dearly loved. The custom of individual ownership of trees passed away after a few years, but nothing has ever changed the idea that those trees stood as a memorial to one of the finest men who ever walked among them, and meant beauty and strength and comfort to all who brought their spirit to them.”

The History of Sanford, Maine, 1661-1900, by Edwin Emery, William Morrell Emery, privately printed, 1901, p. 349.

“The school at Sanford opened in December, 1887, with A. W. Langley as principal. He was succeeded in 1888 by Samuel Perry. The spring term of 1889 was conducted by Miss Mason, while K. C. Cook had charge during the fall and winter terms following. J. Herbert Maxwell was principal in the spring term of 1890, and was closely followed by O. Howard Perkins, now a Universalist clergyman at New Bedford, Mass. During the five years in which Mr. Perkins was at the head of the school he met with great success as a teacher, and won the lifelong esteem of his pupils and associates.”


1907-1910, George H. Howes

Received B.D. from Tufts in 1905. Ordained at Lowell, Mass., June 21, 1906.

It appears sure that this is the same George H. Howes who took charge of North Unitarian Church in 1910.


1911-1916, Howard Charles Gale

Biographical information from Howard Charles’s Gales autobiography, My Triple Life (self-published, 1969):

Born 18 June 1880 (a few minutes past midnight) in Haverhill, Massachusetts. He attended both First Parish Unitarian (Haverhill) and Universalist churches as a boy; was christened at a Universalist Mission in Haverhill in 1891, became a member of the church in 1901. Did not graduate from high school, but attended Cramm School, a private school, for training in elocution and dramatics. Worked in a box factory, for a life insurance company, ran a small store, worked in a grocery store. Was active in the Young People’s Christian Union of Mt. Washington Universalist church [Mt. Washington was a neighborhood in Haverhill], was encouraged by Rev. Dr. Charles Conklin to consider ministry. With financial aid from the state convention, attended Tufts Divinity School from 1903 to 1908. granted B.S.T. in 1907; continued for a year of post-grad study.

Preached first sermon in Hardwick Universalist church in 1905. Granted a “Temporary License as a Minister” on March 19, 1906. Served as minister of Universalist church in Canton, Mass., from 1906-1907 as a student minister. Settled minister at Upham’s Corner Universalist Church (later St. John’s Universalist Church) 1908-1911; First Universalist Church in New Bedford, 1911-1916. Fellowshipped by American Unitarian Association, 1914. Settled minister at First Parish Unitarian Church in Norwell, Mass., 1916-1920; also part-time minister at Universalist church in Assinippi, Mass., and Unitarian church in Pembroke, Mass., 1919-1920; minister at First Parish Church (Unitarian) in Beverly, Mass., 1921-1924. Supply preaching, 1924-1926.

Married Agnes Woodbury Endicott of Beverly 27 December, 1922.

Licensed to practice medicine in 1923. Received M.D. from Middlesex Medical College, 1926. Part-time teaching at Middlesex Medical College (then part of what was known as University of Massachusetts, later Middlesex University) in Waltham, Mass. before and after graduation. (Middlesex University was absorbed by Brandeis University, and Gale served on Board of Trustees of Middlesex University in 1946 when this occurred; he resigned from the Board to facilitate the creation of Brandeis.) Professor at Endicott Junior College for ten years. Practiced medicine in Peabody area. Part-time minister at the Peabody, Mass., Unitarian church, 1926-1945, while practicing medicine.

Married Marguerite ——, 1946?

Baptized into Episcopal church 1943; confirmed 1945; made deacon in 1951; ordained as Episcopal priest, 1951. Served short-term ministries in Lynn, Beverly Farms, Peabody; supply minister many places. “Assistant Priest,” St. Michael’s, Marblehead, Mass., 1958-after 1969.

Died after 1969.

Below are excerpts from Gale’s autobiography concerning his years in New Bedford. Gale’s story of his years as a minister in New Bedford are of such interest to me that I have quoted extensively from his book. Page numbers from the original are in square brackets and are inserted where page breaks occurred in the original book.

“[p. 70] It was just at this time [1910] that I received a call to become minister of the Universalist church in New Bedford. This was the [71] church where I had candidated before going to Dorchester — the call that I did not receive. I do not know why I accepted it. There was no reason for leaving St. John’s [Universalist church in Dorchester] because the parish was on the crest of the wave. Perhaps I had a fear that it would not last. Certainly, no one could ask for a more beautiful church building in which to carry on my beginnings in the prayer-book liturgy, which was making a dent in the denomination. I do not recall, but I must have consulted with Dr. Conklin, the State Superintendent, for I always looked to him as a friend on whom I could lean. I would not have made a change without his approval. However, I did accept the call, and preached my last sermon and conducted my last service at St. John’s on Sunday, January 29, 1911….

“[72] On the next day, Monday, January 30, a moving van took our furniture to New Bedford; and my parents and I with the cat followed soon after. We had been fortunate in securing [for rental] a new seven-room house at 27 James Street, in a new section of the city on what was a short street with single houses owned by the occupants and about a mile from the church….

“[73] New Bedford was an interesting city, both geographically and historically. It stretched along the Acushnet River for about nine miles north and south and about a mile east and west. The local business section was in the center, while the north and south ends were mill sections. We lived in the residential section which was new at the west end. New Bedford, in the early days, had been a whaling city; and the old wharfs and shops bore the marks of the seafaring life, with many memorials of the whaling industry still visible. One could not fail to love some of the beautiful broad streets, with their huge flagstone walks and rows of glorious hawthorne trees. There was the substantial stone library with the grand statue of the whaleman in front. From friends and parishioners, I heard many interesting tales of old days in New Bedford, so that, in time, I became ‘soaked’ in the glorious whaling days gone by. I loved it all.

“The Universalist church was near the center of the city, only a block from the City Hall and the library. In the old days it must have been a charming old New England ‘meeting house,’ but the modernism of the mid-century had done its worst, as in the case of so many beautiful buildings. The [74] simple windows had given way to ornate glass, the old high back pews were replaced with ‘modern’ pews arranged in a ‘graceful’ (?) circle so that all might see the preacher. The old high pulpit was gone and a platform ran across the front of the church, behind which was the organ and much room to spare. In front of this ‘choir rail’ was a small semi-circular platform barely large enough for a modern pulpit, plus three overstuffed ‘pulpit chairs.’ Down in front was a small ‘communion table’ which was occasionally used. The pulpit platform and the aisle to the door were carpeted with a bright green, something to be remembered.

“I don’t know how I stood it; but I was young, and having just had such success in developing a churchly and liturgical spirit at St. John’s I dreamed of repeating the process. This, however, was an unrealized dream. [Editor’s note: the church had been built in the mid-19th century, and so was never the old meeting house of Gale’s dreams.]

“The service of my installation gave hope of good things to come…. The recently retired minister, the one who had received the call instead of me three years ago [George Howes], gave the ‘charge to the people’ urging them to be ready to co-operate in a forward movement. Dr. Conklin preached an inspiring sermon, and a Congregational minister brought a cordial greeting from the New Bedford churches.

“My first work was becoming acquainted with the parish. Again, as at St. John’s, I tramped the streets and rang door bells. There was one difference, however — I was not calling on strangers to the parish, but on people who were already members. It lacked the stimulation of trying to rebuild an old, discouraged church, but required the even more urgent need of proving myself and my program. I discovered that some seafaring people may have rather fixed ways and do not welcome, even when they accept, changes. This proved a handicap in endeavoring to introduce the ‘Universalist Liturgical Movement.’ The president of the parish and the Sunday school superintendent, as well as many devoted parishioners and an earnest group of young people, were the backbone of the parish. Among them I made many firm friends whose [75] friendship has continued these sixty years….

“From the beginning of my ministry there, the local papers gave me much publicity. It had been the custom of the local paper to write up, each month or so, one of the local clergy. A reporter would visit a church unbeknown to the minister or people and write up the occasion under a standard: ‘What the Minister Was Like.’ In addition to this, there were many other occasions when our church was given wide publicity. I supposed that this would be an advantage to the parish, but as I think back, I wonder if this is not a mistake. It may cause jealousy both within and without the parish.

“Having become acquainted with the parish, I considered the matter of a $3,000 debt [approx. $65,000 in 2007 dollars] that had been hanging for many years. With the consent of the parish committee, I began a campaign to clear this debt. There were grave doubts in the minds of many that anything could be done about it. However, I went to work; and after making careful plans, I devoted most of my parish calling to the matter of raising money to pay off the debt. My first aim was to secure as many hundred-dollar pledges as possible and then depend on smaller gifts for the balance. The final amount was secured by February, 1912. On Sunday, February 12, 1912, there was a church service in recognition of the debt-raising, and the next day, a reception in the vestry with the ‘burning of the mortgage.’ Local papers showed pictures of the reception and of the mortgage being burned….

“[76] Through the friendship of our Sunday-school superintendent, I became interested in Masonry…. On February 2, 1912, I received my first degree in Free Masonry, and then I continued until I had taken degrees in all the York and Scottish bodies, together with the Shrine and the Eastern Star….

“During my New Bedford ministry, I became active in many religious, civic and educational organizations, in many of which I held important offices. During these years, I received invitations to supply in many parishes and had ‘calls’ from over twenty of them….

“[77] There was a most cordial relationship between all the local Protestant clergy, and I exchanged pulpits with most of the ministers. My days and evenings were occupied quite generally with parish, Masonic and other local organizations, so that I led a very busy and exhausting life. As I think of it now from the perspective of sixty years, I remember that there were two reasons for this multiplicity of activities. I believed it was the duty of a minister to do whatever he could for the life of the community in which he lived and worked, and I am sure that I hoped that such community [78] activity would draw new people to my parish. My experience was that such was not the case. I do not recall a single case where people were brought into the parish because of my outside activities.

“During these years the parish progressed moderately. The young people’s work showed promise of real worth. I wondered if I should not be making better progress. Therefore, at the beginning of my fourth year I offered my resignation, but this was not accepted. There was a unanimous vote of co-operation, and I was urged to continue, which I did with the result that things moved on steadily and happily. There were many problems and difficulties which often disturbed me and made me wonder if I were wise in agreeing to remain, but work went on about as usual.

“Two interesting things occurred during this period. One day a group of people from my former parish came down in a body to spend the day with me, and this made me feel that, in a sense, I was still minister of my old St. John’s parish. The other thing was that I, like so many Universalist ministers, applied for joint fellowship with the Unitarians, which was granted on April 13, 1914.

“As time went on, I had a feeling that it might be better for me to make a change. One sort of senses that there is an undercurrent of uneasiness. As I had been very active in civic and religious affairs, I wondered if I had given too much time to these activities. Be that as it may, Dr. Conklin knew that I would consider a change. Invitations came to me from parishes in Massachusetts as well as in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Also, an urgent call came for me to return to St. John’s in Dorchester.

“On September 14, 1916, I received an invitation to preach at the First Parish Unitarian Church in Norwell, Massachusetts, as a candidate. On October 15, I preached there, and on the 17th I received a call, which I accepted. My resignation at New Bedford was accepted, and I preached my farewell sermon there on Novembeer 19, 1916.

“During my six years at New Bedford, in spite of problems [79] and difficulties, I stored up memories of many happy associations and friendships that have continued for sixty years. The demands on my time there and my numerous public activities, together with the demands of the parish, made for overcrowded days and an altogether too hectic life. I looked forward to the quite of a country parish….”


1917-1921 Frederick Algernon Wilmot

From Secretary’s Fourth Report: Harvard College Class of 1910,
Cambridge, Crimson Printing Co., 1921, p. 449:


“Born: Somerville, Mass., March 15, 1887.
Parents: Charles Allen Wilmot, Bertha Patience Bailey.
School: Boston Latin School, Boston, Mass., and Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, N. H.
Years in College: (1906-1909).
Degrees: A.B., 1910 (1909); S.T.B. (Tufts College), 1911.
Married: Estelle Mary Hurll McLean, West Somerville, Mass., June 30, 1915. Occupation: Minister.
Address (home): 48 Carroll St., New Bedford, Mass.
(business): 5 South Sixth St., New Bedford, Mass.

“Graduated from Tufts Divinity School in 1911. Cycled 1500 miles, summer 1911, through England, Scotland, Wales, and France. Became assistant to Dr. Frank O. Hall, Church of the Divine Paternity, New York City. Spent a year’s leave on stage, Century Theatre productions, New York City. Pastor West Somerville Universalist Church, 1913-1917; played King Henry in D. U. revival Henry IV, Part II. Wrote and produced Somerville Pageants 1915 and 1916. Came to New Bedford Church, 1917. Assistant Chairman of Liberty Loans in New Bedford. Chairman and founder New Bedford Forum. Harvard R. O. T. C. (Lancaster, 1918). Camp Lee, 30th Co., C. O. T. S., October-December, 1918. Reserve Chaplain. Founded New Bedford School of Dramatic Arts, 1919.”

Minutes of the Board of Trustees of First Universalist Church of New Bedford, at a special Board meeting (undated, between 26 April 1921 and 21 June 1921): “Voted that the resignation of Rev. F. A. Wilmot be made one of the articles in the second quarterly meeting warrant.” Wilmot last mentioned in the minutes of the 20 September 1921 meeting.


1921-1928 Percy Thompson Smith

From History of Barnard, Vermont: With Family Genealogies, 1761-1927, by William Monroe Newton, Vermont historical society, 1928: “Percy Thomspon Smith, b. Sept. 29, 1898; unm., 1927. Universalist minister, New Bedford, Mass.”

Minutes of the Board of Trustees of First Universalist Church of New Bedford: By 20 December 1921, Smith is referred to as “pastor.” Ordained between September and December in 1922. 19 June 1928, “Motion made and accepted that we accept the resignation of Rev. Percy T. Smith, with regret.”


1930-193? E. V. Stevens

Probably Rev. Ezekiel Vose Stevens.

Minutes of the Board of Trustees of First Universalist Church of New Bedford: 21 December 1929, “Regarding the possibility of Mr. Stevens talked over. J. D. W. Gardner to get more details. In case Mr. Stevens was elected the following were appointed to take care of him while looking for a home. Mrs. Burke, Crowell and Champion.” 15 January 1930, “Voted to have Rev. Stevens hire mover and church pay bill.”


1930-1938, further research needed.

The church finally dissolved in December, 1938.


Publications by New Bedford Universalist preachers: a bibliography

The following bibliography covers only those publications that relate to Universalism, including two autobiographies of ministers. I make no claims that this bibliography is comprehensive, or even correct. Items marked with an asterisk were written while the author was minister in New Bedford.

William Morse

“On Revival of Religion. A Sermon delivered in New Bedford, April 17, 1831″by William Morse, (Teacher of Universalism.)” New Bedford: Benj. T. Congdon, 1831. 20 page pamphlet.

Thomas Eliot St. John

“The Nation’s Trial: A Discourse Delivered in the Universalist Church at New Bedford, Mass., on Thanksgiving Day, November 21, 1861” by Thomas Eliot St. John, 1861. 27 page pamphlet. *

“Loyalty to the government and to God: A discourse given in the First Universalist Church, Worcester, Mass., on the occasion of the national fast, April 30, 1863” by Thomas Eliot St. John, 1863. 14 page pamphlet.

“Salute Your Officers” by Thomas Eliot St. John, Massachusetts Universalist Convention, 1864. 14 page pamphlet.

Silas S. Fletcher

A Sermon on the Fanaticism of the Present Age in which is Shown Wherein Both the Literary and Religious Past are Responsible, and Wherein Brought to Bear Upon the Fatal Delusion of Millerism: Delivered in the Universalist Church, New Bedford, Mass., October 27th, 1844, by Silas S. Fletcher, New Bedford: Benjamin Lindsey, 1844. *

William Curtis Stiles

A History of the Pocasset Tragedy: With the Three Sermons Preached in New Bedford, by William James Potter, Charles Summer Nutter, William Curtis Stiles, New Bedford: Chas. W. Knight, printer, 1879. Contains the sermon “The Bible and Human Reason” by Stiles. *

Isaac Case Knowlton

Through the Shadows by Isaac Case Knowlton, Boston: Universalist Pub. House, 1885.

George Truesdale Flanders

Life’s Problems Here and Hereafter: An Autobiography by George Truesdale Flanders, Boston: Cupples and Hurd, 1887. *

Howard Charles Gale

My Triple Life by Howard Charles Gale, self-published, 1969.

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