The Unitarian Church of Palo Alto, 1905-1909

Here are documents that tell the story of the early years of the old Unitarian Church of Palo Alto.

The Women’s Alliance (1906)

PALO ALTO.
Branch Alliance of the Unitarian Church, 25 members.
Pres., Mrs. Agnes B. Kitchen, 912 Cowper St., Palo Alto.
Vice-Pres., Mrs. Isabel Butler, 853 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto.
Sec., Mrs. Isabelle Wocker, 853 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto.
Treas., Mrs. Emily S. Karns, P. O. Box 148, Palo Alto.
Ch. Cheerful Letter, Mrs. Jessie B. Palmer, 765 Channing Ave., Palo Alto.
Includes all the women’s organizations of the church.
Committees: Hospitality, House, Decoration, Entertainment, Work.
Meetings second and fourth Tuesdays at 2 P.M.
Money raised, $205.15. Disbursed: $8.35 to National Alliance; $150 for church lot; $6 for hymn books; $25.98 for materials. Organized October 21, 1905.

— Manual, 1906, National Alliance of Unitarian and Other Liberal Christian Woman (New York, Knickerbocker Press, 1906), p. 168.

The New Church Building (1907)

The most important event in the department of church extension during the past month was the dedication of the new church-building at Palo Alto. This occurred on Sunday morning, March 24th. It was a home affair, simple, but very interesting to the faithful Unitarians who have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to bring the enterprise to a successful termination. The erection of this church was made possible by the generosity of Mrs. Frances A. Hackley, of Tarrytown, N. Y., who has done so much for the Unitarian cause in this department. The members of the church entered into the work with a determination to make the new church-building not only useful but beautiful and convenient. The interior of the new church is all that could be desired; the exterior will not show its merit until the vines grow over it, as the vines are an essential part of the plan. The services in dedication were well attended.

— The Pacific Unitarian, vol. 15, no. 6, April, 1907 (San Francisco: Pacific Unitarian Conference), p. 165.

OldChurchAisle

Above: The old Unitarian church, designed by Bernard Maybeck (from The Pacific Unitarian, May, 1907, p. 206)

Continue reading “The Unitarian Church of Palo Alto, 1905-1909”

Charter members, Unitarian Church of Palo Alto, 1905

Below is a list of the charter members of the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto, organized on November 12, 1905. This list is taken from Donna Lee’s transcription, found in her 1991 history of the old Unitarian church. I believe she made some transcription errors; unfortunately the original document appears to have been destroyed, though a photocopy definitely exists, and at some point I will look at the photocopy to try to check the accuracy of Lee’s transcription.

In the mean time, I have been doing some research on these early Palo Alto Unitarians. The majority of them are associated with Stanford — students, faculty, staff; and spouses and parents of same. There are several people I have not been able to track down; let me know if you happen to know anything about them.

The list of charter members is below…. Continue reading “Charter members, Unitarian Church of Palo Alto, 1905”

Obscure Unitarians: the Alderton family

Dorothy Marion Alderton — She was born in Oct., 1889, in New York to Henry A. Alderton and Marion Starr Alderton, the eldest of three children. She was a student at Stanford University from 1908-1912. On Sept. 17, 1912, when a senior at Stanford, she married Herbert Anthony Kellar of Peoria, Illinois, at her parents’ Palo Alto home, with Rev. Clarence Reed, the minister of the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto, officiating. The couple moved to Wisconsin, and then to Chicago, where Herbert worked at the McCormick Agricultural Library. They had one son, James, who died c. 1922. Dorothy was diagnosed with “dementia praecox” — what might be diagnosed as schizophrenia today — around 1924. She was institutionalized, and by 1930 Herbert was living with the woman he would eventually marry as his second wife. Herbert obtained a divorce in Reno, Nevada, on Nov. 8, 1934, but he continued correspondence with Dorothy’s mother Marion up to 1942, the year Dorothy died of cancer.

Marion Starr (Decker) Alderton — She was born in Aug., 1865, in Brooklyn, New York. In 1885, she married Henry Arnold Alderton, a physician; they lived in Berlin in 1890-91 while Henry studied at the University of Berlin. They made their home in Brooklyn, but when Dorothy entered Stanford in 1908, Marion, with her two other children, move to Mayfield with her. Henry, Sr., moved to California in 1912, and took up painting.

Marion withdrew from the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto in June, 1920, in protest against “the attitude taken” by the church in the First World War; the church had a pacifist minister, William E. Short, Jr., in 1916-1917, who resigned to work for a pacifist organization in San Francisco; but by 1918, the church had hired a pro-war minister, F=Bradley Gilman, and had voted to display a U.S. flag on the pulpit. The church’s turn towards a pro-war stand may have been simply pragmatic, since the church received significant financial assistance from the American Unitarian Association, and since the A.U.A. made it a condition of receiving such aid that churches must declare their support of the First World War; however, the church always included both anti-war (e.g., Prof. Guido Marx) and pro-war (e.g., Prof. Melville B. Anderson) members.

By 1924, her daughter Dorothy was diagnosed with schizophrenia; see Dorothy M. Alderton above. Henry, Sr., died c. 1931; Marion died after 1940.