The Church in Colonial and Post-Colonial America

The church at this time represented more to the people than at the present. With few books, and no papers or periodicals, the sermons on the Sabbath day were about the only opportunity they had to have their intellect broadened. The church kept a watchful eye over all communicants, and they were not allowed to absent themselves from the Lord's Supper without a reasonable excuse. Also all matters of an unchristianlike nature were brought before the church. The members were expected to adhere to the articles of the covenant, themselves and their families, and present their children for baptism

Up to 1790, in this church as in many others in this section, there was a kind of a half-way covenant, which some were not slow to avail themselves of. This was the same thing we so often find in the early records of Massachusetts, where such a person "owned the covenant," in such a year. The reason for its use was, because none but baptized persons could vote in town affairs. The History of Antrim says, "It was adopted here in 1805, and was called the 'half-way practice,' or 'owning the covenant,' and many availed themselves of the privilege; and the custom made the town and church still more as one."

It was first sanctioned in 1662, at a Synod in Boston, and the import was that all baptized persons of upright lives ought to be considered for practical purposes as members of the church, and therefore entitled to the exercise of political rights without professing conversion, or qualification for participation in the Lord's Supper. It was an open door which allowed all who owned the covenant to vote in church affairs, and was naturally the cause of much trouble.


There was a Universalist Society in Goffstown in 1822, and how long preceding this, I am unable to ascertain. It was at one time quite a flourishing society, although there never was an organized church; neither did the society have a place of worship of its own in this section of the town. They held divine worship in halls, and in 1832, 1833 and 1834, Rev. F. A. Hodsdon preached here a portion of the time, and in the summer season probably held one service a day. The society maintained its identity until 1860.


In 1825, through the efforts of Dr. Oliver Dean, a society was organized at Amoskeag, which continued to increase, and in 1833 had a church membership of seventy. Rev. F. A. Hodsdon ministered here in 1832, 1833 and 1834. September 4, 1833, they organized under the name of the "First Universalist Church of Bedford and Goffstown."

The village of Piscataquog, now West Manchester, was then within the limits of Bedford, and the church drew its patronage very largely from the villages of "Skeag and Squog." Their place of worship was in the hall over the store owned by Dr. Oliver Dean. The Universalists worshipped here two Sundays each month, and the Baptists and Congregationalists one Sunday each.

In 1839, the society was transferred to Manchester, and built a house of worship upon Lowell Street, and Rev. George W. Gage became their pastor.
  Reverend Luther F. McKinney was pastor of the First Universalist
Society of Manchester form 1875 - 1885
             THE UNIVERSALIST CHURCH -- by Rev. L.F. McKinney
             The germ of what is now the Universalist Society of Manchester was
             started in 1825 at Amoskeag Village, by Dr. Oliver Dean, then agent
             of the manufacturing company out of which the Amoskeag Company grew.

Dr. Dean was a man of energy and a large business capacity, and the success of manufacturing in our city is largely due to his efforts. But he was not only a man of business capacity, but was a man of strong religious principles, and even before he settled permanently in the community he invited ministers of his faith to the village and established Universalist preaching. Services were continued under his direction until 1833, when we learn from the records these facts: On the 4th of September, 1833, the following persons assosciated themselves together as the First Universalist Church of Bedford and Goffstown, and partook of the Lord's Supper: Frederic A. Hadson, John Stark (3d), George Daniels, Hiram A. Daniels, John Mullett, Edwin Smith, David Fiske, Nehemiah Preston, Mary Parker, Mrs. Pattee, Nancy Poor, Moses Gage, John V. Wilson and Caleb Johnson. There is now but one of the original members living, the Rev. J.V. Wilson, who was ordained to the ministry in 1835. The first pastor of the church was Rev. Frederic A. Hadsdon. On the 20th of November, 1833, the church met at the school-house in Amoskeag, and chose Rev. Frederic A. Hadsdon moderator, and George Daniels clerk of the meeting. After adopting a declaration of faith and a constitution, George Daniels was chosen clerk and treasurer, and Wilbur Gay a deacon. The meetings hereafter were held in Amoskeag Hall. The records were kept until November 21, 1833, at which time Archibald Dow was chosen moderator. The meeting dissolved, and no further records of the church can be found.

In the following year, 1839, the society removed to the village of Manchester, on the east side of the river, and erected the church now occupied by the society in the same year. The church was dedicated in 1840. The size of the house originally was fifty by eighty feet. The land on which the church stands was given to the society by the Amoskeag Company, and contains ten thousand square feet. It appears by the records that on the 12th day of April 1842, several members of the soceity met at the residence of the pastor for the purpose of consulting on the subject of church organization. A committee was appointed to report on the subject, and on the 10th of May following, a church was organized. 
Thus it appears that a second church was organized, though there is no record that the first church was ever disbanded. Thus far we have only a record of churches. Whether during this period there had been a parish organization we know not, but there probably was. The oldest record is in 1846. The oldest record there is of a legal meeting is December, 1850, at which time S.W. Parsons was elected president. The society has had in its history ten settled pastors,--Rev. Frederic A. Hadsdon, whose pastorate began with the history of the church and closed in 1837. Neither the records nor the history of Manchester show that there was any other settled pastor until 1840, but older members of the society say that Rev. Hiram Beckwith was settled for two years after the resignation of Rev. Mr. Hadsdon. Rev. N. Gunnison, the next pastor, began his services in May, 1840; he resigned in October of the same year. Rev. George W. Gage was ordained as pastor in June, 1841, and was dismissed at his own request in 1843. In January 1843, the Rev. B.M. Tillotson was settled as his successor, and continued in charge until October, 1859. He was succeeded by Rev. B.F. Bowles in June 1860, he resigned in 1866. The Rev. S.L. Rosifaugh was installed June 26, 1867, and resigned October, 1868. He was succeeded January 1, 1869 by Rev. Thomas Berden, who resigned in December, 1871. The Rev. G.L. Demarest began his labors February 1, 1875. Rev. L.F. McKinney became pastor of the society on the 1st of May 1875, and continues as pastor at the present time, or nearly ten years. After the building of the church the society prospered beyond expectation, and the house proved too small for the congregation; accordinly, in 1850 it was enlarged by an addition of twenty-five feet in width, or one half-its former side; it was rededicated the same year with appropriate services. In 1855 a vestibule was added to the front and the organ now in use purchased at an expense of three thousand dollars. In 1878, the church being in need of repairs, it was determined to raise funds for that purpose. Eight thousand dollars was the estimated cost, which was readily subscribed, and in June of that year, the work was commenced, and under judicious management was completed at a cost of seven thousand dollars. The church was rededicated with appropriate services in October of the same year, Rev. A.J. Patterson, D.D. preaching the sermon. The one thousand dollars remaining was applied to the payment of a debt of fifteen hundred dollars that had long been owed by the society. The following year the balance of the debt was paid, and from that time till the present the entire expenses of the society have been paid from the pew rentals of the church. The society celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its organization on the 2d of November, 1883, with appropriate exercises. Twice in the history of the society a new society has been organized from it, but neither were destined to live. Nearly every society in Manchester numbers among its members those who once worshiped with the Universalists. Almost the entire wealth of one of the large socieities was in time past connected with this organization. Some of the most influential men in the city and State have been connected with this church, and few churches have done more to educate and liberalize the general public. The church building is now the oldest in the city. The society is free from debt and prosperous. With a faithful membership in the future, as in the past, and the blessing of God, it will still have a work to do that shall redound to the good of the community and the praise of Him who is the source of all truth.
Reverend Edward B. Payne was pastor of the
First Unitarian Society of Manchester from 1884 - 1886
             FIRST UNITARIAN SOCIETY - by Rev. E.B. Payne
             The Unitarian Church in Manchester did not originate from a change of
             base on the part of an orthodox Congregational Church, as in so many
             cases in New England, nor yet in an open and formal session from any
             existing ecclesiastical organization. It appears, rather, to have
             been an independent movement, prompted by a desire, on the part of
             a few persons, to sustain liberal sentiments in religion, and to
             worship God in a freer and happier way than seemed possible to them
             in the orthodox connection.
             In January, 1841, Rev. S. Osgood, a minister then residing in Nashua,
             began, by invitation, to preach the Unitarian faith in Manchester.
             Sabbath services were held for four months, when it was thought best
             to suspend them until the town hall, then in process of erection,
             should be completed, affording a more suitable place in which to hold
             the meetings.
             In March of the following year, 1842, the town hall was secured and
             services were resumed, with a view of making them permanent. Rev.
             Charles Briggs, secretary of the American Unitarian Association, in
             Boston, preached on a Sabbath, and Rev. O.H. Wellington was then
             engaged for the month of April. On Sunday evening, April 24, 1842,
             pursuant to a call for a meeting of those interested in sustaining
             Unitarian preaching in Manchester, the following persons met for
             consultation at the house of William Shepherd: John D. Kimball,
             William Shepherd, E.A. Straw, James May, M.G.J. Tewksbury,
             James McKeen Wilkins, H.F. Richardson, B.F. Osgood, Edwin Bodwell,
             Herman Foster and J.H. Kimball.
             After thorough deliberation the following resolution was unanimously
             "Resolved, That we will form ourselves into a society for the more
             effectual support of Unitarian preaching in the Town of Manchester,
             and that we will proceed, as soon as may be, to organize regularly
             under the laws of this State."
             Messrs. Daniel Clark and E.A. Straw were appointed a committee to draft
             and report a constitution for such a society, and an adjournment was
             then had until Wednesday evening of the same week.
             At the adjourned meeting (Wednesday evening, April 27th) the 
             committee, above mentioned, reported a constitution for the government
             of a religious society, to be distinguished as the First Unitarian
             Society in Manchester, N.H. The preamble, as indicating the spirit
             and purpose of the organization, is hereby appended:
             [This preamble found in the original document, is not included here].
             The preamble and constitution were unanimously adopted, and the original
             signers were as follows: E.H. Straw, William Shepherd, J.D. Kimball,
             Job Chamberlain, John H. Kimball, James May, George W. Tilden,
             George Hall, M.G.J. Tewksbury, Daniel Clark, Francis L. Clark,
             Alfred W. Rhoads, Benjamin F. Osgood, B.F. Manning, Isaiah Winch,
             J.B. Upham, A.G. Tucker, J.B. Moore, O.P. Warener, H.S. Reed,
             Charles F. Warren.
             E. A. Straw was chosen clerk and treasurer, and at a subsequent
             meeting, May 1, 1842, John D. Kimball was elected president, and
             Messrs. William Shepherd and B.F. Manning directors.
             The movement being now well launched upon its career, the members
             set hopefully to work to realize their objects. Rev. O.H. Wellington
             became the first pastor. He was ordained July 19, 1842, Rev. C. Stetson
             of Medford preaching the ordination sermon. The attitude of the 
             religious community towards Unitarianism was shown in the fact that,
             whereas the pastors of all the churches in the town were invited to be
             present at the ordination and assist in the services, they all declined
             except the pastor of the Universalist Church.
             In the afternoon of the same day Rev. William Channing, of Nashua,
             preached before an assembly called to organize a church in connection
             with the society. In view of the above-mentioned action on the part
             of local ministers, it is curiously suggestive that the text of Mr.
             Channing's sermon was the words attributed to Jesus in John xvii, 22, 
             23,--"That they may be one, even as we are one: I in them and thou
             in me, that they may be made perfect in one."
             The church was duly organized,, the following persons being the
             original members: Benjamin F. Osgood, S. Manning. Esther Parker,
             Melinda Osgood, Mehitable Eastman, O.H. Wellington, C.A.K. Wellington,
             Susan Manning, JohN Caldwell, H.M.A. Foster. [The statement adopted as
             the basis of their union, found in the original document, is not
             included here.]
             It will be seen from these declarations that the founders of the
             church made it their primary end to emphasize and espouse the practical
             and vital interests of religious life and work, and were comparatively
             indifferent to theological and ecclesiastical concerns.
             For nearly a year more the public services of the new church and
             society were held in the town hall, but during the following year a
             lease was secured of a small chapel, built by the Methodists, in 1841,
             and standing on the corner of Hanover and Chestnut Streets. The first
             services were held there on July 2, 1842. Some time during the
             summer this building was purchased from the Methodists and removed to
             a lot, donated by the Amoskeag corporation, on the corner of
             Merrimack and Pine Streets.
             Mr. Wellington remained as pastor only two years, when his health
             necessitated his departure. He was succeeded by Rev. A. Dumont Jones,
             who was installed July 10, 1844. Mr. Jones remained only until the
             end of March, 1845. From that time until 1848 the church was without
             a settled pastor, the pulpit being supplied by different ministers,
             none of whom remained for any great length of time, except Rev. M. J.
             Motte, who preached regularly for one year during 1846-47. This was
             a period of great discouragement for the friends of the movement.
             Their numbers failed to increase, and debts were incurred, and the
             prospect generally seemed unpromising. At one time a motion was made
             to dissolve the society. This, however, did not prevail, but seemed
             to inspire the faithful with a determination to persevere. Resolution
             and zeal brought the enterprise through these disheartening days.
             A fortunate move was made in February, 1848, in extending a
             unanimous call to Rev. Arthur B. Fuller, a brother of the famous
             Margaret Fuller. The call was accepted and Mr. Fuller was installed
             March 29, 1848. The new pastor proved to be a man of unusual talents,
             and during the five years of his pastorate the society was greatly
             increased and strengthened. It was found necessary to enlarge the
             church, which was done, its seating capacity being increased to the
             extent of twenty-four pews. The life and work of the church promised
             large and liberal things, but in 1853, Mr. Fuller, whose abilities had
             become widely recognized, received a call to the New North Church, in
             Boston, and resigned his pastoral office in 1855.
             The society was now established and strong, and since that time has
             held its ground and steadily grown until it is now one of the leading
             religious organizations of the city and State. The pastors who have
             served the church sine 1853 have been as follows: Rev. Francis Le Barren
             from August 1853 to October 1855; Rev. W.L. Gage, from June 1856 to
             April 1858; Rev. Sylvan S. Hunting from September 1858 to November 1861;
             Rev. A.W. Stevens from September 1862 to October 1865; Rev. Augustus M.
             Haskell, from September 6, 1866 to March 1869; Rev. C.B. Ferry from
             December 1869 to the summer of 1874; Rev. Harvey from November 1874
             to the spring of 1883. The present pastor is Rev. E.B. Payne, who was
             installed in February 1884.
             The church worshiped in the building on the corner of Merrimack and
             Pine Streets until 1859, when an exchange was made for a larger
             building, formerly occupied by the Free-Will Baptist Society, and
             standing on the corner of Merrimack and Chestnut Streets. This
             building, in turn, they sold in 1871, and erected their present house
             of worship on the corner of Beech and Amherst Streets, dedicating the
             new church in 1872.


[a paragraph on the orthodoxy of the church, found in the original document, is not included here].


Unitarian Universalist Church of Manchester
Address: 669 Union Street Manchester NH 03104 - Phone: (603) 625-6854