A Butler County, Ohio Unitarian Universalist Timeline

by Carol Sroczynski

1826 — First Universalist conference in Miami country held at Jacksonburg; James Alfred, Jonathan Kidwell, and Daniel St. John attended.

1829 — Universalist conference held at Philanthropy (Scipio) in Morgan Township.

1820’s-1830 — Bunker Hill (also known as Dog Town) became important preaching stop on Universalist circuit. Revs. Kidwell, Rogers, Pingree, and Manford spoke, debated doctrines of Universal Salvation at Obadiah Welliver’s tavern or hog-stand.

1829 — Oxford Universalist Society formed.

1835 — Universalist minister Rev. Robert Smith of Philadelphia preached in old Methodist chapel at Hamilton (then used as schoolroom). Public lectures given on Universalism. Universalists allowed other churches use of their facilities for discussions, in spite of those churches’ opposition to Universalism.

1836 — Universalist Jacob Matthias made Hamilton’s postmaster.

1837 — Oxford Universalist Fellowship established. First structure located on East Walnut Street; later moved to southwest corner of Poplar and Walnut Streets. Hamilton Universalist Fellowship established; met in lower level of Hamilton’s old courthouse. Congregants considered “friends of liberal thought”; services always characterized by “most excellent music”.

1840 — Fairfield (Indiana) Universalist Society formed.

1842 — Union Universalist Society founded (near Contreras, Ohio, a now-defunct hamlet west of Oxford near Indiana border). Hamilton Universalist Fellowship services regularly attended by 100 congregants.

1845 — Universalist Society formed at Bunker Hill, Ohio (a now-defunct hamlet in Butler County between Reily and Millville); met in members’ homes.

Revolutionary War veteran gravestone at Bunker Hill near Reily, Ohio, site of Bunker Hill Universalist Church

1847 — Union Church Fellowship established.

1850 — Mt. Carmel, Indiana Fellowship founded.

1852 — Hamilton Universalists built large church (“an imposing edifice”) at the southwest corner of High and Front Streets (currently parking lot of Presbyterian Church of Hamilton) and formed Sunday School. Schoolhouse No. 10, with Universalist teacher,  built to meet needs of Bunker Hill Universalist Society families.

1853 — Hamilton Post Office moved to basement of new Universalist Church (a controversial move regarded as inconvenient and too near Rossville).

1854 — Bunker Hill Universalist Fellowship established.

1856 — Bunker Hill Universalist Church and cemetery built and dedicated, considered area’s most modern church; seated 300. See http://www.ohio.org/destination/educational/bunker-hill-universalist-pioneer-cemetery

1857 — Hamilton Universalist Society incorporated under “First Universalist Society of the City of Hamilton” name; Hamilton Universalist Church calls its first pastor.

1859 — Bunker Hill Universalist Fellowship recorded membership of 134 adults.

1861 — Hamilton Church suspended services.

1863 — Mary Ross, Minerva Welliver, and Mary J. Bressler of Bunker Hill were first women to attend meeting of Miami Association of Universalist Churches as full voting delegates. Brothers Jonathan and Mathias Bressler, fighting on opposing sides in Civil War, probably met in battle. John Cregmile, Bunker Hill founding member, became charter member of Butler County Mutual Protection Company (formed by opponents of Federal draft and President Lincoln’s handling of the war), a short-lived effort at effective political protest.

1867 — Hamilton Universalist Church resumed services.

1869 — Rev. Prudy Haskell of Oxford Universalist Fellowship became first woman ordained in Ohio; “Union” Sunday School located at Bunker Hill.

1878 — Butler County archeologist and Universalist minister John P. MacLean reported that Indian graves exist near Universalist Church.

1882 — Hamilton Church property involved in litigation; case is appealed to Ohio Supreme Court; various “influential” Butler County citizens attended Hamilton Church.

1884 — Rev. John P. MacLean of Hamilton Universalist Church debated local Baptist minister for two days at Reily Baptist Church on “sin and salvation”.

1885 — Hamilton Church sold building it had built at Front and High Streets.

1887 — Hamilton Universalist Church bought what had been Hamilton’s first brick schoolhouse, built in 1818, at Third and Dayton Streets (site of present YWCA building). Bunker Hill Universalist Sunday School was first area school to have Christmas tree and singing.

1889 — Bunker Hill Universalist membership declined as Methodists increased evangelical activity in Reily. Hamilton Universalist Church sold Dayton Street property; purchased property on North Seventh Street; built new church building (currently occupied by North Seventh Street Church of God).

1891 — North Seventh Street Universalist Church building dedicated.

1894 — Bunker Hill Universalist Sunday School closed.

1895 — Last sermon preached at Bunker Hill; Bunker Hill Universalist Society dropped from membership in Ohio Universalist Church.

1899 — Bunker Hill resumed services; new Bunker Hill “Union” Sunday School founded.

1900 — Bunker Hill readmitted into active membership in the Ohio Universalist Association.

1902 — Mary Andrews of Hamilton Universalist Fellowship ordained. First motion picture viewing in western Butler County at Bunker Hill Universalist Church.

1912 — Bunker Hill Universalist Church and Sunday School closed.

1914-1915 — Bunker Hill Union Sunday School closed.

1918 — Last burial in Bunker Hill Pioneer Universalist Cemetery (Mrs. Rebecca Davis).

1924 — Bunker Hill Universalist Church destroyed by fire.

1952 — “Murray-Channing Club” organized at Miami University as a response to the lack of opportunity to discuss liberal religion and philosophy. Hamilton North Seventh Street property sold to a Church of God congregation.

1953 — “Murray-Channing Club” changed its name to “Liberal Religious Fellowship” to broaden appeal beyond Unitarian Universalists and identify club with religious concerns.

1955 — “Liberal Religious Fellowship” counted 34 university and town members, affiliated with “Eastern Midwest College Conference on Religion” and participated in “Miami University Inter-Religious Council”. Opposition arose to what was considered a “liberal-radical” group; after John Eicher presentation, Miami University Council of Deans approved group.

1956 — Liberal Religious Fellowship affiliated with American Humanist Association and joined Religious Workers Subcommittee of Miami University Committee on Religious Life. Public meeting held in Miami’s Ogden Hall, attended by about 50 people. Oxford Unitarian Fellowship established with 12 resident members, several children, and a few college students. American Humanist Association’s Executive Director led panel discussion jointly sponsored by Miami, Western College for Women, and Oxford Unitarian Fellowship and attended by 60 people, on “Religious Ethics as Related to Modern Society”. Hamilton Unitarian Fellowship established.

1958 — Oxford Unitarian Fellowship merged with larger Hamilton Unitarian Fellowship.

1966-1973 — Hamilton Unitarian Fellowship opposed Vietnam war; counseled young men who did not want to fight.

1973 — Hamilton Unitarian Fellowship dissolved. No UU church in Butler County, but many members joined Church of the Larger Fellowship; others joined Cincinnati-area UU churches.

1990 — Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Butler County organized.

1998 — UUCBC changed name to Hopedale Unitarian Universalist Community.

1999 — Hopedale Unitarian Universalist Community purchased building and grounds at 3870 Millville-Oxford Rd. from veterinarian Dr. David McGrew; started plans for building remodeling.

2001 — Hopedale UU Community moved into remodeled building at 3870 Millville-Oxford Rd.; celebrated with open house.

A History and Biographical Cyclopaedia of Butler County, Ohio, 1882.
Notes on the Early History of Unitarian Universalist Activities in Oxford, Ohio; John Eicher, 1991.
The Making of Hamilton; Alta Harvey Heiser, 1941.
The Ohio Historical Review, Vol 11, No. 13, p. 18-20.
The Universalist Saga of Bunker Hill; Thomas R. Stander, 1974.