Anniversary exercises, Wednesday evening, February 17
Order of service1. Organ prelude ............................Buck 2. Invocation. Rev. H. D. Maxwell. 3. Anthem—‘The Lord is my Light’.Horatio Parker 4. Bible reading. Rev. F. A. Gray 5. Prayer. Rev. Charles A. Skinner. 6. Address—‘Charles Tufts.’ Rev. E. H. Capen, D. D. 7. Historical address. John F. Ayer 8. Anniversary hymn—Cross Street, C. M., F. M. Hawes 9. Address. Rev. Charles Conklin. 10. Address. Rev. Charles A. Skinner. 11. Anthem—‘Rock of Ages’..........Dudley Buck 12. Greeting from the Winter-hill Universalist Church. Rev. F. A. Gray. 13. Greeting from the West Somerville Universalist Church. Rev. William Couden. 14. Address. Rev. L. M. Powers. 15. Hymn No. 609. 16. Organ postlude ...........................Reed
Extract from address
Rev. E. H. Capen, D. D., President of Tufts College
After the death of Charles Tufts, I made several calls on Mrs. Tufts, who told me several incidents in connection with the founding of Tufts College. One of these was his remark of “putting a light on the hill,” which has become famous. She told me, also. that Mr. Tufts was one day at work in a large field, when, becoming weary, he lay down under a tree and fell asleep. He dreamed of the great institution now planted on College Hill. This was a prophetic dream, and the fulfillment of it was not realized at the time when related by Mrs. Tufts. The founding of the college was no mere accident, for as early as 1840 Mr. Tufts had made plans for such an institution. In 1847 Samuel Frothingham, Sylvanus Cobb, and Mr. Tufts, with others, were incorporated for the purpose of establishing the Tufts institution for learning. This was several years before Tufts College was thought of.
Historical addressBoston at the time we are considering. For a moment let us recall some of the features that characterized the topography of the town. Union square, with its half-dozen houses, two stores, and yawning sand-pit, posed as the ‘middle of the town.’ The Middlesex canal was in operation. Tolls were being collected on the Medford turnpike. Scattering farmhouses dotted the south side of Prospect, Central, and Spring Hills. Winter Hill was as sparsely settled, while the summit of Walnut Hill was crowned by a single building, and Tufts College was under the management of Hosea Ballou, 2nd. The Trumpet, the organ of Universalism, was edited by Thomas Whittemore, who, as he himself declared, was the homeliest man in the denomination. Occasional trains over the railroads were run, stopping at stations in the town, while the only other public conveyance was a single ‘hourly’ that left Winter Hill on the even hours, and Boston on the odd hours; fare, twenty-five cents the round trip. Highland avenue was hardly more than Barberry lane, and the Unitarian Church stood out in its solitude as a landmark for miles around. Along the way leading to this location quite a number of the original parishioners passed the ‘Hearse House’ and the ‘Pound.’ Somerville was a territory with few streets, no sidewalks nor street lights, no drainage nor water supply. A single hand engine was the only protection against  fire, and to get a cent's worth of yeast one had to go to East Cambridge or Charlestown. Other than brick-making, no mechanical work of any magnitude was carried on. The farmers were much in evidence, and the simple habits and neighborly customs of a country village prevailed. Out from the homes of this quiet community there came a few good men and devoted women, who, seeking a larger light, and ‘desiring to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,’ took upon themselves the praiseworthy and agreeable duty of inaugurating a movement which enabled them to attain these cherished objects. Accordingly, on the fourteenth day of February, 1854, to a justice of the peace was sent the following communication:—
 In response to the above, the said justice issued the following warrant:— Commonwealth of Massachusetts,
Under this warrant, a meeting was duly held in the little schoolhouse which stood at the junction of Shawmut and Medford streets, a constitution was adopted, and the First Universalist Society of Somerville was legally established February 16, 1854, Edwin Munroe, Jr., being the moderator, Charles Williams, clerk, with Edwin Munroe, Jr., Reuben Horton, Erastus E. Cole, standing committee, Edwin Munroe, Jr., treasurer, and Joseph Q. Twombly, collector. At this first meeting Charles Tufts offered the society the lot of land upon which the present building stands, which was accepted. A committee to solicit subscriptions for a church was also appointed, the standing committee, the collector, together with Abel Fitz, Francis Russell, and Ira Thorpe constituting the same. At this meeting George Fogg, John Hunnewell, George W. Ireland, Charles Bird, Jr., and Abram Welch were voted into the society. Charles Williams, Jr.'s, name was added March 1, 1854.  The location was a convenient one; besides, it was free. The majority of the parishioners lived within a half-mile. Sunday trains did not run. It probably never occurred to these people that they ever would. Therefore the noise of passing trains on the Sabbath was not considered. A good proportion of the members of the new parish had been connected with other churches in East Cambridge and Cambridgeport, a long way off, and the idea of having a church home in their immediate vicinity, we can readily believe, was highly gratifying and thoroughly appreciated. When on April 10 a meeting was held, there had been added to the list of members the names of John Thorning, Augustus Hitchings, Henry Locke, Seward Dodge, Robert Hollingsworth, Eben S. Harmon, and Joseph Elliot. It was at this meeting,—less than two months from the date of the organization of the parish,—that it was voted ‘That the Rev. George H. Emerson be and hereby is invited to the pastoral charge of the First Universalist Society of Somerville, to take effect the first day of May, 1854.’ There is nothing in the records of the parish to show that Mr. Emerson accepted the call, but we know that he became the pastor of the young society, and that he ministered unto it until 1859. In May of the year 1854, the committee appointed to solicit subscriptions for the building of a suitable church reported that $1,000 had been subscribed. ‘This amount being deemed sufficient to warrant success,’ the construction of the chapel went forward to completion, and the annual meeting of the parish in March, 1855, was held in the new building. The alacrity which characterized their movements and their promptness in raising the necessary funds has always been a characteristic of this society. Up to 1859 the records show an increase of only six members,—Charles Kirkpatrick, A. J. Tilson, David Sanborn, John Mandall, B. S. Binney, T. B. Wilson. It is  a noticeable fact that the name of Charles Tufts does not appear on the list of members, neither does there appear to be any mention of his name, except in connection with the real estate transactions of the parish. Up to 1861, including the annual meeting of 1861, only ten names were voted into the parish,—Reuben Carver, Charles H. Delano, John F. Ayer, Josiah Jennings, Addison Smith, Henry Bradshaw, in 1859; David Elliot, in 1860; Benoni Bixby, Edward Turner, Charles F. Potter, in 1861. In February, 1859, the standing committee were instructed ‘to engage Rev. David H. Clark for one year, at such price as they can agree on,’ and at the annual meeting in March of that year, the action of the committee was approved, and Mr. Clark became the pastor. Mr. Clark was a young man, this being, I think, his first settlement; he gave general satisfaction, possessing many of the essentials of a successful minister, and the society flourished under his administration. He lived in a small house a little way up the railroad, just opposite where the Central Fire Station is, and, together with a sister, did the honors of the parsonage and answered the calls of the parish. At the time of the coming of Mr. Clark, steps were taken to raise funds for ‘a more suitable and commodious house of worship’; a committee was chosen to solicit subscriptions, and in March of that year (1859) the committee reported $3,125 subscribed. The result of their continued effort was that the second house of worship,—the first regular meeting-house,—was completed. It was a wooden structure, having some claim to architectural beauty, which, unfortunately, the present building has not, and the parish was very comfortably housed. On January 26, 1860, the church was formally dedicated, with the following order of exercises:—  1. Voluntary. By the choir. 2. Introductory prayer. Rev. C. H. Leonard. 3. Selections from Scripture. Rev. C. B. Lombard. 4. Hymn No. 703, Adams and Chapin Collection. 5. Sermon. Rev. David H. Clark. 6. Anthem. 7. Prayer of dedication. Rev. A. G. Laurie. 8. Address to the society. Rev. A. A. Miner. 9. Original hymn. Mrs. N. T. Munroe. 10. Benediction. Rev. C. A. Skinner. In January, 1861, Mr. Clark sent in his resignation, and, to indicate the feeling of the parish towards him, the meeting in January, 1861, Voted: That we hereby accept the resignation tendered to this society by the pastor, Rev. D. H. Clark, and while thus severing the connection that has so pleasantly and so profitably existed for the past two years, we take pleasure in bearing our united testimony to the excellency of his Christian character and deportment while he has been among us, and to the many virtues he possesses, so essential to success in the calling he has chosen. And we hereby tender to him our warmest wishes for his future usefulness and happiness. Up to 1861, it was the custom to have two sermons each Sunday, morning and afternoon. September 1, 1861, Rev. B. K. Russ was engaged as pastor for one year, with the understanding that there should be one service each Sunday. In April, 1862, he was settled as permanent pastor, and thus the custom of engaging the minister by the year was for the time abandoned. In March, 1862, John Dugan, Louis Horton, and C. L.  Shaw were admitted to membership. In March, 1864, W. D. Barnett, L. P. Hollander, S. W. Fuller, W. H. Pierce, A. Eddy, D. B. Perkins, B. P. Lovejoy, G. W. Daniels, and D. W. Hapgood were added, and in March, 1865, J. E. Carver, Obadiah Merritt, and C. B. Hollander were admitted. Up to this time (1865), Edwin Munroe, Jr., had been treasurer, but now declined the nomination, and Stephen W. Fuller was chosen to fill his place. Mr. Munroe was, however, again elected chairman of the standing committee, holding this latter position until 1867. During the pastorates of Rev. D. H. Clark and Rev. Benjamin K. Russ, sociables were held frequently at the homes of some of the parishioners. These were well attended, and were lively and entertaining. Games were indulged in, and music, and, in some houses, dancing added to the attractiveness of these occasions. Among the games most popular were ‘Copenhagen,’ ‘Turn the Cover,’ ‘Blind Man's Buff,’ ‘Pillow,’ and others which have long since been outgrown because, probably, of our urban environment all these later years. We of the younger element of those years look back with many pleasant memories of the attractive features of those sociables, particularly when we found ourselves at certain homes. These years, 1861 to 1866, were years of war, as well,—years of anxiety, years of sorrow and mourning. The frequent calls for volunteers kept the town, in a way, excited; martial music from time to time, and the departure of this company and that for the South, stirred up the people to a realizing sense of the struggle and the magnitude of the undertaking. When, as the fighting progressed, it was considered of the first importance to care for the wounded and sick in the army hospitals, especially after a great battle had been fought, the Sunday services were practically given up, that the men and women might prepare lint and  bandages and other supplies to be rushed to the front for the help of the poor fellows maimed and bleeding. Then busy hands filled many barrels and packing-cases, and started them on their mission of good will. With the contributions went the earnest prayers of the workers for the success of the Union armies, and particularly for the safety of the brave boys from our own firesides. On the eve of departure, it was a common thing for a company of recruits to attend services in some church, and I recall an instance when a company attended the Sunday service in this church,—a fine body of young, stalwart, physically perfect manhood, the very best of the community,—for war always demands the best to do its bidding. That the parish contributed its portion I have no hesitation in affirming; the older of you can recall readily the individuals that went out from amongst us. During these years an innovation was introduced; the pastor appeared in ministerial gown, a practice which was continued during the entire term of his pastorate. In March and April, 1866, J. C. Appleton, James M. Clark, John Viall, John B. Johnson, Horace Haskins, David Sanborn, Jr., Caleb B. Bradbury, T. J. Colby, and W. W. Merrick were added to the list of members. In March, 1867, Charles G. Pope and Albert H. Russell were voted in. The wooden church was burned on the night of January 21, 1868, meeting the common fate of nearly every church and schoolhouse in the town. In three days arrangements were made whereby Sunday services were held in the hall of the Prescott schoolhouse in East Somerville, the pew-owners agreeing to pay the same rental there that they had been paying in the church. Agitation at once began concerning a location for the proposed new building, and Rev. B. K. Russ, B. S. Binney, Edwin Munroe, Jr., Erastus E. Cole, George W. Hadley, and Caleb Rand were appointed to take the matter into consideration and report at a later meeting.  Two sites were named, located on the two corners of Cross street and Runey place. The original location had its advocates, but a suggestion to re-locate there was voted down several times. The parish, by a vote of twenty to fourteen, decided upon the Stevens lot, so called, one of the two before mentioned, and a committee was empowered to procure a bond for a deed. The situation was strained, the feeling was intense. The advocates of the new location considered the change of vital consequence to the parish. The railroad was becoming more and more an objection. On the other hand, the parish was poor; the new location, if purchased, meant a material addition to the cost of the new structure. The original lot, by the terms of its deed, could not be sold by the parish, but if abandoned, reverted to Mr. Tufts or his heirs; and after a protracted struggle, the old location was finally agreed upon, and this present building erected in due course of time, an additional strip of land adjoining the original lot being purchased of Nathan Tufts, the better to accommodate the needs of the parish. For a number of years a row of horse-sheds stood on part of the land now covered by Social Hall. This decision caused some of the advocates of the new location to withdraw from the parish. Charles Williams, who had been clerk of the parish since 1854, declined a re-election at the annual meeting in March, 1871. His death occurred June 30, 1871. The parish could hardly be said to prosper during the years from 1870 to 1873. The interest was noticeably less,—quite a number had given up their sittings, and a desire to make a change in the pastorate was more and more apparent. Mr. Russ was aware of the feeling, and at the annual meeting in March, 1873, he sent in his resignation. There were more withdrawals from the parish when Mr. Russ left us,—so many, indeed, that it was feared that the parish might be seriously crippled, but the very fact of the marked dropping off only seemed to  stimulate those who remained to greater effort, to larger sacrifice for the cause. The vacancies were soon made good, and the affairs of the parish assumed their normal condition. Among those added to the parish during the succeeding months were some great workers, who have done much during all these years past to establish the society on a firm basis, Mr.Williams and Mrs. Horatio Williams, George Stevens, George D. Haven, S. R. Briggs, James and Lewis Lombard being among those added. It was at such critical times as this that the Ladies' Sewing Circle did great work for the parish. Always of the utmost value in furthering the objects of the society, always alert and abounding in resourceful methods for replenishing the treasury, or of imparting new life to the flagging courage or the wilting enthusiasm of the overworked parishioners, they stood as an object lesson of indomitable devotion and loyalty to the cause of this church. Upon occasions without number, it was their attitude and their optimism, their magnificent executive ability, and their resourcefulness and stick-to-it-iveness that saved the society from certain disintegration. To the honor of the society be it said that from the very organization of the parish there have been closely, vitally connected with it many women of exceptional mental capacity and marked administrative and executive ability. All the way along have these traits stood forth, the present members comparing well with those of the years gone by. Still eminently devoted and characteristically loyal, the society can but prosper with their help, and the cause of Universalism must receive an added lustre because these lives have been wrought into its very tenets, and have graced the progress of its development in the hearts of the old First Parish of Somerville. There was no decision as to the successor of the Rev. B. K. Russ for eight or nine months. On December 6, 1873, the standing committee was authorized to give  Rev. George L. Demarest a call, at a salary of $2,000 a year; the singular thing about it was that the call was never extended, but in three weeks time the vote whereby the standing committee was authorized to call Mr. Demarest was re-considered, and in its stead a vote was passed to call the Rev. George H. Vibbert. The coming of Mr. Vibbert was the occasion of renewed and added interest in the affairs of the parish. He attracted people to the church. The high tide of numerical prosperity and general interest in parish affairs was reached. At the regular Sunday morning meetings every available seat was occupied, while at the evening services the throngs literally surged into the church. Extra seats were brought in, every aisle was crowded. The preacher's presentation of Universalism was pointed and forcible, given in a manner that held the undivided attention of the great audience. The eloquence and versatility of the minister were greatly appreciated and favorably commented upon. When the congregation was dismissed, the sidewalks, yes, the streets near by were crowded with the people wending their way homeward. Accessions continued, and the preacher declared it necessary to build an addition to the meeting-house. For a time it seemed that such a course would be advisable. So great was the interest in the work of the parish, that nearly every evening in the week some attractive programme was being carried out whereby the society would be benefited; and to most of us it seemed that we were at the church more than in our homes. Soon after his coming, in March, 1874, at a sociable and supper given in the vestry, the matter of paying the church debt, amounting at this time to $13,800, was discussed, and an attempt made to provide for its payment. A call for subscriptions resulted in pledges for $14,600, or more by $800 than the amount of the indebtedness. These pledges were payable in installments, with the  usual result that only about half enough money was raised to pay the outstanding obligations, for we find the debt stated a little later as being $7,200. In 1875, 1876, and 1877 Mr. Vibbert was re-elected, but the enthusiasm in the later years of his pastorate had died out, and the congregations had dwindled greatly. In July, 1877, he resigned. As had been the custom whenever the parish was without a pastor, many candidates were heard, but not till December, 1877, did the parish decide upon a successor, when the standing committee was authorized to invite the Rev. W. S. Ralph to become the pastor, a position which he held until the summer of 1880. It was during the pastorate of Mr. Ralph, January 21, 1879, that the parish received a bequest of $5,000 from Mrs. Hannah Tufts, widow of the late Charles Tufts, and she provided that a portion of the amount should be used to purchase and put in position in the church tower a clock and bell. The great blank dials had stared from the tower for ten years; the lack of a church bell had been a sore trial to the parish all these years. Therefore, when it became known that Mrs. Tufts had left money to the parish, a part of which must be used to procure both clock and bell, the gratitude and joy of the members were manifest in a marked degree. It was considered worthy of a great demonstration, and arrangements were made to celebrate, March 2, 1880, the completion of the work. The bell and the hangings, including the hoisting into the tower, cost $848.84. The clock complete, $500. Necessary repairs of the tower, $369.67. The total, $1,718.51. The remainder of the bequest was applied toward the payment of the debt of the society. The celebration of this event took the form of an excellent supper and entertainment, which were enjoyed by a large gathering. After supper the company assembled in the church, where a musical and literary programme was presented. It opened with a piano solo by Miss  Emma Taylor, which was followed by the reading of these original verses, by Mrs. Nancy Thorning Munroe, entitled ‘The Clock and the Bell’:—
Silent for years stood the steeple tower,The poem was followed by several exercises, recitative and musical, including an original poem by the pastor, Rev. W. S. Ralph, who, by the way, was something of a poet himself. Many will remember one of his poems, entitled ‘Whistling in Heaven,’ which was widely copied throughout the country, and received with popular favor. His effort on this occasion was entitled ‘The Bell,’ and minutely and beautifully described the casting, hanging, and ringing. The occasion overflowed with success. During the pastorate of Mr. Ralph, the parish could hardly be said to have grown numerically. In April, 1879, it is recorded that twenty-eight names were dropped from the membership upon a single occasion. In July, 1879, the Winter-Hill Society was organized. Only five or six belonging to this parish were instrumental in establishing this society, and the recognition of it by the convention in July was a surprise to the First Parish. Later quite a number of our people living within easy distance of the new society united with it; this at a time when we could ill afford any depletion of our ranks, and the loss of these families was seriously felt at the time. Another season of unrest while candidates were being heard occurred from the summer of 1880 to March, 1881, when the society extended a call to the late Rev. Charles H. Eaton to become its pastor. Mr. Eaton was then settled in Palmer, Mass. He, however, declined the invitation; possibly he had at this time a similar proposition  under consideration from the Church of the Divine Paternity in New York, for in a very short time it was announced that he had accepted a call there. Subsequently, by a unanimous vote, the society manifested its right good sense by calling Rev. Charles A. Skinner, of Melrose. For ten years, as you know, he was pastor here, beloved by all, during his pastorate, and still beloved by us all because of his fatherly interest in the parish, his upright life and Christian graces. We take great pleasure in greeting him here to-night, and sincerely hope he may be spared yet many years to favor us with his gracious presence upon every important or anniversary occasion. At the time of Mr. Skinner's coming, we can judge somewhat of the strength of the parish by presenting a few figures. The pew rentals had amounted annually to about $1,800, and the appropriations $3,200. These rentals increased materially, for in 1882 they were $2,457, the next year $2,517, in 1886 they reached $2,812, while the appropriations were increased to $4,000 during these years. The mortgage had been reduced to $3,450, at which figure it remained up to the time of its final payment a few years ago. In 1886 the apartments which had been occupied by the janitor since the church was finished were taken for the use of the ladies of the parish. The parlors were the outcome. Sanitary and toilet improvements were also introduced, and great satisfaction was manifest on every side. These expenses were borne by the Ladies' Sewing Circle and the Sunday School,—the former giving $300, and the latter $404.50, the parish having voted to take and re-model the apartments, ‘provided the same can be accomplished without expense to the society.’ In 1885 there occurred a very interesting and enjoyable event. It was a feature of the third annual gentlemen's  supper, and about 300 ladies and gentlemen were present. It consisted of a public recognition of the public spirit and devotion to the Universalist faith of the late Charles Tufts and his wife. Because they donated the land upon which this house stands, and had been for so long a period staunch friends of the parish, an interested friend of the society thought it would be a good idea to have life-sized crayon portraits of these good people made, properly framed, and hung on the walls of the vestry. Accordingly he set about the task of raising by subscription the necessary funds; in due time the portraits were produced, framed in heavy gold frames. In formally presenting them to the society, he referred to the substantial donations Mr. and Mrs. Tufts had made from time to time for upbuilding the denomination. Mr. Skinner, in behalf of the society, accepted the portraits, which were already in place on the walls of the vestry. Rev. Dr. Emerson, the first pastor, paid a deserved tribute to the Tufts family, saying, among other things, that he himself brought before Mr. Tufts the needs of the young parish many years before, and the donation of the land followed soon after. An entertainment of decided merit followed the presentation and acceptance of the portraits. A similar affair occurred when the crayon portraits of Rev.Skinner and Mrs. Charles A. Skinner were presented, through the efforts of the same friend, a short time after the above took place. The portrait of Mrs. Skinner was duly presented, and, by way of a surprise to Mr. Skinner, his own portrait was brought forward. As in the case of the presentation of the Tufts pictures, there was an attractive dramatic entertainment furnished, and it was at a late hour when the meeting broke up. Altogether it, also, was a very enjoyable occasion, and one long to be remembered by all so fortunate as to be present.  In 1890 the interior of the church was re-decorated, and a general brightening of the auditorium took place, at a cost of about $2,100. In 1891 William P. Mitchell, who had been treasurer for fourteen years, declined a re-election. A. Hodgman was elected to succeed Mr. Mitchell, serving with great credit up to the time of his death in 1898, when Arthur W. Glines became treasurer. At the time of the raising of the grade of Cross street and the putting in place of the present steel bridge by the Boston & Maine railroad, the parish claimed damages to the amount of $4,000. A long legal conflict was the result, the final decision being that the society property was not injured, and therefore no damages could be collected. But it cost the society $720 to find this out. Here, again, the women of the parish contributed,—the Sewing Society, $150; the Christian Endeavor Society, $100; the Merry Workers, $100; and the balance, about $400, was raised by the women, who put a committee at work soliciting subscriptions, with the above result, thus adding another to the long list of successful efforts to relieve the parish in times of financial straits. I cannot close this rambling sketch of the society without again alluding by name to the more prominent men and women of early years, who devoted so much of their thought, so much of their time, vitality, and money to the upbuilding of the cause of Universalism in our midst. I recall the first and foremost of that little company, Ira Thorpe; it was due to him more than to any other that steps were taken to organize a parish here, although his suggestions were promptly and favorably acted upon by Mr.Tufts and Mrs. Charles Tufts, Mr.Munroe and Mrs. Edwin Munroe, Jr., Mr.Cole and Mrs. Erastus E. Cole, Charles Williams, Mr.Twombly and Mrs. J. Q. Twombly, Mr.Runey and Mrs. James S. Runey, Francis Russell, David Russell, Reuben Horton and his sons, Charles Williams, Jr., Mr.Ireland and Mrs. George W. Ireland, and John Hunnewell, Charles Tufts,  as donor of the land and friend of the parish, Edwin Munroe, Jr., as treasurer and chairman of the standing committee for so many years, Charles Williams, as clerk of the parish and superintendent of the Sunday School for a long term of years, J. Q. Twombly, collector, and long a member of the standing committee, Erastus E. Cole, with years of service as committeeman and adviser, Charles Williams, Jr., as superintendent of the Sunday School for many years, John Hunnewell, clerk of the parish, George W. Ireland, committeeman and generous giver, Reuben Horton, a staunch friend and member of the standing committee, while the wives of the above-named, together with Mrs. Charles Munroe, Mr.Munroe and Mrs. Sweetzer Munroe, Francis Russell, and David Russell, were not a whit behind in their zeal and earnestness in helping on the work of the infant society. The bequest of the late Mrs. Tufts, amounting to $5,000, has been referred to; the society has received other amounts from time to time: One of $2,000 from the estate of a Mr. Hutchinson; another of $500 from the late Joseph Clark; and a third of $1,000 from the late Deacon George W. Ireland,—altogether, $8,500. I have also prepared a statement showing the terms of office of the several superintendents of the Sunday School, also of the parish treasurers, clerks, and the members of the standing committees from the organization of the society to the present time, which may be of value should the parish desire to print the proceedings of the semi-centennial celebration. In the limited time allowed me, I have endeavored to present as much of historical interest as possible up to the year 1891. The more recent happenings are familiar to you all.
It never summoned to prayer,
Nor told the years of the sainted dead,
Nor greeted the bridal pair.
The hours went by, but it gave no sign,
Of their flight no record kept;
It never startled the watcher's ear,
Nor awakened those who slept.
The people gathered for prayer and praise,
Though no bell swung in the tower;
And greetings gave on the Sabbath morn,
Though no clock struck forth the hour.
A voice said, ‘Place in your house of prayer,
That the people all may hear,
A clock to measure the passing hours,
And a bell both loud and clear.’
So they builded a scaffold stout and strong,
And up in the steeple tower
They placed a bell of sonorous sound,
And a clock to strike the hour.
And for this we hold a joyous feast;
Let her name be treasured well,
Whose bounty gave to our silent tower
The voices of clock and bell.
Be mute no longer, from steeple tower
Afar let the sound be borne,
And ring the thronging worshippers in
On each blessed Sunday morn.
For the bridal train, a joyous peal
Ring merrily out, O bell!
For our loved ones borne to their sainted rest,
Sound low the funeral knell.
 Ring out alarm for the lurid flame,
Ring aid its rage to stay,
And add your peal to the clash and clang
That ushers in Freedom's day.
Ring clear and sweet and strong, O bell!
Give the gospel tidings Voice,
Speak ‘Peace on earth and good will to men,’
Glad news to all, rejoice!
Where dwell sweet peace and love;
And blest the church, O God, that guides
To Thy dear home above.
Here week by week our voices lift
Glad hymns of love and praise,
To Him who giveth every gift,
And crowneth all our days.
Here have we heard Life's stirring word,
As on some Pisgah's height,
And oft our souls on eagle's wings
Have mounted with delight.
All hallowed be this sacred spot,
Whose memories so dear
Can brighten e'en the darkest lot,
Bring earth to heaven more near.
Speech of Rev. Charles Conklin, D. D.
Superintendent of Universalist Churches of MassachusettsThe hour is late, and you have listened long and well to a most interesting and inspiring history. I will take but the time to offer in a single word the congratulations of the 125 sister Universalist Churches in Massachusetts, who have been strengthened by your increasing strength and honored by your accumulating honors. You must not think that any written history or spoken message can gather up and preserve the sum of your achievements or mark the confines of your influence as a church. The silent, but forceful, influences of this sanctuary, felt in heart and mind as comfort, or spiritual dynamic, moulding character, shaping public opinion—these do not lend themselves to statistics. Innumerable vibrations of holy aspiration, of brotherly sympathy, of missionary zeal have gone forth from this sanctuary to do their part toward the Christianization of the world. God, who in the past has blessed this parish with rich prosperity, has ever conditioned that prosperity upon faithfulness, and holds before you those conditions to-day. The crown of fervent life is for those who are faithful unto the end. May the successors of those who have proved their faithfulness here demonstrate their worthiness to follow such a splendid host.
Address by Rev. Charles A. SkinnerAs I am one of the back numbers, it is not inappropriate, perhaps, that I should speak of memories and associations stretching back not only to fifty years ago, to the time of the organization of this parish, but to the times and events and work before, that made possible this church. There are two ways by which we can most thoroughly appreciate our privileges and blessings. There may be others, but two are essential to that appreciation. One is by being deprived of them, according to the poet's line, ‘Blessings brighten as they take their flight.’ It is a sort of paradox, perhaps, to say we sometimes live too near our friends really to know and appreciate them; when they are gone we know them better. A mountain cannot be seen in its magnificent proportions by standing at its base. It needs the perspective. So our blessings often need this perspective in order that they may be more fully comprehended and appreciated when they go or are taken from us. That is one way. The other way by which we come more thoroughly to know and appreciate these blessings is by earning them, and especially if we sacrifice and perhaps suffer in the attainment. Inherited wealth is not so thoroughly appreciated by those who come into its possession as by those who earn it by hard toil and persistent endeavor. Now, friends, you and I and the world have come into the possession of a great inheritance, one of the richest ever bestowed upon the race. It is the inheritance of our Universalist faith. No one who does not read the story of how it came into existence as our organized church, can fully appreciate what a blessing it has been to the human mind and heart. But, like all great movements  and reforms—and certainly this is one of them— it came not but through that much tribulation by which people are enabled to enter the kingdom of God. The blood of the martyrs has ever been the seed of the church, and the seed of great reforms. Garrison, as an abolitionist, was led through the streets of Boston with a halter about his neck. Lovejoy was shot. The Wesleys were mobbed, as Methodists. Massachusetts banished Roger Williams the Baptist, and we flogged and hung the Quakers. Our fathers and mothers also suffered from this intense prejudice, bitter persecution, and absolute hatred because they believed in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men. My memory goes back to something of this attitude of the public, for I was born and brought up in my father's home, a Universalist clergyman of the earlier years of our history, and as a boy I heard it talked about. And those of the younger ministry and younger laymen know but little, only as they have read, of the almost hand-to-hand fight in which our fathers were engaged. They toiled, and we have entered into their labors. Every inch of ground had to be persistently disputed, and then to keep it the soldiers of the great salvation had to stand upon the field with their armor on, and their spiritual weapons sharpened for the conflict. Those were days of controversy, and sometimes of even fierce dispute. That to uproot the errors of men should have been sometimes construed into personal attacks, and that this should have drawn upon them the ill — will and the slanders of the bigots, that they writhed under the severe castigation, and sought in the retaliation of personal abuse what they could not answer by argument and reason cannot be thought strange by those familiar with the religious history of the world. It needed just such stalwart blows as were struck by those of the earlier time of our church. It needed such men  as would not move timidly to their work, or carefully measure the rod with which the folly, and the bigotry, and the almost unscrupulous opposition was chastised. It needed just such sturdy pioneers to go into the wilderness and hew down the forests, and make plain a highway for the Lord. It needed just such men to clear the fields, and put in the breaking — up plow, beam deep, and tear out the roots, and turn up the furrows to the warm sunshine, in order that others might follow and harrow and sow, and weed and reap, and gather the harvest into garners. It needed the work of pulling down and laying the foundations that others might build thereupon, that in after years the sound of the hammer might be heard in the construction and rearing our holy temple unto the Lord. You young people of to-day are living when the rough corners of the old theology against which they so manfully battled have been broken off, and its harsher features softened. There is one thing you may be assured of, that it required no little courage in those early days of our church to face this opposition and this social and religious ostracism. In one respect there has been quite a revolution in the habits of men and women. Then few women dared to venture into the assembly where there was Universalist preaching. It is the men who more largely keep away from church-going to-day, and the women who attend. But this timidity was not entirely confined to the women. Many men fought shy. Let me tell you of an instance that occurred a little beyond my remembrance in the beginnings of our society in Cambridgeport, where I ministered for fourteen or fifteen years. Hosea Ballou and others perhaps who were settled in Boston would go out for an evening service to Cambridgeport, where service was held in the schoolhouse. It is a fact that it was a matter of curiosity, as well as fear,  that took possession of some people. They got the idea that there was a sort of performance indulged in. And people would gather on the outside of the building and creep up and peek in at the windows. One Monday morning, after there had been a service, one of these curious and timid ones met one of our people. ‘What sort of a play did you have last night?’ he inquired. ‘Play?’ said our good Deacon Coolidge. ‘Play! Oh, yes, I think it was the play of “The forty Thieves,” for I saw about that number looking in at the windows.’ I want to remind you, friends, of the priceless inheritance you possess in the faith for which this church stands,—a faith that has done more in the last century and in these last fifty years to vindicate the ways of God to man than any other; a faith to which all the Christian churches are indebted for the broadening and sweetening of their faiths until it would shock the sense of justice to hear in any Protestant church the old doctrine of divine vengeance preached, that frightful nightmare that held human souls in the bondage of fear, and drove sensitive men and women into despair, and even to insanity —the thought that God had ordained and foreordained that the greater portion of mankind should be doomed to a hell of literal fire and brimstone forever and ever. What a change has been wrought since the earlier years of our church, when that hydra-headed dragon was very much in evidence. Yes, in the time of my earlier ministry it had not ceased to seek whom it might devour. And didn't we put up a good fight in those earlier years against such horrible thoughts about God? And didn't we enjoy it, too, as much as the Rough Riders enjoyed the battle of San Juan Hill, when it is said the leader called out to the soldiers as they were going into battle, ‘Give them hell, boys!’ We didn't say that; it was the other fellows who said that. We said, ‘We're going to knock hell out of you,’ and we proceeded to do it. Be glad and rejoice that you belong to a church that  has had a providential mission assigned it, and is fulfilling that mission, and working its sweet way into hearts, and homes, and churches, and governments, and the thrill of the divine faith in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, and in the assurance that life and death God's mercy underlies, is being felt, and is bearing fruit in all the land. It has broadened the thought of God and of human destiny with the process of the suns. It is the only faith that sets forth a divine government that really governs and triumphantly succeeds. A faith that was once despised and held in disrepute even fifty years ago is welcomed to-day by so many hopeful and loving hearts. And this is the story our church is telling to the Christian world:—
Once in a golden hour I cast to earth a seed,And we, you who have wrought in this church are so glad now that in such abundant measure we have been planting the seeds and others are plucking the flowers. And now, friends, as you look back over the fifty years of the history of this church in this city, what forms you might summon of those who have worked here and loved and sacrificed. What a throng gathers here to-night! Fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, little children whom you laid away with the flowers, pastors whose lips were touched with divine fire. If you will, they may be a part of this gathering, and join in this service, and lend added meaning to this semi-centennial celebration.
Up there came a flower, the people said a weed;
To and fro they went throa my garden bower,
And muttering discontent, cursed me and my flower.
Then it grew so tall, it wore a crown of light,
And thieves from over the wall stole the seed at night.
They carried it far and wide by every town and tower,
Till the people cried, “Splendid is the flower!”
Read my little fable,—he who runs may read,
Most can grow the flowers now, for all have got the seed.
Anniversary sermon: ‘the vitality of religion’
So mightily grew the word of the Lord, and prevailed. Acts XIX.: 20In trying to measure the real progress of any particular period, the last and greatest question that may be asked will require that an exhibit be made of the growth of the age along the lines of the immaterial, the intellectual, the spiritual. The things of earth that the world holds most precious, lands, houses, inventions, machineries, gold, silver, and all the rest, must of course be taken into the account, but those possessions which moth and rust corrupt and destroy cannot rightly be regarded as the highest glory of the time, or as the surest and safest signs of the forward movement of humanity. Looking, then, over this half-century of life that our church in this city has enjoyed, looking back over the larger history of our country and of the race during this wonderful period, the great questions to be asked are such as these: What has been the fortune of religion? To what extent has it prospered? Has faith advanced or receded? Have the noblest instincts of the heart widened and deepened? Do men believe more earnestly in the higher and finer ideals of society and of the spirit? Now, in seeking to pass judgment upon these years, according to these high standards, there is one fact that must be kept in mind, and that is that the value of any given gain in almost every field of human activity and experience depends in great part upon the number and strength of the obstacles and difficulties which have been met and overcome. An army may march a hundred miles through the enemy's country without a particle of opposition presenting itself; but that achievement is as nothing compared with a single mile that is won at some strategic point stubbornly defended and yielded only at  the last. In times of strife and stress, how often we say that if we hold our own we are doing well, justly declaring that the simple maintenance of the old position and power is in reality growth and progress! This occasion, then, gives us our subject for to-day: The vitality of religion as tested by the changes and experiences of the past fifty years. What we want to bring into clearest light is the fact that religion and faith have during this half-century been on trial as perhaps never before since the morning of Christianity; that they have been tested and tried as by fire, and that Burke's penetrating reflection that man is a religious animal has been abundantly verified in the history of these five decades during which some of you have worshipped together as an organized church. During this time the political, intellectual, and religious events have been of such capital importance that the age stands alone and supreme in the annals of mankind. And every one of these events has deeply and profoundly affected faith and the spiritual life of man; every one of them has moved and violently disturbed the very foundations of the creeds and dogmas of the fathers, and with every upheaval and readjustment in thought the cry has been that God was being destroyed, that religion, morality, and character had received a fatal blow. Probably we do not fully realize the tremendous transformations through which the thoughts of men passed in the last half of the nineteenth century. It might justly be characterized as a period of war; long and bitter have been the conflicts between the hosts of the old and the new, between the past and the present. It is not too much to say that you who have lived during the last two generations have witnessed the clash of the spirit of twenty or more centuries with the spirit of the twentieth century, and you have beheld the banner of victory planted surely and permanently with the army of modern thinkers and believers.  Taking now the wide survey, we see three and possibly four great major facts of history that no discerning eye can easily escape. First, that stupendous struggle in America known as the Civil War; then the rise and progress of the scientific method in the pursuit of truth, and the new theories and doctrines that arose and gained world-wide acceptance as the result of the use of this method; in the third place, parallel with and, to some extent, the outcome of science and evolution, we see the birth of what may very properly be called the new Bible; and lastly, and nearest to our day of all, we cannot fail to note the deep flood of materialism and commercialism that has swept through and over the national life of the new world and out to the far corners of the earth. These I take to be the great, imperial facts of the last half-century,—the Civil War, the rise of science, the birth of the new Bible, and the marvelous growth of the commercial spirit. And the central lesson that we want to draw from a brief study of these epoch-making events is that each and every one of them with almost cyclonic force affected the faith of man in the unseen, and that after the first effects of these political and intellectual convulsions had passed, that eternal and inevitable faith of man in God, in goodness, and in heaven rose with a new purity and a greater glory than it had ever known before. Therefore, for this reason, above all other reasons, this period must be regarded as the grandest in the history of the race. Never before had religion or faith to face so many and such mighty forces that at first sight seemed to be antagonistic, if not wholly fatal, and yet religion and faith have come forth from the conflict stronger than at the beginning, having won to their ranks many of those who were counted and who indeed counted themselves as the enemies of Christianity. Neither time nor desire will permit us to enter with any fullness into the religious effects of that Titanic  struggle of the early sixties. There can be no doubt, however, but that the cause of real religion was helped rather than hindered by the war, although at least one of the great dogmas of the Christian faith was badly shattered as the result of that five-years' ordeal. Any such all-absorbing and critical movement as that war must of necessity have greatly lessened the opportunity for religious forces to carry on their work. Homes were broken up, churches were depleted of men and means, and the whole thought of the people centred on political and military matters, rather than upon the things of faith and God. But the law of compensation ever moves with silent and majestic order to its great ends, and, all in all, the trial of the finest life of the nation in the awful fires of this desperate clash of arms was of inestimable value, for from it all faith in the great essentials of religion arose with an added purity and power. We may well believe that the contention of many is right, that one of the unplanned, but most blessed and beneficent, results of the war was the weakening of the doctrine of everlasting punishment; it took just some such tremendous trial to disabuse men's mind of that barbarous and terrible dogma, so firmly rooted had it become in human thought. Here were multitudes of men rushing to exposure, suffering, and death for country, freedom, and unity, who had never made any profession of religion, who had not complied with the historic and creedal conditions of salvation. These men, strongest, and bravest, and finest of the nation, laid down their lives for absolutely unselfish purposes, and yet, according to the tenets of the traditional belief, they must go away into endless punishment. The heart, the intelligence, and the conscience of a grateful people recoiled from the idea, and from the moment that their faithful service was fully appreciated, the dogma of an absolutely hopeless future for them received a blow from which it could never recover. The creeds, the church, religion were tried by  this fire, and real religion came forth purified and glorified. But a severer test of faith invites our notice: faith as affected by science and evolution. At the beginning of the last half of the nineteenth century, the theological world was resting quietly and comfortably in the consciousness of the strength of its teaching and prestige. For the most part, the Roman and Protestant churches held complete dominion over the mind of Christendom. They were the custodians of all truth, their systems of doctrines, differing in detail, all rested upon the same great philosophy of history. You know the general outline of it all. Some 6,000 years ago man was made perfect; the race sinned in Adam's sin; the calamity and crisis were so great that God came to earth in the person of Jesus and died for men, to satisfy himself, and man's participation in this priceless grace depended upon his open and formal profession of Christ; those who made this profession were endlessly blessed, all others endlessly cursed. The Bible was literally true; not one single mistake did it contain, and the most vindictive words of warring kings were of equal value and authority with the sublime passages of the Psalms, of the prophets, and of Jesus. The world was obedient and quiet, when suddenly, like some profound disturbance in a clear sky, a book appeared that was to start an intellectual movement that in the end was destined to give a new birth to the human mind and shake creeds and faiths to their final foundations, yea, even to completely destroy some of the foundation stones upon which faith and religion were supposed to rest. It was in 1859 that Charles Darwin gave the world his ‘Origin of Species,’ and it was from then that the scientific method began to be applied and men began to rely upon the method and believe in the results that it revealed. Can we wonder that the theologians were alarmed beyond measure? Here they had been teaching  this theology for centuries: Man created perfect a few thousands of years ago, he has fallen from his glorious estate, the whole history is in the Bible, and so on to the completion of the system. But Darwin and his coworkers and successors for a quarter of a century, Wallace, Spencer, Lewes, Haeckel, Huxley, Tyndale, Fiske, and all the rest, interrogating nature, brought a report as different as night from day. Man created perfect! No, far from that; rather, the evidence is that for a period reaching through ages and aeons this animal we call man has been climbing and struggling up to his present exalted position. The world a few thousands of years old! Absurd; deep down in the valleys of ancient Eastern rivers were imperishable records that made a new book of Genesis and furnished the facts for a new chronology that makes the conclusion unescapable that man existed thousands upon thousands of years before the time that the church fixed as the hour of his creation. Humanity fell in Adam in the garden of Eden! Not for a moment does any evidence present itself leading to such a faith; ‘progress is the law of life,’ and always has been. And then the theologians saw that if there had been no fall, there was no need for the sacrificial service of Christ in any artificial sense. Is it strange that the leaders of opinion in the church should cry out that all of this was an attempt to dethrone God, and that God was dead, that it was all contrary to the Scriptures, and that if this doctrine prevailed, interest in religion would be destroyed? They did not understand that the word evolution was not a name for a new power, but for a new method, and that there could be an added glory and majesty given to the Creator by an orderly and eternal method in creation. This great Darwin, called atheist at the first, was honored at last as only England's great are honored; in Westminster Abbey, next to the final resting place of Sir Isaac Newton, his body was placed, and Cannon Farrar, of the established  church, pronounced a noble eulogy in his memory. Such is the irony of time. But the thing to hold fast to is that, in this intellectual and theological revolution, the real high and fine faith of humanity was neither destroyed nor impaired. The truth of a saying of Bacon is well shown in this connection: ‘Slight tastes of philosophy may perchance move one to atheism, but fuller draughts lead back to religion.’ As Dr. Gordon strikingly says, for twenty years after Darwin the intellectual world was drunk with evolution, it was the romance and the mood of the time. But now the reaction has come, as it was bound to come; the great thing in the thought of the age is no longer this new and true method by which God has been working, it is fact of the power behind the method, the intellect and love behind the method. The earlier workers in science may have been skeptical in regard to some of the final facts of the Christian faith, but theirs were only the slight tastes of truth, but the fuller draughts of Fiske and Drummond led men back to religion and to God, and to a nobler faith than the traditions and the dogmas of the centuries ever knew. We have already hinted at the character of the modern Bible which reverent and consecrated students of the Scriptures have made possible. Our only purpose in turning to it here is to show that, although the old literally inspired book of authority has gone never to return, the great essential ideas contained therein have not been injured in the slightest degree. Rather, belief in God, in freedom and power through righteousness, and in the larger destiny was never so strong as at present. Doubtless the fathers would have said, in fact they did say, that if it were shown that the old theory of special and mechanical inspiration was not true, then the most powerful sanction for the truths and laws and the faith which the Bible teaches has been destroyed. But we have proven that this is not so; the vitality, the inevitableness  of religion is too great and real to be disastrously affected by any book, or man, or event. We have a different Bible, but man's cry for truth and God is just as impassioned and his faith in truth and God is just as strong as before science and scholarship began their noble work. So, too, it is good to be able to say that the new Bible is speaking to men with a nobler authority than did the Scriptures of the fathers. Its place in the thought and heart of the world is secure. A fuller and truer knowledge of its natural history has given added power to its divine message. Not one single accent of God's voice has been hushed or lost. Seen in the new perspective, its heavenly heights of faith, and hope, and love stand out in clearer light above the fogs and mists of doubt, above the wisdom and the weakness of this world. As the supreme revealer of God's will and love, it is counted the most precious possession of all the written words that have ever been given to mankind. First the war, then evolution, then the higher criticism, and now last, and perhaps strongest of all, the spirit of religion is called upon to contend with the secularism, the materialism, the commercialism of the last quarter of a century. The irrepressible conflict now is that between high and clean social and personal ideals on the one hand, and the power of mammon on the other, and if one were a prophet, he might venture to say that faith, hope, and love are passing through a greater trial and are being more severely tested than they ever were by any of these forces and changes which we have considered. Just as twenty-five or thirty years ago the great men of the age were scientists, so now the great names of our part of the world, at least, are those of merchant princes, financiers, and politicians. The earlier movement was an intellectual materialism, the later is a commercial materialism, and there can be little question but that the last is more subtle, more insidious in its workings, and more dangerous to the spiritual life of man.  Darwin and his co-laborers sought truth, making the mistake at first of thinking that matter and the facts of matter were all that were real. The leaders of to-day seek money and the power money can give, making the still more serious error of thinking that money, which may purchase freedom from the consequences of outraged social laws, can likewise placate the everlasting laws of God. And yet in this commercial intoxication, signs are not wanting to show that the higher faith is still present and vigorous, and that a reaction of righteousness is already setting in. The spirit of unity is invading almost every communion; all pulpits more and more are placing the emphasis of religion upon the same changeless essentials of faith; as never before spiritual things are magnified; and there is less that is artificial, less of make-believe in the whole Christian church. The vast fortunes annually given for the noblest social purposes, the growing liberality of the sects, the vigorous and confident efforts being made to establish peace and good will between industrial interests and between nations—all of these are indicative of the vitality, the virility, and the power of that force that we call religion. It has been a great and good half-century; all in all, the world has not seen its like before. As never before the cause of real religion has triumphed gloriously; it has come forth from all opposition more powerful than ever. Man is a religious being; faith in God and good is inevitable; the forms, the creeds, and the churches of religion may be utterly destroyed, but for faith and religion themselves there is no death. The history of these years since the fathers first met together to form this society shows that neither wars, nor the wisdom of this world, nor the love of gain and gold can destroy man's interest in the deepest things of life, in God, in duty, and in destiny. ‘So mightily grew the word of God, and prevailed.’