Thursday, May 21, 2009

My odyssey in Alabama

We went to Alabama this past week, mainly to attend the Universalist Convocation, but also to explore history, local geography, food, and friends. Since this is a history blog, I will talk just about southern Universalist history here - and hope (hope) to mention the rest on my other blog.

A sign off I-20 beckoned us to the Edgefield SC museum. It didnt say how far away it was, or we may or may not have gone - but we did, and the museum was fine, but the genealogy library was better. Sharon looked up files, looking up the Boones and Sundays, while I tried to find out if there were anything to suggest if the body of Allen Fuller was buried in Edgefield SC (where he died) or if it was shipped back to Trussville Alabama where he lived. I found nothing about his death -nice conversation about his friends, the Teagues, however. Sharon got her material, including a newspaper article on the murder of her ancestor and lots of material on that ancestor lawsuit against his mother. On the newspaper article, she asked me if I had read the article two paragraphs up. It seems that then (in the 1850s) Universalist minister E. H. Lake was to preach at the Edgefield courthouse. We had visited the graves of several of his children in Forence SC a few weeks earlier. I also picked up large maps from the 1820s of Newberry County, Laurens County, and Sharon, large maps of Edgefield County in the 1820s and 1850s.
There was Universalist Churches in all three counties - and the large size means I won't have to use my magnifying sheet to try to read them on my small Mills Atlas.

The next day after eating Alabama version of Eastern Carolina BBQ (not bad), we headed south to the mountains, and then down to Lineville Alabama , where Sharon's ancestor Mrs. Sunday moved in the early 1830s. Later exploration through history (including a visit to Horseshoe Bend Military Park and a book on the Federal Road) shows that western Georgia and Eastern Alabama were closed to settlers up to the late 1820s- after the removal of the Creek Indians. This opening of land, brought many settlers from the Carolinas there, including Universalists from the Coleman, Gardner, Cawthorn families. This explaining the explosion of Universalist Churches in the 1830s-1850s there. Sharon found her ancestor's daughter's grave in an Disciples of Christ (Christian) graveyard. There was an 1830s style unmarked grave in the family plot - likely - but not positively - to have been Mrs Sunday's grave.
To Birmingham: the public library had a good section on genealogy, but nothing in that section on local universalist churhes. I did find the cemetary listing of the Universalist Church in Ariston (even though the compliers of the book called it a "Primitive Baptist Universalist" Church. Have you ever noticed that Genealogists are not good church historians?
Then to Trussville, where Sharon's keen eye spotted the headstone of Tabitha Fuller, the wife and daughter of Universalist Minsters. For some reason, she is burried in what is called the First Baptist Cemetary. Rev Fuller, was an Universalist until his death a few years later (and died while on Church business in Edgefield).
the Convocation was based on Biblical and modern history (I should mention here that the sermon on Jonah had lighting and thunder at appropriate parts) - but I participated in a conversation with Rev Richard Trudeau about the book the Universalist Movement in America.
We both liked it, I especially thought it was a good explanation of Ballou's Calvinism Improved beliefs. Upon re-reading it, I was struck by some of the more possible consequence of early Universalism: radical equality and elimination of social barriers (this wasn't perfect here in the south - but progress isnt usually).
Then to Camp Hill - nice old church, building is over 100 years old. The congregation is 160 years old. From what I can tell, it's the second oldest surviving UU Church in the southeast? (oldest being Charleston SC Unitarian which is older than the AUA,). I was pleased to see old familiar names, like Coleman in the stained glass. I was surprised to see Rev CFR Shehane as a co-founder - this only a few years after his conversion from Disciples of Christ (Christian) to Universalist. I speculate on the possibility of his having preached while still a DofC at the church in Lineville... Camp Hill used to be one of the largesr churches (over 200 active members), but is now down to monthly services -- just like the old Universalist (and most other rural denominations) churches back when it was founded.
I went down to Auburn to look at old Universalist Heralds, they have both issues and their collection on microfilm. My job was to see what issues they had. it was a joy to read various articles, seeing familiar names - Rev Clayton's schedule - he was selling Universalist books, and he was even occasionally preaching at Cash's Depot - about 20 miles from my home. the shock of knowing that I knew the first name of Rev. Gardner of Mississippi who was preaching at the Church of the Restoration - he was Marmaduke Gardner, later the main spirit of the Universalist Church in Texas - and who happened to also have been lived in Edgefield County, SC. An article by Rev James Inman of Cold Mountain fame, of Rev. Mrs Billings who strengthened and expanded the work at Texas. I didnt have time to read full issues or even to skim most of them, so I just jotted down a few notes, looking for Universalists who lived near me- I do admit that I liked one of the mastheads of the old Herald "Devoted to Temperance, Moderation, and Reasonable Religion"

You know, to do these things, to explore this, to have this much fun with this; just shows how deeply blessed I am. It also shows how important these people and their history is, because they can still touch me in such a wonderful moving way.

(corrected 1.0)

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Universalist Society of Mount Olympus, Alabama 1833-1837+

The Herald of Truth issued August 16, 1834, takes a news item from the Southern Evangelist (an Universalist newspaper from Montgomery) and cites the creation of the "Universalist Society of Mount Olympus", mentioning that this is the second Universalist society in Montgomery County, Alabama. Mount Olympus is mentioned in Rev George Rogers book of his missionary travels, where he mentions that it is 16 miles across the River from Montgomery. it's good that he mentions the distance because "Mount Olympus" is a lost town, and is not listed in "Place Names in Alabama" or the US site, Geonames.

we know the church lasted from 1833-1837+ (1833 because services and the building were there a year before the church was organized), 1837 because Rev Rogers preached there.

Preacher is Willis Atkins, who was a former Methodist, and a member of the Mount Olympus community. He rates his own eventual biography on this blog. He died in 1842.

William Townsend (1787 - 1881) born in Georgia, dies in Wetumpka, Alabama.
wealthy - in 1860, had the equivalent of 2007 $1.5 million.

Dr. Thomas Mitchell (1773-1843) born in Georgia, dies in Montgomery County, Alabama. Home was off the Mitchell Creek Road, near Ware (11 miles SE of Wetumpka) . Tombstone stated:
In Memory of Dr. Thomas Mitchell
of Montgomery County, Alabama. Who Departed this life on the 22nd of
November, 1843, in the 66th year of His age, like a full ear of corn
Ripe for the Harvest. It may be truly said of him "An honest man's the
Noblest work of God". In the resurrection according to his faith he will be greeted
With the shouts of a ransomed Universe. When parting shall be no more, God shall be
All in All "For as in Adam all died" And so in Christ Shall all be made alive. "

Mrs. Mitchell (per Rogers) was a member in 1837, as was all of her family.

Ludwell F. Taylor (c1801 - 1842)
brother of Greenwell Wooten Taylor, born in Georgia, moved with parents to Alabama circa mid 1820s, bought land in 1829 and 1831. died in Rock Springs - a community that is between Wetumpka and Tallassee Alabama, about 20 miles east north-east of Montgomery and 11 miles east of Wetumpka. married July 1832 in Montgomery County. in the 1830 and 1840 census.
On the same cenus page as Willis Atkins in 1830.

Greenwell Wooten Taylor (c1805-1852)
brother of Ludwell F. Taylor, born in Georgia, moved with parents to Alabama circa mid 1820s, very well to do, bought land in Texas, but died on the boat between Mobile and Galveston, buried in what is now Danville Texas. Married in Montgomery County Alabama April 1832. in 1850 census . Buying and selling land from 1837 to 1852

"a free colored man and family" -1837- member of Mount Olympus congregation, per Rev. George Rogers.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

SC Convention 1847 and Henry Summer of Newberry


South Carolina

The following letter from that excellent and devoted friend of our cause, H. Summer, Esq. of Newberry, S. C., though not designed for publication, contains so much information appertaining to the conditions and prospects of our cause in that State, that we have judged it worthy of being laid before our readers. --- Br. S. will pardon the liberty we have taken, and let us hear from him often.
A few men like Br. S. would make our cause flourish any where.

Newberry C. H., August 17, 1847

Dear Brother Balch --
I believe that we of this State took a step at the Annual Convention of Universalists, which will be productive of great good. I have just returned from the Convention, which met at Feasterville, Fairfield District, Liberty Meeting house. The friends met, and we had a good meeting. We passed, in council, a resolution of Br. Walker, adopted a report by myself as chairman, containing the Profession of Faith and Articles of Church Goverment, recommending the same to the friends scattered abroud the State. We have been hereto almost as good as without organization. The procedings will be published in the STAR IN THE WEST, prepared by Rev. A. Fuller, the standing clerk. It devolved on me to sustain the report and reccomend it to the Convention. On its merits, I suspose I spoke at least two hours; and by way of presenting and enforcing it, at least half an hour; so that in refrence to this point particuarly, and some other closely connected with it, I spoke about three hours. I felt the importance of the movement,and believing, that upon its adoption depended the fate of our glorious doctorine for years to come.
Br. S. M. Simons, from the Baptists, recieved the fellowship of our order as a preacher of the Gospel. He left the Baptists after he was ordained. He is a plain but zealous man. Br. N.P. Walker, a man of about 30 years, was ordained a preacher of the Gospel by Brs. A. Fuller and S. M. Simons. Br. Walker is a man of very good talents. Br. Fuller preached the Ordination Sermon from this text, "Preach The Word, " and gave us an excellent discourse. The Profession of Faith,. and Articles of Church Goverment, were taken, with a few variations, from Br. Whittemore's Plain Guide. We have now a platform on which I believe we can go to work and do something. I met an old father (David Coleman) eighty-two years old who had been a Dunker and had heard David Martyn, and was a member of his Church, believing in the doctrine of Universalism for 55 years now. After I finished my address at council in advocacy of the report of which I have abouve given you some account, that old father shook me cordially by the hand, the tears tricking down his cheeks, unable to speak - but his countenance uttered the language of his heart.
Oh Brother Balich, I feel we need help! We must depend upon that God of mercy that we adore, and we must all live according to the vocation wherewith we are called. Dear Br., you can let our friends know what we are doing; and though the work is begun in weakness, yet we look forward to a day of better things. This is with us a day of small things; but we shall go on, turning neither to the right nor to the left. We appointed Delegates to the U.S. Convention of Universalists; but none, I presume, will attend. Next year, Br. Fuller will, he thinks, be with you at your Convention, and he will be able to tell you how we have done.


Henry Summer
"Henry Summer .... had a strong interest in Universalism." Fireside Tales: Stories of the Old Dutch Fork (1984)

there were two Henry Summers in the Newberry area, but most evidence would seem that he was the (1809-1869) lawyer. But his obituary states that that Summer was active in the Lutheran Church. At this point we know that the Universalist Summer was writing and reading Universalist materials from at least 1845 to 1867. That he met with other Universalists in Boston in 1845 at the general convention. Obituaries are written by the living, and not by the deceased - his wife and children were very active Lutherans.