History of Universalism in Atlanta 1879 to 1934



1879 to 1934

The Universalist Church organization took place in 1879 under the leadership of Rev. W. C Bowman., who also started a church paper called The Universalist.

In 1880, Rev. D. B. Clayton, from South Carolina, came to Atlanta to assist Rev. Bowman, both as minister and editor. This arrangement lasted less than a year.

Dr. Bowman was called to other fields, and Dr. Clayton returned to South Carolina, but still kept in touch with friends in Atlanta. Among the few who remained true to the faith were the McCutcheon and the Hardin families.

Others drifted elsewhere, many of them becoming interested in a spiritualistic movement which started about that time.

Following the pastorate of the Rev. Bowman, in 1880, there was no church organization until 1895, though there were many of the liberal faith in the city.

In the Spring of 1895, the Universalist Church was started with 12 members, meetings taking place in the basement of the Fulton County Court House.

A Ladies Aid Society was started with 4 members. Dr. C.H. Shinn, of Boston, gave the ladies 100 years in which to raise one thousand dollars. The full amount was raised in a little more than three years.

Charter members of the church were: Mr. and Mrs. L. C. McCutcheon and their two daughters; Mr. and Mrs. P. C. Lynch; Mrs. Day; Mr. and Mrs. Buchanan; Mrs. Harwood; Miss. Bertha Harwood (Mrs. Arrowood) and Mrs. A. L. Blackman.

Mrs. McCutcheon was called the Mother of the Church. Mrs. Day, a dear old lady, was called Grandma Day, by all who knew her. It was she who made the first contribution to the building of the new church.

In the Summer of 1895, Rev. W. H. McGlauflin was called to the Atlanta church from Harriman, Tenn. Dr. McGlauflin held services twice monthly and in 1896 moved to Atlanta, taking a full pastorate.

On December 1st, 1895, Dr. McGlauflin received 14 members into the fellowship.

At this time services were held in the Freyer & Bradley Hall, which was later called Cable Hall. The next move was to 72 1/2 North Broad street, where the organization grew and prospered.

A few of the families who were members at this time were, Mr. and Mrs. L. C. McCutcheon; the Hardin family; L.M.Gill; Miss. Grace Gill (Mrs. N. V. Perry); Mrs. Alexander Beck; Mrs. A. L. Blackman; Mrs. W.C. Cottingham; Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Bradford and family; Miss. Florence Cottingham (Mrs.W.P. Felker); Miss. Mary Cottingham (Mrs.W.L. Kemp); Miss. Sally Clayton (Mrs. H.C. Blake); Mr. and Mrs. B. Graham West; Miss. Frances West (Mrs. Audley McGalley).

On March 7th, 1897, Mrs. McGlauflin organized a Mission Circle. As this was a mission church, the previously organized Ladies Aid joined, as the church was not large enough for two societies.

The Circle’s first President was Mrs. W.C. Cottingham.

Mrs. W.C. McGlauflin (Lucy Sibley McGlauflin) ever the leading spirit in all church activities, passed from this life September 19th, 1891.

Plans were now going forward for the building of a church. The National Y. P. C. U. agreed to give four dollars for every one raised by the Atlanta church. Y.P.C.U. expected the sum. to be about fifteen hundred dollars. As nearly four thousand dollars was raised they had to call Dr. McGlauflin to the North to lecture and help raise their share.

In December 1898, the women of the church held a Bazaar on Peachtree and cleared over Six Hundred Dollars for the building fund.

A beautiful church was erected at 16 East Harris St, near Peachtree. In July, 1900, the church was formally dedicated. The National Y.P.C.U met in Atlanta at the time and was present at the dedication ceremony.

The beautiful and impressive art glass windows of the church were donated; one by Dr. McGlauflin, in memory of his wife, Lucy Sibley McGlauflin; one by the Junior Y. P. C. U., in honor of its organizer and faithful worker, Mary Grace Canfield; one by the Good Templars; one by the Federation of Trades; one in memory of Mr. Powell, given by his daughter; one in memory of Mamie Joe Jones, sister of Mrs. B.G West.

The first christening that took place in the new church was that of Shirley Hiatt, son of Mr, and Mrs. William Hiatt.

The first funeral was that of Spencer Blackman, son of Mrs. A. L. Blackman.

The first wedding united. Dorothy Crane and J. Clarence Bond.

At this time the church had for its board of Directors the following: R. M. Crone, President; J. C.Bond, Secretary; F. M. Marsh, Treasurer; C.W. Hubner; W.C. Gill ; Harry C. Blake; James Harvey.

Dr. McGlauflin’s pastorate covered a period of eight years, during which tine 155 members were received into the church.

In 1904, Dr. McGlauflin was called to other fields, and in February, 1904, Rev. Clarence J. Harris came to take his place, being pastor until March 1905.

Rev. Paul Tyner served as pastor from March 1905 to July 1st of the same year.

Rev. E. Dean Ellenwood was a much beloved and successful minister from December 3rd, 1905 to November 30th, 1913. He was then called to a larger field at Elgin, Il

Rev. Fred A. Line served the Atlanta church from December, 1913 to October, 1915.

Dr. T. B. Fisher from September 1916 to 1918.

Merger of Universalist and Unitarian

A merger of the First Universalist and First Unitarian churches took place November 14th, 1918 ending the struggles of two small groups that were ready to come together.

A new Constitution and By-laws were framed, making all members of both churches members of the new LIBERAL CHRISTIAN CHURCH. The name was later changed to


It was almost a year following the merger before the congregation obtained an active minister. Meanwhile our much beloved Dr. John W. Rowlett carried on the work.

Dr. G. I. Keirn, who had spent a number of years in Japan, as a missionary from the Universalist Church, was the first settled minister. Under his wise leadership the church had about three years of happy progress. His death came as a blow to the movement, but the congregation carried on until a successor was chosen.

Rev. Ernest J. Bowden was the next minister and served the church for three years. The death of Mrs. Bowden occurred during his ministry. She was a dear little Englishwoman whose life and character were an inspiration to those who knew her. Dr. Bowden resigned in November, 1925.

For a year the church was without an active minister, but services were maintained and the auxiliary organizations kept going.

In November, 1926, Rev. Clinton Lee Scott, who had for some years been associate minister of the Universalist Church of Los Angeles, Gal, became minister of the church.

Dr. Scott, still a young man, brought new life and a new vision of things that might be done. He worked untiringly and accomplished much for the upbuilding of the church. In 1929 Dr. Scott accepted a call to a larger field at Joliet, Ill.

From 1929 to September, 1930, the pulpit was supplied, irregularly, by various ministers, during which time many members and friends strayed to other churches, leaving the organization very much depleted.

After several months of careful search and consideration of various candidates, Dr. Aubrey

F. Hess was chosen on September 1st, 1930, coming to Atlanta from Beaumont, Tex.

Shortly after Dr. Hess assumed leadership no break could be detected in the work of the organization as a whole.

From that tine until the present (1934) the work has gone forward notwithstanding the fact of a serious economic depression. The membership at present numbering 130.

Dr. Hess is regarded as a scholarly man and one of the most able ministers the Atlanta church ever had.

Much of the success of Dr. Hess’s ministry is no doubt due to the unfailing interest and help of Mrs. Hess, who has contributed much to the growth and progress of all auxiliaries of the church.

Compiled by Mrs. Viola Stanford, February, 1934.

Physical Archive: UUCA   Box: 60   Folder: 08
Citation: Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta Records, RG 026, Archives and Manuscripts Dept., Pitts Theology Library, Emory University, Atlanta GA

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