Rev. George Leonard Chaney (1836-1922) Obituary – May 4, 1922

Rev. George Leonard Chaney, widely known and well-beloved minister of the Unitarian demonization, died at his home in Salem, Mass., on Wednesday, April 19, 1922 in the house in which he was born. December 24, 1836.  He was descended from pioneer families of Essex County, the Gerrishes, Silsbees, Burrills and Webbs, and counted as one of the most valued treasures the Burrill family Bible of 1707, which he inherited.  He was the last survivor of his class at the Salem High School. Of 1852, and was graduted from Harvard in the class of 1859 and received his theological training at Meadville, where he had been for a year after college as a tutor in the Huldekoper family.  As a young graduate of the theological school he was called to the Hollis Street Church, Boston, as successor to Thomas Starr King.  In the difficult task as successor to the popular and gifted young preacher he served the Hollis Street Church from 1862 to 1877.  Through his honorable and successful pastorate he was concerned, in addition to his painstaking care of his church, with the problems of public welfare of his time.  Serving as member of the Boston School Committee he introduced manual training into the public schools of the city, having first established such work in the classes in the Hollis Street Chapel.  He was a friend and co-worker of all the men who were the gaints so those days, ad constantly through long life attracted new friendship, even as old friendships deepened.

After this first pastorate, her travelled widely, and was acquainted with most of the large cities of the United States and Canada and had spent many seasons in Hawaii and Jamaica.  He wrote of his travels in Hawaii in his book “Aloha.”  He had written also books for boys about his early Salem life – “F. Grant & co.” and “Tom” and as the fruit of his experience had published “Belief” and “Every-day Life and Every-day Morals.”  For years 1893-95 he published the Southern Unitarian, a monthly magazine.

For the work of the Boston parish he went while the effect of the Civil War was still fresh, particularly in Southern minds, to Atlanta, Ga., to undertake pioneer and missionary work in that field which as a director of the American Unitarian Association he had ardently encouraged.  He succeeded in the face of great discouragements in establishing the church of Atlanta.  His work and that of Mrs. Chaney as founders of the church is commemorated in the memorial window dedicated to the new church building in 1915.  As Southern Superintendent of the American Unitarian Association, he established churches and carried on mission work at Richmond, Va., Chattanooga and Memphis, Tenn.,  Fort Worth and San Antonio, Tex., and other places in the South where before he went there were but two Unitarian churches, one in New Orleans, La., and one at Charleston, S.C.  He had been a trustee of Atlanta University for colored people, and president of the board of trustees of Tuskegee, the first building of which he dedicated for Booker T. Washington.

In recent years, except for his travels, he had lived in Leominster and Salem, and for half dozen years had lived quietly in Salem chiefly interested in the garden of his old home, in writing and in his friendship with his family.

In these years he was a constant and devoted attendant of the First Church.  He keep always young in heart – not despairing in the day of war or of personal grief, nor in the day of the church’s lessened influence.  He looked forward always to the good that was to be.  In the later years, as in his youthful college days, he made and kept close, lasting and enduring friendships.  There was both charm and power in his personality in his writing and preaching.  Often a flash of wit burned bright in his talk and on the written page.  Truly he was a good and faithful servant of the denomination, of religion and of God.  He was the faithful and beloved comrade and friend of many who mourn his loss and cherish deeply the beauty of his memory.

Prayers were held at his lifelong home in Salem on Friday, April 21 ad funeral services were conducted at Harmony Grove Chapel in Salem by Rev. Edward D. Johnson, former pastor of the First Church of Salem.  While pastor of the Hollis Street Church, Mr. Chaney married Miss Caroline L Carter of Leominster, who survives him.  He also leaves a son George Carter Chaney, attorney-at-law, and a granddaughter, Constance Jewett Chaney.

Source:  The Christian Register found in Google Books, Vol. 101,  May 4, 1922,  Page 429