The Church of the Messiah (First Unitarian Congregational society) was organized October 4, 1838, with the following trustees: Elisha Walter, Joel Owen and Stephen Abbott. The few Unitarian families in the village had listened to preaching in their faith in 1837 by Rev. Samuel Barrett of Boston and Rev. Mr. Green in the old Baptist church. In January, 1839, a small chapel was built on the site opposite the Grand Opera House on East Genesee street. Here Rev. J. P. B. Storer began a ministry which terminated with his death, March 17, 1844. The society soon outgrew the little chapel, and in August, 1840, a committee was appointed to purchase a site for a new church. The lot corner of Burnet and Lock streets was bought of the Syracuse Company for $550, to which another was subsequently added on the south at a cost of $450. A church was built there at a cost of $5,000, which was dedicated November 23, 1843. In 1845 a call was extended to and accepted by Rev. Samuel J. May. Mr. May was a man of the highest character and advanced views; became very prominently identified with the anti-slavery movement, and won a place in the esteem and affection of the community which it was difficult to fill after his death. He resigned his pastorate some time prior to 1871, and he died on July 2 of that year. During this period the society took the name of "The Church of the Messiah." In 1852 the building was much damaged in a gale, but was repaired at a cost of $10,000 and dedicated April 11, 1853. Rev. Samuel R. Calthrop accepted a call to the church and was installed April 29, 1868, and during more than twenty-five years his scholarly sermons have been listened to with deep interest. The present handsome edifice was erected on James street in 1885 at a cost of about $50,000.
Submitted 17 July 1998