Church of the Good Shepherd (First Universalist)

As published in "The History of Racine and Kenosha Counties" (Chicago: 1879), p. 387

The Church of the Good Shepherd (First Universalist) - The society was organized October 2, 1842. The meeting was held at the house of Luman Parmelee, in the village of Racine, at which the following persons were present: Amaziah Stebbins, Luman Parmelee, Ransom Cole, George Perkins, Reuben Chadwick, Asa Palmer, Thomas J. Wisner, S. H. Norris, B. R. Perkins, Jacob Ly Brand. The following officers were elected October 11, 1842: Trustees, Luman Parmelee, Asa Palmer and Amaziah Stebbins; Clerk, Jacob Ly Brand; Treasurer, George Perkins. The formal constitution of the society was adopted in April 1845. At the meeting held for its adoption, Jacob Ly Brand offered the following resolution:

Resolved, That American slavery is not only anti-Christian, but also the greatest sin of the land; that while it is the duty of every society professing to be Christian to bear testimony against the same, Universalists are in an especial manner called upon to use their influence to bring about its abolition, their doctrine being freedom from slavery, and one destiny for the human family, they must, to be consistent, act in accordance with their belief.

With the assistance of H. H. Watson, and by the reading of sermons, regular services were kept up every Sunday in the "Frame School House" until Sunday, September 6, 1846, when Rev. A. C. Barry of Fort Plain, N. Y., was installed as pastor. Up to January 13, 1847, sixty-nine active members had signed the constitution. The Sunday school was organized April 25, 1847, at the Court House, with the following officers: Rev. A. C. Barry, Superintendent; H. H. Watson, Assistant; Mrs. Knapp, Assistant; D. McDonald, George Perkins and A. H. Stebbins, Executive committee. The original membership of the Sunday school numbered twenty-four. The society continued to hold services in the Court House until 1851, when the church-building, now occupied by them, on Market Square was erected. It was formally dedicated, October 9, 1852. By the records, it appears that Rev. A. C. Barry offered his resignation December 8, 1853. By an unanimous vote, the society urged him to remain, resolving that they were unwilling and unprepared to part with his faithful and acceptable services. The resignation was withdrawn at that time, but was renewed and insisted upon in October, 1854, after a faithful and successful pastorate of eight years. Rev. E. Case was then elected pastor for one year. At the annual meeting, in 1855, Chas. Herrick, David McDonald and Elisha Raymond were elected Trustees; John M. Osgood, Treasurer, and H. T. Taylor, Clerk. The society was without preaching from October 1855, to some time in January 1856, when Rev. D. L. Webster, of Elkhorn, was engaged to supply one-half the time. At the annual meeting, in April 1856, the indebtedness of the church was reported at $3,000, and a vigorous effort was made to pay it. The brief record reads: "The following are among the liberal subscribers: Elisha Raymond, Nicholas D. Fratt, Simeon D. Clough, George Perkins, Charles Herrick and Jerome I. Case. Their liberality, together with the indefatigable labor and perseverance of or most worthy female members, won complete success." H. D. L. Webster continued to preach for the society each alternate Sunday, until January 1, 1857, when he was regularly employed as Pastor for one year. In December, 1857, the society tried to get Rev. A. C. Barry to return, but not succeeding, Rev. B. Mason was called December 12, 1858. David McDonald, then clerk, put on the record the following characteristic good-bye: "I think, on the whole, our society is stronger than it has been any time since my connection with it in May, 1846. During the time, this beautiful church I am now in has been built. This is the last Sabbath for me to meet and worship with those of my choice, for a time at least, and perfaps forever, as I leave for the South during the present week. In view of this, my sincere prayers to our Heavenly Father is to bless the people who worship in this house; may they prove faithful in all things, and take good care of this edifice, and when they have a pastor, pay him, and not let one of their number suffer; cultivate a feeling of brotherly love, visit the sick, bury the dead and look after the best interests of the widows and orphans, and thus go on and be happy for all time to come." The society was without a settled pastor from January 1860, having only occasional preaching, until November, 1860, when the Trustees were instructed to write Rev. A. C. Barry, at Waukegan, Ill., to again accept the pastorate. Mr. Barry accepted and began his work immediately. He was formally installed December 26, 1860. Revs. W. H. Ryder, Robert Collyer, Tuttle and Swann, of Chicago, assisting the ceremonies. The Church at this time seems to have enjoyed a season of renewed prosperity and vigorous life. Some changes were made in the Profession of Faith, or rather the Church Creed was put into a definite form of words. A change was also made in the manner of receiving members, to that of baptism and the right hand of fellowship, the former method having been by signing of the constitution and by-laws. On Sunday, April 13, 1861, the following persons were received into the church by baptism: Mary A. Clough, Mary M. Skinner, Mary Basye, Charlotte T. Campbell and Elizabeth Malone; and the following were received into full membership by the right hand of fellowship: J. I. Case, F. M. Knapp, Wm. Thornton, Jane Thornton, H. T. Taylor, Maria Taylor, Samuel G. Knight, Margaret Knight, Russell Skinner, Mary M. Skinner, J. C. Crawford, Elvira S. Robinson, Lydia Malone, Sarah Foster, Maria Clough and Stephen Bull. This event in the church happened the same day that President Lincoln issued his proclamation, calling for 75,000 volunteers, and commanding the rebels to return to peace in twenty days. The great uprising of the people of the loyal States began. Legislatures voted men and money. Public meetings, proclamations and military orders became the order of the day. Sunday evening, April 29, Mr. Barry preached, by request, to the young men composing the first company of Racine Volunteers, and on Sunday, June 30, at a church meeting, on motion of J. I. Case, seconded by Stephen Bull, Rev. A. C. Barry was granted a three months' leave of absence, for the purpose of accepting the Chaplaincy of the Fourth Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers. Thus early did this church feel the overshadowing influence of the War of the Rebellion. From the time its pastor became an army chaplain to January, 1864, the church had only occasional preaching, and its members became much scattered and the Sunday school was neglected. Its records, however, show that it kept up a continuous life in the annual election of officers, and in the frequent meetings of its Soldiers' Aid Society. In January, 1864, Rev. R. G. Hamilton was called to take pastoral charge. He gave general satisfaction, the society was gaining in numbers, and a deep interest was felt in its prosperity until July, when Mr. Hamilton received a call to Muskegon, Mich., at a better salary. The society felt that, under the great national affliction of the Civil War, increased taxation, etc., and while daily calls were made for the relief of the sick and wounded soldiers, an increase of salary would be too great a burden on the generous few, and they voted to let him go. January 4, 1866, a general meeting of the church was held at E. Raymond's. A subscription paper was circulated, and the old debt of $375 was paid on the spot. The Soldiers' Aid Society was disbanded, and the old-time Ladies' Mite Society was revived. A brisk discussion took place in regard to obtaining a pastor, and the clerk J. M. Osgood was instructed to correstong at once with Dr. Ryder, of the Northwestern Conference, Chicago. A vote of thanks was tendered Mrs. Darwin Andrews, Mrs. D. McDonald and others, for substantial aid in saving the church from fire, it being endangered by the burning of the Episcopal Church in close proximity. The Church heard candidates for a Pastor until March following, when the Northwestern Conference sent Rev. E. Fitzgerald, who was at once setttled as Pastor. He remained only until October following. In January, 1867, the society voted to repair and fresco the church. The work of repairing was finished in April, and the matter of re-organization and obtaining a Pastor was referred to a committee consisting of Stephen Bull, J. M. Osgood, H. T. Taylor and A. H. Sweetser. At a meeting June 30, 1867, on motion of J. I. Case, the Trustees were instructed to extend a call to Rev. A. C. Barry. The call was accepted. In June the following members were admitted by baptism and the right hand of fellowship: E. B. Fish, Mrs. J. I. Case, Chas. Washburn, A. H. Sweetser, Geo. W. Dana, R. B. Bates, L. W. Botsford, Mrs. L. W. Botsford and Mrs. Alvin Raymond. At the annual meeting, December 30, 1867, Rev. A. C. Barry presented a draft of an act to be presented to the State Legislature, to incorporate the Church of the Good Shepherd, of Racine. The draft was accepted, and Mr. Barry appointed to fill the blank with the names of members of the society as incorporators. The following are the corporate members: N. D. Fratt, S. D. Clough, Chas. Herrick, H. T. Taylor, D. McDonald, E. Raymond, J. M. Osgood, W. L. Utley, Geo. Perkins, Wm. Thornton, Samuel G. Knight, Stephen Bull and L. W. Botsford. February 17, 1868, the annual meeting under the newly incorporated constitution was held, by-laws were adopted, and the following were elected as the first Vestry: J. I. Case, President; J. M. Osgood, Secretary; Samuel G. Knight, Treasurer; D. McDonald and Wm. Thornton. Deacons; Standing Committee: R. B. Bates, Chairman; H. T. Taylor, E. Foster, N. D. Fratt, W. H. Phelps, A. E. Pierce, L. Mann, H. Rozell and M. Coombs.

Rev. A. C. Barry resigned in April, 1870, January 16, 1871, Rev. J. S. Fall was employed as Pastor for the period of three months. At the expiration of the three months, Mr. Fall was employed as Pastor for the period of one year. On May 7, following, Rev. J. S. Fall resigned, and his resignation was accepted. From May 7, 1871, to September 7, 1873, the Church was without a settled Pastor. September 8, 1873, the Vestry voted to hire A. C. Fish as lay-preacher for six months. The call was accepted. At the end of six months, he was engaged for a year. March 10, 1875, on account of ill-health, he tendered his resignation, which was Vestry refused to accept, offering, instead, a vacation of three months. April 10, the resignation being insisted upon, was accepted, and Rev. S. W. Sutton, of Massachusetts, was called to the pastorate and accepted, entering upon his duties at once. He was ordained, October 26, 1875. At an annual meeting, January 3, 1876, it was unanimously voted to use water, instead of wine, at the communion service. The following names were presented for membership in the Church: A. C. Fish, Mrs. Mary Daggett, Mrs. Lavinia Case and Miss Emma Dana. Mr. Sutton's pastoral relation was terminated by himself after a year of successful service. July 31, 1876, the Testry voted, as a temporary arrangement, to employ Rev. H. M. Simmons, of Kenosha, for one sermon a Sunday. The arrangement proved so acceptable, that it was continued until January, 1878. March 10, 1878, Rev. Olympia Brown Willis, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, was unanimously called to the pastorate. After one year's most successful labor, she was re-engaged with an increase of salary, and is pastor at the present time. Twenty members have united with the church during her pastorate.

The Sunday school is large, and growing. The Church, in every department, is full of vigorous life, and is actively engaged in good works. Universalists believe that the Bible, alone, should be the creed book of Christians, and to that fountain all should go for religious instruction. It is difficult, if not impossible, to set forth in language a series of articles, which shall be a complete and accurate statement of the Christian Faith, that is broad enough to embrace the world, without including some things to which many thinkers would object. So, in the sense in which the word creed is ordinarily used, Universalists have no creed but the Bible; but for the purpose of proclaiming to other branches of the Christian Church their distinctive religious views, the General Convention of Universalists, at Winchester, N. H., in 1803, adopted by all the different State Conventions. Being multum in parvo, it is inserted here.

Article I. We believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments contain a revelation of the character of God, and of the duty, interest and final destination of mankind.
Article II. We believe that there is one God, whose nature is love, revealed in one Lord Jesus Christ, by one Holy Spirit of Grace, who will finally restore the whole family of mankind to holiness and happiness.
Article III. We believe that holiness and happiness are inseparably connected, and that believers ought to be careful to maintain order and practice good works, for these things are good and profitable unto men.

The doors of the Church of the Good Shepherd, of Racine, during its entire history of thirty-seven years, have swung wide open at the call of every good cause: Patriotism, Education, Temperance, Christianity and Humanity in its varied needs. It has tried to illustrate its grand Profession of Faith by the practice of good works; and while it may have fallen short in many things, it is still hopeful, and with the poet says: "We hold it true with him who sings,
To one clear harp in divers tones;
That men may rise on stepping stones
Of their dead selves to higher things."




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