Sundry Universalist ministers held religious services in Akron, from time to time, during the years 1835 and 1836, and during the early Summer of 1837 Rev. Freeman Loring organized a society of believers in that faith, holding his meetings in the third story of a building erected by Mr. Benjamin W. Stephens, corner of Main and State streets, present site of Merrill's pottery.
Among the members of that congregation were Dr. Eliakim Crosby and family, Major Miner Spicer and family, Henry Chittenden and family, Watrous Mather and family, Jesse and Jacob Allen, and quite a number of other prominent business men of Akron and Middlebury; the choir, composed largely of the sons and daughters of the families above named, being one of the most attractive of any of the church choirs of the town or vicinity.
Steps were immediately taken for the erection of a suitable church edifice. Dr. Crosby furnishing a lot on North High street, and very largely defraying the cost of the building, the writer doing the glazing and general painting, to the extent of some $200, in part payment for two acres of ground on West Market street; our venerable fellow citizen, Mr. Curtis C. Wilcox, of 216 South Union street, then living in Middlebury, gilding and varnishing the balusters of the gallery, settees, etc., this being the first church in Akron to have anything but stiff board pews and slips for the seating of its worshippers.
The church was built of stone, and was then one of the handsomest structures of the kind in Ohio. The belfry was surrounded by a tall spire on the top of which, above 100 feet from the ground, was a gilded ball, two and a half feet in diameter, in the center of which were deposited such articles as are usually placed in the corner stones of similar edifices-- church history, newspapers, coins, etc.
Some thirty years later the belfry timbers had become so decayed that, on Sunday, August 5, 1868, the steeple being likely to fall, to prevent possible serious accident, by attaching ropes to the lightning-rod connected therewith, it was pulled down, and in falling the ball was broken to pieces. Such of the contents as were found were in a fair state preservation, the copy of the Akron Buzzard encased by the writer in a sealed quinine bottle, being as clean and legible; as when first printed, thirty-one years before.
Surmounting the hall was an immense sheet-iron weather vane in the shape of an angel, with soaring wings, proclaiming to the whole world through a golden trumpet, the Glad Tidings of Universal Salvation; the entire cost of the structure being about $8,000 A fine-toned bell, procured by subscription of citizens, was placed in the tower, and also, a year or two later a clock, manufactured, and for many years kept in repair, by the late Henry S. Abbey. The society was also presented with a most excellent organ, by the late Jesse Allen - probably the pioneer church organ of Summit County.
The society was incorporated by Act of the Legislature, February 4, 1839, the incorporators being Eliakim Crosby, Miner Spicer, Watrous Mather, Henry Chittenden and Jesse Allen. The house was dedicated in November, 1839, the installation of Mr. Loring, as pastor, being included in the dedicatory services; the membership at this time being about one hundred persons. Though Mr. Loring had taken almost entire charge of the building of the church, laboring incessantly with his own hands, his pastorate, after its dedication, was of short duration, a feeling prevailing that though sound in doctrine, and earnest in its promulgation, he was not sufficiently cultured for so "metropolitan" a position, realizing which he tendered his resignation and removed to Suffield, Portage County, where, after serving the church there for a number of years, he finally died.
Mr. Loring was succeeded by Rev. Nelson Doolittle, for several years, followed by Rev. J. G. Foreman, the latter part of 1845, and in 1849 by Rev. Z. Baker. This latter gentleman leaning strongly towards the Spiritualist faith, which was then a prevalent belief with many, alienated several members of the society from the true faith, begetting an indifference which coupled with the serious financial embarrassment of its principal promoter, Dr. Crosby, caused the society to go to pieces, and in 1853 its house of worship was sold to the Baptists, as elsewhere stated.
After an interregnum of nearly thirty years, a new organization was effected in November, 1872, with twenty members, Hon. John R. Huchtel, Moderator; Sanford M. Burnham, Clerk; Avery Spicer and Talmon Beardsley, Deacons. Rev. G. S. Weaver was chosen pastor, in April, 1873, the meetings of the society being held in the chapel of Huchtel College, then just completed. Mr. Weaver was succeeded by Rev. Henry L. Canfield, in 1876, followed by Rev. Everett L. Rexford, president of College, in 1878, and in September, 1880, by Rev. Richard Eddy until July, 1881, and again by Rev. Dr. G. S. Weaver, from December, 1881, to December, 1883, followed by Rev. C. Ellwood Nash, from May 1, 1884 to May 1, 1891, succeeded June 7, 1891, by Rev. J. F. Thompson, of Jersey City, N. J.
During Mr. Rexford's pastorate, the rapidly growing congregation rendering such a step absolutely necessary, the fine new house of worship, corner of Mill and Broadway, was erected at a cost of about $40,000. Mr. Ferd. Schumacher, generously donating the lot, besides liberally contributing to the building and furnishing fund, Hon. John R. Buchtel also subscribing liberally to the various funds of the society. The present membership of the church is about 350; scholars in Sunday School 325; teachers, 24.
[Source: "Fifty Years and over of Akron and Summit Co.," 1892 - Submitted by Cathy Danielson]
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