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Prepared by S. R. Thulin August 16, 1979; Prepared for the Web by Mikhail Slobodinskii, June 18, 1999; Updated March 2017; Last Updated: January 2021
Inclusive Dates: 1880-1977
Extent: 2 record storage boxes, 2 cubic feet
Physical Location: Storage.
Storage Note: This collection is housed in a climate-controlled environment off site and requires at least up to three weeks for retrieval. Please call or email the department with requests for this material prior to planning your visit.
Historical Note: Portage County first heard the Universalist gospel in 1814, and Universalists founded the Brimfield Universalist Church in 1837, not far from Kent. In May, 1866, citizens led by James D. Haymaker founded the First Universalist Church of Kent, laying the cornerstone of their building on August 23, 1868. Today, that structure is the oldest existing church in the city of Kent. Brimfield Universalists merged with those of Kent in 1922, and contact was first established with the Unitarians on a local basis in 1930 when the First Universalists Church of Kent invited Reverend Horace Westwood to preach. When the Universalist Church of America merged in 1961 with the American Unitarian Association to form the Unitarian-Universalist Association, the Kent church followed suit and affiliated with the new organization. The Unitarian-Universalist Church of Kent, as it was subsequently known, celebrated its centennial in 1966 and the Kent Bicentennial Commission designated the structure as a "significant restored building site" in May, 1976.
Among the church's longest serving Ministers were Reverend Andrew Wilson (1866 - 1876) and Reverend John Flint (1943 - 1962). Its longest serving moderator was James Green (1907 - 1922). Three women ministers also directed church activities. They were Reverend Abbie Danforth, who was appointed in 1889, Reverend Carlotte Crosley (1903 - 1908), and Reverend Violet Kochendoerfer (1972 - 1978). Only two ordinations occurred in the Kent church, on December 1, 1929, for Carl Olsen and on November 10, 1965, for Peter Richardson. The Kent Church did not always have a full time minister after 1927.
The Kent Unitarian-Universalist Church and its members were very active in local, state and national affairs, and were particularly prominent in the Peace Movement of the 1960's and 1970's. Several church-affiliated women's organizations have also been active in Kent, beginning with the Women's Universalist Missionary Alliance in 1897. The Clara Barton Guild was subsequently established in 1915, and in 1968 the Kent congregation started a local chapter of the Unitarian-Universalist Women's Federation.
Scope and Content: The Kent Unitarian-Universalist Church collection is divided into three sections. Section one spans the period from 1866 to the conclusion of the First World War and includes historical materials, the constitution of the church, financial reports (1881 - 1889) and the comprehensive record books of that time (1880 - 1918). Section two consists of materials pertaining directly to the church after 1918 and includes scattered correspondence (items from 1943, 1966 - 1976), occasional minutes, sermons, financial records (1923 - 1972), membership/mailing lists, printed materials and newspaper articles derive from local publications in the late 1960's and 1970's. Sections one and two are arranged into topical categories and then chronologically ordered. Section three is made up of materials from church organizations or affiliates, arranged alphabetically by subject, then into topical files and finally ordered by chronology. Two inventories of collections in the Ohio Historical Society have been removed and returned to the church but deserve mention: the papers of John Wesley Henley and the papers of Ohio Universalist Convention.
Due to the lack of continuity in many of the materials, this collection affords an incomplete view of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent. Researchers in local history, however, will find the pre-1919 data of some use. Though of greater bulk, the materials produced after 1919 exhibit less continuity with regard to the church itself. Materials were apparently retained with greater consistency after 1966. Of more utility are the records of the several church organized or affiliated groups, which appear to be more complete. Researchers in women's history would find the materials of the women's organizations of interest in the local context. Quantitative analyses of church memberships and of church affiliated organizations are feasible with the use of this collection in conjunction with other local materials. Case studies might also be made into the problems of the women ministers employed by the church. Sermons, minutes, publications, statements and blank questionnaires offer some insight into the congregation, which was apparently more diverse than the average Unitarian-Universalist church, and which found itself at a critical focal point of the tumultuous years during the Indochinese War. As a small church of a small denomination, the Kent church presents a case study of the battle for survival in a rapidly changing environment. The theological content of the collection represents a running commentary on liberal religion in direct proximity to a large American university, inferring a relationship that may warrant sociological or philosophical study. Finally, many of the church records would prove of some value to researchers in genealogy.
Acquisitions Note: The Unitarian-Universalist Church of Kent transferred this collection to the American History Research Center at Kent State University in April, 1976. Doretta Noland delivered other materials to the Archives in January, 1979.
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