Unitarian Society of Northampton & Florence

The history of the Unitarian Society of Northampton & Florence (Northampton, MA)

1786-08-01 00:00:00

Shay's Rebellion

Farmers from New Hampshire to South Carolina take up arms to protest high state taxes and penalties for failure to pay. Shays' Rebellion was an armed uprising that took place in central and western Massachusetts in 1786 and 1787. The rebellion was named after Daniel Shays, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War and one of the rebel leaders.

1787-05-01 00:00:00

Constitutional Convention

Constitutional Convention, made up of delegates from 12 of the original 13 colonies, meets in Philadelphia to draft the U.S. Constitution.

1789-04-30 00:00:00

George Washington elected first president

George Washington is unanimously elected president of the United States in a vote by state electors (Feb. 4). U.S. Constitution goes into effect, having been ratified by nine states (March 4). U.S. Congress meets for the first time at Federal Hall in New York City (March 4). Washington is inaugurated as president at Federal Hall in New York City (April 30).

1793-04-25 11:52:40

Universalist Church of America Formed

Universalists are Christians who believe in universal salvation, meaning that all people will eventually be reconciled with God. While people have held Universalist beliefs for thousands of years, the faith did not become a widespread religious movement until English Universalists came to America in the late 1700s to escape religious persecution. Because of its loving and inclusive doctrine, Universalism quickly became popular in America and the Universalist Church of America was formed in 1793. Important Universalist figures of this period include Hosea Ballou, John Murray, and Benjamin Rush. Universalists were best known for supporting education and non-sectarian schools, but they also worked on social issues including the separation of church and state, prison reform, capital punishment, the abolition of slavery, and women's rights. Important Universalists of this period include Clara Barton, Thomas Starr King (also a Unitarian), Horace Greeley, George Pullman, and Mary Livermore.

1804-05-14 00:00:00

Lewis and Clark Expedition Starts

Lewis and Clark set out from St. Louis, Mo., on expedition to explore the West and find a route to the Pacific Ocean.

1812-06-18 00:00:00

War of 1812

War of 1812: U.S. declares war on Britain over British interference with American maritime shipping and westward expansion (June 18, 1812). Madison's second inauguration (March 4, 1813). British capture Washington, DC, and set fire to White House and Capitol (Aug. 1814). Francis Scott Key writes Star-Spangled Banner as he watches British attack on Fort McHenry at Baltimore (Sept. 13–14, 1814). Treaty of Ghent is signed, officially ending the war (Dec. 24, 1814).

1825-01-01 12:08:29

Edward Brooks

“In grateful memory of Edward Brooks Hall, First Pastor of this Church 1825-1830. Born in Medford Massachusetts September 2, 1800. Graduated Harvard College 1820. Died in Providence Rhode Island March 9, 1866. A persuasive preacher, a devoted pastor wise in counsel, tender in hours of affliction, untiring in works of mercy, zealous in public affairs, loyal member of the chosen band of New England ministers in whose ranks American Unitarianism found its birth.”

1825-02-22 00:00:00

2nd Congregational Society Founded

The Second Congregational Society of Northampton was organized by forty-three Northampton residents (including many of the most prominent) on February 22, 1825.

1825-05-26 19:06:07

American Unitarian Association founded

The American Unitarian Association (AUA) was a religious denomination in the United States and Canada, formed by associated Unitarian congregations . Unitarianism emerged in America in the early 19th century, stressing importance of rational thinking, each person's direct relationship with God, and the humanity of Jesus. By 1825, Unitarian ministers had formed a denomination called the American Unitarian Association. Members spoke out on issues such as education reform, prison reform, moderation in temperance, ministry to the poor, and the abolition of slavery. Influential Unitarians from this era include William Ellery Channing, Theodore Parker, Joseph Priestley, and Thomas Starr King, who was also a Universalist. Unitarians have been very influential throughout American history, especially in politics and literature. Some famous Unitarians include John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Paul Revere, William Howard Taft, and Frank Lloyd Wright.

1830-05-28 22:45:56

Indian Removal Act

President Jackson signs the Indian Removal Act, which authorizes the forced removal of Native Americans living in the eastern part of the country to lands west of the Mississippi River (May 28). By the late 1830s the Jackson administration has relocated nearly 50,000 Native Americans.

1831-06-03 00:00:00

Nat Turner's Uprising

Nat Turner, an enslaved African American preacher, leads the most significant slave uprising in American history. He and his band of about 80 followers launch a bloody, day-long rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia. The militia quells the rebellion, and Turner is eventually hanged. As a consequence, Virginia institutes much stricter slave laws.

1831-06-03 00:00:00

Abolitionist Movement

William Lloyd Garrison begins publishing the Liberator, a weekly paper that advocates the complete abolition of slavery. He becomes one of the most famous figures in the abolitionist movement.

1842-01-01 19:06:07

Northampton Association of Education & Industry

In 1842, members of the Northampton Association of Education and Industry established a utopian community organized around a communally owned and operated silk mill. Those who were drawn to this community sought to challenge the prevailing social attitudes of their day by creating a society in which "the rights of all are equal without distinction of sex, color or condition, sect or religion." They were especially united around the issue of the abolition of slavery. Most were followers of William Lloyd Garrison. Sojourner Truth was a member of the community and visitors like Frederick Douglass were regular lecturers.

1846-05-13 00:00:00

Mexican War

Mexican War: U.S. declares war on Mexico in effort to gain California and other territory in Southwest (May 13, 1846). War concludes with signing of Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (Feb. 2, 1848). Mexico recognizes Rio Grande as new boundary with Texas and, for $15 million, agrees to cede territory comprising present-day California, Nevada, Utah, most of New Mexico and Arizona, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming.

1861-04-13 00:00:00

Civil War starts

Fort Sumter attacked by Confederates

1862-09-22 00:00:00

Emancipation Proclamation

President Lincoln announced a decree freeing all enslaved persons in states still in rebellion.

1863-05-03 04:21:46

Free Congregational Society of Florence

The First Congregational Society of Florence was founded in 1863 by former members of the Florence Association of Education and Industry.

1863-06-25 00:00:00

Universalists First Group to Ordain a Woman

In 1863, the Universalists became the first group in the United States to ordain a woman, Olympia Brown, with full denominational authority.

1865-04-09 00:00:00

Civil War ends

Confederate General Lee surrenders to Generals Grant and Sheridan at the Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia.

1870-01-01 22:08:37

Florence Congregation Growth

By 1870 their numbers had grown to about 170, and during much of the 1870’s attendance ranged to 500 at Sunday meetings. Throughout the Society’s early history it was a Unitarian group by conviction and employed more than one Unitarian minister as speaker. Formal affiliation with the American Unitarian Association came in 1898.

1874-01-01 01:18:03

Florence Society champions liberal thinking

Two of the Florence Society's members were wealthy entrepreneurs who, in addition to giving money for schools and the town library, financed the building of a grand meetinghouse called Cosmian Hall in 1874. Almost all the prominent liberals of the late nineteenth century, including Sojourner Truth, who had previously been a member of the utopian community, Frederick Douglass, and Susan B. Anthony, spoke at Cosmian Hall to the Society, which at the time was the largest free-thinking congregation in the world.

1874-01-01 14:52:12

Cosmian Hall Completed

Cosmian Hall was home to the Free Congregational Society of Florence. The construction cost $40,000 and was mostly paid for by Samuel L. Hall and Arthur T. Lilly, and was completed in 1874. The interior accommodated up to 700. Above the stage was the inscription "Above All Things, Truth Beareth Away the Victory." The First Congregational Society of Florence sold the building in 1923 (they moved across the street to a smaller building), and it was demolished in 1948. It's bell is now located next to the Florence Civic Center.

1875-01-01 16:59:25

50th Anniversary

The Northampton Society first building (interior): The original Great Hall as it appeared during the 50th anniversary celebration in 1875. Ralph Waldo Emerson (the Society’s interim minister in 1828), George Ripley (founder of Brook Farm), and John Sullivan Dwight (the Society’s third minister, 1840-41) spoke from this pulpit.

1876-06-25 00:00:00

Little Big Horn

Lt. Col. George A. Custer's regiment is wiped out by Sioux Indians under Sitting Bull at the Little Big Horn River, Mont.

1890-07-02 00:00:00

National American Woman Suffrage Association

National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) is founded, with Elizabeth Cady Stanton as president. Sherman Antitrust Act is signed into law, prohibiting commercial monopolies (July 2). Last major battle of the Indian Wars occurs at Wounded Knee in South Dakota (Dec. 29). In reporting the results of the 1890 census, the Census Bureau announces that the West has been settled and the frontier is closed.

1896-05-18 00:00:00

Plessy v. Ferguson

Plessy v. Ferguson: Landmark Supreme Court decision holds that racial segregation is constitutional, paving the way for the repressive Jim Crow laws in the South.

1898-04-25 00:00:00

Spanish-American War

Spanish-American War: USS Maine is blown up in Havana harbor (Feb. 15), prompting U.S. to declare war on Spain (April 25). Treaty of Paris is signed, ending the Spanish-American War (Dec. 10); Spain gives up control of Cuba, which becomes an independent republic, and cedes Puerto Rico, Guam, and (for $20 million) the Philippines to the U.S.

1903-01-01 12:05:47

Original Building burns to ground

The original Northampton building burned to the ground in 1903. Plans began immediately to rebuild on the foundations.

1905-01-01 12:05:47

New Building Dedicated

This second building, frugally designed and generously supported by the rebates and discounts of area buildings and craftsmen, was erected at a cost of only $23,000 (while the minister’s salary was set at $1,400). This building still stands and is our present home.

1914-04-06 00:00:00

World War One

U.S. enters World War I, declaring war on Germany (April 6, 1917) and Austria-Hungary (Dec. 7, 1917) three years after conflict began in 1914. Armistice ending World War I is signed (Nov. 11, 1918).

1916-11-07 00:00:00

First Woman in US House of Reps

Jeannette Rankin of Montana is the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

1921-01-01 18:27:53

The Florence Society's second building

By the 1920s, the Free Congregational Society of Florence could no longer afford the upkeep on the Cosmian Hall. It was sold to the Florence Amusement Association, who briefly used it to show silent movies, and had two other owners before being town down in 1948. The Free Congregational Society of Florence moved into and occupied this building until 1944, when they merged with the Northampton Society. The building, located on Route 9/Main Street in Florence, is currently home to the Seventh Day Adventists.

1925-01-01 11:49:31

100th Anniversary

The original building burnt to the ground on June 7, 1903 and was replaced with the current building, dedicated on February 12, 1905. This photo shows the interior of the Great Hall during the 100th anniversary celebration in 1925. The Northampton Society merged with the Florence Society in 1944 and welcomed members here.

1927-05-20 00:00:00

Charles Lindbergh Flight

Charles Lindbergh makes the first solo nonstop transatlantic flight in his plane The Spirit of St. Louis.

1929-10-29 00:00:00

Stock Market Crash

Stock market crash precipitates the Great Depression.

1941-12-08 00:00:00

U.S. in World War Two

Enter story info here

1941-12-08 00:00:00


At the May meetings of the The USNF adopts a a pacifist stance during WW2. American Unitarian Association (AUA) in 1936, the General Assembly repudiated the 1918 denial of aid to congregations whose ministers did not support the War as "contrary to the fundamental Unitarian principles of freedom of thought and conscience." During World War II the AUA supported conscientious objectors and made no attempt to suppress dissenting pacifists despite the AUA president's vigorous endorsement of war aims.

1944-01-01 00:00:00

Rev. Eugene Luening

The Reverend Luening came from the Florence congregation and served the newly combined church for six years.

1944-01-03 11:46:44

Two Congregations Become One

Both the Second Congregational Society and the Free Congregational Society continued as distinct congregations through the early years of the 20th century, albeit with increasing financial woes and declining membership. As the Second World War approached, neither congregation had sufficient resources to ensure survival. In 1944, urged by the American Unitarian Association to merge rather than vanish, the two congregations voted to join together as the Unitarian Church of Northampton and Florence, and adopted the Northampton building as their shared address.

1950-05-01 00:00:00

Vietnam War

Prolonged conflict between Communist forces of North Vietnam, backed by China and the USSR, and non-Communist forces of South Vietnam, backed by the United States. President Truman authorizes $15 million in economic and military aid to the French, who are fighting to retain control of French Indochina, including Vietnam. As part of the aid package, Truman also sends 35 military advisers (May 1950). North Vietnamese torpedo boats allegedly attack U.S. destroyer in Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of North Vietnam (Aug. 2, 1964). Congress approves Gulf of Tonkin resolution, authorizing President Johnson to take any measures necessary to defend U.S. forces and prevent further aggression (Aug. 7). U.S. planes begin bombing raids of North Vietnam (Feb. 1965). First U.S. combat troops arrive in South Vietnam (March 8–9). North Vietnamese army and Viet Cong launch Tet Offensive, attacking Saigon and other key cities in South Vietnam (Jan.–Feb. 1968). American soldiers kill 300 Vietnamese villagers in My Lai massacre (March 16). U.S. troops invade Cambodia (May 1, 1970). Representatives of North and South Vietnam, the Viet Cong, and the U.S. sign a cease-fire agreement in Paris (Jan. 27, 1973). Last U.S. troops leave Vietnam (March 29). South Vietnamese government surrenders to North Vietnam; U.S. embassy Marine guards and last U.S. civilians are evacuated (April 30, 1975).

1950-06-25 00:00:00

Korean War

Cold war conflict between Communist and non-Communist forces on Korean Peninsula. North Korean communists invade South Korea (June 25, 1950). President Truman, without the approval of Congress, commits American troops to battle (June 27). President Truman removes Gen. Douglas MacArthur as head of U.S. Far East Command (April 11, 1951). Armistice agreement is signed (July 27, 1953).

1951-01-01 00:00:00

Rev. Nathaniel Lauriat

1954-04-01 00:00:00

Sen. McCarthy

Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy accuses army officials, members of the media, and other public figures of being Communists during highly publicized hearings (April 22–June 17). Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kans.: Landmark Supreme Court decision declares that racial segregation in schools is unconstitutional (May 17).

1956-01-01 00:00:00

Rev. Herbert Hitchen

A ten year ministry.

1961-01-01 00:00:00

Unitarianism & Universalism Consolidate

These faiths consolidate to become new religion of Unitarian Universalism through the Unitarian Universalist Association (UAA). Both religions have long histories and have contributed important theological concepts that remain central to Unitarian Universalism. Originally, all Unitarians were Christians who didn't believe in the Holy Trinity of God (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost), but in the unity, or single aspect, of God. Later, Unitarian beliefs stressed the importance of rational thinking, a direct relationship with God, and the humanity of Jesus. Universalism emerged as a Christian denomination with a central belief in universal salvation; that is, that all people will eventually be reconciled with God. Since the merger of the two denominations in 1961, Unitarian Universalism has nurtured its Unitarian and Universalist heritages to provide a strong voice for social justice and liberal religion.

1963-08-28 13:31:08

Rev. King & Pres. Kennedy

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivers his “I Have a Dream” speech before a crowd of 200,000 during the civil rights march on Washington, DC (Aug. 28). President Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Tex. (Nov. 22). He is succeeded in office by his vice president, Lyndon B. Johnson.

1965-04-12 04:15:18

Fighting racism

UU's were and are still very involved in the fight to end racism in the United States. John Haynes Holmes, a Unitarian minister and social activist at The Community Church of New York—Unitarian Universalist was among the founders of both the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909 and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), chairing the latter for a time. James J. Reeb, a minister at All Souls Church, Unitarian, in Washington, D.C. and a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was clubbed in Selma, Alabama on March 8, 1965, and died two days later of massive head trauma. Two weeks after his death, Viola Liuzzo, a Unitarian Universalist civil rights activist, was murdered by white supremacists after her participation in the protest march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The Selma to Montgomery marches for voting rights are best known as Bloody Sunday, although technically that refers only to March 7, the most violent day of the three.

1966-01-01 00:00:00

Rev. David Brown

This was a brief period of ministry between long settlements.

1968-04-04 00:00:00

Rev. King and R. Kennedy

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. (April 4). Sen. Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated in Los Angeles, Calif. (June 5–6).

1970-01-01 00:00:00

Supporting LBGT and Women's Rights

In the 1970s, Unitarian Universalists supported the rights of gay and lesbian people and published the Pentagon Papers. Unitarian Universalists have also worked to address inequities in the treatment of women and to combat racism and oppression within our faith movement.

Unitarian Society of Northampton & Florence

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