History of the First Universalist Church
New Madison, Ohio

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Rev. Marion Crosley

Rev Lotta Crosley


December 29, 1901---completion and dedication of the new brick church.

The Reverend J. S. Cantwell D.D. of Chicago, Ill., associate with former minister, the Rev. William Tucker, gave the dedication sermon. The Rev. Dr. J. S. Cantwell (who died at Chicago December 1907) was a prominent minister, scholar, author, and editor in the Universalist denomination. He was the Western Editor of the Universalist Leader, official magazine of the denomination, published in Boston, Mass. The Church was probably able to obtain such a prominent speaker because his brother lived in Covington, Miami County, Ohio. The Rev. Thomas S. Guthrie who gave the first sermon in the frame church now gave the first prayer in this new church.

With a membership of 250 people, the church was a thriving and bustling body of members. It even had a church band that played at church services and in community events.

June 10 & 11, 1915---The church sponsored a benefit held on the lst floor of Knights of Pythias (now Masonic Hall) and opera house with the cooperation of about 18 merchants.

In this time of our history the following happened:

1903, 1916, and 1922—--Hosted the Ohio State Convention.

In 1922, 131 delegates attended.

1898, 1907, 1912, 1917, 1921---Hosted the Montgomery Association annual meeting

This is the second known photograph of the church.
This photo was before electric and telephone lines.
It is reported that the street was dirt, probably an oiled street.
This picture was taken from a Postal Card. Date is unknown.
The Good Shepherd and the Parable of the Sower Windows are in place.

Large View

Ensuing Ministers:

This list is subject to revision. Each of the two lists in Garst Museum and one from Mr. Kenneth Baker differ.  Each list includes or omits names or the order differs. 

I know of no way to propose an accurate list.

James A. Stoner (see photo above) born April 21, 1849 in Miami County, Indiana; died December 7, 1913 in Eaton, Ohio, age 64. buried at Springlawn Cemetery, New Paris, Ohio.  He attended Smithson College, Logansport, Ind. and Indiana State Normal School at Terre Haute and Buchtel College (Universalist) in Akron, Ohio; pastorate in New Madison was September 17, 1903 August 1908. Since he conducted a series of as a week in New Madison just before he died. Indicates that he continued active with our church. He was a farmer, school teacher, minister, scholar, and Universalist Church Historian in Midwest. Ordained at Junction City, Kansas 1889.  He organized several churches in that state, 8 in Ohio, and 2 in Indiana.

Edward H. Barrett-- March 21, 1909—March 1910; born New Harmony, Indiana May 2, 1858, educated at United Christian College and Meadville and ordained by Christians 1898. 1909 joined the Universalists.

Henry Brown

Arthur Roberts 1915---December 1916

Eden Mumford

***W.R. ROWLAND January 7, 1917—October 1920; Dr. Rowland was the first minister ordained in the New Madison Church Nov. 20, 1917 by the Ohio State Convention. Prayer by Harry Clark (Licensed preacher of the Friends); Sermon by Henry Clay Ledyard; Charge to candidate, Rev. Ed. Stevens; Charge to people, Rev. Francis Britton Bishop (State Superintendent); Welcome to Ministry, Rev. S.M. Bennett of Christian Church. 250+ attended and a very fine musical program rendered by the choir.

During his ministry of World War I-- the church was present at the train station presenting Bibles to each young man as he boarded the train to be off to military service. Some of these Bibles are still in circulation as family heirlooms.

Robert Marshall Rice  July to September 3, 1923 a student.

William G. Stockton  October 1923--1924  came from another denomination.

Thomas Milton Murray July 25, 1925 December 1927, had been Superintendent of the Universalist Churches of Kentucky.

Robert Marshall Rice

Thomas Chapman June 1928---September 1929

James Houghton April 1931—August 1931

George Henry Wood  June 1934---November 1938

November 1938---during the pastorate of the Reverend George Wood, the Universalist Church was forced to close its doors as a result of the depression and the general movement of people away from farms and villages to the larger cities.  It is known that a sizable portion of the Dayton Unitarian Church on Salem Street had members from the New Madison and Eldorado Universalist Churches. Though there were no church services, yet the Sunday School continued for several years. The Ladies’ Social served the community for twelve more years.  The Board of Trustees continued to meet regularly without interruption.Since there was never a time without an organized Universalist organization, the Universalist presence in New Madison was unabated.

Through these ensuing years one person stands prominently. There was a very ardent Universalist by the name of Mary Goodyear.  She worked most diligently in keeping Universalism alive with a handful of others as Zelma Brown, Myrlene Barton, etc. were faithful in regular meetings at homes in maintaining the Women's Universalist group earning money to pay the insurance and such other necessities to keep a Universalist presence in this community.  To reopen the church, she went door to door to scan the community opinion and obtain donations to pay for the church's reopening.  She labored through the years of Frank Gentile and Wells Behee’s ministries to promote the church. Sometimes she was a thorn in our sides as she was an old time Universalist, a little too conservative for these young ministers fresh from theological school. However, she has to be commended and respected.  Her heart was good!!!

Mary served as secretary of the church and had in her possession all the old church records except a few which were in a bank vault. Mary aged and died.  Her one daughter, Dolly,  living in Florida, settled Mary's estate.  She came home and started pitching.  She cared nothing about the church and threw out all of the records in Mary's possession. Hence there has been much effort in the struggle to reconstuct a modicum of our history.

March 7, 1941---the Evangelical United Brethern Church burned and was totally destroyed.  The Universalist Church members invited the E.U.B. Church to our church for their services for the following 3 years and 4 months while their new church was under construction.

1952-- The American Legion made offers to purchase the church from the Universalist Church of Ohio.  Many people in the community resisted the expressed interest in the purchase. As a result, a survey was made to identify interest in New Madison for the continuation of the Universalist Church. Several appeals for action of the former members and supporters of the Church were made in November. December 18th, a major survey of New Madison was conducted and pledges of money were received.  Sufficient interest was found, and the Universalist Church of Ohio proceeded to support development of our church. 

June 14, 1953---The Church reopened by the will of the people under the guidance of the Reverend Donald K. Evans D.D., Superintendent of the Universalist Church of Ohio and with the assistance of the Reverend Frank Gentile of the Eldorado Universalist Church.  Services were held at the schoolhouse during reorganization and refurbishment of the church. The Universalist Convention of Ohio loaned the church $3000 at 3% interest for the project.

Minister-----Frank D. Gentile January 1953---mid-summer 1953.

During this period, the broken stained glass windows were repaired.  The walls were replastered and painted.  The building was thoroughly cleaned of accumulated dirt and fallen plaster caused by the years of disuse.  The floors and pews were sanded, varnished, and polished.  The walls and ceilings were painted.  The restrooms were installed.  The new altar was created by Mr. Herbert Ketring to include a set of monoral Hi Fidelity speakers designed by the Rev. Frank Gentile. Carpeting in the sanctuary was laid. The reredos drape behind the altar was hung. The church buzzed with cleaning and construction crews for several months.

Summer of 1953--- Mr. Wells Behee, a 5th generation Universalist, born New York State, graduate of St. Lawrence University, Master of Divinity degree from St. Lawrence Theological School, Canton, New York, was called to serve the church.  He commenced serving the church in September 1953.

Rev. Wells Behee

Mary Behee

Herbert Ketring built the new pulpit just in time for the forthcoming Ordination Service.  It was constructed for the height of Mr. Behee. At his request, the desktop was dropped three inches below the pulpit rim to make books and papers less obvious.

****November 1, 1953---The Congregation performed the highest honor granted to a church to perform the rite of ordination by the Universalist Church of America to ordain Wells E. Behee to the Universalist ministry. The Reverend Doctor Donald K. Evans, the boyhood minister of Wells Behee in his hometown church of Middleport, Niagara County, New York,  performed the Act of Ordination, and Mary Goodyear, Moderator of the Congregation, represented the congregants in the ceremonies.  Many other members of the congregation enthusiastically participated in the program and refreshments following the Service.  Marie Larson, personal friend of Wells and Mary sang the solo “How Beautiful Upon the Mountains”---Harker, composer. Representatives from many Ohio churches were present filling the church to overflowing.

Fall of 1953---At a congregational meeting, the following logo was adopted as the symbol for the First Universalist Church of New Madison.

The ancient Lamp of Wisdom
The purifying Flame of Knowledge
The Circle of Love encompassing all people and beliefs

++++June 16, 17,18, 1955—the 130th Annual Convention of the Universalist Church of Ohio met at the New Madison Universalist Church.  The Reverend Wells E. Behee, the host minister, presented the Convention Sermon and conducted the Convention Communion Service. Mr. Alan Sawyer, President of the Universalist Church of America and presiding officer of the Council of Liberal Churches was the featured guest speaker.  The Reverend Doctor Donald Evans, Superintendent of the Universalist Church of Ohio supervised the Convention.  The President and presiding officer of the convention was The Reverend Phillips Thayer of North Olmsted, Ohio who conducted the business meetings.

During Wells’ ministerial service with the New Madison Universalist Church: (1) the church grew to a regular Sunday attendance of 60 adults.
(2) The Church School grew to an average attendance of 60 children per Sunday
(3) There were 4 choirs led by Mrs. Harriette West
(4) Two youth groups of the Liberal Religious Youth Juniors and Seniors met weekly.
(5) 80 children of the community attended summer Vacation School.
(6) The church organ was purchased from subscriptions.
(7) “The Leaf” and later “The Circle“ a weekly newsletter was mailed to 220 associates of the church was instituted.
(8) The Association of Universalist Women (AUW) grew to exceed 35 women.
(9) A committee on Separation of Church and State struggled and won in keeping the Darke County Christian Ministerial Association sponsored religious classes from our elementary school.
(10) The ladies of the church served dinners to the Kiwanis Club.
(11) The stairway to the basement was relocated.
(12) Refurbishing the basement walls with plasterboard,
(13) installation of a wholly new kitchen. 
(14) A new hot water central heating system to replace the old coal gravity furnace was installed.
(15) landscaping of the front lawn with a stone wall eliminating the sloping and grassless front lawn, donated by Mr. & Mrs. Frank Noggle, honorarium
(16) new cement sidewalks replaced bricks which were buckled by thick tree roots
(17) new front doors,
(18) A lighted outdoor signboard was erected.
(19) With several carillon advertising magazines in hand, Mr. Behee was called to Kentucky to the home of Lola Lawrence to arrange with her and her lawyer for a codicil in her will for a set of electronic carillons be installed in the church as a memorial.
(20) Conducted  several series of Sunday evening Town Meetings which drew many people to the church and finally into membership.
(21) And we had a volleyball team which played other churches.  We had a grand time playing even though we won no games
(22) Herb Ketring manufactured the pulpit in his workshop to be ready for the Ordination Service November 1, 1953
(23) A set of temporary and moveable steps from floor level to altar level of the Sanctuary was erected.
(24) The church members decorated floats to be in the New Madison School Fair Parade. One year, we won 1st place and a grand prize of $25 over seven other floats.
(25) Wells Behee was Scoutmaster of the Boys Scouts sponsored by the Kiwanis Club.
(26) In 1959, we  had a grand weekend celebration of the centennial of our church. The State Superintendent of Ohio Churches, The Rev. Donald K. Evans, and eight other ministers from  surrounding Universalist and Christian churches attended and participated in the program. Mrs. Elsie Newhall, mother of Mary Behee, wrote an original script for a play presenting the history of the church. The members of our congregation enacted it. The church was overflowing with old-time members, friends, and visitors from several States.
The cornerstone was opened. The congregation displayed the contents for examination during the services and throughout the weekend celebration.
The willingness and eagerness of a great many dedicated workers and donors to the church made such great changes in the appearance, the comfort, and the inspirational spiritual uplift possible.
The cooperation of an enthusiastic congregation helped to make the Reverend Mr. Behee’s ministry so very successful.

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