THE GOOD DOCTORS CALTHROP, APPLEBEE, AND
A Sermon by
Rev. John C. Fuller
June 1, 1969
Who are the good Drs.
Calthrop, Applebee and Argow? They are, of course, the 3rd, 4th,
and 5th ministers of May Memorial Unitarian Society, or, as it was
variously called then -- Church of the Messiah, May Memorial Church, and
Unitarian Congregational Society in Syracuse. The doctors served from 1868 to
1941, a total of 74 years -- from the end of the Civil War to the start of
World War II! Their names: Samuel Robert Calthrop. You can see a bust of him in
the little hallway at the bottom of the stairs going into the RE area. John
Henry Applebee, minister from March 8, 1911, to June 30, 1929 -- we've no bust of him. And W.
Waldemar W. Argow, minister from 1930-1941. Dr. Argow, known as The Duke
according to Dr. Reamon, died the year I came to Syracuse! The first W Stands for Wendelin, the father of
transcendental philosophy. The second W is for Waldemar, bishop of the West Goths, who in 390 A.D. carried Christianity to the pagans of the Teutonic
woods. The third W is for Weiland, father of spiritualistic interpretation of
poetry. Dr. Calthrop and Dr. Applebee were both born in England. Dr. Argow was a native, son of a Baptist minister,
and was the first Unitarian in his family for 6 generations. We now know who
they were -- a little bit of identity!
But a little bit more; to
tease you: Calthrop invented a streamlined train, 70 years before the Zephyr
steamed through Syracuse, organized the first Chess Club in America and played
blindfold; introduced tennis to Upstate New York; coached the Harvard College
varsity crew in its first race with Yale; discovered the principle that
sunspots affect weather; and said about pacifism at the start of World War I
just before he died: "Pacifism is wrong -- such reasoning is wrong and
would place us at the mercy of even a single troop!"
And Applebee -- one of his
favorite hymns was "Dear Lord & Father of Mankind." He was a son
of a minister -- Unitarian, of course. He built three new Unitarian churches:
in Buffalo, in West
Roxbury, and in Attleboro -- all within a period of 8 years. He served as an
officer of the American Red Cross in France for two years during World War I.
And Argow -- he resigned from
the Baptist Church in 1919 with these words: "I had a hard time
reconciling war with religion. The church was blessing flags, turning itself
into a recruiting center, and making a holy crusade out of the war and so I
resigned!" Alice Jordon remembers Dr. Argow once forgetting to bring his
Emerson essay for the 2nd lesson, and he had to quote him from
memory! And she noticed no difference at all!
Now today, I think there are
a few persons present who may remember Dr. Argow, or Dr. Applebee, or maybe Dr.
Calthrop. What do you recall about any of them? Alice Jordon -- did I tell it right about Dr. Argow and
In the church under Applebee
as of his first year in 1911 were: Judge Hiscock, father of Helen Eager; Salem
Hyde -- president of Trustees; Mr. &: Mrs. James G. Tracy; Mrs. F. R.
Hazard and her daughters, Sally, Dorothy, and Katherine; Mrs. Frederick Baird;
Rod Burlingame, Sr., founder of Drumlins; Mary and Elizabeth Cooper; Kate
Rockwell; Alice Jordan; Judge &: Mrs. McLennan; Harriet May Mills; George
Terzieff; and several Timmermans. Head of the Alliance was Mrs. William G. Tracy. In the Sunday School were: Helen and Marion Baird, Philip Chase, Bill,
Frazer and Carter McLennan, Helen Pennock, Gladys and Judith Timmerman, John
and Osgood Tracy.
Under Dr. Argow, 20 years
later, James Tracy was President of the Society, and his wife, Florida, is still gallantly with us. Mrs. George Cheney was
Sec. Treas.; and the Trustees included John Barker, Judge Cheney, Bruton Bump
(Dr. Calthrop' s son-in-law), Mrs. Allen Prescott
(Bill's mother), Col. Brown, Mrs. Stewart Hancock Sr., and Bill McLennan.
President of the Alice Applebee Women's Circle was Mrs. Malcolm Cummings; Mrs.
Kate Rockwell was head of the Evening Women's Alliance, and Ernest Bowden was President of the Laymen's
of the sun they travel toward the sun, and leave the vivid air signed with
But, to the good doctors! Dr.
Calthrop's ministry was the longest one in this church's history, 43 years! Calthrop
was denied his Cambridge MA because he refused to assent to the Anglican 39
Articles. He came to America and was ordained a Unitarian minister in 1860,
serving in Marblehead and Newburyport, Mass., before coming to Syracuse. He'd previously taught school in Connecticut and was a friend of Louisa May Alcott. And versatile,
most of all, describes him: preacher, scientist, lecturer, inventory, teacher,
writer and athlete! In Syracuse he held classes in botany and geology, out of which
grew the city's geology and botany clubs. He lectured on astronomy and used the
telescope given him by the congregation, which later was given to Syracuse University. He wrote both prose and poetry for periodicals. And
he was absent-minded! -- putting to bed neighbor's children, leaving his horse
at the P.O. by oversight, and most amusing, this: he'd
attended, with other prominent persons in Syracuse, a luncheon in honor of President Taft. Each person
had been given one of those buttons "WELCOME TO OUR CITY," in large
letters. After lunch Dr. Calthrop was to conduct a funeral for the brother of
one of the church members. Hurrying to the church, the good Dr. forgot to take
off his badge, and appeared with it in the pulpit! And it was appropriate,
since the dead man had died in California and had been brought here that morning for burial!
In those years there was
opposition by the orthodox and often people crossed the street to avoid
Calthrop. Yet his two favorite friends -- chess players no less -- were a Rabbi
and a Priest.
A civic monument to Dr.
Calthrop is the Syracuse Boy's Club, starting at May Memorial by the minister
for under-advantaged boys. He was a moving spirit for many things: the Sedgwick
Farms Tennis Courts, new parks and playgrounds, a welfare center during the
1893 depression, the first Boy Scout troop in the city and the Art Museum: the
last two started in May Memorial Church. He died at 88 in 1917, six years after
retirement. "Near the snow, near the sun in the highest fields, See how this name is feted by the waving grass and whispers
of wind in listening sky!"
As Samuel May followed
Channing in his thinking, so Samuel Calthrop followed Emerson -- both were
social actionists of the Theodore Parker stripe! Can you picture this
beautifully bearded, strong faced, imperious willed, great minded soul up there
in the May Memorial pulpit?
John Applebee had to succeed
him and have him as pastor emeritus for six years. Applebee had already
succeeded Calthrop once in Massachusetts. In Syracuse he was his associate for several months before
wresting control. Applebee combined, like all of us at May Memorial, church
work with community activity. He was interested in the blind, so he learned
Braille to transcribe literature. With Dr. Betts at the Universalist Church he led the Syracuse Moral Survey (I don't think we
have these anymore -- but maybe we should!) Alice Reddy Applebee, his wife,
helped start the Huntington Foundation. And John often helped at the Little
Theater. Now those were lean days for May Memorial and for Unitarianism all
over. John Applebee proposed he retire on his 60th birthday. The congregation
refused. He tried again 17 months later. Again rejected.
His poor health and sorrow over his dead wife finally persuaded the
congregation, and he retired -- living till Jan. 1938, 15 years after Alice's death.
Applebee's greatest service
to others was his over-seas Red Cross work -- to his own people it was this in
Dr. Argow's words: "Were everyone to whom he did a kindness to bring a
blossom to his bier, he would be smothered with a wilderness of flowers. Life
was rich for him because he helped to enrich life." His thoughts can be
glimpsed in his sermons on file in the archives.
And last, Dr. Argow -- he
came to Syracuse in 1930 at the tender age of 39. He had served
previously in Cedar
Rapids, Iowa, after leaving the Baptist ministry and working round
the clock in the flu epidemic of 1918 -- then at the 23rd Street Y in New York City as director of social and religious education. Argow
was a man of great honesty and humanity. He had a quick, deep mind, and was
appointed a member of the “Institute Litteraire et Artistique de France” in
During his first eight years
here he preached 446 sermons, addressed 649 audiences, made 3500 parish calls
(ministers don't call on parishioners anymore, I hear!), wrote 544 articles and
attended 770 committee meetings! (I lost count after my 8th week
here!). In the community the Duke was active in the Health Association, the
Mayor's Committee on Recreational Facilities, and the group that launched
Pioneer Homes. He also wrote for Unity and
Living Age. He was interested
in paleontology, in fishing, in furniture making, and in rebuilding an old
farmhouse. Under him the church revived, right in the midst of the depression.
One of the loveliest of customs he introduced was the Moravian Christmas Eve
Candlelight Service -- a picture of it is in the archives.
After leaving here in 1941 he
went to Baltimore where he was preacher from the Channing
"Unitarian Christianity" pulpit. I inherited several of his members
when the Martin Co. set up shop in Florida in the 1950's, and did he work his congregation hard!
In Baltimore he was a director of the ACLU and the UN Association;
and was Vice-Chairman of Maryland's Inter-Racial Commission.
In Syracuse he had been the arbitrator for Crucible Steel and the
CIO. His son, Waldemar Argow, is a Unitarian minister today -- in Toledo, I think. Argow’s religious
philosophy? It was in part devotional, in part impatience for justice --
a rather good Unitarian mixture! You can hear the mixture in "Victorious
Living," the 1941 Unitarian Meditation Manual. Or read his "The
Challenge of an Inheritance," the Anniversary Sermon at the Centennial of
May Memorial on October 16, 1938.
Dr. Argow died a month before
I moved to Syracuse, in August 1961. No successor up till the present has
been a theological doctor!
The good Drs. Calthrop,
Applebee, and Argow -- May Memorial Society from 1868 to 1941: "The names
of those who in their lives fought for life, who were at their hearts the
fire's center. Born of the sun, they traveled a short while towards the sun,
and left the vivid air signed with their honor." "God's
unsurrendered; so am I! Therefore I live, communicate with hope. I'll light my
candle and I dream!” (Argow 1938)
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