Ideas Related to the Archives

And the

Sam May Plaque


Roger Hiemstra

October 11, 2005


Additional Recommendations (see my January 23 report)


In the July 13 MMUUSletter, John mentioned that number one on a list of big tasks during an interim period is “Coming to terms with history.” Although the more recent history may have been uppermost in John’s mind, the rich history of MMUUS extends back nearly 170 years with the Sam May legacy forever serving as a standard bearer. Thus, historical and archival research can play an important role in helping the church as it moves forward. In that regard, I have some additional recommendations for us to consider:


1. Establish a committee of people willing to volunteer time and talent in history and archival preservation for the church, including interviews of numerous elderly MMUUS members.

2. Follow-up on Alexa Carter’s idea that the New York Board of Universalists may have money to train people interested in archival and historical preservation of church materials.

3. Use the church web page to publish information and resulting scholarly work related to archival and historical preservation.

4. Move quickly to better preserve material stored in the Memorial Room and loft.


Sam May Plaque


The fortuitous or kismetic “rediscovery” of the Sam May plaque this past June (see Attachment A) gives us a wonderful opportunity to build positively on our exciting history and “reclaim” his legacy in some visible ways. In that regard, here are some recommendations for us to consider:


  1. A small committee be formed in the near future to develop one or more recommendations for redisplaying the plaque on or near the current church building. It is my hope that this committee could complete its work before December 1, 2005 (we may want to look at the plaque during our October 12 meeting).
  2. A date be set for displaying the plaque and a rededication service or ceremony planned to coincide with this date.
  3. One or more sermons or talks by John and/or others be given related to the rededication activities. For example, the Memoir of Samuel Joseph May by Thomas Mumford as noted in the MMUUS web page, the Samuel J. May link (the associated University of Michigan archival link is;idno=ABJ1200.0001.001), is loaded with numerous sermon and talk possibilities as are other related links on the MMUUS web page.
  4. Various religions education activities be organized related to the plaque, our connection to Sam May, and any rededication services.
  5. A number of past members and other interested people be invited to rededication activities, such as the following:

a.       Jean M. Hoefer, co-author of May No One Be A Stranger: 150 Years of Unitarian Presence in Syracuse, asked that she be invited to any related activities.

b.      Irene Baros-Johnson, co-author of May No One Be A Stranger: 150 Years of Unitarian Presence in Syracuse, also asked that she be invited to any related activities if someone can provide housing for her (she is an Unitarian minister living in Halifax with her husband, John, who is minister of the Halifax UU church – both were ministerial interns at May during the eighties).

c.       One or more of the Onondaga Historical Society people who helped in identifying and notifying us about the plaque.

d.      Rev. Frank Carpenter, St. John's Unitarian Universalist Church, Cincinnati, Ohio, who gave a sermon on Sam May at MMUUS on March 9, 2003.

e.       The Rev. Elizabeth Strong, Boston, past Minister of Religious Education at MMUUS, who had a long interest in Sam May.

f.        The Rev. Scott Taylor of the First Unitarian Church of Rochester who maintained a long interest in the Sam May heritage.

g.       A relative of Sam May who contacted me about the web page a couple of years ago (I will have to do some research to find this person).

h.       Unitarian Universalist ministers and leaders in our district, as well as at the national office, who may have an interest in a rededication service.

i.         Various members of the media.


Attachment A

Newsletter Article

July 20, 2005


An exciting and memorable time for May Memorial is here. On page 17 of Jean Hoefer and Irene Baros-Johnson’s May No One Be A Stranger, they described how a marble tablet honoring Sam May was installed in our old James Street church in 1885. It was subsequently removed when the building was sold in 1963 but as Jean and Irene note, its location was unknown.


Then kismet or good fortune intervened 42 years later. The Onondaga Historical Association’s Research Center was sold in June (2005) and as they were clearing out the building, the tablet was found. Its discovery was relayed to church members and several volunteers hauled the Tablet to MMUUS. Although broken when it was found, it can still send shivers down the spine. A new display area and rededication ceremony are in the works for 2006. To see a photo of the tablet, click here.