Beginning in January, articles related to our history under the heading “Marvelous History Corner!” were included in the church newsletter as another means for informing church parishioners and friends about and generating interest in our history. They are shown below. The date shown after each number is when it was written. It was published in the next church newsletter after that date.
1. (1/1/06) I wasn’t quite sure why I agreed to become church archivist. Yes, I love history and like to dig through old books and papers. I also knew some help was needed. When recently going through all the MMUUS archival materials stored at Syracuse University to understand what was there, I found the real answer. Reading through the Sam May file folders, Rev. May mentioned several times working with William Ingersoll Bowditch in his various abolition and underground railroad activities (there is a William Bowditch house in Brookline, Massachusetts, preserved because of its extensive use as an underground railroad stop). In September our daughter married Sean Bowditch, so I asked his mother (who had done research on the family) and, lo and behold, Sean’s great-great-great-great uncle is William. So, with six degrees of separation Janet and I can claim a direct connection to Sam May. How is that for a resounding confirmation of why I volunteered and it shows the enjoyment that can come from understanding MMUUS history? Look for a table in the social hall on January 15 where some of our historical documents will be on display and dream about your own connections to our past. Think, too, about volunteering to help preserve our history. There are many ways you can help. Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
2. (1/18/06) “The Book” has been preserved electronically! Yes, that red ledger everyone signs when agreeing to become a member has been preserved through Bob Burdick’s great digital photography skill. From that first page starting with Joshua Leonard and several others who “signed” (those first few year’s worth of names were actually copied over) on September 3, 1838, to those many pages later when seven people signed the book on November 20, 2005, the book has now been photographed. So, give Bob a pat on the back or “thanks” when next you see him.
We now have a new web page related to MMUUS history. It is temporarily located on another server until our webmaster has an opportunity to put it on the church server. If you are interested you can see it at /simulationpage.html If you enjoy a stimulating sermon, you will find several of them from our past settled ministers (and from favorite daughter, Rev. Elizabeth Padgham) you can link to. If you find time to read them, tell me your favorite. I’ll keep a running tally and provide the results later. Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
3. (2/2/06) It has been a real joy and very informative to journey through the ten boxes of material MMUUS already has stored in the Syracuse University archives unit. I am a little over half way through and keep discovering exciting “nuggets” that have helped me feel even more a part of the glorious history that is May Memorial. We, as an institution, as well as each of our past ministers (and many past church members), have made tremendous contributions to the greater Syracuse area and beyond.
On Sunday, February 19, there will be another History display in the Social Hall after the church service. Plan to see it. In addition to some more historical artifacts and another annual scrapbook from many years ago, come see a picture of the most handsome minister we ever had, Rev. Albert Willard Clark, associate pastor of May Memorial, 1902-1904. Look, too, for a special display on Rev. Dr. Samuel Robert Calthrop, our minister from 1868 to 1911. Outstanding preacher, scientist, poet, and athlete, he made a huge mark in Syracuse. Don’t miss it! A brief display on our former church locations and buildings will be included. Also on display will be a copy of The Children’s Bible, signed by our sixth minister, Rev. Robert Romig, and former RE Director, Dr. Elizabeth Manwell. These bibles were given to all children in the 1940s. It was recently donated by a former member.
Remember, too, the temporary web page that provides photos, information, and links to sermons for all past settled parish ministers, Rev. Elizabeth Padgham (MMUUS’ favorite daughter), and Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Strong, our Minister of Religious Education from 1988 to 2001 and our first settled woman minister. You can see it at the following URL: /simulationpage.html Finally, look for a handout describing the various ways you can volunteer to be part of preserving our history. Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
4. (2/22/06) We are proud to announce that MMUUS has won a small grant ($3200) from the New York State Convention of Universalists to help with preservation of our church archives during the next 12 months. This grant will enable us to purchase archival quality file cabinets, acid free storage containers, archival quality memory scrapbooks, and other archival supplies. In addition, there will be some financial support for the repair and mounting of the Sam May marble tablet. Look for a rededication service later this year. Finally, we will be able to purchase some equipment for obtaining an oral history of church memories from people long associated with the church. Volunteers will be welcome for some of these activities.
We also have an archival committee (George Adams, June Card, Mary Louise Edwards, Frank Healy, and Harsey Leonard) that will work with me to develop a record management policy and implement procedures for gathering and preserving information related to the ongoing history of MMUUS. Look for our efforts in the near future.
Finally, if you have not recently looked at the temporary web site I developed on our church history (/simulationpage.html), you are invited to do so as much of the material shown in both the January and February history displays have been included. Remember, too, to read some of the outstanding sermons by past ministers that you can link to from this web site. Our web master, Bob Schulz, will soon incorporate all this information in our church web site. A final note: If you have any church-related historical material, contact me to see if it should be included in either the archives at May Memorial or in the archival collection stored at Syracuse University.
Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
5. (3/06/06) We have had some prestigious ancestors. You have already been introduced to Rev. Elizabeth Padgham, our favorite daughter. She and her sister, Clara, were accomplished musicians. From an August, 1879, newspaper clipping, it was noted that Elizabeth played “Hebe” in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Good Ship Pinafore” at the old Weiting Opera House in Syracuse. At age 5 and known as “Baby Padgham,” she had a “strong voice and was a thoroughly self-possessed little performer.” She was in several other types of performances and operettas growing up and continuing in musical activities in college. Her father, Amos, who “signed the book” in 1884, was a County Supervisor, and was first elected to our church Board of Trustees in 1889.
Another early leader was Dudley Phelps, who joined the church in 1839. He was a member of the New York Assembly in 1855. He was early opposed to slavery and was a delegate to the 1848 Free Soil Convention in Buffalo. The Free Soil Party was a short-lived U.S. political party (1840-1856) that was opposed to the extension of slavery into any of the then existing U.S. territories. Frank Hiscock, who also became a member in 1884, was a prominent Onondaga County Judge. He was an active member of our Board of Trustees from 1919 into the 1930s.
Finally, there is John Wilkinson who became a member of the church in 1839 and was instrumental in its early development. John was Syracuse’s first lawyer, first Post Master, and instrumental in bringing railroads to the Syracuse area. He also came up with the name “Syracuse” for the town, suggesting it based on his knowledge of Syracusa in Italy. His wife, Laura Starr Wilkinson, was an early home economist (called then Domestic Economy) and helped form the first professional home economics association, the National Columbian Household Association, in 1893. One of Sam May’s daughters married a Wilkinson son. Many of you know Jack Wilkinson who graced our church halls for many years, a direct descendent of John. Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
6. (4/4/06) Those who attended our Sam May Day service on March 26 heard a wonderful presentation by David Kaczynski. You also heard how fervently Rev. May expressed his own views against the death penalty, with the six reasons why capital punishment should be abolished from his July 25, 1851, New York Daily Tribune article. The more you learn about Sam, the more you realize how fortunate we were to have his heritage as such an important part of our church history.
Thus, in the Sam May web page are three new items for your reading pleasure. One is a wonderful thesis written in 1964 by Catherine Covert Stepanek entitled, Saint Before His Time: Samuel J. May and American Educational Reform, showing another important aspect of Sam’s many contributions to Syracuse. Irene Blakeslee is converting it to a digital format so our Webmaster, Bob Schulz, can include it. Thanks Irene and Bob. Another is a paper also written by Catherine, entitled, Heretic in Syracuse: Samuel Joseph May, 1845-1871. The third is an address by Catherine given in this church on February 13, 1972, entitled, The Remarkable Mr. May. Dr. Stepanek’s executrix, her daughter Carolyn Holmes, has kindly given us permission to include these three documents on our web page.
Incidentally, Carolyn also loaned me a copy of the Life of Samuel J. May that her mother owned. This book, a memoir, was published in 1873. It makes for great reading and although I have only read parts of it, I have already learned so much new about the amazing Sam May. I will share some excerpts at a later date. Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
7. (4/17/06) Many who read this newsletter think fondly about several past and present social activities: Friday Night Pub, square dancing, talent shows, potlucks, concerts, potlucks, Garnet Hill ski weekend, etc.. Such socializing opportunities are very important and help make attending MMUUS so wonderful. But, socializing has been very important since this church was formed. In 1838 through the latter part of the 19th Century, Syracuse was dominated by Calvinists. Presbyterian principles ruled and most of the leading people were Presbyterian. In many ways it was stifling for our ancestors and the Calvinists simply refused to associate with us because we would not accept Trinitarian beliefs. The archives contain reports of how being with each other became crucial. Thus was born lovely and lively Unitarian social evenings of food, entertainment, games, and conversations, church hallmarks that have continued for nearly 12 decades.
Here is the origin of “chore boy” mentioned during the Sam May Day service. It is from the Memoir of Samuel Joseph May, Thomas Mumford (Ed.), Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1873 (available online at http://www.hti.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=moa;idno=ABJ1200), p. 232, and attributed to Transcendentalist Amos Bronson Alcott (http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/transcendentalism/ authors/alcott/), Sam’s brother-in-law: “Mr. A. B. Alcott was once at Syracuse when Mr. May was engaged from morning until night in errands of mercy, -- visiting the sick, burying the dead, helping fugitive slaves and canal boys, and prisoners who wish to reform. When he reached home at evening, and was drawing off the boots from his weary feet, Mr. Alcott said: ‘I have found a new name for you. You are the Lord’s chore boy. You do the Lord’s chores.’ ” Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
8. (5/10/06) Florida Tracy, an active member of May Memorial during much of the first half of the 20th Century, was a fount of information about our church. Her involvement, observations, and memory are recorded in many places throughout the archives. Here are some of her remembrances. During WWI, May Memorial was the first church in Syracuse to provide recreational activities for soldiers of the U.S. Army’s Rainbow Division (part of the New York National Guard and 42nd Division, the first Division sent to Europe in 1918 to support French troops) being trained in the Syracuse area and camped at the State Fair grounds, known as “Camp Syracuse.” Six days a week in the church dining room from noon to the evening we provided a free cafeteria service with church women serving as hostesses. Showers were installed in the cellar and our church President at that time, Irving Merrill, taught literacy classes in arithmetic. WWI affected us in other ways, too. Our minister during the time period, Rev. Dr. John Henry Applebee, took a leave to serve as a Red Cross Chaplin. This war service on battlefields and in hospitals undermined his health. On his return he found that his wife, Alice, was suffering from cancer and died after much suffering. He never really recovered.
The Women’s Alliance, an active church women’s group during this time period and up into the 60s, carried out a number of community service activities. For example, each year the Alliance provided a noontime Christmas dinner and entertainment on the last day of school before the holiday for 75 to 100 of the poorest first and second graders in two nearby public schools. Eventually as the need for a meal lessened, it morphed into the “Mitten Tree,” a traditional still carried on today. Church sewing groups also provided clothes and bandages for the Red Cross to use and after both world wars this energy went to producing clothing for refugee babies. As can be expected, and I am talking to the men of the church now, where would we all be without the tireless efforts, great energy, and super leadership of May Memorial women. Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
9. (5/17/06) May Memorial has been blessed throughout its history, and continuing right up until today, to have had many pillars that step up, often very quietly, to take on important and/or needed roles in the church. From unsigned material in the archives, someone provided testimony to two such people in our past. The first was Dr. Marion Sylvester Dooley, an active member during the first part of the last century, who made it a life long habit to visit people when they were ill. Many people in our church were sustained by visits from Dr. Dooley and his wife. A doctor of medicine, for many years he was Professor and Head of the Department of Pharmacology at the Syracuse College of Medicine. He wrote some valued books related to pharmacology and drug therapy during the 30s and 40s. He was President of our Laymen’s League, a member of the Board of Trustees, and Chair of the Unitarian Service Committee. All members of his family were active church members, too.
Miss Elizabeth Ann Lewis was thought of as a saint, tireless worker, and premier thinker in our church and our denomination regarding religious education. She was director of our church school during the twenties and introduced liberal textbooks and liberal teaching in the curriculum. She worked cooperatively with a few other advanced thinkers in the Unitarian church to influence the direction of curriculum building committee at our national headquarters. She also taught numerous adult education courses in our church. She helped provide leadership for our lending library, the social action committee, and neighborhood discussion groups active during that time. She was very active in the greater Syracuse community, too. MMUUS’ heritage is so rich because of people like Marion and Elizabeth. It makes me proud to be part of this wonderful institution.
Finally, if you have not looked at the Sam May link on our web page, there are four new pieces there about Sam. Two from historian, Dr. Catherine Covert Stepanek, and two sermons from Rev. Richard (Rick) R. Davis, First Unitarian Society of Salem (Oregon). All four are terrific and you certainly will gain new insight into Rev. May’s life. Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
10. (6/6/06) The Other Sam – Our third minister was Rev. Dr. Samuel Robert Calthrop, a minister for 43 years (1868-1911) and pastor emeritus after that. Rev. Calthrop was truly a renaissance man. See /simulationpage.html and /backwardglance.html for more information and a marble bust of Sam stands in the little foyer just before entering the RE area.
Born in England, he entered Cambridge at the age of 19 where he excelled. However, he refused to sign 39 Articles of the Anglican church faith required by the university which prevented his graduation and eventually led him to the United States and Unitarianism. He was an excellent scientist having patented a streamlined train, discovered numerous sunspots, and learned to predict the weather. He lectured in our church and elsewhere on a wide variety of topics beyond religion such as astronomy, botany, financial management, flowers, geology, physical training needs, and even raising tomatoes. He was a personal friend of Sir Isaac Newton and Susan B. Anthony. Like his predecessor, Sam May, he was very interested in education and youth. A teacher prior to becoming a pastor, he organized the Syracuse Boys’ Club, established the first playgrounds in Syracuse, and even taught at Syracuse University.
Dr. Calthrop was a very physically fit individual most of his life. Tall, with a big frame, and a great white beard, he was an expert boxer in his younger days, and skilled at billiards, crew, cricket, hockey, rowing, and tennis. His true passion was chess where he was known as one of the best in the country by winning local and state championships. He beat opponents while playing blindfolded and by playing several at the same time. Able to quote verbatim from Greek and Latin Classics, he was widely published, a gifted poet, and a sought after orator. All of this while maintaining his pastorate here and being well loved and respected by both May Memorial church members and people throughout Syracuse. Renaissance man, indeed. Wow, were we lucky or what.
Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
11. (6/26/06) As most who read this newsletter know by now, the marble tablet honoring Sam May that was in the James Street church, once thought lost, was found. It will be repaired, hung on the southwest outside wall of the church, and dedicated on October 1. An exciting and meaningful time for us, so I’m ruminating just a bit more on our beloved Rev. May.
In many ways, Sam was always ahead of his time. He helped found the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. Hear the power, poignancy, and even irony in his words when he spoke on May 8, 1834, at the 1st anniversary meeting of that Society in NYC: “By the laws which sustain slavery, millions of human beings are held as chattels. Yes . . . they are driven along the streets of Washington, with less liberty than cattle, in the sight of that proud capital, where the national flag is flying, and where so many fine things are said in the favor of liberty.” He spoke with such fervor for years throughout the Northeast and was mobbed five times for the voice he refused to quiet. No wonder he brought that fire here and eventually was front and center in the “Jerry Rescue” saga. As our own Rev. John Fuller said in a 1966 sermon about Dr. May and the Jerry rescue, “He was a man on fire for the freedom of all men, on fire for righteousness, on fire especially for his poor brothers in slavery.”
He was ahead of his times in so many other ways, too. You know of his stance against the death penalty, but did you know that in 1826 at age 29 he founded one of the earliest Peace Societies in the U.S., the Windham County (Connecticut) Peace Society. When he was President of the Syracuse Board of Education he abolished corporal punishment. Peace, forgiveness, and do no harm obviously were part of his lifelong motto. One can go on and on about our Sam May, so once that marble tablet is in place, walk by occasionally and thank him for being who he was. Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
12. (8/9/06) History Committee members have been involved in various preservation activities this summer. For example, George Adams is inventorying our many files, folders, and boxes; Harsey Leonard is retrieving images from slides and other media. Mary Louise Edwards and I are removing acid from old papers and preparing material to be stored at Syracuse University. It is hard work at times, but most enjoyable, and we keep learning more about our wonderful history. We do need more help so please volunteer some time.
I can’t resist sharing one of the items Harsey retrieved from an old microfilm. Someone photographed old scrapbooks years ago and many delightful items have come alive. Let me take you back to yesteryear, near the birth of our beloved church. The year is 1862 and this delightful piece shows up in the local newspaper:
The Ladies of the
will repeat their entertainment
“An Evening with Dickens,”
In Wieting Hall
On Monday Evening, Feb. 3, 1862
1. Tableau – The Soldiers Dream.
2. Pantomime Ballad – Mistletoe Bough.
3. From Dombey & Son – [and it goes on from there for 13 acts]
Admission 25 cents – Children 15 cents
Can’t you just picture people from throughout Syracuse coming out to watch the Unitarian ladies and their entertainment activities? As Big Russ would say (for those who have read Tim Russert’s Big Russ and Me), “what a country” and what a city where Unitarians can entertain people of varying faiths with material from Dickens. It must have been something! Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
13. (8/29/06) On September 12 we can celebrate the 209th anniversary of Sam May’s birth. Not necessarily a special occasion, but nearing his birth date prompted me to read through an inspirational little book, In Memoriam. Samuel Joseph May. This book was published in 1871 a few months after Rev. May’s death, July 1, 1871. A committee consisting of Rev. Samuel Caltrop and several church members and friends (Mr. C. D. B. Mills, Mr. D. P. Phelps, Mr. H. N. White, Mrs. Mary E. Bagg, and Mrs. Rebecca J. Burt) prepared and published this testimony to the life of Sam May. It will be scanned and added to the church web page in the near future.
Just reading about the July 6 funeral service brings both tears to the eyes as well as renewed awe regarding the many lives that Sam touched. Many people participated in the service, some traveling long distances to do so. This from the address of Mr. William Lloyd Garrison, publisher of the very respected anti-slavery newspaper, the Liberator, sums up well the sentiment expressed in many ways that day: “I have lost a most affectionate and unswerving friend, an early and untiring co-worker in the broad field of freedom and humanity, a brother beloved incomparably beyond all blood relationship. Syracuse has lost one of its most useful and esteemed citizens; the nation one of the worthiest of its sons; the world one of the purest, most philanthropic, most divinely actuated of all its multitudinous population.” Happy birthday, Sam, and thanks for gracing our church and our community with your devoted service.
One of Rev. May’s least touted contributions, but, perhaps, one of his most important, was his untiring championing of better education for the youth of our community and our country. Historian Catherine Covert wrote a well researched and delightful Master’s thesis on her way to a PhD in History and distinguished teaching career at SU: Saint Before His Time: Samuel J. May and American Educational Reform. Thanks to the able assistance of Irene Blakeslee in converting a photocopy of this 1964 document to a digital format and the permission of Catherine’s daughter, this wonderful document is now on the Sam May web page along with two other of Dr. Covert’s pieces related to Sam May ( http://www.mmuus.org/who-we-are/history/sjmay.html ). They are highly recommended reading for anyone interested in education.
Finally, put the afternoon of October 1 on your calendar as we rededicate the Sam May Memorial Marble Tablet that hung on the wall of our former James Street church. More details will follow later. Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
14. (9/17/06) I just love it when an article sort of writes itself. On September 12 Janet and I were election inspectors for the primary. Where I was assigned, one of my fellow inspectors was an 81 year old man by the name of Walt Slagle. I thought nothing of the name, but during our nine hours together I mentioned my involvement with May Memorial. He then proceeded to tell me that he used to attend May Memorial at the former James Street church. He taught Sunday School as soon as he was old enough and he fondly remembers riding in 1941 with a carload of May Memorial boys driven by Reginald Manwell (Hank’s dad) to a Rowe, Vermont, Unitarian church for a youth conference. He remembers most fondly Rev. Robert Romig (our minister from 1941 to 1946) who he said was a wonderful man.
But here is where the fun began. I knew I should know that name. Then he told me that his Mom was May Slagle and it all “clicked.” I remember her name from pouring over old documents, but some who read this newsletter will remember May as a long time and indispensable office manager of May Memorial. As noted in May No One Be A Stranger (p. 45) “in the minds of many church school children who heard their parents mention May Slagle, she, not the minister from 100 years ago, was the source of the church name.” May was one of the most active of all our volunteers in the school lunch program the church sponsored and ran during WWII. She edited the church newsletter, for many years, too. She retired in 1974 and died in May (what other month could it be) of 1978 at the age of 85. Walt remembers that Nick Cardell did a beautiful memorial service for his Mom. Incidentally, his brother Eugene went to our church and his Dad ran a woodworking center for youth in the James Street basement. His aunt, May’s sister, Helen McKnight, was an active church member and served as church historian for several years (thanks, Helen).
So this article is dedicated not only to May Slagle, but to all the wonderful people who have served as office manager, treasurer, sextant, custodian, and many other important staff positions during our 168 year history down to people such as Karen and Leslie today. This church could not have happened without you. We send a big thanks and salute back through the ages. Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
15. (10/3/06) The dedication service on October 1 was wonderful and the rains stayed away. The choir sang, we all sang, and several people spoke, including former member and Historian, Jean Hoefer. She and Bill traveled from afar to be with us for the dedication. In addition, Professor Ron DeRutte from SU described how he will repair and mount the tablet this fall.
Here is a bit about the tablet’s history. It was installed below a stained glass window in the James Street church in 1886 as a memorial to Sam May. The sermon delivered at its unveiling was by a good friend, Rev. William P. Tilden, who had been influenced by Sam during Sam’s ministry at South Scituate, Massachusetts. Rev. Tilden described Sam this way in words so consistent with what we have come to know about Sam May: “Calm as a June morning, but firm as Gibraltar, he was a Moral hero” (from this document found by Betsy Fuller – Vinal, W. G., 1954, Old Scituate churches in a changing world, Norwell, MA: Ladies Alliance of The First Parish Church, p. 34). See /windows.html for a look at all the stained glass creations in that church and click on the name being honored shown at the bottom of each window to read a description. The tablet was broken while being removed from the church in 1963 before its razing, transported to the Onondaga Historical Society, then lost. Fortunately, it was rediscovered last summer, transported to May Memorial, and soon will adorn our outside southwest wall. Somehow it feels fitting that it will look out on the Memorial Garden and Pavilion. See http://home.twcny.rr.com/hiemstra/maytablet.html for a color photo of the tablet. The inscribed words are difficult to read in the photo, so here they are as they were written one hundred and twenty years ago:
In memory of Samuel Joseph May, born in Boston September 12, 1797, died in Syracuse July 1, 1871. The beloved minister of this church during twenty-four years, his life diffused the radiance of piety and charity throughout this community. A loyal follower of Jesus, he loved God supremely and his fellow-men as himself. He helped the erring and sorrowful and uplifted the downtrodden. In the struggle against slavery he was among the earliest, most fearless and most constant. A fervent, devout preacher, an assiduous, loving pastor, an untiring apostle of education, temperance and peace, a steadfast defender of spiritual liberty. Trusting wholly in the ideal right he labored from youth to age to bring in the kingdom of God. When death was near he said: “I may have hereafter a clearer vision, I can hardly have a surer faith.”
I close with the words read by President, Fred Fiske, as the official dedication of the tablet and pavilion: "We have gathered here today to remember Ernie Archambault as a representative of the many MMUUS parishioners over our history who have stood for selfless commitment to May Memorial and to remember Samuel J. May as a representative of the many ministers and others throughout our history who have provided leadership for May Memorial to maintain an important place in the greater Syracuse Community. May this pavilion and this marble tablet stand as symbols of such devotion for many generations to come. We so dedicate these symbols." Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
16. (10/17/06) I looked through material recently and reread the October 9, 2002, Post Standard article on Rev. Nick Cardell’s death and what he meant to MMUUS, the Syracuse Community, and so many people. It reminded me of his memorial service and all the things said about Nick by various people. Then my “archive” mind lead to searching for similar material on perhaps our two most famous historical figures.
In a May 14, 1917, Syracuse Herald article about Rev. Dr. Samuel Calthrop (see his marble bust now located in the Memorial Room near Sam May’s bust), the author described how hundreds visited our James Street church for “one last look upon the face of Dr. Calthrop.” A high bank of flowers had been built in front of the chancel; over the pulpit and communion table, reaching from the ceiling nearly to the floor, hung an American flag. Entering the church a visitor saw only the flag and flowers and it was not until coming closer that within the bier of flowers could be seen the coffin of the beloved pastor. Rev. Calthrop was crowned with his black skull cap, without which he never appeared in public other than when he delivered a sermon. He lay as if in peaceful sleep and looked just as though he had sunk into an afternoon nap. Mothers lifted their children to see his gentle face among the flowers and tears streamed from the eyes of many who mourned his loss and revered the 49 years of service he gave to May Memorial and the greater Syracuse community.
Rev. Samuel May’s funeral on July 6, 1871, had drawn an even bigger gathering of devoted worshipers, friends, community and national dignitaries, and townspeople who respected his great service. At 10 that morning his body in a metallic casket was moved to the Church of the Messiah, our second church building, which had been decorated, and placed before the pulpit from which he had spoken so many faithful, earnest words (see http://mmuus.org/history/newhistory/MMUUSchurchbuildings.html ). The church doors were then opened and hundreds filed by for a last look at his loving face. Subsequently, every church seat was filled, the porch was crowded, and the stairway and yard outside filled with the old and young, rich and poor, all eager to join in doing honor to the name and memory of a man who had done so much for so many. Fittingly, Rev. Calthrop gave a moving prayer during the service that brings tears to the eye just reading it some 135 years later. A memorial book to Sam May published in 1871 is being prepared for inclusion on the church web page this fall. It contains much more information about his life and the funeral service that honored his living, contributions, and meaning to May Memorial. It stands as a testament to the many leaders who have served this church so well. Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
17. (11/8/06) At Dave Ashley’s urging, I’ve looked at material in our church archives and the Syracuse University archives regarding the enormous work by so many associated with conceiving, planning, designing, and building our current church. Especially gratifying was reading through a two inch file at the Syracuse University archival collection regarding the famed Dean Pietro Belluschi’s numerous architectural contributions to our church. It was intriguing to see the various push and pull discussions and a willingness by many people to meet our needs while maintaining the design integrity. Getting behind the scenes of our fascinating venture in the early 1960s was a real treat.
So many people from May Memorial contributed countless hours to enable 3800 E. Genesee St. become the wonderful place that we know. More than 100 people participated via a dozen crucial committees to make it all happen. Some of the current members involved included Doug Aird, Howland Auchincloss, Mal Clark, Al Obrist, Helen Obrist, and Dorothy Riester. The next time you see one of them ask about their memories of this important time in our church history. To look at some related photos and papers, go to /churchbuilding.html .
Many thanks go to Lisa Obrist (with help from Helen and Al) who was able to identify several people in photos from that time our current church was being built. Thanks also to Verah Johnson, newest History Committee member, and Irene Blakeslee and Lyn Coyle who have typed much of the new Web page material that has been added recently as noted below.
Finally, three new Web page items have been added that are well worth your perusal. One is Dr. Catherine Covert’s wonderful Master’s thesis: Saint Before His Time: Samuel J. May and American Educational Reform at http://www.mmuus.org/who-we-are/history/covert-may-thesis.html . Another is a very moving story of Sam May’s life, death, funeral, and burial: IN MEMORIAM – Samuel Joseph May. This can be viewed at /inmemorialsjm.html . The third is May No One Be A Stranger by Jean Hoefer and Irene Baros Johnson at /stranger.html . This wonderfully written history of our church from 1838 to 1988 has been enhanced with many links to relevant support material. Both these latter two will be added to the church web page in the near future. Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
18. (11/21/06) I, like so many, stand in awe of Dan and Doris Sage, who along with Dick Weiskopf, Sam Feld, and Phil and Donna Muhs-McCarten recently traveled to Fort Benning, Georgia, to bear witness in this ongoing travesty against social justice. Now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), the school trains Latin American soldiers, police, and government officials, many of whom return to their countries to perpetrate various human rights abuses. Dan and Doris, along with Nick Cardell and other Syracuse residents paid a huge price in the past for their witness there, even by serving a six month jail term.
May Memorial members and leaders actually have a long history of heroic acts in the name of social justice. This began with our direct ancestors in the 1830s who braved isolation, hostility, social ostracism, and even persecution to start our religious home in Syracuse. Our many ministers, too, have been courageous leaders for social justice issues. To name a few, Sam May quickly comes to mind for his work with anti-slavery, anti-capital punishment, women’s rights, peace, and educational issues just to name a few of his many accomplishments. We also should not forget Rev. Calthrop and his advocacy for the Syracuse Boy’s Club, Rev. Argow and his work with public health and housing, Rev. Applebee and his work with the Red Cross during WWI, Rev. Fuller and his work in civil rights, and Rev. Cardell and Rev. Strong’s work with Planned Parenthood.
But it has been our many church wide efforts that have marked May Memorial as an institution dedicated to social justice. Our various women’s groups over the years have provided playground equipment for Onondaga County orphans, bought and distributed milk for undernourished children in the schools, provided reading and social rooms for unemployed people during the depression, given financial support to a residence for elderly women, created a USO-type social environment for soldiers being trained at the State Fair Grounds during WWII, fed lunches to children whose mothers were working during that same war, and collected food and clothing for European relief soon after its end. More recently, our sanctuary efforts some two decades ago during El Salvador’s horrendous history of abuse, our ongoing homeless and hungry efforts through the collection of food and other items, and our preparation of meals at St. Paul’s church serve as examples of that continuing social justice commitment.
There actually is not room enough in this short article to give all the credit that is due to the May Memorial people who have devoted countless hours and many dollars to such important issues. You can read more about this devotion and why it is easy to take pride in this church for its ongoing social justice history by reading through /backwardglance.html and /stranger.html . So “tip your hat” to Dan, Doris, Dick, Sam, Phil, and Donna the next time you see them and say thanks as fine representatives of our great social justice heritage. Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
19. (12/4/06) Barbara Mihalas recently pointed out to me a great UU web site for church history buffs, the dictionary of UU biography: http://www.uua.org/uuhs/duub/index.html . There is a great Sam May biography there. I’ve now been asked to write one on Sam Calthrop and may do others later. Speaking of web resources, an 1885 booklet devoted to the October 20, 1885, James St. church dedication is now online. It makes for some great reading. See especially the sermon by Sam May’s son, Rev. Joseph May. It is a classic. This booklet is on the backup server ( /maychurch.html ), but eventually will become part of our church web site.
I recently interviewed Hank Manwell as part of the History Committee’s efforts to talk with long time May Memorial members so we can learn more about our church history. We hope to make several interviews available online some time in the future and they will serve as an important archival resource so current and future May Memorial members can better understand our past. It was a delightful interview and I gained much new information. Some of what I learned will appear in later newsletters and it triggered the heart of this article. We are looking for other volunteer interviewers; we will do the training and supply the digital recorder.
I’ve long been intrigued with the years of service given to May Memorial by Hank’s parents, Dr. Elizabeth Manwell, our DRE from 1935-1949, and Dr. Reginald Manwell. Hank provided great first hand knowledge of their long term involvement with our youth. See May No One Be A Stranger ( /stranger.html ) to find out more about their impact on the church.
Reginald, for example, wrote with Sophia Lyon Fahs the classic Beacon curriculum text The Church Across the Street (Beacon Press, 1947; a revised edition was published in 1962). Reginald’s work was based on his May Memorial church school classes that studied other religious groups and visited many different congregations in the city. A wonderful scrapbook in our archives captures the work that he and various young people did during the 1940-1941 year learning about numerous churches. During then they visited and studied such Syracuse religious institutions as Jewish temples, a Russian Orthodox church, a Catholic cathedral, a Lutheran church, an Episcopal church, a Presbyterian church, a Congregational church, a Methodist church, a Baptist church, a Christian Scientist church, and the Society of Friends. I can only imagine the knowledge and memories taken away by the young people in Syracuse and around the country exposed to this curriculum and certainly envy their experiences. This paragraph can best be ended by paying tribute to all the people in May’s history from the 1830s right up through today who have given of their time and talent serving the youth of our church. We owe them much. Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
20. (12/30/06) I am very happy to report that the repaired Sam May marble tablet now resides on our outside west wall overlooking the Memorial Garden. It is so beautiful and takes your breathe away when you think that it first adorned our James Street church wall in 1885. When Jill Evans and I first saw it on December 17 sitting in a protective cradle built by Dale Sherman while the silicone epoxy was drying, it was truly an emotional moment. Professor DeRutte did a marvelous job and thanks to those who helped in various ways, especially in mounting it at its final resting place. Give Dale a big thanks when next you see him for all the volunteer hours he put into its restoration and step down to the Memorial Garden and see this true work of art.
In keeping with our tablet’s history, in the archives is a collection of moving memories about the James Street church. Back in the very early 1960s, a committee headed by a Mrs. Kenneth Kindelsperger and a Polly Lape, asked a number of current or former members of the Women’s Alliance, a very active group at May Memorial for many years, to reminiscence about the church. The decision had already been made to build a new church and they decided it was important to gather some recollections. We are indebted to their insightfulness. This newsletter piece and at least the next one will report some of these nuggets. For example, Florida Tracy remembers how in the 20s and 30s special collections were taken during Sunday services to meet the needs of several community charities that we having tough financial times because of the depression. She also remembered Mrs. Bigelow, a stately older women, from one of the wealthy Syracuse families, who wore small bonnets tied with a velvety ribbon under her chin, basque [corset shaped] fitting dresses, with billowy skirts. Mrs. Bigelow had told Florida that she remembered making lemonade as a little girl for the annual picnic day that the Unitarians held for lower income children. [We were doing our social justice in many ways a century ago.]
Helen Eager, who was two years old in 1885 when the James Street church was dedicated, remembered her grandmother telling about the very early days of the church when Sunday meetings were sometimes held in cellars and in secret because the negative feelings toward Unitarians in Syracuse were so intense. Helen also remembers the last day of Sunday School each year as being very special. The children would bring in wild flowers and those they picked from parents’ gardens for decoration. Yards of daisy chains also were hung and the church always looked very lovely. Finally, in May No One Be A Stranger, Jean (see elsewhere the sad news about Jean Hoefer’s death from an auto accident) and Irene talked about the memorial tree tradition that was started by Nick Cardell (p. 51, /stranger.html ). In the early 1900s we had another “tree” tradition, the Mitten Tree, where mittens and other warm clothing were hung on a tree and later donated to people in need. This tradition even carried over into our current church. It has been fun peaking in on these great memories and more will be shared later. Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
Continuing in January, 2007, articles related to our history under the heading “Marvelous History Corner!” were included in the church newsletter as another means for informing church parishioners and friends about and generating interest in our history. They are shown below. The date shown after each number is when it was written. It was published in the next church newsletter after that date.
1. (1/9/07) When you get an opportunity, stop down to the Memorial Garden area and look at the Sam May marble tablet. It will take your breathe away when you think that it first adorned a May Memorial church wall in 1885 and now it rests on an MMUUS church wall once again. Thanks to all who helped in some way in the process of this becoming reality. Go to our web page (www.mmuus.org) and click on the link to the Samuel May plaque home at last for more information. Look, too, for a photo display just outside Rev. Marsh’s office showing the process of placing the tablet on that wall.
As mentioned in the last newsletter, here are a few more priceless nuggets from the Mrs. Kenneth Kindelsperger and Polly Lape committee that gleaned some reminiscences about out church during its long history. Elizabeth Manwell, for example, remembered that for years in the James St. church, there were “Children’s Sundays” several times a year and eventually with so many children they actually encircled the entire congregation. She also recalled one Sunday right after the church school had been given a victrola (wind up record player). She placed it next to a curtain that separated the religious education area from the sanctuary altar. During the junior service that first week it was there she played a rousing record of an Indian Tribal Dance to illuminate a folk story they were studying, not thinking about how the sound would carry so well through the curtain. After the service, Rev. Dr. Argow asked her quite gently not to that again. Her music happened just as he began his prayer in the sanctuary; he thought it was coming from the organ and that the organist had missed his cue, so he kept on praying thinking the organist would figure out what was happening and stop playing. Dr. Argow told her that he just kept on praying louder and louder thinking the organ would stop, but eventually he had to stop praying thinking the organ had won until he figured out from where the music was coming. Think about that the next time any of us hear some noise in the foyer during a Sunday service and find ourselves becoming slightly irritated.
Florida Tracy talked with fondness about the wonderful work of the Women’s Alliance. During the Rev. Calthrop and Rev. Applebee ministries right up until WWI, the Alliance annually gave a Christmas noontime dinner and entertainment to our church youth on a Saturday before Christmas. Eventually, the Alliance voted to include the poorest children in the two nearby elementary schools. This involved 75-100 children, ages 6-8, who typically did not have much of a Christmas simply because their parents could not afford it. She talked about the heart warming sight of seeing the wide-eyed kids before a lighted tree and then as they received food and gifts. She talked, too, that this notion of giving actually went all the way back to Rev. May’s era when church women made hospital clothing and bandages that were shipped to the Union front during the Civil War and then the making of garments and bandages that the Red Cross used in WWI and WWII. They also made garments and sleepers for refuge infants during both wars. It certainly makes me proud to belong to a church that has such a wonderful and long social action heritage.
Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
2. (1/20/07) I just can’t resist sharing a few more wonderful tidbits from that Kindelsperger and Lape committee on recording remembrances in the 1960s about fundraising and about a couple of our past ministers. Think of our current Fine Craft show or biennial Book & CD Sale as fundraisers. Well, Helen Eager remembered not only concerts and plays as ways of raising funds, but they also had wax work shows with human models (I would loved to have seen those). She was part of a large committee, too, that through Rev. Applebee’s ministry in the 20s made over 400 calls to members and others who were troubled by the depression and declining economic situation. One of her memories as a youth was about Sam Calthrop and his “famous” forgetfulness: “Dr. Calthrop was a great preacher. He was an English man with a beautifully pitched voice and annunciation. He wore a skull cap over his bald dome when he thought it proper and started the service with it on. But it was not proper for the prayer. He would sometimes forget to take it off and we children would peek from beneath our bowed head to see how long it would be before he remembered to slip his hand up, sneaking it off into his pocket.” She also mentioned his propensity to be a bit long-winded at times: “My grandfather was also English and he and the Doctor were close friends. Sometimes the Doctor would get too absorbed in his sermon and go on and on. Grandfather was way down in front and he would hold up his big repeater watch which the Doctor would eventually see and wind up the sermon abruptly.”
It seems so common today that sports contests can be held in the evening with all the available stadium lighting. Floss Eustin remembered early in the last century when she and family members would travel to Rev. Calthrop home, known as Primrose Hill, on Sunday afternoons for picnics and visiting with others. Sam, who was a tennis enthusiast, would string lanterns around his tennis court so tennis matches could continue into the early evening and then there would be dancing until midnight. Helen Eager also remembered people frequently going to Primrose Hill after Sunday services where they could look through his telescope and he would talk about his astronomy interests. Polly Lape talked fondly about the custom of using the Sunday collection money gathered near Thanksgiving and Christmas to buy food and clothing for those in need throughout the community. She also remembered Dr. Applebee’s interest in dramatics and that he engineered as a fundraiser in the church, a famous play in the 20s entitled, “The Old Peabody Pew,” a Christmas romance about a country church. She later became involved in annual Christmas pageants, also used as fundraisers. Finally, Gladys Timmerman recalled another interesting fundraising activity by the Women’s Alliance that “was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun, and brought people together.” It was called the “Department Store,” and involved the sale of various items. The Alliance also was known for its fundraising dinners that were so popular there would need to be several sittings before everyone was served. So the next time you are asked to help with a fundraising event, remember that they have been an integral part of May Memorial for many, many years.
Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
3. (2/5/07) Sam May’s legacy is everywhere! In late January I was at Framingham State College (Framingham, MA) to deliver a keynote address on teaching adults for the college’s continuing education faculty. A panel of three faculty gave a reaction to my address after I finished. I met with them a half hour before the session to determine procedures. The first to arrive was a delightful Professor of History. As the others were gathering he began describing his current research project, an examination of the past Framingham State College presidents. He said his favorite president was Samuel J. May. You could have knocked me over with a feather, as I stammered that he was the man for whom my church was named. As we both enthusiastically began sharing information, some pieces from his life prior to living in Syracuse began dropping into place.
Horace Mann, Massachusetts’s initial Secretary of Education, established the first experimental normal school in the country to train women as teachers. This was in 1839 and the first Principal (top official) was Harvard educated Cyrus Pierce. Cyrus became ill and had to step down in 1842. Sam May had been minister of the South Scituate (MA) Unitarian church from 1836-1842. Mr. Mann convinced Sam that because he already had such a passion for improving education, to take on the Principal role. He served the Normal School for two full years where the enrollment doubled, the school was relocated from its first location in Lexington to West Newton, and many new faculty were hired. Upon Mr. Pierce regaining full health, Sam then accepted the position at our church. As the Normal School eventually moved to Framingham and ultimately became a state college, Sam is called the institution’s second president. To read just a bit more and, especially, to see a photo of Sam in those early years and when he did not have a beard, go to this link: /normalschool.html
Just a bit more about Sam. When he was beginning his ministerial work in Massachusetts, he laid much of the groundwork for his ministry with us. He formed a Peace Society in 1826 and in 1827 called the first State Convention on Education to consider the defects of common schools. While at the Scituate church his Sunday School children became staunch adherents of Peace and Universal Freedom. In his efforts to promote total abstinence, he also organized a “Cold Water Army” of a few hundred young people, who marched through the town and chanted "eternal hate to all that doth intoxicate." He put the rum dealers and liquor establishments out of business, but the people still loved him as a pastor. That was our Sam!
Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
4. (2/13/07) Since becoming the MMUUS archivist, I have been fascinated with Sam Calthrop, our third minister. Besides being a beloved long-time minister of this church, he was well known as an athlete, philosopher, and even poet. However, one of his favorite avocations was dabbling in science. For example, on August 8, 1865, he filed a patent (No. 49,227) for “improvement in construction of railway trains and cars.” This was way ahead of its time and the forerunner of what became known as the bullet train. It called for tapering the front and rear to lower wind resistance, encasing each car with a false bottom for further sleekness, raising the tender to create a bullet shape, enclosing doors to make them flush with the sides of each car, enclosing the intervals between cars with flexible hoods, rounding as much as practicable the sides of all cars, and avoiding all projecting surfaces such as window ledges. The patent material included drawings that also seemed ahead of their time even by today’s standards. A need for cash with a growing family eventually resulted in sale of the patent. Oh! If he had only kept it and willed it to May Memorial!
Another endeavor was his interest in the sun and sun spots. Using a telescope, he studied the sun for many years and began forecasting the weather based on his growing knowledge. The local Syracuse papers even relied on some of his predictions. For history buffs, an interesting related article can be found in the Syracuse Herald, April 4, 1915. Those non-skiers who have suffered through the cold and snow as of late can take solace in Sam’s thoughts from that article: “Be patient with the present weather conditions. The longer these conditions continue, the better weather we will have during the summer.” So, if you can find the sun, give it a glance and know that Sam is predicting a great summer for us.
On another note, Janet and I had a great time visiting Hank and Sally Manwell in their Melbourne (Florida) UU church a few Sundays ago. Thus, it seems fitting to quote Hank’s mom, Elizabeth, from her September 20, 1964, reminiscence on the James Street Church. She remembered four great thoughts from the sermons of past ministers: Dr. Argow – “You are God. He is not up there, out there, he is the great creative force about and within all.” Rev. Romig – “You have wholeness within you. Think not mainly of your immaturities, think of your strengths.” Rev. Canfield – “Cultivate the growing-edge of your minds.” Rev. Zoerheide – “Seek to find the hidden loveliness that is in every human being.”
Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
5. (3/3/07) As we are near finding our next settled minister, let’s remember our past ministers. Much could be said about each, but only a few highlights are presented here. Our ministerial history begins with Rev. John Storer (1839-1844). He worked diligently to raise money for our first regular building, the Church of the Messiah. He traveled throughout the east soliciting nearly 40% of the necessary funds from friends, many of whom were not Unitarians. Most readers of this newsletter know much about Rev. Sam May, our 2nd minister (1845-1868), and Rev. Sam Calthrop, our 3rd minister (1868-1911), as several past history corner pieces have been about them (see the two web links shown at the end of this article for more information).
Our 4th minister, Rev. John Applebee (1911-1929), was very active in the Syracuse community as well as with his May Memorial activities. He headed several civic and charitable organizations and supported the Association of Workers for the Blind, learning Braille so he could transcribe literature for them. Rev. Waldemar Argow, our 5th minister (1930-1941), was highly respected for his sermons. He was actively involved in Syracuse with membership in the Onondaga Health Association and a committee to study housing needs. He also was active in denominational activities and was a member of several American Unitarian Association committees.
Rev. Robert Romig (1941-1946), our 6th minister, was not only respected as an effective church leader, he also stepped up during WWII to serve on the United War Fund that raised funds for the USO, War Prisoners' Aid, Seamen's Service, and various foreign relief agencies. Our 7th minister, Rev. Glenn Canfield (1946-1952), was active in the NAACP during his May Memorial ministry. He also chaired a Syracuse Council of Churches housing committee to improve living conditions for black residents. Our 8th minister, Rev. Robert Zoerheide (1952-1961), also served on the board of NAACP and supported civil rights and better housing efforts. He was instrumental, too, in convincing our congregation to support the Unitarian and Universalist merger. Our 9th minister, Rev. John Fuller (1961-1973), was very active in social action activities within the community, including the Civil Rights struggle and the anti-Vietnam War effort. He also counseled conscientious objectors and women seeking legal abortions outside of New York.
Rev. Nick Cardell (1974-1995), our 10th minister, served as Chairperson of the Planned Parenthood board during the 1970s. He also protested the School of the Americas (SOA) at Fort Benning, Georgia, was subsequently arrested, and served a six-month jail sentence. Rev. Liz Strong (1988-2001), our first female minister (of Religious Education), also was heavily involved with the Planned Parenthood. In addition, she coordinated a strong adult education program for May Memorial. Our most recent settled minister, Rev. Scott Taylor (1997-2004), helped organize our efforts with the Southside Interfaith Housing Corporation and facilitated numerous Soul Matters adult education groups. Wow! What energy, dedication, and devotion to May Memorial and our community from them all. The heritage they helped create provides a solid foundation upon which the new minister will build our future. Check out /backwardglance.html, /stranger.html, and our church web page for even more information.
Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
6. (3/20/07) On behalf of the History Committee, I am pleased to announce that MMUUS has received another grant from the New York State Convention of Universalists. This will enable us to continue our preservation activities, create some additional history display areas, and even share what we have learned as a committee with others in the St. Lawrence District. We still welcome anyone who would like to join the committee or volunteer to word process old material, scan documents, prepare documents for Syracuse University Library, etc.
There have been many pieces in this column written about Sam May, but there is so much information pertaining to our namesake that can be shared. Thus, here is another piece. As many already know, Sam grew up in a fairly privileged home. He had eleven siblings but, as was often the case in the 19th Century, eight died as youths or as young adults. Only one sister and brother lived beyond their mid 30s. Sam therefore had many opportunities in terms of education, obtaining private schooling as a young person and then two Harvard degrees, including graduation from divinity school. The circles in which he was able to travel meant that he knew people like William Ellery Channing, Horace Mann, and Daniel Webster. Later in life he became friends with notables such as Susan B. Anthony, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Garrit Smith, and William Lloyd Garrison (publisher of the anti-slavery newspaper, The Liberator).
He had many interesting relatives, too. One relative in the 17th Century published a history of the English Parliament. On his mother’s side a great grandfather was minister of Boston’s Old South Church, another relative wrote the first anti-slavery book in 1700 (The Selling of Joseph), great-aunt, Dorothy, married John Hancock, and great grandfather Chief Justice Joseph Sewell of Salem, was the first official to expose the Salem witchcraft delusions. His father, Joseph (a successful businessman who would have become a minister had not the Revolutionary War intervened), was a long-time Warden (lay leader, often involved in day-to-day church operation) and ardent supporter of King’s Chapel in Boston, the first Unitarian Church in the United States. In fact, Joseph is buried in a church crypt. Andy Tripp shared a photo he took of the explanatory marble tablet. It can be seen at /crypt.html. Finally, his sister, Abigail, was the wife of Transcendentalist, Amos Bronson Alcott, and their daughter was Louisa May Alcott who authored Little Women and many other books. Sam obviously led an interesting life, including the time he spent in Syracuse with our congregation.
Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
7. (4/2/07) Father Roy Bourgeois’ April 1st Sam May day presentation on his ongoing work to bring about closure of the United States’ shameful School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, was most meaningful. He said many things that conjured up connections to our history. Obviously, we all feel tremendous pride in the sacrifices Nick Cardell, Dan Sage, Doris Sage, and several others from Syracuse and throughout New York made directly related to the SOA watch, but there are other historical connections.
early Rev. Bourgeois said, “our greatest enemy is ignorance.” Sam May is
remembered for his important work in abolition and his foundational efforts in
the eventual repealing of the dreaded Fugitive Slave Act. However, what many
don’t know is that Sam overcame some initial ignorance about slavery to reach
these crucial efforts. Sam preached his
first sermon on the evils of slavery in
It was William Lloyd Garrison who helped Sam overcome his ignorance about the injustice of the Colonization Society’s approach. After hearing an October 15, 1830, speech by Garrison, Sam and others talked for hours with him and Sam had what he later called his “midnight conversion.” He said “that night my soul was baptized in his spirit, and ever since I have been a disciple and fellow-laborer of William Lloyd Garrison.” Fortunately, out of that initial ignorance grew a leader who became so important in helping to rid the country of slavery.
There have been many others in May Memorial’s history that followed Father Bourgeois’ words, “the truth cannot be silenced.” Think of the three past MMUUS ministers who marched in support of Civil Rights (Cardell, Fuller, and Papandrew). Think of Lilian Reiner’s relentless pursuit of eliminating the death penalty. Think of the courageous church leaders who turned MMUUS into a safe haven for El Salvadorian refugees, even at the risk of criminal prosecution had the government decided to pursue such action. Think of the current Thursday morning church members who are creating such history by holding vigil against the Iraq war. There have been many other examples in our history, but space limitations means such information is saved for later articles. Suffice to say, there is much for which we can be proud that echo Rev. Bourgeois’ words, “not in our name.”
Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
8. (4/14/07) The story of Sam May and Prudence Crandall, a Quaker, is a forerunner of his advocacy both for education and abolition while in Syracuse. Prudence opened a Female Boarding School in 1833 in Canterbury, CT, near Brooklyn, CT, Sam's first ministry. Within a few weeks Prudence enrolled Sarah Harris, daughter of a black farmer. The entire village soon was in an uproar and several leaders demanded she dismiss Sarah. She courageously refused and community members began pulling out their children. Sam heard about it and wrote Sarah offering to help in any way he could.
She found solace and courage in his encouragement, making it known her school would be opened to "young ladies and little misses of color." The community's uproar became even more intense and she wrote to Sam requesting assistance. He quickly came to Canterbury and found much about which to be concerned. He returned to Brooklyn and rallied others to provide her support. She asked Sam and Calvin Philleo, who later became her husband, to represent her as attorneys at a Canterbury town meeting. Sam and Calvin were vilified there and even physically threatened.
Prudence eventually had several black students, but there was much harassment by community members, including physical damage to the school and her home. The Connecticut state legislature even enacted a "Black Law" which forbid the establishment of any black school unless approved by school district voters. However, Prudence kept her school open, was then arrested, and jailed. She was brought to trial in August, 1833, and the state's Supreme Court eventually overturned a sentence. Unfortunately, the community continued tormenting Prudence and the students, almost succeeding in burning down the school. Prudence finally closed it out of fear for their safety. Sam May was the one to tell students the school was closing and later stated how much agony he felt: "I felt ashamed of Canterbury, ashamed of Connecticut, ashamed of my country, ashamed of my color." This all is a sad reminder of how little we have changed during the past 175 years.
notes: (a) Photos of Sam and Lucretia May's headstones are at http://www.mmuus.org/who-we
Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
9. (5/3/07) I was delighted a
few months ago to discover in our archives an 83 page manuscript written in 1939
by Edith Calthrop Bump, Rev. Sam Calthrop's daughter. It is a biography of
Sam's early years, including when he lived in England and then into his first
several years in the U.S. Edith donated it to our archives where it has
languished for these past several decades. Lyn Coyle recently volunteered to
word process it and I added numerous links so that it now serves as a way of
getting to know Sam better, but at the same time provides an historical journey
through England and the United States for several decades beginning in 1829.
This delightful read is at
For example, read about his very early years, including his time at a boarding school. Gain some insight into why he became such an incredible thinker, how he developed an interest in science, and the process by which he became such a talented athlete. Read about his skill development as a chess player, including descriptions of how he defeated several older opponents. Experience his growing skills as a teacher.
In terms of this web page as a history guide, see how he came to know William Henry Waddington, a school mate, who eventually became a French Prime Minister. Learn when Robert E. Lee asked him to teach West Point cadets how to play cricket. Enjoy the first time he met such notables as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Julia Ward Howe. He even preached for several months in Theodore Parker's (a famous early Unitarian minister) church in Boston before coming to Syracuse. An enjoyable chapter is Edith's description of how her father invented and patented the "Air Resisting Train."
Another delightful experience (archivists have all the
fun) was discovering in our archives several weeks ago a 380 page unpublished
manuscript that is a biography of Sam May. Authored by Professor W. Freeman
Galpin (a long-time SU history professor until his death in 1963), it provides
a wonderful new glimpse into Rev. May's life. I gained a much deeper
understanding of Sam by reading it. The good news is that it can soon be shared
with everyone. I obtained permission from his daughter to include it on our web
page. I've word processed the first chapter and placed it on the web to give
you a sneak preview:
10. (6/4/07) Several things came together compelling this article: (a) Feeling so gladdened by Paul Darmody-Latham's safe return from Afghanistan; (b) hearing John's powerful Memorial Day sermon; (c) our weekly anti-war vigiling efforts; (d) viewing The Ground Truth, about the struggles many U.S. men and women face after returning from Iraq; and (e) thinking about Michael and Mariah Dillon's daughter currently in the military as we all hope she stays out of harm's way.
The angst many of us feel about war, patriotism, and political wrangling is real, but not new in our church history. Sam May experienced much personal conflict throughout life regarding people's suffering because of war, slavery, gender discrimination, and many other issues. He was especially torn as the Civil War approached. Sam felt deeply that war was a sin but also believed that any peace built on continuing slavery was a bigger sin. From his diary in July, 1862: "Nothing but slavery seems to be so bad as war." He finally came to the agonizing decision that the war must be fought to end slavery.
This type of agonizing has existed for May Memorial parishioners and leaders for decades. Several of our past church members served in the military, with many war-related deaths in World Wars I and II. Rev. John Applebee (minister from 1911-1929) so agonized over WWI that he received a leave of absence to work with the Red Cross overseas for several months. Rev. Nick Cardell (minister from 1974-1995) was a prisoner-of-war during the second world war. Nick Cardell, Dan and Doris Sage, and others in the Syracuse community even served prison time after protesting this government's training of South American military leaders who, in turn, brutally suppress people in their own country.
It is, of course, naïve to assume that such agonizing will ever cease. Our inability to get along with others seems a constant, and new generations usually repeat the errors of the past. Perhaps the cries for peace, justice, and good will that reach us down through the history of May Memorial will sustain us in our own efforts to work together even more successfully through our new Covenant of Right Relations.
Ending on a
brighter note, June Card was pleasantly surprised in leafing through 1947
Beacon Press The Church Across the Street by Reginald Manwell and Sophia
Fahs to find a photo (p. 285) of the minister in the church where she attended
as a young person. He also came out of retirement to officiate at her wedding
to Howard. Finally, two new web page tributes are available: one to Sam May at
11. (7/16/07) I've recently read what has been on my "to do" list for some time, a sermon preached by Sam May to our predecessors on Sunday, September 15, 1867. By my reckoning, it must have been nearly two hours in length, but, wow, was it revealing. Entitled "A Discourse," it turned out to be Rev. May's resignation sermon. It no doubt caught many parishioners by surprise, but the energy, compassion, and retrospective insights he packed into what was eventually labeled as "A Brief Account of His Ministry," must have kept the audience captivated throughout.
as often happened during that time period, a power packed sermon deemed worthy
of historical capture immediately resulted in several church leaders formally
requesting by letter that Rev. May make his copy available. Then a group placed
his hand written message into a publishable form and disseminated it. A copy survived
and was included with Sam's papers donated to Cornell University after his
death. You can read this fascinating account of his life as a minister at http://dlxs.library.cornell
Read about Sam's
views on the rise of Unitarianism, how he became involved with abolition,
education, intemperance, Native American conditions, pacifism, the deplorable
conditions of "canal boys" and other orphans, and women's rights. Sam
was revered throughout his life and after his death as a person consistent in
his beliefs and one who truly lived by a firm mental and moral discipline. He
was referred to by many as God's Chore boy and reading this discourse you
really come to understand why. I heartily recommend this moving sermon and am
confident you will obtain a greater understanding of our namesake. (The
biography of Sam entitled God's Chore Boy, by W. Freeman Galpin, is
being added to in the simulation web page as chapters are typed. It, too, makes
for great reading:
Finally, the History Committee will be coordinating the Sunday Service on August 12. We'll take a walk down memory lane regarding our past church buildings with slides, narration, and reflections by several church members who were part of our church community bridging across the former James St. church to our current site. We hope you can join us. Immediately following the service there will be a formal dedication of permanent photos of our past ministers in the Memorial Room. Join us there, too.
12. (8/19/07) Harsey Leonard and I, assisted by other History Committee members conducted the August 12 Sunday Service (see /aug12oos.pdf for the Order of Service). Slide shows supplemented the “sermon” presentations (see /churchbuildings.pdf) as well as a handout (see /buildinghistory.pdf). We were gratified by a large summer attendance and appreciated the support of Doug Aird, Malcolm Clark, Hank Manwell, and Al Obrist as they shared some memories. This was followed by a dedication service for our past ministers’ photos now hanging in a permanent “memories” display on the east wall of the Memorial Room. See /dedicationprogram.pdf to examine the related material and see the photos when next you are in church.
A few weeks ago I learned that the SU Special Collections had purchased 12 letters (eight by Sam May), written 1852-1858, on Sam’s efforts to develop a school for youth on the Onondaga Reservation. Reading them was enjoyable and I’d recommend the experience. See /sammayletters.pdf for more information. About the same time President Fred Fiske shared with me a new Beacon Press book. Titled Beacon Press and the Pentagon Papers, it is a fairly quick read but excellent discussion of Beacon Press’ courageous decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in the early 1970s and the legal entanglements that followed. The book is chilling in many ways and as one reviewer noted, it is a message for our own time.
I was recently doing research on Sam Calthrop and came across a fascinating description of him in The Craftsman, an October, 1905, publication by Gustov Stickley. It is worth examining just to see the neat ads of Stickley furniture. You can read it at http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/DLDecArts/DLDecArts-idx?id=DLDecArts.hdv09n01 .
Finally, here is a bit of MMUUS history trivia. Why did Rev. W. W. W. Argow have so many names? He was a fifth generation minister and his parents may have expected he, too, would go into the ministry. His first name, Wendelin, was for the father of Transcendental philosophy, German scholar Wendelin Meyer. The second name, Waldemar, was for the bishop of West Goths, who in 390 A.D. brought Christianity to the pagans of the Teutonic woods. His third name, Weiland, stood for the father of spiritualistic or idealistic poetry as noted in our early church history, A Backward Glance O’er Traveled Roads.
Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
13. (9/05/07) Janet and I recently visited the John Brown farm and grave in North Alba, New York (http://www.nyhistory.com/gerritsmith/nelba.htm), near the Lake Placid Olympic ski jumping complex. We are both reading Russell Bank’s Cloudsplitter, a recounting of abolitionist John Brown’s life, including the legendary raid on the Harpers Ferry armory, so the visit seemed appropriate. It was a wonderful experience and I highly recommend both the visit and the book.
We had a wonderful guide, whose great, great grandmother helped John’s wife, Mary Ann, when John was gone because of his abolitionist activities. The guide provided an excellent tour of the home and regaled us with many facts and stories. It was clear that Mary Ann, like many spouses of abolitionists, had to carry a very heavy load just to keep the family afloat, as John was away from home more than he was there. John’s death, as well of the deaths of several sons during the raid, was a tremendous blow to be endured throughout the remainder of her life.
It reminded me of the huge load Lucretia May had to carry when Sam was so heavily involved in abolitionist activities and away from his family for many weeks at a time. In one letter Lucretia said, “I have counted the days and shall begin to count the hours till your longed for return; don’t disappoint us, but come, come speedily to warm hearts if not wise heads.” A more telling lament was in a later letter: “You have been gone four weeks tomorrow and perhaps are beginning to be weaned from us. I should not be at all surprised if you were, you must have so much more peace and quietness than when subjected to the . . . interruptions caused by wife and children. But my greater wonder is that we ever marry at all, especially those who intend to be world reformers and pass their time at a distance from the families. It would seem to me more wise and more judicious as well as more kind to avoid such entanglements and such burdens altogether.” Wow! (See /galpin-may.html for more insight into Sam and Lucretia’s lives.)
No doubt John Brown, Sam May, and the many others who chose to be away from family for long stretches of time thought about what was being left behind and lamented, too, about the sacrifices. Obviously, this still happens today and those of us fortunate enough to be able to spend quality time with family can count our blessings.
Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
MMUUS will host the Samuel Calthrop Chess Championship on December 1 (http://www.mmuus.org/news&events/samuel-calthrop-chess-championship.html). It is a chance for us to showcase Rev. Calthrop and an opportunity for chess players in the area to become acquainted with our church. Perhaps some readers of this newsletter will consider participating. At Anton Ninno’s urging, I developed an informational piece for the media and any others who may want to know more. Here are some of the highlights.
Our beloved minister for 43 years, the longest pastorate in our history and one of the longest in the history of Unitarianism, Sam made many contributions to Syracuse. He started the Syracuse Boy’s Club and gave lectures and offered classes to church members as well as others on a wide range of subjects, including botany, philosophy, poetry, geology, and astronomy. His skill in predicting the weather by studying sun spots led Syracuse newspapers to rely on his forecasts. He even grew the first tomatoes ever shown at the State Fair.
Rev. Calthrop was a gifted athlete, too, excelling in numerous sports during his lifetime, including billiards, cricket, crew, tennis, rugby, and boxing. He made local news when one night he discovered a prowler in his house and dropped the poor man to the floor with a left to the chin. When he awoke, the burglar found the police ready to take him to jail. Sam Calthrop’s athletic prowess made him much desired as the person to teach others and during his time in the U.S. he coached crew teams for Yale, Cornell, and Syracuse Universities. He also coached the West Point cadet cricket team.
One of his biggest loves, however, was chess. Having learned as a youngster, he grew in skill and began playing some of England’s best in his teens. He continued his passion for chess in the U.S. He was one of 16 players invited to the first American Chess Congress held in New York City in 1857. After moving to Syracuse he accomplished more chess feats, winning the New York State Championship in 1880 and 1883. When chess genius Harry N. Pillsbury once played ten simultaneous games of chess while blindfolded, his only loss was to Sam Calthrop. Sam, too, loved to play blindfolded and also play several games simultaneous. Among Syracuse friends with whom he played regularly were a rabbi, priest, and Presbyterian minister. Ah, Sam, our ecumenical pastor.
Rog Hiemstra, Archivist
15. (10-3-07) I could write every newsletter article about Sam May for years to come and only begin to scratch the surface of his complexity. I anticipate that in many ways he thought of himself as no one unusual, just committed to things in which he believed. But, oh, there were so many things! In this article I provide a brief chronology of just his first three years in Syracuse where only a few of his many activities, endeavors, and interests give some insight into his varied life.
· 1845: April, arrives in Syracuse; July, delivers a speech on the evils of war; July, delivers a principal address at the Sons of Temperance celebration; October, among 170 Unitarian ministers to sign a protest to American Slavery; November, preaches a sermon in our church on what will become his famous “Rights and Conditions of Women” (http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?naw:3:./temp/~ammem_33Hy::)
· 1846: June 1, writes an anti-war (Mexican-American war) letter to be published in the Syracuse Star and is publically called a traitor by the editor; June 18, petition of protest in Syracuse Star has 110 names (including many from our church); June 24, Sam’s letter appear in the Star; August, delivers a lecture “The Education of the Faculties and Proper Employment of Young Children” (it is published the following year); chosen a member of the Board of Managers of the State Temperance Society
· 1847: August, present at the founding of the Free Soil party (opposed to an extension of slavery into the U.S. territories newly acquired from Mexico) in Buffalo; September, Sam May and Frederick Douglas are leading speakers in a Syracuse abolition meeting; September, Sam attends the Syracuse meeting of the Liberty Party (anti-slavery in focus) and is selected as a delegate to the national meeting.
Sam also was devoted to our church and seldom missed a Sunday service. He also found the time and means to minister to his “flock,” even though he frequently had to travel within New York and beyond. No doubt his time with his family was not what he wanted it to be, but Lucretia bravely kept the home fires burning. What little time he could spend with her and his children was precious indeed as he noted in his diary and in letters home.
For those who want more insight into his hectic but important life, and he kept up the pace hinted at above throughout his adult years, here are some selected web sites:
Heretic in Syracuse (http://www.mmuus.org/who-we-are/history/may-heretic-in-syracuse.html); Saint Before His Time (http://www.mmuus.org/who-we-are/history/covert-may-thesis.html); and God’s Chore Boy (/galpin-may.html).
Rog Hiemstra, Archivist