For many years previous to the establishment of a Universalist church in Brooklyn, there were those here who belonged to the society and congregation in New York city; and for whose convenience, meetings were held from time to time, on this side of the river, under the ministry of the Rev. Messrs. Mitchell, Sawyer and others. Finally in 1841, Messrs. William Burbank, Hiram K. Haskins, Wm. Raynor, Edwin Smith and Morris Reynolds, met at Mr. Smith's house, and, on consultation, decided to rent a hall on the corner of Fulton and Cranberry streets, owned by Hon. George Hall, which they occupied for several sabbaths, with preaching by Mr. Sawyer and others. This experiment proving successful, they applied for the rent of the hall for the term of a year. By this time, however, much opposition had been aroused among the orthodox denominations in the city, and the further use of the hall was denied them by its owner, on the ground that 11 Brooklyn was bad enough without having Universalism preached in it." At this juncture, however, the First Unitarian society offered the use of their church, a small frame building, in Adams street, with organ and furniture included. This was accepted; and under the preaching of Rev. Abel C. Thomas, the society gained members; and determined to have a building of their own. Not being strong enough to effect this, however, eight gentlemen, viz: Abner Chichestor, A. C. Thomas, Wm. Burbank, Wm. Raynor, Hiram K. Haskins, E. Winchester, B. A. Brewster and Morris Reynolds, acting on the suggestion of the last named, purchased lots on the north-west corner of Fulton and Pineapple streets, on which, in January, 1843, they commenced the erection of a building, the lower part of which was used as stores; and the upper part, including a small building adjoining, for Sunday school purposes, was leased to the society for twenty-one years with renewals, at $600 per annum. This building was first opened and occupied June 22, 1843, by the newly incorporated society.
The First Universalist Society (Church of the Restoration). The Rev. Abel C. Thomas officiated from the fall of 1842 until about 1844, and was succeeded by the Rev. T. B. Thayer. In the great fire of 1848, the building was burned; and the society having disposed of their lots on favorable terms, purchased Iota and erected an elegant new edifice, seventy-five by fifty-seven feet, on the south-east corner of Monroe Place and Clark street, of brown freestone, in the perpendicular style of gothic architecture, having in front two octagonal towers, with buttresses on their angles; at a cost, including lots, furniture and organ, of about $30,060. In 1851, Rev. Mr. Thayer was succeeded in the pastorate by Rev. H. R. Nye, who remained until 1857, and, was in turn, succeeded by Rev. Henry Blanchard. During the early part of his ministry a Second Universalist Society was formed by some of the younger portion of the society. In the early part of 1868, a removal farther up town, and nearer the centre of the parish, was determined upon; and in October of the same year, the edifice was sold to the Swedenborgians for $40,000, leaving the society with a net balance of about $20,000. Mr. Blanchard resigned the charge of the society, January 1, 1869, to accept a call to Indianapolis, Ind.
The Fourth Society (or Church of the Redeemer), in Greene avenue, having determined to dissolve their organization and sell their church, it was thought beat to merge the Fourth with the First Society, retaining the name of the First, and to occupy the Greene Avenue Church temporarily. Early in the spring of 1868, the Rev. E. C. Bolles, of Portland, Me., accepted a call to the pastorate, commencing his duties June 15th. The Greene Avenue Church was found ill adapted to the wants of the congregation, and lots were bought on Vanderbilt avenue, running through to Clermont avenue, one hundred feet on each street, on which was commenced the erection of a chapel, sixty-four by eighty feet, on Clermont avenue, to be occupied temporarily as a church, and ultimately as a Sunday school. This edifice, which will seat eight hundred, will be ready for occupancy about the lot of May, 1870. The proposed church edifice will front on Vanderbilt avenue.
First Universalist Church and Society, Fourth, corner of South Third street (E. D.), was established in June, 1845; but the church organization was not completed till October, 1845, when nineteen members were enrolled, the Rev. Henry Lyon being the pastor, and Messrs. George Ricard and Joseph C. Stanley being deacons, and the original trustees, George Ricard, William B. Miles, Joseph C. Stanley, Milton Wooley, Amos Smith, Theophilus W. Smith and William Dillingham. These gentlemen hired at the outset a building on Second street, called the Tabernacle, where the first discourse was delivered by the Rev. William S. Balch, then pastor of the Bleecker Street Universalist church, in New York. The pastoral relation of Mr, Lyon ceased in July, 1849, and on the lot of December, of the same year, the office was assumed by Rev. D. K. Lee. He was followed by Rev. W. W. King; he by Rev. B. Peters, and he by Rev. A. J. Canfield, the present pastor. The membership of the church has moderately, but steadily increased, and the edifice (built in 1847), which is of brick, plain, neat and substantial, has become too straightened for the congregation. A new church is about to be built in South Ninth street. The sabbath school, connected with this church and society, was commenced, April 13th, 1845, with eighteen scholars, under the superintendence of Mr. G. L. Demarest.
Of the original founders, two, Mr. Ricard and Mr. Stanley, are still members of the parish. Mr. G. L. Demarest has become a minister and is settled in Massachusetts, and W. B. Miles is dead. The society at present numbers about two hundred families, and the church members are eightyfive.
The Rev. A. J. Canfield was born in Broome Co., N. Y., January 12, 1840. His literary education was obtained at Union College, Schenectady, and his theological training at Canton, St. Lawrence county, N. Y. He was ordained in 1862 ; and his first pastoral charge was at Concord, N. H,. where he remained three years. On January lot, 1865, Mr. Canfield removed to his present church in Williamsburgh. He writes for the Christian Leader, the Universalist organ of this state, and is the secretary of the New York Universalist Association, and of the executive committee of the state convention.
The Universalist Church of Green-Point was started in the spring of 1855, in a hall near the Bushwick Creek bridge, on Franklin street, under leadership of Mr. Birney and others. It languished, however, but was revived in 1851, under the pastorship of Rev. Mr. Thomas, awhile and by help of Rev. Dr. Sawyer of New York. Its present condition is unknown to us.