On May 31, 1871, there appeared in the Denver morning papers a notice,
which said that at three o'clock on the following Sunday afternoon there
would be preaching in the District Court room, on Larimer Street, by the
Rev. L. E. Beckwith, Unitarian minister from Boston, and that all persons
interested in Liberal Christianity were cordially invited to be present.
After the close of the services the congregation, forty or fifty,
who were mostly strangers to each other, remained to introduce themselves
to Mr. and Mrs. Beckwith and to each other, and it was then and there
learned that Mr. Beckwith was recently graduated from Harvard, had as yet
charge of no church, but was visiting his parents, who resided in Denver,
and desired, if practicable, to establish a Unitarian Society in Denver.
A meeting was called early in June, 1871, at the residence of D.
D. Belden, to organize such society.
This organization was
effected under the name of "The First Unitarian Society of Denver."
The officers of the First Unitarian Society then elected were: Pastor,
Rev. L. E. Beckwith; trustees, D. D. Belden (chairman), George C.
Beckwith, Alfred Sayre, D. C. Dodge, John L. Dailey; secretary, Mrs.
William H. Greenwood; treasurer. Col. E. H. Powers.
District Court room the society went to the old Denver Theater, corner of
Lawrence and G (now Sixteenth) streets, where they continued until the
summer vacation. Upon their re-assembling, October 1, 1871, the
school-room of the Methodist Seminary (now Denver University) had been
rented, but after holding service there two Sundays, notice was received
from the trustees of the seminary that the society could no longer occupy
Being unable to secure any suitable hall or public room,
the pastor opened the parlor of his house on California Street, between
Seventeenth and Eighteenth, and there religious services were first held
October 15, 1871.
The number attending the Unitarian services,
during all these months, ranged from thirty to fifty persons.
December 5, 1871, a hall was rented in Crow's Block, on what was then
called Holladay Street (later Market Street). This hall was occupied
during the week, through the winter, by the House of Representatives of
the Territorial Legislative Assembly. The floor was covered with sawdust,
and all the surroundings and appointments were as un-church like as
One hundred common wooden chairs were purchased, and the
small cabinet organ previously secured was removed thither, and in this
bare, unattractive hall, reached by two long flights of stairs, the little
society continued to struggle for an existence.
On May 8, 1872,:
Mr. Beckwith resigned his pastorate of the church because of failing
In August, the Rev. S. S. Hunting, western secretary of
the American Unitarian Association, visited Denver to ascertain the
condition and wishes of the little society, and to assist in securing a
Correspondence was at once opened with Rev. W. G. M.
Stone, of Berlin, Wisconsin, which resulted in his accepting the call made
to him, and on the 8th day of October, 1872, he arrived in Denver and
reported himself in readiness for the work.
The committee secured
for Sunday, August 30th, at three o'clock in the after-noon, the place
then familiarly known as the "Baptist Dug-Out," corner of Curtis and G
(now Sixteenth) streets. This consisted of a cellar or basement, mostly
underground and wholly without superstructure, and roofed over with common
rough boards. There were held, with forty persons present, the first
religious services under the Reverend Mr. Stone.
It was, however,
decided by the committee not best to engage this basement further, because
of its want of light and other unfavorable conditions, but to accept the
offer of Messrs. Belden and Powers for the free use of their offices, in
Ruter's Block, in G Street, which offices were upon the ground floor.
There was organized by Reverend Mr. Stone, on Sunday, February 2,
1873, the first Sunday school of the Unitarian Society, with nineteen
named as members.
In June, 1873, the society purchased four lots,
corner of Seventeenth and California streets, and the work of building was
at once commenced. The building was of wood, of Gothic architecture, with
stained glass windows and a seating capacity of 225. It was neatly
finished and furnished, and was dedicated Sunday. December 28, 1873.
Rev. S. S. Hunting was present, and assisted, preaching morning and
evening to a crowded house, and on that day, by unanimous vote, the name
"Unity" was given to the church.
On Sunday, January 23, 1875,
Reverend Mr. Stone resigned the pastorate of the church, although
remaining some three months thereafter. From that date until October 27,
1878, no regular pastor occupied the pulpit.
In the autumn of 1878
a call was sent to the Rev. Wm. R. Alger, who accepted, and preached his
first sermon in Denver October 27, 1878.
The Rev. R. L. Herbert,
having accepted a call to Denver, preached his first sermon September 19,
In August, 1881, Mr. Herbert died suddenly. The payment of
the church debt is Mr. Herbert's memorial.
From Mr. Herbert's
death, in August, 1881, there were no regular services until March 19,
1883, when Rev. A. M. Weeks, of Chelsea, Massachusetts, preached his first
sermon in Unity pulpit. His sudden death occurred January 29, 1884, at the
age of thirty-three.
In July a call was extended to Rev. Thomas
Van Ness, and on Sunday, October 13, 1884, his installation took place at
Unity Church. Present and assisting: Rev. John Snyder, of St. Louis; Rev.
E. Powell, of Topeka; Rev. J. T. Gibbs, of Greeley; Rev. C. G. Howland, of
During the first two years of Mr. Van Ness' pastorate,
the steadily increasing congregation made the need of a new and larger
church building more and more imperative.
In the spring of 1887
the church property, corner of California and Seventeenth streets, was
sold for $24,000, and lots purchased at the corner of Broadway and
Nineteenth Avenue for the sum of $14,000. Here, on November 9, 1886, was
laid, with appropriate and impressive ceremonies, the comer-stone of the
present church building. The building is of brick, with red stone
trimmings, of Romanesque architecture, and has a seating capacity of 920.
Besides the spacious entrance hall, and the beautiful audience room, there
are commodious Sunday school rooms, parlors, and all that is necessary to
the social as well as the religious work of the society.
memorial windows keep fresh the memory of their beloved dead. The new
church was dedicated September 4, 1887. The Revs. Minot J. Savage and
Brooke Hereford, of Boston, were present, and preached morning and
Failing health compelled Mr. Van Ness' resignation
October i, 1889.
On November 10, 1889, Rev. Samuel A. Eliot, son
of President Emeritus Eliot of Harvard, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, was
ordained in Unity Church. Under his ministry large numbers were added to
the church, and the Sunday school doubled its numbers. Dr. Eliot is now
president of the American Unitarian Association.
Rev. N. A.
Haskell succeeded Rev. Samuel A. Eliot in 1893, and remained until 189s,
when Rev. David Utter, now pastor emeritus, followed.
remained in active charge of the church until 1917, when Rev. Fred Alban
Weil, originally of Boston, succeeded him. Doctor Weil was for ten years
at Bellingham, Washington.
There are now small but active
Unitarian congregations at Pueblo, Fort Collins, Greeley and Colorado
Springs, all of which are thriving. The Greeley church was founded in
1880; the church at Colorado Springs in 1891; that at Fort Collins in
1897; that in Pueblo in 1898.
History of Colorado
Source: History of Colorado, Wilbur
Fisk Stone, Editor, Volume I, Chicago, The S. J. Clarke Publishing
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