by Mike Roberts, Church Historian
Ulysses Milburn was the minister of our church in the late 1890’s. His greatest contribution to the church was his support and strong encouragement to build the Essex Street church. Milburn was born in a small farm community east of Columbus, the son of a farmer. He graduated from St. Lawrence University and came to Cincinnati after serving as assistant to Reverend Royal Pullman in Baltimore, the minister who gave the world Mother’s Day. Milburn served in Cincinnati for four years, leaving just before the completion of the Essex Street facility. He went on to serve as minister in several New York and New England churches. He also was a world traveler and often lectured on his travels. Additionally, he was a collector of memorabilia and papers related to William Wadsworth Longfellow. His outstanding collection was donated to St. Lawrence University and is still used today by researchers of Longfellow.
Milburn made annual reports on his ministry and these are contained in the board minutes of the era. They give us a look back on the life of a Universalist minister and his flock in the 1890’s. The following is Reverend Milburn’s report for the year 1895.
There has been one more tick of the old clock of time, for years are but ticks of the clock. Twenty one months have passed since I took up the labors of this pastorate and for a second time, I am to read a report to you. I am not going to preach a sermon. I inflict this upon you about twice a week, and by your good nature inform me you stand the ordeal. Oh, the martyrs there are in the world! But, I will at once enter into some details of my work.
The church has been open 47 Sundays during the year for Divine worship; the other five it was closed for vacation. I have exchanged once, December 1st with Rev. G. A. Kratzer—the first exchange of this pastorate. The other 47 Sundays I was in the pulpit but did not preach every Sunday. March 3rd, Reverend T. E. Dotter preached and November 17th, Rev. Mr. Preble and Miss Bortle occupied the pulpit and one service on March 17th was conducted by the Y.P.C.U. From January 1st through June 2nd, inclusive, both morning and evening services were held. Also, from November 17th to the close of the year. The rest of the time but one service was held. A most profitable series of Lenten services were held on the week preceding Easter, which gave all who attended—shepherd and flock—new courage, life and hopefulness. I take this opportunity of urging those present to attend these meetings, should they be held in the future, as we anticipate. Summing up, I have preached 72 sermons in this pulpit in the year. And you are all alive! Besides these, I have spoken 24 times in other places. These include a lecture on “Temperance” given at Sharonville, Ohio on May 10th; a paper on “The Poets of the Liberal Faith” read at the Conference of Liberal Churches at Columbus on October 30th; a sermon before the YMCA of Covington, Kentucky, December 29th; and the giving of the Unity Club lecture four times. A total of 96 sermons has been preached. Averaging them at 30 minutes each and some a little longer!, it would make continuous speaking for 48 hours. You may be thankful that all this wisdom is parceled out to you! But a minister has something to do besides preaching. Possibly this is the least. It is his mission to:
Minister to a mind diseased;
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow;
Raze out the written troubles of the brain;
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart.
(Completion of Reverend Milburn’s report in January).
Picture: Sketch of the Essex Place building, encouraged and supported by Rev. Milburn