by Mike Roberts, Church Historian
In the middle of the last century, our church merged with another liberal church called the New Thought Temple. This merger temporarily changed the name of the church to reflect the contributions of both congregations, but eventually the New Thought Temple members blended into the Universalist church and the name reverted back to the First Universalist Church of Cincinnati. On January 10, 1993, one of those original New Thought Temple members, Josephine Hopkins, reflected on her memories of both churches. She shared those reflections during a worship service:
My thoughts take me back many years. Our church was an outgrowth of the followers of Dr. Harry Grannison Hall, at one time pastor of the New Thought Temple in Walnut Hills. He was a dynamic person – a giant of a man both physically and intellectually. A large group of his followers eventually found with him a home in the First Universalist Church on Essex Place in Walnut Hills.
Florence Angus, at the time Florence Case, was a member of this church. That building was and still is a charming, stone edifice between McMillan St. and William Howard Taft. It has some of the most magnificent stained glass windows, dedicated to early Cincinnatians such as the poetesses Alice and Phoebe Cary.
The group that came to the First Universalist Church was known as the City Temple and later incorporated in the State of Ohio as the City Temple-First Universalist Church. This I know because my husband, Robert Hopkins, being a well-known civic leader and lawyer, established the letters of incorporation for the church. Because of population growth and neighborhood changes, our group found it necessary to move to the Mt. Washington location at Salem Rd. and Apple Tree Lane, which was the immediate forerunner of our present, pleasant location.
Some of my happiest memories of this group were at the Essex Street location. Our church suppers, for example, were particularly jolly affairs. One of our ministers was Albert Q. Perry, an erudite and scholarly man – a born New Englander and a true son of the “land of the bean and cod.” I particularly remember Al because of his fondness for my baked beans, which he always made sure I brought to the church suppers. Other members were known for their particular specialties, such as Erma Kessler’s German potato salad. A church committee supplied the meat dish. The dinner was usually followed by some form of entertainment. I remember one member, a Mr. Morris Gordon – an accomplished artist with the Barker Greeting Card Co., who entertained with his wonderful artistic ability and who was so popular, he started art classes for the group. This was just one of the many forms of entertainment that we enjoyed.
As I look around, there are just a few of us who share these memories. The Vickers family was with us [then], my sister, Hermione McLaughlin, and her family, Florence Angus and her mother, Mrs. Case. Long-time members Muriel and Don Steelman are both gone. There was the wonderful Lewis family, the Heuermans and the Klines. I can’t begin to mention them all – all a part of the beautiful past into which some have entered the Great Beyond. Yet they are still a part of this loving and growing church community. It is my hope that in the future you, too, will be sharing similar memories of your time in this lovely place.