by Mike Roberts, Church Historian
The Reverend Ulysses S. Milburn was the minister of the First Universalist Church of Cincinnati during a critical part of our history. Our church had disposed of its property, including its place of worship on Plum Street, during the 1880’s and was seeking a new home during the 1890’s. This was a difficult financial time for the country as a disastrous market crash has robbed many institutions and individuals of their wealth. This included members of our church.
Reverend Milburn spoke often and eloquently of the need to build a new church outside of downtown and the result was the Essex Street church in Walnut Hills, which eventually became the home of the congregation for nearly sixty years. The Reverend Isaac Morgan Atwood of Tufts University was keynote speaker and Reverend Milburn turned the spade for the long-awaited groundbreaking ceremony in winter of 1896.
Milburn was born in Black Lick, Ohio, a tiny crossroads village, ten miles east of Columbus, which was eventually swallowed up by the city. He attended its public schools and was later a teacher for three years in those same schools. He eventually attended St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, from which he obtained its seminary degree. His first calling was to serve as pastor in London, Ohio, then as associate pastor in Baltimore, Maryland, and next Cincinnati. We were the third of seven churches he served during his career.
When he left Cincinnati shortly after the church was completed, he became pastor of the Universalist Church of Cortland, New York. It is also known that he served in Oneonta, New York; Everett, Massachusetts; and Salem, Massachusetts.
Reverend Milburn left two legacies for which he is well remembered. He was a great traveler and visited many parts of the United States as well as Europe. He was an early photography buff and left hundreds of glass plate slides of his travels, which even today provide valuable background for what those destinations looked like in the days of his travel, as well as the photographic techniques he utilized.
More importantly, Milburn was a lifelong student of Nathaniel Hawthorne whom he greatly admired. He possessed a monumental collection of Hawthorne’s works as well as scholarly studies of those works, hundreds of personal letters that the author wrote and notes for many of his works. He left all of these to St. Lawrence University, and even today it is widely used as a source by Hawthorne scholars.
Reverend Milburn died in 1956 at the age of 90. He is buried with his wife, Alice Dinsmore Milburn, in Steven’s Point, Pennsylvania.