Stone church

The Broadwell Legacy to Religious Education

by Mike Roberts, Church Historian

During the years when our church was located on Essex Place, there existed a division of that church known as the Broadwell School. This school provided both adult and children’s religious education and was supported by an endowment from Lewis Broadwell, an early member of our church.

Broadwell appears to have been a very prosperous real estate investor and is known to have served as a state senator representing the 49th district. In his will, dated 1852, he decreed that half his estate was to be set aside to provide for both religious education in the First Universalist Church and to support a number of local orphanages.

The will was apparently contested by some of his family and its actual implementation did not take place until decades after his death due to the will stipulating that the bequest to the church was not to occur until the death of his wife. Mrs. Broadwell outlived her husband by nearly fifty years.

A notice in Cincinnati Enquirer of 1905 speaks to the value of the endowment. Land owned by the Broadwells on Fifth St. between Walnut and Fountain was put up for auction with an estimated value of between $40,000 and $50,000, an enormous sum for its day. Three-fourths of the receipts from the sale went to the church. Not long after that, a series of Broadwell speakers were brought to the church for the purpose of adult religious education.

Here is a sampling of those speakers:

  • The church pastor, A.B. Beresford offered six speeches on “Home Life of a Universalist.”
  • On November 16, 1910, Louis B. Fisher, President of Lombard College, spoke on “Socrates, the Athenian Yankee.”
  • On December 2, 1910, Dr. Washington Gladden of Columbus spoke on “Friendship”. He stated, “Friendship and cooperation, not competition, are the realities of human nature. The business of life should be the promotion of friendship. The normal industry is the organization of good will, the perfect government is the cooperation of all for the common good.”
  • On April 26, 1912, Reverend R. S. Kellerman spoke on “Cranks.” He stated, “A crank is the most useful man in the world and owing to the great activities of the times, the world has never been so full of cranks as it is today.”

The Broadwell Trust continued to provide Sunday School and Adult Religious Education to our church for over 50 years.

Image: Essex Street Church (home of our congregation at the time of the Broadwell School).