The Athens Universalist Society was organized in 1849 and built a meeting house on North St. in 1851. By the mid-1890’s, the building needed a lot of repairs. In November, 1895, the congregation met to discuss the possibility of selling the 1851 meeting house and building a new one about half a mile away at the corner of Main and Pine streets. Motions were made to repair the North St. building (defeated), to build a new meeting house on the Main & Pine lot (probably defeated – vote not recorded), and to reconsider the motion to repair the North St. church (passed).
The congregation raised money for repairs in 1896, and the North St. building was closed for repair work in November of that year. The record book notes in June, 1898, that “the Society is out of debt, the church in good repair.”
The “Poverty Party,” which, according to the flyer, was intended to raise money to build a new meeting house, was held in February, 1896, at the home of Athens church member Dennison Tripp. Tripp lived a couple of blocks away from the proposed new site. Why was a fundraiser held for the erection of a new meeting house when the congregation had apparently voted to repair the North St. building?
The following brief article in a “special edition” of the Sayre/Athens Evening News on Nov. 1, 1899, may offer a clue:
“The Church of the Good Tidings: The Universalists of North Athens have organized themselves into a society under this title and, through the untiring efforts of the lady members, a church site has been purchased and paid for at the junction of Pine, Church and Main streets, a charter granted under the laws of the state, and plans are well under way for the erection of a new church in the near future.”
The above article was recently sent to us by a staff member of the local museum. We had never before heard of the “Universalists of North Athens.” Did the congregation split over the decision to repair the old meeting house? Did the defectors, possibly led by Tripp, organize a new congregation and purchase the lot at Pine and Main?
As far as we know, no church was built on the lot in question. The building currently on that lot was an Odd Fellows Hall in 1911 and probably earlier. With some more research, we hope to solve this mystery – look for Part 3!