FIRST KNOWN UNIVERSALIST PRESENCE IN PENSACOLA
Before there were UU’s, there were U’s and there were U’s. One of those U’s was present in Pensacola at the turn of the twentieth century. That U was for Universalist, which became part of our name when Unitarians and Universalists merged in 1961. Nationally, the Universalist organized in 1793; the Unitarians organized in 1825. Overseas, their roots go back centuries, according to the Unitarian Universalist Association.
In 1902, a woman named ATHALIA IRWIN was ordained in our fair city as a Universalist minister and served the Universalist church here from 1902-1904.
The Universalist denomination was the leader in ordaining women. In fact, it ordained Universalist Minister Olympia Brown in 1863. She is often cited as the very first woman minister in theUnited States, but there is some dispute about that.
The local Universalist church, the one where ATHALIA IRWIN was ordained, was located in downtown Pensacola. The city directories of the time showed a listing under CHURCHES –WHITE – – UNIVERSALIST — FIRST UNIVERSALIST CHURCH with an address of 44 E. CHASE Street.
This would put the church approximately on the back corner of the First Presbyterian Church complex and next to the old Pensacola Glass Co. The 1903 directory showed Rev. Irwin living in a house at 500 N. Hayne Street.
That Universalist church started in 1898, and services were held on the first and third Sundays. That church continued till about 1935.
April 11-13, 2008, we celebrate the start of the Unitarian group which has been a continuous presence in Pensacola since 1958 and evolved directly into UUCP.
–Barbara Goggins and Dolly Berthelot