The Springboro Universalist Church and Cemetery

In Ohio, Universalism was first preached by Rev. Timothy Bigelow in 1814. Growth of the denomination in Ohio was rapid. By 1850, more than fifty Universalist Churches existed
in Ohio. Most of these churches were located in small towns. The Springboro Universalist Church was formed in 1832.

Universalist beliefs existed for centuries, but a Universalist Church did not formally organize until the 1750s. The church came from England to America during the 1770s. John Murray organized the first Universalist Church in North America in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in 1779.

The First Universalist Church of Springboro was built in 1841, just north of Rte 73, on land provided by the Gregg family, who were founders of the Springboro church along with other Springboro pioneers. The church building was replaced in 1905, with the “old stone church” at 300 S. Main St. that continues in use by another congregation.

“The historic Universalist Cemetery was a neglected, tangled thicket in 1992, located behind a commercial property at the corner of North Main and Parker Dr. Though not faded from memory, four tilted headstones and a toppled obelisk were the sole visible indications of a cemetery. Dense bushes, noxious weeds, sun-starved saplings and several large trees effectively filtered out all but scattered shafts of light, even at midday.

“The Universalists had invested love and care into the church and cemetery after the Gregg family provided the land to the church.

“In 1837, Nicholas Fye, 81, became the first to be buried in the burying ground. Four years later William Gregg built a wooden frame church at the front of the property. Tragically, four Greggs would join Fye and Samuel Clanen in the cemetery in 1844, the victims of typhoid fever. Samuel, the Gregg patriarch, his wife, Nancy (O’Brien), 24-year old George, granddaughter Pheeby Ann and grandson Arthur Millard. By 1850 the cemetery was 40 percent filled.”

Rev. W. B. Linell was the minister in Springborough from 1844-1851. At the turn of the century, Dr. Ira. A. Shaton served Springboro, Ridgeville and Mason. “In 1915, Mariana Hallam Stansel recalled the early days of the frame church. “The dear old Universalist Church was next to my home. My mother played the melodeon for services. It was given to her as a wedding present by her father-in-law Jeremiah Stansel.

“She carried it every Sunday from our home to the church. Grandpa Jeremiah lent his grand voice to the singing of 'Lift Up Your Heads, 0 Ye Gates.' "I was a tiny girl, but very impressionable. When we left Springboro, my mother's mahogany furniture became church furniture. I never had a desire to take it from that sacred place where on the pulpit in letters of gold on a field of blue were the words, 'God is Love’”.

“The Universalists were prosperous and committed; many were converts from the Quaker faith. In 1905, they built a beautiful stone church at 300 South Main. Presently, the South Dayton Church of Christ is restoring the stained glass windows and along with the Clearcreek DAR has prepared a history of the windows and the families who donated them - “Windows On the Past”. The Universalists continued to lavish attention on their old cemetery on the north end of town, but in the 1930s, church membership had dwindled to 13. In the 1950s, the Universalist congregation folded.” (Adapted from “Paths Through The Wilderness”, Springboro history by Don Ross.)

Ohio Universalism, by Elmo Robinson and The Sentinel and later the Sentinel and Star in the West are valuable resources for information on early Universalist history in Ohio.