SHESHEQUIN — The Unitarian Universalist Church of Athens and Sheshequin celebrated the 185th anniversary of their historic Universalist Meeting House’s dedication in 1834 and the 145th anniversary of the installation of the church’s bell on Sunday.
Members of the congregation, neighbors and friends joined together at the Universalist Meeting House that is used for summer Sunday services in July and August, to celebrate the anniversaries and recent renovations done to the long-established building.
“I hope people had fun, I love to talk about it,” said Katie Replogle, the de-facto historian of the church, on Sunday. “It was fun for me to have an audience.”
Repogle delivered a short history to those in attendance about the history of the Universalist church in Bradford County and surrounding areas.
She said the building’s construction started in 1822, was finished in 1827 and then dedicated on Oct. 1 and 2 in 1834.
The church bell was dedicated 40 years later after a group of women in the congregation called the ‘Ladies’ Aid Society’ raised funds through “sociables” and “fairs” to purchase the 520-pound bell. Repogle said that the congregation fluctuated and was at a low point around the time the bell was placed.
“However, even during the periods of low membership, the Ladies’ Aid Society remained very active — they probably were the ones who kept the congregation going,” she added.
The Universalist Church has a long history in the Bradford County area. Repogle said that Noah Murray, a Universalist preacher from New England, had come to Tioga Point, now known as Athens, in 1788 and was considered to be radical at the time compared to the more rigid denominations.
Murray was challenged to a debate in 1793 by an alarmed Baptist preacher after Murray’s following grew steadily. “In the end the Baptist was converted,” said Repogle.
The Baptist’s congregation then combined with Murray’s and formed the base of what still exists and was celebrated on Sunday at the church.