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First Unitarian Church Records

Identifier: MS-230

Scope and Content

The collection goes into detail about the formation of the First Unitarian Church in Dayton in 1910 with administrative records as well as scrapbooks and written histories. It also goes into the activities of the inter-church organizations and affiliated organizations since the church was involved in a variety of causes and issues both local and international.

Series I, Administration, contains administrative records, like annual reports and committee reports and minutes, that date back to the church’s formation in 1910. This series also includes constitutions, annual reports, and the work of the Board of Trustees.

Series II, Financial, contains financial information of the church. This includes budgets, treasurers’ reports, bank statements, insurance information, and receipts. This series is sorted by file subject and then by date.

Series III, Building, contains information as to the First Unitarian Church’s building itself. It includes such things as blueprints, building committee reports, and maintenance agreements. This series is sorted chronologically and by subject.

Series IV, Members, contains information on members of the First Unitarian Church. It contains Directories, membership listings, and brief biographies on some of the members.

Series V, Services, contains information about the services at First Unitarian Church. It is divided into three subseries. Subseries VA, Programs and Special Services, contains mainly Orders of Service, which tell what will happen during the service and the music selection. Subseries VB, Sermons, is a collection of the sermons given at services from various reverends and other speakers. Subseries VC, Music, contains some music that was performed at the services.

Series VI, Publications, contains the publications of the First Unitarian Church from 1928-1997. Also included are some newsletters from the Miami Valley Unitarian Fellowship from the time that the First Unitarian Church merged with them in 1997.

Series VII, Organizations and Activities, contains information on the activities and organizations of the First Unitarian Church. It is divided into three subseries. Subseries VIIA, Inter-Church Organizations, encompasses the clubs and committees inside the First Church itself. Subseries VIIB, Church Affiliated Organizations, encompasses Unitarian groups such as the American Unitarian Association (AUA), the Ohio Valley Unitarian-Universalist District (OVUUD), and the Unitarian-Universalist Association (UUA) and their publications. Subseries VIIC, Public Outreach, contains some of the social issues which the First Church espoused, like the ACLU and discrimination issues.

Series VIII, Correspondence, contains correspondence to and from the church over the years. Most of it is label as General Correspondence, and is arranged chronologically, but there are some files that are arranged by subject at the end of the file.

Series IX, History, contains general histories of both the First Unitarian Church and also of the Unitarian movement in general. This is an excellent section to introduce both the beliefs of the Unitarians and the First Church itself.

Series X, Scrapbooks, contains Scrapbooks compiled by the members of the First Unitarian Church and tells about the Church through newspaper articles and photographs.

Series XI, Photographs, contains photographs of the Church and its members over the years.

Series XII, Audio Visual, contains both audio and video tapes of the church, which contain sermons, music, and guest speakers. This series contains two subseries. Subseries XIIA, Audio Tapes, holds audio tapes of sermons and other speeches and music. Subseries XIIB, Video Tapes, contains various videos of sermons, conferences and music performances.

Series XIII, Oversized Collection, contains the Oversized Collection which consists of Newspapers, photos, and scrapbooks that are too large to fit in a Hollinger box.


  • Creation: 1910-1998


Restrictions on Access

There are no restrictions on accessing material in this collection, however due to preservation concerns, original audio and video materials cannot be played in the reading room. Patrons may have access to reference copies. Items without reference copies can be digitized at the request of a patron for the cost of creating a digital copy. Please provide us at least two weeks advance notice if you would like to request an audio or video reference copy. Call (937) 775-2092 or e-mail us at Use of digitized content is subject to conditions governing use.

Restrictions on Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

History of First Unitarian Church (Dayton, Ohio)

The First Unitarian Church held its inception meeting March of 1910. Through advertisements in local newspapers, all persons of liberal faith interested in the formation of a Unitarian were invited. The meeting was held in the old YMCA Hall, and conducted by Rev. Ernest C. Smith, Secretary of the Western Unitarian Conference in Chicago, Illinois. On May 21, 1910 the Articles of Incorporation were signed by Francis K. Fassett, N.R. Stanley, Frank C. Moody, H.L Orrman, H. Elliot Dodd, Elizabeth D. Elliott, Grace B. Heathman, Sarah Howard Peirce, and Alice Kile Neibel. Two days later the Articles were filed in the Office of the Secretary of the State of Ohio.

Dr. Troward H. Marshall was installed as the first minister of the church in November of 1910. He was successful in building a strong and influential congregation. He was also influential in civic affairs and was interested in social welfare issues. For two years he was also an advocate of the city commissioner system for Dayton. During the crisis of the 1913 flood, the congregation and Marshall were involved with the relief efforts. The American Unitarian Association sent several of thousands of dollars to be distributed.

Because of the flood the Church was unable to use its meeting place in the Young Women’s League Hall on West Fourth Street. The Peirce family offered the use of their home in the Five Oaks neighborhood to the congregation.

It was not until November of 1914 in which the congregation dedicated the final site of the Church at 665 Salem Ave. in Dayton. The Sunday Morning dedication sermon was given by Dr. Minot Simons of the “Church of Unity” in Cleveland. Dr. George Thayer of Cincinnati, Rev. John Davidson of Xenia, and Dr. Marshal assisted in this service. Some famous local church members of this early period include John Patterson of the NCR Corporation, Marie Kumler, and Arthur Morgan, president of Antioch College.

In 1928, Edwin Wilson became the sixth minister of the Church. One of the activities during his four-year tenure in Dayton was to publish the national Unitarian newsletter, Dawn. At his next church, the Third Unitarian Church of Chicago, he continued to publish this newsletter until 1941. During the 1980s he returned to Dayton to serve as the First Unitarian Church’s Minister Emeritus until 1988.

In 1943 a fire caused over eight thousand dollars’ worth of property in the Church. Fire insurance on the property allowed the congregation to repair or replace the losses. Some of the damaged materials included hymnals, furniture, rugs and an organ.

Besides Edwin Wilson, two other ministers with long tenures at t First Unitarian are Harold Levesconte and Rev. Gene Reeves. Levesconte served from 1960-1969 and Reeves succeeded him until 1979.

The First Unitarian Church was forced to join with the Miami Valley Unitarian Fellowship in 1997, due to low attendance and fiscal problems. Included in the Correspondence section much of the debate over the Church’s closing.

Throughout its history, the church has been interested in local and world issues. Some of these include the Vietnam War, racism, civil rights, poverty, human rights, and religious freedom.


15 linear feet

Language of Materials



The First Unitarian Church was formed in Dayton, Ohio, in 1910. This collection covers the Church’s history from the beginning as well as their organizational activities and services. Materials included are administrative records and organization records, scrapbooks and photographs about events, and Church publications. There is also information about the building of the church itself since, when the Church first started, they had to use other facilities.

Statement of Arrangement

The collection is arranged into thirteen series.

  1. Series 1: Administration
  2. Series 2 Financial
  3. Series 3: Building
  4. Series 4: Members
  5. Series 5: Services
  6. Series 6: Publications
  7. Series 7: Organizations and Activities
  8. Series 8: Correspondence
  9. Series 9: History
  10. Series 10: Scrapbooks
  11. Series 11: Photographs
  12. Series 12: Audio Visual
  13. Series 13: Oversized Collection

Other Finding Aid

A complete box and folder inventory for this collection is available on the Special Collections and Archives web site at

Acquisition Information

The records of the First Unitarian Church were accessioned into the Wright State University Special Collections and Archives in August of 1991. Two additional accessions were made in September of 1992 and December of 1992. Mr. Hall Barrett, a member of First Unitarian, served as liaison between the University and the Church in these transactions.

Related Material

MS-132, Fairborn United Methodist Church Records MS-212, First Lutheran Church of Dayton Records MS-246, Harold F. Barrett Papers MS-257, Central Baptist Church, Oregon District, Records MS-276, Westminster Presbyterian Church Records MS-442, Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church Records

Guide to the First Unitarian Church Records (MS-230)
Finding aid prepared by Raymond Shook, 1993
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • 2005: Additions to the collection were processed by Amber McPherson.
  • February 2013: The finding aid for this collection was reformatted by Victoria Penno.
  • 2018 Nov-Dec: Name of church (and all associated fields) revised by Lisa Rickey and Toni Vanden Bos.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton OH 45435-0001 USA