TAPESTRY OF VOICES
Numerous ministers have faithfully served Eldorado Universalist Church since its founding in 1849. During their collective span of ministry, congregations have occupied three different church buildings. A sizable segment of the church’s early ministers were circuit preachers and therefore accustomed to the challenges and invigoration of changing pulpits and audiences. While the title and scriptural cites of early sermons are known in some instances, the verbatim text of sermons from the early years are not found in present day church records. In an effort to reverse that trend, the church is considering upgrades to its audio/visual system in the hope that today’s sermons and speakers might be preserved for posterity and replayed at will for the edification of future congregations.
Even without available documentation, it stands to reason that messages delivered to this church’s congregations during the first century of its existence were the same interesting weave of engaging Universalist and later Unitarian thought, tempered by highly individualized insights and styles of delivery, as they have been since.
Certain biographical information about the early ministers derived from church records and other print sources of the day while sometimes sketchy does nevertheless help illumine the lives of the church’s early pastors. The roster of NINETEENTH CENTURY pastors associated with Eldorado Universalist Church lists the following individuals and their dates of service:
1849 to 1855 – REVEREND ELIHU MOORE was formerly a Baptist in Miami, Ohio who later became a Universalist. He preached at Troy, Locust Grover, Conover, Eldorado, Princeton, New Vienna, Edwardsville and other churches before becoming the founding minister at Eldorado Universalist Church. Rev. Moore received his fellowship from the Winchester Association and helped organize several churches.
1856 to 1862 – REVEREND WILLIAM Y. EMMET was born in Virginia on July 17, 1798, the son of a Methodist preacher. The family moved to Ohio when he was eight years old. His preaching assignments included West Jefferson, Woodstock, Oxford, Columbus, Springfield, Goshen, Pricetown, Montgomery, Eldorado, Cincinnati, and Circleville. He died in Springfield on January 1, 1873.
1856 to 1862 – REVEREND SWEET shared preaching assigments but no biographical information is presently available.
1856 to 1862 – REVEREND HENRY GIFFORD came from the eastern part of the United States and preached in Middletown, Oxford, Hamilton, Galena, Jersey, Reynoldsburg, and Columbus amond other locations. Part of a group of shared ministers for the church, he died circa 1887.
1856 to 1862 – REVEREND BIDDLECOME also preached within this period of time.
1864 TO 1866 and 1871 – REVEREND T. S. GUTHRIE served Eldorado Universalist Church as minister during these years.
1867 to 1871 – REVEREND ELIHU MOORE continued to serve the church.
1874 to 1895 – REVEREND JOHN HENRY BLACKFORD was born in New Westville, Ohio on April 10, 1848. He was a life-long resident of Eldorado and was ordained here in 1873. As with other preachers of the time, his prior experience including speaking in various locations including Eaton, New Madison, Plattsville, and Conover.
1875 – REVEREND GETCHELL is mentioned as an Eldorado Universalist Church preacher who filled in for Rev. Blackford when he was unable to preach. Additional biographical information is unavailable.
1896 to 1897 – REVEREND MOORMAN served the Eldorado congregation but is another pastor presently lacking a detailed biography.
1898 to 1899 – REVEREND J. H. BLACKFORD returned to the church following a three year absence.
The twentieth century was a time of dramatic change throughout the country and nowhere was this change more obvious than with the dwindling number of Universalist congregations throughout Ohio. The roster of TWENTIETH to MID CENTURY clergy in service to the Eldorado congregations includes:
1900 to 1901 – REVEREND ROBINSON remains among those ministers without specific biographical information.
1901 to 1903 – REVEREND HARRY BLACKFORD (possibly related to Rev. J. H. Blackford) was born October 17, 1866 in Eldorado, Ohio, graduated from Tufts College in Massachusetts and was ordained in 1892. He preached in Cincinnati from 1899 to 1901. In 1899 he preached at Mason later resigning that post in 1902 to enter the business world.
1903 to 1917 – REVEREND SARA L. STONER was born November 26, 1853 in Union County, Indiana. She taught school in Preble County, Ohio in 1890. Her preaching assignments included Jeffersonville, Centerfield, Milford, Cuba, Palestine, New Madison, Miami City, New Paris, Camden, Eaton, Eldorado, Belleville, Mt. Gilead, Conover and other states. Rev. Stoner presided over the cornerstone and dedication celebrations of the Eldorado Universalist Church in 1909. She died in March of 1937 at Mt. Gilead.
1903 to 1913 – REVEREND J. A. STONER, husband of Sara, was born April 21, 1849 in Peru, Indiana. As with her, he also attended Smithson & Buchtel College and was later ordained in 1889. He died in December 1913 at Eldorado, Ohio.
1919 to 1924 – REVEREND THOMAS M. MURRAY was born in Manchester, England and graduated from Ryder Divinity School in Chicago. He was ordained in 1917 and was installed as Eldorado’s pastor on July 6, 1919. In 1924, he accepted a call to Kentucky. He died thirty years later on May 10, 1954 in Concord, Michigan.
1924 – REVEREND F. W. MILLER often substituted for Rev. Murray. No other information is provided for him.
1924 to 1929 – REVEREND ELMER DRULEY was a graduate of the Universalist based Tufts College, was ordained December 11, 1924 and was installed as pastor at Eldorado on September 7, 1924. Fiver years later in the same month, he accepted a call to another Midwest church.
1929 to 1932 – REVEREND ROSCOE WALTERS was born in Middleport, New York, graduated from St. Lawrence University and was ordained October 29, 1930. He was installed as the church’s pastor on November 10, 1929. In 1932, he accepted a calling to Lansing, Michigan.
1935 to 1938 – REVEREND GEORGE WOOD was born in Massachusetts, graduated from Tufts College and was installed at Eldorado on July 7, 1934. In December of 1938, he accepted a calling to Everett, Massachusetts.
1939 – DR. RAYMOND COPE and REVEREND HARRIET DRULEY both served the church as minister during this year and it is likely that the latter is related if not perhaps the wife of Rev. Elmer Druley.
1940 to 42 – REVEREND CLINTON SCOTT was Eldorado’s minister at the outset of World War II.
1940 to 1949 – REVEREND MORLEY R. HARTLEY was another Eldorado minister who was Canadian by birth. Rev. Hartley attended McMaster University in Toronto and was ordained in 1915. He was installed on May 1, 1947 but accepted a calling to Lansing, Michigan in November 1949.
From 1950 through the end of the twentieth century, post war ministers who served this church included:
1950 to 1953 – REVEREND FRANK D. GENTILE was born in St. Johns Bay, Vermont. He attended Bates College and New York City’s Union Theological Seminary. Ordained on May 31, 1953, he was installed in Eldorado in January 1950. On October 1, 1953, he accepted a calling to Northwest Church in Detroit.
1953 to 1956 – REVEREND WELLS BEHEE was born in Middleport, New York on October 22, 1925, attended St. Lawrence University and received his Master of Divinity Degree from St. Lawrence Theological School in Canton, New York. He was ordained November 1, 1953 and earlier installed October 1, 1953 as minister at Eldorado Universalist Church. While serving this church, he concurrently served New Madson Universalist Church. A fifth generation Universalist, Rev. Wells had written articles for the Universalist Herald. At the time of his installation, he was a retired school teacher and belonged to the Ohio State Teachers Organization. Wells enjoyed many hobbies including art. He painted a large "Mural of All Religions" with originals of the mural installed at the New Madison Universalist Church and later the Eldorado Universalist Church. The late Rev. Behee and his wife Mary resided in New Madison. They are survived by four daughters and a son. Rev. Behee spoke last at the church’s 2009 Centennial Celebration.
1955 – DR. EDWARD MILLER preached occasionally during this year also.
1956 to 1959 – REVEREND JOSEPH F. NERAD served the church in the lead up to the Unitarian Universalist consolidation.
1960 to 1964 – REVEREND GEORGE LaPOINT was born in Lowell, Massachusetts on April 24, 1906. He graduated from Tufts University, was ordained January 1934 and was installed here in October 1969. In August of 1964, he accepted a calling to Orange, Massachusetts.
1965 to 1992 – REVEREND RAY MICHEL was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 18, 1920, and was a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. He was ordained in 1949 and was installed at Eldorado Universalist Church on September 1965 and jointly served New Madison Universalist Church. During his lengthy 26 year ministry with the church, Ray was also very active locally in community programs serving as Director of Programs geared to men, women, youth and children. Rev. Michel garnered accolades for his dedicated work with the UUA in the Southwest District over the years. Ray has five adult children (3 sons and 2 daughters), lives in Eaton with his wife Grace. Reverend Michel retired on September 1, 1992. he remained a periodic guest speaker at the church and participated in the church’s Centennial Celebration in 2009. In November 2015, Rev. Michel delivered his last sermon in this church titled &qout;Getting Old Isn’t for Sissies&qout;, a reflective look at aging gracefully. In 2016, Ray wrote the church to say that at age 95 he was retiring from the pulpit ending an illustrious life of service.
1993 to 1994 – REVEREND VANN KNIGHT served the church as interim minister during this year.
1994 to 2000 – REVEREND KATHRYN HAWBAKER is a graduate of Meadville-Lombard in Chicago. Her first settlement positions were with Eldorado and New Madison churches where she discovered her interest in youth ministry. In 2000, she accepted a calling to the Hopedale UU Community in Oxford, Ohio and also served the Miami University community. Rev. Hawbaker assumed the pulpit at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta, Georgia in 2007.
TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY ministers who have served Eldorado Universalist Church include:
2001 to 2005 – REVEREND DEREK PARKER is a graduate of Earlham School of Religion and in 2005 was ordained at Epiphany Church (UUA) in Fenton, Michigan. Thereafter, Derek was active in ministries with the Deaconess Hospital, National Episcopal Health Ministries, Irvington Friends Meeting (Quaker) and posts with Episcopal churches in Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, Indiana. Rev. Parker has been a frequent contributor to the Universalist Herald magazine and the Liberal Christian and Good News periodicals. He belongs to the UU Society for Community Ministry. In 2009, Derek also joined the Living Heritage ministers who spoke at the Centennial Celebration. Rev. Parker presently serves as the pastor at First Friends Meeting in Richmond.
2005 TO 2008 – REVEREND DONNE HAYDEN was born and raised in Portales, New Mexico. Donne attended the University of New Mexico and graduated in May of 2006 with a Master of Divinity Degree from the Earlham School of Religion in Indiana. Rev. Hayden was formerly a high school English teacher for 20 years with teaching assignments in Colorado, Sao Paulo and Austria. She also taught creative writing and composition at Colorado State University and IU East in Richmond, Indiana and was founding editor of Changing Woman (a Colorado magazine). She is the author of "A Sense of the Meeting: A History of Elkton Monthly Meeting, 1805-2005". She loves to read and maintains memberships in the Quaker History and Genealogy organization. Donne’s daughter and two grandsons live nearby in Cincinnati. Rev. Hayden spoke at the 2009 Centennial Celebration. She recently retired as pastor of the Cincinnati Friends Meeting and now devotes her time to her grandchildren and when time permits pursues adventures on the open road in her RV.
2008 TO 2009 – REVEREND LESLIE WOODWARD obtained a Master of Divinity Degree from Earlham School of Religion, Richmond, Indiana in 2005. She received Preliminary Fellowship from the UUA in 2007 and was ordained by her home congregation, Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in June 2008. She completed her chaplain training at Kettering Medical Center and Sycamore Hospital. Leslie was a speaker at the Centennial Celebration in 2009. Rev. Woodward presently serves as Religious Educator at Heritage Universalist Unitarian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Leslie and her husband Chris have two sons.
2010 to the present – REVEREND KATHY BRAWLEY was a guest speaker at Eldorado Universalist Church for several years before being hired to serve the church as Consulting Minister. Rev. Brawley spoke at the Centennial Celebration in 2009. She was the Academic Dean as well as full time instructor at Covenant Bible College in Strathmore, Alberta, Canada from 1995-2006. Ohio born, Rev. Brawley was ordained 1997 in Anaheim, California, through the Evangelical Covenant Church. When she is not in the pulpit, overseeing various church activities or conducting pastoral care visits to the sick, housebound or hospitalized, Kathy makes periodic trips to Haiti as the area coordinator of a nutrition program of the Reliv Kalogris Foundation, a Missouri-based non-profit organization providing daily nutritional supplement for 40,000 children around the world. Rev. Brawley also volunteers with the New Paris Food Bank. She continues to teach online university level religion courses. Kathy resides in New Paris, Ohio, with her daughter, Natalie, and their zoo of pets.
Since the founding of the Eldorado Universalist Church in 1849, ministerial voices from our pulpit have been both theological and secular; sometimes focused outwardly on social, and peace and justice issues; sometimes searching more inward realms. In keeping with the Unitarian Universalist belief that the pulpit should be a locus for freedom of expression, presence has always been made for a diversity of voices. Other voices heard have included mainline denominational, Eastern and Quaker faith persuasions as well as professions of agnostic, atheistic and humanist belief. Sermons tend towards an integrated blend of scripture, literature, philosophy, inter-faith theology, cultural and contemporary issues. Ideas expressed from the pulpit have long been interwoven into a Tapestry of Voices which enlighten, challenge and interpret but always allow the listener to individually determine the validity of what is being shared and heard.