Keene Congregational (Unitarian) Society of Keene, NH

Keene Congregational ( Unitarian) Society. – The Unitarian Society was organized March 18, 1824. They had occasional preaching during the year. On the thirtieth of August, of the same year, a call was extended to the Rev. Samuel Barrett, to become the pastor, but he declined the invitation. Mr. Barrett was a graduate of Harvard, in the class of 1818, of the Harvard Divinity school, in 1822, and received the degree of 1)- D., from Harvard in 1847. He was a scholarly and cultivated gentleman. In 1825 he became the first pastor of the Twelfth Congregational (Unitarian) Society of Boston, and held the position until 1861. He died in 1866. Thomas Russell Sullivan, the first pastor of this society, was ordained December 28, 1825, and a church of twelve members, besides the pastor, was organized on the previous day. The society worshipped in the town hall until the new meeting house was completed, which was dedicated April 28, 1830. The funds for building this church consisted of fifteen hundred dollars, bequeathed by William Lamson, of seven hundred and fifty dollars received from the first Congregational society for a quit-claim to all rights in their property, of $4,500 realized from the sale of the pews, and a small sum raised by subscription. Mr. Sullivan remained with the society until July 1, 1835, when he withdrew at his own request. He was the son of John Langdon and Elizabeth (Russell) Sullivan. He was born in Brookline, Mass.. February 13, 1799, and fitted for college at Dummer academy, in Newbury. He graduated from Harvard in 1821, and from Harvard Divinity school in 1821. He was a superior scholar and a perfect gentleman. He edited a periodical known as the Liberal Preacher, in which were published valuable sermons of the Unitarian preachers of the day. After leaving Keene he was at the head of a private school in Boston, which he taught up to the time of his death, which occurred December 23, 1862, almost 47 years from his ordination. He was a most worthy and exemplary man. His successor said of him: “We rejoice that all who linen thee, if they value purity, honor, truth, will find words of respect and affection springing to their lips, whenever they hear the name of Thomas Russell Sullivan.” The second pastor was Rev. Abiel Abbot Livermore, who was ordained over the church and society, November 2, 1836, and was dismissed at his own request, on account of failing health, May 1, 1850. He is a graduate of Harvard, in the class of 1833, and from the Harvard Divinity school, in 1836. While in Keene he commenced work upon his commentary upon the New Testament, which he has completed within a few years, and which includes the whole Testament. It is the most thorough and complete commentary ever written by any Unitarian upon the whole of the New Testament. After leaving Keene, Mr. Livermore was pastor of the Unitarian church in Cincinnati, and, later, while editing the Christian Inquirer, in New York, he was pastor of Mount Hope church, in Yonkers, N. Y. He is now the president of the Meadville Theological school in Pennsylvania, and his ripe scholarship, cultivation and christian virtues are making their impress upon the young men who are there preparing for the ministry. The third pastor was Rev. William Orne White, who is a graduate of Harvard, in the class of 1840, and of the Harvard Divinity school, in 1845. He was installed October 6, 1851, and was dismissed, at his own request, after a long and honorable service of twenty-seven years, November 4, (878. He has since resided in Brookline. Mass., having ministered, for a portion of the time, in the Unitarian church, at Sharon, Mass. He is a scholar and a cultivated and refined gentleman. His services in Keene were greatly appreciated, not only by his parishioners, but by the citizens generally. He was a very excellent townsman, giving to the poor a large part of his salary, laboring earnestly to reform the morals and habits of the young, and to decrease the evils of intemperance. His successor, Rev. Albert Walkley, was not installed. He was the acting pastor from May 7, 1879, to January 25, 1885. He had neither the learning, cultivation nor reverence which characterized his three distinguished predecessors. He was earnest and sincere in his labors, and in his opinions; but, not being liberally educated, and evidently not suited to the tastes of the parish, his ministry was not very successful. He will be remembered as a kind and earnest, but unsuccessful minister. From the first, there have been about three hundred communicants in the society, and about half of that number are now living; but it is not possible to determine the number (or the numbers of each sex) with exactness. The church edifice was repaired in 1867-68. The last service before the repairs, was held September 29, 1867. The first service in the renewed edifice was on August 16, 1868.


Hurd, Duane Hamilton. History of Cheshire and Sullivan counties, New Hampshire. Philadelphia: J. W. Lewis. 1886.

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