The Springboro Universalist Cemetery

 

“It was a tangled mess of foliage and underbrush when we found it in 1992. The historical Universalist Cemetery, located at the back of a property near the corner of North Main and Parker Drive, was not only neglected by humans, but it had also been ravaged by nature. Four tilted headstones and a toppled spire were the sole indications that it was a cemetery. Snarled bushes, noxious weeds, and sun-starved saplings effectively filtered out all but scattered shafts of light, even at midday.


“The Universalists had invested love and care into the cemetery after the land was acquired by the church from the Gregg family.


“In 1837 Nicholas Fye, 81, became the first to be buried in the half-acre plot. Five years later William Gregg built a wooden frame church at the front of the property. In a perverse twist, four Greggs would join Fye and Samuel Clanen in the cemetery in 1844, the victims of a typhoid fever plague in Springboro. Samuel, the patriarch of the Greggs; his wife; 24-year old George; and granddaughter, Pheeby Ann, were the casualties. So was Samuel’s grandson Arthur Millard. By 1850 the cemetery was 40 percent filled.


“In 1915 Mariana Hallam Stansell recalled the early days of the frame church in front of the graveyard. "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 Stansell.


"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 wealthy and committed; many were converts from the Quaker faith. In 1905 they built a magnificent stone church-- used today by another denomination-- at 300 South Main. They continued to lavish attention on their old cemetery on the north end of town, but by 1920 the church membership had shrunk to 13. In the 1950s, the church folded. Sadly, so did the cemetery.


(Adapted from “Paths Through The Wilderness”, Springboro history by Don Ross

 
Universalists first appeared in Ohio during the early 1800s. 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. It 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 1842, just north of Rt 73, on land from the Gregg family and remains the site of the Universalist Cemetery. The church was replaced in 1905, by the “old  stone church” at 300 S. Main St.