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Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, Kansas collection

Call Number: RH MS 1174


Unitarianism has been an active denomination in Lawrence since the town was founded in 1855. The congregation disbanded during World War II and reestablished a charter in 1958. This collection includes meeting minutes, budgets, long-range plans, membership directories, correspondence, newspaper clippings, photographs, books, sermons, and histories of Unitarianism in Lawrence from the territorial era to the present church.


  • Creation: 1827 - 2011


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

History of the Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, Kansas

Unitarian settlers from Massachusetts established one of the first churches in the newly-settled town of Lawrence, Kansas in 1855; they also erected the first church building in the town. By 1891 this structure had fallen into disrepair and was abandoned; a new church was built in 1893.

The church celebrated its 50th and 75th anniversaries in this second building but was by the Great Depression of the 1930s beginning to struggle. By 1945 any remaining Unitarians in Lawrence had found other churches in which to practice their religion. The building was first turned over as a nursery school for the children of employed mothers; after the war, the building was purchased by other Christian denominations, served as a men's dormitory by the University of Kansas, and was eventually razed to make way for a Catholic school for St. John the Evangelist's congregation.

Ministers who tended the early Lawrence Unitarian Society included Ephraim Nute, John S. Brown, Clark G. Howland, Frederick Marsh (F.M.) Bennett, Wilson M. Backus, Charles Engvall, H. Lee Jones, and Homer A. Jack, amongst others.

Soon after this first Society disbanded, the American Unitarian Association (AUA) began a program organizing smaller groups of individuals in communities throughout the United States without a Unitarian church into fellowship units. Munroe Husbands, director of the Fellowship Units for the association, included Lawrence in these endeavors.

By late 1957 there was enough interest in the community that a new Lawrence Unitarian Fellowship was formed. The membership led a peripatetic life in its early years, moving from location to location for its programs for both adults and children. By 1960 the fellowship's need for a space of its own was overwhelming, and the membership bought property that had been the Pleasant Valley School. After a great deal of renovation and construction, the fellowship dedicated its new space in December 1961.

The fellowship has held together through the following decades despite ongoing financial struggles and structural issues with their new meeting house. The group has continued to place great importance on civic involvement and has relied on volunteering from its membership to accomplish a great deal. By 2008 the fellowship was able to build a new wing on its meeting house.


11 Linear Feet (21 boxes + 5 oversize boxes, 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The collection is organized by accession, or when materials were brought to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, and remain in the order they were found. Oversize materials have been physically separated due to size but retained intellectually with each accession. Most of the collection reflects the Lawrence Unitarian Fellowship of the 1950s-onward, but there is also information relating to the earlier Unitarian Society of the 1850s-1940s, most of which is found in the first accession.

Physical Location

RH MS 1174

Physical Location

RH MS R271

Physical Location

RH MS R272

Physical Location

RH MS Q319

Processing Information

RH MS 1174 does not have a Box 6.

Guide to the Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, Kansas Collection
Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, Kansas collection
Finding aid prepared by tw, 2010. Finding aid encoded by tw, 2010. Finding aid revised by lmb, 2016; mwh, 2018.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, Kansas collection, RH MS 1174, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States