In 1869, The Unitarians of Marietta merged with the older Universalist Society (founded 1817). Though the Universalists had built their own church in 1843 near Butler and Second Streets, they sold their church and became part of the "United Society" at the Unitarian Church. Ties remained close however with the numerous other Universalist Churches throughout the county and the "new" Unitarian-Universalist Church of Marietta. In 1869, Washington County had at least five other Universalist Churches in the area. The melodian located in the rear of our Church sanctuary was a gift of the Universalists at Watertown.
Many original documents and artifacts relating to the Church's history have been preserved and are displayed within the Church. The archives contain several editions of works by leading Universalists ministers and writers of the early 1800's, including Hosea Ballou, George Rogers, and others. Some of this collection once belonged to William Pitt Putnam, the founder of the Belpre (Ohio) Universalist Society founded 1823.
The history of the First Unitarian-Universalist Church of Marietta lies in more than the bricks and mortar. For instance, we have hosted a number of notable guest speakers including Ralph Waldo Emerson (1867), Edward Everett Hale (author of The Man Without a Country), William Howard Taft (1910), Lucretia Mott, Mary Livermore, and Sara Jane Clark (aka: Grace Greenwood).
Some of the ministers of this Church were well known in their own right outside their roles as minister. Perhaps the most notable of these was the Rev. E.A. Coil, who served the Church from 1895 until his death in 1918. Rev. Coil performed many civic duties in the community and was one of the first sponsors of the Parents Teachers Association in Ohio. He was also active locally in both the Knights of Pythias and the Masons though church members perhaps best loved him for his poetry.
Beside Nahum Ward, other members of the congregation who served the community as Mayor were Major Jewett Palmer (1874-77) and James M. Booth (1825-1831). Civic groups organized at the UU Church have included the People's Club and the Layman's League.
In the years since those early days, the congregation has seen its ups and downs in membership. Just a few years ago, the active congregation consisted of only six or seven elderly women and one man (a spouse ). After the arrival of Rev. Aaron Payson in 1991, (1991 to July 1999) our membership has jumped to the 135. Membership currently hovers around 115 to 120. We have enjoyed the services of interim ministers Rev. William Metzger and Rev. Ralph Tyksinski for two years. Our search for a new settled minister to replace Rev Payson, who moved on to a congregation in Worcester, Mass, culminated in the calling of Rev. Diane Dowgiert who began service in September 2001. When Rev. Dowgiert left in the summer of 2006 to return to a congregation in her native west, we were blessed with the interim services of Rev. Neil Shadle. His guidance during that year of searching for a new settled minister was invaluable. Despite a frustrating and prolonged search process, we were extremely fortunate to find the Reverend Kathryn (Kat) Hawbaker on the other side of Ohio. Rev. Kat assumed the pulpit in the Fall of 2007.