Life of Nathaniel Stacy, first Universalist pastor in Ann Arbor

submitted by Wystan Stevens

The St. Andrew's history committee should check out this book, which I discovered during a Google Books search. Nathaniel Stacy published his memoirs in 1850, and this rare volume is now in the Universalist collection at Harvard University -- and fully readable online. Stacy was invited in 1835 to pastor the Ann Arbor Universalist congregation, and he came and stayed here about five years. He discusses the establishment of the Universalist church in Michigan, his acquaintance with Mssrs. Kellogg and Fuller, businessmen of Lower Town Ann Arbor who were members of his congregation, and his conversion to Universalism of John Williams, an ex-Calvinist (Presbyterian) farmer of Webster Township. The Ann Arbor material in Stacy's book begins on page 383.

Stacy's account has several pages on his own financial troubles, and he relates them in strong terms to the immoral craze of speculation that afflicted Michigan in the 1830s -- the era of Wildcat Banks and worthless paper money. The St. Andrew's history committee should relish the account of his doctrinal dispute with the pastors of the mainline protestant churches of Ann Arbor, which resulted in a public challenge to debate each of them -- either in his pulpit or in their own.

The debate challenge was flung boldly, via a letter printed in the Ann Arbor Argus and the Ann Arbor Journal, and it was ignored by all of the pastors except, finally, Mr. Marks, the Episcopal minister, who published his retort to Stacy (a lengthy letter) in the same newspapers. After that, Marks avoided Stacy on the street. Then he left town . . . .

Portrait of Rev. Nathaniel Stacy, in the fronticepiece of his memoirs:

Around page 450, Stacy writes briefly of his return visit to Ann Arbor years later, by train.

Comments

submitted by Mark Hildebrandt

The information I have on Samuel Marks is as follows:
1836-1838 Rev. Samuel Marks
Rev. Samuel Marks arrived at St. Andrew’s, after serving St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in New Milford Borough of Susquehanna County, NY. During his rectorship the first wooden church on Division Street was completed and membership increased from sixteen to twenty four communicants. After two years he moved to Clinton, MI, and subsequently served as Rector of Christ Church of Huron, OH, for over a quarter of a century.

As you know from the conflicts over the President of the University in the nineteenth century, being a clergyman was not without its conflicts. Defending faith, a subjective concept, can be tough.