Poor Unitarians (relatively)

One of the things that annoys me the most about the popular retelling of the story of the Unitarians and the Universalists is how poor or lowly the Universalists were. But many Universalists did quite well financially. Neither the lie nor the fact is all that compelling; wealth alone isn’t a marker of good or evil.

The New York Times has an “interactive graphic” of the wealthiest men (all men) in American history. I don’t see any Unitarians (I know of) on it, but I do see at least one Universalist. Care to guess whom?

The Wealthiest Americans Ever” (New York Times)

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. Based on the stories of Unitarians and Universalists that I’ve heard, I’ve gotten the impression that the Unitarians were bougie (sending money over there, and the Universalists were more physically integrated in working class spheres (even if they had financial privilege themselves). I have no idea if this impression is reality-based or not.

  2. Well Scott,
    It doesn’t happen often but today I am happy to prove you wrong! Mr. Henry Huttleston Rogers (#23) was not only a Unitarian he built the Unitarian Memorial church in Fairhaven, MA, my home town (and my father’s home church.) It makes the Pullman Chapel look like a shoe box, which is saying something.

    And of course J.P. Morgan was the grandson of the Rev. John Pierpont of the Hollis St. Church Boston and the 1st Parish in Medford.

    For the others, I’m not that well versed with mid-west tycoons maybe someone else can fill us in.

  3. ps. if you look at his obit you can see a picture of the church, his home and my high school, he also built the town it’s library, town hall and the Masonic Lodge building.

  4. So I’m trying to read who people guessed (I have no guess myself), but the 4 comments that are supposedly here won’t show up (IE7, which I should note I use for work at work’s request).

  5. But now I can see the guesses, so perhaps you just had a setting to keep people from peeking at guesses first. Is that Hank Pierce? If so, Hi Hank. You know me under my real name.

  6. @ Ms. T. No guessing mechanism. I think there’s some kind of caching delay. As Hank implied, Pullman’s the Universalist. His brother was a minister and — in essence — one of Chris Walton’s predecessors.

  7. @Chris/Philocrites. You are too silly for your own good. George Pullman’s NYT obit — you can download it from the interactive graphic — notes his brother J.M., who was then in NYC, was formerly the editor of the Christian Leader.

  8. It was easy for me, since Ive been reading such nice things about the Pullman family in my Manford’s Monthlies from the 1800s….For some reason Manford makes him seem much nicer than Debs did…..

    Let’s not forget that J.P. Morgan has an Uncle (as well as a grandfather) who was an Unitarian minister too….hmm, one of the Uncle’s other nephews married the daughter of Father D. B. Clayton…… (that comment for Scott)

    My studies of Universalists in the south generally put them in the middle-upper middle class, various elected officials (from Governors to Sheriffs), and with at least one doctor in every church….

  9. I thought Andrew Carnegie’s wife was a Universalist, and a member of Church of the Divine Paternity (now 4th Universalist of New York City).

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