DID JA KNOW
Johannes Dods Bovee (1795 – 1872) was born in the town of Florida, Montgomery County, New York. He was the son of Jacob Mathias Bovee, a farmer and merchant, and Jane Dods. Cared for and educated by a maternal uncle, after his father’s untimely death, he took Dods as his surname. He served in the War of 1812 then chose to pursue a profession in the ministry.
In 1824, Dods served as Congregational minister in the town of Levant, Maine before becoming a Universalist in 1826. From his pulpit, Rev. Dods defended the liberal theology, preaching a message of gradual spiritual growth and universal salvation. He also expressed an interest in spiritualism, a fad that had become popular among the Universalist clergy.
Responding to a call from Richmond, Rev. Dods arrived in Richmond in the mid-summer of 1830. He was pleased to find a thriving city; the new State Library had opened, transportation projects were being considered and a water pumping station was under construction.
Rev. Dods spent ten weeks in the city and under his leadership, forty-two men committed to the establishment of the first Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond. About town, it became known in popular jargon as the Uni-Uni Church. In her book, “Old Richmond Neighborhoods,” Mary Wingfield Scott refers its members as “young intellectuals”. The city’s orthodox clergy, not so forbearing, described them as synonymous with heresy, deviationists and a front for New England abolitionists.
The first theological merger of the two societies is evidence that the membership recognized the compatibility of Unitarianism and Universalism. Historian, Will Frank said, “In 1830 – The Unitarian Universalist Society of Richmond formed the first liberal church in the state and the first joint denominational society in the nation.” It would be another one hundred and thirty- one years before a formal union of the Unitarians and Universalists occurred again.
Dods was urged by the members to remain in Richmond and serve as minister for the new church but he refused, recommending Rev. John Budd Pitkin to fill the position. In the autumn of 1830 the society contracted Pitkin, currently residing in Baltimore, and asked him to come to Richmond.
Rev. Dods returned to New England after completing his mission work in the south.