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Rev Anthony Forster

Rev Anthony Forster

Death 16 Jan 1826 (aged 41)
Burial Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina, USA
Memorial ID 28032758 · View Source
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Famous Unitarian minister, was the first pastor of the newly chartered Second Independent Church in Charleston 1817. Son-in-law of journalist and reformer, Joseph Gales.

Born in 1785, the Rev. Anthony Forster, was a pioneer of Unitarianism in the South, where the new religion was slow to take hold. Forster had been ordained as a Presbyterian minister and was settled over the very liberal Circular Congregational Church at Charleston, completed in 1787.

Sometime in the early 1800's, Forster met and married Altona Gales, daughter of Joseph & Winnifred Gales, liberal thinkers from England who came to Raleigh, NC in 1798, by way of Philadelphia, at the urging of prominent locals to start a newspaper in that city.

It was shortly after his marriage that Forster was was led to read the works of Englishman, Dr. Joseph Priestley, who strongly believed in the free and open exchange of ideas, advocated toleration and equal rights for religious Dissenters. Ideas which also led him to help found Unitarianism in England.

Rev. Forster began to preach Unitarianism ideals to the congregation of Circular Congregational Church. By the time he was 32-years old, his beliefs in Unitariansism were so strong, that in 1817 he declared himself a Unitarian and withdrew from the church. About half his congregation fell in with him, and the church split, with 69 remaining and 75 going with Rev. Forster. According to church records, the assets were split. With the congregants that followed from the Presbyterians, they organized as the Second Independent Church of Charleston, a Unitarian Church, that still stands in Charleston on Archdale Street.

But Forester's health was not well, and he was soon obliged to resign in 1819, whereupon the Rev. Samuel Gilman was installed as head of the church. Rev. Forster and his family left for Raleigh, NC to live near his wife's parents, Joseph & Winnifred Gales, prominent citizens of that city. Forester survived another 7 years in Raleigh, where he died in 1826 at age 41. His young bride died the following year, at age 32. Their children were then raised by Winnifred and Joseph Gales.

The Unitarian Universalist Church in Charleston, S.C., built in 1787, is known as "the oldest Unitarian church in the South" and is a National Historic Landmark. (Photo shown here.) It is located at 4 Archdale Street and is the second oldest church in downtown Charleston. Its construction began in 1772 when the Society of Dissenters (now known as the Circular Congregational Church) needed more space than their Meeting Street location could provide. It was nearly complete in 1776 when the Revolutionary War began, finally being repaired and officially dedicated in 1787. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1973

The Charleston Unitarian Universalist Church was not originally built by the Unitarians. It was constructed by the Society of Dissenters who needed more worship space. Construction began in 1774 and was nearly complete in 1776 when the Revolutionary War ignited. It is thought that when the British occupied Charleston, they quartered militia and possibly even horses in the building. It was not until after the war ended that the building could be repaired and officially dedicated in 1787. It was unofficially named The Archdale Street Meeting House.

For 30 years following the dedication, the Meeting Street and Archdale Street churches operated as a single entity. They shared not only the same two ministers, but the exact same sermon was delivered each Sunday. Drs. Hollinshead and Keith, co-pastors of the church, preached one sermon in both houses each Sunday, alternating morning and afternoon services. In 1817, Rev. Forster, and several congregants became Unitarians, moved to the Archdale Street Meeting House, and founded the Second Independent Church in Charleston.

The Second Independent or Congregational Church of Charleston, S.C., was organized in 1772. This building was dedicated in 1787 (building had started before the Revolutionary War), enlarged and remodeled in 1852, and badly damaged in the Charleston earthquake of 1886. Boston-based architect and Universalist minister Thomas Silloway designed and directed its restoration.

The group was rechartered as the Unitarian Church in 1839. Francis D. Lee, a Charleston architect and church member, was hired in 1852 to enlarge and remodel the building. Inspired by the Chapel of Henry VII at Westminster Abbey and St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, Lee completed the project two years later. The fan-vaulted ceiling, nave, and chancel closely resembled their English prototypes; the stained glass windows were considered among the finest in the country. The church may have been the first Gothic architecture built in the United States.

Just 32 years later, the great Charleston earthquake of 1886 struck, shearing off the entire top of the church's tower, including eight paneled buttresses, high pinnacles and medieval-style finials. Masonry from the tower fell through the fan-vaulted ceiling below. A Boston architect by the name of Thomas Silloway came to Charleston after the quake to repair the damage. With funds raised by Unitarian churches throughout the country, he restored the interior to Francis Lee's original design. The tower, however, was rebuilt in a slightly less elaborate form with the pinnacles and parapet lowered and simplified. This was solely to increase structural stability in the event another earthquake struck Charleston.

More than one hundred years passed before Charleston faced another natural disaster. Hurricane Hugo struck the Holy City in 1989, causing massive damage in the historic district. The roof of the Unitarian Church was lost during this devastating storm. Following Hugo, the church was repaired to the specifications set by Thomas Silloway and remains nearly unchanged to this day.

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  • Created by: pbfries
  • Added: 4 Jul 2008
  • Find A Grave Memorial 28032758
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Rev Anthony Forster (1 Jan 1785–16 Jan 1826), Find A Grave Memorial no. 28032758, citing City Cemetery, Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina, USA ; Maintained by pbfries (contributor 46951237) .