Unitarian Universalist Church
Savannah, GA 31401
Tours: For a tour please call (912) 234-0980 or stop by the office on Harris Street.
The office is open Monday - Wednesday from 4:00p - 7:00p and during the morning on Thursday.
Originally located on Oglethorpe Square, the Unitarian Universalist Church, built in 1851, now sits on the west side of Troup Square. Reverend John Pierpont Jr. was the minister of the church in 1852, and his brother James served as the organist and choir director. Legend says that James Pierpont wrote the song we know as “Jingle Bells” during the time that he served at this church.
In the 1820’s, a group of wealthy New England businessmen migrated to Savannah to pursue their interest in the cotton trade. The liberals among them found no church to attend, and so formed the Savannah Unitarian Society. In 1831, they petitioned the city and were granted a lot where they could build their church In 1834 they moved into their first house of worship on Wright Square. The building was dedicated December 21, 1834. Prior to the Civil War the Unitarian church was forced to because of their abolitionist beliefs.
After the Civil War, freed slaves bought the Gothic style church, partially dismantled it, and rolled it through the streets of the city to its present site in Troup Square. They renamed the church to St. Stephen Episcopal Church and for the next 80 years it was home to the first African Episcopal parish in Georgia.
The last Unitarian minister of the church before the Civil War was the Rev. John Pierpont Jr., (1819-1879) a native of Boston and son of the noted Abolitionist minister and social reformer the Rev. John Pierpont.
The famous winter song "One Horse Open Sleigh" was copyrighted in 1857 while James was living in Savannah, and re-titled two years later as "Jingle Bells, or The One Horse Open Sleigh."
In 1961 when the American Unitarian Association merged with the Universalist Church of America, the Savannah Unitarians became Unitarian Universalists. At this time there were 19 members. And in 1997 the Unitarians reclaimed their church on Troup Square.