Rev. Thomas Allen
Rev. Allen gets the award for traveling the farthest to create the Massachusetts Bible Society. He was born in Northampton, Mass. on January 17, 1743, graduated from Harvard College in 1762, and in 1764 became the first settled minister in Pittsfield, where he was ordained with a salary of 60 pounds per year plus firewood. He served that congregation for forty-six years.
Twice he served as a volunteer chaplain during the Revolutionary War and fought himself as a combatant in the battle of Bennington, earning himself the nickname “The Fighting Parson.” An insurance ad featuring Rev. Allen can be found on the inside back cover of this booklet.
Both a Jeffersonian and a Calvinist, no one understood how he could be a social/political liberal and religious conservative all at once. And yet the logical inconsistencies never seemed to trouble him, allowing him to keep his respected place as orthodox clergy in an area that had no Unitarian church until 1890 while still rattling the federalists with his cries for social justice.
After his revolutionary activism, he became an activist for the oppressed, railing against slavery and capital punishment in his sermons. He brought his nephew to town to begin publication of the Pittsfield Sun, for which Allen wrote many of the editorials. His open political activism eventually caused a split in his church, yet he continued to lead the diminished parish until seven days before his death on Feb. 11, 1810.
Being the oldest clergyman present, Rev. Allen was afforded the honor of “addressing the Throne of Grace” at the opening of our founding meeting on July 6, 1809.