Eddowes, Ralph
Manuscript Sermon and Memorandum Notebook of Ralph Eddowes, Sr., of Chester, England, one of the founders of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the first of the Unitarian churches in America, c.1774-1810

small quarto, 242 manuscript pages including index, bound in full contemporary calf, 6 panel spine, gold tooled, binding worn at corners, edges, tips of spine, boards rubbed and scuffed, interior very good, written in ink, in a legible hand.

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While this manuscript volume is not signed, there is plenty of internal evidence within the volume that identifies the writer as Ralph Eddowes, Sr. (1751-1833), one of the founders of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia. The manuscript volume is not technically broken up into four different sections, nor are the various pieces in it numbered, however the contents appear to show that there are 34 different pieces which can be broken down into four different sections. The volume contains the following sermons, prayers, open letters, and other writings, which are grouped as follows:

      Section 1:

1. Prayer for Lord's Day Morning/Evening

2. [Prayer for] Monday Morning/Evening

3. [Prayer for] Tuesday Morning/Evening

4. [Prayer for] Wednesday Morning/Evening

5. [Prayer for] Thursday Morning/Evening

6. [Prayer for] Friday Morning/Evening

7. [Prayer for] Saturday Morning/Evening

8. A Prayer for New-Year's Day

Section 2: [The pieces marked with an asterisk* give the names and dates of birth or death of Eddowes' various children]

9. Family Thanksgiving on the birth of a child* April 1773

10. In the Family, on the extreme illness of a child* July 1780

11. In Private, 6th August 1780, having just entered upon our then newly built house

12. In Private, 22d Jan 1781 before the birth of a child*

13. In the Family, 9th March 1781 on the death of a child*

14. In Private, 9th Dec 1781 before the birth of a child*

15. In the Family 11th April 1782 on the death of a child*

16. Letter to Mrs. Kendrick on this occasion

17. In Private 9th May 1784 before the birth of a child*

18. In the Family on the birth of R.E. June 1784

19. In Private, 1 Jan. 1786 after the birth of a child*

20. In Private, 14 Jan 1787 before the birth of a child*

21. In Private, 28 Octo 1787 on the Inoculation of two children*

22. In Private 20 April 1788 after the birth of a child*

23. In Private 12 April 1789 on the Inoculation of two children*

24. In the Family 5 July 1789 after the birth of a child*

25. In Private 2d Jan 1791 after the birth of a child

26. In the Family 22d Jan 1792 on occasion of Mrs. E's breaking a leg by a fall down stairs the 15th of the same month, being then far advanced in her pregnancy

Section 3: [Sermons or Prayers to preach for the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia after their founding in 1796]

27. The Love of our Neighbour & Mankind

28. The Goodness of God, and the Reasonableness of making it the Foundation of our Religious Confidence & Trust

29. The Certainty of the Existence of a God, and the Folly of Rejecting the Belief of that important principle

30. At the Celebration of the Lord's Supper

       Section 4: [These "In the Family" pieces tend to be open letters and/or prayers to his children]

31. At the Baptism of Two Children 2d April 1797

32. In the Family 1 Jan 1800

33. In the Family Jan 1804

34. In the Family Dec 1804

At rear of the volume there are a number of blank pages, as well as a 15 manuscript page index at rear that contains: "Order of Service on sundry occasions," (dated for services performed from 3 June 1798 - 7 Feb 1808), there follows an index of  the services with columns giving the dates (4 Feb 1808 -5 Aug 1810), parts of day (morning, afternoon, evening), hymns, scriptures, prayers, and sermons given. There are also occasional mentions of one James Taylor being involved in the services. Taylor and Eddowes worked together for a while as ministers to the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia. Like Eddowes, Taylor was one of the founders of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia.

      Ralph Eddowes, Sr. (1751-1833)

Ralph Eddowes Sr. was born on 28 August 1751 at Whitchurch in Shropshire, England, the son of John Eddowes and Catherine Moulson. Eddowes was baptized at Dodington Chapel near Whitchurch on 22 September 1751 and was of Puritan ancestry on both sides for many generations. As a child, he was taken to Chester and educated there at Warrington Academy, at one point he was a pupil of the famous Joseph Priestley (a founder of the Unitarian Church in England). He became a tobacconist at Chester, in partnership with his maternal uncle, Thomas Moulson. He was made a freeman at Chester 4 January 1780 and lived in a house on Pepper Street in that city until 1794. Eddowes was said to have been a tobacco merchant of some means in Chester. There is a brief comment in a footnote to one of the sermons in this manuscript volume that alludes to the "tobacco trade."

Eddowes took a very distinguished part in the public proceedings of the city of Chester in England. He asserted, by an appeal to the House of Lords, the rights of his fellow citizens, in a long struggle respecting the validity of the Charter of the Corporation. About 1784, Eddowes championed a popular legal cause against two magistrates in the city of Chester who were believed to be holding office illegally. The case had been tried three times, while Eddowes carried on an intensive campaign in the press, and had finally been taken up in the House of Lords. In 1790, the case was decided against Eddowes on a technicality and he was forced to bear the entire expense of the suit which amounted to £2000 sterling. This case is alluded to and mentioned in this volume in one of the sermons where our author writes:

"Alluding to the event of the Chester Corporation cause begun in 1784 & decided 20th April 1790."

After this loss, he moved to Liverpool to set up new business arrangements. His departure was recorded in the local history of Chester as the noteworthy event of the year.

Eddowes married Sarah Kenrick (1755-1815) in 1777. Together they had a large family. In Liverpool, filled with disappointment and disgust for the current state of English public affairs, he watched the ships departing for America. In 1793, he urged his brother-in-law Timothy Kenrick to immigrate to America with him.

Eddowes sailed from Liverpool to Philadelphia on August 1, 1794, accompanied by his wife, nine children, and his brother-in-law. They arrived on November 1, 1794. The present manuscript volume lists Eddowes' children at various places throughout the volume. It gives their first names and when they were born, or died, as Eddowes mentions them in short prayers or pieces, in what he calls "In private" for the birth, sickness, or death of his children. The names of his children are:

John, born April 1778; died 11 April 1782; Thomas, born Jan 1780; died 9 March 1781; Sarah, born 23 Jan 1781; Catharine, born 12 Dec 1781; Mary, born Jan 1783; Ralph E., born 8 June 1784; John, born 21 Dec 1785; Anna, born 19 Jan 1787; Eleanor, born 8 April 1788; Martha, born 14 June 1789; Elizabeth, born Jan 1791.

These names and dates match an online genealogy of the Eddowes family found on Rootsweb, a page on Ancestry.com at this address:


In 1796, Eddowes begins to be listed in the Philadelphia city directories. The family first settled in Philadelphia, where Eddowes was a merchant. In 1796, he purchased an estate, which he called "Stapeley," near the village of Foxchase, Philadelphia Co., Pennsylvania, and soon afterwards retired from commercial activity.

Eddowes became a founding member of the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia (the first in the United States). He acted as a part time preacher and as the Church society's President until his retirement in 1820. Some of his writings are said to still be in the possession of the Church, including a speech made during the laying of the cornerstone.

The First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia was founded 12 June 1796 by Joseph Priestley & others who had immigrated to America. Eddowes was one of these founders. A page in this volume makes a comment about the founding of the church:

"In the month of June 1796 an Unitarian Society being formed in Philadelphia in which a number of the members were to conduct the service in turn, the following were co posed on several occasions of that kind."

This is followed by the sermons and prayers that Eddowes wrote and read, or preached at the church. Ralph Eddowes, Sr. became the minister of the first Unitarian Society in Philadelphia, after the first minister, the Rev. William Christie's retirement from the office. He continued to be the minister of the congregation at Philadelphia (for some time jointly with Mr. James Taylor) till the Autumn of 1820.

Eddowes died on 29-30 March 1833 at Stapeley in Foxchase, Philadelphia and it is said that he and his wife (who predeceased him in 1815) were first buried at the churchyard of the Unitarian Church, but later removed to Monument Cemetery in Philadelphia, which is no longer extant. Six of Eddowes' children had married and raised children by 1807. Eddowes was said to be an only child, but by his death in 1833, he had as many as 40 living descendants to mourn him.

A volume of Eddowes' sermons was published in 1817 in Philadelphia by Abraham Small under the title: "Sermons Delivered Before the First Society of Unitarian Christians, in the City of Philadelphia, wherein the Principal Points on which that Denomination of Believers Differ from the Majority of their Brethren, are Occasionally Elucidated." It is unclear if any sermons in the manuscript volume offered here were published in this 1817 publication.