Amory Dwight Mayo

Mayo, Amory Dwight (31 Jan. 1823-8 Apr. 1907), Unitarian clergyman and educator, was born in Warwick, Massachusetts, the son of Amory Mayo and Sophronia Cobb. Mayo enrolled at [ Amherst College] in 1843.

Education and Health Problems

During his freshman year, illness forced him to leave school. For a short time he taught at district schools, but interest in the ministry led him to begin studying theology with Rev. Hosea Ballou II. By 1846 Mayo was an ordained Universalist minister with his first congregation in Gloucester. Mayo's preaching style, according to his parishioners, was appealing, enlightening, and spiritually uplifting, and his popularity led to ever-increasing church attendance. Mayo's health, however, was unsteady, sometimes preventing him from delivering church services. Nevertheless, many of his sermons were collected in his works The Balance; or, [ Moral Arguments for Universalism] (1847) and Graces and Powers of the Christian Life (1853). These books provided continued Christian growth and spiritual illumination both for his congregation and future Christians.

Mayo's work as a Minister

In 1846, while serving as minister at Gloucester, Mayo married Sarah Edgarton (Sarah Carter Edgarton Mayo), who was noted in the church for her literary accomplishments. Sarah died only two years after their marriage. In 1853 Mayo married Lucy Caroline Clarke. Mayo had five children.

In October 1854 Mayo resigned his pastoral duties at Gloucester, responding to an invitation to become pastor of the Independent Christian Church in Cleveland, Ohio, where he served for the next two years. This appointment was less fruitful than he expected, and in 1856 he relocated to Albany, New York, where he ministered at the Division Street Unitarian Church until 1863. In that year he moved once again, accepting a position as preacher of the Church of the Redeemer in Cincinnati, Ohio. Also in 1863, while residing in Cincinnati, he accepted a position as nonresident professor of administration and church polity at Meadville Theological School (Pa.), a position he maintained for the next thirty-five years. Initially, the Meadville Seminary faculty consisted of three resident and five nonresident instructors. Among other duties, Mayo delivered an annual course of twelve to fifteen lectures on principal denominational creeds and their varied methods. He also discoursed on religious reform and policy. After 1883 Mayo delivered these lectures on a triennial basis.

Church of the Unity

In 1872 Mayo left Cincinnati to preach at the Church of the Unity in Springfield, Massachusetts. He retained his position in Springfield until 1880, when he resigned from active ministerial duties and devoted more time to writing and lecturing.

Mayo's Return to Education

In 1880 Mayo's interests became more directed toward educational pursuits. He had been interested in education since his ministerial work in Albany and had served on both the Cincinnati and Springfield school boards. He had also served as a leader of the Christian Amendment movement, which advocated a provision in the Constitution affirming the right to teach the Bible in public school. With his move to Boston in 1880 his interest in education, particularly education in the South, became a driving force. For the next twenty years Mayo devoted himself to advancing southern education, traveling an estimated 200,000 miles. He lectured, delivered sermons, and consulted numerous southern educators. Since most of his lecturing and counseling were provided gratis, Mayo was forced at first to depend on an annual grant from the American Unitarian Association and later on contributions from friends and well-wishers. Owing to his behavior and personality, he was usually well received by blacks, poor whites, and members of the middle class. From 1880 to 1885 Mayo, between travels, served as associate editor of the New England Journal of Education and as chief editorial writer for the National Journal of Education.

At the request of Dr. William T. Harris, U.S. commissioner of education, Mayo dedicated himself to writing the history of American common schools. The work was uncompleted at his death. Between 1893 and his death, Mayo was listed as lecturer of education at Berea College, Kentucky. His lectures on various aspects of southern educational problems and reforms and the educational condition of southern blacks and whites were given during frequent visits to Berea. Mayo died at his home in Washington, D.C.

Mayo was a man of vision and Christian character. During his life, he created two separate careers; either of these callings could have allowed him to carve a place for himself in American history. As a minister, his sermons and books, besides providing spiritual enrichment, were instructive in moral and ethical behavior. Later in life, as an educational researcher and promoter, he conducted a 26-year campaign of lecturing, interviewing, visiting, preaching, and writing in behalf of public schooling for both races within the South.


* A partial listing of his works includes Selections from the Writings of Mrs. Sarah C. Edgarton Mayo: With a Memoir by Her Husband (1849); Symbols of the Capital; or, Civilization in New York (1859); Religion in the CommonSchools (1869); The Bible in the Public Schools, with Thomas Vickers (1870); Talks with Teachers (1881); Industrial Education in the South (1888); and Southern Women in the Recent Educational Movement in the South (1892).


* Francis A. Christie, Makers of the Meadville Theological School, 1844-1894 (1927).
* Richard Eddy, Universalism in Gloucester, Mass. (1892), is a brief yet important source relating to Mayo's years as pastor of the Gloucester Universalist Church.
* The Frederick Huidekoper Papers, which contain letters and journals about Mayo and the Meadville Theological School, are located at the Crawford County Historical Society (Meadville, Pa.) and the Meadville-Lombard Theological School Library (Chicago, Ill.).
* Laura S. Hersey, Gloucester Universalist Newsletter, Dec. 1992.
* Carl Edwin Lindgren (1999). Mayo, Amory Dwight. American National Biography. Cary, N.C.: Oxford University Press.
* Arthur Dwight Mayo, "The Mayo Family in the United States," vol. 1, ed. Chester G. Mayo (1927), Library of Congress.
* Obituary, Unitarian Year Book, 1 July 1907
* Obituary, Christian Register, 18 Apr. 1907
* Obituary, Washington Evening Star, 9 Apr. 1907.

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