Rev. Laing – Universalism in Dayton


Rev. Alfred H. Laing

Alfred H. Laing was a Universalist pastor in Earlville, Marseilles, and Joliet, and often preached in Dayton. He was born February 8, 1844, in Kosciusko, Indiana and died in Joliet, Illinois, August 31, 1923. Many members of the Green family, early settlers of Dayton, were Universalists and knew Rev. Laing well.

The Universalist society held their earliest meeting here [Earlville] in Robinson’s Hall, in the winter of 1866-7. The first pastor was Rev. W. S. Ralph, who remained from Jan. 1867 to Jan. 1870. During the year 1869, they built their house of worship, a commodious brick structure, costing nearly $1,500. During the summer of 1870, the pulpit was filled by Miss Mary H. Graves. In October, Rev. Alfred Rains was called, who remained four years, and was succeeded by the present pastor, Rev. A, H. Laing, who came in Nov., 1875. There are now about two hundred attendants at this church.1

Charles Green, son of David and Mary (Stadden) Green, wrote some reminiscenses of early Dayton Universalists, in which he included the following memories of Rev. Laing:

The Rev. A. H. Laing preached at Earlville, fifteen or twenty miles northwest of Dayton, and later on was pastor at Marseilles and at Joliet. He was a comparatively young man when he first preached at Dayton. He was well liked and preached some good sermons full of interest and gospel teachings. He used to come down from Earlville in the spring on fishing trips. Dayton at that time was a fine fishing place, and people used to come there from many miles around, camping out for a few days or a week along the banks of the Fox River. I have seen at least 200 people there at one time. The state maintained a dam across the river about a half mile above the village, and in the spring of the year when the game fish were running up stream to spawn they were very hungry and voracious and were anxious to get hold of the fisherman’s bait. On account of the dam across the river the fish could not go up stream any farther, thus making good sport for the many anglers. So our Izaak Walton lover, the Rev. A. H. Laing, soon learned where the good fishing grounds were, and came down from Earlville quite frequently to indulge in the sport, and incidentally to preach us a good sermon.

More of the early recollections of Charles Green, including other Universalist preachers in and near Dayton, may be seen here.

  1. The Past and Present of La Salle County, Illinois, (Chicago: H.F. Kett & Co., 1877), 341

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