Thomas Potter (Universalist)

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For other people named Thomas Potter, see Thomas Potter (disambiguation).

Thomas Potter (1689–1777) was an illiterate farmer who in 1760 built a chapel in Good Luck, New Jersey (now Lacey Township), for the purpose of spreading the doctrine of universalism.


He was born in 1689, the son of Rogerene Baptist immigrants from Rhode Island. Influenced by both Quaker and Baptist beliefs, Potter, as a Universalist, let people of all creeds worship on his land, but was convinced that God would send him a preacher of Universalism. In 1770, a Universalist preacher named John Murray did in fact appear, and was prevailed upon by Potter to give his first Universalist sermon on the American continent. Murray then went on to become the minister of the first Universalist congregation in America, located in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and to be a central figure in the creation of the Universalist Church in America, in 1793. Potter died not long after Murray departed, probably in 1777 (the year in which his will was probated), but is considered to have been one of the founders of the Universalist movement. Universalists began coming on pilgrimage to the site of his chapel, where in the 1870s they built the Potter Memorial Chapel, and in 1886 created Murray Grove as a center of Universalism. Today Murray Grove is still a Unitarian Universalist retreat and conference center, celebrating the heritage of Potter, Murray and the early Universalists.

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