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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF DECEASED CLERGY AND LAYPEOPLE


Obituaries (1863-64) in the 1865 Register

Rev. John A. Gurley, at the age of about fifty years, died in August, 1863, near Cincinnati, Ohio. His death terminated a career of extraordinary energy, usefulness, and success. He was born in East Hartford, Conn. During his boyhood he worked at the hatting business. At the early age of seventeen or eighteen, he had a desire toward the ministry; and at the age of twenty we find him travelling and preaching in the western part of the State of Maine.

Early in July, 1835, he settled in Methuen, Mass. In less than year from his engagement, a good meeting-house was in a state of forwardness, which was dedicated in the summer of 1836. In the winter of 1838, having bought a small Universalist paper of Mr. Tazzard, of Cincinnati, he started for the "Queen City." The journey was then quite a long one, performed mostly by stage. As a capital with which to commence, he had about $100. Soon after his removal to Cincinnati, he was engaged as pastor of the society there, which office he held five years, preaching to large congregations. During the week, and often for weeks together, he journeyed into far distant States and territories, holding discussions, and preaching the word wherever a door opened. In this way, he worked his energetic little paper—"The Star and Sentinel"—into extensive circulation, and became himself widely known as a marked preacher and debater. The circulation soon ran up to five, and in a few years to ten, thousand subscribers.

About ten years ago, satisfied that he must turn his attention to out-door cares to save the remainder of his shattered constitution, he sold his paper establishment, and ceased to preach. Since this time he has filled two terms as Representative in Congress, and was, at the time of his death, Governor of Arizona. Mr. Gurley was apparently a frail man; and yet he was capable of enduring great labor. He was less than fifty years of age when he died, but is thought that few men of seventy have performed so much labor as he had performed during his lifetime. He was a man of great business talent. He was emphatically an executive man. He saw what was to be done at once. He knew no discouragement after he had settled his plans. Full of zeal, pervaded with life and animation, his mind made up, and with unusual decision of character, he went forward, expecting, and generally realizing, success. As a brother and friend, he was esteemed in every circle in which he moved. He was a "favorite" with the ministers and the people. His memory will long be cherished with respect and affection.

Rev. James Woodruff Dennis died in Stoughton, Mass., December 11, 1863. He was born in Morristown, New Jersey, August 6, 1825. Early in life he was thoughtful, especially on religious themes. Accidentally hearing a sermon from Rev. T. J. Sawyer, his mind was so favorably and strongly impressed that his thoughts were at once directed to the faith of which he was to become a bright and exemplary teacher. His first settlement was in New London, Conn., where he labored with the Universalist society for five years. From thence he moved to Stoughton, where, after a ministry of about ten years, he died. He had long been afflicted with a painful and fatal disease, preventing him from performing any part in his pulpit ministrations for nearly two years; had become so much reduced in strength as to be confined to his room for several weeks before his decease; and it was evident to all who saw him from day to day that his end was rapidly approaching.

His cheerful and clear-sighted faith in the providence of God, and in the blessed estate which was awaiting him on the other shore, has been often remarked by those who have enjoyed the privilege of conversation with him. The faith which led him to repeat the apostle's exclamation, "To die is gain," with such emphasis did not desert him in his last hours. On being questioned by one of his attendants, at a moment of his severest suffering, how he felt with regard to the faith he bad preached, he replied, with all the stress of voice and force of gesture he could command, "It must be true, it must be true, I FEEL that it must he true!" and to those around him who, in their despondency and sorrow, were half inclined to disparage the evidences upon which his faith was built, he would reply, with much warmth, that he could not conceive it possible for those evidences to be regarded lightly, since, to his own mind, they carried such clear conviction, and were so full of comfort and help. In regard to the last months of his life, his wife writes, "There was such a patient endurance of suffering through all, such a triumphant faith, that seemed not faith, but knowledge, such a perfect readiness for whatever his heavenly Father might send, that it all seems blended in my mind as a sort of peaceful dream." Thus was added another bright example to the long roll of faithful Christian witnesses, who have died with the last words of the divine Master in their hearts and on their lips: "I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it."

His affection for the people to whom he had given the best years I of his life was also manifested to the last. One of his final requests was to be buried by their hands, in the beautiful cemetery which his own words had helped to consecrate, as their pastor and he gave minute directions in regard to all the detai1s of the funeral ceremonies.

"It was an affecting sight," writes one, speaking of the funeral obsequies, "and a sure testimony of the profound esteem in which he was held by all who knew him. There were little children, for whom he always had a smile and a kind word, shedding their tears like rain. There were weak women, in whose homes at times of great affliction and trial his presence had been felt like a powerful charm, who seemed to feel their hearts bursting with grief as they looked upon the face of the dead. There were strong men, who had tried to emulate his pure life, who were bowed with agony, and made weak as babes standing by the casket of one whom they loved and honored. Old men, too, with thin and shining locks, wore a look of ineffable sadness, as they bade farewell to him who had been so firm a friend and help to them in their declining years. I shall never forget the appearance of one old patriarch, who approached the coffin with tottering steps, laid his hand upon the head of the deceased, and then, placing it upon his own forehead, turned away with an expression of the deepest sadness, as though he had lost a treasure that could never be replaced in this world. I saw him again at the cemetery, standing at the door of the sepulchre, with eyes suffused, his gray hairs fluttering in the wind, and his uncovered head bowed in the attitude of prayer.

Rev. Thomas Starr King died in San Francisco, California, March 4, 1864, at the age of thirty-nine years. He was a son of Rev. Thomas F. King, one of the fathers of the Universalist ministry, and was born in New York. He commenced his ministry as pastor of the Universalist Society in Charlestown, Mass., August, 1846. Soon after he accepted a call from the Hollis Street Church, in Boston, after which his sympathies were more with the Unitarian body, though he never lost faith in, or failed to preach effectively, the Universalist interpretation of the word. In 1860 he removed to San Francisco. Here he did a great work for liberal Christianity.

He accomplished results which, as the work of one individual, performed in the space of three or four years, may be called a marvel. Chiefly under Unitarian auspices , the Universalists of San Francisco co-operating with him, he organized a large society, built a costly church edifice, and all this in a way to establish a centre of influence and power, that will reach—now reaches—every portion of the Pacific coast.

Mr. King also did a marvellous work for the nation in its present struggle with rebellion. All over the State of California, his ringing voice and fascinating rhetoric have plead the loyal cause, with an effect that is palpably felt in the councils of the nation. No reputed statesman in California had, at the time of his death, a tithe of his influence to develop, and mould for good, the loyal sentiments of the people. It speaks much for Mr. King's hold upon the loyal heart that he was offered the position of United States Senator; it speaks also much for his high sense of responsibility that he declined the offer, preferring to do more for his country, in the sphere where his powers had been tested, and where the call for his energies was imperative. He won honorable fame by his labors in behalf of the Sanitary Commission. Everywhere he plead its cause, explained its operations, demonstrated its efficiency; and his labors have been the fountain of a stream of beneficence, constantly replenishing the treasury of that noble institution. Full half of the contributions made by California to the Sanitary Commission was the result of Mr. King's immediate exertions. The death of no other clergyman has so affected an entire community. In San Francisco the places of business were closed, the courts adjourned, flags were hung at half mast. His remains were placed in a vault beneath the pulpit from which he preached.

Rev. Jacob Whitney died of disease contracted in the camp, in the hospital at Frederick, Md., April 21, 1864, aged fifty-five years. He entered the Universalist ministry [in] 1831, and was faithful to its duties for thirty-three years. He travelled extensively, and was favorably known all over the country, from Boston to the Mississippi. Though beyond the military age, he enlisted, and died in his country's service. The chaplain of the hospital wrote to his wife, "You knew your husband's religious views, with those sentiments he died. His last words were, 'I trust myself in the hands of my heavenly Father.'"

Rev. James W. Bailey died in Lima, N.Y., May, 1864, at about the age of fifty years. He was born in New Hampshire,—we think in the town of Unity, though of this we are not certain. When a boy, he came to Claremont to work upon "The Impartialist," a Universalist paper, conducted by Rev. W. S. Balch. Here he constantly attended the Universalist meeting, and commenced his preparations for the ministry. "His advantages," writes Mr. Balch, "were very limited. But he applied himself with assiduity. His heart was in the work, and he succeeded. He never aspired to be great; but he always labored to be good and do good. He never tried to make himself famous by crowding into famous society. Humble in his feelings, he sought chiefly to make himself useful. He did not adopt the ministry as a sinecure, as a means of success in indolence. He entered it for work in any sphere where he could be useful, and was always satisfied when he knew that his intentions were understood, and his labors appreciated. Mr. Bailey was a practical Christian. He drank deeply of its spirit. He exemplified it in his conduct. He lived so that they of 'the contrary part' had no evil thing to say of him. His family was a pattern of Christian love and unity. He was frugal and generous and industrious and self-sacrificing. His salary was never large; but he paid all honest demands upon him, and educated his children for usefu1ness. He was modest and cheerful, ardent in his sympathies, and earnest in whatever he undertook as a duty. His praise should not be less because he did not aspire after and attain unto the high places of worldly renown. He was a preacher of the gospel, a follower of Jesus Christ. He thought it enough to be as his Master. He did not look beyond him."

Mr. Bailey has preached in New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. Wherever he went, his influence for good was immediately felt. He won the esteem of all who knew him. His services, and his articles in the denominational papers, were always high in religious tone. In his case, the words may be fitly spoken: "The memory of the just is blessed."

Rev. L. B. Mason died in May, 1864, in Madison, Wis. He was favorably known as a preacher, and highly esteemed in New England. He was at one time pastor of the Second Universalist Church in Lowell. From this city he moved to Haverhill, Mass.; and was pastor of the Universalist Church in that place several years. From Haverhill he was called to the pastorate of St. Paul's Church in Chicago. He became proprietor and editor of the "New Covenant," and conducted the paper with much ability and excellent temper. Not long after the breaking out of the rebellion, he became chaplain of the Twelfth Wisconsin Regiment; but the hardships and exposure incident to the position were too much for his frail constitution. Ill-health compelled him to resign his office in the fall of 1863, after having faithfully served his regiment from the day of its organization. His men loved him devotedly, and respected him, and testified to his faithfulness as a chaplain. But he came home utterly broken in health and has since lived mainly by force of his indomitable will, preaching and working, when many men of feebler determination would have been in bed. On one or two occasions, be fainted in the pulpit when officiating, but still persisted in his labors till within a few weeks of his decease.

Rev. T. R. Spencer, a "good man, and able minister of the New Testament," died on Sunday morning, October 2d, 1864, at his residence in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. His reputation as a Christian preacher, both as respects his moral worth and his intellectual qualities and attainments, stood high among his brethren; and he leaves an enviable record of his fidelity, and of his influence. The editor of the "Christian Repository" said of Mr. Spencer, "No man in the State of Vermont wrote so many good sermons as he. He was one of our best preachers and pastors." On the Monday following the day of his decease, Mrs. Spencer wrote, "My dear husband has gone to a better home. He entered on his new life on Sabbath morning. He was perfectly conscious and clear to the last moment, though unable to converse much. He was willing to go, yet desiring to live for his family. Still, he went trusting them in the care of a heavenly Father, thankful that he had been able to do a little for the cause of truth."

Rev. James Wellington Putnam died in Danvers, Mass., Nov. 4, 1864, at the age of forty-one years and eleven months. Early in life, he was noted for his manly character, conscientious aims, and mental industry. He was a pupil of Rev. Dr. Sawyer, at Clinton, N. Y., where he sustained a spotless reputation as a high-toned student, faithful in every particular. He was called to the Universalist Society in Danvers, in 1847, and by his steady toil, Christian demeanor, and lively interest in all that concerned his parish, and also the community, he made himself strong in the affections of his people, and died esteemed and lamented by all. Rev. Dr. Miner in an address on the funeral occasion, stated, as reported at the time, "that he knew the deceased twenty-five years ago, at which time Mr. Putnam was a pupil in a school in New Hampshire, where he was teacher. At that time, though his pupil was a boy in years, he was a man in character; and he then exhibited that industry, that good taste, that love of study, that fidelity and general excellence of deportment, that have characterized his subsequent career. As a pastor for sixteen years in one parish, where he constantly grew in strength, in the affections of his people, in the opportunities for public usefulness,—serving not only his parish, but his town,—the sure test of his great worth is to be seen. The quiet, persistent, unobtrusive work of the Christian minister,—this is the best evidence of genuine worth. He could not tell in what particular of character Mr. Putnam most excelled; neither could he tell in what he was most lacking. His character was so well rounded, so complete, so efficient in all particulars, that no one trait seemed to predominate above another. He was a very modest, unassuming man. When Tufts College conferred an honorary degree upon him, it was so unexpected that, though he saw the statement in the papers, saw his own name, he did not suspect that it meant himself, but some other person! He had given the highest evidence of his hold upon his people. Twice he represented the town in the legislature, an experience which so often breaks the pastoral relation, sows the seed of disaffection. But he came back from that official service to a united parish! Mr. Putnam was a denominational Universalist. He was interested in all our movements. Whenever a position seemed to need the services of one whose judgment was sound, and whose fidelity could be trusted, and who would be sure to do the work assigned, the brethren spontaneously turned to Rev. J. W. Putnam. And the result in every case justified the selection."

His settlement in Danvers, if we are correctly informed, was his only one. Repeated calls to other parishes, with strong financial inducements, were in every instance declined. He felt that the pastoral relation was not to be rudely broken, and was content to work in the field where he felt sure he was successfully doing the minister's work. As a scholar, a thinker, writer, speaker, and pastor, he deservedly ranked high in his profession.

Rev. S. J. Gibson died November 13, in Sheshequin, Penn., within a few days of forty-eight years of age. He was well and favorably known as "Duell Dow," communications over this name having frequently appeared in the denominational papers. At the time we make this record, his death is so recent that we have not had opportunity to get the facts for a more extended sketch of his life and labors.

Rev. Truman A. Jackson, Co. E, 122d Reg. N. Y. Vols., died in Andersonville, Ga., October 26, 1864, aged twenty-nine years. He was born in Swanzey, N. H. After a careful preparation under Rev. S.H. McCollister, be entered Tufts College in the summer of 1857. He was destined to a life of sharp vicissitude. The mental strain soon proved too great for the frail tenement that held his fast growing soul. The hereditary tendency to consumption compelled him to relinquish his aim. He had not gone through the classics, but he had learned by heart both the religion and politics of our metropolitan liberal pulpits. Procuring the necessary books, he studied theology, and soon began to preach. For about two years he ministered every alternate Sunday at Marlboro' and Surrey.

In August, 1863, he was drafted into the army of the country. His parish at once generously offered to purchase his exemption; but his brave soul revolted at the thought. He was a thorough patriot; he had often encouraged enlistment; he had earnestly urged the importance of sustaining the government; he had even wanted to go as a volunteer; now it seemed to him that God had called him, and he did not falter or hesitate. He left all,—society, friends, home, and wife, and joined the army.

He was first stationed at Elmira, N. Y., and afterwards at Syracuse, Ohio, at both places being detailed for light duty. Efforts were made to procure him a chaplaincy; but he was young, a stranger to influential men in New York State, and of course the attempts failed. In the spring of 1864, his regiment joined the army under Grant; and in the battle of the Wilderness, on the 6th of May, be was wounded in the shoulder and taken prisoner. The wound soon healed, and he was able for a time to render much aid to the sick and suffering. Then for six months came no tidings. Rebel atrocity was doing its fiendish work. At last he died, we know not exactly when or how. It was a wonder that the feeble body lived so long; and it is a mercy that his spirit has been liberated, and has gone where the weary are at rest.

The captain of his company was taken prisoner on May 12th, but the first lieutenant writes that "Mr. Jackson on the field of battle behaved coolly and fought bravely;" and further, that he had "gained the esteem of his officers and comrades."

Josiah Prescott, M.D. The name of this distinguished philanthropist,—a name very prominent in our denominational history, especially in Maine,—must not be omitted from our Biographical Record. Dr. Prescott died in Farmington, Maine, October 15, 1864, aged seventy-six years. "In the death of Dr. Prescott," writes Rev. William A. Drew, "our denomination has lost one of its brightest ornaments. He was always a Universalist. It was not in his nature to be any thing else. He was 'free born.' His father, Jedediah Prescott, Esq., the old land-purveyor of more than half this part of the State, was a Universalist before him. His antecedents, therefore, were all on the side of a benevolent religion. This made him tolerant and charitable. He was no bigot. Enjoying his own opinions, he knew how to respect the honest ones of other men. He was the same in all weather and all company, the open, unmoved, uncompromising Universalist; the enemies of his faith loved him none the less on this account, but rather respected him the more because they knew him to be truthful and honest. Well posted in the evidences of his faith, he could hold an argument successfully with its most sturdy opponents, as he had done with such men as the late Rev. Sylvanus Boardman, and Dr. Lyman Beecher."

Dr. Prescott was of necessity a prominent man. He was a leader by divine right;—the right that comes of capacity and natural power over men. Temperance, agriculture, surgery, and especially medicine, found in him one of the authoritative leaders; on all of which matters he wrote, lectured, and practiced. Of course he was frequently in the legislature. While serving in this capacity, he conceived, and made successful the plan of an Asylum for the Insane. This good and influential man was born in Winthrop, Maine, in 1785, only two years after our independence was acknowledged. He received his education at Dartmouth College, N. H. "In his death, the cause of Universalism," adds Mr. Drew, "has lost one of its brightest ornaments; the medical profession has lost one of its best educated and most successful practitioners; society has lost a philanthropist; the Masonic fraternity has lost a bright jewel; the State a zealous benefactor; and the nation a patriot of the olden school."



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