Beecher, Henry Ward, 1813-1887

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1813-06-24
Death 1887-03-08
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Abolitionist; orator; pastor of Plymouth Church, 1847-1887.

From the description of Papers, [ca.1847]-1937, 1847-1887 (bulk) (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 155459715

American Congregational clergyman, lecturer, reformer, and author.

From the guide to the Henry Ward Beecher papers, 1851-1896, n.d, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)

Congregationalist minister.

From the description of Sermon notes, [n.d.], 1893, 1895. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 86171606

From the guide to the Henry Ward Beecher sermon notes, 1893-1895, (L. Tom Perry Special Collections)

Henry Ward Beecher was an American clergyman, editor, and social reformer. He lived from 1813 to 1887. Beecher was called to pastor Plymouth Church in Brooklyn in 1847. He delivered sermons that in essence abandoned Calvinistic orthodoxy for a warm, humane, and liberalist presentation of Christianity. Beecher later established the Lyman Beecher Lectures on preaching at Yale.

From the description of Henry Ward Beecher sermons, 1860-1886. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122517744

Beecher was a famous clergyman and abolitionist leader.

From the description of ALS, [1861?] June 19 : Brooklyn, to Major General John C. Fremont. (Copley Press, J S Copley Library). WorldCat record id: 16201475

American clergyman and author.

From the description of Autograph, 1887. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 82420461

American clergyman.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : [n.p.], to Gordon L. Ford, 1884 Dec. 8. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270623308

From the description of Autograph letter signed : [n.p.] and unaddressed, [n.d.]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270623312

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Brooklyn, to the Rev. Dr. Campbell, 1853 June 28. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270870283

Protestant clergyman and reformer. Served as pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church, Brooklyn, N.Y. from 1847 until his death in 1887.

From the description of Grieving the spirit sermon and outline, 1875 May 9. (Buffalo History Museum). WorldCat record id: 56628451

Clergyman, author, and abolistionist.

From the description of Letter, 1885 October 28. (New York State Library). WorldCat record id: 50186168

American orator and clergyman.

From the description of Henry Ward Beecher items, 18. (Cornell University Library). WorldCat record id: 63936570

Abolitionist, author, and Congregationalist clergyman of Indianapolis, Ind. (1839-1847), and Brooklyn, N.Y. (1847-1887).

From the description of Papers of Henry Ward Beecher, 1836-1886 (bulk 1840-1865). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 71131593

Congregational preacher, orator, and lecturer, Henry Ward Beecher was the brother of author Harriet Beecher Stowe. An advocate of the theory of evolution, he was also a leader in the antislavery and women's suffrage movements. In one of the 19th century's most famous scandals, he was accused of adultery by Theodore Tilton; the trial ended in 1875 with a hung jury.

From the description of Papers, 1863-1883 (inclusive). (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 122386735

Epithet: American Author and Divine

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000001164.0x0003c9

Clergyman, author, and abolitionist.

From the description of Letters, 1878. (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 34122414

Henry Ward Beecher was a renowned author, preacher, and lecturer. He was vocal in many of the significant issues of his day, including abolition, temperance, women's rights, and evolution, resulting in an often controversial career. He was one of the most influential men of his day, and the most popular speaker of his generation. At the height of his popularity, he was charged with adultery; the very public trial resulted in a hung jury, and Ward salvaged most of his popularity and influence. He published sermons, novels, essays, and nonfiction. His sister was author Harriet Beecher Stowe.

From the description of Henry Ward Beecher letter to Dear sir, 1854 Feb. 14. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 58726285

Preacher, abolitionist.

Beecher was pastor at Plymouth Church from 1847-1887.

From the description of Henry Ward Beecher papers and Plymouth Church materials, [ca. 1839-1887]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 155457907

  • 1844: Church of the Pilgrims established
  • 1847: Plymouth Church established; Henry Ward Beecher installed as pastor
  • 1849: Fire destroys Plymouth Church (January)
  • 1850: New church completed (June)
  • 1872: Henry Ward Beecher's Silver Anniversary at Plymouth Church (October)
  • 1887: Death of Beecher; Beecher's funeral at Plymouth Church (March)
  • 1888: Lyman Abbott installed as pastor
  • 1898: Lyman Abbott's resignation announced (Fall)
  • 1899: Newell Dwight Hillis installed as pastor
  • 1902: Henry Ward Beecher Memorial plan instituted
  • 1914: Arbuckle Institute dedicated
  • 1918: Arbuckle Institute renamed Plymouth Institute (December)
  • 1920: Plymouth Church damaged by fire (November)
  • 1922: Death of Lyman Abbott (October 22)
  • 1924: Newell Dwight Hillis disabled by cerebral hemorrhage; resignation announced
  • 1927: James Stanley Durkee installed at Plymouth Church (January 27)
  • 1927: Rose Ward Hunt ("Pinky") returns to Plymouth Church on occasion of 80th anniversary of Beecher's first sermon at Plymouth Church (May 15)
  • 1929: Death of Newell Dwight Hillis (February 25)
  • 1934: Consolidation of Plymouth Church and Church of the Pilgrims (Spring)
  • 1939: Plymouth Institute renamed Plymouth Church House (May)
  • 1940: J. Stanley Durkee's resignation announced (October)
  • 1940: Plymouth Rock Celebration (December 21-23)
  • 1942: L. Wendell Fifield installed at Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims (May 22)
  • 1951: Death of J. Stanley Durkee (September)
  • 1954: L. Wendell Fifield's resignation announced (October)
  • 1955: L. Wendell Fifield leaves Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims (July)
  • 1961: Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims designated Historic Landmark
  • 1964: Death of L. Wendell Fifield (July)
  • 1813: Born, Litchfield, Connecticut; youngest child of Lyman and Roxana Beecher (June 24)
  • 1830: Entered Amherst College
  • 1834: Graduated Amherst College
  • 1834: Began theological studies at Lane Seminary, Cincinnati, Ohio (July)
  • 1837: Graduated Lane Seminary. Began first pastorate at First Presbyterian Church, Lawrenceberg, Indiana
  • 1837: Married Eunice White Bullard of Massachusetts
  • 1838: First daughter, Harriet Eliza, born (May 16)
  • 1838: Ordained at First Presbyterian Church, Lawrenceberg, Indiana (November 9)
  • 1839: Installed at Second Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, Indiana (July 31)
  • 1841: Son, Henry Barton Beecher, born
  • 1847: Resigned from Indianapolis pastorate (August 15)
  • 1847: Accepted call to Plymouth Church, Brooklyn (August 19)
  • 1847: Installed at Plymouth Church (November 11)
  • 1848: First mock slave auction at the Broadway Tabernacle, New York City (December 7)
  • 1849: Plymouth Church destroyed by fire (January 13)
  • 1850: Departed on first trip to Europe (July 9)
  • 1850: New church completed according to Beecher's design (January)
  • 1856: Slave girl, Sarah, sold for her freedom at Plymouth Church (June 1)
  • 1856: Leave of absence taken from Plymouth to campaign for the election of John C. Fremont as President
  • 1858: Great Revival at Plymouth Church
  • 1859: Farm purchased in Peekskill, New York
  • 1860: Enslaved girl Sally Maria Diggs, "Pinky," (a.k.a. Rose Ward) auctioned for freedom (February)
  • 1861: Appointed editor of the New York Independent (December 19; until 1864)
  • 1863: Death of Lyman Beecher in Brooklyn (January 10)
  • 1863: Departed on second trip to Europe; delivered speeches in England in support of the Northern cause (June)
  • 1864: Campaigned for Abraham Lincoln
  • 1865: Delivered address at raising of flag over Fort Sumter at close of Civil War (April 14)
  • 1865: Fall lecture tour on Reconstruction issues
  • 1866: Published Cleveland Letters on Reconstruction (September)
  • 1867: Novel Norwood published
  • 1869: Elected president of the newly formed American Woman Suffrage Association
  • 1870: Became editor of the Christian Union (October, until 1881)
  • 1872: Week long ''Silver Wedding'' celebration at Plymouth for Beecher's twenty-fifth anniversary as pastor (October)
  • 1875: Beecher-Tilton trial in Brooklyn (January-June)
  • 1876: Summer/Fall Lecture tour
  • 1877: Rutherford B. Hayes elected; Beecher's former defense lawyer, William Maxwell Evarts, appointed United States' Secretary of State
  • 1878: Appointed Chaplain of 13th New York Regiment
  • 1878: Completed construction of summer home, "Boscobel," Peekskill, N.Y.
  • 1880: Cooper Institute speech for James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur presidential ticket (October)
  • 1882: Resigned membership in New York Congregational Ministerial Association over position in support of the theory of evolution (October)
  • 1883: Summer lecture tour on topic of evolution and religion
  • 1883: Plymouth Church celebration of Beecher's 70th birthday (June)
  • 1884: Speech in support of Grover Cleveland at the Brooklyn Rink (October 22)
  • 1885: Delivered eulogy on death of Ulysses S. Grant (October 22)
  • 1886: Sailed on the "Etruria" with Mrs. Beecher and agent, J.B. Pond, on last trip to Britain (June 19)
  • 1886: Returned to New York (October 24)
  • 1887: Preached last sermon, "I am Resolved What to Do" (February 27)
  • 1887: Death of Henry Ward Beecher (March 8)
  • 1887: Funeral Service at Plymouth Church (March 11)
  • 1887: Buried at Green-Wood Cemetery (March 12)

Plymouth Church and Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims:

The Church of the Pilgrims, the first Congregational Church in Brooklyn, New York, was established in 1844 at Henry and Remsen Streets. Richard Salter Storrs was installed as its first pastor in 1846. As the population of Brooklyn grew and the number of congregants at Church of the Pilgrims increased, three of its members, John T. Howard, Seth B. Hunt, and Henry C. Bowen, with the assistance of David Hale from the Broadway Tabernacle Church, New York City, saw the occasion to establish a second Congregational Church in Brooklyn Heights. In 1847, nine additional members of the Church of the Pilgrims asked to be dismissed to help found this second church. By June of that year, a religious society with the name "Plymouth Church" had been formed. A certificate of incorporation was recorded in the clerk's office of Kings County on September 27, 1847.

Plymouth Church's first building had been that of Brooklyn's First Presbyterian Church. Plymouth Church purchased in 1846 this property, bordered by Orange, Cranberry, and Hicks Streets, when First Presbyterian relocated to Henry and Clark Streets. This property was initially purchased by John T. Howard, Seth B. Hunt, Henry C. Bowen and David Hale, and in June 1848 the property was transferred to the Trustees of Plymouth Church. The original Plymouth Church building was destroyed by fire in January 1849. The cornerstone for the structure of the new Plymouth Church was laid in May 1849, with the church opening its doors in January 1850.

The Reverend Henry Ward Beecher had been invited to speak at Plymouth Church prior to the church's incorporation. Members of the church, impressed with the young preacher, extended him a call to lead their congregation. Beecher accepted the call and was installed as the first pastor of Plymouth Church on November 11, 1847. Under Beecher's leadership, Plymouth Church expanded its role within the community; the church adopted missions, notably the Bethel Mission, at 15 Hicks Street, in 1866, and Navy Mission, located near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, in 1871. Both of these institutions existed prior to their formal association with Plymouth, but prospered under Plymouth's support and expanded the influence of the church to a more diverse population. The church and several of its affiliated organizations sponsored concerts, plays, and other social events that were not limited to members of the church. The anti-slavery position of the church was exemplified by its participation in slave auctions, which purchased the freedom of several slaves. The church further expressed its anti-slavery militance by sending boxes of rifles marked "Bibles" to Kansas in 1854. These rifles, referred to as "Beecher's Bibles," were sent to support free soil settlers of Kansas, who were engaged in violent altercations with pro-slavery settlers regarding the status of slavery in the Nebraska and Kansas Territories.

Under the pastorates of Beecher and his successor Lyman Abbott, the number of congregants continued to increase with little change to the church's physical plant. During the pastorate of Newell Dwight Hillis (1899-1924), Plymouth Church underwent a great stage of physical growth that was seen most notably in the 1902 Henry Ward Beecher Memorial Plan. The major goals for this project included the installation of stained glass windows in the church that demonstrated the influence of Puritanism on the people of the United States and the nation itself, an endowment fund of $100,000, and the construction of a building to house an institute which would sponsor programs and activities organized by the church.

Additionally, this plan included developing property adjoining the church into a small park and arcade which connected the new building to Plymouth Church. The building was first named the Arbuckle Institute after Plymouth Church benefactor and member John Arbuckle, and was later renamed Plymouth Institute and then Plymouth Church House. The Institute provided many services and activities for the residents of Brooklyn Heights, such as classes in foreign languages and accounting, athletic activities, and social events.

As the population of Brooklyn Heights changed in the early 20th century, the number of members of both Plymouth Church and Church of the Pilgrims declined. Many families of the middle and upper classes, which had previously been the main source of membership at both churches, left Brooklyn Heights. Their single family homes were divided into multiple units as Brooklyn Heights changed from a community of families and homeowners to a community of apartment dwellers, many of whom felt that the Congregational Church was not relevant to their lives. Both congregations were forced to reassess their positions within the community and their future economic stability.

In the spring of 1934, the congregations of Plymouth Church and Church of the Pilgrims consolidated, creating Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims. The Reverend J. Stanley Durkee of Plymouth Church and the Reverend John Curry Walker of Church of the Pilgrims led the new congregation as co-pastors. Services alternated between the two churches at first, but following the resignation of Reverend Walker in 1935, an increasing number of church activities were held at Plymouth Church. It became further evident that Plymouth Church was to be the congregation's primary place of worship with the Plymouth Rock Celebration in 1940. During this event a piece of Plymouth Rock was transferred from the Church of the Pilgrims to the Plymouth Church House. By 1944, the Church of the Pilgrims building at Henry and Remsen Streets was purchased by a Maronite Roman Catholic congregation, becoming Our Lady of Lebanon Church. At that time, all activities officially moved to the Plymouth Church site at Orange and Hicks Streets.

Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims was designated a National Historic Landmark in July 1961 by the United States Department of the Interior. Although the number of congregrants in the church does not compare to Beecher's time, the church continues to be an active member of the Brooklyn Heights community.

Henry Ward Beecher:

Henry Ward Beecher exercised his influence on many of the major social issues of the mid to late 19th century from his pulpit at Plymouth Church. Later eulogized as "the greatest preacher of his time," Beecher preached against slavery, for political candidates, women's rights, evolution, and his own idea of romantic Christianity that recognized "God's love for man and the availability of salvation for all." (Chadwick, 246; Clark, 4)

Beecher was born on June 24, 1813 in Litchfield, Connecticut, the youngest son of Lyman and Roxana Beecher. His father, a minister in the Presbyterian Church, was well known within the theological community for his advocacy of the "new religion," which endorsed personal salvation through conversion, an important emendation to traditional Calvinist theology. The younger Beecher studied at Amherst College, graduating in 1834, at which point he began his training at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, where his father had become president. Beecher married Eunice White Bullard, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Artemas Bullard of Sutton, Massachusetts, upon his graduation from Lane in 1837. The young couple moved to Lawrenceberg, Indiana, soon after, where Beecher began his first pastorate at First Presbyterian Church. Beecher was called in 1839 to the larger Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, where he began to make a name for himself as a gifted orator and preacher. The Beecher family left Indiana in 1847 when the newly formed Plymouth Church in Brooklyn called on Beecher to become its first pastor.

Beecher quickly imposed his energetic preaching style upon Plymouth Church and the congregation grew in number as the young minister became known for his dynamic and affective style, which appealed not just to local Brooklynites, but to ferry-loads of Manhattan residents and tourists from throughout the country. Beecher's articles and sermons were soon being published both nationally and internationally. He initiated the tactic of "auctioning" slaves to purchase their freedom in 1848, a technique that won him both criticism and praise from the nation. His position as a member of a famous family of thinkers, including his father and sisters, writer Harriet Beecher Stowe and educator Catharine Beecher, increased his notoriety and popularity. Beecher's influence and wide interests led to his association and identification with major New York figures of the day, a group that included abolitionists, writers, and social theorists, as well as national and international personalities. Following a trip to England during the Civil War, where he spoke on behalf of the Northern cause, some contemporaries even began to credit Beecher with winning British support for the Union through his arguments and oratorical style.

For most of his life, Beecher involved himself in all levels of political campaigns as well as social issues. Using his pulpit as a platform, he supported candidates whom he felt could and would best promote social reform. He was a staunch supporter of Republican candidates John C. Fremont, Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, and Rutherford B. Hayes, and was closely associated with that party. Still, Beecher felt confident enough to critique these major political figures and the party, supporting candidates whose policies best represented his own politics, as seen in his support of Democratic presidential candidate Grover Cleveland and his brief disassociation with, and criticism of, the Republican party in 1884.

Beecher devoted much of his time to literary pursuits as a regular contributor to a number of newspapers. He edited the New York Independent, a well known Congregational publication of the day, and later founded and edited the Christian Union (1870). His many lectures on life, art, literature, moral philosophy, and politics were gathered into volumes. He also authored a novel, Norwood (1867), a romantic depiction of New England life in the nineteenth century.

Beecher's wide scope of interests included history, art, the sciences, phrenology, and literature. He studied horticulture and agriculture. He had an affinity for architecture; he designed both the second Plymouth Church in 1849 and a summer home in Peekskill, N.Y. He was an extensive book collector and amassed a large private library over the years, the bulk of which was auctioned off at his death. These informal and formal pursuits informed his view of the world and the arguments that he espoused in his sermons and lectures.

Beecher's enthusiasms and his natural tendency to speak and act freely gained him many conservative critics, some of whom felt that he discredited his calling. His multiple enterprises, lecture schedule, and product endorsements afforded him a substantial income, which he used to purchase the material comforts he so enjoyed. Although this shared love of "the good life" endeared him to his middle-class congregants, his religious peers often took issue with this lifestyle, which was far from that of the traditional "modest preacher." He also earned criticism for what Clifford Clark reported in 1978 as his "romantic Christianity . . . a religion of the heart, an appeal to the feelings and emotions that replace[d] the cold, formalistic evangelical theology of the previous generation and [which] accepted the new theories of evolution and biblical criticism." (Clark, 3)

After the Civil War, Beecher's name became even more famous and controversial because of accusations of adultery. In October of 1872, sex reform advocate Victoria Woodhull accused Beecher of committing adultery with Elizabeth Tilton, the wife of Beecher's onetime protege, Theodore Tilton. The charge took root, and Tilton, then editor of the Independent, took his former friend to court. The six-month long trial was a worldwide news event, but culminated in the acquittal of Beecher in June of 1875.

Beecher overcame the scandal and his popularity appeared to grow in its aftermath. In 1876, he embarked on a lecture tour, traveling throughout the United States. In 1880, he endorsed the Republican presidential ticket of James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur in a speech at the Cooper Institute in New York City. He resigned his membership in the New York Congregational Ministerial Association in 1882 due to his belief in evolution, around which he centered an 1883 lecture tour. Still, his congregation continued to follow their beloved pastor and in 1883 the church celebrated his seventieth birthday.

Throughout the rest of his life, Beecher continued his travels and his lecture tours, continuing to support causes and political candidates. He delivered a famous eulogy for Ulysses S. Grant in 1885 and, only a year prior to his death, made a last trip to Britain. Henry Ward Beecher died on March 8, 1887, at the age of seventy-three. His funeral became an outpouring of loyalty and affection. Memorials and testimonies were published throughout the world and the anniversary of his death was remembered for years to come. Organizations were formed in his name, and no less than twenty biographies have since been written about his life, including one by Social Gospel advocate Lyman Abbott, Beecher's immediate successor at Plymouth Church.

Lyman Abbott:

Lyman Abbott (1835-1922) became the second pastor of Plymouth Church following the death of Henry Ward Beecher. He initially filled the role of temporary pastor while a committee searched for a permanent successor to Beecher. Abbott performed well enough in this capacity that in 1888 he was called upon to officially lead Plymouth Church.

Abbott had not always intended to devote his life to the ministry; instead, he became a partner in a law firm owned by his brothers following his graduation from New York University in 1853. Residing in Brooklyn, Abbott and his wife, Abby Frances Hamlin, daughter of Hannibal Hamlin, Abraham Lincoln's first Vice President, were active members of Plymouth Church. In 1858, during the period of the Great Revival at Plymouth Church, Abbott left his brothers' law practice and joined the ministry. Abbott was influenced by the Social Gospel, or Christian socialism, which was a reaction against industrialization. This movement included advocacy for the poor and became associated with the Progressive movement of the late 19th century.

In 1860, Abbott was ordained as a minister and accepted the pastorate of the Congregational Church of Terre Haute, Indiana. He left that position to become the Secretary of the Freedmen's Bureau in 1865. By the time Abbott returned to New York City in 1870, he was leading a church, writing for Harper's Magazine, and editing the Illustrated Christian Weekly . He continued to be employed in the literary field, resigning from the Illustrated Christian Weekly to become the editor of the Christian Union, of which Beecher was a founder. In addition to his many literary works, Abbott also wrote a biography of his predecessor and edited two volumes of Beecher's sermons.

When Abbott was asked to temporarily assume the pastorate of Plymouth Church in 1887, it was agreed that he need not forfeit his duties at the Christian Union . He agreed to preach on Sunday mornings and evenings and attend the Friday evening prayer meetings in order not to relinquish his duties at the Christian Union . When it was decided that Abbott would permanently fill the position of pastor of Plymouth Church, he continued to pursue his literary activities (editing and writing). Although he resigned from the pastorate of Plymouth Church in 1899, Abbott continued to lecture and write until his death on October 22, 1922, in New York City.

Newell Dwight Hillis:

Newell Dwight Hillis (1858-1929) was the third pastor of Plymouth Church. Following his graduation from Lake Forest University in 1884, Hillis enrolled as a student at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. He took on a number of pastorates in the Chicago area before accepting a call to Plymouth in 1899. Unlike Reverend Abbott's limited role with the church community, Hillis and his family participated in many church activities and those of its related organizations, as well as the lives of the members of the congregation.

In addition to his weekly sermons at Plymouth, Hillis lectured extensively throughout the country. Many of his lectures were compiled and published as books while his sermons were often reprinted in newspapers. Like Beecher, Hillis felt that it was important to address social and political issues from the pulpit. Hillis was an outspoken critic of German aggression in the 1910s and spoke openly about the moral duty of the United States to declare war on Germany. After the United States entered World War I, Hillis spoke throughout the country on behalf of the Liberty Loan Drives, which raised funds for the war effort. Following the war, Hillis authored the "Better America" lectures, a series of lectures with accompanying slides which were addressed to a new immigrant population. The "Better America" lectures addressed issues that were considered important to the stability and security of the United States following the political upheaval in Europe which had led to World War I and the rise of the communism in Russia. The lectures and slides were sold as a package and were prepared so that others could deliver Hillis's lectures. In 1924, Hillis suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and soon afterward resigned from the pulpit of Plymouth Church. At the time of his death on February 25, 1929, Newell Dwight Hillis was considered one of the most prolific speakers of his generation.

James Stanley Durkee:

James Stanley Durkee (1866-1951) was the fourth pastor of Plymouth Church. Reverend Durkee was born in Nova Scotia on November 21, 1866. He graduated from Bates College and Cobb Divinity School in Maine and received his Ph.D. from Boston University. Durkee served as the President of Howard University, a university founded in 1867 through the financial support of the Freedmen's Bureau for the education of African Americans. In 1926, Durkee resigned from his position at Howard to accept the pastorate of Plymouth Church.

Installed in 1927, Durkee soon expressed a keen interest in the history of Plymouth Church and many of his sermons and church activities reflected this interest. He invited Rose Ward Hunt, the former enslaved African-American known as "Pinky," a Howard University graduate, to speak to the congregation on the anniversary of Reverend Beecher's first sermon at Plymouth. Durkee also organized a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which included re-enactments relating to the Emancipation Proclamation and Plymouth Church during this period.

Durkee was the pastor in 1934 when Plymouth Church consolidated with the Church of the Pilgrims. The new church took the name Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims and Durkee served as its co-pastor with Dr. John Curry Walker, who had been the pastor of the Church of the Pilgrims. Durkee led Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims until his retirement in 1941. Durkee died in Hyattsville, Maryland, on September 28, 1951.

Lawrence Wendell Fifield:

Lawrence Wendell Fifield (1891-1964) was selected to replace James Stanley Durkee, becoming the fifth pastor at Plymouth in 1941. At the time the call was extended, Fifield was the pastor of the Plymouth Congregational Church of Seattle, Washington. Prior to Seattle, he held a pastorate in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and taught Biblical Literature and Public Speaking at Yankton College in South Dakota. After leading Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims for close to fifteen years, Fifield, citing declining health, announced his resignation from the pastorate of Plymouth to take effect in the summer of 1955. Fifield died on July 26, 1964.

Note on Brooklyn History

Nineteenth century Brooklyn was a young and expanding city. When Plymouth Church was established in 1847, Brooklyn's population had more than doubled since its incorporation as a city in 1834. The city had gained prominence as a major port of trade, with docks and storage facilities lining the East River shore, and the establishment of a busy shipbuilding yard known as the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The city's economic prosperity, coupled with the growing population, led to the development of the city's commercial and residential center, known today as Brooklyn Heights. Also labeled as the "City of Churches," Brooklyn was home to numerous congregations and denominations. Immigrants and merchants were drawn to the city as it prospered and had formed communities often identified through religious institutions. This boom in population, coupled with the annexations of the nearby towns of Bushwick and Williamsburgh in 1854, made Brooklyn the third-largest city in the United States by 1860.

As Brooklyn's population and the size of their congregation grew, members of the Church of the Pilgrims saw an opportunity for expansion. Several members asked to be dismissed so that they could establish a second Congregational church, Plymouth Church. The new church's location in Brooklyn Heights was in a neighborhood of wealthy families of social standing and just a short ferry ride away from Manhattan, which allowed neighborhood residents and tourists alike to experience the oratorical skills of Plymouth's young preacher, Henry Ward Beecher. Beecher was instrumental in attracting international attention to Brooklyn and his involvement in the anti-slavery movement helped to bring further notice to the city as a major site of anti-slavery activity.

During and after the Civil War, the city of Brooklyn prospered. Increased trade and population growth resulted in further expansion and a solid middle class presence. Meanwhile, Brooklyn's wealthy families molded the city into a flourishing metropolis complete with the cultural institutions enjoyed by the middle and upper classes, including the Brooklyn Academy of Music (1861), The Long Island Historical Society (1863), and the Brooklyn Club (circa 1865).

In 1880, the city of Brooklyn was the fourth largest producer of manufactured goods in the United States and was still expanding in population and commercial growth. Over the next forty years, the demographics of Brooklyn altered dramatically: a second mass wave of immigration increased the population still further, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges opened in 1883 and 1909, the subway arrived in 1908, industrial complexes grew, Brooklyn was annexed into the city of New York in 1898, and public utilities were expanded into the borough. The middle and upper class residents of Brooklyn Heights, once the primary constituency of Plymouth Church and Church of the Pilgrims, began to move away from the commercial center of the city. By the 1920s, the once grand homes of Brooklyn's elite families had been converted into apartment houses and housed a population of clerks and secretaries who worked across the river in the Manhattan financial district. The Great Depression and development projects such as the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway led much of old Brooklyn Heights to fall into neglect until the early 1950s, when urban pioneers began to redevelop the neighborhood and promote its preservation.

The Borough of Brooklyn in 1999 was the most populous of New York City. The neighborhood along the bluffs overlooking the East River, Brooklyn Heights, was designated the first Historic District in New York City in 1966. Despite changes in population, politics, and economics, many of the 19th century brownstones, churches, and other structures still stand as testimony to the rich history of old Brooklyn.

From the guide to the Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims and Henry Ward Beecher collection, Bulk, 1847-1887, 1819-1980, (Brooklyn Historical Society)

Loading...

Loading Relationships

Information

Permalink:
http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w6dr30vg
Ark ID:
w6dr30vg
SNAC ID:
50553349

Subjects:

  • City clergy--New York (State)--New York
  • Congregationalists
  • Congregational churches
  • Trials (Adultery)
  • Clergy
  • Lectures and lecturing--New York (State)--Kings County
  • Slaves
  • City and Town Life
  • Antislavery movements
  • Congregationalists--New York (State)--Kings County
  • Religious institutions--New York (State)--Kings County
  • Banks and banking
  • Agriculture--Periodicals
  • Religious education of children--New York (State)--Kings County
  • Authors, American--19th century--Autographs
  • Abolitionists
  • Reformers--United States
  • Clergy as authors
  • Sunday schools--New York (State)--Kings County
  • Clergy--Correspondence
  • Congregational churches--New York (State)--Kings County--Clergy
  • Poultry
  • Manuscripts, American
  • Sermons
  • Congregationalists--United States
  • Pews and pew rights
  • Fruit trees
  • Sermons, American
  • Presbyterian Church
  • Congregational churches--Sermons
  • Adultery--New York (State)--Kings County
  • Congregational churches--Clergy
  • Abolitionists--New York (State)
  • Social Life and Customs
  • Congregational churches--New York (State)--Kings County
  • Banks and banking--History
  • Authors, American
  • Trials (Adultery)--New York (State)--Kings County
  • Orchards
  • Antislavery movements--United States
  • Clergy--Autographs

Occupations:

  • Authors
  • Clergy
  • Abolitionists

Places:

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Church history (as recorded)
  • New York (State)--Peekskill (as recorded)
  • Brooklyn Heights (New York, N.Y.) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) (as recorded)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Religious life and customs (as recorded)
  • Indiana (as recorded)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Religious life and customs (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • New York (State)--New York (as recorded)
  • England (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States |x Religion (as recorded)
  • Europe (as recorded)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) (as recorded)
  • New York (State)--New York (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Boston (Mass.) (as recorded)
  • New York (State) (as recorded)