Monday, March 01, 2010

Did You Know? #19

In the formative years of our great country, few families had a greater impact than the Beechers. Headed by Lyman Beecher [pictured to the right] (1775-1863), a sixth generation American, he presided over a large family that proudly followed his example of activism and education that helped to shape America in the nineteenth century.

Rev. Lyman Beecher effectively Beecher family who distinguished himself as a minister and educator, the family made major contributions. By the time he was fifty, Beecher was "one of the best known preachers in the country."
[1] Educated at Yale University (1797), Beecher served as a Presbyterian minister in Long Island, New York (1799), Litchfield, Connecticut (1810), Boston, Massachusetts (1826), and Cincinnati, Ohio (1832). He was especially known for his strong sermons against the institution of slavery and the use of alcohol. During his tenure in Boston he was greatly embarrassed when the two-year-old meeting house caught fire and it was discovered that the fire started in a room rented by a local merchant who, without the knowledge church officials, used the room to store his inventory of whiskey, the subject of so many of his fiery sermons.

In addition to his ministry, Beecher devoted much of his life to enhancing America's educational system. When he made the decision to move "west" (i.e. Ohio), he explained his motivation to one of his daughters this way: "I have thought seriously of going over to Cincinnati, the London of the West, to spend the remnant of my days in the great conflict, and in consecrating all my children to God in that region who are willing to go. If we gain the West, all is safe; if we lose it, all is lost. (The Autobiography of Lyman Beecher, ed. Barbara M. Cross, vol.2, p.167 as quoted in Rugoff p.78)."
[2] Beecher served as president of Lane Theological Seminary, in Cincinnati, Ohio, from 1832 until his retirement in 1850. Here he continued his crusade to stamp out slavery and dry up the whiskey, a mission his offspring eagerly continued after the elderly Beecher's retirement.

Lyman Beecher married twice. With his first wife, Roxanna Foote (1775-1816, they married in 1799), he nine children, and four more with his second wife, Harriet Porter (1790-1835; they married in 1817). Among his offspring many became influential in their own right. Catherine Beecher (1800-1878) started her own private school for young women, the Hartford Female Seminary, in Hartford, Connecticut, in "May 1823, and it remained an important institution for the education of women for more than sixty years."
[3] When the family moved west she started another school, Western Female Institute in Cincinnati, and "was instrumental in the founding of women's colleges at Burlington, Iowa, Quincy, Illinois, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin." [4] Catherine is recognized today as one of the first promoters of women's education and health issues.

William Henry Beecher (1802-1889), Lyman and Roxanna's second child, served as a missionary and educator. So did the third child, Edward (1803-1895; ("the first president of Illinois College at Jacksonville," 1830 [5]), and the eighth Henry Ward Beecher [pictured to the left] (1813-1887; the most famous of the Beecher sons). Like his father, Henry Ward Beecher was an influential and outspoken advocate of the abolition cause. In many ways he followed in his father's footsteps, well educated and passionate in his preaching, Henry Ward Beecher was a prolific writer and a forceful voice against alcohol and slavery. He preached for large Presbyterian churches in Indianapolis, Indiana and Brooklyn, New York. He was one of the most famous preachers in America when, in the mid-1870s, he was caught up in a scandal over an alleged affair with the wife of one of the church’s influential members. Transcripts of the public trial were originally printed in the New York Times, and later published in book form. Acquitted of the charges, he continued to be a popular author, lecturer, and minister until his death. [6]

A year after the death of his first wife, Lyman Beecher married Harriet Porter (1790-1835). Of the four children born from this marriage, Isabella (1822-1907) took up the causes championed by her oldest half-sister Catherine as an educator and activist for women's issues. [7] Also, two of Lyman and Harriet's sons became missionaries and ministers (Thomas Kinnicut Beecher and James Chaplin Beecher).

However, the most famous of Lyman and Roxanna Beecher's children was their seventh child, Harriet Elizabeth Beecher [pictured to the right] (1811-1896). In her early life she worked closely with her oldest sister, Catherine. In 1836 she married Calvin Ellis Stowe (1802-1886), a recent widower who taught under her father at Lane Theological Seminary. He encouraged his wife to write, and write she did. Her most poplar work was and anti-slavery work entitled Uncle Tom's Cabin (first printed in an anti-slavery newspaper, The National Era, from 1851 to 1852, printed in book form later). [8] The story, "to some extent based on true events and the life of Josiah Henson," [9] became an instant sensation among the Northern abolitionist, even creating a frenzy of "Tom-mania" with songs, plays, and stories based on Harriet's book. [10] Harriet Beecher Stowe's writings were now in demand not only in America but even across the ocean. "The book received international recognition as a plea for the moral cause of abolition and is recognized today as a landmark in the history of American culture as well as American literature." [11] Over the remaining years of her life Harriet wrote a book a year, nearly 30, until her death in 1896. [Note: if you would like to download a free audio book of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," click here]

When she met President Abraham Lincoln, the President greeted her with, "So you're the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war." [12] I think it was wonderful that her father lived to see her success in a cause so near to his heart. Unfortunately, her mother, Roxanna, did not. Harriet could have hardly known her mother who died of tuberculosis at age of 41 (Harriet was only four). Roxanna Foote Beecher was the granddaughter of Revolutionary War Gen. Andrew Ward V (1727-1799), and the 5th great-granddaughter of Andrew Ward I (1597-1659), the Governor of Connecticut. This same Andrew Ward I is also our 10th great-grandfather, making Harriet Beecher Stowe our 6th cousins 5 times removed. Here is the actual connection:

Andrew Ward I
[5th great-grandfather or Harriet Beecher Stowe
our 10th great-grandfather]
Esther Ward b.1623
Andrew Ward II
Daniel Burr b.1660 Andrew Ward III
Elizabeth Burr b.1696 Andrew Ward IV
Nathaniel Hull b.1726
General Andrew Ward V
Ezekiel Hull b.1765
Roxana Ward
Platt Hull b.1787
Roxana Foote, m. Lyman Beecher
Ezekiel Hull b.1813
Henry Ward Beecher / Harriet Beecher Stowe
Rebecca L. Hull b.1841
Frank Martin Bragg b.1867

Orval Bishop Bragg b.1895

Don Cicero Bragg b.1920


[1] An American Family: The Beecher Tradition, LYMAN BEECHER
[2] Ibid.
[3] An American Family: The Beecher Tradition, CATHERINE BEECHER
[4] Ibid.
[5] An American Family: The Beecher Tradition, EDWARD BEECHER>
[6] An American Family: The Beecher Tradition, HENRY WARD BEECHER
[7] An American Family: The Beecher Tradition, ISABELLA BEECHER HOOKER
[8] Petri Liukkonen, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) 2008.
[9] Ibid.
[10] An American Family: The Beecher Tradition, HARRIET BEECHER STOWE>
[11] Ibid.
[12] Petri Liukkonen, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) 2008.

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