Peoria County, Illinois Genealogy Trails
Bishop Chase & Jubilee College
by Rev. C. W. Leffingwell, D. D.
(from Publication No. 10 of the Illinois State Historical Library; Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society for the Year 1905.
Sixth Annual Meeting of the Society, Springfield, Ill., Jan. 25-26, 1905.
Springfield: Illinois State Journal Co., State Printers, 1906.
Author's Note: References to the subject of this paper may be found in the following books and pamphlets: Bishop Chase's Reminiscences (1848); The Life of Philander Chase, by
Laura Chase Smith, E. P. Dutton & Co., New York, 1903; Convention Journals, Dioceses of Ohio and of Illinois; Journals of the General Convention; White's Apostle of the Western
Church; The Motto, a periodical of Jubilee College; The life of Bishop Chase, by John N. Norton, (1860); Church Review, Vol. 1; History of the Diocese of Chicago, Francis J. Hall, D. D.;
Papers and pamphlets on file in the Diocesan Archives, Chicago. The first two volumes named above have been most frequently quoted in the following pages.
To few men has it been given to organize two dioceses, to accomplish the founding and partial endowment of two colleges, and to share in the making of two great States. Philander Chase, sturdy pioneer Bishop of the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys, has left this record, the result of a life of extraordinary energy, devotion, and opportunity. He came of a family of pioneers; was born of Puritan stock, Dec. 14, 1775, on the banks of the Connecticut, where the present town of Cornish, N. H., is locate; the fifteenth child of Dudley and Allace Chase. One child died in infancy. Fourteen children of this remarkable family grew up to be useful and honored men and women. (Life of Philander Chase, p. 17.) A log cabin was the place of his birth, the shelter of his family in three different States, his episcopal palace, and the home of his age. The courageous spirit of the mother who gave birth and pious nurture to fifteen children, was illustrated in the following of her husband from Fort No. 4, on the Connecticut river, to the heart of the wilderness in 1765. The Indians were hostile. She was in constant anxiety. She would not be detained by expostulations or entreaties of friends. "I will go," she said, "with all my children, and will endure any hardship, if you will but give me a speedy conveyance to my husband. If there be no shelter, or fence or fort, his faithful arm will guard me, and his trusty men will aid him; their God, who is above all, ruleth and directeth all; He will provide."
A good neighbor took her and her seven little ones, with supplies, in a frail, open canoe. They made the journey safely. One can imagine the surprise and alarm with which the coming of the helpless ones filled the hearts of the woodsmen. "Ar you coming here to die before your time?" exclaimed the agitated husband and father. "We have no shelter for you and you will perish." "Cheer up, my faithful," replied Mistress Allace, "let the smiles and rosy cheeks of your children, and the health and cheerfulness of your wife make you joyful. If you have no house you have strength and hands to make one. The God we worship will bless us and help us to obtain shelter. Cheer up, cheer up! my faithful!"
In a few days a comfortable cabin was built, and there was sheltered with her children this first woman who had penetrated the wilderness above Charlestown.
Under the tuition of the brothers, Philander prepared for Dartmouth College, entering at sixteen and graduating in 1795. While in college he found a book of Common Prayer, was impressed with the beauty and dignity of the services, brought it to the attention of his family and neighbors, with the result that the old Congregational meeting house in Cornish (out of repair) was torn down and in its place an Episcopal church was erected. Such was the aggressive and impressive power of character and conviction which carried this remarkable man through a life of great achievement.
Young Chase taught school for a time; acted as lay reader; was married in his twenty-first year to Mary Fay, a girl of sixteen; was ordained deacon in St. George's Church, New York, by Bishop Provoost, in 1798; was itinerant missionary in western New York; was ordained priest in St. Paul's Church, New York, by Bishop Provoost, in 1799. The record of a single years shows 4,000 miles travelled, 14 adults and 319 infants baptised, 213 sermons preached, seven parishes organized. Wherever he finds two or three gathered together and reverently disposed, he prays and preaches; in the woods, in the wayside hut, on a vessel's deck, by the camp-fire of the Indian; cheering the suffering, consoling the dying, administering the sacraments. "On a floor of rough hewn planks, with scarce a pane of glass to admit the light, we knelt down together in the little cabin, and there the holy offices were reverently used." (Reminiscences.)
On account of the delicate health of his wife he sought work in the South (1805), and is recorded as "the first Protestant minister who had ever preached in Louisiana." The parish of Christ Church, New Orleans was organized and Mr. Chase became its rector. Of those who attended the first service (November, 1805) he writes in his diary, that they "were numerous and of the most respectable Americans, and very decorous in their conduct."
All the household goods, books, clothing were lost by the wreck of the Polly Eliza, which followed the vessel bearing the family. The rector's small salary was insufficient to supply the needs of his family (he had then two sons) and were supplemented by teaching. To his abounding energy and enthusiasm no amount of work seemed formidable.
Mr. Chase remained in New Orleans six years, laying good foundations for the building up of education and religion among the most intelligent and influential families in Louisiana. Mrs. Chase was greatly improved in health. Her tireless husband soon became rector of Christ Church, Hartford, where he continued until 1817. Of his life in Hartford, Conn., he writes:
"In the bosom of an enlightened society, softened by the hand of urbanity and kindness, my enjoyments, crowned with abundance of temporal blessings, were as numerous and refined as belong to the lot of man. Of the time I spent in this lovely city I can never speak in ordinary terms. It is to my remembrance as a dream of more than terrestrial delight. Of its sweets I tasted for a while and thought myself happy, but God, who would train His servants more by the reality of suffering than by ideal and transitory bliss, saw fir to direct my thoughts to other and more perilous duties."
This lovely home and happy work were left behind, as the born missionary felt the irresistible impulse of conquest and heard the call of the wilderness pleading for help. The leaving of wife and children, the comforts of home and the pleasures of social life, to take up again the ministry of the camp and cabin without any pledge of support, was the most heroic act of this remarkable life. From that hour Philander Chase was a maker of history, a factor in the world's progress, a leader of men, a founder of institutions, a benefactor of his country. By a toilsome and perilous journey in the early spring of 1817, he reached his missionary field, and after some months of itinerant work, traveling in wagons and on horseback, he was joined by his wife and infant son and made a home on a farm near Worthington, Ohio. In May, 1818, his beloved wife was called to rest, and the husband was left with an infant son in his arms and two boys to maintain in Dartmouth College.
In June, a month later, the first convention of the Diocese of Ohio met at Columbus. Philander Chase was elected bishop, and canonical notices were sent to the several dioceses. On going to Philadelphia to receive his consecration, the bishop-elect was informed that consents from a majority of the dioceses (expressed through their standing committees) could not be obtained. A board of inquiry was demanded, and after months of delay and anxiety for the candidate, no reasonable objection could be discovered. The consecration took place in Philadelphia, on Feb. 11, 1819, Bishop White presiding. Other consecrators were Bishops Hobart, Kemp, and Croes.
The opposition to the consecration of Bishop Chase, and the later opposition to his plans in the founding of colleges, have never been fully accounted for. The former has generally been charged to some incidents in his relations to slaves and slave-holders, during his residence in the south. The only slave that he ever owned he emancipated. The fact is, everybody who succeeds in doing much of anything, is sure to antagonize some people There are two kinds of people, those who are trying to do things, and those who are trying to prevent them. Bishop Chase, perhaps, had more than his share of attention from the latter.
On Sunday, July 4, 1819, Bishop Chase was united in marriage to Sophia May Ingraham, whose nephew (Wm. Ingraham Kip) afterwards became the first bishop of California. She was in every way a woman worthy to stand in high places, and proved to be a true helpmeet to her husband in the labors and trials of his later life.
The work was hard and the life was hard, in those early days in Ohio, when the bishop was giving everything and receiving nothing but the answer of a good conscience. There was not enough money coming in (no stated salary) to pay the wages of a helper on the farm. With his own hands the bishop had to minister to the necessities of his family. He was sometimes discouraged and doubtful. There were many painful hours. His lot seemed to be harder than that of the first Apostles. They would not leave the ministry of the word, said the bishop, to serve tables, while he found himself "obliged to leave the higher duties of his calling to serve stables." But later he realized that those dark hours were most prolific of good. With all the wear and worry of domestic affairs the work that he did in his diocese was immense. The Convention Journal gives the following statistics for one year:
Travelled on horseback..........1,279 miles;
There were but six clergymen in the diocese, beside the Bishop. In 1821 he accepted the charge of the college in Cincinnati, for a time, presiding at the graduation of one class. Two years later (1823) came the inspiration which resulted in the founding of Kenyon College at Gambier. An appreciative notice, in the British Critic, of the Bishop's work in Ohio, was the incident which suggested an appeal to churchmen in England for aid in building a college and seminary, primarily for the education of ministers for his missionary field. Determined and persistent opposition was encountered, even from some of the most influential bishops, and that opposition followed Bishop Chase to England, in private letters and printed protests. This made his difficult mission far more difficult, at times most distressing. The opposition seems in part to have grown out of the idea that it was discreditable for America or the American church to ask anything of England. There was a disposition in the east to centralize all church interests there, and a feeling that the prestige and influence of the General Theological Seminary in New York might be impaired if another institution should be established. Bishop Chase, while acting entirely within his right to provide a seminary for his diocese, was referred to as "schismatic." A remark which the Bishop made concerning his opponents in this matter, might be quoted in some other cases of eastern estimate of western affairs: None of these person had crossed the Alleghany mountains. They all lived on the Atlantic side; therefore, their judgment was not much esteemed, for this simple reason - it was a one-sided judgment."
Nothing daunted, the great missionary of the middle west did go and did succeed. For the sake of his Master and his mission he feared not to stand before kings. By his sturdy personality and apostolic spirit he won the confidence of some of the best people in England, and instead of being "ruined" by his presumption, as some of the American bishops had prognosticated, he brought home within a year five thousand pounds sterling, and friendships which he enjoyed through life, and which subsequently yielded much revenue in aid of his good works in another field. A clergyman of the English Church, near the close of his mission, wrote to him: "All pretension that you have degraded the American Church in the eyes of the Church of England, must be put out of countenance. The contrary is most certainly the case; you have raised it in our estimation, and endeared it to us."
Among the notable and generous contributors in England were Lord Gambier and Lord Kenyon, whose names are thus permanently associated with the development of Ohio and the progress of education in that noble state; from the former the locality was named, and from the latter, the college.
Forty-three days were spent on the ocean, in the return voyage. To the convention of his diocese which was held after his return (November, 1824), meeting in Chillicothe (there were four clergymen and twenty-three lay delegates present), in reporting the success of his mission to England, the bishop said: "Never was benevolence more disinterested; never was christian [sic]zeal more active. Delicacy as well as generosity characterized our benefactors, The task of soliciting being assumed by the most respectable characters, the rich feasts of intellectual intercourse were everywhere spread before your Bishop, and he has reason to bless God for giving him grace in the eyes of this favored people, whose God is the Lord, and whose kindness to him was evidently the fruit of the gospel of peace." Of course the convention was very glad to praise the Bishop and to approve all that he had done, though he had received no encouragement from Ohio churchmen on going forth, and later he received little but ingratitude.
The Bishop began to collect students in his own house even before the location for the new seminary was chosen. The following from his convention address, 1825, in which the location was to be decided, sets forth the principle by which he was guided both in Ohio and Illinois: 'Put your seminary on your own domain; be owners of the soil on which you dwell, and let the tenure of every lease and deed depend on the express condition that nothing detrimental to the morals and studies of youth be allowed on the premises."
A year later, after much opposition to the location of the institution in the country, the site was fixed in Knox county, and there today still flourish the schools built on that foundation of generosity of the Mother Church of England.
Of the clearing of the site, superintended by the bishop, living in a tent cabin, cooking his own meals, and writing his letters by a "hog's lard lamp"; of the erection of buildings, with the unprecedented regulation of total abstinence among the workmen; of the Sunday school and Sunday services in the woods; of visitations to the scattered flock in the wilderness; of the temporary school sheltered in log cabins and fed at the bishop's table: of his fruitless struggle in Washington to secure a grant of land for the Gambier institution; of his strenuous and romantic life, beginning his letter-writing at 3:00 o'clock in the morning; of those foundation days, that seem so far away, yet are not beyond the memory of some now living, the story is intensely interesting, and we are grateful to the busy bishop for having preserved such an account of it in his "Reminiscences." These can seldom be procured in our day, but a very excellent life of
the bishop, mostly compiled from the "Reminiscences", has lately been written by his grand daughter, Mrs. Laura Chase Smith, published by Messrs. E. P. Dutton % Co., New York. To the courtesy of this firm we are indebted for the portrait of Bishop Chase which accompanies this sketch.
Henry Caswell, a young Englishman who came to Ohio in 1828 and afterwards graduated at Kenyon, thus describes his first visit to the Bishop:
"I requested to be driven to the bishop's residence, and to my consternation I was deposited at the door of a small and rough log cabin, which could boast of but one little window, composed of four squares of the most common glass. 'Is this the bishop's palace?' I involuntarily exclaimed. 'Can this,' I thought, 'be the residence of the apostolic man whose praise is in all the churches, and who is venerated by so many excellent persons in my native country?' It was even so.
"On knocking for admittance the door was opened by the bishop's wife, who told me that the Bishop had gone to his mill for some flour and would soon return. I had waited but a few minutes when I heard a powerful voice outside, and immediately after the bishop entered with one of his head workmen. The good prelate, then 53 years of age, was of more than ordinary size, and his black cassock bore evident tokens of his recent visit to the mill."
This prelate, whose palace was a log cabin, and whose cassock bore the decoration of the flouring mill, was a founder of institutions, a moulder of civilization in the empire of the Middle West.
At the opening of the school on the bishop's farm the first year, there were twenty-five students including five Indian boys. Board was $1.25 a week and tuition from $10.00 to $20.00 a year. From the diary of the first pupil the following is quoted by his biographer:
"Philander Chase, the founder of Kenyon College, was a man of heroic mold in every way. His body was of gigantic proportions, with a strength and endurance which, in these softer days, seem almost fabulous, and his mind was of the same commanding proportions as his body. Add to these an indomitable will, impatient of restraint or opposition, and one can see with the mind's eye something of the striking and altogether extraordinary personality of the founder of the first western college. He was a veritable giant, raised up, as it would seem for the special work that was given him to do."
Chief-Justice, Salmon P. Chase, a nephew of the Bishop, writing of these days, says:
"Our of school I did chores, took grain to the mill and brought back meal and flour; milked the cows, drove them to and from pasture, took wool to the carding factory over the Scioto - an important journey to me - built fires and brought in wood in the winter time; helped gather sugar water and make sugar when winter first turned to spring; helped plant and sow in the later spring. In most of whatever a boy could do on a farm I did a little."
He speaks of going one morning to Columbus, on horseback, and after making some purchases returning before breakfast - eighteen miles!
Kenyon is perhaps the only college in the world that started in log cabins: students, professors, and president all lived for some years in five or six of these rude shelters. Many eminent men have been students of this pioneer institution. besides Chief-Justice Chase, may be mentioned Justices Davis and Matthews, President Hayes, Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of War. The latter declared: "If I am anything I owe it to Kenyon." The late Bishop Wilmer, five living bishops, and many of our prominent clergy graduated at Kenyon.
During the recent commencement week at Gambier (1904), the 76th, in the history of Kenyon College, the following appreciative and humorous verses were read at a glee club festival:
"The first of Kenyon's goodly race
Was that great man, Philander Chase;
He climbed the Hill and said a prayer,
And founded Kenyon college there.
"He dug up stones, he chopped down trees,
He sailed across the stormy seas,
And begged at every noble's door,
And also that of Hannah More.
"The king, the queen, the lords, the earls,
They gave their crowns, they gave their pearls,
Until Philander had enough,
And hurried homeward with the stuff.
"He built the college, built the dam,
He milked the cow, he smoked the ham,
He taught the classes, rang the bell,
And spanked the naughty Freshmen well.
"And thus he worked with all his might
For Kenyon College day and night;
And Kenyon's heart still keeps a place
Of love for old Philander Chase."
On this occasion announcement was made of a gift of $50,000 by Andrew Carnegie, to found a chair of Economics in honor of Edwin M. Stanton, a former student.
The crisis in the bishop's life came in 1831. His episcopal and educational work had been greatly prospered; the substantial stone buildings of the college and seminary had been completed and filled with more than a hundred students; the prospect was most hopeful. Then discontent was fostered in the faculty by the very men whom the bishop had nominated and supported. They sympathized with those outside who desired to secularize the institution and sacrifice its religious and theological character, in consideration of which its endowments and benefactions had been secured. Discontent developed into discourtesy. "Episcopal tyranny was denounced so openly that the bishop could not fail to hear it. Not being sustained by his diocesan convention to which he explained the situation, the Bishop promptly resigned his headship of the institution and of the diocese, and retired with his family to the shelter of a log cabin on a tract belonging to Mrs. Russell, twenty miles away in the woods. "The presiding over such a diocese would be but the carrying on of a perpetual war; a thing most abhorrent to his soul." He could not and would not consent to be ignored as bishop in an institution of which he was the founder and ex-officio president.
In view of all accessible records and information, the action of the convention seems indefensible. Conventions like corporations appear sometimes to have no souls. His resignation was accepted with heartless indifference. Two lay members of the convention afterwards declared: "Bishop Chase has been most cruelly injured."
The bishop had not received enough from the diocese to pay his expenses, yet the convention could meet year after year on Gambier Hill, partaking of his hospitality, without taking any steps to provide for his support, to pay his expenses, or to help the college. He had given to the diocese the most energetic years of his life, had founded and moderately endowed a seminary and college in face of opposition even from his own people; yet now, because he claimed the right to rule it, as those who contributed to it, desired, a few men who never gave a dollar to the college, made it imposible [sic] for a man of his high spirit to remain. It was, as his biography justly remarks, "a sad ending, humanly speaking of the great and noble work upon which he had ventured his hopes, his fortune, his very life and that of his best beloved, his home and friends both in this country and England."
Some have regarded the bishop's resignation as hasty and ill advised; perhaps no one now approves the action of the Ohio convention, or regards the conduct of the faculty with favor. No one, certainly can refrain from sympathy with the bishop, when, as he says, "he beheld the whole diocese, for whom he had labored so much and so faithfully, now as one man combined against him, not a voice being heard in his behalf."
From the temporary shelter of the ruined cabin in the "Valley of Peace," the bishop in 1832 removed his family to the virgin wilderness of Michigan, and the place chosen for his clearning, in the St. Joseph country, he named "Gilead," for there he hoped to find balm for his wounded soul. There, under the energetic and intelligent industry of gifted parents and dutiful children, a thrifty farm was developed and a happy home was made, the land flowing with the milk of the dairy and the wild honey of the woods. There was "a limpid lake full of the finest fish," the forest and prairies were well stocked with wild deer and grouse. The fields were enlarged, cattle increased to more than a hundred, cheese and butter were plenty, a comfortable house and a mill were erected. "Not a day, not an hour, was spent in idleness."
In making provisions for his family the bishop did not forget his holy calling. In a wide circuit his pastoral visits were extended. "What tough there was no worldly emolument attached to his holy duties in God's husbandry," he writes. "He was but imitating the first preachers of Christianity, by paying no regard to the circumstance; if they had waited until salaries had been prepared for their maintenance, no gospel had been spread throughout the world."
But the bishop was not to linger long in this arboreal paradise. The wilderness again held out her hands to him. At the primary convention of the Diocese of Illinois, held in Peoria March 9, 1835, Bishop Chase was chosen as the episcopal head, and invited to remove to the diocese. "There was something so unexpected," he writes, "and yet so solemn, in the reception of the above appointment, that the writer could not help feeling as if a Divine hand were laid upon him, and a voice from God were uttered in his ears."
In 1835 there were four Episcopal clergymen at work in Illinois. The Rev. Isaac W. Hallam, St. James' parish, Chicago; the Rev. Palmer Dyer, St. Paul's Peoria; the Rev. Henry Tullidge, at Jacksonville, and the Rev. James C. Richmond, at Rushville.
The bishop was at that time 60 years old, hale and hearty, and somewhat heavy for itinerant duty. His unusual stature, his keen eyes, his vigorous action, his impressive demeanor, attracted attention everywhere. He was evidently a man of the first rank. A writer (quoted in a private letter) says: "Whether in the log cabin of Ohio, or in the magnificent halls of Lord Kenyon, surrounded with the refinements of the Old World, Bishop Chase was equally at home and capable of winning golden opinions."
Accompanied by the Rev. Samuel Chase, who had married the daughter of his niece, Bishop Chase was soon on his way to Chicago, "then a newly built town, of a few houses and flourishing trade." From Chicago the bishop goes to Peoria, the most prosperous town in the State, then to Springfield, where Mr. Chase arranges to open a day school. From Jacksonville the bishop writes to his wife in Gilead:
"How delightfully does it picture to my mind's eye your peaceful state in Gilead - the herds of innocent animals all around you; the corn all planted; the sweet garden which I toiled to arrange for your enjoyment, so flourishing; Mrs. R., our loved niece, and Mary, now recovered, and full of employment! How full your cup of earthly felicity! May it put you in mind of the peace of heaven, where our joys are permanent. Here, alas, how transient!
In the summer, Bishop Chase returned to his family in Michigan, driving alone 350 miles, sometimes "across wide and trackless prairies, and through deep and muddy ponds and streams." Later he writes: "When reflecting on the temerity of this enterprise in his even then advanced period of life, he can scarcely refrain from shuddering at the perils he passed; and at the same time adoring the Divine goodness which kept him from imminent death."
By the records of the General Convention of 1835, in which the Diocese of Illinois was admitted and the choice of bishop was ratified, it appears that then there were in the diocese one bishop, four Presbyters, and two deacons; four parishes with 39 communicants; 16 baptisms were reported, 13 confirmations, 58 Sunday school pupils, three marriages and five burials. In the three dioceses into which the original Diocese of Illinois has been divided, there are (1905) five bishops, over 150 clergy, and about 30,000 communicants.
After some months of toilesome [sic] visitation of his few sheep in the wilderness, the bishop, in his "Reminiscences", thus describes the situation:
"There was no salary attached to his appointment; no home for the bishop; nor parish to receive him and maintain him for his parochial services; no school of the prophets founded, or even proposed to be founded and patronized in his new diocese. But one church in the whole diocese, (that at Jacksonville,) and only three or four clergymen, and two of them on th ewing, with no permanent support to detain them.
"What hope, then, was there to cheer the writer in his return to his wilderness Diocese of Illinois? His best days had been spent in another diocese, once most beloved. His meridian strength had been exhausted on other fields, till they were white unto harvest, and others were reaping where he had sown. He had now become too old and unwieldy to travel on horseback through the wide prairies, and over the unbridged sloughs, as he had done in Ohio, through mud and beech roots. The necessity inevitably followed; this work must be done by others. And whence could these be obtained in sufficient numbers to the vast demand, but from sons of the soil? And how could these be duly prepared but in a well-founded, well-arranged, and liberally supported school as had been founded on Gambier hill, in Ohio?"
To England, the Bishop again turned for aid, as he had done in 1823 for his Kenyon college, and thither he went, spending nearly a year in his mission. After his return from England, with encourageing [sic] results, he proceeded to remove his family from Michigan to his new and almost unexplored diocese in Illinois. It was a picturesque procession which started from Gilead on that July day in 1836; first the ox-team driven by the hired man; next came the bishop and Mrs. Chase with some of the children, in the Quaker coach; then followed the farm wagon drawn by "Pompey" and "Nero", while "Cincinnatus: with a youngster on his back, brought up the rear. In Peoria county were found lands "suitable for the establishment of an institution for the encouragement of religion and learning." About fifteen miles from Peoria Bishop Chase preempted a farm for his family and built thereon a log cabin which he called "Robinsnest", beeause [sic] "it consisted of mud and sticks and was filled with young ones." The bishop had collected perhaps ten thousand dollars, (the most of it in England) which he determined to invest in land as the safest endowment for the proposed institution. The time spent in collecting the money, following the panic of 1837, in waiting the opportunity to buy land from the government, in securing release from preemptions of the land he had selected, and in visiting his scattered flock in the wilderness of Illinois, held back the work on the college buildings several years. The good bishop at least secured over thirty-two hundred acres, mostly in Peoria county, and selected a beautiful site for the building, one mile from his Robinsnest, overlooking the valley of the Kickapoo. In his "Reminiscences" he describes it as "commanding a cheering and variegated prospect up and down the two branches of a beautiful stream of pure water. It looks to the south and has a fine grove of trees which shield it from the north and west winds in the winter, and which, overshadowing the buildings, will make it pleasant in summer."
Most of the money collected by the bishop was required in payment for the lands and preemptions. How should he go on with so great a work without funds? "My dependence," he says, "is simply and solely on the promise and providence of Almighty God." The corner stone was laid in April, 1839, and the bishop named the institution of Jubilee College. "That name of all others, suits my feelings and circumstances," he writes. "I wish to give thanks and rejoice that after seven years passed in much trouble, pain, and moral servitude, God hat permitted me, for Jesus' sake, to return unto his gracious favor." So with great joy did the bishop blow the trumpet in Zion on that April day, while a multitude of the country people gathered around the foundation walls.
In his address at the laying of the corner stone the bishop emphasized the fact that, in accordance with the intention of the benefactors, the institution was to be primarily theological, a school of the prophets, where ministers of the Gospel should be trained, "which end, therefore, is never to be merged into any other." "All things being conducted according to the well known principles and worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church * * * the design and will of the donors and founders of this institution will be answered and not otherwise."
The chapel was first erected, then the school room opening into it, and long afterwards the west wing with dormitories. At times the work was suspended for want of funds, but the bishop never lost hope or failed in faith. "Jehovah Jireh!" (The Lord will provide) was his mottoe, and often his prayer of faith was most impressively answered.
In the winter of '39 and '40, while work on the college was mostly suspended, he made a long journey in the South and secured substantial aid. He was cordially received nearly everywhere, especially in New Orleans, in Georgia and in the Carolinas. It is perhaps not known to many that in 1840 a few people in Charleston, S.C., contributed $10,000 to endow a professorship in Illinois. The bishop was also greatly encouraged and aided by further contributions from the East and from England, amounting to several thousand dollars. Some of these contributions were for his own and for his dear wife's use, and with these he made his Robinsnest more commodious and comfortable. The building of the college went on, and temporary houses for a store and shelter of students were erected. A frame structure of fourteen rooms, designed for a girls' school, was built, to which the bishop later removed his family and received a few young ladies. They did not recite with the young men of the college but were taught separately. While the bishop approved of "higher education" for women he would not consent to confer degrees upon them. His own granddaughter, who mastered all the studies of the college course, was never honored in that way.
In 1840 Mrs. Chase, in a letter to a friend in England, says: "It would do your heart good to look into Jubilee chapel; the pulpit, desks, and folding-doors of black walnut, the pews painted in imitation oak, everything plain but neat and in very good taste. The sound of the bell almost makes me weep." A visitor in November of 1840, as quoted by Bishop Chase in his "Reminiscences," says: "For the purpose designed I have never seen a spot combining so many advantages. In the first place, it is easily accessible by means of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers and Michigan canal. The prospect is remarkably beautiful and attractive. On the ground there is an abundance of clay for making brick, and wood to burn them. There are inexhaustible beds of bituminous coal. Only a half a mile distant, a quarry of freestone has recently been opened; nor must I forget to mention an abundance of pure water, two bold springs uniting their currents near by."
Jubilee Chapel and College, from the West
In those days when a fifteen mile drive to the postoffice in a farm wagon, fording streams on the way, was thought nothing of, Jubilee College might be said to be "easily accessible." Yet, even then, during the flood time of the Kickapoo, the bottom land was impassable except on horseback. The bishop once nearly lost his life in trying to reach his home after a visitation. As railroads became the common means of travel in the West, Jubilee was isolated, and its location was unfortunate for educational purposes. In "The Motto," June, 1851, the bishop gives an account of a flood almost surrounding the college, which carried away corn fields, fences, hay-stacks, and 30 or 40 acres of turnips. For several days the college was shut off from the world. Similar floods have since occurred. There is no railroad station within six miles of Jubilee, nor is there prospect of any in the future.
Bishop Chase, even long past the age of sixty, was leading a very strenuous life. Too heavy to ride much on horseback, he was compelled to make long journeys over dangerous roads, by stage or in the old family coach. Several times he came near losing his life, suffering from exposure and accidents. Some one has declared that every bone in his body, except his head, had been broken; some of his ribs were broken several times. Along the rivers the way was somewhat easier by steamboat, yet speed was not always assured. Starting on Tuesday from St. Louis, by the steamboat America, the bishop arrived in Alton on Wednesday morning, twenty-two miles in eleven hours. Leaving the river at some point, he was taken with his luggage in a "dearborn" to Rushville. "But the roads, O the roads!" he writes. "For nearly a quarter of a mile the water had overflown the path about two feet, and this together with the deep mud below, rendered our progress almost impossible." On the Sunday following he consecrated the new church, confirmed two, baptzied [sic] five children, administered the communion to seven persons, and preached both morning and evening. "The night was spent in tossing to and fro, as usual after excessive fatigue." Going on to Sterling, he says the roads were exceedingly bad, "but the strength of our team and the blessing of God overcame all obstructions." The town consisted of about forty small houses. The bishop preached in the school house, "to get at which I had some difficulty, on account of the mud," and there was plenty of it on the floor inside. This was in March, 1837.
The bishop frequently accepted the courtesy of Methodist and Presbyterian brethren, holding services and preaching in their churches, always taking the prayer book and instructing the people in its use. In hotel offices, stores, and even in a blacksmith's shop the bishop preached and baptized. He notes the prevalence of speculation and worldliness, a tendency to intemperance, coarseness, and profanity everywhere, and is deeply concerned for the future of a country which is opening under so many evil influences. "Infidelity and sin stalk fearlessly abroad wherever I travel," he says. "Our whole country seems to be forgetting God. In all their ways they acknowledge not God, nor think that he exists, much less that he will bring them to an awful account for abused favors. My heart seems to sink within me as I contemplate the down-hill course of my dear country."
The bishop was taken ill at Oquawka, where in March he had to sleep on the floor in a very poor cabin, "the best lodging these affectionate people could give me." He pushed on to Monmouth and held two services. After spending several hours "in pious conversation" with the neighbors who dropped in after evening service, the bishop retired to a cold room and soon was "in great agony." By the aid of two physicians he was relieved, and two days after, in an open wagon, continued his homeward way, with more than sixty miles before him. It both snowed and rained. Spoon river was a raging torrent. The horses and wagon were driven through; the bishop followed in a canoe, a log of black walnut with the bark on, hollwed out in the middle. The canoe sank almost to filling, as it was pushed out into the stream with the bulky bishop amidship. "Can you swim?" shouted the man in the stern. "Like a duck," was the reply; "all I fear is, if she turns over I cannot extricate myself from my squeezed position on the log." With grateful hearts they reached the shore and mounted the muddy bank. There they satisfied their thirst from the overflowing of the clean troughs, filled with the fast droppings of the delicious sugar water. They were sheltered in a cabin during a stormy night, and pushed on over rapid streams, overflowed prairies, and muddy sloughs, the snow "blowing horizontally." All this time the bishop was a sick man. The greatest exposure and peril, however, he encountered almost in sight of Robinsnest, when he came to the Kickapoo, which he was assured could not be crossed, either by swimming or by canoe. "But I must see my family," he declared. "I must be ministered to or perish." His passage through a part of the flood by wagon, and then over the stringers of a skeleton bridge, is an exciting story. "Never had I more reason for the blessing of a clear head and a firm faith in God's supporting hand." Praising God he got safely over.
These are only illustrative incidents in his laborious life. Whatever he found to do, he did it with all his might, on the farm, in his visitations, soliciting for his colleges, directing laborers, writing letters and "Reminiscences." Nothing was too great to be attempted, nothing so small as to be lightly regarded. He gratefully accepts from a friend a package of rutabaga (turnip) see, and by good attention to planting secured a large crop of "that excellent vegetable."
Bishop Chase had a vein of humor and of poetry in his soul. Some sheep which he bought with money paid to him by the stage company as damage for breaking his bones, he called his "ribs." He had scriptural names for his patures, and the shepherd of his flocks carried the traditional crook. He called his family carriage "Noah's Ark." The names that he gave to places were striking and enduring. "Robinsnest" is certainly very pretty as well as humorous. His selection of sites for his homes and colleges showed a find appreciation of the beauty of nature. He could scarcely foresee the coming of an age when steam should count for more than aesthetics, in education as well as commerce.
In 1843, on the death of Bishop Griswold, Bishop Chase, as senior in consecration, became the presiding bishop of the American church. During the term of his primacy, fifteen bishops were consecrated; among them our first missionary bishop to foreign lands. To Bishop Chase came also the sad duty of pronouncing sentence of suspension upon two of his brother bishops.
For some years the bishop held the lands of the College in his own name, not being willing to secure incorporation under the conditions that had been imposed upon other institutions, viz. that no creed of any denomination whatever should be inculcated, and that the charter might be repealed. For this reason he suffered undeserved reproach and opposition. In 1844 a friend in the legislature secured a charter, but the bishop refused to accept it, on the ground that it would be a betrayal of his trust. It was so exceedingly liberal, he said, that it took the college out of the Church and placed it in the world. At a later session (Jan. 22, 1847) a charter was obtained, in every way satisfactory. Under this charter the bishop should nominate trustees; there should be a theological department and a college proper, an academy for boys, and a seminary for girls; the bishop of the Episcopal Church in Illinois should be ex-officio President; the number of trustees from four to eight, all communicants of the Episcopal Church; the trustees to have power of veto of the President's nominations, subject to appeal to the Convention of the Dioceses; a report to be made every three years to the Convention, of the affairs of the institution and "the mode in which benefactions have been used."
By the provision of the Charter the trustees were to be nominated by the bishop "in his last will and testament, or otherwise." This arrangement insured to him personal control and security from interference as long as he lived. In view of his experience in Ohio he should not be blamed for protecting himself and his family in every way consistent with his duty and his high office; and at the same time the arrangement was doubtless for the best interest of the institution. This is evident from the fact that after his death, without his influence and administration, the income and patronage of the college were greatly reduced.
The trustees constituting the corporation at the death of the bishop were: Ex-officio, the Bishop of Illinois (Bishop Whitehouse, who had been assistant bishop for about a year); The Rev. E. B. Kellogg, the Rev. C. Dresser, the Rev. Samuel Chase, D. D., the Rev. Philander Chase, Messrs. John Pennington, William Wilkinson, and H. S. Chase.
In 1843 Bishop Chase wrote to his granddaughter Laura: "I think the reputation of the college is increasing. We have a good mathematical teacher and also a teacher of languages, besides the Rev. S. Chase, who is over the school and regulates the whole, hearing all the upper classes. Mary has charge of the female department, being a small number taught and boarded in the cottage. The build- [sic] of the west wing will go on as soon as the frost is out of the ground, which this year continues longer than was ever known before. The cold has killed more than one hundred of the college lambs."
The first formal "Commencement" was held on July 7th, 1847. Five students, "after a due course of study, by strict examination," were admitted to the bachelor's degree; a master's degree was also conferred. In the "Reminiscences" the occasion is thus described:
"Never was there a finer day, or more joyful occasion. Between seven and eight hundred persons assembled on the college hill, where so lately roamed the untutored native, and to which the wild deer, from habit, paid frequent visits, in great numbers. The college chapel was filled with devout worshippers, and when the divine services were over, all retired to the green arbor, two or three hundred yards off, under the deep shade of spreading trees looking down on the verdant lawns surrounding the chapel. Here the orations of the first class of students were delivered to a delighted and enlightened audience. Here the degrees were conferred, and here ascended teh Christian prayer for a blessing from on high on the glorious work thus prosperously commenced. All expressed the highest gratification, and the day being far spent, and places of entertainment, for want of means, having been erected on the hill, all were invited to partake of a frugal repast, distributed at the expense of the college."
Most of the students boarded in the houses provided for the college, and some with families in the neighborhood. The charges for board and tuition, at first were $100; this was afterwards raised to $120 and finally to $200. Some of the students worked for their board. The instructors were capable, and the course of study for that day was sufficiently extended. French and German, as well as the classical languages, were included.
The by-laws enacted by Bishop Chase, and in force for some years after, would scarcely suit the college boy of our day, though some of them might be good for him. The cigarette smoker would find his occupation gone if he were not allowed to carry any matches in his pocket. Indeed, there could be no use of tobacco in any form at Jubilee.
No games of chance, no cards or dice were allowed. Every student had to keep a bucket of water in his room, for fire protection. No one could leave the farm without a permit. Morning prayer was 6:30, and the tardy student lost his breakfast. There were 28 rules published.
One of the instructors now living, Mr. Wm. Blenkiron, writes: "After 13 days of constant travel from New York City to Peoria, we walked from Peoria to Jubilee, February 14, 1852, (fifteen miles.) The ladies and the trunks were carried on the farm wagon. On the following day Dr. Chase took me to the bishop, and after a short interview Samuel was told to put this man to work. The Rev. Philander Chase (son of the bishop) had charge of the school room in the morning, and D. W. Dresser, a student, in the afternoon. There were about 50 pupils, from twelve to twenty years of age. All the boys respected Dr. Samuel Chase. Our nearest village was Kickapoo, two and one-half miles, and with reasonable watchfulness we had little troulbe with the boys."
One of the "old boys," the Rev. John Wilkinson, who is still serving in the ministry with unabated zeal and usefulness, contributed the following sketch of a Jubilee College Sunday in his day: "In the year 1845 the buildings of Jubilee College were new and substantial, tough less picturesque than at this time. They were the pride of the inmates and the wonder of the country round about. The chapel, with cross, bell and organ, was the center of church life for the county, outside of Peoria, and the gathering on a Sunday morning was a scene not soon to be forgotten, one that could not be produced anywhere else.
"At the first or warning bell for service, the students retired to their rooms, the grammar school boys to their dormitories. Soon, wagons were rumbling up the hill, and unloading their groups of old and young in the outer driveway or on the campus. Meanwhile, the bishop and Mrs. Chase were driven to the door of Dr. Chase's study, the bishop to be vested and helped to his place in the pulpit where, propped up by cushions, he remained during the service, and then, still sitting, delivered his sermon. Soon after the bishop's arrival came the procession from the girls' school, conducted by the bishop's daughter (Mrs. Chamberlain, died, 1904), and took their places in their accustomed corner. The men and boys had fallen into line, and at the sound of the last bell (a signal for which was always given by the bishop when present) they entered from the school room which opened into the chapel by sliding doors. The seats in this study room were so constructed that the desks in front could be let down out of the way, giving somewhat the appearance of pews. When the sermon began, these desks were swung up again, forming a comfortable resting place for the head of many a sleepy eutychus, when the good bishop, like his predecessor at Troas, was long in preaching.:
In the year 1845, Lord Bexley wrote to Bishop Chase that he could not believe that the bishop would ever be able to found another college, and so far toward the setting Sun. To this the bishop answers: "Another college is founded, and is now rearing its head on the prairies of our far West, whose walls we trust will prove salvation, and whose gates will speak praise to the Saviour of men. We have now in Jubilee College nearly fifty students, the most of whom are designated for the ministry. Our clergy are now rising of twenty. In the course of this summer and fall I hope to consecrate seven more churches to the glory of God."
Bishop Chase died in 1852, a few days after being thrown from his carriage, in his seventy-seventh year, the thirty-fourth of his episcopate. Jubilee College continued its good work until the Civil war, with fair success. Among its students were many from the South, and their withdrawal reduced the revenues even more than the numbers, for they were "good pay." The Principal, Dr. Samuel Chase, went into the army as Chaplain. After the war, for about ten years, Dr. Chase continued the school, but with small success. It was finally closed, and though the trustees have made several efforts to revive it, nothing of importance has been accomplished. Even in its best days its revenues were inadequate. The only endowment was the South Caroline professorship. This was largely invested in mills which were burned (without insurance). Several thousand sheep were another investment which failed to be profitable when disease attacked them. The entire charges were $100 (later $120 to $200) a year, for board and tuition, and from many students nothing at all was received. No one was turned away for want of money. With the clearing and breaking of land, then fencing of farms, the construction of buildings, bridges, etc., and a small income from students, aided by uncertain contributions, no wonder that at the death of Bishop Chase the institution was heavily in debt to him. Before the final closing of the school the debt was considerably increased, and from time to time land was sold to meet obligations. About 500 acres remain at the present date. This land, (one-half of it brush pasture) with the old stone college building, comprising chapel, school room, and dormitories, constitutes the present college domain.
In its more than twenty years of successful activity in a time when Illinois most needed the uplifting influences of education and religion, Jubilee College was a power for good. Many of its students have been useful in church and State. Among them were Henry A. Neely, afterwards bishop of Maine: D. W. Dresser, afterwards president of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Springfield; T. N. Morrison, whose son is now bishop of Iowa; W. W. DeWolf, who entered the sacred ministry after serving successfully as lawyer and judge; John Wilkinson, Erastus DeWolf, March Chase, and other honored and useful clergymen are still living and in active work. The Rev. Dudley Chase, retired chaplain, U. S. N., is now living in Philadelphia. Mrs. Chamberlain, the bishop's daughter, who had the care of the girls in "The cottage," lived for many years in Jubilee, on the old Robinsnest farm. Other members of the faculty, (assisted by the candidates as tutors) were the Rev. Samuel Chase, D. D., vice-president; the Rev. Israel Foote, D. D.; the Rev. A. J. Warner, now living in Angelica, N.Y.; the Rev. Charles Dresser; Mr. William Blenkiron, now living in Pekin, Illinois; the Rev. T. N. Benedict and the Rev. S. D. Pulford. Useful laymen, as well as clergymen, in almost every section of the country, during the last half century have caused the light of old Jubilee to shine before men. James Anderson, a gallant officer in the Mexican war, Col. D. C. Smith, of Normal; Judge Harvey B. Hurd, still living an honored citizen of Evanston; the late Henry H. Candee, of Cairo, one of the most active, helpful, and respected churchmen of Illinois; Dr. Thomas Dresser, a widely known and highly honored physician of Springfield.
The one to whom the bishop and the college owed most, for self sacrifice and faithful and helpful service, was his honored wife Sophia; the sharer of his anxieties, the trustee of his fianances [sic], the guardian of his peace, the maker of his home; companion of his joy, she was also the comforter of his sorrow; unobtrusive in his presence, she met every emergency in his absence with wisdom and firmness. Of her he writes to his granddaughter, Laura, to whose life of Bishop Chase we have referred:
"The whole college establishment would at this critical period go to ruin if she were to be absent from it this summer. Tothis [sic] necessity she submits with resignation becoming a saint. She looks up and says "It is thy will, O God." This calms the tempest in her faithful bosom and then all is serene. She is finishing the last garment to make me decent with the least expense, for the summer. Would that our churchmen could generally know what this dear mother in Israel has suffered and done to build up the Kingdom of God in the Wilderness, She stays at home and works for God. When money is sent her from those who hear of her devotedness in far countries, she applies it all to pay for the college goods in New York, and when bills accumulate against her husband at home she will not allow even the smallest sums to be deducted from them on account or any salary to be allowed her or husband. Such is the wife of Bishop Chase, and in contemplating her character who can be unmoved?"
"Aung Lucia" (Mrs. Russell), the Bishop's niece, should not be forgotten in any retrospect of the college or consideration of the life of its founder. She came to him in her widowhood, soon after the death of his first wife, and was in his declining years a great comfort to him and his children and a blessing to his work. Mrs. Smith speaks of her as "the incarnation of loving kindness" and the bishop declared she was "one of the chief instruments in founding both Kenyon and Jubilee."
Of Dr. Samuel Chase, the vice president and active manager of the school from the beginning to the end, more than a passing mention by name should be given. He was a scholar and a gentleman, in the best sense of the word. He gave the school the best years of his life, with small remuneration, and the reward of final success was denied to him. After the bishop's death the whole burden fell upon his nephew, and at the same time most of the sources of revenue were closed. Samuel Chase bravely stood by the sinking ship, and struggled almost to his dying hour to save it.
Dr. Francis J. Hall, in his History of the Diocese of Chicago, gives the following description of Bishop Chase: "Bishop Chase is said to have been over six feet tall, and to have possessed a large ad impressive figure. He is reported to have weighed fully three hundred pounds in his later years. His countenance was pleasing and gracious, although marked with indications of an indomitable and commanding will. His strength of will was one of his most prominent traits, and was accompanied by other peculiarities characteristic of a rugged pioneer. Strong convictions, unqualified by any doubts as to the correctness of his position and judgment, induced a somewhat dogmatic and impulsive tone and temper. His energy was untiring, and his care for every portion of his field, however remote and sparsly [sic] settled, was unremitting. He was possessed of strong lungs, and his powerful voice added to the impressiveness of his oratory. His piety was deep and genuine, and his motto, Jehovah Jireh, the Lord will provide, is well keown [sic]; * * * Bishop Chase was a man built on gigantic lines, To no other prelate has fallen the task of founding two Dioceses - now divided into five - and two Theological Seminaries. He had his faults, but he was a chosen vessel, and God has taken him to Himself. May perpetual light shine upon him."
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