Notable Phelps Family Members
Austin Phelps, American Congregational Minister and Educator
Austin Phelps (1820—1890)
American Congregational minister and educationalist, was born on the 7th of January 1820 at West Brookfield, Massachusetts, son of Eliakim Phelps(1), a clergyman, who, during the boyhood of his son was principal of a girls’ school in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and later pastor of a Presbyterian church in Geneva, New York.(2)
|Rev. Austin Phelps
Image courtesy Marge Rice, Joliet, IL
The son studied at Hobart College in 1833—1835, then at Amherst for a year, and in 1837 graduated at the university of Pennsylvania. He studied theology at Union Theological Seminary, at the Yale Divinity School, and at Andover, and was licensed to preach in 1840 by the Third Presbytery of Philadelphia. He was pastor of the Pine Street (Congregational) Church in Boston in 1842—1848, and in 1848—1879 was professor of sacred rhetoric and homiletics at Andover Theological Seminary, of which he was president from 1869 to 1879, when his failing health forced him to resign.
He died on the 13th of October 1890 at Bar Harbor, Maine. His Theory of Preaching (1881) and English Style in Public Discourse (1883) became standard textbooks; and personally he was a brilliant preacher.
With Professors E. A. Park and D. L. Furber he edited Hymns and Choirs (1860), and with Professor Park and Lowell Mason The Sabbath Hymn Book (1859). The Still Hour (1859), a summary of a series of sermons on prayer, is a devotional classic. His other works are: The New Birth (1867), portraying conversion (in some instances) as a gradual change; Sabbath Hours (1874); Studies of the Old Testament (1878); Men and Books (1882); My Portfolio (1882); My Study (1885); and My Note Book (1890).
He married in 1842 Elizabeth Stuart (1815-1852), eldest daughter of Moses Stuart, then president of Andover, born in Andover, Massachusetts, 13 August, 1815; died in Boston, Massachusetts, 30 November, 1852.
Elizabeth was the eldest daughter of Professor Moses Stuart, of Andover, and early attained popularity by her sketches of New England life, in a series of tales that were published under the pen-name of "H. Trusta," an anagram of her maiden name. In 1842 she married Mr. Phelps. She possessed much imaginative talent, and gave promise of a successful literary career, which was terminated by her early death. Her publications include The Kitty Brown Series (Philadelphia, 1850) ; Sunny Side, a story descriptive of life in a country parsonage, which had previously been rejected by several publishers, but reached a sale of 100,000 copies in one year (Andover, 1851; republished in Edinburgh); A Peep at Number Five (1851); and the Angel over the Right Shoulder (1851).
After her death appeared The Tell-Tale (1852) : Little Mary (Boston, 1853) ; and The Last Sheaf from Sunny Side, with a memorial of the author by her husband (1853). Their daughter, Elizabeth Stuart, author, born in Andover, Massachusetts, 13 August, 1844, began to write for the press at thirteen years of age. Much of her life has been devoted to benevolent work in her native town, to the advancement of women, and to temperance and kindred reforms. She delivered a course of lectures before the students of Boston university in 1876.
In 1854 Austin Phelps married Elizabeth Stuart's sister, who died only eighteen months later; and in 1858 he married Mary A. Johnson, of Boston.
The Rev. Mr. Phelps graduated at Union College, in 1814, studied theology at Andover, and was ordained over the first church in Brookfield, Mass., 13 Oct., 1816. In 1830, he was installed over the Presbyterian Church of Geneva, N. Y. In 1835 he was elected Secty. of the American Educational Society of Philadelphia. In 1840, had charge of the office in New York City, and was made a D. D. in 1860, and settled in Plainfield, Ct. He died at Weehawken, N. J., 29 Dec., 1880.(3)
(2) Eliakim Phelps afterwards lived in Stratford, Herkimer county. New York, where his house was “possessed“ and was long a place of curious interest to sttidents of “spiritualism.”
(3) The Phelps Family of America and Their English Ancestors, (Save $201 by ordering through us.) Two volumes. By Judge Oliver Seymour Phelps and Andrew T. Servin. (Eagle Publishing Company of Pittsfield, Mass., 1899)pp 309, 537.
For more information, see Austin Phelps: A Memoir (New York, 1891), by his daughter, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps-Ward.