Birthday: October 12, 1775
Died At Age: 87
Sun Sign: Libra
Born in: New Haven
Famous as: Clergyman
Spouse/Ex-: Harriet Beecher, Lydia Beecher, Roxana Beecher
children: Catharine Beecher, Charles Beecher, Edward Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Ward Beecher, Isabella Beecher Hooker, Thomas K. Beecher
Died on: January 10, 1863
place of death: Brooklyn
U.S. State: Connecticut
City: New Haven, Connecticut
Founder/Co-Founder: Lane Theological Seminary, American Temperance Society
education: Yale Divinity School, Yale University
Who was Lyman Beecher?
Lyman Beecher was an American Presbyterian clergyman, reformer and revivalist who co-founded the American Temperance Society. Born in Connecticut to a blacksmith, Beecher was adopted and raised by an uncle on a farm, and later graduated from the Yale University in theology. Upon being ordained as a pastor in 1799, he preached in the Presbyterian Church at East Hampton, Long Island, then at a church in Connecticut, and later at Boston. Meanwhile, he also issued a series of sermons against dueling and intemperance, which greatly aided temperance reform, and later also served as a co-founder of the American Temperance Society. While serving its pastorate, Beecher opposed the growing dissent of Unitarianism and after being accused of being a modern Calvinist, he was also tried for heresy but was cleared. In the meantime, he became the president of the newly established Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio, and also served as a pastor until 1843. Upon resigning from the seminary, Beecher lived in Boston for a short time, devoting himself to literature. Thrice married, Beecher had a large family consisting of 13 children of which his seven sons became Congregational ministers, and two of his daughters attained literary distinction. Afterwards, Beecher moved at the home of his son in New York, where he spent the last years of his life. With a magnetic persona and an incisive style of expression, Beecher is still considered to be one of the most powerful American orators of his time.
Childhood & Early Life
Lyman Beecher was born on October 12, 1775, in New Haven, Connecticut, U.S., to David Beecher, a blacksmith, and his wife, Esther Hawley Lyman. Shortly after Lyman’s birth, his mother died and Lyman was adopted by his uncle, Lol Benton.
Although raised on a farm by his uncle and aunt, Lyman had little interest in agriculture and wanted to study. In 1793, he was enrolled at the Yale University, graduating with a degree in theology in 1797.
While studying, he was much influenced by the religious beliefs of the college president, Timothy Dwight, a poet and a Congressionalist clergyman. In 1798, Lyman attended the Yale Divinity School under Dwight who advocated a view of religious life as an active pursuit of a godly social order.
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In 1799, Beecher was ordained as clergyman of the Presbyterian Church at East Hampton, Long Island, New York and subsequently established himself as a moral reformer.
While serving as a pastor in Long Island, he proved himself to be an effective preacher and revivalist. In the meantime, Beecher also initiated a campaign and published sermon against the practice of dueling.
In 1810, he accepted the post of minister at the Congregational Church of Litchfield, in Connecticut, serving for the next 16 years. During this period, he influenced a large number of people in the battle to defend Calvinism and also emerged as a leading voice in the temperance movement, publishing ‘Six Sermons on Intemperance’.
Impressed by his evangelization in defense of orthodox Christianity against Unitarianism in Connecticut, Beecher was invited to Boston and was appointed a pastor of the Hanover Street Congregational Church, Boston, in 1826.
While in Boston, Beecher maintained his reputation for defending orthodoxy against Unitarianism, raising his voice against liberals and Unitarians. Meanwhile, he also edited a monthly named the Spirit of the Pilgrims which also contributed in his efforts to induce spiritual awakening in the public.
In 1832, he accepted the presidential ship of the newly founded Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio, a position he retained until 1850. In addition to it, he was appointed the professor of sacred theology, and also served as the pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church of Cincinnati.
In 1835, he published a book titled ‘A Plea for the West’ in which he articulated the sense of determination he felt in moving to Cincinnati in 1832.
Beecher’s defense of Calvinist orthodoxy was deemed too liberal by the western conservative Presbyterians and as a result, Beecher was tried twice for heresy but subsequently acquitted of the charges.
In 1843, Beecher ended his preaching career and eventually took retirement from the Lane Seminary in 1850. He spent the final years of his life at the home of his son, Henry Ward Beecher, in New York.
Lyman Beecher was one of the most influential Presbyterian clergymen and a noteworthy reformer of his time who served as a pastor for most of his life, trying to defend Calvinist orthodoxy against Unitarianism. He was a profound revivalist who raised his voice against dueling and intemperance, and subsequently co-founded the American Temperance Society in 1826. He was also a prolific writer who authored several important literary works including the ‘Plea for the West’ (1935).
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1799, Beecher married Roxana Foote, and the couple had nine children; six sons, William, Edward, Tommy, George, Henry Ward, and Charles, and three daughters named Catharine, Mary and Harriet Elizabeth. Roxana died in September 1816.
In 1817, he tied the knot with Harriet Porter, and fathered four more children; Frederick, Isabella Holmes, Thomas Kinnicut, and James Chaplin. After Harriet’s death in July 1835, Beecher wedded Lydia Beals, who was previously married to Joseph Jackson. The couple had no children together.
Most of his children became important figures in American religious history including Henry Ward, a clergyman and social reformer; Catharine, a leader in the women’s education movement; Harriet Beecher, an American abolitionist and author, and Isabella Beecher, an activist.
Lyman Beecher died on January 10, 1863, in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., at the age of 87. He was interred at the Grove Street Cemetery, in New Haven, Connecticut.