Friday, September 30, 2011

Grave Tales: Geneva Unitarian Pastor, Pioneer, Killed Wolves and Fought Slavery - Geneva, IL Patch

Grave Tales: Geneva Unitarian Pastor, Pioneer, Killed Wolves and Fought Slavery - Geneva, IL Patch:

From a local paper on my Church's founder. Notice the comment at the end about tweeting from Conant's diary. Haven't seen that yet. It's and interesting idea for promoting the Church.
Geneva became the center of a far-flung Unitarian ministry. Augustus founded societies in Belvidere, Elgin and Joliet, and regularly traveled to Wisconsin and Indiana to preach and hand out religious tracts. But as national tensions mounted, his anti-slavery stance made many prominent parishioners turn away.On June 20, 1857, he wrote, “I have passed through many trials as a Christian minister, some of the severest growing out of my preaching against slavery in opposition to the prejudices and wishes of a portion of the society. The disaffection has been so great that the congregation has been considerably diminished, and my hopes of usefulness in Geneva greatly reduced.”

Two weeks later Augustus left his Geneva and Elgin congregations to lead the Rockford Unitarian Society, though Collyer doesn’t say whether he moved out of the city. Four years after that, he and his two sons all joined the Union Army. Augustus, now 50, served as chaplain of the 19th Illinois regiment. His letters to his wife include cheerful descriptions of military life.

In late January 1863, Augustus was working as a field medic during a battle near Murfreesboro, Tenn., when he encountered his son Neroy fighting with a different regiment. He wrote to Betsy that he had found their son in good health and brought him a cup of tea during a lull in the fighting.

A week later, Neroy wrote to his mother that Augustus had contracted a respiratory infection, attributed to overwork during the battle, but that he would care for his father until he recovered. Though Neroy plied Augustus with medicine and currant wine, Augustus died Feb. 8.

The pioneer farmer, theological scholar and fiery abolitionist may lie in West Side Cemetery, but his legacy still resonates. Collyer’s biography is posted online at, where all 94 pages can be read for free. This year, the Des Plaines Historical Society is presenting Conant’s diary entries from his years there as daily tweets on Twitter. That’s a far cry from the originals, which Collyer described as being written on coarse paper with “abominable” home-made ink.

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