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JAMES CHAPLIN BEECHER

    by Anya Laurence

    The youngest child of the prolific Lyman Beecher, James’s mother was the unfortunate Harriet Porter, a lovely and cultivated woman from Maine who died at an early age from mental and emotional problems. Her other children, Isabella and Thomas had very successful lives, but James was not so lucky. He had a tragic marriage with a woman named Anne Morse who ended up in an asylum, a victim of drug and alcohol addiction. While his second marriage was happy, he, too, sought treatment for mental instability (a frequent happening in the Beecher family).

 


James Chaplin Beecher

  Born in 1828, James lost his mother while he was still very young and was raised by Lyman’s third wife Lydia Beals Jackson Beecher. He graduated from Dartmouth University and went to sea as ship’s officer in the East India Trade. However, he returned five years later from his sea life and entered Andover Theological Seminary saying that “I shall become a minister. Father will pray me into it.” It was while at Andover that James met and married Anne Morse. They became missionaries to Canton and Hong Kong, Anne returning to America in 1859 for her health. James stayed on until 1861, when he enlisted in the army and became chaplain of the First Long Island Regiment.


Congregational Church
in Poughkeepsie. New York
   James later became a Lieutenant-Colonel in the 141st New York Volunteers, but after Anne’s death in 1863 he took on the task of recruiting and leading an African-American regiment, the First North Carolina Volunteers. At the end of the Civil War, he took on a nine-month pastorate at his brother Tom’s church in Elmira, New York. 1864 saw his marriage to Francis Johnson, of Gulford, Connecticut. The two soon moved to Jacksonville, Florida and set up a school for newly-emancipated citizens.

   James and Francis remained happily married for 12 years and adopted three daughters, In 1867 he became the minister of the Congregational Church in Oswego, New York, followed by a four- year stint as pastor of the Congregational Church in Poughkeepsie. New York. He purchased some land in Ulster County, New York, and cheerfully preached to the farmers there, but in 1886 James Chaplin Beecher took a rifle and ended his life, the second suicide among the Beecher brothers.

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