Henry Ward Beecher

Early Years

Henry Ward Beecher was born with religion in his veins. He was the child of  Reverend Lyman Beecher and Roxanna Foote. He was their eighth  child. Henry was raised in a very humble fashion. His father was paid a salary of 800 dollars, which was not enough to support such a large family. The family survived by renting rooms out to female students who attended a near by school. According to Thomas Knox with so many adults, children were not seen as children thus Henry learned from a very young age to be obedient and a non-aggressive  child.14  

        His mother died when he was three years old. Her final words to her children were " 'Trust in God.' "15  His father remarried a year later to Harriet Porter. Harriet, according to Knox, felt that the three youngest children, one of which was Henry, were far to vigorous and felt that it was her duty to straighten them out.16 Every Sunday she would take the children aside, pray with them, and then teach them extra lessons about The Bible.             Picture From Elsmere.                                 

        Henry was not a bright student. He had many difficulties with memorizing materials and mathematics and attended numerous schools. He could, however, be quite studious when he put his mind to it. The first example of this was when he was ten years old. An older classmate had read Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason" and would argue against The Bible. Henry threw himself into his studies of The Bible and confronted the boy.17 The older boy's argument could not stand up to Henry's argument. He did not put much effort in his studies again until he decided to runaway to the navy in 1827. His father turned this to his advantage. Lyman told Henry that if he wanted to succeed in the navy that he (Henry) would need more education. Henry eagerly agreed and started school at Mount Pleasant in Amherst, Massachusetts. Henry threw himself into his studies but by the end of the first year his mind had drifted from the sea to the ministry. He continued his studies and received help from a professor on public speaking. Henry would spend hours, according to Knox, practicing only one word.18 Henry decided to enter the ministry after he took part of a religious revival at Mount Pleasant. 

        Henry's two greatest teachers were his father and nature. Since Henry did not do well in school he spent a lot of time in outside. Nature was the first subject that he truly studied. Henry's father would spend quite a bit of time outside with his children when he could. He was like any other father and would sneak in bits of wisdom to his children when they were outside doing chores or playing.  


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         Abolitionism               Women's Suffrage             The Scandal                 His Works                  

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Created by N. Hewitt                       Contact Me                    Return to History 338 Page                Last Edited 03/30/01


         14. Knox, Life., 41.

        15. Ibid., 43

        16. Ibid., 45

        17. Ibid., 48-9.

        18. Ibid., 65.