Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Biography of the Rev. Henry Randall Waite, Ph. D., a 19th Century Pastor of Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church

The Rev. Henry Randall Waite, Ph. D., served for a number of years as the pastor of Huguenot Memorial Presbyterian Church in the Village of Pelham Manor, New York. A magazine article published in 1886 provided an extensive account of Waite's ancestors and a substantive biography of Waite. Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting transcribes pertinent portions of that biography.

"Rev. Hiram Henry Waite, M. A., born Aug. 13, 1816, lately pastor of the Waverly Congregationalist Church, Jersey City, N. J., and now of the Congregationalist Church, Madison, N. Y., is well known among Congregational clergymen as an able, faithful, and successful minister, his services, wherever he has labored, having been signally blessed in every way. He married in 1843 S. Maria Randall at Antwerp, N. Y., by whom he has now living three daughters and one son, Henry Randall Waite, Ph. D., of West Newton, Mass., who is prominent among the younger representatives of this ancient New England family. On the maternal side his descent is traced from the Randalls and Carpenters of New Hampshire, stocks from which have sprung many notable men. Both his parternal and maternal grandfathers were soldiers in the war of 1812; his ancestors were also active participants in the war of the Revolution, and at a still earlier date, as we have seen, participants in the wars with the Narragansetts and other Indian tribes. To his puritan ancestry we may trace his sturdy independence, his originality, and persevering industry; while to his Celtic progenitors may be due something of his generous and gnial nature. He graduated in 1868, at Hamilton College, with an excellent reputation as a scholar and thinker; and in the same year became one of the editors of the Utica Morning Herald where his abilities as a critical and literary writer soon gained recognition. Subsequently he studied theology at Union Theological Seminary in the city of New York, and in 1872 visited Europe.

He supplied the pulpit of the American Chapel in Paris for a short time, and afterward visited Rome, where he was invited to assist in the establishment of what became under his labors a flourishing and useful church for resident and visiting Americans, the first for English-speaking people tolerated within the walls. In the pastor's parlors, facing the windows of the Propaganda Fide, many notable assemblies were gathered. Here were taken the first steps toward the organization of a union of the Sunday-school forces in Italy. Here were held important meetings of the Italian Bible Society, and here was organized the first Young Men's Christian Association in Italy, its members including Italians of every evangelical faith. He established a Bible training school for Italian young men, so planned as to secure the approval and co-operation of Italian ministers of every denomination, and was also instrumental in the establishment of a school among the soldiers of the Italian army stationed in Rome, out of which grew a church, composed wholly of men in the military service, its creed being that of the Apostles. Many persons, native and foreign, assisted on the occasion, memorabl in the history of religious progress in Rome, when the sacrament of the Lord's Supper was administered to theese modern soldiers of Caesar's household. This work has been efficiently continued to this day under other direction, and thousands of ex-soldiers in all parts of Italy have borne with them to their homes the influence of their Catholic Christian training in the Scuola of the Chiesa Evangelica Militare.

Dr. Waite's inquiries early led him to look upon sectarianism as one of the most serious obstacles to the progress of evangelical truth in Italy, and to the belief that the presentation of a united Christian front, in agreement upon the fundamental truths of the gospel, was essential to that influence upon the mind which would bring the most hopeful elements among the Latin peoples into practical unity with Protestant Christianity. He therefore energetically espoused the cause of Christian unity, of which the church in Rome, in its ingathering of worshippers of all creeds, was made a notable example.

In 1875 he returned to the United States, and, resuming editorial work, was for a time editor of the New Haven Evening Journal, and then of the International Review, in New York, in both of which positions he added largely to his reputation as a scholar, thinker, and trenchant and graceful writer. In 1876 he received from the University of Syracuse, pro causa, the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, and was at the same time invited to become a non-resident professor of Political Science in that institution. He had previously accepted a call to the pastorate of the Huguenot Memorial Church at Pelham on the Sound, where he purchased an estate known as 'Bonny Croft,' and in the midst of most congenial surroundings remained until 1880, when, upon invitation of Gen. Francis A. Walker, superintendent of the Tenth Census of the United States, he undertook the direction of the Educational and Religious Departments of the Census.

Dr. Waite has an acknowledged position as one of the most accomplished statisticians and most thoroughly informed educational authorities in the United States. Doubtless in recognition of this fact, at the Inter-State Educational Convention held in Louisville in 1883 and composed of delegates appointed by the governors of the several states, he was invited to deliver the opening address, a paper on the Ideal Public School System which was characterized by the Chairman of the convention as 'one of the best ever read before a like body.' Aside from editorial work he has furnished frequent contributions to various periodicals, and has gained a special reputation as a writer upon politico-economic subjects. Two of these contributions recently published in the form of a brochure by D. Lothrop & Co., under title of 'Illiteracy and Mormonism,' have attracted especial attention among those interested in these important questions. When residing in New York he was President of the Political Science Association, and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Reform League, one of the pioneer organizations for the reform of the civil service; and while residing in Washington was president of the Social Science Association of the District of Columbia.

Dr. Waite is a logical, fluent and earnest speaker, and his reputation as a student of educational and social problems has led to a frequent demand for his services on the part of committees concerned with legislative questions, and at assemblies of leading educators. He presided and delivered an address at one of the sessions of the National Educational Assembly at Ocean Grove, in 1883, and in an address at one of the meetings of the National Educational Association at Madison, Wis., in 1884, following Mgr. Capel, to whose covert attack upon our public school system he made, as reported in the Chicago Tribune, a temperate but caustic and able reply. At the last meeting of the same association, at Saratoga, he delivered an address upon the Tenure of Office and Compensation of Teachers, which is characterized by the Iowa School Journal as one of the specially fine papers of the occasion. In connection with his editorial labors, he discharges the duties of President of the American Institute of Civics, an organization lately incorporated 'for the purpose of promoting the study of political and economic science and so much of social science as is related to government and citizenship'; the aim of the institution being to secure, in every walk in life, a more thorough preparation for the duties of citizenship. Notable among the officers of this worthy institution are Chief Justice Waite, Senator Colquitt, Hon. Hugh McCulloch, President Porter of Yale College, President Seelye of Amherst, Senator Morrill of Vermont, Hon. John Eaton, U. S. Commissioner of Education, Hon. Carroll D. Wright, Hon. Mellen Chamberlain, D. C. Heath, Gen. H. B. Carrington, Daniel Lothrop, and Robert M. Pulsifier, with hundreds of members of equal eminence.

Dr. Waite has had several invitations to accept important positions in connection with educational institutions, none of which he has thought it advisable to accept.

The Boston Transcript, not long since, noted the fact that prominent friends of Middlebury College had presented his name in connection with the office of President of that institution, and added: 'Whether Dr. Waite will accept the position, if elected, we are not informed, but of his qualifications there can be no doubt. Graduated from a kindred institution, he is a firm believer in the usefulness of the smaller college. . . . To his other qualifications are added the executive skill and indomitable energy which are needed to place Middlebury College upon the footing with similar institutions to which its honorable position in the past so justly entitles it.'

Among other labors, he is preparing for early publication by D. Lothrop & Co. a work upon the Indian Races of North America; and is also Secretary of the Inter State Commission on Federal Aid to Education. Few men have a wider circle of devoted friends among educated young men, a fact in some degree accounted for by the ready and helpful sympathy and practical wisdom with which he responds to the numerous demands made upon him for aid and counsel, by those who are perplexed as to the choice of a calling or are seeking entrance to some field of labor. There are many such, within the writer's knowledge, who owe him debts which they will never cease to acknowledge with gratitude. An evidence of the esteem in which he is held by college men, is afforded by the fact that one of the oldest of college societies, which chapters in twenty or more leading colleges, including Harvard, Brown, Cornell, Williams, Hamilton, etc., chose him as orator at its semi-centennial anniversary, observed in September of last year, in the Academy of Music, in New York."

Source: Lovell, Arthur Thomas, Richard and Gamaliel Wayte, and Their Descendants, in The New England Magazine and Bay State Monthly, Vol. IV, No.1, p. 48, pp. 55-59 (Boston, MA: Bay State Monthly Co. 1886).

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