Description of Edward Beecher in “Life and Work of Henry Ward Beecher” by Thomas W. Knox (1897)

Edward Beecher, University President, Scholar, and Devoted Pastor

Edward Beecher (1803-1895), of the celebrity Beecher family of the 19th century, brought his New England scholarly style to Illinois when he became the first president of Illinois College in the small town of Jacksonville, Illinois.

Like his father, Lyman Beecher, Edward Beecher was an impassioned theologian. Additionally, he was the brother of widely known abolitionists Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Ward Beecher.

According to, the website of Illinois College:

“The first president of Illinois College was Edward Beecher who left his position at the Park Street Church in Boston and firmly imbued the new College with New England traditions and academic foundations. His sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the influential anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, visited the campus, and his brother, Henry Ward Beecher, preached and lectured here. Beecher Hall, the first college building in Illinois, was built in 1829 and is still used today.”

Edward Beecher also served as a pastor for several congregations, including the Salem Street Church and many years at the Congregational Church in Galesburg, Illinois, now Central Congregational Church at 60 Public Square. The building is an historic architectural focal point of the town. According to its website (

“Just one year after construction, tragedy struck. On Thursday, May 13, 1858, at approximately 2:00 p.m., a tornado almost leveled the building, throwing the side walls outward and breaking them off near the lower part of the windows. The congregation was discouraged, but by great effort and sacrifice, the church was rebuilt. To help rebuild, Dr. Beecher relinquished a part of his salary. He also went east to solicit donations from his friends and to raise additional money by lecturing. From that time until it was closed by a merger with Old First Church, it was a prosperous church.”

His Writing

Beecher wrote The Conflict of Ages, The Concord of Ages, and the final third of Secret Societies (free full-text available at The latter analyzed secretive groups, like the Freemasons, and judged them against Christian beliefs and worship style.

See ConnecticutMaine, and Ohio to read about his sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and go to our New York page to read about his brother, Henry Ward Beecher.

This is the seventh stop on our Illinois Author Adventures Trail.

Patricia Smart