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William Stevens Perry


Posted By: Annette Lucas (email)
Date: 7/12/2021 at 17:45:08

SOURCE: Biographical History and Portrait Gallery of Scott County, Iowa. American Biographical Publishing Company, H. C. Cooper, Jr., & Co. Proprietors. 1895

WILLIAM STEVENS PERRY,the oldest and only surviving son of the late Stephen and Katharine Whittemore ( Stevens) Perry, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, January 22, 1832. He is descended on his father's side from John Perry, who arrived in New England in 1636, in the ship in which the " Apostle ” Eliot came over, and is styled " cousin " in a letter from the great Puritan missionary to the Indians. On the maternal side he is descended from William Stevens, of Falmouth, Maine, a privateer’s-man on the frigate " Boston ” during the Revolution, and his son of the same name, a lieutenant in the United States Army during the War of 1812.

Educated in the private and public schools of the city of his birth , he passed from the Providence High School, then under the charge of Professor Albert Harkness, LL . D., to enter Brown University, whence he migrated to Harvard College in 1851, connecting himself as Sophomore with the class of 1854. He was graduated with his class, having an appointment at the commencement, although he was absent from college during the junior year, in consequence of ill health. After graduation he spent several months at the Virginia Theological Seminary near Alexandria, and then, his family having removed at the time of his entering Harvard to their place at Watertown, Massachusetts, returned home to take charge, as a candidate for orders and a lay reader, of an effort to found an Episcopal church in the adjoining town of Newton. The parish of Grace Church , Newton, was organized in his father's house, at the corner of Galen and Williams Street, in Watertown, and Mr. Perry was the vestry clerk, Sunday -school superintendent and lay-reader of the earliest years of this now pros perous and wealthy parish. In the meantime he prosecuted his theological studies under the direction of the Rev. Alexander H. Vinton, D. D., of St. Paul's, Boston, and the Rev. John S. Stone, D. D. , of Brookline, Massachusetts. He was ordered deacon in the temporary place of worship occupied by the congregation of Grace Church, Newton, by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Manton Eastburn , Bishop of Massachusetts. He was advanced to the priesthood by the same prelate in St. Paul's, Boston, April 7, 1858, his uncle, the Rev. William Bacon Stevens, D. I., of St. Andrew's Church, Philadelphia, being the preacher. He was assistant to the rector of St. Paul's, Dr. A. H. Vinton, 1857-58 ; rector of St. Luke's, Nashua, New Ilampshire, 1858-61 ; rector of St. Stephen's, Portland , Maine, 1861-63 ; rector of St. Michael's, Litchfield, Connecticut, 1864-69, and of Trinity, Geneva, Western New York, 1869-76. Early in 1876, after having declined the foreign secretaryship of the Board of Missions, he was tendered the presidency of Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio, which he refused . Shortly after, he was unanimously elected to the presidency of Hobart College, Geneva, New York, which he accepted. He had previously served as professor of history in the same institution (without salary) , 1871-74. He remained at Hobart, retaining also his rectorship at Trinity Church, until his consecration to the episcopate.

From the very beginning of his ministry he was busily engaged in general church work in addition to his parochial labors. He was a deputy from the diocese of New Hampshire to the General Convention of 1859, at Richmond, Virginia, the first held subsequent to his ordination, and as a deputy, an officer, or as a bishop, he has been present at every triennial convention held since that time. He was a deputy from Maine in 1862, and from the diocese of Western New York in 1871. He was appointed an assistant secretary to the House of Deputies in 1862, and was the secretary of the convention from 1865 to 1876. As assistant secretary, charged with the calling of the roll at the General Convention of 1862, he gave to the world a striking proof of the unity of the American Church by calling, entirely of his own motion and without any instructions to this effect, on each vote of the house by dioceses, the unrepresented southern dioceses just as if their accredited delegations were present in their seats. He was asso ciated by the convention of 1859 with the celebrated Rev. Dr. Francis Lister Hawks in the preparation and publication of an annotated edition of the early records of the General Convention legislation. One volume in octavo, under the joint editorship of Dr. Hawks and Mr. Perry, appeared in 1861 ; but the further prosecution of this was interrupted by the breaking out of the Civil War. The work was finally issued under the sole editorship of Dr. William Stevens Perry, in three volumes, in 1874, two volumes composing the reprinted journal, 1785 1835, and one volume being devoted to illustrative notes and documents. In 1868, on the death of Dr. Hawks, Dr. Perry was appointed by the two Houses of Convention historiographer of the American church . This most complimentary and important official position he still retains.

In 1862, on January 15, he was married in Rosse Chapel, Gambier, Ohio, by Bishop Bedell, to Sara Abbott Woods, younger daughter of the Rev. Thomas Mather Smith, D. D., sometime president of Kenyon College, and for eighteen years professor of Systematic Divinity in the theological seminary of the diocese of Ohio — and Mary Greenleaf (Woods), his wife. On the paternal side, Mrs. Perry is descended from the Rev. Cotton Mather Smith, of Sharon, Connecticut, the father of the Hon. John Cotton Smith, LL . D., Governor of Connecticut, and through him , according to Governor Smith's family memoranda, from Increase Mather, D. D., president of Harvard College, and John Cotton, the Puritan vicar of St. Botolph's, Boston , England, and first minister of Boston, New England. Her maternal grandfather was the celebrated Leonard Woods, D. D., theological professor at Andover Theological Seminary.

Mr. Perry received his " A. M." in course from Ilarvard in 1857, and an ad eundem “ M. A.” from the University of Bishops' College, Lenoxville, Canada East, in 1859, on occasion of his preaching the convocation " sermon . In 1869 he received the degree of " D. D.," from Trinity College, Ilartford, Connecticut. He was made “ LL. D.” by William and Mary College, Williamsburg, Virginia , in 1876, on his accession to the presidency of Hobart College. He received the degree of “ D. C. L.” from the University of Bishop's College in 1885 ; again from the University of King's College, Windsor, Nova Scotia, in 1886 ; and still again from the University of the South, Sewanee, Ten nessee, in 1893. At the Eucenia of the University of Oxford, England, June, 1888, he received the honorary degree of “ D. D., Oxon., " an honor which he shares with two other living American divines alone — the Rt. Rev. William Crosswell Doane, D.D., LL. D., Bishop of Albany, and the Rt. Rev. Henry Codman Potter, D.D. LL. D., Bishop of New York. In 1887, in the eleventh year of his episcopate, he was unanimously elected by the synod, “ Lord Bishop of Nova Scotia " -the oldest British colonial see ; but he declined this honor, one never before tendered to any other than one of English birth and allegiance.

Bishop Perry is by virtue of the Revolutionary services of his great grandfather, Lieutenant Abel Perry, of the Massachusetts Continental Line, an hereditary member of the Society of the Cincinnati, and has been for a number of years a chaplain -general of the order. As such he preached the sermon before the society in St. Paul's Chapel, New York City, on occasion of the centennial observance of the inauguration of George Washington as President of the United States, April 28, 1889. This discourse, printed in various editions, appears in the sumptuous official record of the observance of this day which is said to be the handsomest volume ever printed in the United States. He is also president of the Iowa State Society of the Sons of the Revolution , and a member of the New York society of that body. He is a member of the Society of the War of 1812, and of the naval order of the United States.

He was unanimously elected Bishop of Iowa in May, 1876, receiving the unanimous confirmation of the standing committees and the bishops of the church ; and was consecrated to the episcopate in Trinity Church, Geneva, New York, September 10 of the same year, by his maternal uncle, the Rt. Rev. William Bacon Stevens, D. D., LL. D. , Bishop of Pennsylvania , assisted by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Cleveland Coxe, Bishop of Western New York ; the Rt. Rev. Dr. Kerfoot, Bishop of Pittsburgh ; the Rt. Rev. Dr. Bissell, Bishop of Vermont, and the Most Rev. Dr. Oxenden, Lord Bishop of Montreal and Metropolitan of Canada. During his episcopate he has seen the numbers of his clergy, his churches and his congregations increase nearly or quite three fold . He has consecrated fifty churches. He has held over one hundred ordinations. He has founded two large church schools at Davenport, Iowa. One of these is St. Katharine's Hall, for girls, named for his beloved mother, and now in its tenth year ( 1894) of successful life. The other is Kemper Hall, for boys, a boarding school with accommo dations for sixty pupils, which is nine years old. He has at present in view the establishment of a church hospital in his see city, having just purchased for this purpose a most desirable piece of property, occupying a commanding site. The church " realty ” at Davenport, comprising the college building, the theological hall, the professors' houses, Kemper Hall, St. Katharine's, the Bishop's house, the cathedral and two other churches, with their guild- halls and rectories, represents an expenditure and present value of over half a million dollars ; and for architectural beauty and charm of situation is not excelled in any diocese in the land.

The present Bishop of Iowa has attended and taken part in the Lambell Conferences of 1878 and 1888 ; and his printed account of the first of these meetings elicited the special commendation of the late Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Archibald Campbell Tait, as the best record of the conference that had appeared in print. His story of the Conference of 1888 has also been privately printed. He was also an interested member of the “ Alt Katholik ” conferences held at Bonn in 1875, at which gathering he made the acquaintance of the celebrated Dr. Ignatius Von Döllinger, whom he afterward visited in Munich. It was at this meeting that he made the acquaintance of Canon Lindon, Prebendary Meyrick, Lord Plunkett, now Archbishop of Dublin, and a number of the dignitaries of the Holy Eastern Church. He has crossed the ocean ten times and is well known both in Great Britain, on this continent and in the colonial possessions of England.

Bishop Perry is probably the most voluminous writer of the American Episcopal bench. A list of his various publications, as contained in the Bibliography of the American Historical Association, published in 1889, 1890, 1891 and 1892, occupies a dozen closely printed octavo pages, and including a score of volumes in quarto, octavo and duodecimo, comprises fully one hundred and twenty- four separate titles. His writings are chiefly historical, although he has published sermons preached in Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's, London, and other cathedrals and churches abroad, and besides these, sketches of travel and contributions to general literature. His private library contains over fifteen thousand volumes as many valuable unbound, monographs and pamphlets, and over one hundred volumes of unpublished manuscripts.

Bishop Perry received the thanks of the authorities of the State of Virginia for his publication of a quarto volume of “ Papers Relating to the History of the Church in Virginia ;" for his five quarto volumes, privately printed, of “ Historical Collections of the American Colonial Church " and his three annotated volumes in octavo of “ A Half Century of the Legislation of the American Episcopal Church” he received the thanks of the General Convention of the Church. He is a member of a large number of the State historical societies, of the Ethnological Society, of the Numismatic Society and of the American Historical Association. He was one of the three bishops on the commission appointed to prepare and report " The Standard Prayer Book of 1892,” and will possess one of the twelve vellum folio copies of this work from the De Vinne Press, presented to the presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies, the archives of the Church and the members of the committee, by Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan, of New York, a lay member of this important committee . *

*The foregoing sketch of Bishop Perry appeared in the “ National Magazine" for March , 1894.


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