Calvin Stowe began a Bible study in Nook Farm at some point during this year. Stowe first held his classes at the home of John Beach, who lived on Asylum Avenue.
Neat Little Tidbit
This is the third of the “three necessities of the community” that led to the formation of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, and like the other two necessities, it was held elsewhere in Asylum Hill until the chapel opened in March 1865.L1
Trust but verify
The year 1864 is a bit of a guess as to when the Bible study began. Unlike the Sunday school and the prayer meeting, there’s no controversy as to whether the Bible study happened: I have found in the Courant numerous contemporary references to the Bible study being held and led by Stowe on a weekly basis, just as described by Atwood Collins and Melva Swartz, while I’ve found only the one reference (so far) to the Sunday school and none at all for the prayer meeting.
Figuring out the date of the first Bible study is possible: it really is just a matter of tracking backwards until I find the earliest reference, but there are later references to the first date that have to be taken into account as well. Atwood Collins stated that Stowe had launched them probably in 1861, while Melva Swartz wrote that Stowe’s Bible class began “[a]bout three years after organization of the Sabbath school,” which would have been late 1863. The problem with both of these claims is that we know that the Stowes didn’t move to Hartford until 1864, and that’s therefore the earliest the Bible study could have begun. Unfortunately, the Bible study thus becomes one means to assess the accuracy of both Collins’s and Swartz’s histories of the church.
Questions to pose
Who was John Beach? Like David Bartlett and Jeremiah Allen, he worked at the American Asylum, and he did attend the February 3 and February 6, 1864 meetings. And where did Beach live?
How did Calvin Stowe become so quickly involved in Asylum Hill? Calvin Stowe served as a volunteer, he was a well-known scholar even if he wasn’t as famous as his wife (you know, Harriet), and his Bible study course became wildly popular. How or why he volunteered remains a mystery at this point. Was he approached, or did he just show up one day and volunteer?
Why isn’t Calvin Stowe mentioned more prominently in histories of Asylum Hill Congregational Church? That the Bible study is considered one of the three necessities implies that it was an important factor in building the early church and its membership, and Joseph Twichell’s eulogy of StoweL2 made it abundantly clear that Twichell considered Stowe and his Bible study to be critical to the formation of the church. Just as interestingly, the church is very quick to point out that it was “Mark Twain’s church,” but there’s never any mention of it being “Harriet Beecher Stowe’s church.” In fact, I haven’t found any contemporary reference to Harriet attending the church yet. Is Stowe’s role glossed over because the Stowes kept their distance after the church formally opened?
Swartz, Melva J., “Hill Church Will Observe Anniversary,” Hartford Courant, March 18, 1940, page 1.
Unattributed, “Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twichell Honored at Anniversary of His Church,” Hartford Courant, March 24, 1915, page 16.Related Chronicle: