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Ely, Ben-Ezra Stiles


Posted By: mjv (email)
Date: 10/30/2020 at 11:40:46

Ben-Ezra Stiles Ely, Jr., the son of Ben - E. S. Ely, D. D., and Elizabeth Eudora (McElroy) Ely, was born in Sacramento, Cal., Jan. 20, 1856. Mr. Ely is the seventh in an unbroken family succession of preachers. Ezra Stiles Ely, D. D., his grandfather, graduated at Yale College in 1803, and was ordained in 1806. After serving for a time as a pastor in Colchester, Conn., and afterward was a Chaplain to the New York City Hospital, in 1811, he was called to succeed the celebrated Dr. Archibald Alexander, as pastor of the “Old Pine Street” Presbyterian Church, in Philadelphia, Pa. There he continued for twenty-one years. He was editor and publisher of The Philadelphian. He was the principal founder of the Jefferson Medical College. He was Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in 1825 and 1828, and Stated Clerk of that body from 1825 to 1836. In 1834 he conceived the plan of establishing a college and theological seminary in Missouri, and enterprise which was at first a success, but which was made a failure by the financial crisis of 1837. Dr. Ely lost $100,000, and returned to Philadelphia a poor man. In 1844 he became a pastor of the Church of Northern Liberties, Philadelphia. He died June 18, 1861.

B.-E. S. Ely, D. D., the father of our subject, was born in Philadelphia, Feb. 4, 1830. He was educated at Lawrenceville, N. J., and at the old Delaware College. He studied law with Hon. Benjamin F. Brewster and Samuel T. Glover. In 1850 he went to California, where he became eminent in the practice of law, and active in politics. He was a member of both the House and Senate in the State Legislature. In 1861 he gave up a lucrative law practice and entered the ministry, serving as pastor in Healdsburg, and afterward at Stockton. In 1872 he was called to the pastorate of Grace (now the Sixth) Presbyterian Church of Chicago, Ill. While there he was one of the participants in the great Patton-Swing controversy. The part he took in that trial was the occasion of his receiving a call to be minister of the church at Argyle, Ill., a large parish composed entirely of Scotch people, who never before would consent to have as a minister any one who had not previously been a preacher of the “auld kirk in Scotland.” Since 1881 Dr. Ely has been the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church at Ottumwa in this State.

Elizabeth Eudora McElroy was born in Hopkinsville, Ky., March 12, 1831. At the age of three years her father’s family moved to Marion County, Mo. She was married to Ben - E. S. Ely about the year 1849. Though not a graduate of any institution she received a thorough classical education. She was one of the founders and first instructors of the Palmyra Seminary for young ladies, located at Palmyra, Mo., an institution still in existence, and which has enjoyed a wide reputation in that and neighboring States. In 1854 she joined her husband in California. There she became prominent in educational circles, and for a time was Superintendent of Public Schools in the city of Sacramento. In all, she taught almost continuously for nineteen years.

Mr. Ely is the second of seven children, only four of whom are now living: Laura E., a graduate of Rockford Seminary, is the wife of Rev. E. L. Curtis, Ph. D., Professor of the Hebrew Language and Literature in McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, Ill.; Rose De F. is a graduate of Normal Park Normal School, near Chicago, and now holds a prominent position in the city schools of Sioux Falls, Dak.; M. Anita is teaching in Wapello County, in this State.

Mr. Ely inherited his father’s taste for the law, and for many years his studies were directed to that end. His literary education was received mainly at the Stockton High School, Cal., and at Westminster College, Fulton, Mo. Deciding to preach the Gospel, he entered McCormick Theological Seminary in September, 1880. He was graduated in April, 1883, and was ordained in October of the same year by the Presbytery of Logansport, at Crown Point, Ind. His first pastoral charge was at that place. A handsome and substantial brick church edifice represents in part the fruit of his a labors there. In April, 1885, he accepted a call to the First Presbyterian Church of Washington, Iowa, of which he is now pastor. He was married, Dec. 25, 1883, to Sallie A. B. Pryor, who was born Dec. 25, 1861. She is the second daughter of Dr. Joseph W. Pryor and Fannie T. Bailey, of Palmyra, Mo., and a graduate of Palmyra Seminary, of which Mr. Ely’s mother was one of the founders, and her aunt, Miss Sallie Pryor, was afterward Principal. Two sons, fruit of this marriage, both died in infancy.

In his pastoral labors at Washington, Mr. Ely has endeared himself not alone to his church, but to the community at large. He is a pleasing and effective speaker, a close student, and in the providence of God has doubtless a bright future before him.

Source: Portrait and Biographical Album of Washington County, Iowa (1887). Excerpt from Biographical Sketch of Ben - Ezra Stiles Ely, Jr., pages 188-189.


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