Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, January 23, 2005, pg. 2
One of the most famous sermons ever preached in American history was entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” powerfully delivered by the 18th century theologian, clergyman, and college president (Princeton), the Rev. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). This graphic hellfire and brimstone message was preached on July 8, 1741 in Enfield, Connecticut. The result was instantaneous. One source stated, “Many who heard it trembled and cried out for mercy. Others fainted. Five hundred people were converted that day.” Another, “The response of the audience was one of screaming and weeping. They reached for building columns and chair rails, something solid to hold onto, because they were sure that the floor of the church would suddenly open up and swallow them into the fires of hell under their feet.”
I spotted a CD audio re-creation version of this homiletical masterpiece offered on the internet. It’s not “easy listening,” and lasts 43 minutes. Just type “Jonathan Edwards” into the www.Yahoo.com search engine, and click. The sermon title CD will come up along with several pages of choices containing a wealth of biographical and historical information about this legendary clergyman in early American history.
Why am I mentioning this in this column?
There is an Albion connection.
The grandson of Rev. Jonathan Edwards is buried here in Riverside Cemetery.
Edward Edwards (1763-1845) was one of 15 children born to Timothy (son of Jonathan) and Rhoda (Ogden) Edwards. A native of Elizabethtown, NJ, Edward first worked in Stockbridge, Mass. before moving to Broome County, NY around 1800. Over the next two decades the family lived in several locations in NY. During this time, Edward was elected to and served in the New York Legislature.
Edward was in the pine lumber business in Lisle, New York along the Chenango and Susquehanna Rivers. Edward had acquired a significant stand of lumber in NY in payment for services he had rendered to the Continental Line during the American Revolution. After processing logs at his sawmill, he would transport the lumber to Baltimore where it was sold for a tidy sum. Edward married Mary Ballard of Hadley, Mass in 1783, and the couple had 11 children. She died in Binghamton, NY in 1824.
How did Edward end up in Albion? We know that at least two of his children lived in Michigan. Daughter Mary McKinney lived in Sturgis. Son Edwin Edwards might have lived in the Waterford, MI area where his wife Nancy died in 1836. There apparently were numerous descendants. The mother of Rev. Jonathan Edwards was Esther Stoddard. Esther’s father was Rev. Solomon Stoddard, the spiritual leader of Northampton, Mass. for many years, who had a profound influence upon Jonathan Edwards.
There were Stoddards that lived in Albion area, such as Rufus Stoddard who arrived here by ox-cart with his family from New York in 1836. A Dr. Sampson Stoddard was one of the founders of Albion College, and served on the original board of trustees as its second vice-president when the board organized in his Jackson home in 1835. Perhaps Edward was visiting a Stoddard “cousin” if that were the genealogical case, and stopped in Albion to take a look at our new educational institution.
Another possibility might concern a pioneer Albion family whose history paralleled the Edwards family: the Grosvenor’s. The father of Ebenezer O. Grosvernor, Sr. (1783-1871) was Rev. Daniel Grosvenor (1750-1834), a native of Connecticut who was a 1769 graduate of Yale College, and an ordained minister in the Congregational Church. He served as a minister in Grafton and later in Paxton, Mass. Son E.O. Grosvenor, Sr. was an educator by profession. He moved to New York state where he lived in Stillwater, and Chittenango. E.O. came to Albion in 1838. Somehow with all the similar backgrounds, it would not be surprising if Edward Edwards knew the Grosvenor’s back in New York, and their ancestors did too, back in Massachusetts or Connecticut a few generations earlier during and before the American Revolution of which they were both involved. This is just speculation, but Edward could have stopped off at Albion to renew old acquaintances (Grosvenors) while traveling to see one of his descendants who lived in Michigan.
Whatever the reason may have been, Edward Edwards died here in Albion on September 3, 1845, at the age of 83, and was interred in Riverside Cemetery the very next day. He is buried in the “Stranger’s Ground,” a triangular-shaped piece of land just east of the Old Grounds, which was all the cemetery consisted of at the time. This small sliver of land was reserved for single burials. It included people who didn’t live here, and indigent burials. Unfortunately, there is no tombstone for Edwards, and numerical grave numbers were not designated in cemetery records for burials that occurred here.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of the “Stranger’s Ground” in Riverside Cemetery, the burial location of Edward Edwards. Special thanks to Connie (Chaffee) Leaman of Washington state, the great-great-great granddaughter of Edward Edwards for her help with this week’s article.
The “Stranger’s Ground”, burial location of Edward Edwards
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic