Sunday, June 11, 2006

Abraham Coles Osborn, D.D., L.L.D.: The Biography

The Eagle offers the following description: "He is about 35 years of age [May 1871], five feet ten inches in height, rather light build, has a fair complexion, brown hair, and dark blue eyes, a sandy moustache, and a large mouth. Otherwise his appearance is not striking. He dresses in plain black, and wears a black necktie. He speaks so distinctly that every word and even syllable can be heard in any part of the church, but nevertheless his voice is not pleasant, and he pronounces some words in such a peculiar way that he would sooner be taken for an Englishman or Irishman than a native of New Jersey, which he is said to be." [Brooklyn Eagle, May 15, 1871].
Abraham Coles Osborn was born in Scotch Plains, NJ (near Plainfield) on Feb. 20, 1831. Brother Thomas Ward was born two years later. In the early 1840s, the Osborn family moved to Wilna, NY, between the Adirondacks and Lake Ontario. He studied at Madison Univ. (the predecessor of Colgate Univ.), a Baptist institution, and prepared for the ministry at Hamilton Theological Seminary (later Colgate Rochester Divinity School). Osborn's first pastorate was in Louisville, KY where he was ordained "a minister of the gospel" in 1858. In June 1861 (after Fort Sumter), Osborn left for Germany where he studied for seven months. He returned to Louisville and married Miss. Sarah E. Matthews of Louisville in December 1861. A year later the Osborns moved to St. Louis where A.C. accepted the pastorate of the Fourth Baptist Church. In 1867, Osborn received the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity from Shurtleff College (a Baptist seminary that became part of Southern Illinois University in the 1950s). Osborn's wife died in August 1868 and he spent most of 1869 touring Europe, at least partially, in the company of Senator T.W. In December, 1869 he accepted the pastorate at the Brooklyn Tabernacle church. In 1872, he married Miss. Emma Hatfield of New York (whom he had met in Paris) and, the following year, left Brooklyn for the Second Baptist Church on West 25th St. in Manhattan. In 1877, Osborn moved once again, now to North Adams MA until he accepted a pastorage in New Albion in Western, NY. In 1895, Osborn became President of Benedict College in Columbia, S.C. (a black college for the training of "teachers and preachers") where he remained until 1911. He received the degree of Doctor of Laws from Colgate in 1905 where he served as a trustee for many years. He returned to North Adams, MA where he died in 1916 at the age of 84 and was buried between Emma and T.W. Osborn was survived by three sons, Robert H., Ralph and Harold. [Obituary of A.C. Osborn from North Adams newspaper by Rev. J. Wilcox; Bio. sketch by Elizabeth Osborn Slater Hubbard]. These sources are courtesy of Mr. James Peck of Corona CA, a descendant of Spencer C. Osborn, older brother of A.C. and T.W. Mr. Peck has commented that "It seems [Osborn] spent more time in the secular world than the religious. He was a Chaplain to the wealthy and was married twice, both women from wealthy families."

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