Lyman Beecher was Henry Ward Beecher’s father, a traditional Calvinist that would be common in Puritan New England. Yet as the 1800s went on, Henry Ward Beecher would lay the foundation for the “social gospel” movement.
“Harry Emerson Fosdick would comment that whenever we preach freely to sympathetic audiences the social gospel…, we are building on foundations that Mr. Beecher helped to lay….In 1882 he endorsed the theory of evolution. He said, ‘I am an evolutionist and that strikes at the root of all medieval and orthodox modern theology. Men have not fallen as a race. Men have come up.”” –Tim Hutchinson
1856 free-state colonists from Connecticut joined with earlier settlers to found the town of Wabaunsee, 15 miles northwest of here. Brooklyn abolitionist and clergyman Henry Ward Beecher helped raise funds to supply the settlers with the new Sharps repeating rifle for their defense during the sometimes-violent era of “Bleeding Kansas.” According to an 1856 New York Tribune article, Beecher “believed that the Sharps rifle was a truly moral agency, and that there was more moral power in one of those instruments, so far as the slaveholders of Kansas were concerned, than in a hundred Bibles.” Beecher’s congregation also supplied the colonists with Bibles, perhaps leading to the widespread use of the term “Beecher Bibles” to describe the rifles. Wabaunsee residents soon became involved in the Underground Railroad, helping enslaved people to freedom in Canada. Between 1860 and 1862 the community completed the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church, now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The nearby Mount Mitchell Heritage Prairie today interprets the history of this community.
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