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The Magnet and the Iron: John Brown and George L. Stearns The Stories Behind the Busts

Edwin Hubbell Chapin

Ballou's Pictorial, October 11, 1856
Ballou's Pictorial, printed by M. M. Ballou in Boston, Saturday, October 11, 1856 (Vol. XI, No. 15). The front page article shows a sketch of Tufts College (Ballou Hall) and a short article about the first anniversary of the Universalist Tufts College, quoting Dr. Edwin H. Chapin.

Edwin Hubbell Chapin was a Universalist preacher best known as the pastor of the Church of the Divine Paternity in New York City for more than 30 years. He also had a long association with Tufts College, which was founded as a Universalist college.

In 1840, Chapin stopped at the Universalist Church in Charlestown, Massachusetts, to attend the funeral of the church’s pastor, Thomas F. King. While there, the congregation asked him to become their pastor and he accepted. While in Charlestown, he became a mentor to King’s son, Thomas Starr King, and was influenced by the teachings of Theodore Parker and William Lloyd Garrison. Chapin served in Charlestown until 1845, at which point he became a pastor at the Second Universalist Church of Boston alongside the aging Hosea Ballou I.

Chapin was present at the official opening of Tufts College in August 1856 and delivered its first commencement speech. In the 1870s, Chapin donated part of his library to the Tufts College library. In 1878, the college conferred upon him an honorary doctorate. Just two years later, Chapin passed away in Rockport, Massachusetts. His funeral in New York City was attended by then-president E.H. Capen of Tufts College.

Chapin once said, “The more we learn of nature, the more clearly is revealed to us this fact—that we know less than we thought we did . . . as science, as nature, opens upon us, we find mystery after mystery, and the demand upon the human soul is for faith, faith in high, yea, in spiritual realities.”

In 1891, Tufts College was gifted a bronze bas-relief of Dr. Edwin Hubbell Chapin that was a replica of the same piece created by Augustus Saint-Gaudens for the Church of the Divine Paternity in New York City. The bas-relief has since resided in the Goddard Chapel at Tufts University. Also in 1891, friends of Chapin established the Edwin H. Chapin Memorial Scholarship, which still exists today at Tufts.

Hosea Ballou II, the first president of Tufts College, and Chapin apparently had a good relationship filled with humor. Ballou once wrote a whimsical poem inspired by an incident in which Chapin put on a very long coat on his short body. Called “The Pilgrimage of Childe Edwin (Edwin H. Chapin) and Childe Cyrus (Cyrus H. Fay),” the second stanza reads,

“There were two rude and graceless imps of sin

Who served the Devil, their Dad, with all their might;

(Ah me! The wicked pranks they gloried in!)

Childe Edwin this, and that Childe Cyrus hight.

Were horse and chaise left fastened in his sight,

Child Edwin stole them straight in open day;

Or, bolting into houses, he would dight

Himself in pilfered coats, and then away

Swift through the country in his harlequin array.”