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Thomas Lamb Eliot

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Subject: Mount Tabor (Oregon), William Vandevert, Osborne Russell, Oregon Institute, Holmes v. Ford
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Thomas Lamb Eliot

Thomas Lamb Eliot
Born (1841-10-13)October 13, 1841
St. Louis, Missouri
Died April 28, 1936(1936-04-28) (aged 94)
Portland, Oregon
Nationality U.S.
Ethnicity white
Citizenship U.S.
Education Washington University in St. Louis (1862, 1866)
Harvard Divinity School (1865)
Occupation Minister
Known for church minister, serving the community
Religion Unitarian
Spouse(s) Henrietta Robins Mack
Parents William Greenleaf Eliot, Abigail Adams Cranch

Reverend Thomas Lamb Eliot (October 13, 1841 (1841-10-13) – Did not recognize date. Try slightly modifying the date in the first parameter.) was an Oregon pioneer, minister of one of the first churches on the west coast of the U.S., president of the Portland Children's Home, president of the Oregon Humane Society, a director of the Art Association, and director of the Library Association.[1]

Thomas Lamb Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri as the first son of Rev. William Greenleaf Eliot, D.D., of the Church of the Messiah in St. Louis. An injury to his eyes interrupted his education at Washington University in St. Louis, which his father helped start and run. Hoping to improve his eyes, he sailed around Cape Horn to California in 1860 where Thomas Starr King said to him, "The Pacific Coast claims everyone who has ever seen it—there’s Oregon!"[2] His sight was not remedied by the trip, and upon his return, for several months of Divinity school he had to have his books read aloud to him.[3]

Eliot was in the first class to graduate from Washington University in 1862.[1]

After graduation he enlisted in the Home Guard of Missouri, but served only within the state. For two years he ran a mission house for the poor of St. Louis connected to his father's church while studying with his father for the ministry.

He graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1865, doing two years of study in one, despite eyesight so poor his books were often read to him. In 1866 he earned a Master of Arts from Washington University. He ministered in Louisville, Kentucky and, for several weeks at a spell, assisted the Church of the Messiah in New Orleans. He married Henrietta Robins Mack of St. Louis on November 28, 1865.[2]

Eliot was recruited in 1867 by churches in Portland, Maine; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Portland, Oregon. He accepted the offer from Oregon, from a newly built chapel, having wanted to relocate to the Pacific Northwest since his first trip to the west coast.[4] He moved to Portland with Henrietta and their infant son, traveling through New York and Panama.[4] By 1869 when Dorothea Dix visited Portland, Eliot began holding one service per month at institutions in town including the Insane Asylum of East Portland, the County Jail, and the County Farm.[5] He also occasionally hosted services at the Oro Fino saloon.[5] E. Kimbark MacColl stated "Within a decade of his arrival in Portland... he became the city's most influential religious figure."[5] Eliot was the only minister to greet women's rights advocate Abigail Scott Duniway to Portland.[5]

  • Eliot chose from three offers the most remote, difficult, and least promising prospect, population 300
  • superintendent of county education from 1872 to 1875
  • donated salary to church
  • resignation from church refused, which he toured Europe for a year
  • active with church until 1893
  • as park board member, persuaded the Olmsted Brothers to design a long-range parks plan[6]
  • two members of congregation endowed Reed College
  • board of directors of American Unitarian Association
  • trustee of Pacific Unitarian School at Berkeley
  • namesake of Eliot Glacier and of Eliot Hall, the main academic building of Reed College[7]
  • honors: 1889 honorary Doctor of Divinity, 1912: honorary Doctor of Laws; Reed College: Doctor of Letters


  1. ^ a b Henry Wilder Foote. "Thomas Lamb Eliot". Unitarianism in America. Harvard Square Library. Retrieved 2009-03-02. 
  2. ^ a b "Thomas Lamb Eliot". Heralds of a Liberal Faith. Harvard Square Library. Retrieved 2009-03-02. 
  3. ^ Wilbur, page 44.
  4. ^ a b Wilbur, page 46.
  5. ^ a b c d MacColl, E. Kimbark (1979). The Growth of a City: Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon 1915-1950.  
  6. ^ "Olmsted Portland Park Plan".  
  7. ^

Further reading

  • Wilbur, Earl Morse (1893). A History of the First Unitarian Church, of Portland, Oregon. 1867-1892: Together with a Sketch of the Life of Rev. Thomas Lamb Eliot, Its First Pastor. And an Account of the Exercises of the Twenty-fifth Anniversary. First Unitarian church. 
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