REV. MINER RAYMOND, D. D., LL.D.
REV. MINER RAYMOND, D. D., LL.D., the oldest college professor in the Methodist denomination, both in respect to age and length of service, and one of the oldest teachers of theology now living, is a resident of Evanston, and until a short time since was active in educational work, in which he had been engaged for more than sixty years. He is a native of New York City, and was born on the 29th of August, 1811. His father was Nobles Raymond, and the genealogist of this family has traced its descent from Raimonde, Count of Toulouse, France, and demonstrated that, on account of its espousal of the Huguenot faith, its members were expatriated, and some fled to Essex, England, whence the emigration to America occurred. The Raymonds became settlers in New England, and now a host of this name, many of them prominent in commercial and educational affairs, trace their descent to the two or three who came to the colonies in very early times.
Nobles Raymond married Hannah Wood, and they became the parents of nine children, of whom Miner was the eldest. Soon after his birth his father removed with his family to the village of Rensselaerville, New York, and there the boy, when of school age, began to receive the rudiments of his education, remaining in school until twelve years of age. At that time his services were required in his father's shop, and he spent the following six years in learning the art of making shoes, in which he became so proficient that his handiwork was second to that of no other workman in style or finish. The same rule of doing well whatever he did was as rigidly adhered to when he was a mechanic as it has been since he has held a position in the forefront of educators.
The event in his youth most far-reaching in its results on character and fortune was his conversion and union, at the age of seventeen years, with the Methodist Episcopal Church, in which he was to be so conspicuous and honored. His father and mother were faithful adherents of that creed. For more than twenty years they were the only permanent residents of Rensselaerville who were connected with that church, and their house was ever a home for Methodist ministers. The account of the great revival at Wilbraham, Massachusetts, kindled in Miner Raymond a desire for knowledge; it was the turning-point in a great life, starting him on a new course and bringing him into intimate and helpful relations with an educational institution. Through the efforts of the Presiding Elder of the district in which he resided, he began his advanced education in the Wesleyan Academy at Wilbraham, then the only Methodist institution of learning of any magnitude on this continent, of which only three or four were then in existence. Like many another student, he added to his limited means by the labor of his hands; and the proceeds of his work on the bench, mending the boots and shoes of this fellow-students, helped to meet the expenses incident to his education. But this did not continue long. It was soon discovered that he was endowed with the gift of teaching, and he was made assistant teacher, a position which he held for three years, while still a student in the academy. His especial faculty for elucidating the principles of arithmetic, which were then very imperfectly treated in the textbooks, led to his selection as teacher of a class of teachers, and this was the starting point of his long career as an educator.
Graduating in 1831, he was immediately made a member of the faculty, and taught in that institution with marked success for ten years. In 1833 his name appears in the catalogue as usher, and it was then he began his remarkable pedagogic labors. In 1834 he was advanced to the charge of the English department, where he labored with great success and growing popularity for four years. During this period he had been a diligent student and had delved deep into the mysteries of ancient languages, the natural, mental and moral sciences, and the higher mathematics, for which he discovered a taste and aptitude. When the degrees were conferred by the Wesleyan University upon the students he had taught at the academy, he received, in recognition of his high ability and efficient services, the honorary degree of Master of Arts. In 1838 he was promoted to the chair of mathematics, which he filled with distinction for the three years he remained as a teacher in the institution.
While yet engaged in teaching, Professor Raymond joined the New England Conference, in 1838, and three years later entered upon pastoral work. He served two years at Worcester, Massachusetts, four years at Church and Bennett Street Churches, Boston, and in 1847 went to Westfield, where he remained one year.
Upon the resignation of Robert Allyn as Principal of the Wesleyan Academy, Professor Raymond was requested by the trustees to take the position at the head of that institution. The pastorate was the ideal life work to which he was attached and for which he had educated himself, but, after mature consideration, he decided to put aside preference, and accept what he considered a call of duty, and entered upon the work with a devotion and energy that left a very deep impression upon the school at the head of which he stood.
The first two or three years of Dr. Raymond at Wilbraham were tentative and preparatory. New buildings were necessary to the success of the school, and how to get them was a problem, the solution of which demanded his full strength; but he met the difficulties and conquered where most men would have failed. In spite of debt and other obstacles, he succeeded in erecting Fisk Hall, in 1851. In the two years following the number of pupils greatly increased, and in the year 1853 rose to over six hundred, nearly double the attendance of previous years. Through the efforts of Dr. Raymond, Binney Hall was built, in 1854. The principal building of the institution, including its dormitory and boarding apartments, was destroyed by fire two years later. Nothing daunted by this calamity, he set about obtaining the means to rebuild it in still nobler proportions, and that same year succeeded in completing a structure costing fifty thousand dollars. By the act of an incendiary, in 1857, this structure was also destroyed, but Dr. Raymond and a few brave aids rose superior to the discouragements that had beset them, obtained money by popular subscription, aroused the friends of education throughout the state, and, by petition and strong personal influence, secured legislative aid, by which means a third building, more commodious, more beautiful and more costly than its predecessors, rose upon the site of their ruins, and to-day is the chief ornament of this seat of learning, a monument to the faith and indomitable courage of Dr. Raymond.
In 1864 he was elected to the chair of systematic theology in Garrett Biblical Institute, Evanston, Illinois, and resigned his position at the head of the academy, which he left enjoying a high degree of prosperity. Coming to Evanston, he entered upon a work which his long experience as a teacher, ripe scholarship, and devotion to his profession have made eminently successful and gratifying in its results. For thirty-one years he filled a position in which he was eminently useful as a teacher, and during three years of that time was also pastor of the First Methodist Episcopal Church in Evanston. Soon after entering the institute, he became convinced that he was spending one-third of his time in telling the students what the meaning of the theological authors was. Then came the determination to write out his lectures and make the expression as plain as possible, so that theology might be clearly taught and readily understood. In due time appeared his "Systematic Theology," in three volumes, intended for students preparing for the Methodist ministry, which has proved to be a very popular book. One distinguished authority is quoted as saying: "It is the strongest defense of Arminianism we have seen." Besides his pastoral work, Dr. Raymond has helped to direct the work of the church in its national councils. Six times he was elected as a delegate to the General Conferences, as follows: Pittsburgh, in 1848; Boston, in 1852; Indianapolis, in 1856; Buffalo, in 1860; Philadelphia, in 1864; and Brooklyn, in 1868.
Dr. Raymond was married, August 20, 1837, to Elizabeth Henderson, of Webster, Massachusetts, who died September 19, 1877. Five children were born of this union, all of whom are now living. Mary is the widow of Philip B. Shumway, the builder of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railroad, and now resides in Evanston. William is in the employ of that railroad. Samuel B. is a prominent citizen and prosperous sugar broker in Chicago. James H. is a well-known and successful patent lawyer in Chicago. Frederick D. is Secretary and Treasurer of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway Company.
On July 28, 1879, Dr. Raymond was united in marriage with Isabella (nee Hill), widow of Rev. Amos Binney. Dr. Raymond's domestic life has been a pleasant one; his house has been the dwelling-place of peace and happiness. His exemption from illness up to the past winter, and the contentment of his mind, have conspired to preserve his physical vigor, which is evidenced by the full head of hair, now of flowing whiteness, and the clear, bright eye which lends vivacity to his countenance.
Rev. David Sherman, D. D., author of the "History of the Wesleyan Academy at Wilbraham," has thus written of Dr. Raymond:
"His first essays in teaching reveal the born schoolmaster, destined to advance to the forefront. No one who attended his classes can ever forget his clear and forcible instructions. The principles involved in the study were seized upon and traced onward through intricate problems as in lines of light. No one could fail to see or to be carried with the demonstration. But his superiority as a teacher was not simply in the extent and accuracy of his knowledge, or even in his ability to make truth visible; it was rather in that higher ability to develop the student and to create in him the capacity to investigate and master truth. It was not simply the amount of knowledge he communicated, it was the way he impressed himself upon other minds coming under his instruction. The man, even more than the pedagogue, was behind his utterances."
The same writer, in speaking of him as a preacher, says:
"With him religion was the main consideration, and his convictions on the subject were deep and strongly expressed. He spoke with the demonstration of the spirit and power. If his prayers and exhortations were thoughtful and intellectual, they were, at the same time, intense and fervid, enlisting the emotions of the heart as well as the accurate formulations of the brain. * * * * Though gifted with large capacity for astute and accurate thought, he was gladly heard by the people, because his logic usually came to a white heat. To the religious people of Wilbraham he was for a quarter of a century the oracle. No other principal, certainly after Dr. Fisk, obtained so firm and enduring a hold upon the people as Miner Raymond."
What was said in those days may be repeated with emphasis concerning his labors in later years, when in the enjoyment of his full intellectual strength and the knowledge and experience gained in more than half a century of continuous mental activity.