archives BuildingSouthern Lancaster County Historical Society

Biographical Annals of Lancaster County" Beers inc printed 1903

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REV. WILLIAM EASTON, D. D., for over fifty years pastor of the Octoraro United Presbyterian Church, was born in Ancrum, Parish of Max tOn County of Roxburgh, Scotland, Oct. 2, 1804. His parents emigrated to this country in 1816, and settled in Washington county, N. Y. He waS educated at the Cambridge Academy, New York, taught by Dr. Alexander Bullions, and afterwards at Union College, same State, whence he graduated in 1822. He received his theological training under Dr. Banks in the Associate Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, was licensed by the Associate Presbytery, June 7, 1826, and ordained and installed pastor of the United congregations of Octoraro, East Nottingham (now Oxford), and Muddy Run, June 7, 1827, preaching one-half the time in Octoraro, one-fourth in Oxford and the other fourth in Muddy Run. He resigned the Oxford portion of his charge in 1854, "on account of the distance and his own disability fully to attend to all the duties as he could wish," but continued to preach in Octoraro until 1878, when the infirmities of age compelled him to ask for a dissolution of the pastoral relation, which was granted Oct. 22nd, of the same year, On June 12, 1879, the life which began in Scotland three-quarters of a century before, which had continued for over half a century in the congregation of. Octoraro, through the vigor of youth, the prime of manhood, and the maturity of years, had drawn to a dose, and the weary body laid down to rest in Jesus. His mortal remains repose in the cemetery adjoining the church where his lifework had been performed, and where also repose the. dust of the sainted Gellatley and Cuthbert, the founders of the Reformed. Presbyterian Church in America. The semi-centennial of Dr. Easton's pastorate, June 7, 1877, was a notable occasion. It was largely attended by those who had been brought up under his faithful ministry, and bv citizens of the surrounding country. who had learned to respect and love him; and at his funeral, two years later, the Rev. Dr. Cooper paid this just tribute to his memory: "As a man, Dr. Easton was distinguished for the great gentleness of his disposition. His heart was overflowing with kindness. Sometimes, it is true, he rebuked sin in a manner calculated to give offense, but he was prompted to do so by such a deep conviction of divine truth that no consideration of expediency seemed to him to justify surrendering its claims. He was. unflinChing in his fidelity to the cause of his Lordand Saviour Jesus Christ. He was a man of remarkable candor, despised time-serving, and lived in open antagonism to all phases of sham, duplicity and darkness. He could say with the Apostle, that 'in simplicity and before the people, and the people,of this great county chose him gladly, and they have chosen him ever since. There have been many vile stories of our local politics, some true and' some false, in the past thirteen years, but none of them in the remotest degree has ever been associated with his good name.The bitterness of defeat often moves the tongueto slander, but in this case no sound has been heard. As a member of Congress,' he rapidly rose to prominence, and it may truly be said that this county never had a more industrious, careful and conscientious representative. For some years he has held the chairmanship of the Committee on Banking and Currency, one of the most important committees in the House, and there, as at home, he has proven himself a thoroughly honest man. It fell to his lot to shape the legislation affecting the money of a nation of 70,000,000 people, under which a large portion of the Government bonds were refunded at a lower rate and the National banking system practically reorganized, the ,whole involving hundreds of millions, yet not a dishonest dollar stuck to his fingers. And now the end has come in the midst of his usefulness. He was one of the people, and the whole people mourn him, while we, his intimate associates, will cherish his memory as that of the noblest type of man. Justice J. Hay Brown, of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, said: The virtues of our dead friend and brother have been justly extolled by those who have spoken and it is not needful that I should longer dwell upon them. But if I do not speak of them it is not because any other man's appreciation of them was higher. In every relation of life he was exemplary and from the beginning to the end he was pure and his hands were clean. His good qualities ought to be remembered here and recalled from time' to time in order that they may be emulated. As a citizen, soldier, lawyer, statesman, husband and father he was pure, brave, successful, able, affectionate and God fearing. More than this cannot 'be said of mortal being, and though he fell at his work when the rays of the day's sun were still shining upon him and before the shades of eventide had gatbered about him, his life was not lived in vain. In 1882 Mr. Brosius, a delegate in the Republican State Convention, in the midst of a factional contest, made a speech in favor of harmony in which he said: "I love my party better than any wing or faction of it and only less' than my country," which so carried the convention that he was by acclaim nominated for a Congressman at large, but was defeated, aIthough he ran seventy-six hundred ahead of the others on the Republican ticket. In 1888,after an exciting contest, he was elected as the Republican. candidate to represent the, Tenth District in Congress: almost without opposition he was nominated and elected in 1890, 1892, 1894 1896, 1898, 1900. His death left a vacancy in the L VIIth Congress, where he had only entered upon his term a few days previously. I It was no easy task to follow Stevens and Smith as the representatives of Lancaster county in the National Congress--the grandest district in our nation, and whose representatives had always taken a leading part in shaping Nationallegislation, yet Mr. Brosius soon secured respectful consideration from that body and was frequently selected by his party members to lead the discussion in the House of Representatives in consequence of his clear conception, persuasive rhetoric and faultless diction in godly sincerity,' he had his conversation in the world." When Dr. Easton came to Lancaster county it was the prevailing custom among farmers to furnish liquor to theirhelp in harvest time. There was a small farm attached to his residence in Smyrna. At his first harvest, when the men asked for their "morning bitters" and were refused, they laid down their scythes, declaring they would not work without it, intimating that his refusal was prompted By meanness. Ascertaining the cost of the liquor they were accustomed to receive, he said he would gladly add double its cost to their daily wages, rather than place temptation in the path of his fellow men. His offer was accepted by some, but others preferred whiskey and left. The following harvest Dr. Easton had his pick of harvest hands, and in a few years the custom was entirely abolished, while the increased wages he paid had become the standard in that neighborhood. At that period the prevailing sentiment was decidedly pro-slavery. One Sunday Dr. Easton created quite a sensation by preaching what his critics denounced as an "abolition lecture." It was, however, a vindication of the Bible against those who claimed that it justified slavery, which he indignantly repudiated. He lived to see the public sentiment of the nation reversed on the slavery question, from what he found it when he. came to Pennsylvania fifty years before.

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