Follen, Charles (6 September 1796 - 13 January 1840)
A German reformer, Karl Theodor Christian Friedrich Follen was an Abolitionist teacher and a Unitarian minister. He was Harvard’s first professor of German literature. Follen introduced German to the Harvard curriculum and, also, introduced the Christmas tree to New England. Some of his lectures are found in his Works (1841—1842), edited by his wife, Eliza Lee Cabot Follen (1787 - 1860).
Also, Follen wrote Hymns for Children (1825) and Poems (1839).
In 1835, Follen's abolitionist views led to his being dismissed as a professor at Harvard. Upon meeting and liking William Ellery Channing, he was encouraged to become a Unitarian minister. In 1836, he was became minister of the Second Congregational Society in Lexington, Massachusetts (now called the Follen Church Society-Unitarian Universalist). For better pay, he became minister of his own group in New York City, now called All Souls, then became unpopular and left because of his anti-slavery views.
Traveling to Boston on a steamer, he died when his steamboat caught fire while in Long Island Sound. Because of his abolitionist views, friends were unable to find a church in which to hold a memorial service. Eventually, a service was held in March in the Marlborough Chapel.
Herbert F. Vetter described Follen's life in Notable Unitarians 1740-1900, pointing out that it was Follen who introduced a decorated Christmas tree in America.
Thomas S. Hansen, in the Harvard Magazine (September-October 2002), has called Follen a student revolutionary, a political refugee, a gymnastics instructor, and a radical abolitionist clergyman.