Henry Wilder Foote
Foote, Henry Wilder (2 February 1875 - 1964)
Foote, the son of Henry Wilder Foote, '58, and Frances Anne Eliot, was born in Boston. He prepared at the Roxbury Latin School and at a private school. After receiving his Bachelor's degree at Harvard College, he spent a year at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and was awarded an A.M. in 1900. Two years later he was granted an S.T.B. at the Harvard Divinity School. In 1929 a D.D. was conferred upon him by the Pacific Unitarian School for the Ministry in Berkeley, California, and in 1941 the Meadville Theological School bestowed on him the same honor.
Foote's marriage to Eleanor Tyson Cope took place June 22 1903, at Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Their children are Henry Wilder Jr., born August 30 1905; Agnes Cope, born March 11, 1907; Arthur, born January 18, 1911; Caleb, born March 26, 1917; and Elizabeth Stewardson, born Februrary 5, 1920. H. Wilder Jr. is a member of Harvard '27; Arthur was graduated in 1933; and Caleb in 1939. There are seven grandchildren. Foote served for six months with the American Red Cross in Washington in World War I.
According to Appletons Encyclopedia, Foote was the son of his namesake:
- FOOTE, Henry Wilder, clergyman, born in Salem, Massachusetts, 2 June 1838. He was graduated at Harvard in 1858 and at the Divinity School in 1861. He entered the Unitarian ministry, becoming in that same year pastor of King's Chapel, Boston, where he still remains (1887). He has been president of the Boston Benevolent Fraternity of Churches, and, besides occasional sermons and pamphlets, has published Annals of King's Chapel (2 vols., Boston, 1882-7).
Foote wrote the following for Harvard College's 50th Anniversary Report]:
- After graduation from the Harvard Divinity School in 1902, I was ordained to the Christian ministry in Kings Chapel, Boston, where I had been brought up. That fall I went to New Orleans, where I served as minister of the First Unitarian Church from 1902 to 1906. From 1906 to 1910 I served in the Unitarian Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I returned to Cambridge in 1911 to become secretary of the Department of Education of the American Unitarian Association.
- In 1914 I was appointed assistant professor of preaching and parish administration and secretary of the faculty at the Harvard Divinity School, a position I held until 1924. In the latter year I was in Europe with my family for seven months. On my return I became minister of the First Church in Belmont, Massachusetts, which I served until 1940.
- I then felt that the time had come for me to resign, that my church might select a younger man. I soon discovered that I had "retired" from a professional career to enter active life, for I was immediately drafted into war-time service, mostly for brief periods with churches for which no other minister was available.
- In 1940 I spent two months in Berkeley, California, making a survey of the Unitarian School for the Ministry. The following year I spent some months as "interim minister" of the May Memorial Church in Syracuse, New York, and a similar period in 1942 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
- During the winters of 1944 and 1945, I was in Charlottesville, Virginia, organizing the newly established Unitarian Church in that city and conducting evening services in Lynchburg. After that I really retired and moved from Belmont back to the house in Cambridge which my wife and I built in 1912.
- All these varied activities have brought me a rich, full, and busy life, for which I am deeply grateful. I still retain a reasonable degree of health and strength and a wide variety of interests. Aside from professional concerns, my chief hobby has been historical research in the field of colonial portraiture, and I have on hand plans for writing sufficient to fill all the years that may remain to me. In religion, politics, and the field of social reform, I am still an "unrepentant liberal," profoundly concerned that we may leave to our children and grandchildren a better world than the tom and distracted one that we have known.
- After graduation from college, I spent a year travelling in Great Britain, Holland, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Greece, and Egypt. Then I studied for one year in the Harvard Graduate School before entering the Divinity School. Under the eligibility rules then in effect I was a member of the first combined Harvard-Yale Track Team to compete against Oxford and Cambridge in London in July, 1899, where I ran in the three-mile race. Thirty-two years later my second son ran in the same event against Oxford and Cambridge in London, and in 1933 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
- In addition to many printed articles, sermons, and pamplets I have written three books, The Minister and His Parish, 1924; Robert Feke, Colonial Portrait Painter, 1930; and Three Centuries of American Hymnody, 1940. I collaborated with H. F. Clarke in his life of Jeremiah Dummer. I also collaborated in editing two hymn books, The New Hymn and Tune Book, 1914 (as secretary of the Editorial Committee); and Hymns of the Spirit, 1937 (as chairman of the Editorial Committee); and with A. T. Davison in editing the Concord Anthem Book and the Second Concord Anthem Book.
(Courtesy of Harvard University Archives)
Arthur Foote II, wrote about his father for Notable American Unitarians:
- In 1927, the Directors of the American Unitarian Association appointed a Commission on Hymns and Services. My father was named chairman. Asked to serve with him were Dr. Curtis W. Reese, a leading representative of the humanist wing of the movement; Dr. Von Ogden Vogt, author of Art and Religion, 1921, and Modern Worship, 1927; and Rev. Edward P. Daniels, an accomplished musician. After the work was well under way, the Universalist General Convention also appointed a hymnbook commission. In 1931 it was decided "that the two Commissions should cooperate in editing jointly a book to be recommended to the two groups of Churches. Hymns of the Spirit, the result of their labors, thus became an important early milestone on the long road to merger of these two denominations in 1961.
- For father, editing Hymns of the Spirit became much more than an avocation; it grew into what might be called "a second career" that added heavily to his duties as a parish minister at the First Church, Belmont, Massachusetts. Night after night, the light burned late in his third floor study; and the mornings of his summer vacations invariably found him working in his small study on the shore at Southwest Harbor, Maine. He was a scholar by nature, willing to work long hours and to take infinite pains to get things right.
- If my father's interest in hymnology and the art of worship grew naturally from his childhood exposure in the family pew and in the parsonage of King's Chapel, so also came his life-long interest in Colonial and early American history. His forebears on both sides traced their ancestry back to the first days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Father's Father was a competent historian, having completed his two-volume Annals of King's Chapel not long before his death. A large percentage of my father's writings were historical in character. As soon as he returned to Massachusetts to live, he became actively involved in the Massachusetts Historical Society and in Salem's Essex Institute.
- Naturally, my father derived considerable satisfaction that Hymns of the Spirit was so well received, both within and without the denominations for which it was prepared. But he also treasured one bitterly critical review in a Unitarian church bulletin, in which the minister called it "an atrocious collection, set to miserable, unsingable music," and ended with a plea to his congregation to "throw it out and secure a really good hymnal, like the Methodists'" (quoted from memory).
- My father was invited to give a series of lectures on American hymnody at the Harvard Summer School of Theology, held in July, 1936, in connection with the Tercentenary of Harvard University.
- The finished book commemorated the three-hundredth anniversary of the publication of The Bay Psalm Book in 1640, "the first book printed in English-speaking North America."
- The year 1940, which saw the publication of Three Centuries of American Hymnody, also marked his formal retirement from the parish ministry, after sixteen years in the Belmont pulpit. He had reached the age of sixty-five, a most fitting age, he thought, for men to step aside to make way for their successors. Vigorous in body and at the height of his intellectual powers, he had no real intention of retiring in the usual sense. He was a man of many intellectual interests, and he had in mind a number of books he now hoped to find time to write. America's entrance into the war, however, postponed his plans for leisurely research and writing. With younger men going off as chaplains into the armed services, many churches were calling for ministerial assistance. So for the next five years, my father continued in the parish ministry after all, serving as interim minister in Vancouver, British Columbia, Syracuse, New York, and Lynchburg, Virginia - the last of these in conjunction with helping to establish a new Unitarian society in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church.
- It was during the two years, 1943-45, that my father served as the first minister of the newly formed Jefferson Unitarian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, almost in sight of Monticello, that his interest in the life, and particularly in the religious views, of the third President was stimulated to the point of involving him in scholarly research about him. He noted in his reading of biographies of Jefferson how scanty and inadequate were their treatments of his religious philosophy. My father knew that Jefferson in his correspondence had more than once declared himself a Unitarian; but this whole aspect of the Virginian statesman's life seemed to him to have been passed over much too lightly. So, using the opportunity of being in Jefferson's home territory, he began the study that led to the only thorough survey of Jefferson's religion. This was published shortly after the end of World War II, after his return to his Cambridge home, under the title Thomas Jefferson: Champion of Religious Freedom; Advocate of Christian Morals. An accompanying work, Thomas Jefferson, Social Reformer, was also published the same year, and several years later he edited The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, extracted from The Gospels by Thomas Jefferson. This remarkable pioneering venture in New Testament criticism had long been unavailable. These three publications of my father's represent a significant contribution to America's understanding of one of its most brilliant founding Fathers.
- About this time Father was goaded by his children into writing an essay for them, giving his mature religious views, a final statement of his faith. The work was begun, as so many of his scholarly labors had been, in his summer study, overlooking Norwood's Cove at Southwest Harbor. In the evenings he often brought a new chapter to read to the family aloud before the fire. It was soon apparent that the emerging book should find a wider audience. The result was The Religion of an Inquiring Mind, published in his eightieth year, a book described on its fly-leaf as "not addressed to professional theologians or philosophers, but to that steadily enlarging group of educated people who are aware of the widening gulf between the conception of the universe held by science, and the traditional forms of religious belief and dogma set forth by most churches. . . The author is a keen inquirer who has just turned eighty-and has never stopped asking questions. . . . In this book he recounts the story of his own spiritual pilgrimage. . . . It is written out of a mellow maturity; and it reflects a mind that would be free: a youthful and vigorous mind."
- A son lacks the objectivity needed to appraise his own father's career, even the son who has elected to follow the same calling, and who has more than a casual interest in the field of hymnology. It is perhaps appropriate to voice, as a Unitarian minister, my gratitude that this small denomination, having produced so many fine hymn writers, also produced a man sufficiently interested in this extraordinary phenomenon to devote much time and patient effort to tell the story of it, with conscientious thoroughness. From the time of my father's early paper on "The Harvard School of Hymnody," his imagination played upon the fact that a small religious movement, commonly considered highbrow, should have created such a succession of beautiful religious lyrics, ranging from statements of a warm personal faith and gratitude to stirring calls to social justice and the service of mankind, over a period of approximately one hundred and fifty years.When the first edition of the Pilgrim Hymnal was published in 1910, he noted, it listed both the nationality and the church membership of the authors included, which led to the disclosure that nearly half of the American authors were Unitarians who had contributed considerably more than half the hymns of American authorship. In answer to critics Dr. Washington Gladden replied that this was due to the simple fact that the Unitarians had written a larger number of the best hymns than had the American writers in other denominations.
- This "unique phenomenon in the history of hymnody" has had, in my father, a patient and accurate chronicler. Without him, this important facet in the history of Unitarianism might never have been adequately told. If, in closing, I may be forgiven a more personal word: the truly remarkable thing about this man, to his son at least, is how significant a scholarly contribution an active parish minister can make, provided he be a man of wholehearted scholarly commitment. Father's mind was not marked by great originality. His mental habits were deliberate. He was not particularly facile in extemporaneous speech. But he compensated for these limitations by unfailing self-discipline and hard work. Not a musician himself, such were his musical sensibilities that fine musicians were glad to work with him. He was not a poet, a friend comments, nor did he ever think of himself as one, yet he loved felicity in writing and himself wrote interestingly and well. In a day when serious scholarship is not often found in men engaged in the parish ministry, his life is a testimony to how much such a man can accomplish. His devotion to his chosen profession was full and unwavering. He was widely loved and respected by his parishioners, and by his colleagues. Over the years he worked steadily for many such denominational causes as adequate pensions for retired ministers, and care of their widows. Another long time concern was Negro education, and for more than half a century he served on the Board of Trustees of both Hampton Institute, and Penn School of Frogmore, South Carolina. Yet he managed to achieve as an historian and a hymnologist the high level of competence I have sought to recount in this paper.
- Such people as he do maintain the fabric of the world, and in the handiwork of their craft is their prayer.
(Abridged from "Henry Wilder Foote, Hymnologist," in The Papers of the Hymn Society, The Hymn Society of America, New York, NY.
The Unitarian Movement in North America
Henry Wilder Foote, for Notable American Unitarians, wrote the following:
- Because Unitarianism calls for a fairly high level of intelligence and a spirit of independence, and, when sincerely accepted, requires ethical relations of a high order, both among individuals and in society, the Unitarian movement has always been small, with few churches in comparison with those of the larger Protestant denominations. For the same reasons, its influence has always been vastly disproportionate to its size. In the nineteenth century it included almost all the noted authors who distinguished that literary awakening known as the New England Renaissance: the poets and essayists, Bryant, Emerson, Longfellow, Holmes and Lowell; the historians, Sparks, Bancroft, Motley and Prescott. The chief founder of our modern public school system, Horace Mann, and the great president of Harvard, Charles W. Eliot, were Unitarians, as other noted educators have been, and are today. Several presidents of the United States have been Unitarians: John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams (both buried beneath the Unitarian church in Quincy, Massachusetts), Jefferson, Fillmore and Taft. The great preacher, Theodore Parker, the most notable figure in the Boston pulpit after Channing, was influential in introducing into America the momentous developments of German biblical scholarship. Through the influence of these and many other leaders of American thought, past and present, a great number of persons and of churches in other denominations have been liberalized in their thinking. The great principles of freedom of thought, of toleration of diversity of opinion, and of the trustworthiness of human reason in the search for religious as well as scientific thought, which are fundamental to the Unitarian movement, have acted as leaven to modify the hard, encrusted lump of orthodoxy far beyond the walls of Unitarian churches.
- Although Unitarians are popularly supposed to be "coldly intellectual" and to ignore the emotional and spiritual aspects of religion, they have made important contributions to the religious life of America through the sermons of many of their ministers, through noted publications of devotional literature and, above all, through their hymn writers who have produced almost half the finest hymns written in this country and widely used here and, to some extent, in Great Britain. American Unitarians have written as many hymns of fine quality as the writers of all other denominations put together. Their hymns are of two general types: some are deeply spiritual expressions of mystical feeling; others trumpet calls of the social gospel.
- The third great contribution of the Unitarian movement to the religious life of America has been in the field of social reform, though it has never been adequately recorded and is little known. Channing and Parker were among the earliest preachers of a social gospel, and, a generation after Parker, Francis G. Peabody began at Harvard the first formal instruction in "social ethics" to be given at any educational institution. Today in practically every Unitarian pulpit the teaching that religion must bear fruit in human affairs and in the promotion of the common welfare is strongly emphasized. In the nineteenth century the same churches that numbered in their membership the famous authors already listed included also the most noted social reformers of the time. They gave a large measure of support to the early antislavery and temperance movements. Joseph Tuckerman, whose biography has been written by an admiring Roman Catholic, is described by him as the pioneer in what we now call social service for the least fortunate classes in our great cities. Dorothea Dix, for a time a member of Channing's household, inaugurated nation-wide reforms in prison management and in the care of the insane. During the Civil War her work in nursing sick and wounded soldiers in army hospitals was comparable to that of Florence Nightingale (an English Unitarian); it was done under the auspices of what was called "the Sanitary Commission," directed by a Unitarian minister, which was the immediate forerunner of the International Red Cross. Samuel Gridley Howe (husband of Julia Ward Howe, author of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic") was a pioneer in the education of the blind and the care of the feebleminded. This leadership in social reform continues to the present day. It issues naturally from a realization that religion is more than a matter of personal piety and the cultivation of the inner life, and that it must be unceasingly applied to the betterment of human relations in every aspect of the social order.
- The Unitarian movement in North America is today committed to the advancement of these principles and practices, which those who support it believe to be of the highest importance for the development of a nobler life for all sorts and conditions of men everywhere on this earth.