On This Date in History:
Henry Ward Beecher was the 19th Century’s version of some of today’s best known televangelists. He was the most famous and most highly paid preacher in America. Beecher was held up across America as a symbol of virtue and morality. In 1874, he was the pastor of the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn when he was charged in civil court with seducing the wife of one of his best friends. Apologists for Beecher thought the charge was nothing more than trumped up slander.
All of this went back to the beginning when Beecher rose to the forefront through his crusade for abolition of slavery. He enlisted the aid of two men who were experts in public relations. One was publisher Henry Bowen and the other was an editor named Theodore Tilton. They turned Beecher into more than just a cottage industry but instead a business tycoon. Much like today’s personal seat licenses at sporting venues, the collected pew rentals as well as the customary contributions to the tune of $100,000 per year. His lecture fees and writing also brought in $15,000 a year beyond his $20,000 salary. That means that in the 1870’s, he was earning nearly one and a half times more than the president of the United States. So many people came across New York Harbor by ferry on Sunday mornings to hear him in Brooklyn Heights that they were known as “Beecher Ferries.”
It’s kinda odd because I have a source that says Beecher was “burdened” by a “severe and sexless marriage.” But, I have another source that says that it was Theodore Tilton’s wife who came to Beecher’s wife complaining that Mr. Tilton was cruel and unfaithful. Mrs. Beecher consulted with Mr. Beecher and, with her husband’s approval, told Mrs. Tilton that it would be best if she separated from her husband. Now, this source claims that it was then that Tilton accused Beecher with seducing his wife. But, my other pretty reliable source says that, in fact, Beecher had begun and affair with Mrs. Tilton in 1868. It says that Elizabeth Tilton was unable to control her conscience and confessed to her husband in 1870 who in turn confronted Beecher. Everyone agreed it was in everyone’s best interest that it be kept quiet. A third source, Brown University, suggests that it’s all unclear.
It seems possible that the first two sources are biased in opposite directions and the truth may be a combination. Perhaps Beecher did have an affair beginning in 1868 and his lover did fess up to her husband two years later and they did keep it quiet in 1870. But, Ted Tilton made a mistake. He told the tale to Elizabeth Cady Stanton who was a popular suffragist and a friend of “Free Love” advocate Victoria Woodhull. Woodhull got the scoop from Ms. Stanton. Now, Beecher’s sister was Harriet Beecher Stowe of Uncle Tom’s Cabin fame and she publically condemned Woodhull for her views. So, perhaps in an act of spite, Woodhull
published an article about Henry Beecher’s alleged dalliance with his friend’s wife as an example of the type of free love that she advocated as she ran for president in 1872. She got thrown in jail for sending “obscene material” through the mail, which was her article about Beecher and Mrs. Tilton. Well, Mr. Tilton could stand no more and sued. On This date in 1875, the case against Beecher came to trial. The jury was deadlocked and the council of Congregational churches exonerated Beecher of any wrong doing. While his reputation was torn to pieces, Beecher stayed on at the church until he died in 1887. Mr. Tilton exiled himself to Paris and Mrs. Tilton went on to live with her mother in Brooklyn where she died in 1897 and was buried in the same cemetery as Henry Ward Beecher…who may or may not have had an affair with her so many years before. Just another example of how sex scandals in the church today are nothing new and so one should not think we are necessarily going down the tubes next time one shows up…and it will. Just remember, there was even one in the Guilded Age.
Weather Bottom Line: After a damp and relatively mild Saturday, from this point forth, colder air will be sifting in for the week ahead. As expected temperatures tumbled on Saturday evening and we will only get to the low to mid 30’s on Sunday. Monday we will get to the low to mid 40’s and then that is the end of the above freezing temperatures until at least next weekend. So, prepare for at least 6 days of sub-freezing temperatures with lows late in the week perhaps in the single digits. The GFS calls for 7 on Friday morning and Zero on Saturday morning. It also claims highs of about 12 or 13 on Friday and Saturday. Now, that may be a bit extreme but its out there and, given the depth of the cold that is really out there coming down here, I suspect that some of the published forecasts out there are too warm and they will be coming down some. Either way, its going to be cold. We will have brushes with snow on and off Monday night through Wednesday, though totals will not be all that extreme…say an inch or two at best over the entire time. Systems coming from the northwest have to bring their own moisture with it and by the time they get here, they are pretty much tapped out and since the cold air will go all the way to the Gulf coast, the Gulf of Mexico will be cut off and no help. So, my hope for some snow will come through but my bigger hopes of a big snow will not…but I do think I’m going to get a big LG&E bill.