Dr. Charles E. Jefferson

Stories of Guernsey county by Wm. Wolfe Page 640-641-642-643-644

Dr. Charles E. Jefferson

     In the list of prominent persons connected with Guernsey county Dr. Charles E. Jefferson is included.  He was born in Cambridge on August 26, 1860, and spent the first eighteen years of his life here.  Thereafter he completed courses in college and university and returned and married a Cambridge girl.  He then located in Massachusetts, and later in New York City.  His death occurred on September 12, 1937.

     Internationally Known.—Statements similar to these might be made concerning many Guernsey county boys who are not mentioned in this series of stories.  But Charles E. Jefferson became known internationally as a preacher, author, and leader in the movement for world-wide peace. In a poll of 25,000 ministers taken in 1924 by The Christian Herald, this  Cambridge boy was chosen as one of the twenty-five most influential preachers in the United States. His utterances from pulpit and platform, as well as passages from his many books, have been quoted throughout America.  For his activities in the movement for World peace he has been praised by statesmen at home and abroad, including Lloyd George, of England.

     Boyhood in Cambridge.—For much of the information that has enabled us to write the following sketch we are indebted to Attorney Fred L. Rosemond, of Columbus, Ohio, a boyhood schoolmate, a college classmate and roommate, and a lifelong friend of Dr. Jefferson.

     Dr. Milton Jefferson, father of Charles E., was a dentist whose office was in a building that stood on the corner until occupied as now by the Central National Bank.  When Charles E. was born the Jefferson family lived in a weather boarded log cabin on East Wheeling avenue, on the site of the present Forsythe building.  On a lot directly across the street Dr. Milton Jefferson later erected a brick residence, doing much of the work himself, as he was a good mechanic.  Charles E., then a strong lad, assisted his father in the work.  This residence still stands, although changed by additions of a new front, and in it is located a Kroger store.

      The father of Charles E. was a tall, large, full-bearded man, calm, strong and capable.  His death occurred many years go, but not until he had seen his son making a mark in the place he would have first chosen for him-the Christian pulpit.  Dr. Milton Jefferson was an officer and pillar in the Cambridge Methodist Episcopal church.

     As a pupil in the Cambridge schools, form which he graduated in 1877, Charles E. perhaps displayed but few of the eminent qualities that characterized him later. However, he was studious and enjoyed speaking in public.   At the time of his graduation form high school the local papers called attention to the literary merit of his oration, and its delivery.  He was rather independent in thought and did not, unless momentarily so to speak, take religion seriously.  There was nothing in his boyhood to indicate that one day he would rank amongst the greatest preachers in America.

     Enters Ohio Wesleyan University.—In the fall of 1878 Charles E. Jefferson and Fred L. Rosemond left Cambridge together to enter Ohio Wesleyan University at Delaware.  Rev. Hollingshead, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal church, followed them down to the station and presented them with church letters and kindly advice.  Mr. Rosemond could not recall that Charles E. had ever taken any active part in church or Sunday school work while in Cambridge. Neither

of the boys was affected much by the religious atmosphere of Ohio Wesleyan.  Jefferson had law in mind and Rosemoand had medicine. Their thoughts and efforts were directed towards the acquisition of such knowledge and training as would fit them for further courses in their chosen professions.  That both boys changed their ambitions, Rosemond switching to the one that had been Jefferson’s, and Jefferson passing to one that was far form the mind of either, was something that neither would have thought possible when first making his choice of profession.

    Aside from his regular studies Charles E. was interested in public speaking and took advantage of every opportunity to improve his oratorical powers.  Mr. Rosemond joked him a good deal about this, but he kept right on, and repeatedly took first place in oratorical contests.  It is said that he took lessons in public speaking long after he had become one of the country’s most famous pulpiteers.  Frank Gunsaulus, an alumnus of Ohio Wesleyan who became eminent in the ministry, was Jefferson’s idol in his college days.

     Influenced by Phillips Brooks.—After graduating from Ohio Wesleyan Jefferson served as superintendent of schools at Worthington, Ohio, for two years, to earn money for a course in law.  He then entered the law department of Boston University.  Phillips Brooks, at the height of his power in that day, was preaching in Boston.  Jefferson went to hear him, and this changed his course in life.   As Mr. Rosemond puts it, “The first time Jefferson heard him (Brooks) preach signaled the fading of the legal profession in his ambition.”  After a little he sought and obtained an interview with the man upon whom he looked with awe and admiration, and he was astonished to find him friendly and as simple as a child.  “He had evidently been fighting the “call” and went to this conference,” Mr. Rosemond says, “entrenched behind the last bulwarks of resistance.”  Years later, Jefferson, having been invited to speak from the same pulpit Brooks had so long empowered and adorned, told how gently but finally Brooks brushed his doubts away.  Dropping the study of law, he entered the Boston School of Theology, often preaching as a supply pastor, and graduated in 1887.

     Dr. Jefferson as a Preacher.—He returned to Cambridge and on August 10, 1887, he married Miss Belle Patterson, daughter of Mr. an d Mrs. James Patterson, then living on East Steubenville avenue, and sister of W. N. Patterson, now residing at 307 North Tenth street.  Rev. W. H. McFarland officiated at the wedding which was attended by fifty guests.  The Jeffersonian of that week referred to the groom as a “remarkably talented young minister of whom the people of Cambridge are justly proud.”

     Immediately following his marriage Dr. Jefferson took charge of the Congregational church at Chelsea, Massachusetts, and remained there eleven years.  Then came a call to the great Broadway Tabernacle in New York City.  Here he remained until his retirement from the ministry in 1929.  This church, situated in the heart of New York’s theatrical district, had obstacles seemingly impossible to be overcome.  Dr. Jefferson, in his brief relations, entitled “Thirty years on Broadway, wrote that to occupy a pulpit for thirty years in this “tumultuous and ever-changing and reputedly godless thoroughfare almost belongs to the category of miracles.”  Of this The New York Times said editorially, “It would indeed seem to one to be almost a miracle if one did not know the subtle power of Dr. Jefferson’s quiet eloquence.”  That same paper repeatedly referred to him as the “Saint of the Great White Way,” and after his death said, “Dr. Jefferson had a longer ‘run’ on Broadway than any actor.

     In his forty-two years in the pulpit he repeated only twelve sermons, and those were repeated by request. Once when his church voted him an increase of salary from $10,000 to $12,5oo per year, he declined the increase on the ground that $10,000 was enough to be paid any preacher.

     Wrote Many Books.—But Dr. Jefferson was more widely known as an author than a preacher.  He was a voluminous writer, having produced some thirty books dealing with religious, moral and social questions.  Among the best known of his works are “Things Fundamental,” “The Minister as Prophet,” “The World’s Christmas Tree,” “My Father’s Business,” “The New Crusade,” “ The Character of Jesus,” “The Cause of the War,” “Christianity and Peace,” and “What the World Has Taught Us.”

     A Leader in the Peace Movement.—He was one of the early leaders in the movement for world peace. In 1922 he represented the Protestant churches of the United States in Great Britain and preached in the leading non-conformist churches of England and Scotland. In recognition of his outstanding ability Yale University, Vermont University, Ohio Wesleyan University, Union College and Oberlin College conferred the degree of Doctor of Divinity upon him.

     Dr. Jefferson’s Family.—Of the three children born to Dr. and Mrs. Jefferson only one, Charles Frederick, survives.  A daughter died quite young and the other son, Ralph, passed away soon after the World War in which he had served. After the death of Dr. Jefferson’s father his mother and two sisters were left in the home on Wheeling avenue.  Presently one of the sisters died, and the other married and moved away.  The mother lived on for a long time.  Dr. Jefferson came often to visit her. After her death he returned occasionally to visit the Patterson family, or in case of sickness or death. On such occasions he repeatedly preached in a local church. His father and mother are buried in the South cemetery.  To Dr. Charles E. Jefferson Cambridge was always home, but his remains lie at Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire, where for several years he made his summer home among the mountains.


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