1851: Ellen Lois (Stowe) Roberts to Benjamin Titus Roberts

This letter was written by Ellen Lois (Stowe) Roberts (1825-1908) to her husband, Benjamin Titus Roberts (1823-1893). The letter appears to have been improperly dated; I am going to place the date as March 1851. Ellen and Benjamin were not married until 3 May 1849, and their first child, William Titus Roberts — mentioned in the letter — was born 21 June 1850 and died 5 June 1851, three months after this letter was penned.

Howard Snyder's Book Cover

At the time Ellen wrote the letter, I believe she was staying with her uncle, Rev. George Lane, in New York City, where she was receiving medical treatment for an eye ailment.

Benjamin T. Roberts was an 1848 graduate of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. He attended the school during two of the six years that my g-g-grandfather, James Sayre Griffing, attended. Benjamin was ordained by the Methodist Episcopal Church and began his ministry in the Genesee Conference in upstate New York. At the time this letter was written, Benjamin was completing a two year appointment in Pike, Wyoming County, New York. A few years later, Benjamin would be censured and eventually expelled from the church for voicing disagreement with some of its practices. He and John Wesley Redfield are credited with starting the Free Methodist Church in 1860.

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Addressed to Rev. B. T. Roberts
Pike, Wyoming Co., N.Y. (via Attica)

March 6th [7th]
Friday Afternoon

My very dear, and very very much beloved Husband.

O how I want to see you! O how I want one word from you that I may know what you think of me for staying so long away from you! Time never seemed to pass so slowly as since the last word I received from you (by Telegraph). If I could know you approved, and that fully of my tarriance, I should feel so relieved, so thankful. And I cannot doubt but that you will when you learn that it is on account of my eyes. Were I to consult my own feelings, I should not, could not stay from you a moment longer. No darling, not one moment longer. But I do feel as if I ought to make use of means for the recovery of my eyes to their usual strength. If I find medicine does not help them, then I shall feel that I have only to bear this affliction with patience and submission. I think they feel some better this week. I hope, Providence permitting, to meet you week after next at the longest unless yourself and the Doctor think I had better remain longer. Nothing would be so pleasant, so agreeable, so entirely delighted to me as to be with my dear husband again. And when I am with you again, I am sure I will be a better wife. I will try to make home a happy spot, and life very pleasant to you.

I know that you feel alone and lonely. Would that I could send my spirit to cheer you, and like a sunbeam, make bright everything around you. There is a power, there is an influence that can do this for us, and much more. I have felt much of this happy influence of the spirit for a few days. I am thankful for it. I think I feel more trustful and can more fully commit myself, my friends, and all my interests into the hands of the Lord.

I am still suffering with this tooth ache or rather with my face and head, which proceeds, however, from a tooth. I have had no relief from pain for three days and nights. It is probable I have taken cold. I have made use of raisons remedies but nothing relieves the pain as yet.

Saturday morning [March 8th]. I feel somewhat better this morning. Last night I steamed my head, which nearly relieved me of pain. I think now I shall be free from tooth-ache – am very well otherwise. A considerable snow fell last night – the first we have had since I came here. Darling, how are you? Are you well? Very well? Are you happy? Thou art my own beloved, my own husband, and dearer to me than the world besides. Each day it seems as if I loved you more. I want to see your face. I want to lay my arms around you. I want again and again to kiss you. I want to lay my head on your bosom and my arms around you when night comes. I want to be kind to you. I want to make you one of the happiest – nay – the happiest of men and I want to make you fully sensible of my deep and fervent and growing love for you & attachment to you. I want you to believe and know that no wife ever loved their husband more than I do mine, if as much.

The Missionaries for China expect to sail on Monday. They will take tea here Sabbath evening. It is thought Dr. [John] McClintock will take Mrs. Emory for a wife (R. Emory’s widow).

I had a letter from E. Bond. She urges me to stay till May when she will be here. If she were a wife, she would never ask such a thing of me. No, my love, I would not for the gold of Ophir, for the treasures of the boundless deep, and not to see all the friends I ever had, would I stay so long from thee. No spell could bind me. No chain could hold me so long from thee.

Willie is quite well. He arouses the people greatly by his squealing. They say he will make a good camp-meeting preacher. He has a wonderful love for Uncle. I would love to write much more but my poor eyes are beginning to feel badly.

When I return, in case I should not meet you at Hobbeville, where should I land myself? At a Tavern if there be one there? Tell Mary I want much to see her. Love to all friends, most by far to thee, my Benjamin. Keep a cheerful heart till I come and believe I love thee even more than ever. – Ellen Roberts


Ellen Stowe Roberts ( 1825-1908)

Adell P. Carpenter said of Ellen Stowe Roberts, “I was never acquainted with anyone who kept the Holy Spirit so constantly and so consciously.” No higher compliment could be paid anyone who seeks to follow Jesus.

Ellen Lois Stowe was born at Windsor, New York, March 4, 1825, to Stoddard and Dorcas Lane Stowe. Her father was not religious, and her mother was not public in her faith.

Rev. George Lane (1784-1859)

Moving at age fourteen to the home of her uncle, Reverend George Lane, in New York City created a different atmosphere in which her soul could blossom. As Ellen watched her uncle spend much of his time in secret prayer, she felt convicted of her need of religion. She was especially seeking heart holiness, partly under the influence of evangelist and hymn-writer Phoebe Palmer.

During a meeting at the Methodist church, Ellen went to the altar, thinking that if she could get religion, she would. She understood later that saying “if” interfered with her finding Christ. Being shy, Ellen feared talking to anyone, so she did not receive the help she needed.

Her own testimony explains what happened a few months later at another Methodist church:

I was led to see I must be determined and all in earnest or I should finally lose my soul. I then said, I will have religion. I found my way to the altar and besought the Lord with tears and entreaties to save me. The next day, while alone in my room, after consecrating myself to God, I was enabled to believe He does now for Jesus’ sake forgive my sins.

From this time Ellen felt the load lifted, her heart filled with joy. She loved what she formerly hated, including difficult people she previously found disagreeable. She especially loved the class meeting, a means of grace that proved a life-long affection—she continued to lead a class meeting into her last years.

Ellen struggled while attending a fashionable school, making her feel that she had lost her acceptance with God. Reclaiming that right the next summer at camp meeting, she sought the blessing of entire sanctification. Reading and praying led to the day that (with the encouragement of her class meeting leader) she yielded and experienced a washing of the inbred corruption of her soul.

Ellen testified concerning her excitement in her new-found calm. When a minister’s wife criticized her, making Ellen feel that she was too forward, she decided not to share God’s blessings unless required to by the Lord.

Hiding in this way, Ellen experienced a wandering in the wilderness. Again she did not share her struggles with anyone, but instead continued to feel a void. She did long to serve God.

In 1848, Ellen Stowe visited her cousin Professor Harvey B. Lane at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut. Here she met graduating Benjamin Titus (B.T.) Roberts. She remarked of him, “I like the tone of his mind.” At Roberts’ request, they corresponded by letter, not seeing each other again until their wedding day, May 3, 1849.

After visiting Mr. Roberts’ family, the newly married couple traveled to Caryville, New York, where Ellen began the life of a minister’s wife. When someone later commented on B.T. Roberts’ spirituality, he replied, “My wife keeps an altar up all the time. If I need to be prayed for, it is there and she is ready.”

There followed a succession of appointments to different churches in New York, with revival following Roberts wherever he was appointed. Their first child, William Titus, lived only eleven months. Their second son, George Lane, was born while they pastored in Rushford.

While in Buffalo, Roberts invited Dr. Redfield to come and preach. Ellen writes that, still a wanderer, she experienced an irresistible power in Redfield’s words. She decided to live a totally consecrated life and believe by faith without wavering.

Ellen learned to walk by faith in absence of emotion. She also was shown that beyond caring for her own family, souls were perishing and needed her care. She later commented, “There is no joy like saving souls. No one can take it away from us. We cannot lose it.”

While at Buffalo, Roberts felt troubled that the church charged for its seats. He offered to pay off the church’s debt if they would have free seating, but they would not consent.

During their two years in Brockport, Roberts’ best revival blessed the work. Here, their third son (Benson Howard) and only daughter (Sarah) were born.

Ellen’s testimony tells of the events of August of 1855:

I suffered much from poor health again and began to feel an intense longing after God. . . . For the benefit of soul and body, I left my house to spend two days at a camp meeting not far off. I was conscious what I needed was something I never had possessed—a power to reach souls—a love for them. As I began to pray for it, the Lord by His Spirit asked me if I would take it with suffering. I had always shrunk from suffering for Christ; especially I felt I could not endure to lose another of my children (we then had three). But I felt I cannot live without this power—and my hungering was so intense it seemed to me I could not live thus. I said I would take it with suffering if I can have it no other way. Then it was said to me, “I may take one of your children.” I hesitated a moment, and thought they will be safe; this world is full of unsaved souls—I must have more power to reach them. I said, “any way.” I confessed publicly my want—began to look up and believe for all I needed—the power began to come. . . . I saw a little what Jesus suffered for sinners. . . . Then my soul was filled with a love for them. . . .

The next morning I started for home, and when near there met a messenger who told me one of my children was just alive. . . . I fell on my knees at the conveyance, realizing God had taken me at my word. I had thought it was only a test. I reached home, and found my youngest, our only daughter, a corpse. I could only groan, and for a few moments the anguish of soul and body was all I could endure. . . I looked to Jesus, and instantly the calmness of heaven came over me, and in that hour I seemed permitted to talk with Him as with a friend. I saw my little Sarah an angel in heaven, for six hours, by an eye of faith, as plainly as I ever saw her living with my natural eye. While I looked to Jesus and saw her forever safe, and nothing for me here but the work of saving souls, I was powerfully blessed, and not only comforted, but my soul triumphed in Jesus.

Ellen Roberts maintained a healthy balance of ministry and family. The above testimony reveals her deep longing to save souls. On another occasion at a camp meeting, she found herself confined to caring for one of her babies. Yet she was able to submit to this task in lieu of leading others to Christ. She exhorts mothers, “You have just as good a right to feel blessed in soul as though you were on you knees pointing sinners to Christ, and pleading with Him to save them.”

Another son (Charles Stowe) was born during the Roberts’ next appointment, in Albion. Here, B.T. wrote “New School Methodism,” an article promoting holiness. Roberts’ bishop reproved him at the next conference and sent him to Pekin.

When someone republished Roberts’ article without his consent, he was brought on trial before the Genessee Conference, and on October 21,

1858, he and others were expelled from membership. One pastor was cleared because they got him to confess a little. Ellen commented, “O how I wanted to then be in his place. I’d have stood up like a man and died before I yielded a hair’s breadth.”

For a time the Roberts were unsure where to serve, being pilgrims without a home. They settled in Buffalo, where they were blessed with Samuel and Benjamin T. Roberts, Jr.

In August of 1860, the Free Methodist Church was organized ,with B.T. as the first General Superintendent. Next B.T. decided to establish a school. They sold their Buffalo home and purchased a farm in North Chili, New York. Chili Seminary (present-day Roberts Wesleyan College) served as their home for the rest of their lives.

Ellen Roberts’ chief responsibility at the school lay in leading the Tuesday evening class meeting. The students looked forward to her class meetings. She discerned each one’s need and personality and used either encouragement or rebuke as needed.

Ellen Roberts’ severest trial visited in the death of her husband in 1893. On the day of his death, Ellen read of the death of Moses, who died apart from friends, alone with God. Her husband died away from his family, and she felt God gave her this passage as an encouragement.

Ellen responded to his death by exclaiming, “I thought I could not live, until I remembered the Seminary. Then I felt that I could live for the school.” Despite her loneliness, she served the rest of her life, nurturing the teachers and students entrusted to her care. As she aged, she forgot many details; but her pithy sayings were never more apt and witty than during her last year, her interest in God’s cause was never greater, nor her prayers more mighty.

Her message to the members of the last General Conference before her death was, “I send my love and exhort you to live and to preach holiness. Live it, then it will be easy to preach it. It will preach itself. Personally, in this journey to the home above, there is no gloom, no sorrow. The prospect to me is glorious.”

Ellen Roberts rejoined her husband on January 28, 1908. Her service had been long and faithful. Though never formally ordained, she served as an exhorter in class meetings and public services. Perhaps her greatest tribute comes from her granddaughter coming home from her graveside, “What an inheritance I have.”

—Kathy Callahan-Howell

John McClintock was born October 27, 1814 in Philadelphia to Irish immigrants, John and Martha McClintock.  He began as a clerk in his father’s store, and then became a bookkeeper in the Methodist Book Concern in New York.  Here he converted to Methodism and considered joining the ministry.  McClintock entered the University of Pennsylvania in 1832 and graduated with high honors three years later.  Subsequently,  he was awarded a doctorate of divinity degree from the same institution in 1848.

McClintock joined the Dickinson College faculty in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1836 as a professor of mathematics. In 1840 he became professor of Greek and Latin.  In 1847, the town of Carlisle charged him with inciting a riot over slavery. He was tried in the county court and was acquitted.  A year later, he resigned from the College and became the editor of the Methodist Quarterly Review.  McClintock did not cut all ties with the College and served as a trustee from 1849 to 1859.  He also maintained his intellectual career, publishing many educational volumes and texts, especially in classical and theological literature.

McClintock was one of two delegates, along with Bishop Matthew Simpson, to the British Wesleyan Conference in 1857.  When he returned, he became the pastor of St. Paul’s Church in New York.  In 1860, he went abroad again, this time to France as pastor of the American Chapel in Paris.  After four years in this post, he returned  to serve again as pastor at St. Paul’s.  McClintock declined the presidency of Wesleyan University in 1851 and of Troy University in 1855. He did accept the position of president at Drew Theological Seminary in 1867 and remained there until his death in 1870.

He married Caroline Augusta Wakeman in 1836, became a widower on March 2, 1850 and married Catherine Wilkin [widow of Emory] in 1851.  He had only one son, John Emory McClintock, born in 1840.  John McClintock died March 4, 1870.

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