Ohio History Journal

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On the Road in 1835: A Journey

of the Reverend James McElroy




The following letters of Rev. James McElroy are addressed to the minister's wife in

Delaware, Ohio, and describe a journey from that town to Lexington, Kentucky, in

1835. The Episcopalian clergyman had taken a leave of absence from the parish of

St. Peter's in Delaware in order to serve for a time as agent for the American Bible


James McElroy was born in Ireland in 1805 and studied there for the Protestant

Episcopal ministry at Trinity College, Dublin. With his bride of a few months, he

came to Gambier, Ohio, in 1828 and was a tutor at Kenyon College until 1830. In

1829 he received an honorary master's degree and was ordained deacon. In 1831

he was ordained priest2 by the president, Bishop Philander Chase, and served first at

Trinity Church in Cleveland. In 1832 he moved to Delaware where, except for his

leave of absence, he remained until 1840. Moving his family to Staunton in that year,

he became the general agent of the Bible Society of Virginia. From 1844 to 1847

he was principal of the Virginia Female Institute in Staunton and from 1847 to 1852

the rector of two churches in Botetourt County, Virginia. In the latter year he

returned to Delaware as rector of St. Peter's. Also during this time from 1852 to

1870, McElroy served as a member of the board of trustees of Kenyon College, and

was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity in 1868 from his alma mater. Accepting

in 1863 the position of district secretary of the American Tract Society, he resided

first in Springfield, then in Mansfield. He also served as rector of St. Paul's Church

in Greenville from 1865 to 1867. An 1869 appointment to the Protestant Episcopal

mission in Santa Clara took him West to California, where he remained until his

death on June 21, 1880.3

The historical and evangelical details in his letters are still of interest, as are some

of the personalities mentioned, especially since McElroy was in the first graduation

class at Kenyon on September 9, 1829, and received the first honorary master's


1. The American Bible Society is a nondenominational organization established in 1816 to

encourage the wider circulation of the Bible and is principally supported by gifts from individuals

and churches. By 1833 it had distributed 1,533,668 copies of the Bible and Testaments in seven

different languages. "American Bible Society," Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review, XV

(1833), 480.

2. Catalogue of Kenyon College and of the Theological Seminary of the Diocese of Ohio,

1825 to 1872 (Gambier, 0., 1873), 8, 15, 39.

3. Family history is taken from the family records preserved by James McElroy's great-

granddaughter, Helen Sarah Lathrop Eustis.


Mr. Eustis is Professor of French at the University of California, Berkeley.