Lamb Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 13 and
died in Portland, Oregon, on April 28, at the age of ninety-four
and after sixty-eight years "of selfless service for the
public weal." He was the eldest son of Rev. William G. Eliot,
D.D., of the Church of the Messiah in St. Louis. Thomas Eliot
was a member of the first class (1862) to graduate from Washington
University (St. Louis), which his father organized and administered.
After graduation he entered the Harvard Divinity School and graduated
in spite of such defective eyesight that it was often necessary
to have his books read to him. On November 28, 1865, he married
Henrietta Robins Mack of St. Louis. This fortunate and happy union
was unbroken for sixty-seven years, and Mrs. Eliot always actively
shared her husband's work.
In 1862, Starr King had preached the first liberal sermon in the
Northwest. In the summer of 1867, a little chapel was built in
Portland. Finally, through the agency of Rev. Charles Lowe of
the American Unitarian Association, an invitation was sent to
Thomas Eliot to be their minister. Eliot chose the call to the
Portland at that time was a remote, pioneer town of some six thousand
inhabitants. The streets were deep in mud or dust, according to
the weather, and without lights or sidewalks. But the men and
women who had settled Portland were prepared to build one of the
most stable and orderly communities on the Coast.
Eliots church became and has always remained strong and
influential. From 1872 to 1875 he was County Superintendent of
Education. He turned into the church treasury the salary which
he received for his services.
Eliot was never physically vigorous, and after the injury to his
eyes, he could not read or write for more than a quarter of an
hour without pain. In 1815 he was worn and weary from his pioneer
labors. So he resigned, but the church refused to accept his resignation,
granting him a year's leave of absence to be spent in Europe.
He returned much improved in health, and the money needed for
the new church building was in hand.
Dr. Eliot continued as active minister of the church until 1893.
His activi-ties were always overflowing into numerous other channels
of community service. Indeed, for fifty years there was hardly
a movement for civic betterment in which he did not take a lead-ing
part. He was president of the Children's Home; of the Oregon Humane
Society and of the Portland Associated Charities. He was a director
of the Art Associ-ation and the Library Association. His church
was a fountain of influence and of money for constructive enterprises,
and from two of its membershus-band and wifecame the
endowment of Reed. Eliot was also a member of the board of directors
of the American Unitarian Association and a trustee of the Pacific
Unitarian School at Berkeley.
Few ministers have had so honorable a career. He was, in truth,
"a citizen minister." He saw the city of his adoption
grow from a small frontier town to a handsome, well-ordered city
of more than three hundred thousand people, and no other single
individual contributed so much as he to the higher life of the
community. The Eliot glacier on Mt. Hood is named for him.
In 1889 Harvard gave him the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity
in absentia; in I9I2 Washington University made him an honorary
Doctor of Laws; and Reed College conferred on him the degree of
Doctor of Letters.
Henry Wilder Foote, abridged from Heralds of a Liberal
Faith, Volume IV, edited by Samuel Atkins Eliot.