Reverend Albert H. Plumb Speaks at Commencement

The Reverend Albert Hale Plumb, of Chelsea, MA, speaks at commencement. An alumna would later write, “We shall never forget Dr. Plumb’s impressive messages to us on Commencement days. He taught us how to live, and I say it solemnly, knowing his splendid victory over prolonged suffering, he taught us how to die.”

A direct descendant of Governor of Plymouth Colony, William Bradford, Albert Hale Plumb was born 23 August 1829 in Gowanda, NY, where his father was an advocate for temperance and abolitionism active in the Presbyterian church. His mother had been principal of Cortland Academy for Young Ladies in Homer, NY. Plumb attended Oberlin College in 1851-52, then worked in a shipping and produce business in Buffalo, NY, before graduating from Brown University in 1855 and from Andover Theological Seminary in 1858.

After being licensed to preach in Providence, RI, Plumb was ordained in November of 1858 as pastor of the Winnisimmet Church in Chelsea, MA, remaining there until 1871. In 1868, he ministered to a church in New Orleans, LA, for several months. After leaving Chelsea, he received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Brown University in 1872. Plumb served as the first and only pastor of the Walnut Avenue Congregational Church in Roxbury, MA, from 1872 to 1907.

Plumb’s connection with Wheaton began early in his career. He wrote:

My first knowledge of Mrs. Wheaton and the Seminary came to me while I was a student in Brown University, in the early fifties, from the frequent and enthusiastic tributes paid to them by a zealous friend, a Christian merchant of Providence, Mr. William J. King, from 1848 to 1885 an active and influential member of the Board of Trustees. I was occasionally honored by an invitation to take his place in giving the pupils an address at their religious meetings, where his quaint and vigorous speech, enlivened by touches of humor, but always enlightening and impressive, was greatly prized.”

Paine, H. E. (1907). Life of Eliza Baylies Wheaton, Cambridge: The Riverside Press, pp. 260-261.

Plumb became a member of Wheaton’s board of trustees in 1870, served as secretary from 1873 to 1883 and succeeded the Reverend Blake as board president from 1885 until his death in 1907. Plumb handled policy and personnel issues, helping to rejuvenate the Seminary in the late nineteenth century.

On 21 September 1878, Plumb wrote to Mrs. Wheaton regarding the Seminary’s religious purpose:

[Wheaton] had always enjoyed the reputation of a school where decided and active efforts for the conversion of the pupils and the development of an earnest and consecrated type of piety were put forth…. It was founded and fostered chiefly for this end of seeing a high religious culture and promoting a high order of female education and exalted character.”

Plumb remarked upon the hard work of being a trustee:

The… service[s] rendered by the trustees of such a school… which lie outside the claims of their personal business or profession… are sometimes exacting and laborious, calling for protracted attention and the best exercise of one’s powers…. Mrs. Wheaton seemed impelled to improve every suitable opportunity to express her sincere thankfulness to the trustees, her sense of the large indebtedness of the Seminary to the integrity, the fidelity, and the assiduity with which they sought to fulfil their trust.”

Paine, H. E. (1907). Life of Eliza Baylies Wheaton, Cambridge: The Riverside Press, pp. 268 – 269.

Later, Grace Shepard, Wheaton professor of English and author of a 1931 history of the College wrote:

Dr. Plumb was an ideal Christian gentleman, genuinely good and kind, a spiritual man in the finest sense of the word, humbly following and loving Christ, active in all good works, but quiet and serene both of soul and body.… I know a family of children who always ran eagerly to the window when Dr. Plumb went by, wishing to see ‘a good man walk down the street.’ I know a church that almost idolized him.

Plumb was active in a large number of church organizations, a member of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and a member of its prudential committee, a director of the City Missionary Society of Boston, a director of the Massachusetts Total Abstinence Society, a member of the Evangelistic Association of New England from and a director of the New England Sabbath Protective League.

Reverend Plumb died in Roxbury, MA, of sarcoma, December 4, 1907.