TABLE OF CONTENTS
Edwin Miller Wheelock Papers
An Inventory of the Collection
Edwin Miller Wheelock was born in New York City on August 30, 1829, to Charles and Lydia Brown. The family moved to a farm near Ithaca, New York, when Wheelock was a child. Wheelock studied law at Harvard College and theology at the Harvard Divinity School. He married Ellen M. Brackett of Somerville, Massachusetts on September 22, 1855, and the couple had three children. He graduated from Divinity School in the summer of 1856 and took charge of the Unitarian Society in Dover, New Hampshire in 1857. Wheelock was opposed to slavery and as minister of the First Unitarian Church in Dover, on November 27, 1859, gave a speech concerning the abolitionist, John Brown. The speech was so well received that the Rev. Theodore Parker invited Wheelock to deliver the speech from Parker's pulpit in Boston, Massachusetts. Published in many newspapers in the northern United States, the John Brown speech caused the State of Virginia to offer $1500 for the capture of Wheelock, dead or alive.
Wheelock left his position at the First Unitarian Church in 1862 to enlist as a private in the New Hampshire 15th Regiment and was eventually made Chaplin. In October 1863, Wheelock was appointed inspector of schools for freedmen in the Department of the Gulf (New Orleans) and several months later he was made Secretary of the Board of Education for the Department of the Gulf. After the war Wheelock committed to continuing his work with the Freedmen's Bureau and resettled his family in Texas where he was appointed Superintendent of Schools for the Bureau. The family moved to Austin in 1867 where Wheelock was involved with the developing Republican Party. During the time of the Reconstruction government in Texas he was appointed State Superintendent for Public Instruction. For the next twenty years he would hold several Texas political and governmental positions including official reporter for the State Supreme Court; Alderman, editor of The State Journal, Superintendent of the Institute of the Blind, and Deputy Collector for the Fifth District of the Internal Revenue Service.
In 1887 Wheelock briefly left Austin to organize the Unitarian Society of Spokane, Washington, and served two years as its minister. He returned to Austin in 1891 and where he started a Unitarian ministry. Wheelock was often political in his sermons and was outspoken on the topics of the rights of labor, the abuses of the leaders of industry, monopolies and trusts and was "ever a champion of the oppressed...[and] placed himself without reserve on the side of the people." Health problems caused him to retire in 1899. His wife, Ellen, died several years earlier in 1895 and he spent his last years studying the works of Thomas Lake Harris. Wheelock died in 1901 at the age of 72 and ordered that all his manuscripts be destroyed.
SOURCES: Dictionary of Unitarian & Universalist Biography (accessed 2017 June 20) and biographical information in the collection.
The Edwin Miller Wheelock Papers consist predominately of his writings dating from the 1850s through 1900 and include original manuscripts, typescripts, and sermons printed in the newspaper, as well as published pamphlets reprinted in the 1930s. The collection is arranged into three series: Writings; Reports and Pamphlets; and About Edwin Miller Wheelock.
Of most interest in the Writings series (1857, 1869, 1892-1900, 1935-1940) are the handwritten manuscripts because, although Wheelock directed that all his manuscripts be destroyed upon his death, these items survived. Manuscripts that are titled include: Transition; Slavery. Its Idea-Fruit-Remedy; two drafts of The Labor Question; and Voters, Read and Think! Free Government on Trail! Of the handwritten manuscripts only Slavery (1857) is dated, however, there is a published magazine reprint of the sermon Transition that is dated 1900 and the references to the "Popular Movement" and the "People's Party" in Voters, Read and Think! and The Labor Question suggest that these were written in the 1890s. Other original writings include two funeral sermons, one for Kate Anna Chapin (1893) and the other for an unnamed person. Newspaper and magazine clippings, typescripts and published pamphlets of his sermons, discoursed and addresses make up the rest of the Writings series. Some of Wheelock's writings were published while he was still alive, while others were reprinted through the efforts of Charles Kassel in the 1930s.
The Reports and Pamphlets series (1864, 1895) contains Report of the Board of Education for Freedmen, Department of the Gulf, For the Year 1864 and Unity Pulpit, Boston: Sermons of M. J. Savage. The Board of Education for Freedmen publication lists Lieut. E. M. Wheelock as the Secretary of the Board.
The About Edwin Miller Wheelock series (1929, 1955, undated) consists of biographical materials and correspondence regarding the donation of Wheelock's papers to the American Unitarian Association. The biographical materials include a pamphlet about Wheelock's early life written by Charles Kassel, typescripts, undated, which appear to be transcripts of newspaper articles, a letter and other biographic sketches of Reverend Wheelock. There are also hand written notes about Wheelock that are neither dated nor signed.
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The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.
Edwin Miller Wheelock Papers (AR.C.002). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
The contents of this collection came from four different sources including his daughter and J. C. Towery, minister of the Congregational Church of Austin.
Donor #: DO/1958/007
Donation Date: 1964
Donor #: DO/1955/062
Donation Date: unknown
Donor #: DO/1955/072
Donation Date: unknown
Donor #: DO/1961/029
Donation Date: 1961
Arrangement updated and finding aid encoded by Molly Hults in 2017.