CWRU Links

AIKEN, SAMUEL CLARK

AIKEN, SAMUEL CLARK (21 Sept. 1791-1 Jan. 1879), the first resident pastor of Cleveland's FIRST PRESBYTERIAN (OLD STONE) CHURCH, was one of the most prominent clergymen in the city in the mid-19th century. Born in Windham, Vt., the son of Nathaniel and Betsy (Clark) Aiken, he entered Middlebury College in 1813 and then studied for the ministry at the Andover Theological Seminary. Ordained as a Presbyterian pastor in Utica, N.Y. in 1818, Aiken followed some of his flock to Cleveland in 1835, accepting their call to the pastorate of First Presbyterian which he guided until 1861 with his commanding presence and conservative outlook. While Millerism, Mormonism, Universalism, skepticism, and the debate over slavery threatened the solidarity of many churches, Aiken's church, while debating these issues, with one exception did not divide over them.

Besides pastoring his church, Aiken was active in the affairs of Cleveland. He presided at the organizational meeting of the Cleveland YMCA (1854), and his addresses on topics such as theaters, public education, CRIME, and TEMPERANCE were important opinion pieces. A supporter of public improvements, Aiken spoke at the opening of the Erie Canal. He also preached a well-publicized sermon to Gov. Reuben Wood and other notables on the importance of railroad improvements in Ohio (1851). Aiken's denunciation of slavery before the 1857 Presbyterian General Assembly, meeting in Cleveland, helped the church on a national level decide that accommodation on slavery was no longer possible.

Aiken was married twice; his first wife, Deliah Day, whom he married in 1818, died in 1838. They had 7 children: Samuel C., Deliah, Henry, Helen, Henrietta, and 2 others who died in infancy. Aiken's second married was in 1839 to Deliah's sister, Henrietta Day. They had 2 children: Helen and Charles. He died at his home on Woodland Avenue and is buried in ERIE STREET CEMETERY.


Annals of the First Presbyterian Church of Cleveland, 1820-1895 (1895).