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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

BREWSTER, WILLIAM H.

BREWSTER, WILLIAM H.

BREWSTER, WILLIAM H. (16 June 1813-7 Mar. 1894), a Methodist minister who guided a Congregational church in Cleveland (1859-68), was a prominent advocate of abolition and temperance. Born in New Hampshire, son of Isaac and Betsey (Dike) Brewster, he bucked many of the city's clergy and left Euclid Ave.'s Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church to become the first pastor of the University Hts. Congregational Church--an amalgam of Episcopal Methodists, EPISCOPALIANS, PRESBYTERIANS, CONGREGATIONALISTS, and Wesleyan Methodists. Instead of bestowing an authoritative orthodoxy on this congregation, Brewster relied upon common moral precepts and a recognition of Jesus as the Christ to keep the flock together. Abolition and temperance were primary concerns of Brewster's. He championed the Sunday closing of saloons in deference to the moral and religious rights of the community, and accepted civil disobedience as appropriate in opposing slavery. He also served as pastor of HUMISTON INSTITUTE. A popular lecturer, Brewster inaugurated a series of talks on the Bible (1859) and even during the CIVIL WAR selected political topics for speeches to Cleveland literary societies. He was executive secretary of the Cuyahoga County Temperance Society (1862), vice-president of the 1st General Conference of the Methodist Church (1867), and a trustee of CLEVELAND UNIVERSITY. Brewster led the non-Episcopal and antislavery Methodists who split from the Episcopal branch of the church to organize (1842-43) the Wesleyan Connection of America. He was compared to Henry Ward Beecher for his vehement attacks of slavery. Brewster married Catherine Hoyt Turner in 1838 and had 6 children: Ellen Maria, Henrietta, George Henry, Abbie Jane, Catherine Lenora, and Mary Louisa. He left Cleveland for Wheaton, Ill. and died there.