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Dexter Clary

Excerpted and adapted from Richardson's History of Beloit Colelge:

     A third outstanding Trustee and Founder was Rev. Dexter Clary, at the start and for many years secretary of the board. At the time of the founding of the College, though a Presbyterian, he was pastor of the local Congregational church. In 1850 he became Superintendent of Home Missions in Wisconsin. He began professional life as an evangelist and was always possessed of the fervor of that calling. In the tribunal of his ministry, as Prof. J. J. Blaisdell phrased it at the Church's Semi-Centennial, "man was arraigned as criminal, guilty against the holy law of God, and summoned to intstant repentance. . . . Hence, what power! . . . Hence -- what I have never seen, no, not in any other man, that eye of Mr. Clary! I used to see it sometimes, in the rare moments, in the meetings of the committee of the College Trustees, when great moral issues were pending, and have been reminded of the words: 'His eyes were like a flame of fire; and his feet were like until fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace!'" Only a Blaisdell, perhaps, could paint a Clary!

     This zeal of Mr. Clary's, directed into meticulous emphasis on discipline, was one, among other causes, of the withdrawl of part of his flock to form the First Presbyterian Church of Beloit. He was more an evangelist, always, than a preacher of the usual pulpit sermon.

     And yet this fiery phrophet must have been a frail man, judging from his pictures, and one of great benignity: one of those kindly featured men, like Prof. William Porter, who seem never radically to change their age. A visitor at the Commencement of 1869 ("D.A.") related that it had been nearly 25 years since his first coming to Beloit, and the day had been a Sunday. On that same first Sunday "the Rev. Dexter Clary officiated in the Congregational church: on yesterday afternoon the first man who appeared in the pulpit of the same church was Rev. Dexter Clary. The same man, with the same pleasant and earnest contenance, but looking no older than he did a quarter of a century ago. The world has moved on -- great changes have taken place all around. . . . Still, the good old man, Mr. C., though he has moved on with the rest of the world, taken an active interest in everything around, has had the pleasure of aiding in bringing into being, and to decided prominence, a college in Beloit, remains unchanged, and I was about to say, unchangeable in appearance -- if anything, a trifle more active, with a countenance a trifle more hopeful in expression. May another quarter century pass away, and still find Father Clary at his post, laboring to promote the interests of Beloit College, and for the general good of mankind. . . . Devotion to the education and improvement of the human race, is the work of his life -- may that life be long."

     It was Dexter Clary to whom it fell to conduct negotiations with Jackson J. Bushnell regarding the latter's coming to Beloit. The letters on both sides were long and courteous, but eviently carefully guarded. Mr. Clary used a phrase in one of these letters which exactly summed up the immediate problem and responsibility of the trustees at the moment: "The Board fell that the election of the first professors is a very important step and one which will give character to the Institution, favorable or unfavorable, perhaps beyond what the election of any subsequent will ever give." (November 3, 1847.) That the Board made the marvellous choices they did must have been not a little due to the insight and carefulness of Dexter Clary.

 

Examples of Archives Holdings:
       - Correspondence
       - Donations record
       - Journals (as agent for American Home Missionary Society)
       - Register of Home Missionary matters for annual report