Last June I read about a Challenge, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, and I was intrigued. I decided to take up the challenge. Some Ancestors may take more than one week, but I still intend to write about 52 Ancestors. I hope you enjoy reading about My Ancestors as much as I am looking forward to researching and writing about them.
(1) Clara Maria de los Dolores Marina de Beck Guion; (2) Alfred Beck Guion; (3) Alfred Duryee Guion; (4) Alfred Peabody Guion; (5) Judith Anne Guion
All during the girlhood’s of my mother and aunts, the slavery issue was coming to a head. New Orleans had the biggest and worst slave-market in the nation — the one that Lincoln saw as a young man, and never forgot — but here was one moral issue on which the Rev. Elijah Guion sided with the South. Northerner as he originally was, he took his Bible literally, and it happened that at the height of the pre-war controversy, an event occurred that made real history, and is part of our family story.
This was the publication, in the north, of a pamphlet by an Episcopal Bishop, entitled: “The Bible View of Slavery.” It went through seven editions, was read throughout the Church, created a storm of controversy in the North, and was hailed with equal satisfaction in the South. The Episcopal Church was the only Protestant Church that didn’t split into a “North” and “South” church during the Civil War, and this pamphlet was the reason. It was written by the Bishop of Vermont, who was the Rt. Rev. John Henry Hopkins, DD., L1.D. — one of the most outstanding patristic scholars and polemical writers of the Episcopal Church, and its Presiding (Senior) Bishop during the last years of the war. Bishop Hopkins was my grandfather.
This pamphlet (it still is to be found in old Southern libraries) amounted to a justification of slavery on Biblical grounds, while deprecating its cruelties and abuses. It’s argument was simple and abundantly documented: slavery had been an institution in Biblical times; the Bible referred to it without condemnation; the Bible was the Word of God. Here was the perfect “out” for Southern Episcopalians, who normally were kind to their slaves; in the North, of course, it created a storm, which the “Fighting Bishop” had undoubtedly expected and probably loved. This doctrine, uttered by the outstanding polemist and perspective presiding Bishop of the Church, had a wider following even in the North then today’s history-books commonly recognize; and its result in the South was to hold the Episcopal Church together despite the war. Bishop Hopkins became Senior or Presiding Bishop in 1865, and the culminating moment of his life was at the first post-war General Convention, when he welcomed the Southern delegates into the still-united Church.
The Rev Elijah Guion fully endorsed the Hopkins pamphlet and preached its doctrine at St. Paul’s. In one other respect he offended his Confederate congregation, and his rigid adherence to ritual, whether doctrinal or inwardly pro-Union in its motivation, cost him his job about the time of Lincoln’s assassination, as shall be seen. Meanwhile, a prime instance of his rigidity in his domestic capacity was causing trouble and in fact, real tragedy, at home.
This came about in connection with the engagement and marriage of my aunt Clara, eldest of the girls. The French custom, by which marriages are arranged by the parents, existed to some extent in New Orleans; it appealed to Guion, who was a dominant man. As Clara’s husband he selected his friend, Stephen Gay, a man of his own age, by no means Clara’s choice. Gay had been married before and had a son, Harry, as old as his intended bride. Clara was heartbroken; she resisted the marriage up to the moment of the ceremony. My grandmother resisted it too, but Guion was adamant and for once she lost. Guion performed the marriage ceremony himself.
Clara was dutiful; she bore Gay four children, two of whom, my cousins Florence and Eleanor, survived. But it was an unhappy marriage and ended in Gay’s leaving, shortly before Eleanor was born. By that time the Guions were in the West, and Clara rejoined them, her life wrecked.
I recall her, 20 years later, as a silent, sad-faced woman whose only consolation was religion. Parental authority hadn’t worked.
Second to marry was Josephine; this was a love-match.
Up in Far-North Vermont, the thirteenth and the youngest child of Bishop Hopkins, Frederick Vincent, had studied science, especially geology, at the University of Vermont, from which he graduated in 1859. Previously he had been educated at the Bishop’s Church school, at Rock Point, near Burlington; like all Hopkinses, he had been trained in music, he had painting talent, and an inventive, inquiring mind. He was perhaps 17 when the “Bible View of Slavery” was published; he shared that view, the more intensely because of the controversy that raged about the Bishop’s august head. In 1861 the Civil War broke out; in New England the abolitionists were in full cry. Rather than fight in a clause in which he religiously disbelieved, young Hopkins left his home, made his way to Pittsburgh, and proceeded to get him an open boat and float down the Ohio River, toward the South.
He floated down the Ohio and down the Mississippi too, landing months later at the waterfront of New Orleans, exhausted, starving and broke. The details of that trip were never revealed — we know only the beginning and the end, must imagine the rest. This was early in the war and the river still was open, but Vicksburg was fortified and he must have passed it somehow. How he ate, lived, slept, survived at all, we do not know. He made this trip alone.
He seemed to have had it in mind to take refuge with a clergyman named Hawley, a Vermonter and marital relative, who had a church in or near New Orleans. This was stated by Hawley’s daughter, Mrs. Marion Canfield Hawley Swan, whom Ed and I knew in California years ago. Hawley gave young Hopkins shelter and care, then sent him to the Rev. Mr. Guion, who received the fugitive into his home. — my mother, aged 19, petite and charming, and of rather Spanish appearance, was now the presiding daughter of the household, her elder sister having married. On September 15, 1863, at the height of the war, Frederick Vincent Hopkins and Josephine Beck Guion were married.
This time, Guion didn’t oppose. Apparently he helped the young man to obtain employment, first as a teacher of science in New Orleans, then as a geologist for the State of Louisiana, in which capacity he made the first geological survey of that state and published some still-remembered reports. The couple moved to Baton Rouge, where in 1866 my eldest sister, Clara Leoline, was born. My father became Professor of geology at the University of Louisiana.
Next Sunday, I’ll continue the story with how Rev. Elijah Guion lost his position at St. Paul’s in New Orleans and the marriages of his two remaining daughters.
COLONIAL ORIGINS of the CALIFORNIA GUIONS, An Informal Genealogical Study by Ernest Jerome Hopkins, finished in 1952.
Next Sunday, I’ll continue the story of the Rev. Elijah, Clara and their large family in New Orleans.
Tomorrow and next week, I’ll continue the story of Grandpa, Alfred Duryee Guion, from the beginning with “Reminiscences of Alfred D. Guion,” written in 1960 while on a four-months “around the world” freighter trip.. This is his story, in his own words, beginning in the early 1880’s, when he was a child in Mount Vernon, New York.