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Dr Azel Backus

Dr Azel Backus

Norwich, New London County, Connecticut, USA
Death 28 Dec 1816 (aged 51)
Clinton, Oneida County, New York, USA
Burial Clinton, Oneida County, New York, USA
Memorial ID 65862761 · View Source
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"Backus, Rev. Azel, D. D., of the sixth generation from William Backus, Sen., the Proprietor, was born at West Farms, October 13, 1765. He was the son of Jabez Backus, Jr., and Deborah Fanning (she married in 1772 as her second husband, William Fish), both of whom are said to have been persons of great excellence of character.

His father dying when he was only five years of age, bequeathed to him a farm, which he says, "I wisely exchanged for an education in college." He graduated at Yale in the class of 1787. While in college he had skeptical tendencies; but his uncle, Rev. Charles Backus, D. D., by his faithful efforts won him from infidelity and reared him up for the ministry.

He was ordained April 6th, 1791, as the immediate successor of Dr. Bellamy, at Bethlehem, where he not only labored faithfully as a pastor, but also instituted and conducted a school of considerable celebrity, at which a large number of young men were prepared for admission to college.

In Sept., 1812, Dr. Backus was elected first President of Hamilton College. His mature experience in the instruction and management of young men was doubtless greatly auxiliary to his success in this somewhat similar, though more extensive field of labor.

He was a man of an original cast of thought, distinguished by susceptibility and ardor of feeling; was possessed, withal, of brilliant talents and rose rapidly in popular favor, for while comparatively a young man he was selected by the senior Gov. Oliver Wolcott to preach the annual election sermon before the Legislature of Conn. This appointment was fulfilled with very marked ability in 1798. In June, 1808, he was chosen moderator of the General Association of Conn., and two years later he was honored with the degree of Doctor of Divinity from the college in New Jersey.

Duyckinck remarks, that "His biography remains to be written in a manner worthy of the part which he sustained in caring for the first wants of a college," etc., and adds, that "A careful memoir written somewhat after the manner of Xenophon's Memorabilia, or Boswell's Johnson, would be welcomed by many readers."

Dr. Backus died Dec. 28, 1817, of typhus fever, which then prevailed in the college and vicinity. He married, in 1791, Melicent Demming, of Wethersfield, who with five children survived him. His daughter, Wealtha, became the first wife of Hon. Gerret Smith, of Peterboro.

He was born in Norwich, Connecticut, 13 October 1765; died 9 December 1817. His parents were Congregationalists, but while at Yale he imbibed deistical opinions. He was graduated in 1787 with a high reputation for scholarship, and taught school for a time at Wethersfield, Connecticut Under the influence of his uncle, the Rev. Charles Back-us, he became a Christian and entered the ministry, although at one time he was on the point of joining the army. He was licensed to preach in 1789, and in 1791 became the successor of Dr. Bellamy at Bethlehem, Connecticut, where he also carried on a successful school. Here he remained until, at the foundation of Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, in 1812, he was chosen its first president, and was inaugurated on 3 December of that year. Princeton gave him the degree of S. T. died in 1810. He took great interest in the political questions of the day, and published a number of sermons (1797-1813), among which are the annual "election sermon," delivered in 1798 before the Connecticut legislature, and one on the death of Governor Wolcott (1797).

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His biography has been written upon his tombstone, and, translated literally from the original Latin, it is as follows: "Here lies buried, Azel Backus, D.D., a man of remarkable piety and learning, a zealous minister of the gospel, a distinguished President of Hamilton College; a man of extraordinary diligence and greatly endeared to the members of the institution. In him were conspicuous the highest benevolence toward his fellow-men, incorruptible integrity, and uncompromising truth.





  • Created by: Member#47194125
  • Added: 19 Feb 2011
  • Find A Grave Memorial 65862761
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Dr Azel Backus (13 Oct 1765–28 Dec 1816), Find A Grave Memorial no. 65862761, citing Hamilton College Cemetery, Clinton, Oneida County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Member#47194125 (contributor 47194125) .