Nathan Beman

Nathan S.S. Beman

Nathan Sidney Smith Beman, D.D., the fourth president of the Institute, was born in that part of Canaan, N.Y., which is now called New Lebanon, on November 26th, 1785. He was a son of Samuel and Silence (Douglass) Beman, his paternal ancestors being of German and his maternal ancestors of Scotch origin. When he was four or five years of age his parents removed to Hampton, Washington County, N.Y., then called Greenfield.

Nathan commenced his preparation for college, in company with the late Hon. Rolin C. Mallory, at Poultney, VT., in 1801, with Mr. Bolles, an eminent teacher, a graduate of the University of Dublin. In 1802 he went under the tuition of a private instructor at Williamstown, Mass, then at the grammar school in that place. He entered Williams College in 1803, but the following year took a dismission, and spent the following year in teaching at Fairhaven, Vt. In the summer of 1804 he entered Middlebury College, graduating in the class of 1807. His classmates were Ira Bascom, D.A.A. Buck, Miles Purdy, Stephen Royce, William Slade and Oliver Stewart. Four of this class, including Dr. Beman, became distinguished men, and perhaps in no one class of the college have so many attained eminence as the class of 1807. Mr. Buck was long a member of Congress; Mr. Royce was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and Governor of Vermont, and Mr. Slade was a member of Congress and also Governor.

After graduating he became preceptor, in the autumn of 1807, of Lincoln Academy at Newcastle, Maine, where he remained more than two years, at the same time pursuing the study of theology with Rev. Kiah Bailey. He was licensed to preach June 14, 1809, by the Lincoln and Kennebec Association. About the same time he was appointed tutor at Middle bury and entered upon the duties of this appointment; but receiving an earnest call from the Third Presbyterian Church in Portland, Me., to which he had preached a few times, he resigned the tutorship and was ordained pastor of that church March 14, 1810. Rev. Kiah Bailey preached the sermon. His health failed in a year or two, with decided symptoms of consumption, and in October, 1812, he was dismissed. He immediately went south and took up his residence in Hancock County, Georgia, at a place afterward called Mount Zion, where he organized a Presbyterian Church and established an academy. Under his superintendence, which continued about ten years, the academy acquired a high reputation and attracted a large number of students.

In 1818 he was elected President of Franklin College, at Athens, Ga. He accepted the office, but held it for only one year, and then returned to his academy at Mount Zion. Coming north in the summer of 1822, he preached on the first Sunday in September in the First Presbyterian Church in Troy, N.Y., and by invitation of the officers continued to supply the pulpit until the following November, when he was called to the pastorate. He accepted the call, and was installed June 14, 1823. Rev. Nathaniel S. Prime preached the sermon. In this pastorate he continued just forty years, during which time he received into the church 1,840 members, of which twenty-six became clergymen. He was dismissed June 17, 1863, at his own request, and the church voted him a life annuity of $1,000.

In 1824, he was elected a trustee of Middlebury College, and continued so until his death - having been a member eighteen months longer than any of his associates. In 1846 he was elected President of the college, but declined the office. He received the degree of doctor of divinity, from Williams College in 1824, and of doctor of laws from Middlebury College in 1852. Dr. Beman was one of the Vice Presidents of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute from 1842 to 1845, and was the President from the latter year to 1865. During these twenty-three years he was also a member of the board of trustees. Brought thus in connection with many young man, at a formative period of their lives, he never neglected any proper opportunity to impress upon them the duty that they owed to themselves, to their parents or guardians, and to society at large, to increase in wisdom and knowledge, and to show by a studious and honorable deportment, a full appreciation of the privileges to which they were admitted.

He died at Carbondale, Ill., August 6, 1871, at the advanced age of eighty-six years.

Nason, Henry B., ed. Biographical Record of the Officers and Graduates of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1824-1886. Troy, NY: William H. Young, 1887, pp. 30-33.

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