San Francisco Genealogy - San Francisco Theological Seminary, 1907

San Francisco Theological Seminary, 1907

Source:  Curry, James, D.D., History of the San Francisco Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and Its Alumni Association
Reporter Publishing Company, Vacaville, California, 1907.


William S. Ladd

When the San Francisco Theological Seminary was established it was under the care of the Synod of the Pacific, which then included the three Pacific Coast States.  This has since been divided into the three Synods of California, Oregon and Washington, and these three now control and support the Seminary.

Among those who took a deep interest in this institution and did much to establish it on a firm basis was Mr. William Sargent Ladd of Portland, Ore.  Mr. Ladd, the eldest son of Dr. Nathaniel G. Ladd, was born in Holland, Vt., October 10, 1826, and when about four years old he moved with his parents to New Hampshire.  He lived here for twenty years, going to school in the winter, working on a farm, teaching and railroading.  He then determined to seek his fortune on the Pacific Coast.  His desire was to accumulate $20,000.  He reached Portland April 8, 1851.  He worked out by the month for awhile and then turned to trading, and became a successful merchant.

Before leaving his home in Sanbornton Bridge, N.H., he became engaged to Miss Caroline Ames Elliott, and on October 17, 1854, he was married to her in San Francisco.  The union proved a very happy one, and Mr. Ladd attributed much of his success in life to her helpfulness.  She still lives in Portland, and for many years has been at the head of the Woman’s Home Mission Society of the State, where she has done excellent service for the Master.

Some years after his marriage Mr. Ladd proposed to his friend, Mr. Charles E. Tilton, that they start a bank in Portland, and in April, 1859, the bank was opened for business.  This was the first bank established north of San Francisco.  They began business with a capital of $50,000.  Mr. Tilton retired in 1880, and in 1889, a few years before Mr. Ladd’s death, the deposits amounted to about $4,000,000.

Mr. Ladd also engaged in manufacture, farming and stock-raising, and was one of the principals in establishing the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company, the Portland Water Company, the Portland Hotel, and in inaugurating many other enterprises.

His hard and unremitting labors told on his nervous system, and in 1876 he was paralyzed so that thereafter he was unable to walk.  His mind, however, was not affected and he continued to attend to his business, while he bore his affliction with Christian resignation.  On June 6, 1893, he was suddenly called away by death leaving a large circle of friends to mourn his loss and honor his memory.

William M. Ladd, the eldest son, has succeeded his father in the management of his large business, a position for which he is admirably adapted.  He also continues the good work of aiding worthy men and enterprises, and for many years has been a member of the Board of Directors of our Seminary.

The foregoing sketch is but a brief history of a man whose life and work were remarkable.  The principal object in making a record of such a life for the world is to endeavor to exhibit his spirit, character and noble purpose as a guide and inspiration to others.

Mr. Ladd was of good stock.  Some of his ancestors came from England as early as 1623, were connected with the Society of Friends, and were people of substantial and worthy character.

His early life was under conditions that tended to the development of industry and economy, of self-reliance and integrity.  These characteristics continued with him and influenced his whole life, so that he was not only successful in business, but he also exerted a wide and powerful influence for good.

It was said of him in 1889 that “he was clearly recognized as the most prominent figure in the Northwestern States, . . . exerting greater influence and control than any other citizen in that section . . . He did much to elevate the tone of politics and society and to keep pure the moral sentiment of the community. . . He came to Oregon to Americanize the country, to develop free and enlightened institutions and to rear intelligent and virtuous society.”

There was a noble purpose, and he kept it ever in view.  He assisted worthy men, his own city and State, and the whole Coast.  His aim was not merely to render aid to the needy and worthy, but especially to help them to help themselves.  Thus he aided in the development of character, and in power to do and succeed alone.

He was a friend to the cause of education.  He was a prominent contributor to the founding and sustaining of the Portland Library Association.  He established a scholarship in the university at Salem, endowed a chair in the mechanical department of the State University at Portland, and his generosity made possible the establishment of the Portland Academy, which is doing an excellent work in the cause of Christian education.

He was an earnest Christian, attended faithfully the services of the sanctuary and made the Bible his guide in life.  He was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Portland, and by his generosity and labor helped it to secure its fine house of worship and exert the wide and good influence it long has had.  He contended that material benefits as well as religious were derived from the support of churches, and backed up his argument by tithing his large income for that purpose.  He not only supported generously his own church, but contributed liberally to the cause of missions, and it was his rule to assist in the building of every new church of all denominations in all the great Northwest.

In 1886 Mr. Ladd came to the assistance of the San Francisco Theological Seminary.  The Presbyterians of the Coast had undertaken to raise an endowment of $50,000, but were not meeting with much success.  Mr. Ladd proposed to endow the chair of Practical Theology with $50,000, on condition that the Synod of California should raise a like amount and that the Synod of the Columbia should have six members on the Board of Directors.

Under this stimulus the project succeeded, and thus the Seminary secured an endowment of $100,000 and the deeper interest and surer patronage for the future of the broad field of the great Northwest.  For this especially will the name of William S. Ladd be ever held in high esteem and honor by all of its friends, while his noble life will continue to be an inspiration to others in the honorable accumulation of wealth and influence, and in their wise use for the welfare of their fellow men and the honor of our Divine Lord and Master.

Hon. Nathaniel Gray

One of the great needs of an institution of learning is to have in its directorate competent business men.  This is necessary for the purpose of providing means for its sustenance and the proper conduct of its business affairs.  The San Francisco Theological Seminary has had many such men, and one of the most prominent, generous and competent of them all was Mr. Nathaniel Gray.

He was a New Englander, and was born July 20, 1808, in Massachusetts, and died at his home in Oakland, Cal., April 24, 1889, in the eighty-first year of his age.

He married Miss Emeline A. Hubbard December 29, 1832.  She died January 20, 1887, and so they had lived together in the married life for more than fifty-four years.

Mr. Gray was a mechanic in early life, but he engaged in missionary work in New York City when thirty years of age and continued it for over twelve years.  Mrs. Gray also had an earnest missionary spirit.  She aided in founding the first school for Chinese girls in California, and gave generously of her time and money for the cause of missions.

Mr. Gray came to California in 1850 and devoted himself to the business of an undertaker until the close of his life.  He did not aspire to political honors, but was elected Coronor for the city of San Francisco in 1852, and was a member of the Legislature in 1863.

His name will ever be prominently associated with works of philanthropy, religion and education.  At the time of his death he was President of the “Old People’s Home” and the “San Francisco Benevolent Society,” Trustee in the “California Bible Society” and the “Young Men’s Christian Association,” and Director in the “San Francisco Theological Seminary.”

He was long Ruling Elder in the First Presbyterian Church of San Francisco and a liberal contributor to its support, to other churches and to the cause of missions and general benevolence.

He was a friend of education.  He established a scholarship for young ladies in Mills College, near Oakland, and gave $10,000 to erect the beautiful Hall of Science in that institution that bears his name.

Mr. Gray was elected a Director of the San Francisco Theological Seminary in October, 1879, and served in that capacity for ten years.  He was also for a time a Trustee and Vice-President of the Board of Directors.  He served the Seminary faithfully, not only with his time, counsel and labor, but also with his money.  He gave unsolicited the first $5,000 for endowment in California.  He donated two lots on California street in San Francisco, February 4, 1889, as a site for the Seminary.  These were worth at least $20,000, and during his last sickness he was planning how $60,000 might be raised to erect suitable Seminary buildings on them.  But he was not permitted to carry out his plans, for on the 24th of April following he departed this life.  Mr. Gray was a man of fine physique and strong mind and retained his powers wonderfully at the age of four-score.  He was a man of true piety, kind heart and generous impulses, and won a host of friends who will long hold him in loving remembrance.  He was succeeded in his office of Director by his son, George D. Gray, a prominent business man of San Francisco.  He has filled the office well for eighteen years, during much of which time he has also served as Trustee.

Alexander Montgomery

When the San Francisco Theological Seminary was established it had neither money, houses nor lands.  Under the leadership of able and earnest men, however, it made good progress.  As it developed the need for better equipment became more and more manifest.  Ours is a time of great undertakings, not only in the business world, but also in educational.  To keep up with the times institutions of learning need large sums of money for buildings, equipment and endowment.  This was true of our Seminary, and in due time a man was found who was both able and ready to give generous assistance.  This man was Mr. Alexander Montgomery, a capitalist of San Francisco, whose home was in Oakland.

He was born in the North of Ireland, but had lived in America for many years; was a pioneer in California and had amassed her a large fortune.  By birth and training he was a Presbyterian.

Through Dr. Robert Mackenzie Mr. Montgomery became interested in the Seminary and determined to assist it.  The more he learned about it and the more he did for it, the more he wanted to do.  He first decided to give $50,000, but his interest so grew that when the time came to make the donation he increased it 500 per cent, and presented his check for $250,000 December 3, 1889.  He subsequently enlarged his donations, and also left a residuary bequest which he believed would provide for all the wants of the Seminary for years to come.  But there came such a depression in values of real estate soon after this that the amount realized from the bequest was much les than had been anticipated; but with his generous donations and $50,000 from other donors, there were erected on the Seminary grounds all the buildings that are there, consisting of Montgomery Hall, Scott Library Hall, Montgomery Memorial Chapel and the four residences for the professors.  In addition to this, two chairs in the Seminary were endowed, a large sum was set apart for the general expenses of the Seminary, and $10,000 as a permanent repair fund for the chapel.

These gifts place Mr. Montgomery among the most generous supporters of theological education in America.  He died November 4, 1893, and his remains were laid to rest in the crypt of the beautiful memorial chapel.  These fine buildings, located in one of the most lovely spots in California, will doubtless long remain as a fitting monument to his memory.

Note.—The author regrets that there were not data obtainable to enable him to give a more extended sketch of the life of Mr. Montgomery, who was the largest donor to our Seminary.

Arthur W. Foster

As the San Francisco Theological Seminary developed it outgrew its home on Haight street, and a new site became a necessity.  At such a time a stanch friend was raised up for it in Mr. Arthur W. Foster of San Rafael.

Mr. Foster had married Miss Louise Scott, a daughter of Dr. Scott, and was familiar with the work and needs of the Seminary.  He was a capitalist of San Francisco and President of the San Francisco and North Pacific Coast Railroad Company, and later became a Regent of the University of California.  He was, therefore, able to assist the Seminary with his influence and money, and was disposed to do so.  Accordingly, on April 4, 1890, he deeded to the Seminary fourteen acres of ground at San Anselmo as a new site for the Seminary, on condition that not less than $25,000 be raised to erect buildings thereon.  His generosity moved Mr. Alexander Montgomery to make liberal contributions, as already stated, and the result is that we now have a Seminary equipped with large and fine buildings in one of the most beautiful, pleasant and healthful locations in California.

Mr. Foster was largely instrumental in persuading Mr. Montgomery to have erected as his monument the Memorial Chapel, and was one of the trustees in directing the erection of that beautiful building.  He also for some time contributed $600 per year on the salary of Professor Paterson.  He was elected a Director of the Seminary April 24, 1890, and continued as such for several years.  Although of late he has declined official connection with the institution, on account of the pressure of his business, yet it ever has his continued interest and generous support.

J.D. Thompson

When a great educational institution has obtained a good site, erected suitable buildings thereon, secured a competent Faculty and endowments for their support, another matter essential to its welfare is money to meet its general expenses for taxes, insurance, repairs and business management.  The San Francisco Theological Seminary had long been in straits in this particular, when a generous friend was raised up for it in the person of Mr. J.D. Thompson of San Francisco.

He became interested in the Seminary, and on April 24, 1890, he gave money to found the Davenport scholarship therein.  Some time after this he made a bequest of valuable property on California street, San Francisco, to this institution.  This property was sold to good advantage in March, 1904, through the wise management of Mr. Charles A. Laton, Business Manager of the Seminary, and the net proceeds to the Seminary were $145,761.

This was a very valuable donation to the general fund, and came in an opportune time, when, with the growth of the Seminary, the general expenses were greatly increased.  The sincere gratitude of all interested in this institution is due to this generous friend of Christian education.

John H. Converse

Mr. John H. Converse is a resident of Philadelphia, Pa.  He is not only a man of prominence in business and church circles in that city, but is also a man of national reputation.  As President of the Baldwin Locomotive Works he is at the head of one of the largest businesses in the country.  He is also a Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church, is active in all Christian enterprises in the “City of Brotherly Love,” and the originator of, and leader in, the great evangelistic movement carried on by the Presbyterian Church in the United States for several years past.  His interest has been enlisted in the works of the San Francisco Theological Seminary of late years in a substantial way.

On April 27, 1904, the Directors of the Seminary received his check for $1,000 as a foundation for a “Library Endowment Fund,” and after the great disaster in San Francisco he gave $10,000 to supplement the endowment of the chair of Systematic Theology.

Hon. J.D. Thornton

Among those chosen in the early years of our Seminary to help conduct its affairs was Judge J.D. Thornton, a prominent lawyer of San Francisco.  He was a Kentuckian by birth and education, who came to California many years ago; and, amidst all the rush of this Western metropolis, he retained the calm, courteous, dignified deportment of a Gentleman of the Old School.  He was a Ruling Elder in Dr. Scott’s church, and naturally would be conversant with, and interested in, the affairs of the Seminary.  In October, 1878, hw was elected a Director and Trustee, and continued as such for twenty years.  He was also the Attorney for the Seminary from 1879 on for many years, and was Chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1885 to 1897.  In this three-fold office he rendered efficient services for the Seminary.

On account of his increasing age and infirmities he offered his resignation April 27, 1898.  This was accepted by the Board of Directors October 14, 1898, with much regret, and with expressions of high regard, in which they said:  “That we bear testimony to his fidelity and efficiency as a Director, and that his wisdom and experience as a counselor have been invaluable.”  He died a few years since, and his memory is held in high esteem and honor by this many friends.

Clement E. Babb, D.D.

Readers of Presbyterian papers during the last two-score years have generally been familiar with the communications of “C.E.B.” and “Senex Smith.”  These were the writings of Dr. D.E. Babb, who was born in Pittston, Pa., August 19, 1821, lived for many years in Ohio, and spent his later life near San Jose, Cal.

He graduated from Dickinson College, Pa., 1840, and received D.D. from Marietta College, O., 1868.  He was a student in Union Seminary, N.Y., 1846-47, and in Lane Seminary, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1847-48; Licensed, 1848, by the Presbytery of Dayton, Ohio, and Ordained in the same year by the Presbytery of Indianapolis.  He preached in the Second Church, Indianapolis, 1848-53; College Hill, Ohio, 1859--, and San Jose, Cal., 1881-82.

He was editor of, and contributor to, the “Christian Herald” and “The Herald and Presbyer,” Cincinnati, Ohio, from 1853 till his death, and editor of “The Occident,” San Francisco, 1875-80.  Dr. Babb was a competent editor, but was best known as a contributor to the religious press.  He was a keep observer and had the faculty of taking the common things of life and teaching lessons from them in an interesting and constructive manner.  Two volumes of these communications have been published under the titles “C.E.B.” and “Senex Smith.”  He was a lawyer for three years, and served as Chaplain of the Twenty-second Ohio Infantry in 1861-62.  He was a Director in the Seminary 1879-93; President of the Board, 1890-93, and took a deep interest in its welfare.  He died at his home near San Jose, Cal., January 7, 1906, at the advanced age of almost four-score and four years.

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