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Bill Thayer

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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1831

Vol. I

(Born Ct.)

Roswell Park​a

(Ap'd N. Y.)


Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, July 1, 1827, to July 1, 1831, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Bvt. Second Lieut., Corps of Engineers, July 1, 1831.

Second Lieut., Corps of Engineers, July 1, 1831.

Served: as Asst. Engineer in the construction of Ft. Adams, Newport harbor, R. I., 1831‑33, — of Ft. Warren, Boston harbor, Mas., 1833‑36, — and of Delaware Breakwater, mouth of Delaware Bay, 1836.

Resigned, Sep. 30, 1836.

Civil History. — Professor of Natural Philosophy and Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania, 1836‑42. Clergyman of the Protestant Episcopal Church, 1843‑69. Principal of Christ Church Hall (High School), Pomfret, Ct., 1845‑52. Elected President of Norwich University, Vt., 1850: declined. President of Racine College, Wis., 1852‑59, and its Chancellor, 1859‑62. Rector and Proprietor of Immanuel Hall Seminary, near Chicago, Ill., 1863‑1869. Degree of A. M. conferred by Union College, N. Y., 1836, — and by Hamilton College, N. Y., 1837; and of D. D., by Norwich University, Vt., 1850. Author of a "Sketch of the History of West Point," 1840, of "Pantology, or a Systematic Survey of Human Knowledge," 1841, — of "Hand Book for American Travellers in Europe," 1853, — and of "Jerusalem, and other poems," 1857.

Died, July 16, 1869, near Chicago, Ill.: Aged 62.

Buried, St. John's Chapel, Racine, WI.

Biographical Sketch.​b

Rev. Roswell Park was born in 1807, at Lebanon, Ct., and died July 16, 1869, near Chicago, Ill., in the 62d year of his age. His parentage was humble, and he was brought up as a mechanic; but at sixteen he displayed such talents that he was employed in drawing plans for the United States Armory, at Springfield, Mas. Shortly after this, his parents having removed to the State of New York, he studied during the summers at Oxford and Hamilton Academies; while in the winters he taught school for a livelihood, and to defray the expenses of his education. Having prepared himself in this way by mingled study and teaching, he entered the Sophomore Class at Hamilton College in 1826. In the following year he entered the Military Academy, from which he was graduated at the head of his class, July 1, 1831, and promoted to be a Brevet Second Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers of the United States Army. It was in accordance with the persevering industry, which  p470 was ever a mark of his character, that, within a month of his graduation at West Point, he passed the necessary examinations, and received the degree of A. B. at Union College, N. Y. Subsequently that of A. M. was conferred upon him by this institution, and, in 1837, by Hamilton College.

His first duty as an engineer was in Newport harbor, R. I., where, under Colonel Totten, he was engaged in the construction of Ft. Adams till 1833, when he was transferred to the command of Colonel Thayer, at Ft. Warren, the principal defense of Boston harbor, Mas. In 1836 he took the local charge of the Delaware Breakwater at the mouth of Delaware Bay, but remained there only till Sep. 30, 1836, when he resigned his commission.

Upon leaving the Army he became Professor of Natural Philosophy and Chemistry in the University of Pennsylvania, at Philadelphia, Pa. Here he remained till 1842, in the meantime, 1840, having become the author of a "Sketch of the History of West Point;" and the next year of "Pantology, or a Systematic Survey of Human Knowledge." The former, mostly a compilation of official documents, gave only a meagre account of our great National Military School, but, being then its only history extant, was popular in its day. The latter work, the germ of which he prepared while a Cadet for the Dialectic Society of the U. S. Military Academy, was much more pretentious, being offered as a guide to those who were seeking to explore the vast expanse of human knowledge. Limited to a single large octavo volume, it of course gave only an outline of a systematic tour around the whole intellectual world, contained in books which, if aggregated together, would build a Cheops' Pyramid. No one but a most industrious student, reading or examining whole libraries, could have produced what Sir James Mackintosh would call an "Exhaustive Analysis" of Human Knowledge, furnishing a distinct and proper place for every topic of thought, even those of minor importance: a kind of Index Rerum, or method of arranging texts of study. The work is outlined under the four general heads of Psychonomy, or those studies which relate more particularly to the human intellect and the laws by which it is governed; Ethnology, or the study of Nations geographically and historically; Physiconomy, or those studies which relate more immediately to the material world; and Technology, or the study of the physical arts. Each of these heads has numerous subdivisions, any one of which if fully developed would require more space than Professor Park has given to his entire Pantology. However, he has attempted to present such leading ideas of each branch as would give just views of its nature, extent, and relative importance; "thus in some degree gratifying curiosity, while stimulating it to further inquiries." Appended to the Pantology is a bibliographical catalogue referring to some of the best authorities on each branch of knowledge, which, if carefully perused, would supply fuller information upon the special subject treated. In this catalogue of works, the learned professor has made some curious mistakes, showing how dangerous it is to speak of books one has never read. For instance, under the head of "Strategy," he gives "Garsault's Parfait Maréchal" (Complete Horse Farrier), doubtless thinking it meant the Perfect Marshal commanding a model army.

Professor Park was admitted, Sep. 10, 1843, to holy orders as a Deacon of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and the following year was ordained a Priest. He removed, in 1845, to Pomfret, Ct., where he established a High School under the name of "Christ Church Hall." While here, in 1850, he declined the Presidency of Norwich University, Vt., from which he received the same year the degree of Doctor of Divinity.

Feeling that a Church College was greatly needed in the Northwest, Dr. Park, in 1852, became the President of Racine College, Wis., to  p471 the building up of which he devoted seven years of faithful labor,​c and then resigned only to become the Chancellor of the institution and fill the place of Professor of Natural Science. To these dignified duties he added the laborious care of the large and growing parish of St. Luke in the city of Racine.

At Lake View, a beautiful spot near Chicago, Ill., he in 1863 established "Immanuel Hall Seminary," of which he was the Rector and Proprietor, and to which he devoted the remainder of his life, earnestly and with full measure of success.

Dr. Park, though not a man of genius, had great powers of mind; was inordinately ambitious of reputation; and possessed the most extraordinary faculty for absorbing, though not for applying, knowledge. At the Military Academy he took the first honors in every branch of study, for many of which he had little aptitude, drawing for instance; but such was his industry and perseverance that Raphael would have had to look well to his laurels had he been his classmate in the graphic art. Other illustrations of his force of application, achieving much for which he had little faculty, were his preparation, in 1853, of a "Hand Book for American Travelers in Europe," without ever having been abroad; and his publication, in 1857, of "Jerusalem and other Poems," without ever drinking at the Pierian Spring.​d Without creative power, he was only a man of learning, and hence never rose above the professor or priest; but in these callings he spent a pure life of blended educational and ecclesiastical labor, much beloved by those who knew his true and kind heart.

Thayer's Notes:

a Not to be confused with at least seven other members of his family — the first name passing from father to son over the generations — and in particular his son Roswell Park, born in 1852 in Pomfret, CT, who would become a distinguished surgeon and founded a research laboratory that now bears his name as the Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

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b Further biographical information is provided by the Church Register of the Protestant Episcopal Church for August, 1869, significant excerpts of which were quoted in a Necrology of Graduates presented at the 1st Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy on June 17, 1870 (pp2‑3).

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c For further light on Park's character and his involvement with Racine College, see Rev. Homer Wheeler, Historical Sketch of Racine College, passim and Rev. Sydney H. Croft, "A Hundred Years of Racine College and DeKoven Foundation" in Wisconsin Magazine of History (Vol. 35, No. 4, summer, 1952). Rev. Park is buried in St. John's chapel, now part of the DeKoven Center.

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d He had, however, also published a collection of Juvenile and Miscellaneous Poems in 1836.

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