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Jonathan Blanchard Papers

 Collection — Box: microfilm
Identifier: RG-02-001

Scope and Contents

Biographical material, correspondence, manuscripts, published material, and secondary material, which includes research material. Persons featured include Jonathan Blanchard, his wife, Mary, and children; Charles, Mary Avery, Cyrus Louis, and others


  • Created: 1808-2018
  • Majority of material found within 1808 - 1893


Conditions Governing Access

There are no access restrictions for documents in this record group.

Conditions Governing Use

Duplication may be restricted. Quotation from archival records requires permission of Wheaton College.

Biographical or Historical Information

Jonathan Blanchard was born on January 19, 1811 in the town of Rockingham, Vermont.  His mother, Polly Lovell, was from a family of early settlers in the town. His father, Jonathan Blanchard, Sr. emigrated to the region from Massachusetts in the 1790s and bought a farm near Saxtons River, Vermont in 1801. Fifteen children were born to their union, Jonathan Jr. being the eleventh.  His formal education began at the age of 4 when he entered the local district school. His first experience as an educator came at the age of 14 (1825) when, following the death of his mother, he traveled across the state to Shaftsbury to assume the duties of teaching (1825‑26).

Using money saved from teaching in Shaftsbury and Rockingham (1826), Blanchard entered Chester Academy in Chester, Vermont (1826‑28). Here he boarded with Uzziah Burnap, the school preceptor.  Burnap and his brother, Asa, encouraged the young man to think deeply about his religious faith. Their tutelage was instrumental in Jonathan's decision to devote himself to a life of Christian service.

Following his preparatory studies at Chester, Jonathan entered Uzziah Burnap's  alma  mater,  Middlebury  College  (1828‑32).  Active in the Philomathesian Literary Society, Blanchard learned debate and parliamentary procedure.  While at Middlebury, he began the first of the several newspapers he would eventually found, The Undergraduate. He took his degree on August 15, 1832, at the age of 21.

Blanchard travelled to New York following his college graduation and assumed duties as preceptor of Plattsburg Academy. He often found his duties frustrating, but proposed resolutions for the improvement of the educational system.  Here, also, Jonathan advocated the immediate abolition of slavery, a campaign which he would soon undertake with characteristic vigor.

From 1834‑1836 Blanchard was engaged in theological studies at Andover Seminary.  While there he met Theodore Weld (a reformer and anti‑slavery organizer) and left the school in September of 1836 to become a lecturer for the American Anti‑Slavery Society. He was sent to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where an event occurred which would be of great importance in Blanchard's life; he met his future wife, Mary Avery Bent.

Blanchard continued his theological training in 1837 at Lane Seminary, near Cincinnati, Ohio. He preached in colored churches and continued his work for abolition of slavery. Called to preach to the Sixth Presbyterian Church, he accepted the position as full‑time minister after the completion of his studies. Mary Bent had taken a teaching position in Montgomery, Alabama and the two maintained a correspondence while separated. Jonathan proposed to her through the mail and they were married at the Samuel Bent home in Middlebury, Vermont on September 17, 1838.

Returning to Cincinnati, Blanchard was ordained a Presbyterian minister on October 31, 1838.  In addition to his continued anti‑slavery work, Blanchard and his new wife also promoted the causes of temperance and anti‑secretism.  The first four of twelve children were born during the Blanchards' residence in Ohio: two boys and two girls. Both of the boys died as infants and both girls preceded their parents in death. In 1843 Blanchard traveled to London as a delegate to the World's Anti‑Slavery Convention.  The following year he journeyed to Quincy, Illinois to deliver the commencement address to the Adelphi Theopolis Mission Institute. He took the opportunity to visit Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, which had offered him its presidency. In November of 1845 the Blanchard family made the cold trek to Galesburg and Jonathan was installed as President of the College.

During Jonathan Blanchard's presidency at Knox College the institution's debt was liquidated and the main building erected. His presidency at Knox was terminated due to friction between himself and members of the board of trustees in 1858.

Between 1858 and his assumption of the presidency of Wheaton College in 1860, Blanchard served as pastor of churches in Ottawa (January‑April, 1859) and Galesburg, Illinois. Eight children were added to the Blanchard fold during their 15‑year residency in Galesburg, bringing the total to twelve (a son, Williston, died in 1858). He was offered, but refused the presidency of Iowa College (now Grinnell) and a nomination to run for Congress during this period. He accepted the presidency of the Illinois Institute, a college and preparatory school founded by Wesleyan Methodists.

As with Knox College, Jonathan Blanchard found the Illinois Institute a struggling school. He added new members to the Board of Trustees and gained a new charter for the institution, renaming it Wheaton College (after Trustee and benefactor Warren L.  Wheaton).  Through his efforts the college was brought out of debt and the west wing and tower of the main building were added.  Plagued by weak health, Jonathan and his son Charles (later second president of Wheaton College) undertook a wagon journey to the gold fields of the Montana Territory in 1864. In 1868, Blanchard was a co‑founder of the National Christian Association, a reform body devoted to the cause of anti‑secretism.  He became editor and a regular contributor to The Christian Cynosure, official organ of the NCA. The years 1878‑79 saw a threat to the Blanchard presidency in an imbroglio involving Professor John Calvin Webster and the Congregational church in Wheaton. In 1882 Blanchard turned over the presidency to his son, Charles, but remained active in reform work. He became involved in politics in 1884 with the organization of the American Party. The following years saw Blanchard travelling: to Batavia, NY (1882), Washington D.C. (1882 and 1883‑84), Saratoga Springs, NY (1885), the South (1885‑86, 1888), and Vermont (with his wife and granddaughter Faith Fischer in 1888). During a trip to California in 1890, Mary Blanchard became ill and died in East Las Vegas, New Mexico. Blanchard spent his remaining years quietly in Wheaton where he died in his sleep on Saturday, May 14, 1892 at the home of Herman and Julia Fischer.

Note written by Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections staff.


38 boxes

Language of Materials



The Jonathan Blanchard Collection is a diverse gathering of items covering the family of Wheaton College's first president. Ranging from the scribblings of grandchildren to a petition for the abolition of slavery, they illuminate Blanchard in many roles: Minister, College President, Abolitionist, Anti Secretist, Reformer, lecturer, and head of a large family. Jonathan Blanchard's life in both the public and private realm is detailed. In addition to the biographical interest of the materials, students and scholars of 19th century Society, Religion, Politics, Education, Family, Women, Children, Abolitionism, Temperance, Reform, Travel, Secret Societies and Anti secretism will find ample material for research in the Blanchard papers.

Arrangement Note

The collection is arranged by series with folder level control.

Source of Acquisition


Method of Acquisition

Most of the collection came to the Archives through two of Jonathan Blanchard's grandchildren. Miss Julia Blanchard, who assisted Clyde S. Kilby on his 1959 biography of Blanchard, donated many of the collection's holdings. The second major accession was a donation by Mr. Raymond P. Fischer. He gave more than 1850 letters and other items in 1986.

Accruals and Additions

Other materials have been accessioned over a period of many years to bring the collection to its present state.

Related Materials

Other holdings in the Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections complement and expand the Jonathan Blanchard materials available. Photographs from the Blanchard era are maintained in the College Archives in a separate series. The Charles A. Blanchard and Herman A. Fischer/Julia Blanchard Fischer collections further document the lives of two of Blanchard's children and their families. The archive and library of the National Christian Association (NCA  founded in part by Jonathan Blanchard) is also available for research. This includes a complete run of The Christian Cynosure, the official organ of the NCA, from the inaugural issue in 1867 through Jonathan Blanchard's death in 1892. Many books from Jonathan Blanchard's personal library are housed in Special Collection #006.  Memorabilia in the College Archives contains personal effects of the Blanchards as well as Wheaton College related period pieces.

Jonathan Blanchard Papers
Buswell Library Special Collections Staff
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Roman Script

Repository Details

Part of the Wheaton College Archives Repository

501 College Ave.
Wheaton IL 60187-5593 USA