Edward Duffield Neill

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Edward Duffield Neill was a pioneer clergyman and educator in Minnesota from 1849 until his death in 1893. He was born in Philadelphia in 1823 and graduated from Amherst College in 1842. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1848, Neill was the first Protestant clergyman to settle in St. Paul in 1849. He was the founding pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in St. Paul in 1851, the first Protestant Church in Minnesota, and the House of Hope Presbyterian Church in 1855. The two congregations later merged under the House of Hope at its current location on Summit Avenue.

Neill served as the first superintendent of schools for the Minnesota Territory from 1851-53 and as Chancellor for the University of Minnesota from 1858-61. He was also Secretary of the Minnesota Historical Society from 1851-61.

In 1861, Neill was appointed Chaplain of the First Minnesota Volunteers, who served with distinction during the Civil War. He went on to become the United States Hospital Chaplain until 1864, when he became a private secretary to President Abraham Lincoln and later President Andrew Johnson. In 1869, he was appointed as Consul to Dublin, where he served two years.

Returning to Minnesota following his government service, Neill resumed his commitment to education by becoming president of two educational academies that he founded. The resources of these institutions were merged in 1874 when Neill became the founder and first president of Macalester College with the aid of Charles Macalester, a Philadelphia philanthropist, and the Presbyterian Synod of Minnesota. Neill later served as professor of history and literature at the college.

Neill wrote a large number of historical books, mostly of the Colonial period, including: History of Minnesota (1858); Terra Mariae, A History of Early Maryland (1867); History of the Virginia Company of London (1869); English Colonization of America during the Seventeenth Century (1871); and Minnesota Explorers and Pioneers (1881).

Neill built for himself the first brick dwelling house in Minnesota, a limestone villa on the Mississippi River bluff upstream from town along a muddy path that was to become Summit Avenue on the site now occupied by the James J. Hill mansion. In doing so, according to Fodor's Travel Guide, "He started a game of fashionable one-upmanship that would create one of the most enduring boulevards of Victorian architecture in the country."

Edward Duffield Neill left a lasting legacy to the history of the State of Minnesota in the areas of religion, education, public service, and even residential architecture.
~David Bloom, Seattle, WA


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