Portrait of William Emerson

William Emerson

1769 – 1811

William Emerson (1769–1811). The son of William Emerson—a Congregational pastor at Concord Church who was present at the Battle of Concord—and the father of Ralph Waldo Emerson (the fourth of eight children), Emerson was a Unitarian clergyman and pastor of the First Church in Boston after 1799.

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A decade earlier he was graduated from Harvard, where he had been ordained as a Unitarian pastor. Interested in the social, literary, and musical life of Boston, as well as its religious affairs, he was criticized for worldliness. Theologically liberal and an eloquent, if formal, preacher, he served as chaplain of the Massachusetts Senate and an overseer of Harvard College. Emerson participated in the Massachusetts Historical Society, edited the Monthly Anthology literary magazine, and founded the Anthology Club, from whose library the Boston Athenaeum Library developed. He died at the age of forty-one, leaving as his most substantial work An Historical Sketch of the First Church in Boston, published posthumously in 1812.

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