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George BARRELL CHEEVER was born in Hallowell, Me., April 17, 1807; second son of Charlotte Barrell, of York, and Nathaniel Cheever, of Salem, Mass. His father acquired the art of printing in the office of Isaiah Thomas, under the guardian. ship of his uncle, Rev. Dr. Aaron Bancroft of Worcester. In Hallowell, he became a leading man, of great integrity, energy, and force of char acter. He was printer and publisher, founder of the American Advocate and General Advertiser of Kennebec County, Me. He early published an edition of the “ Pilgrim's Progress," for the people of his State, believed to have been the first book of the kind issued in the then District of Maine. The moulding influence of this work was marked upon the character and life of the son. Through his father's book store he became an early and eager devourer of books.
His grandfather was Nathaniel Cheever, of Salem, of whom it is recorded in the Maine Reports,* that his was the first blood shed in the Revolution, he being one of a party of Provincials who resisted a company of British Regulars sent from Boston by Gov. Thos. Gage to seize the Salem powder-mill, just before hostilities began between the colonists and the mother country. At a certain bridge near to Salem the resistance was so stout that Mr. Cheever received the thrust of a British bayonet, whose holder was at once thrown into the stream by the angry Provincialists, and the British force retreated without effecting their object.
* Vol. XXXIII. page 593.
George was educated at Hallowell Academy and Bowdoin College, Brunswick, being of the class of 1825, to which belonged the poet Longfellow, the writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, Congressman Jonathan Cilley, the historian J. S. C. Abbott, U. S. Senator J. W. Bradbury, and Patrick Henry Greenleaf, D.D. He studied for the ministry at Andover under the instruction of Prof. Moses Stuart and Drs. Robinson, Woods, Murdock, and Ebenezer Porter.
While in college and the theological seminary he began his life as author by frequent contributions to the U. S. Literary Gazette and the American Monthly Magazine. He also compiled the popular “ American Common-place Books of Prose and Poetry,” and edited the “Select Works of Archbishop Leighton,” with a much admired critique on his life, writings, and character, and “Studies in English Poetry for the Schools.” Articles from his pen appeared in the North American Review on “ Lowths' Hebrew Poetry," in the Quarterly Register on “Greek Literature," and in other periodicals, on “The Genius of Edmund Burke," and a deprecatory essay on the “Removal of the Indians " in review of “The Letters of William Penn" (Jeremiah Evarts).
On leaving the seminary he preached as substitute for absent pastors at Newburyport and the Essex Street Church, Boston, in connection with the evangelical labors of Charles G. Finney; and was finally settled over the Howard Street Church, Salem, in 1833. His fervent and impressive ministry there is remembered with deepest interest by some who survive to this present, by more who “have fallen on sleep."
The writer of this sketch has frequently heard his discourses referred to by men now far in the vale of years, as having made a powerful impression upon their minds. Conscience and Christ were his recurring themes ; and his appeals to innate ideas and intuitions, with reasonings from the nature of things," made his hearers solemn and thoughtful over themselves, and given to feel. ing after a Saviour, if haply they might find him.”
Settled in a city where Unitarianism was predominant, he early engaged with enthusiasm in defence of “the faith once delivered to the saints," beginning with an address at the religious celebration of the Fourth of July in Salem, entitled, “Worldly Principles and Maxims as they Appear in the Light of Divine Truth."
It is an interesting psychological fact that this wide-reaching address contains in embryo the thoughts and principles of many subsequent discourses on the temperance, anti-slavery, antipopery, Sabbath, social, and political reforms.
The sharp criticism and controversy evoked by this extraordinary production led to a series of spirited articles in the public press of Salem