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The Sermon and the Steamboat ... thoughts from Deacon Mather and a tragedy on the Sound

In a past blog (“What slave should be held any longer”) we have looked at some writings by Deacon Mather in favor of immediate Emancipation.


In the box containing that speech, we have what might be the final sermon prepared by the Deacon. It is a lengthy sermon based on text of Hebrews Chapter 2, Verse 3. What is of great interest, and helps us date the sermon, is the following…


“We will take for illustration the burning of the Steamboat off our Sound. After the flames had increased beyond their efforts they were in a lost situation…Or if the papers had published their safe arrival at Stonington…”


Deacon Mather died on February 29, 1840. On the night of January 13, 1840, the SS Lexington, a paddlewheel steamboat commissioned by Cornelius Vanderbilt, caught fire, burned, and sank. Of the estimated 143 people on board, only four survived.


The Lexington was considered one of the fastest and most luxurious steamers in operation and was on a run between New York and Stonington Connecticut. The boat was brought to the surface in 1842 but fell back into the Sound. According to some accounts “…Though there is supposedly gold and silver in her hull, she has never been recovered.”


Still considered the worst maritime disaster in Long Island Sound history, this event was obviously on the mind of the Deacon and his congregation in the winter of 1840…and still ours to consider nearly 185 years later.


In a past blog (“What slave should be held any longer”) we have looked at some writings by Deacon Mather in favor of immediate Emancipation.


In the box containing that speech, we have what might be the final sermon prepared by the Deacon. It is a lengthy sermon based on text of Hebrews Chapter 2, Verse 3. What is of great interest, and helps us date the sermon, is the following…


“We will take for illustration the burning of the Steamboat off our Sound. After the flames had increased beyond their efforts they were in a lost situation…Or if the papers had published their safe arrival at Stonington…”



Deacon Mather died on February 29, 1840. On the night of January 13, 1840, the SS Lexington, a paddlewheel steamboat commissioned by Cornelius Vanderbilt, caught fire, burned, and sank. Of the estimated 143 people on board, only four survived.


The Lexington, was considered one of the fastest and most luxurious steamers in operation and was on a run between New York and Stonington Connecticut. The boat was brought to the surface in 1842 but fell back into the Sound. According to some accounts “…Though there is supposedly gold and silver in her hull, she has never been recovered.”


Still considered the worst maritime disaster in Long Island Sound history, this event was obviously on the mind of the Deacon and his congregation in the winter of 1840…and still ours to consider nearly 185 years later.





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