Category Archives: American Home Missionary Society

1843: Romulus Barnes to Lucien Farnum

This letter was written by Rev. Romulus Barnes (1800-1846), the son of Daniel Giles Barnes (1752-1814) and Sarah Webster (1767-1830). Romulus was married to Olivia Denham (1807-1887).

Romulus was born in Bristol, Connecticut, and graduated from Yale College in 1828. After graduating from the Yale Theological Seminary in 1831, he moved to Illinois where he began to preach. His wife was from Conway, Massachusetts, and she attended Holyoke Seminary under the tutelage of Mary Lyons.

Olivia (Denham) Barnes in later years

Romulus and Olivia were partners in their ministry on the Illinois frontier. Under the auspices of the American Home Missionary Society, the couple faced danger together as they carried the message of anti-slavery into a land that was largely inhabited by pro-slavery (or at least anti-Black) settlers. They were ostracized by neighbors and by many of the churches. On one occasion Olivia was severely wounded by a stone thrown at her by a pro-slavery mob while her husband delivered an anti-slavery sermon. After the death of her husband in 1846 leaving her with eight children, Olivia carried on her work alone.

Romulus wrote the letter to his brother-in-law, Rev. Lucien Farnham (1799-1874), the first pastor of the Congregational Church in Batavia, Illinois, who was married to Louisa Denham (1804-1833). Louisa’s brother, Butler Denham (1805-1841) was married to a woman named Eunice Storrs (1809-1899). When Butler died in 1841, Eunice took Owen Lovejoy (1811-1864) as her second husband.

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Roy Gallup and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]


Addressed to Rev. Lucien Farnum, Batavia, Kane county, Illinois

Washington, Tazewell county, Illinois
January 23, 1843

Dear Bro. Farnum,

Not long after you was here I made up my mind to leave this place. The church generally appear friendly to me & the Elders have frequently expressed the opinion that no more can be raised in this community without the sacrifice of principle, for any man that can be obtained, than for me. However this may be, one thing is certain—they do not do enough for me to justify me in continuing my labors under such a variety of discouragements.

What will be my duty, I know not. I cannot feel it to be my duty to go into a log cabin with my family as we did when our family was small. I cannot consider it to be duty to place my wife where her labors will be greater than they are at present. If you know of any place where we could be useful, please inform me. We should be glad to move early in the spring.

I am happy to inform you that we are at present in the midst of a very inter-revival in the neighborhood of Mr. [Moses] Morse‘s. For several weeks past, I have preached there every Sabbath & for the last three of four weeks. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the congregation has been very manifest. Some five or six have expressed hope in Christ & last evening ten or twelve new cases of seriousness were manifest—all youth from the age 12 to 23 or 24 years. Our prayer is may the work be carried on with great power.

Last week we received a letter from our friend in Conway [Mass.]. Their health was good as usual. They said that they wrote to you some time last summer but had received no answer. They were anxious to hear from you. My wife unites with me in love to you & yours. The children also wished to be remembered to their cousin Louisa. Please write soon.

Very affectionately yours, &c., — R. Barnes