Thomas Church Brownell (1779 – 1865)

Thomas Church Brownell

Thomas Church Brownell was born in Westport, Massachusetts. Brownell attended Brown but transferred to Union College in Schenectady, New York after his sophomore year and graduated in 1804. In 1805, he was appointed tutor of Greek and Latin at Union College and in 1806 accepted a position as professor of logic and belles-lettres.

After spending a year in England and Ireland studying chemistry and kindred sciences, Brownell began teaching chemistry at Union College in 1809. In 1813, he was baptized and confirmed as an Episcopalian minister and in 1816 was ordained deacon by Bishop Hobart in New York. In 1819, Brownell was chosen by the diocese of Connecticut to serve as the state’s 3rd Presiding Bishop – a position that had been vacant for six years.

As Bishop, Brownell reignited efforts to establish a faith-based college in Connecticut and in 1823, Washington College (now Trinity College) was chartered by the legislature in Hartford, and Bishop Brownell was elected its first president. Serving as president for nearly a decade, Brownell resigned as president in 1831 at the request of the convention of the diocese. Although he was named in the honorary office of chancellor, Brownell focused his time on serving as Connecticut’s Bishop.

In 1852, Brownell was appointed as the 7th Presiding Bishop of the United States Episcopal Church – a position he held until his death in 1865. Prior to his death, Brownell had witnessed the number of the Episcopalian clergy increase fivefold and the number of Episcopalian churches increased 18-fold.

In recognition of his commitment to the Episcopal faith, his contributions to education, and being recognized as the founder of Trinity College, a large statue of Brownell stands on the College campus. Also of note, Bishop Brownell presided over the marriage of gun manufacturer Samuel Colt and Elizabeth Hart Jarvis in 1856. Thirty-one years earlier, Bishop Brownell presided over the marriage of Elizabeth’s parents, Reverend William Jarvis and Elizabeth Miller Hart. Brownell’s final resting place at Cedar Hill Cemetery is adjacent to the final resting place of Samuel and Elizabeth Colt.

Famous American. Thomas Church Brownell.  Accessed at on August 19, 2010.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Volume III. James T. White & Company, New York, 1893, pp. 217.  Accessed at on August 19, 2010.
Wikipedia. Thomas Church Brownell. Accessed at on August 19, 2010. 

Photo Credit: Thomas Church Brownell, Public Domain