First among New York Baptists of his day, both in wealth and influence, was Deacon William Colgate, of the Oliver Street Church. Nature had endowed him with a comely person, and the God of Nature had created in him a gracious heart and an open hand, always ready for every good work for the Christ he loved. His wealth would not be considered great in these days, and pales almost to insignificance beside the immense fortunes which his sons have since accumulated, and which - to their honor be it said - they have used and are still using as their father used
his, to carry forward the Redeemer's kingdom on the earth. Deacon William Colgate had not the advantage of what is called a liberal education, but he had what is often more useful, a liberal endowment of practical sense, together with great knowledge of men, and fine insight into character. He took great interest in young men, a fact which proved greatly to the advantage of the writer. He seemed to know every man's attitude and value, and the writer has often thought that if Deacon Colgate had been trained to diplomacy, he would have had few superiors in diplomatic circles, either at home or abroad.
In 1839, Deacon Colgate transferred his church membership from the Oliver Street Church to the newly constituted Tabernacle Church in Mulberry Street, and it was here that the writer was privileged to know him so well. While that church was contemplating a removal from Mulberry Street to Second Avenue, the writer - then a young man, but accustomed to taking part in the business meetings of the church - strenuously opposed removal to any locality above Bleecker Street. After the chaste and beautiful edifice on Second Avenue had been completed, the deacon and he happened to be standing together in front of the building, and the former asked the latter what he thought of the new house? Nothing but praise could be uttered in response, and the deacon continued, "Yes, we have much to be thankful for; but we have made a mistake in
coming here." Of course the other thought so too, and was pleased to hear the admission, but a curious twinkle in the deacon's eye warned him there was something more to come, and presently the deacon added, "We ought to have gone to Thirtieth Street." What the younger man thought need not be recorded, but the foresight of the older one was soon made evident. Fifteen years later any Baptist would have said, the Tabernacle Church ought to be in Thirtieth Street.
Deacon Colgate had four sons: Robert, James B., Samuel, and Joseph. The last named died many years ago in Europe where he had gone in quest of health. Mr. Robert Colgate died within a few years. He was a gentleman of refined tastes and a liberal patron of art, and gave liberally to all Christian and benevolent enterprises. Mr. James B. Colgate is still living, and is continually giving munificently to the cause of Christ in numerous ways. Mr. Samuel Colgate has recently passed on to the better country. He gave freely of his large fortune, not only to the university with which the Colgate family is so fully identified, but also to the support of home and foreign missions, and whatever he believed tended to the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom throughout the world. He gave himself, his warm heart, his clear intellect, and his physical strength, as a deacon, Sunday-school superintendent, and teacher, in the church where he belonged.
To him also the denomination is indebted for a most valuable historical library which he has gathered with immense labor extending over many years; and for its preservation, he has erected a spacious hall in Colgate University grounds, thus rendering its use convenient to all visitors through coming time.1
1 At a recent dinner of the alumni of Colgate University, Mr. James B. Colgate, the president of its Board of trustees, said in substance: "It was founded in 1818, the year in which I was born. It was organized with thirteen members and thirteen dollars. The population of New York City was then one hundred and fifty thousand. The increase of the university has not kept pace with the increase of population, but it has been quite satisfactory."
[From Reminiscences of Baptist churches and Baptist leaders in New York City and ..., 1899, pp. 185-187. Document from Google Books On-line. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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