Born: Jan­ua­ry 7, 1820, West Brook­field, Mas­sa­chu­setts.

Died: Oc­to­ber 13, 1890, Bar Har­bor, Maine.

Buried: Phil­lips Aca­de­my Ce­me­te­ry, An­do­ver, Mas­sa­chu­setts.


Austin was the son of cler­gy­man El­i­a­kim Phelps, who was prin­ci­pal of a girls’ school in Pitts­field, Mas­sa­chu­setts, and lat­er pas­tor of a Pres­by­ter­ian church in Ge­ne­va, New York.

After pre­par­ing for col­lege at age 12, Aus­tin stu­died at Ho­bart Col­lege, Ge­ne­va, New York (1833–35), then at Am­herst College, Mas­sa­chu­setts for six months.

He was by far the young­est boy in his class and was quite un­hap­py there. In 1835, he re­joined his fa­mi­ly in Phi­la­del­phia, Penn­syl­van­ia, where he earned a de­gree in 1837 from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­van­ia.

He stu­died theo­lo­gy at Un­ion Theo­lo­gic­al Se­mi­na­ry, New York Ci­ty (in­clud­ing six months of He­brew stu­dies un­der Is­aac Nord­heim­er); Yale Di­vi­ni­ty School, New Ha­ven, Con­nec­ti­cut; and An­do­ver Theo­lo­gic­al Se­mi­na­ry, Mas­sa­chu­setts.

In 1840, Phelps was li­censed to preach by the Third Pres­by­te­ry of Phi­la­del­phia. In 1842, he be­came pas­tor of the Con­gre­ga­tion­al Pine Street Church, Bos­ton, Mas­sa­chu­setts.

In the au­tumn of that year, he mar­ried Eli­za­beth Stu­art, eld­est daugh­ter of Mos­es Stu­art, pre­si­dent of An­do­ver Theo­lo­gic­al Se­mi­na­ry.

Elizabeth, aside from Jacob Ab­bott, was one of the ear­li­est writ­ers of books for girls, pub­lish­ing the four vol­ume Kit­ty Brown ser­ies un­der the pseu­do­nym H. Trus­ta.

In the spring of 1848, Phelps moved his fa­mi­ly to An­do­ver, Mas­sa­chu­setts where he be­came pro­fess­or of sac­red rhe­to­ric and ho­mi­le­tics at An­do­ver Theo­lo­gic­al Se­mi­na­ry.

In 1869, he be­came se­mi­na­ry pre­si­dent, a post he held un­til 1879, when fail­ing health forced him to re­sign.

After his wife Eli­za­beth died of brain fe­ver in 1852, their eight year old daugh­ter Ma­ry Gray asked to be re­named in hon­or of her mo­ther. Aus­tin mar­ried Eli­za­beth’s sis­ter, Ma­ry Stu­art, in 1854, but she died on­ly eight­een months lat­er.

He mar­ried a third time, to Ma­ry Ann John­son of Bos­ton, with whom he had two child­ren.