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.