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 Elijah E. Edwards  (1831 - 1915)

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Lived/Active: Minnesota/Delaware/Ohio      Known for: landscape painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Elijah E. Edwards (1831-1915)

Edwards painted St. Croix scenes, oil paintings of the Devil's Chair and other Dalles scenes, an illustrated Civil War diary, as well as letters, articles and stories in Minnesota newspapers for forty years, which tell of his  many talents.  An artist clergyman, professor, president of two colleges, Civil War chaplain, lecturer and writer, The Reverend Mr. Edwards lived in the Dalles area in the 1860s and again twenty years later.  In the 1890s he supported efforts to establish two Dalles interstate parks. “I have been a wanderer on the face of the earth”, Edwards observed in 1896, "but (I) have not found any landscape rivaling the one shut in amongst your own green hills.  It is a combination of that which is loveliest in many landscapes."

Rocks, trees, and rushing water were at their best in the Dalles of St. Croix, Edwards told an audience at St. Croix Falls in February 1896.  Long a popular speaker, Edwards had been asked lecture at one of a series of meetings arranged to arouse interest in preserving the Dalles area.  It was reported, too that some of Edwards' oil paintings, with photographs of the Dalles by S.C. Sargent, were to be featured in a traveling exhibition.  These views would advertise the area to potential Dalles visitors, and it was hoped, would encourage sentiment in favor of interstate park bills before the Wisconsin and Minnesota legislatures.  Edwards, who was credited with naming the rock face on the Wisconsin side of the river "Old Man of the Dalles, "and with persuading photographer Sargent to so identify it on his many tourist post cards, had first become acquainted with the St. Croix around 1860. 

Born in 1831 in Delaware, Ohio, he had been educated at Indiana Asbury (now Depauw) University at Greencastle, Indiana.

He came to Red Wing, Minnesota in the 1850s as professor of languages at the new Hamline University.  By 1861 he was living at Taylors Falls as minister of the Methodist church and professor-principal of the Chicago Seminary on Government Hill.  When the Civil War broke out, Edwards helped to recruit volunteers for the 7th Minnesota Infantry from among his students and he was appointed chaplain of the regiment.  During his wartime service he kept a diary, illustrated with his own pen, pencil, and charcoal sketches, describing scenes in the South where the regiment saw action.  Letters from him about the war were published in Minnesota newspapers of the period.

 He lived for a time in Colorado and Missouri after the war, and was in demand as an actor on patriotic occasions.  His “chalk talks” about the war were much appreciated at meetings of Civil War veterans.  In the mid 1880s Edwards came back to serve a second time at the Taylors Falls church.  In addition to his church duties, he edited and supervised the publication of William H. C. Folsom's book, Fifty Years in the Northwest; he lectured for the benefit of the Taylors Falls Library Association, and he gave to the library some of his, books and one of his Devil's Chair paintings (still hanging in the library building).  In 1887 and 1888 Edwards opened another school, the St. Croix Falls Institute.  Classes were held for a time in Edwards' home, in the Platt Walker (now Lucius Tangen) House.  By 1896 when Edwards lectured on the St. Croix, he had left Taylors Falls and was serving an Episcopal church in Lancaster, Wisconsin.  After his St. Croix Falls lecture, he remained in the area for a few days, visiting his son, published a newspaper at Pine City and conducting at Taylors Falls, the funeral services for Mrs. W.H.C. Folsom.  Edwards’ own wife died in the same year.  He later married the widow of a Depauw professor and they lived for some time at Greencastle.  Edwards died in 1915 after years of near-blindness and poverty.

Minnesota Historical Society

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