Lucian A. Porter was born March 22, 1819, in Coventry, Connecticut. His father died when he was eleven and his mother when he was fifteen years old. From the time of his father’s death he began to care for himself, working on a farm in summers and attending school in winters. When he was about seventeen years of age he entered the Academy at Ellington, Conn., and during the next six years he studied in the Academies at Westfield and Monson, Mass., teaching meantime to pay his expenses. When nineteen years old he became a member of the First Congregational Church of Rockville, Conn., the only young man among those who, that day, confessed He married Parmelia M. Dimock, Septemeber 7, 1846. After his marriage he lived, in Plymouth and Winsted, Conn., engaged in various business enterprises. In the spring of 1854 he removed to Ohio and settled in business in Painesville, residing here until his death June 18, 1889.
To those who have watched the closing of a life like that of Mr. Porter there is a pathetic interest in the brief record of his early years. They read between the lines the story of the boy who longed and labored for an education and made a man of himself in spite of obstacles. The same steadfastness of purpose which has marked his Christian life these many years is seen in the beginning when the boyt of nineteen stood alone to devote himself to the service of Christ and the Church. We go back to the quiet wedding when the companionship of forty-three years began, flowing on through loss and sickness in unbroken harmony till death brought the parting. The years since 1854 have been known to all the residents of Painesville. To sum them up is to speak of the good citizen, the upright man of business, the faithful servant of the Church, the devoted trustee of the Seminary, the head of a Christian home. Those who knew Mr. Porter in each of these relations of life will recall some trait of character, some good deed which might fitly be spread upon the printed page, but when a good man dies his record is in many hearts and lives and it is not easy to gather into a paragraph the tribute of all who would testify to his worth.
Upright and honorable, but selfcontained, and somewhat reserved, too early weighted with the burdens of life to seem other than seriously minded, although possessing a sense of humor that brightened many a dark hour, Mr. Porter was less known socially and in public than some men. His life moved in blessed influence along two special lines, the Seminary and the Church. The tie that bound him to the Seminary was peculiarly tender. It seemed almost as dear to him as the only son whose life, cut short in early manhood, began in 1859, the same year in which the Seminary was opened. He was familiar with the hopes and plans preceding that year. Many a conference was held in the rear of his store when Father Hawks, Judge Wilcox and others consulted in regard to its interests. He was, therefore, no stranger to its inner life when, in 1859, he was elected trustee and treasurer of the Seminary. This was a critical time in its history. The expensive services of a steward were dispensed with and Mr. Porter undertook, without salary, to make purchases and oversee repairs and thus help out the limited income. This valuable service was continued till failing health compelled him in 1872 to give up a part of his work. Upon the death of Judge Wilcox in 1881, Mr. Porter was elected to succeed him as Secretary of the Board of Trustees which office he held till his death, although often during the last year expressing to his associates his desire to resign in favor of a stronger man. The last effort of his life was an unsuccessful attempt to guide his pen for the signing of the diploma of the class of ’89. He was also a member of the Executive Committee, having charge during many summer vacations of the repairs in the buildings, a service requiring daily oversight and attention to details. But, beyond this outward service the Seminary owes to him more than can be estimated for wise counsel and unfailing sympathy. To the last days of his life when his failing eyes rested on a little sketch for Memorial Hall, fastened to the wall near his chair, no subject connected with the Seminary was ever wearisome to him. His latest words to the teachers expressed the oft repeated longing that God would raise up strong men and good women to take the vacant places in its board of trust.
Before his connection with the Seminary Mr. Porter was a trusted officer in the Congregational church of Painesville. He was for many years a trustee and a member of the Church Committee, thus holding the most important relations to pastor and people. He was also a wise and faithful member of various committees formed to meet emergencies in the history of the church, so that his own life and the life of the church moved on together for more than thirty years. Whether he was called to meet the heavy responsibilities of a building committee or the delicate task of selecting a new pastor, whatever was the trust committed to him, he gave to it the best that was in him with unselfish devotion. He was teacher of one of the largest adult Bible classes in the State and leader of the Sabbath school teachers in their weekly study of the International Lessons. It was natural that the Thursday evening prayer meeting after his death should become a memorial service for him, and especially fitting that a former fellow laborer in church and Sabbath school, Mr. T. S. Baldwin, should be present to bear testimony to the strong and helpful life of other years.
It remained to this useful, upright life to be crowned with suffering. Since 1872, Mr. Porter has borne a heavy burden of ill health, weary days and sleepless nights, alternating with periods of apparent restoration to health. For a year and a half he has lingered in the immediate shadow of the great change. In the winter of 1888, reluctantly, not because he was afraid to die, but because with the instinct of a true man he wanted to die at his post, he closed his business and retired to the seclusion of his home, and much of the time, to the deeper seclusion of his thick room. There he bore with fortitude not only pain and weakness, but the harder trial of seeming to be useless in the world, of having dropped out of its busy current into a life which was hardly more than death. But he turned a cheerful face to the favored friends who saw him in these days of trial and they did not realize till it was over how much the long struggle had cost him.
The end was that no not unexpected. Again and again during the year physicians and friends thought he had a few hours to live but he himself had never felt that the time had come. Now, however, something within or a voice from heaven told him that the end was near. There seemed little outward change; it was not necessary to send messages far and near: the family retired with a cheerful “good night,” and he prepared for quiet rest in charge of his nurse. Early in the June morning, when nature was at her fairest, in a moment, without fear or surprise, he was gone.
The funeral services were held in the church on Friday morning, June 21, at half past ten o’clock. The church was made beautiful with tall ferns and pots of growing plants, till it seemed as if summer had come within the walls to remind us that
“Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
Stand dressed in living green.”
The declarations that beautify the Seminary Chapel for its thirtieth anniversary found a fitting place around the casket of its beloved and honored friend. The ladies of the church sent a cross of rose buds standing like a pillar straight and fair, the Bible Class presented a large basket of ferns and white roses, and the teachers of the Seminary a pillow of “peace,” and a wreath of pansies. The services were conducted by the pastor, Rev. P. W. Sinks, and Rev. Dr. Haydn. The hymns–“Jerusalem the Golden” and “How Firm a Foundation”–were sung by the choir, and after Scripture reading by pastor, Dr. Haydn began his remarks by saying how willingly he came to stand in a familiar place and bring his tribute to the memory of a good man. He recalled the strong men of the church who stood by him and his pastorate twenty years ago, men of marked individuality, among whom Mr. Porter was one of the strongest. He emphasized those traits of character familiar to all who knew him, integrity of purpose, rectitude towards man, faith toward God joined with the rare talent for the administration of affairs, adding, “and when you have said this of a man, what more can be said?” And yet there was one thing more, his broad and deep acquaintance with the Bible and insight into the truths revealed there, so that “his rising in the weekly meeting to speak or to offer prayer was to me,” said Dr. Haydn, “an occasion of deep interest.” His pastor, Rev. Mr. Sinks, bore the same testimony in these words: “Brother Porter was a very gifted man. He drank deep draughts from the inexhaustible fountain of light and truth–the word of God. He lived in the Scriptures, its truths shaped his life and adorned his character. I cheerfully bear this testimony to his grasp upon the Scriptures. In my experience, I have not met among ministry or laity a riper expositor of the truth of God. While it is the privilege of us all to gather up here and there a gem of truth it is not extravagant for me to say that Brother Porter went down into the word and brought up its gems and pure gold by armsfull. Patient, cheerful and with courage touching the great future, he has finished his work and has entered into the rest which he was accustomed to contemplate with joy. Often did he give expression to his faith in these lines transcribed by his own hand in his last illness.
“If round Thy footstool here below
Such radiant gems are strong,
Oh, what magnificence must glow
Great God, before Thy throne!
So radiant here, these rays of light,
There, full-motion beans now praise.”
The burial took place in Evergreen Cemetery where kind hands had lined the grave with evergreens. Mrs. Porter was accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. F. N. Smith of Elyria, and Mr. Mansfield of Cleveland, an old time friend of Mr. Porter. Mrs. Smith, (Louise Porter, the niece who had been as a daughter in the house) arrived on Monday to attend the reunion of her class at the Seminary and was thus at home when the sudden and peaceful and came, when, as his pastor so beautifully expressed it, his life went out like the morning star, “which sinks not into a darkening west, but melts away into the brightness of heaven.”
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