Hoffman Henry O. - Montgomery InGenWeb Project

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Hoffman Henry O.

Source: Crawfordsville Star, Feb 2, 1882 p1

Rev. H.O. Huffman, pastor of the ME Church at Bloomington, Ill born and bred in Crawfordsville where he experienced religion, has just come out of a 10 days’ trial before a church committee with his pinions badly scorched. The charges were seduction and bastardy in connection with a former servant girl, named Zetella Robinson, a poor girl of good and respectable family.  An unanimous verdict was found declaring him guilty. Huffman if 47 years of age and has a brother and other relatives in the vicinity of Crawfordsville and had acquired a national reputation as a pulpit orator and political speaker. About six years ago he was acquitted of a similar charge at Quincy, Ill by a church court and that trial has gone far toward influencing the decision of this last trial. The daily press dispatches give the following particulars of the case and the trail that grew out of the same.

“Zetella Robinson, of Holden, McLean County,  a small town about 12 miles from Bloomington is the young lady’s name who filed the complaint against the Bloomington pastor. It is said that she is not bright, perhaps a little more than half witted and her parents are poor, but respectable.  Mr. Huffman is well and favorably known in Indiana and Illinois. He began his ministry within the bounds of the Northwest Indiana Conference and was known as one of its earnest and faithful ministers, having made quite a reputation as a revivalist. Having served the church in Indiana 15 years, Mr. Huffman was appointed an agent of the Freedmen’s Aid Society and traveled extensively lecturing and preaching both North and South in the interests of said society. It was in this field that he made for himself a wide reputation as a platform speaker and eminent preacher.  After two years of efficient service, Mr. Huffman was transferred to Nashville, where he became the pastor of a large and wealthy Methodist Church, by the special request of the Quarterly Conference.  Providentially, or incidentally, he was sent in Bishop Thompson’s stead to Decatur, in this state to officiate at the dedication of the First ME Church in that city. He preached two royal sermons and succeeded well with the financial part of the enterprise. The church cost $67,000.  Not long after this, the brethren composing the Quarterly Conference at Stapp’s Chapel, a wealthy congregation of Methodists at Decatur, opened conference with Huffman, to get his consent to serve that congregation as pastor, providing the authorities of the church would transfer him to the Illinois Annual Conference. Rev. LB Carpenter, an eloquent divine, who died two years ago in Baltimore was closing his third year at Stapp’s Chapel and Rev. JH Noble, many years ago pastor at Wesley Chapel, was on his second year in the First Church.  Mr. Huffman was transferred and began his career in the Illinois conference at Decatur. The people were captivated by his preaching and his peculiar and striking style of oratory.  The members of the church, who usually seek the acquaintance of their pastor’s family, very soon discovered that Mrs. Huffman was, in fact, more peculiar than her husband’s oratory.  She was melancholy, seldom seen away from home or at home, and about the time callers would ring the door bell, Mrs. H. was safely locked in her bedroom, where she would remain until they left. She is an educated and refined lady. At the time of her marriage to Mr. Huffman she was a teacher in the Academy located at Stockwell, Tippecanoe County.  It is said by knowing ones that the Rev. John L. Smith of Thorntown, Ind with the best of intentions, encouraged the match and Dr. Smith and HO Hoffman (sic) are warm personal friends to this day.  Mrs. Huffman (sic) has cultivated a jealous spirit and has looked on the dark side of things for so long a period that she had become a hypochondriac.  Mr. H. was getting a large salary of $2,000 a year and parsonage, drew large audiences and his career seemed full of promise. Mrs. H. said to the Journal correspondent: “I would rather live in a smaller town even if Mr. Huffman does receive less salary. He is too ambitious to excel where there are rival churches, and besides the temptations in a city are greater. It affords him a larger field for usefulness,” the reporter replied “than the smaller charges would.”  “Well, now, don’t you think that Mr. Huffman thinks too much of Miss ---.  “Certainly not, she is one of the choir singers and he necessarily comes in contact with her.”

Mr. Huffman would invite his friends home to dine with him, and if his guests impressed Mrs. Huffman favorably she would entertain them in a royal manner, but if otherwise, the eloquent pastor was at once notified that he could entertain his friends at a hotel, or anywhere but the parsonage.  Huffman was kind to his wife and overlooked her strange freaks, produced, as he thought, by disease. At Decatur a servant girl was dismissed from Huffman’s family, and a month or two later, influenced by a friend, she attempted to blackmail the eloquent divine. Rather than have a rumor against his good name, Mr. Huffman really paid the girl $100 in cash.  After a reconsideration of the matter, Mr. Huffman related the facts to Rev. H. Buck at that time Presiding Elder of the Decatur District, and Rev. JH Noble and these gentleman quietly investigate the case and the guilty parties confessed that it was blackmail. During his pastorate with the Vermont Street Church, Quincy, General Ben Prentiss, a Democrat and a gentleman of a peculiar absent of mind, preferred charges against Huffman of the same nature of the charges now pending. The trial was continued for a week and Huffman was acquitted. He was defended by Rev. RN Davies, one of the ablest ministers of the Illinois conference.

Mr. Huffman has made several temperance addresses that have enraged the anti-temperance leaders and it is said they have threatened to ruin him.  He has also delivered a few radical Republican speeches one of which was delivered at a mass-meeting in Bloomington when the Democratic portion of his congregation protested against it. All these things have conspired to increase the enmity of a large number of citizens, and many of them, no doubt, really wish the eminent gentleman guilty.  There is jealousy, to a limited extent in the Illinois Conference against transfers, especially that class of men who will command the best appointments and the largest salaries.  During the Quincy trial it was given as evidence that Huffman, while serving the church at Rensselaer, Ind had serious trouble growing out of criminal intimacy with a woman of that town – Rev. JW Greene, pastor of Asbury ME Church. Terre Haute and parties residing at Rensselaer, exonerated Huffman and this charge fell to the ground.

In this last trial, Mr. Huffman has employed as counsel, a life-long friend and well-known Indianaian in the person of Rev. Aaron Gurney of the Rock River Conference, and pastor of Ada Street ME Church, Chicago .  When the war broke out, Gurney was pastor of the ME Church at Valparaiso, Ind and he entered the army as Chaplain.  He returned to Valpariso and lived there for 16 years engaged in the practice of law and was also owner and editor of the Porter County Violette, published at Valparaiso. Mr. Gurney made about $20,000 and about 8 years ago entered the Rock River Annual Conference, where he is recognized as one of the ablest and most influential members.  Mr. Gurney was one of the prosecutors on behalf of the church in the Thomas trial, and made the argument before the Judicial Conference, at Terre Haute, upon which the appeal of the Chicago heretic was thrown out of court.  – transcribed by kbz

Chaplain, 17th Ind Inf

Started Atronomical Society in Bloomington, Illinois in 1893

Born Ohio July 1836 Died June 1908 Bloomington, McLean County, Illinois buried Eergreen Memorial Cemtery Section 12, Lot 35

Married: Sarah A. Perry 9 Oct 1859 Boone County, Indiana  

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