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  • ID: I3672
  • Name: Francis Pharcellus Church 1
  • Sex: M
  • Birth: 22 Feb 1839 in Rochester, Monroe, New York 1
  • Death: 11 Apr 1906 in Manhattan, New York, New York 1
  • Note:
    Extract from the 1860 Census:
    Name: Frank P Church
    Age in 1860: 21
    Estimated birth year: 1839
    Birthplace: New York
    Race: white
    Sex: male
    Relation to head-of-house: son
    Home in 1860: Brooklyn Ward 3 District 1, Kings, New York
    Post office: Brooklyn
    Occupation: attending school
    Siblings living at home: Emma (age 27), William C (23), Sarah J (18), and John A (17)
    Census place: Brooklyn Ward 3 District 1, Kings, New York; Roll M653_764; Page: 448; Image: 20; Family History Library
    Date: 21 Jun 1860

    Extract from 1869 New York City Directory:
    Francis P Church, publisher, 39 Park row, h 107 E. 35th

    Extract from U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925:
    Name: Frank P Church
    Birth date: 22 Feb 1839
    Birthplace: Rochester, New York
    Application date: 22 Feb 1872
    Age: 33
    Stature: 5 feet 6 inches
    Forehead: regular
    Eyes: blue
    Nose: small
    Mouth: small
    Chin: round
    Hair: brown
    Complexion: light
    Face: round
    Distinguishing marks: not listed
    Passport includes a photo: no
    Source: passport applications, 1795-1905

    Extract from the 1880 Census:
    Name: Frank P Church
    Age: 41
    Estimated birth year: 1839
    Birthplace: New York
    Race: white
    Sex: male
    Relationship to head-of-household: son
    Home in 1880: Greenburgh, Westchester, New York
    Marital status: married [no wife listed]
    Occupation: editor
    Sibling living at home: John A (age 37)
    Census place: Greenburgh, Westchester, New York; Roll: T9_945; Family History Film: 1254945; Page: 272.2000; Enumeration District: 98; Image: 0546
    Date: 1 Jun 1880

    Francis Pharcellus (Frank) Church, author of the 1897 editorial "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus," descended from founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Following the American Revolution his grandfather, Willard, settled in the Lake Ontario region of New York State. Much of Willard's family later moved to Michigan although Frank's father, Pharcellus, remained in New York. Frank had several summer visits at the Michigan farm of his uncle, Lafayette Church.
    Willard Church, Frank's grandfather and the progenitor of the New York and Michigan Churches, died at age 88 while visiting Michigan (probably for one of those recurrent family reunions) and is buried there in eastern Livingston County. The grandmother, Sarah Davis Church, died and was buried in New York state in 1841.
    Francis Ph. Church was a son of Dr. Pharcellus Church and Clara Conant Church. The father, from Hopewell Township, New York, was a Baptist theologian. He had been graduated from Hamilton Seminary, now Colgate University, in 1824 and was ordained a Baptist minister the next year. He met his future wife in Poultney Vermont where he had his first pastorate. Pharcellus moved his family to Rochester in 1835 where Frank was born four years later. Frank attended Anthon's Latin School in New York and was graduated with honors from Columbia University in 1858.
    The family had well immersed itself into the publishing business. Clara's brother, Sam Conant, edited The National Advocate, later formed into The New York Herald. Pharcellus Church purchased The New York Chronicle, a religious weekly. Francis Ph. was an editorial writer on The Chronicle. His father, Pharcellus remained a life-long friend of Horace Greeley, editor of The New York Tribune, whom he met in Vermont where Greeley was setting type in a local office. Another friend, George Jones, helped found The New York Times. Probably through this connection Frank, in his 20s, reported the Civil War for The Times. His brother, William, served as a colonel in the Union Army.
    Although trained in law, following the war Frank established with William The Army and Navy Journal (still being published) and The Internal Revenue Record.
    They also created and edited Galaxy, a magazine of fiction and essays whose contributors included Mark Twain and Walt Whitman. It later merged into The Atlantic Monthly.
    After giving up these publications, Francis Ph. Church remained on their boards of directors.
    Frank went with The New York Sun in 1874 where he became the editorial writer of his day. A colleague said that he had all the literary gifts: "the tender fancy, the sympathetic understanding of human nature, the humor - now wistful, now joyous - and the unsurpassed delicacy of touch."
    Edward P. Mitchell, managing editor of The Sun, spoke of Francis Ph. Church's writing as "infused with well-bred humor, sometimes gentle, sometimes sly, occasionally even mordant, but with a bite that never deposited venom. It was employed on a wide range of subjects." He said that sometimes "this unmistakable individuality occupying a column or so with a discussion of other newspapers ... (displayed) an insight into journalistic character."
    "There was never a more delightful associate," Mitchell added. "Quick of perception of the interesting in every phase of human activity except politics ... there was in his features something of that gentlemanly pugnacity."
    It was Mitchell who had assigned Church to reply to a request from a young reader - Laura Virginia O'Hanlon. In Mitchell's 1924 words: "One day in 1897 I handed to him (Frank) a letter that had come in the mail from a child of eight, saying: 'Please tell me the truth: is there a Santa Claus?' Her little friends had told her no. Church bristled and pooh-poohed at the subject when I suggested that he write a reply to Virginia O'Hanlon; but he took the letter and turned with an air of resignation to his desk. In a short time he had produced the article which has probably been reprinted during the past quarter of a century, as the classic expression of Christmas sentiment, more millions of times than any other newspaper article ever written by any newspaper-writer in any language."
    Most of this material is from the research of:
    Richard Church Thompson
    Box 2428
    Gaithersburg MD 20866

    William Conant Church (1836-1917) and his brother, Francis Pharcellus Church (1839-1906), were founder-editors of "The Galaxy," a New York magazine which first appeared on 1 May 1866.

    The famous editorial (1897):
    We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:
    Dear Editor - am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, If you see it in The Sun, it's so. Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
    Virginia O'Hanlon
    Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
    Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
    Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to have men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
    You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
    No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

    Extract from the 1900 Census:
    Name: Francis P Church
    Age at last birthday: 61
    Date of birth: Feb 1839
    Birthplace: New York
    Race: white
    Sex: maleionship to head-of-house: head
    Home in 1900: Manhattan, New York, New York
    Address: 46 East 30th Street
    Marital status: married
    Number of years of marriage: 30
    Able to read, write and speak English: yes
    Father's birthplace: New York
    Mother's birthplace: Vermont
    Farm or home: home
    Home owned or rented: rented
    Occupation: editor
    Months not employed: 0
    Census place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: T623 1111; Page: 18A; Enumeration District: 687
    Date: Jun 1900

    Obituary from the "New-York Daily Tribune" of New York City dated 12 Apr 1906:
    Francis Pharcellus Church Dead.
    Francis Pharcellus Church, editor and publisher, died yesterday at his home, No. 46 East 30th street. He was born in Rochester on February 22, 1839, and was the son of Pharcellus Church. He prepared at Charles Anthon's Latin school, and was graduated from Columbia College with the class of '59. In 1861 he received the degree of Master of Arts, and later took up the study of law in the office of Judge Hooper C. Van Vorst.
    In 1860 he began editorial work. He was Editor of "The Galaxy Magazine" and, in association with his brother, William Conant Church, of "The Army and Navy Journal" and "The Internal Review Record," and was also an editorial writer for "The New York Sun" since 1874. He married Miss Elizabeth Wickham, of Philadelphia. Mr. Church was a member of the Sons of the Revolution, the National Sculpture Society, the Century Association and the Columbia University Alumni Association.

    Obituary from the "New York Times" dated 13 Apr 1906:
    Francis P. Church Dead
    A Keen Controversialist, Who Was Well Known as an Editorial Writer
    Francis Pharcellus Church, for many years a graceful and forcible editorial writer for The Sun, died yesterday at his home, 46 East Thirtieth Street, after an illness of several months.
    Mr. Church was born in Rochester, N. Y., on Feb. 22, 1839. He was the son of the Rev. Dr. Pharcellus Church, himself an able writer and controversialist, and a grandson of Willard Church, a soldier of the Revolutionary War, who was a prisoner for eight or nine months on the prison ship Jersey.
    Mr. Church was also a lineal descendant of Roger Conant, Governor of the Massachusetts Colony. As a boy he studied in Charles Anthon's Latin School in this city. He was graduated with honors from Columbia College in 1859, and studied in the office of Judge Hooper C. Van Vorst, but put aside the law to take up literary work.
    He was the editor of the old Galaxy Magazine, and was associated with this brother, Col. William Conant Church, in the management of The Army and Navy Journal and The Internal Revenue Record. In recent years he had taken no part in the management of these papers, but he remained a Director in the corporation which owns them.
    Mr. Church wrote on topics of every kind, but if he had a specialty it was religious controversy.
    His wife, who was Elizabeth Wickham of Philadelphia, survives him. They had no children. Mr. Church was a member of the Sons of the Revolution, the National Sculptor Society, and the Century Club.

    Article from the "New York Times" dated 13 Apr 1906:
    Francis P. Church
    The Sun in particular, but also the press of New York in general, has suffered a loss in the death of Francis P. Church, an editorial writer for that paper for almost a third of a century.
    Early in the civil war Mr. Church, with his brother Col. William C. Church, went to the front as a war correspondent of The New York Times with the Army of the Potomac. Before the conclusion of the war they had established The Army and Navy Journal, which still maintains an honored and useful existence. Not long afterward the two brothers founded The Galaxy Magazine, which had a life of only a few years, but which lasted long enough to give publicity to some of the most noteworthy productions of the fiction and belles-lettres of the time. Not long after its discontinuance Mr. Church became an editorial writer for The Sun.
    As all his writing thereafter was done for that newspaper, his personal reputation was merged in that of the institution which he served, and he was scarcely known by name outside of the circles of his own acquaintance and of his own profession. Within those circles he was highly and justly esteemed. His were among the most important contributions to the ability, the interest and the influence which, during his service, came to characterize the editorial pages of The Sun. His specialty, one may perhaps say, was the discussion of religious, or rather of theological, topics from a secular point of view. To very many readers his treatment of these topics seemed far too sardonic and cold-blooded. But they showed a determination on the part of the writer "to examine and refine those grosser propositions which laziness and consent make current in common conversation," and they showed a determination to be nobody's dupe, not even his own. He might have taken for his own motto, "Endeavor to clear your mind of cant." And, by living up to it, he did in many cases clear also the minds of his readers. This was an important piece of public service.

    Extract from "Descendants of Richard Church of Plymouth, Mass." by John Adams Church, 1913:
    He graduated at Columbia Coll. in 1858 and studied law in the office of Van Voorst and Beardsley, but never practiced. After graduation he went into the office of his father's paper, the Chronicle, and when the Civil War broke out he went to the field as correspondent for the N.Y. Times, In 1863 he joined with his brother William C. in establishing the Army and Navy Journal and later the Galaxy magazine which he edited during the greater part of its life and made a publication of extraordinary interest and merit. When the magazine was discontinued he joined the staff of the N.Y. Sun, edited by Charles A. Dana, and continued on that paper until his death, becoming one of the most noted and successful editorial writers in the country. He had a delicate and lively imagination, a style of great purity, and he found the position of editorial writer one in which every sort of human conduct, experience and ideal may come in review. He answered a letter from a serving-maid, who asked the Sun's opinion upon some question of maidenly conduct with such sympathy and understanding that the paper was flooded presently with similar letters from all sorts of persons and his replies were a notable feature of local journalism. He discussed religious questions with a sincerity of feeling and strength of idealism that again brought floods of letters to the paper. His discussion of the doctrine of the resurrection was sufficiently important to be alluded to favorably in the pulpits of the city, and it was at least noteworthy to see the leading editorial of a great secular daily given to the consideration of this and cognate questions. He even had a permanent influence on journalism for questions of psychological and religious importance were given the most prominent place in the paper often, a practice which other papers followed and continue still. It is noteworthy that no other editor in New York had done this except the poet Bryant when editor of the Eve. Post, and he did it so rarely that he had no imitators. Mr. Church had a sympathetic chief in Mr. Dana and for many years these two men gave the Sun a distinctive character which won it the ardent support of its readers. Mr. Church wrote the fanciful discussion of the ever-important question, "Is there a Santa Claus?" which the Sun published as a leading editorial.

    Extract from Wikipedia:
    Francis Pharcellus Church (February 22, 1839 - April 11, 1906) was an American publisher and editor.
    He was born in Rochester, New York and graduated from Columbia College of Columbia University in New York City in 1859.
    With his brother William Conant Church he established the "Army and Navy Journal" in 1863, and "Galaxy" magazine in 1866. He was a lead editorial writer on his brother's newspaper, the New York Sun, and it was in that capacity that in 1897 he wrote his most famous editorial, Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He also wrote biographies of Ulysses S. Grant in 1899 and John Ericsson in 1891.
    A third brother, John Adams Church, was famous as a mining engineer, and was present in Tombstone, Arizona, at the time of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
    Church died in New York City, aged 67, and is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York. He was a member of the Century Association.

    Extract from New York, New York Death Index, 1862-1948:
    Name: Francis P Church
    Age: 67
    Estimated birth year: 1839
    Death date: 11 Apr 1906
    Death place: Manhattan, New York
    Certificate number: 11961

    Burial: Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, Westchester, New York [source: Find A Grave.com]. 9763449

    Gravestone inscription:
    Francis Pharcellus Church
    February 22, 1839
    Died April 11, 1906
    A noble man full of
    grace and truth.

    The Rhode Family Tree has a photograph of this person and has a photograph of the gravestone.

    Father: Pharcellus Church b: 11 Sep 1801 in Seneca, Ontario, New York
    Mother: Chara Emily Conant b: 21 May 1809 in Brandon, Rutland, Vermont

    Marriage 1 Elizabeth Wickham b: Mar 1843 in England
    • Married: 1873 in probably New York 2

    1. Title: Moeller Family Tree
      Author: Amy Marlene Moeller
      Publication: May 5, 2000
      Note: Amy Marlene Moeller email: amymoe-yahoo.net (use an "@" for the "-")
      Media: Electronic
    2. Title: Roesler, Weatherford and Affiliated Families
      Author: Max Roesler
      Publication: September 28, 2003
      Note: Max Roesler email: roesler2-juno.com (use an "@" for the "-")
      Note: Rootsweb.com
      Media: Electronic
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