To George Whipple

Secretary of the American Missionary Association

13 October 1869


[MS in the American Missionary Association Papers, # 115228, Amistad Research Center, Tulane University]


Oberlin 13th Oct. 1869

Dear Br. Whipple.

Julia A. Shearman writes

me from Pittsburg requesting us

to entertain her until the

meeting of your society at

Mt Vernon. She claims an

acquaintance with you

We presume all is right, but

as we are sometimes grossly

imposed upon, I write to

you to say in a word by

return Mail "All right"

or "not right."

God bless you.

C. G. Finney.

P.S. I sent you a check

yesterday for $20.


Julia Shearman (born 3 Sept 1830) was an English lady, who had been in New England for two years earning her living by writing. By October 1869 she was running out of money. She recalled what happened:

As I pondered over the situation I opened "the Congregationalist" & saw the announcement of the meeting of the A.B.C.F.M. & that of the A.M.A. at a short distance from each other both as regards locality and time. I took up my pen & offered myself as reporter for both these Societies, feeling that it would be a useful & interesting engagement should I succeed in obtaining it.

I was at once accepted for both these duties, ... I had never seen anything of the West also had never attended a meeting of the American Board, & greatly desired to do both.


After the A.B.C.F.M. meeting was over, she had ten days to fill in before the A.M.A. meeting.

On Monday morning I took up an Atlas to see where I was, & to my surprise found myself not very far from two places of wh I knew something by report Oberlin & Rootstown - two very different spots. At the latter place lived a farmer, brother to the nearest of our neighbors in my New England home & I had been told by his sister, if ever I was in that neighborhood to go there. This I at once decided to do, but before leaving Pittsburg I wrote to Mr Finney telling him of my great desire to see Oberlin & himself & giving my address at Rootstown. I felt it was a venture but if I was to do anything it could be done only by ventures.


At Rootstown she was entertained by the farmer and his wife.

Among other things we spoke of Oberlin & I acknowledged my desire to see the place. "Oberlin is a little heaven on earth" he said, "& you must certainly see it." "Yes, but how?" "I'll tell you how. You just take the omnibus & stop at Prof. Allen's door & tell him John P. sent you." "Are you sure?" I asked. "Yes quite sure." I took the advice, & after a few pleasant days with these good people started for Oberlin.


She was welcomed in by Professor Allen "just exactly as if I had been an expected guest." The next morning she went with the professor to his lecture.

On coming out at its close, I met two gentlemen one of whom, Prof. Mead, I had known in Massachusetts & who at once offered his hand, & then introduced his companion to me as President Finney. Before I could say anything Mr. F. asked sharply "Why did you not come to my house, my child"? I smiled inwardly much amused & replied by another question. "How could I?" "Why, did you not get my letter?" "No." "I wrote you to come to me; come to dinner today, we dine at 12 oc." "I will," was my answer & so we parted.


George Whipple's reply to Finney's letter is not in the Finney Papers, but he had presumably answered, "all right."


Julia Shearman went on to describe her stay at Oberlin and Finney's dealings with her. She recalled her first experience of a service in First Church, conducted by Finney with the help of John Morgan, in which she wrote:

I have no memory of anything that was said, but a very clear cut recollection of the two speakers - the earnest face of Mr Finney, the genial countenance of Dr Morgan. I can also perfectly recall the tones of voice in each, sharp incisive in Mr F., deep, rich melodious in Dr M. Mr Finney's preaching never met my wants, nor did his conversation, there was too great absence of reasoning power in both. But Mr Finney himself became to me then & for ever more one of the most powerful personalities I have ever met, and remains, & will remain one of the most beloved. Underneath his angularities of speech & manner it was not difficult to discern the deep well spring of Love which was the real secret of his power & to a degree he himself did not suspect. One could bear from him statements of doctrine that would have utterly repelled from almost any other man. One felt that if his language was hard his heart was tender, & that if there was a seeming contradiction between the two, it was only accidental, it meant simply that he had not found the way for a complete reconciliation between Love and Law.


Writing from Oberlin to England towards the end of the year she said:

I feel as if I had really not known the piety of America before coming here. The atmosphere is so completely pure and Christian that since I came here, two months ago, I seem to have been living out of the world.


A few months later she wrote from Oberlin again:

I came here as a visitor last autumn, simply to see for myself a place whose fame had reached me from a distance; and I became at once so much interested in the people, that I tarried indefinitely, and finally concluded to cast in my lot with them, and remain so long as the providence of God does not call me away. Yesterday I was received into the fellowship of the Second Congregational Church, and so am entitled to feel at home.


The following notice appeared in The Lorain County News (Oberlin), 17 November 1870, p. 3:

MISS JULIA A. SHEARMAN, a lady who is well known in our village, has lately been appointed by the American Board of Foreign Missions, as a missionary to Turkey. She leaves Oberlin tomorrow for New York city, where she will remain till the last of the month, then she will take passage on the same vessel with President Fairchild for Europe. Miss Shearman will be connected with the same mission in Turkey to which Dr. Jenning's daughter has for so many years been attached. Our readers may expect to hear from her through the columns of the News.


She was subsequently dismissed by the American Board and became a missionary in Rome and latterly in Switzerland. She retained a friendship with the Fairchild family and corresponded with James over the years. Fairchild had the responsibility of managing her financial affairs in Oberlin. (See letters of Julia Shearman to Fairchild in the James H. Fairchild Papers.)



The letter is not in the Finney Papers.

Her account entitled "How I came to Oberlin College", a 14-page document, was sent, with a letter dated 27 January 1895, to James Fairchild, ex-President of Oberlin College (James Harris Fairchild Papers, Oberlin College Archives)

The annual meeting of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was held in Pittsburg in October 1869.

11 October.

Letter dated December 26, 1869 published under the heading "Oberlin College" in The Revival (London: 27 January 1870), p. 6.

This was the first paragraph of a long letter, dated, Oberlin, 6 June 1870, which was published in The Christian (London), 4 August 1870, pp. 13-14, under the title "Oberlin College, Its History and Its Work."