To Louis Richards

16 August 1872


[Published in "A Religious Revival in Reading, 1829" in Historical Review of Berks County. Volume 15 (October 1949), pages 148-49]


Louis Richards (1842-1924) was a young lawyer in Reading, Pennsylvania. He went on to become a prominent member of the bar in Reading. He was an authority on municipal law, and was the author of many law books. One of his particular involvements was with newspapers, and he excelled as a reporter of court proceedings. As a prominent citizen in Reading from 1861 to his death in 1924, he was known for being public spirited, and was active in local affairs. But his main preoccupation was with a wide variety of cultural interests. He was devoted to antiquarian research and from 1903 to 1917 was president of The Historical Society of Berks County. It was to that Society's Review that his daughter, Miss Susan H. Richards of Atlantic City, sent for publication, the letters that her father had received from Finney.


Finney received the following letter from Richards:


Reading, Pa, Aug. 13, 1872

Rev. Chas. G. Finney,

Oberlin, Ohio,

Dear Sir:

I have taken

the liberty of sending to you a copy of a

Memorial of our recently deceased

pastor, the Rev. Elias J. Richards,

D.D., whom you doubtless do not re=

member, but who had reason to eter=

nally remember you, inasmuch as

it was through your preaching

that he, when a mere boy, was

converted at Utica, N.Y., some=

time, I believe, about the year

1830. The circumstance he often

mentioned to his family during

his last illness, and the fact

is referred to in the Memorial

Sermon, though not in a pos=

[page 2]

itive way, as the writer, the Rev.

Mr. Radcliffe was not definitively

informed upon the subject at the

time. Doubtless the fact that

so eminently good and useful a

man was first led to the Throne

of Grace through your instrumental=

ity will give you an interest in

this little book, which, however,

we cannot but feel is but a

feeble memorial of his pious life

and Christian labors.

As a young member of the

Presbyterian church in this place,

I have heard much, both from

the Rev. Dr. Richards and others,

of the results attending your

powerful labors here in 1829, just

after the decease of the lamented

Rev. Dr. Grier. As an outline

of the incidents of that period

would form a very interesting

[page 3]

addition to the history of the denom=

ination in this city, I should be

very happy, if the undertaking

would not trespass too much

upon your time and attention,

to be furnished from your own

pen with reminiscences of your

sojourn in Reading. Many of

the best men to-day in our city,

both in the Presbyterian and other

denominations, speak of yourself

as the instrument of their conversion

and the seed then sown on stony

ground has thus brought forth


As a matter of personal in=

terest to myself, I should be happy

to receive your photograph, and

to be informed how I may be en=

abled to secure a copy of your biography

Very Sincerely Yours

Louis Richards


Finney replied as follows:


Oberlin, O. 16th. Aug. 1872

Louis Richards Esq

My Dear Brother,

Yours of the 13th. with the book is received. I recollect the conversion of Elias J. Richards in Utica, in 1826. I had learned that he was in the ministry, but was not aware of his location. The revivals in New York, against which so much has been said & written, have furnished the Church & the Mission fields with a large portion of their ablest ministers. I thank you for your kind letter & for the Memorial volume. I remember Reading with great interest & affection. Dr. Grier died with apoplexy whilst I was with him. We returned from a most solemn meeting of inquiry where he met with surprise amounting to astonishment the mass of his uninvited hearers. He kept silent, listened with deep attention to all that was said. When the meeting was closed he bade me good night & with a deep smile said "I will see you in the morning." I went to our lodgings & retired immediately. Scarcely had an hour elapsed when I was called & informed that he was dead.

Are any of the Deckerts or Darlings or McKnights or Bells or Porters left in Reading?

My Memoir is not written & may never be.

I enclose my photograph, the last one I have.

I am nearly 80 years of age. The 29th. inst will, if I live, complete my 80th. year. I have continued my Pastoral & College labors up to within a few months. Was ill 3 months & now comfortable but easily fatigued.

Please give my earnest love to the family of Br. Richards & also to any who may remember me.

God bless you,



Finney received a reply from Louis Richards, dated 3 September 1872.



Information from obituaries in The Historical Society of Berks County.

This was probably a misreading of "unconverted" in the original.