Bicentennial Biographies No. 121 – 125

A collection of bicentennial biographies from Chautauqua County, N.Y. featuring  John Heyl Vincent, Lewis Miller and Arthur Bestor (Chautauqua Institution); Emily Mulkin Bishop (Forestville) and Alpheus Hodges (Ashville). Originally broadcast on local radio stations June 27 – July 1, 2011.

No. 121 – John Heyl Vincent

John Heyl Vincent

John Heyl Vincentwas born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, February 23, 1832. When he was six years old, his parents moved to Northumberland Co., Pennsylvania, and there he received his education, eventually attending Milton and Lewisburg academies. Both his parents were also firm believers in the Christian faith, and that also have a strong influence on not only his upbringing but his entire adult life.

When Vincent was barely eighteen he preached his first sermon soon he became licensed as a preacher. He began preaching in different communities throughout the northeast. In 1863 he was transferred to Illinois and successively held pastorates in Joliet, Mount Morris, Galena, Rockford and Chicago, going to the latter pulpit in 1865.

Also in 1865, Dr. Vincent established the Northwestern Sunday School Quarterly. A year later he established the Sunday School Teacher. With the establishing of these periodicals, Dr. Vincent began to emphasis the importance of instructing the youth of the church. While in charge of a congregation in Plainfield, N.J., Dr. Vincent began to formulate a plan to create a general assembly at which Sunday school teachers could meet and exchange ideas.

One of the first indviduals to support Vincent’s plan was Lewis Miller [See Below], of Akron, Ohio. Together, the two organized the Chautauqua Assembly – a summer institute held at what was then known as Fair Point on Chautauqua Lake. The first assembly would take place in 1874 from August 4 to 18. Out of this has grown the Chautauqua Institution.

Dr. Vincent was made a Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal church in 1888. In 1890 he became resident Bishop abroad. He resigned in 1904, but from time to time filled pulpits at several distinguished universities.  After his retirement as Chancellor of Chautauqua Institution, he was retained as Chancellor Emeritus and had a place on the Chautauqua program every season.  He also wrote several books, including The Chautauqua Movement, which laid out a clear and concise statement of the Founders’ plans and hopes for this great institution of popular education.

Bishop Vincent’s only son, Dr. George E. Vincent, became an officer of Chautauqua Institution upon his graduation from Yale in 1885 and was president of the Institution, 1907-1915.

Bishop Vincent died on May 9, 1920 in Chicago at the age of 88.

No. 122 – Lewis Miller

Lewis Miller

Lewis Millerwas born in Greentown, Ohio on July 24, 1829. During his adult life, he grew to become a successful and well-respected Ohio businessman. His greatest business success was the invention of the first combine with the blade mounted efficiently in front of the driver, rather than pulled behind. The equipment resulted in more efficient farming and its use was widely seen throughout the U.S.

Miller was devoutly religious and devoted much of his wealth to charitable causes associated with the Methodist Episcopal Church. He was the inventor of the “Akron Plan” for Sunday schools, a building layout with a central assembly hall surrounded by small classrooms. Miller conceived the configuration with the help of Methodist minister John Heyl Vincent [above] and architect Jacob Snyder.

In 1874, interested in improving the training of Sunday school teachers for the “Uniform Lesson Plan” he had developed with Vincent, the two worked together again to found what is now the Chautauqua Institution on the shores of Chautauqua Lake.  Soon, the Chautauqua Assembly developed into an eight-week summer program. Half revival meeting and half recreation camp, Chautauqua drew thousands of participants each year.

Miller also designed a chalet-type cottage, which was the first permanent cottage in Chautauqua. Unfortunately his son, Theodore Miller, was killed in action on San Juan Hill while serving with Colonel Theodore Roosevelt in the Spanish American War.  His daughter Mina Miller married fellow Ohio inventor Thomas Edison on Christmas Day 1886.

Miller died in 1899 of Kidney disease and was buried in Glendale Cemetery in Akron, Ohio.

No. 123 – Arthur Bestor

Arthur Eugene Bestor was born May 19, 1879, in Dixon Ill., the son of Orson and Laura Bestor. He attended school in Illinois and, at the age of 22, he graduated from the University of Chicago. From 1901 to 1903, Bestor served as a professor of history and political science at Franklin College in Indiana and also was a noted political science lecturer.

Arthur E. Bestor welcoming Amelia Earhart during her 1929 visit when she landed on the 14th fairway. (Photo provided by the Chautauqua Institution)

In 1905, Bestor became assistant general director at Chautauqua Institution and in 1907 he was named Director, which he served as for eight years. In 1915, Bestor became President the Institution and would continue to serve in that capacity for the remainder of his life.

Almost immediately after his presidency began, he became a national force for adult education. Under his 25 year administration, the Institution grew from an assembly for teachers and ministers with modest facilities to a wide-ranging summer program with a symphony orchestra, an opera company, a resident theater company, and celebrated lecturers.

Bestor was married to Jeanette Lemon, and their three children who survived to adulthood were Arthur E. Bestor, Jr., Mary Francis Bestor Cram, and Charles Lemon Bestor. Arthur Jr. became an important critic of American educational practices. Mary Francis was a leader of lay organizations in the American Baptist Church and the Young Women’s Christian Association. And charles became a composer of contemporary classical music and a music educator.

Arthur Bestor died on February 3, 1944 while still serving as president of Chautauqua Institution.

No. 124 – Emily Mulkin Bishop

Emily Mulkin Bishop

Emily Montague Mulkinwas born in Forestville, on Nov. 3, 1858. After leaving school she taught four years, serving as assistant principal of the union school in Silver Creek, N.Y.

At some point during her time in Silver Creek, Mulkin became interested in Delsarte style of acting and public speaking, made famous by the French musician and teacher Francois Desarte.  The system relies on outer movements being related to inner states, motion to emotion. Mulkin left Silver Creek and spent several years of her life studying the Delsarte system in various cities.

In 1884, Mulkin became the wife of Coleman E. Bishop, editor of The Judge in New York. They soon went to Black Hills, S.D. to live.  Bishop was elected superintendent of public schools in Rapid City, S.D., being the first woman thus honored in the territory.

In the late 1880s Mulkin Bishop was invited to establish a Delsarte department in the Chautauqua School of Physical Education, in the Chautauqua Assembly. In 1891 it was the largest single department in the assembly.

A large public work in lecturing and teaching grew out of Bishops’s work at Chautauqua. She has wrote a number of articles for various magazines and published one book, “Americanized Delsarte Culture.” She lived in Washington D.C. until her death in 1916.

No. 125 – Alpheus Hodges

Corporal Alpheus Hodges was born May 4, 1843 in Crawford County, Pa. to James and Lucinda Hodges.  His mother died when he was 11 months old and Alpheus spent his first 10 years with his grandparents in Waterford. Meanwhile his father had remarried in 1845 and moved to a farm near Ashville. In 1853 Alpheus joined the family.

At the age of 18 and at the start of the Civil War, Alpheus enlisted in the 9th New York Cavalry, Company F, at the regiment’s formation on September 20, 1861 at Ashville.  He was appointed corporal in his company on September 26, 1862.

In 1863 Hodges was put in charge of an advanced picket post in Gettysburg, Pa. On the morning of July 1, 1863 – along with three other troopers of his company – Hodges claimed to have been fired upon by advancing Confederates.  He retired to a bridge where, from behind its stone abutments, he fired several shots at the advancing enemy.  This exchange of shots is believed to be the first shots fired at the Battle of Gettysburg, although there are some accounts which dispute this claim.

Hodges is reported to have done “distinguished service” throughout the remainder of the battle. On August 1, 1863, during the fighting near Brandy Station, Hodges’ horse was shot out from under him. Hodges suffered a broken ankle and he was taken prisoner. Since his ankle was never properly set, it caused him to limp the rest of his life. Hodges was released in a general exchange of prisoners in March 1864, and returned to the regiment until mustered out on October 29, 1864 at Middletown VA.

After he was mustered out, Hodges returned to his family farm near Ashville.  But shortly after the war, Hodges moved to Topeka, Kansas, where he worked on several ranches as a ranch hand.  On March 6, 1873, he married Lucy Althea and they had six children, two of whom died in infancy.

A few years later, the Hodges moved to Westfield N.Y., where the 9th New York Cavalry had been raised, and in 1907 they moved to East Rochester.  Hodges worked for the Merchants Despatch Transportation Company for about 10 years, retiring in 1921.  Hodges developed heart problems and died at his home on Aug. 1, 1922.

Ref: “Faded Hoofbeats – Cpl. Alpheus Hodges, 9th NY Cavalry” by J. David Petruzzi


Bicentennial Biographies is a not-for-profit radio project designed to raise awareness and increase interest in local history. It is brought to you as a public service by the Chautauqua County Historical Society throughout 2011 to celebrate the county’s 200th birthday. To learn more, visit or contact your local historical society.

View Complete List of Bicentennial Biographies and Audio

– J. Sample

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