SHINN, QUILLEN HAMILTON (I January 1845, Bingamon, WV-6 September 1907, Cambridge, MA) Education: Graduated from the theological
school, St. Lawrence University, 1870. Career: Universalist minister, Gaysville, VT, 1870-72; independent missionary preacher, WV, 1872-73; Universalist minister, Tyngsboro and Dunstable, MA, 1873-74; Second Universalist Church, Lynn, MA, 1874-77; Foxboro and Mansfield, MA, 1877-81; Plymouth, NH, 1881-c. 1884; Rochester, NH, c. 1884; Deering and Westbrook, ME, c. 1884-89; Rutland, VT, 1889; Omaha, NE, 1889-91; independent Universalist missionary, 1891-95; general missionary, Universalist General Convention, 1895-1900; southern missionary, Universalist General Convention,
Universalism was a rare and exotic faith in the mountains of West Virginia, where Quillen H. Shinn grew up in the middle of the nineteenth century. Shinn and his family had become Universalist converts through reading George W. Quinby's pamphlet "The Salvation of Christ," but it was not until he was in his early twenties that Shinn was able to attend a Universalist service in Kent, Ohio. By that time he had had a range of experience that would equip him for his later strenuous life as a Universalist missionary. He had been raised in farm work, and at the outbreak of the war he fought for the Union and spent time in a Confederate prisoner of war camp. He kept school for a time after the war, but with some encouragement he decided to enter the Universalist ministry. In 1867 he went to St. Lawrence University to study with Ebenezer Fisher* and began to show there the inspirational and organizational gifts that made him the greatest builder of Universalist churches of his time. The numerous pastorates he held after completing his theological training were some indication of the pattern of itinerant missionary work at which he excelled. In 1891 he took upon himself the role of independent Universalist missionary, raising his own financial support as he went until designated general missionary by the Universalist Convention in 1895. Shinn was remarkable in his ability to sow the seeds of Universalist congregations. He traveled twenty-five thousand to thirty thousand miles a year and preached in every state, reporting that by 1895 he had started :1 "about fifty" churches and the same number of Sunday schools (McGlauflin, I p.64). He would typically come to a town where there were few or no Universalists, hire a hall, leaflet the town, and begin to preach, encouraging each of his hearers to bring others the next day. He tried to leave the town with some organization -- a church, youth group, Sunday school, or Ladies' Aid Society. Although some of these groups were short-lived, others were not, and Shinn's efforts helped to spread Universalism beyond its New England roots. He preached an evangelical version of Universalism, grounded thoroughly in the Bible, which he could quote at great length from memory. He distrusted modernism in theology, insisting above all on a practical faith, relevant to the needs and hopes of ordinary folk. Shinn was well known for his annual summer meetings in New Hampshire, which began in 1882 and grew out of the tradition of Universalist grove meetings and evangelical brush-arbor revivals. Shinn loved his difficult and strenuous work, and it could indeed be said that he took the whole nation for his parish.
A. William H. McGlauflin, Faith with Power: A Life Story of Quillen Hamilton Shinn, D.D. (Boston and Chicago, 1912) (contains excerpts of Shinn's writings).
B. See McGlauflin above. Shinn's career will also he treated in the second volume of Russell E. Miller's history of Universalism, forthcoming.