Pioneering Families
... with Roots in Madison County

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  Was, in 1842, in the strength of his buoyant soul, and preached in a way to be remembered. To show his appreciation of the people of Belvidere, he took Miss Mary Brooks to wife, the couple being married in public at a camp-meeting held on Beaver Creek, in 1843. This was one of the happiest of marriages, and few preachers are blest with so fitting a wife as Mary Blanchard proved to be. Her home until the death of her husband was always a charming one. R. A. Blanchard was born in Madison County, New York, December 27, 1816, and moved to Wayne County with his parents when eight years of age. Long before he was converted he felt that if ever he became a Christian he must preach the gospel. He was converted when seventeen, at a camp-meeting near Sodus, in September, 1832. His conversion was at first like the glimmering of daylight, and then the sun of righteousness appeared in full beam. He at once began to preach in his sleep, so as to wake his parents in the night-time. This was made known to his pastor, who sought an interview with the young Christian. Finding that he had impressions of his duty to preach, the pastor brought his case before the society, and, on recommendation, he was licensed to exhort in October, 1836. His license to exhort was regularly renewed until August, 1840. At this date, while attending the seminary at Lima, where he had been about two years, he was licensed to preach, and at the same time recommended to Conference. Before the meeting of the Conference he fell in with John Clark, who was then in the East looking for young men for the work in the West. He started for Illinois in a one-horse gig, accompanied by Rev. Sias Bolles, who had also been induced to come West. They both arrived in time to be received into the Rock River Conference, at its first session in 1840, at Mt. Morris. S. Bolles had been admitted to the Genesee Conference in 1836. Mr. Blanchard was appointed to Buffalo Grove Circuit. Luke Hitchcock was then on the Dixon Circuit as a supply. Mr. Hitchcock was soon selected by the trustees to act as agent of the new Rock River Seminary, and Mr. Blanchard went to the Dixon work, to supply Mr. Hitchcock's place. When he went to Dixon he found that everybody was talking of Luke Hitchcock in a manner that made it disagreeable for a successor. One day Mr. Blanchard preached a funeral sermon, and after preaching was sitting in a back room at Mr. Hitchcock's house. In another room, separated by a thin partition, a company was gathered who began comparing the two preachers. One of those grandiloquent persons that use great words without knowing their meaning, put in this grave opinion "Mr. Blanchard is quite an exceptionable preacher, but I must say that the Rev. Mr. Hitchcock is the most diabolical preacher I ever heard." Whatever that word may mean, the gentleman intended to pay Mr. Hitchcock the highest kind of a compliment. 
  From Dixon Mr. Blanchard went, in 1841, to the Freeport Circuit. It is not needful here to insert the list of his appointments. He was one of those even, good, hard-working, tried men, who rise slowly but surely, and who are often called to fill difficult places where prudence and perseverance are needed. He was in Galena and Chicago, at Belvidere and Mount Morris, and charges of that sort, until 1860, when he was made presiding elder on the Rockford District. He continued in the eldership until 1869, when he was stationed at Roscoe. He was never brilliant as a preacher or as an elder; but by attending carefully to every part of his work, he made one of the best presiding elders the writer ever had. In 1872 he was appointed to St. Charles, one of his old favorite places. He continued to fill his place there until August, 1873. At this time he took a trip to Belvidere. While there, he rode with the pastor into the country, where he had property, to attend to some business. On his way he complained of pains; but taking simple remedies, he felt better. He attended to his business, took dinner, and then returned to the parsonage occupied by Joseph Odgers at Belvidere. Going into the parlor, he sat down on the sofa. Mrs. Odgers, being in the next room, hearing a noise, stepped into the room, and saw Mr. Blanchard sliding helpless from the sofa. He was lifted up; physicians were sent for; but it was too late. He was gone. The toil of the workman of thirty-three years was over. This occurred August 19, 1873. In social life he was one of the most genial of men; but in all his geniality, nothing gross or impure ever passed from his lips. His piety was deep and abiding. As a member of Conference, from the first he was one of those who took his hart in the proceedings, and generally had some word of wisdom to offer. There are on the Conference floor two classes of men who are at fault. The first class of men are always striving to get in a word, whether wise or unwise--oftenest unwise--on every matter that comes up; the other class never are known in the Conference business. R. A. Blanchard was a member of neither class. He took the medium ground, and generally spoke only when there was reason for speaking. The only exception to this was that, in his early days, he was such an admirer of Hooper Crews he seemed to think he was the special guardian of Mr. Crews's character, and strove often to defend it when it did not need any defense.
   Mr. Blanchard was a member of the General Conference in 1868.

Field, A. D. Worthies and workers, both ministers and laymen, of the Rock River Conference. Cincinnati: Cranston & Curts, 1896,  pgs. 190-193.


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