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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Kemper, Jackson 1789 - 1870


pioneer churchman, first missionary bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church, b. Pleasant Valley, Dutchess County, N.Y. He graduated from Columbia Univ. (1809). He was ordained a deacon in 1811, and a priest in 1814. From 1811 to 1831 he served as minister in Philadelphia, and was rector in Norwalk, Conn. (1831-1835). In 1834 he made his first journey to the West, visiting the Oneida mission school near Green Bay. He was consecrated missionary bishop in 1835, and served in this capacity for Indiana, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (1835-1859). He made his first Episcopal visitation to Wisconsin in 1838, established his residence at Delafield in 1846, and in 1847 established the diocese of Wisconsin. He was provisional bishop for Wisconsin (1847-1854) and first diocesan bishop (1854-1870). A familiar and well-liked figure in the Northwest, Kemper soon realized the inadequacies of most eastern-trained churchmen in a frontier environment. In an attempt to improve the situation, he founded Kemper College, Mo. (1835), and in Wisconsin, with the aid of J. L. Breck (q.v.), William Adams (q.v.), and J. H. Hobart, he established Nashotah House (theological seminary) in 1841, and Racine College (1852). Although not outspokenly partisan in church politics, Kemper was known as a high churchman, and made Nashotah and Racine College prominent examples of ritualistic observance. In 1868 he traveled to England to attend the Council of Bishops. A pioneer in spreading the Episcopal faith in the Northwest, Kemper was responsible for establishing seven dioceses, founding three colleges, and opening numerous schools and academies. Dicta Amer. Biog.; Historical Mag. Prot. Episc. Church, 4; G. White, Apostle of West. Church (New York, 1900); J. Kemper Papers.

The Wisconsin Historical Society has manuscripts related to this topic. See the catalog description of the Jackson Kemper Papers for details.

View Kemper's 1834 journal at Wisconsin Historical Collections.

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]
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