Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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DE KOVEN, James, clergyman, born in Middletown, Connecticut, 19 September 1831; died in Racine, Wis., 19 March 1879. He was graduated at Columbia in 1851, and at the General theological seminary in 1854, was ordained priest in 1855, and became rector of the Church of St. John Chrysostom, Delafield, Wis., and principal of St. John's hall, the preparatory department for Nashotah theological seminary. In 1859 this department, through his instrumentality, was merged in Racine College, Mr. De Koven becoming the warden. He was a leader in the high Church movement in the west, and inaugurated radical changes in the management and discipline of the College. He introduced the Oxford cap and gown in 1861, to be worn both by students and professors; inaugurated the conferring a gold tassel to be worn by the student that attained the highest proficiency; invited from England a celebrated teacher of Churchmusic, and established the fir@ Episcopal surpliced choir west of New York City. He was prominent in all matters of Church education, and a leader in the diocesan and general conventions.
Hobart conferred the degree of D. D. upon him in 1862. In 1873 he lacked but a few votes of being elected bishop of Massachusetts. The election turned on the questions at issue between the high and low Church parties of New England, and Dr. De Koven was the candidate of the former, being put forward as one of the most powerful orators of the Episcopalian pulpit. But more general attention was attracted to him by an address delivered in the convention of 1874. The controversy between the high and low Church parties had then assumed a bitter antagonism, and threatened a serious dissension if not a final division. The address in question produced a profound impression, and Dr. De Koven was perhaps in consequence elected bishop of Illinois, but was not confirmed by the diocese. In the year following, his name was again proposed for a bishopric, butwas subsequently withdrawn by his friends, there being no hope of a confirmation. Meantime he continued his work as an educator in building up the institution at Racine. By his efforts a commodious edifice was erected for the College chapel, 200 acres of adjoining land was purchased, and costly buildings were put in as extensions and connections to those already standing, until the College quadrangle was nearly completed. In 1878 he was called to be an assistant rector of Trinity Church, New York, but declined. A short time before his death he was chosen rector of St. Mark's, Philadelphia, but had not time to act upon it.
He was noted for his kindly courtesy, his genial humor, and his brilliant conversational powers. In the pulpit he displayed many of the best qualities of the sacred orator. Slipping on the ice in a lonely place, on his way from the station to the College, and breaking his leg caused his death. The weather was cold, and he lay for several hours before it was known and any help reached him. He was the author of several stories for boys and "Sermons Preached on Various Occasions," published since his death, with a preface by the Rev. Morgan Dix, D. D. (New York, 1880).
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