Stephen Elliott (bishop)

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Stephen Elliott

Stephen Elliott
Bishop of Georgia
Carte-de-Visite of Stephen Elliott, seated, from waist up, in clergy robes.jpg
ProvinceEpiscopal Church in the United States
Episcopal Church in the Confederate States
ConsecrationFebruary 28, 1841
Personal details
Born(1806-08-31)August 31, 1806
Beaufort, South Carolina
DiedDecember 21, 1866(1866-12-21) (aged 60)
Savannah, Georgia
BuriedLaurel Grove Cemetery
DenominationAnglican Communion
SpouseMary Gibbes Barnwell
ChildrenSarah Barnwell Elliott

Stephen Elliott (August 31, 1806 – December 21, 1866) was the 37th bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. He was the first Bishop of Georgia and Provisional Bishop of Florida. He was also the first and only Presiding Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America.

Early life and career[edit]

He was born on August 31, 1806 in Beaufort, South Carolina, the son of Stephen Elliott the botanist. He attended Harvard and graduated in 1825 from South Carolina College, where he was president of the Clariosophic Society. He studied law and practiced in Charleston (where he was one of the founders of the Forensic Club) and Beaufort, South Carolina from 1827 until 1833.

Elliott had a conversion experience during a sermon by Presbyterian evangelist Daniel Baker (1791–1857) at the Episcopal Church in Beaufort, South Carolina.[1] He became a candidate for holy orders in the Episcopal Church in 1833, was ordained a deacon in 1835 and a priest the following year. A professor of sacred literature and revealed religion, Elliot taught at South Carolina College from 1835 to 1841.[2]

Family life[edit]

Elliott married his cousin, Mary Gibbes Barnwell, daughter of a colonel Robert W. Barnwell, on Nov. 18, 1828. After her death, he married another cousin, Charlotte Bull Barnwell, daughter of John G. Barnwell and granddaughter of Gen. John Barnwell and of Gen. Stephen Bull, of the Revolutionary army.[2] Among their children were Robert W. B. Elliott (1840–1887), missionary bishop to West Texas;[3] John Gibbes Barnwell Elliott, M. D.; R. Habersham Elliott; and their youngest, the novelist Sarah Barnwell Elliott (1848–1928).[4] (Note: a common misconception, frequently published, especially online, is that Confederate Brigadier-General Stephen Elliott Jr. (1832–1866) was the son of Elliott. The General was the son of Elliott's first cousin, another Stephen Elliott (1804–1866).)


In 1840 he was chosen first bishop of the Diocese of Georgia, and after his consecration, February 28, 1841, became rector of St. John's Church, Savannah. In 1844 he became provisional bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida, to be succeeded in 1851 by Francis Huger Rutledge, the first bishop of that diocese.

Elliott was committed to education. In 1845 he resigned the rectorship of St. John's to take charge of the Female Institute at Montpelier, Georgia, which he had founded several years earlier. He assumed the management and with it a large debt, and resided in Montpelier, 1845-53. He was also instrumental, with Bishops Leonidas Polk and Otey, founding of The University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee.

After Georgia and other southern states seceded, many of the Christian denominations in the U.S. split into Northern and Southern branches, a division that sometimes persists today. The Episcopal Church was no different. When the Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America split off, Stephen Elliott became its Presiding Bishop. He later became known for his funerary oration for the "Fighting Bishop" Leonidas Polk at Saint Paul's Church during the Atlanta Campaign. Elliott, who held enslaved people, supported the Southern cause in the American Civil War.[5]

Largely through the efforts of Elliott and his friend John Henry Hopkins, Bishop of Vermont, who was the Presiding Bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church, the Northern and Southern branches reunited after the Civil War. Both men considered this crucial to the survival of the Church and the nation.

Death and legacy[edit]

Elliott died on December 21, 1866 in Savannah, Georgia. He was buried at Laurel Grove Cemetery (north) in Savannah.[6] John W. Beckwith succeeded him as bishop of Georgia.


  1. ^ Baker, W.M. (1859). The Life and Labours of the Rev. Daniel Baker, D. D... W.S. & A. Martien. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Brown, J.H. (1900). Lamb's Biographical Dictionary of the United States: Chubb-Erich. James H. Lamb Company. p. 637. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  3. ^ "| Texas State Historical Association (TSHA)". Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  4. ^ "Novelguide | Search Result | Novelguide". Archived from the original on October 12, 2011. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  5. ^ Hanckel, Thomas M. (1867). Sermons by The Right Reverend Stephen Elliott, D.D., Late Bishop of Georgia with a Memoir by Thomas M. Hanckel, Esq. New York: Pott and Amery – via Archives of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.
  6. ^ "Stephen Elliott, Sr (1806 - 1866) - Find A Grave Memorial". Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  • Barnwell, Stephen B. (1969). The Story of an American Family. Marquette. pp. 156–159.
  • Northen (Ed.), William J. (1910). Men of Mark in Georgia. Atlanta: A. B. Caldwell. pp. 349–351.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • Perry, William Stevens (1895). The Episcopate in America. New York: The Christian Literature Co. pp. 82–83. ISBN 0-524-01662-3.
  • "Death of Bishop Stephen Elliott". The Daily News and Herald (Savannah, Georgia). Savannah, Georgia. December 22, 1866. p. 2.
  • "Georgia: Death of Bishop Stephen Elliott". New York Times. New York, New York. December 31, 1866. p. 2.
  • Brown, John Howard (1900). Lamb's biographical dictionary of the United States, Volume 2. James H. Lamb Co. p. 638.

External links[edit]