The Brothers: Henry Brewster Stanton (1805-1887) and Robert L. Stanton (1810-1885)
The Stanton brothers traced their ancestry to two prominent early New England colonists: William Brewster, religious leader of the Mayflower pilgrims of 1620; and Thomas Stanton, founder of Stonington, Connecticut, in 1666. Henry and Robert's father, Joseph, was a prosperous Connecticut merchant until he fell on hard times. Around 1826, Henry and Robert left home to travel up the Hudson River to the Erie Canal and to their destination, Rochester, New York. In Rochester, the brothers found work and also educational opportunities at the Oneida and the Rochester Institutes (Fletcher 55, 57).
After their father's death in 1828, their mother, Susan Brewster Stanton, with her younger children, relocated to Rochester. She joined the Presbyterian Church and listened to the revivalist preacher Charles Grandison Finney, a "New School" Presbyterian of fiery brilliance. All the Stantons were influenced by Finney's message of social reform through active religious faith.
In 1832, Henry and Robert Stanton, following Finney's disciple, Theodore Dwight Weld, enrolled in the new Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio, where they planned to study to become Presbyterian ministers. They had made their way by raft down the Allegheny River to Pittsburgh, and then by boat down the Ohio River to Cincinnati.
That same year, Lyman Beecher, Boston’s eminent Presbyterian minister, became president of Lane Theological Seminary. Besides bringing prestige to the school, Beecher also brought his family, including his daughter Harriet, who married Lane faculty member Calvin E. Stowe. Harriet Beecher Stowe would use her understanding of the evils of slavery, gained during her experiences in Ohio and Kentucky, to write her influential novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852).
Lane Theological Seminary was named for initial donors Ebenezer and William Lane but was largely funded by the New York merchant and philanthropist Arthur Tappan. He and his brother Lewis Tappan founded and supported a number of schools, including Oberlin College. They gave their full support to the cause of abolition. With Theodore Weld and other abolitionists, they founded the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833.
The Tappan brothers also promoted manual labor institutions, such as those the Stanton brothers found in Rochester, where young men of little means could gain a classical education while developing physical and practical skills. The Tappans wanted these students to become hardy, well-educated ministers in Ohio, Indiana, and other "western" states. Lane was such an institution. Robert L. Stanton worked in Lane's print shop (Fletcher 57). After graduating from Lane's literary program in 1834, Robert entered the theological program. Henry Stanton had a different experience at Lane. In 1834, he participated in events that caused a furor at the seminary and brought the school to national attention.