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Francis P. Church


Centurion, 1868–1906

Full Name Francis Pharcellus Church

Born 22 February 1839 in Rochester, New York

Died 11 April 1906 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Buried Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, New York

Proposed by Thomas Hitchcock

Elected 7 March 1868 at age twenty-nine

Archivist’s Note: Brother of John A. Church and William Conant Church; uncle of John A. Church Jr. Best known for his 1897 editorial reassuring that “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

Century Memorial

Francis Pharcellus Church lives in the memory of those who knew him well as a chevalier of American journalism, without fear, and, as nearly as it is given to that profession, with its unceasing production of prompt criticism, to be, blameless. Born in Rochester, N. Y., of revolutionary and colonial ancestry on the father’s side and on the mother’s, he was graduated with honors from Columbia College in 1859 and began the study of the law. But his future called him. He entered journalism as a civil war correspondent for the New York Times; at the close of the war, joined his elder brother, Col. William C. Church, in the Army and Navy Journal, and the Galaxy Magazine, and in 1874 became one of the leading editorial writers of the New York Sun, where he remained until his death. In such work it is the point of view that counts, and this is determined, for the most part unconsciously, by character. In “Frank” Church the point of view was that of a deeply earnest and sincere nature, checked, on the one hand, by a reserve at once austere and gentle, and on the other by a deliberate, conscientious aloofness and impartiality. It was a curious and a most effective combination of qualities. The self-control, which was an expression of self-respect, wrought a style of singular lucidity and of brilliancy where that was permitted, while the serious and sustained intellectual curiosity and moral energy kept the pen supplied with subjects of vital interest. What Mr. Church was to The Century is indicated in the words of a fellow-member, addressed to the daily paper with which he was so long and so honorably associated: “He never knew his value in our eyes. And he possessed qualities that shone brightly in his intimate intercourse with friends. They loved him for his tolerance, the cleanness of his mind, his pleasure in gentlemen, his bright imagination; above all, for his kindness of heart.”

Edward Cary
1907 Century Association Yearbook