Rev. Laurentine Hamilton, c.1875
photo from SJ Library, public domain
The Reverend Laurentine Hamilton (1826 – April 9, 1882) was the founding minister of the First Unitarian Church of Oakland. Mount Hamilton near San Jose is named for him.

Hamilton was born in 1826 in Catlin, NY. He graduated from Auburn Theological Seminary and was ordained in 1854. Hamilton started as a Presbyterian pastor, serving in Ovid, NY (1853–1855), Columbia, CA (1855–1859) and then San Jose (1859–1864). He moved to Oakland in 1864 where he became pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Oakland. Hamilton came under investigation for teaching the idea of "a second probation after death" (a posthumous chance of salvation); in 1869 Hamilton was charged with heresy and forced to resign his ordination. Most of the parish joined him, and formed the First Independent Presbyterian Church, later the Independent Church of Oakland

Hamilton married Isabella Meade (Hamilton) in 1854 and they had three children: Edward Hamlin Hamilton (August 27, 1859 – March 25, 1932), Agnes ("Aggie") Soulter Hamilton Gray (January 3, 1863 – January 26, 1924), and Frederick Robinson Hamilton (1869–?). Isabella died in 1869, and on July 27, 1875, Laurentine married Clara Ferson Batchelder (1836-?) of Berkeley, who was widowed.

An 1874 directory lists his address as 1165 Jackson Street.

Hamilton served on the Oakland Board of Education from 1866 to 1872.

He spoke at a Tuolumne County reunion at Badger's Park in 1877. "Rev. Dr. Hamilton's oration was received with many demonstrations of delight". 2

Hamilton published The Future State and Free Discussion (1869) and A Reasonable Christianity (1880). His sermons were published weekly in the Oakland Daily News for several years.

Edward Hamlin Hamilton was a newspaper reporter and editor for the San Francisco Examiner, and one of the oldest members of the Bohemian Club. He died March 25, 1932, from "shock and hemorrhage following stab wound of chest".

Laurentine Hamilton (1880) 3 by William B. Ingersoll [Question: If the Ingersoll portrait date of 1880 is correct (2 years before Hamilton's death in 1882), why would he appear so much older than the first photo above which is dated circa 1875, supposedly just 5 years earlier? It might be that the first portrait is from an earlier time than 1875? Just wondering ...]

[Answer: Sometimes, especially in the 19th century, if something terrible befalls a person - say, a heresy accusation - it could age them ridiculously fast … however, it’s much more likely that the first photo is simply misdated. If we accept that this guy died at age 56, and here he’s supposed to be 54, that could sort of square. But remember, no grecian formula back then … in the first photo, the beard is only slightly grizzled and the eyes are focused, even steely – I’d guess the man is about 40, if that. So there’s 1866 vs. the official 1875 - only 9 more years, true, but life was a lot harder then. My personal feeling is that the resolved, gung-ho gaze is not only due to long exposure time, but how I’d expect someone who’d just survived a Civil War and was getting his official portrait taken for the Board of Education to look. - Mike]

Death and Burial

While preaching April 9th, Easter Sunday in 1882, Hamilton said, "We know not what matter is..." and then collapsed onto the ground, dead. 1,4Ina Coolbrith wrote some sort of remembrance about him [hoping to find out more about it]. Hamilton is buried in Mountain View Cemetery along with various members of the Batchelder family in plot 8.

Hamilton's name wasn't originally on the marker. MVC docent Barbara Smith worked with the First Unitarian Church and First Presbyterian Church to add Hamilton's name, and the updated marker was unveiled in 2005. 5

Hamilton / Batchelder grave
photo CC SA-BY Our Oakland
Hamilton grave marker
photo CC SA-BY Our Oakland

Links and References

  1. Laurentine Hamilton on Wikipedia
  2. Tuolumneites Daily Alta California June 17, 1877
  3. Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room and Maps Division
  4. Death In The Pulpit Oakland Tribune April 10, 1882
  5. Gravesite mystery unveils Oakland religious history by Annalee Allen Oakland Tribune April 10, 2005