Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why Not Celebrate a Local Religious Hero?

The Statesman ran dueling opinion pieces today on the prospects for us to say "Saint Pope John Paul the Second." Whether the Pope deserves sainthood is a spiritual matter for Catholics to decide. But it certainly makes good business sense. Writing in the New York Review of Books, Ingrid Rowland notes
It was, after all, John Paul himself who discovered how lucrative the mass encouragement of sainthood can be, both for the city and for the Church. Over his two-and-a-half-decade papacy, he beatified 1,340 people and canonized 483—more than his predecessors had done in four centuries, attracting millions of Catholic pilgrims to the Vatican in the process. His Vicar for Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, supervised the creation of a bus tour called “Christian Rome” modeled on the city-run Archeobus, which led from the Forum down the Appian Way; now the yellow open-top buses of Roma Cristiana are a huge business and the Archeobus, after an auspicious beginning a decade ago, has fallen victim to the usual Roman decline and fall...
Someone locally who was not able to profit quite in this way from being spiritually good was the Reverend Obed Dickinson: He found success in grass seed rather than in mustard seed.

Maybe he's not a Saint, but he surely deserves a pint or two. We think he and his wife, Charlotte, deserve a toast.

During the antebellum period and the Civil War, Reverend Dickinson advocated for African-Americans and against slavery. The Salem online history notes that
On January 1, 1863, Rev. Dickinson officiated the wedding of America Waldo and Richard Bogle and hosted the wedding reception. A black wedding taking place in a white church and a party attended by both blacks and whites was apparently too much for some people to handle. The event provoked nasty comments from Asahel Bush, first in his private letters and then in the Oregon Statesman; eventually, the incident made the newspapers as far away as the Portland Oregonian and the San Francisco Bulletin.
Charlotte taught African-Americans at home when they were not allowed in the schools.

He was too much for Salem. He retired from the clergy and became a seed man, with a store at Chemeketa and Commercial.

The Reverend and Charlotte are buried in the Pioneer Cemetery. His obituary says "He was a man of social qualities and charitable in his instincts."

A tip of the pint.

(Obed Portrait: Oregon Historical Quarterly, Vol. 92, No. 1 (Spring, 1991), pp. 4-40;
Dickinson Seed Store: Salem Public Library Historic Photograph Collections

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