When Horatio Stebbins in 1864 assumed charge of the San Francisco church he was the sole representative of the denomination on the Pacific Coast. For years he stood alone,—a beacon-like tower of liberalism. The first glimmer of companionship came from Portland, Oregon. At the solicitation of a few earnest Unitarians Dr. Stebbins went to Portland to consult with and encourage them. A society was formed to prepare the way for a church. A few consecrated women worked devotedly; they bought a lot in the edge of the woods and finally built a small chapel. Then they moved for a minister. In St. Louis, Mo., Rev. William Greenleaf Eliot had been for many years a force in religion and education. A strong Unitarian church and Washington University resulted. He had also founded a family and had inspired sons to follow in his footsteps. Thomas Lamb Eliot had been ordained and was ready for the ministry. He was asked to take the Portland church and he accepted. He came first to San Francisco on his way. Dr. Stebbins was trying the experiment of holding services in the Metropolitan Theater, and I remember seeing in the stage box one Sunday a very prepossessing couple that interested me much—they were the Eliots on their way to Portland. William G., Jr., was an infant-in-arms. I was much impressed with the spirit that moved the attractive couple to venture into an unknown field. The acquaintance formed grew into a friendship that has deepened with the years.
The ministry of the son in Portland has been much like that of the father in St. Louis. The church has been reverent and constructive, a steady force for righteousness, an influence for good in personal life and community welfare. Dr. Eliot has fostered many interests, but the church has been foremost. He has always been greatly respected and influential. Dr. Stebbins entertained for him the highest regard. He was wont to say: “Thomas Eliot is the wisest man for his years I ever knew.” He has always been that and more to me. He has served one parish all his life, winning and holding the reverent regard of the whole community. The active service of the church has passed to his son and for years he has given most of his time and strength to Reed College, established by his parishioners. In a few months he will complete his eighty years of beautiful life and noble service. He has kept the faith and passed on the fine spirit of his inheritance.