Clement Fall Le Fevre

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Clement Fall Le Fevre


Royal Marine officer, Anglican and then Unitarian Minister,
newspaper founder and farmer

Clement Fall Le Fevre was born at Berkamsted, Hertfordshire, where his maternal uncle, Jersey-born Reverend John Dupré was Principal of the Boys` School, on 12 November 1797. He was the second son of the Rev George Le Feuvre, BA (Oxon), the Minister of the French Church, in Southampton. Another maternal uncle was the Southampton merchant, Clement Falle, from whom he acquired his anglicised middle name.

His kinsman, William Laurence de Gruchy [1] wrote of him, on the back of his lithograph:

“The Rev Clement Fall Le Fevre was, up to 1815, an officer in the Marines. After the peace, he took Holy Orders and held a benefice in Canada. This he resigned later, the Universalist opinions he held being censured, and became a Unitarian pastor. But he felt too little sympathy with anybody but the Church (see his memorial to the Archbishops and Bishops after the Privy Council judgement in the “Essays and Reviews” case) and went into what was then the American backwoods and settled as a farmer in Milwaukee. He became a naturalised American and died at his property at Millwaukee“.

Clement Le Fevre was commissioned on 10 January 1814 as a Second-Lieutenant in the Royal Marines. John Adams wrote, in Fifty Notable Years that he was “appointed to a frigate and sailed for Halifax... With the peace of 1815, he was put on half pay. He was never in any engagement with the enemy and, as he wrote, “my sword was never stained with American blood and theirs was never stained with mine.”

His father had at one stage run in Southampton a school for young gentlemen and at his hand, and at that of an uncle, who will doubtless be the above Dr John Dupré, Clement acquired knowledge of Latin and Greek. At a loss on half pay to know what the future held, he decided to put himself forward for ordination. Once ordained, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts adopted him and in 1821, he was appointed Rector of Sherbrook, Lower Canada.


It was while engaged in his ministry at Sherbrook that he began to doubt the Anglican teaching on the subject of the Trinity within the Godhead and gradually began to be drawn to the Universalist belief in the ultimate reconciliation of lost souls. He was summoned before the Bishop, in Quebec, “to answer for himself touching these things. His answers were such as to satisfy the clergy and deacons who examined him that he could no longer remain in their fellowship”: New York Gospel Herald. They did, however, furnish him with letters bearing testimony to his piety and good talents. Furthermore, the neighbouring clergy, fearing that his influence would extend to their parishes, to hasten events, even agreed to purchase his house and furniture, which realized a sum of £1,000.

Between 1830 and 1844, Le Fevre held Unitarian pastorates in Troy, New York City, at Hempstead in Long Island and finally at Hudson, New York. While in Hempstead, in 1835, under his ministry, there even arose the need to build a new church, which was dedicated in 1836 and was regarded as the largest and finest that his denomination possessed in the State.

Another sphere in which Le Fevre made his mark, while in Hempstead, was in introducing on 8 May 1830 a printing press, used by him and his business partner, William Hutchinson, to found the town's first newspaper. This was called The Long Island Telegraph and Advertiser, later known as The Inquirer.

In 1840, as a result of his wife`s health being impaired, they believed by the air in Hempstead, Le Fevre resigned his living there in order to take up another in Hudson, New York. It was while pastor of this church, between 1840 and 1844, that Le Fevre finally became disenchanted with the ministry and decided to resign, which he did in 1844, in order to move out to what de Gruchy described as “the American backwoods”, namely to Hazlewood, Millwaukee, in Wisconsin, where he and his two surviving sons cleared the land and subsequently farmed. [2]

Clement Le Fevre, who married Mary Clowes of Hempstead, died in Millwaukee in 1882, and was survived by two sons and a daughter.

Family trees


Notes and References

  1. W L de Gruchy, whose grandmother, Marie Le Brocq, was Clement Le Fevre`s first cousin, used to spend Christmas holidays when he was at Rugby with Clement Le Fevre`s brother Henry and his wife, who were then, like himself, in England
  2. A fellow American later in Le Fevre`s life, was another grandson of a first cousin of his, the courageous and enterprising New Mexico rancher and banker, John Henry Tunstall
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