John M. Bradford
John M. Bradford was born in Danbury, Connecticut in March 1781. He was the son of Rev. Ebenezer Bradford and New Jersey native Elizabeth Greene. His father was a Princeton trained Congregational minister. He is said to have been a direct descendant of the pilgrim Governor William Bradford. He grew up in a large family as his father moved them to new callings across New England.
He is said to have graduated from Brown University in 1800. He then was trained for the ministry by his maternal uncle, Reverend Ashbel Green, a reknowned Philadelphia-based Presbyterian. Bradford was ordained as a Presbyterian minister, answered a call from Albany, and was installed as pastor of the Dutch Reformed church in Albany on August 11, 1805. In 1806, he laid the cornerstone for the Second or "South" Dutch Reformed Church. Following the division of the Dutch church into two seperate congregations in 1815, Bradford remained pastor of the North church. He ministered to the Dutch Reformed congregation in Albany from 1805 to 1820.
Church archives and his biographer have characterized Bradford as "as man of fine appearance and dignified manners, an eloquent and impressive preacher. His voice was melodious and his gestures graceful; his style was rich yet chaste and his sermons were of a high order; he was ranked among the most distinguished orators of the day."
Known for his speaking abilities dating to his college days, in April 1813, he delivered a sermon at the New Brunswick Theological Seminary. A number of additional orations have been preserved in ecclesiastical annals. A learned intellect endeared him to Albany's better educated and more affluent parishioners.
By 1808, he had married Mary Lush, the daughter of Stephen Lush. Their children were christened at his church from 1808 to 1819.
In 1813, the city directory listed him as the pastor of the Dutch church and residing at 48 Market Street. The address of the parsonage later became 304 North Market Street.
This civic minded citizen was a founder, supporter, officer, and trustee of a number of community-based institutions and initiatives. He was said to have been the driving force behind an initiative to establish a grammar school in the city.
However, his tenure at the church was compromised by insufficient financial support and divergent priorities among the church elders. Additionally, by 1820, the thirty-nine-year old cleric had become erratic and then incapacitated by alcohol. Following a bitter and litigious contest, the Consistory had him removed from the pulpit. Broken and disheartened, John M. Bradford died in March 1826 at the age of forty-six. However, his widow lived until 1861.
A number of contemporaries, including Gorham A. Worth, recalled Bradford with reverence and respect: "Mr. Bradford was a well educated — well read — and gentlemanly man. He was, moreover, one of the handsomest men in the city, which in the minds or fancies of the fairer part of his congregation, added no doubt to his eloquence, and of course to his usefulness in the church."
Sources: The life of John M. Bradford is CAP biography number 7407. This sketch is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources. The primary biographical resource for this study is Robert S. Alexander's First Church.
Sketch copied from New England in Albany: "John Melancthon Bradford, D. D., b. Danbury, Ct., May 12, 1781 ; d. March 26, 1826; gr. Brown, 1800; pastor of i. t Reformed Dutch Church, Albany, 1802- 20; a man of commanding presence; an eloquent and impressive preacher; among the distinguished pulpit orators of the day. His son, Alexander W., was an eminent lawyer and sometime Surrogate of New York."
first posted: 12/10/09