Woman of the Century/Eliza Tupper Wilkes
WILKES, Mrs. Eliza Tupper, minister, born in Houlton. Maine, 8th October, 1844. Her father was a native of Maine, her mother of Rhode Island, and all ancestors, except an honored Irish grandmother, were of New England since the earliest colonization. The Tuppers were established in 1630 upon a farm in Sandwich, Mass., which is still occupied by a member of the family. On other lines the family is traced to the Mayhews, of Martha's Vineyard, and the Wheatons, of Rhode Island. Early in the childhood of Mrs. Wilkes, her parents moved to Brighton, Washington county, Iowa. Her early education was largely given her by her mother, Mrs. Ellen Smith Tupper, who became celebrated for her knowledge of bee culture. At sixteen she returned to New England with her grandfather, Noah Smith, then prominent in the public life of Maine, and for two years studied in the academy in Calais, Me. Returning to Iowa, she was graduated from the Iowa Central University after four years of study, during which time she had largely supported herself and economized with heroic fortitude. Until towards the end of her college course, she was a devoted Baptist and planned to go as a foreign missionary. Her anxiety for the heathen, however, led her to question the truth of her belief in eternal punishment, and she became a Universalist. Association with a Quaker family made her realize that she might preach, although a woman, and, encouraged by the Reverend Miss Chapin, Mrs. Livermore and others, she became a Universalist minister, and was ordained 2nd May, 1871. Her first pastorate was in Neenah, Wis., before her ordination, and in ELIZA TUPPER WILKES. 1869 she accepted a call from the church in Rochester, Minn. After the lime of her entrance upon that pastorate she became the wife of William A. Wilkes, a young lawyer of great strength of character and of much professional promise, which has since been more than realized. Much of Mrs. Wilkes* success has been due to the inspiring sympathy and encouragement of her husband! He has always been active as a leader in reformatory measures and as a layman in church work. In 1872 she resigned her pastorate and went with her husband to Colorado Springs, where he found a fine professional field. In that year their first child was born, and from that time on for fifteen years she gave most of her time and strength to her home life, although her ministry really never ceased. She always kept a live and active interest in all the good work of the communities in which she lived, and preached occasionally, whenever her help was needed. Through her efforts a Unitarian church was started during that period in Colorado Springs, and later another in Sioux Falls, Dakota, to which place the family moved in 1878. In Dakota she gathered about her through post-office missions and occasional preaching tours a large parish of hungry truth-seekers, scattered all over the prairies of southeastern Dakota. Her influence was especially felt among the young women in the new communities in which she lived. Although young herself, her experience made her seem a natural adviser, and, whether by starting study classes, or kindergarten, or giving suggestions as to infant hyuiene.her usefulness was unceasing. In 1887 she again entered actively into the ministry, accepting the pastorate of a church in Luverne, Minn., a town a few miles from Sioux Falls, where her home remained. That work she still continues. She herself is mother, sister, friend or teacher to every man, woman or child in the congregation, and most of the life of the community centers in the activities she inspires. Together with that, she is virtual pastor of three mission churches, to which she preaches as there is opportunity. Five sons and one daughter were born to her.