Friday, February 13, 2015

The Wandering Esperantist Minister

He left not long after.
Was it over the letter from Zamenhof?
The early Esperanto movement has two men who could be referred to as “Reverend Cleland.” The first of these, mentioned only in the Marhcn 1908 Amerika Esperantisto was Reverend F. B. Cleland of Portage, Wisconsin. He, as far as I can determine, was the Presbyterian minister, Frank B. Cleland.[1] But Amerika Esperantisto lists another Reverend Cleland of Portage, Wisconsin, and although I have been able to track him down, there doesn’t seem to be a connection between the two.

Our second Reverend Cleland, who was more prominent in the movement, was John Irvin Cleland,[2] whom Amerika Esperantisto also locates in Portage, Wisconsin, in their August 1908 issue. Reverend J. I. Cleland (the only Reverend Cleland I’m dealing with from this point forward) was clearly associated with Esperanto before 1908, since he’s mentioned in an article in the February 13, 1907 Wilmar Tribune. In 1907, he’s living in Winona, Minnesota (though clearly not for long).

In 1907, he probably figured that he’d be staying at the First Presbyterian Church of Winona, since he started and Esperanto group. The Wilmar Tribune reported:
Winona. — The new international language, Esperanto, is being studied in Winona. A class has been formed and meets regularly each week with Rev. J. I. Cleland as leader. The class has received a letter from Dr. Zamenhof,[3] the founder of the language.
Fear not for the Winona Esperanto Club; they survived in the absence of their founder. In May and July 1908, Amerika Esperantisto lists the Winona Esperanto Club in its list of Esperanto organizations. Its leader, Thomas B. Hill, remained active in Esperanto, as least through 1909.[4] But what of Reverend Cleland? His activity included not only the Portage Esperanto Club and membership in the Wisconsin Esperanto Association (of which he was vice president), but he was also a member of the publications committee of the Esperanto Association of North America.

Cleland in his days as
an academic.
Let’s start at the beginning. As I was researching this, I found references to J. I. Cleland, ranging from 1888 to 1921, and showing a trek from Kentucky, to South Carolina, to Ohio, to Washington. Was this the Esperantist of Minnesota and Wisconsin? Not sure about Ohio, but everything else, yes.

John Cleland started off as an academic.[5] He was born in Mississippi on June 11, 1864, and received an M.A. in Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit from Central University of Kentucky in 1886. He became a professor of Latin at Presbyterian College of Clinton, South Carolina, becoming its president in 1891.[6] He resigned that position in 1894 for graduate studies at Johns Hopkins,[7] after which he was the president of Arkansas College between 1895 and 1897. During his tenure at Arkansas College, he married Mabel Goodwin.

Cleland spent from 1897 to 1901 at the McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. For those of you who are keeping score, between his 1864 birth and finishing his theology degree, he lived in six states.[8] He’s just warming up. This is all before his time in the Esperanto movement. After becoming a minister, he lived in New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, California, before dying in Arizona in 1927. That’s twelve states (unless the biographies left any out) in sixty-three years.

Although he doesn’t seem to have stayed long in the Esperanto movement (after those early days of the EANA, he just seems to vanish), he certain racked up a number of states. There’s one last question I have about Reverend Cleland. Did he use his initials instead of his full first name to dispel any thoughts of the eighteenth-century British author John Cleland (1709–1789), best known for his book, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure?

The only sample of Esperanto I can find from Cleland is an item in the 1909 Amerika Esperantisto, “La Rakonto Pri Eta Maude,” a translation of a short work by Charles Battell Loomis (which was probably still under copyright when Cleland translated it).

  1. In the March 1908 edition.  ↩
  2. In some sources, John Irvine Cleland.  ↩
  3. Well, the Wilmar Tribune actually said “Zamanhof,” but they got it close enough, right?  ↩
  4. Quite honestly, if I go chasing Mr. Hill down, I’lll never get this finished.  ↩
  5. My main sources for this are the website of Presbyterian College, a book on the history of Lyon College (Arkansas College in Cleland’s day), and The Book of Minnesotans, even though he was only in Minnesota for three years.  ↩
  6. Do the math: He became head of the college at the age of 27.  ↩
  7. Which means we can add Baltimore, Maryland to our list.  ↩
  8. Mississippi, Kentucky, South Carolina, Maryland, Arkansas, Illinois.  ↩

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