The Eastman Family Legacy at The Park Church
Updated: Nov 13, 2021
On October 12th we had two visitors at the church: Reuben Fuller-Bennett, an attorney from Brooklyn, and his mother, Anne Fuller from Cape Cod. They came to learn more about
their ancestors: Crystal Eastman and her parents, The Reverends Annis Ford and Samuel Elijah Eastman. Anne is Crystal’s granddaughter and Reuben her great-grandson. They had spent the previous day in Canandaigua, the site of the Eastman family plot, and had visited “Cherith” the Seneca Lake site of the East- man’s family summer home, where church picnics (with the congregation traveling there from Elmira on the train) were a happy tradition over a century ago. Boy, were they surprised when I told them that they could contact Mimi Gridley, who currently lives there!
As I toured them around the building and we shared what we each knew of the Eastman legacy at Park, there were many serene moments. Anne had never met Crystal Eastman because her father was orphaned as a boy with the death of first his father, and then his mother, when he was a child. Seeing the photographs in the parlor and standing at the Beecher pulpit was the highlight for Reuben as I told him that both of his great-grandparents had preached from that pulpit. It was a moving expe- rience for all of us.
Then I was able to take them in the archives, where I had pulled down the five boxes with items inside from the Eastman’s years with the church beginning in 1894, when the family moved into the upstairs lodgings in the building when the Reverends were called to assist Beecher with burgeon- ing church activities. Then with Beecher’s death in 1900, the Eastmans shared the ministry until Annis’ death in 1910 and Samuel’s retirement in 1917. When the Eastman's moved to Elmira, Crystal was 13 and her brother Max was 11. There was also another older brother. Nowadays, both Crystal and her brother Max are more famous than their parents as they went on to become outspoken progressives in New York City in the fields of worker’s safety and rights for women. The Fullers showed me copies of two newly published books about these illustrious siblings: Crystal Eastman, A Revolutionary Life by Amy Aronson and Max Eastman, A Life by Christoph Irmscher. Guess what’s on my stack of current reading?