Early pastor once President Garfield’s classmate

First Presbyterian Church of Prattville - Photo by Melissa Parker
First Presbyterian Church of Prattville - Photo by Melissa Parker

Prattville – James King Hazen was born on April 28, 1833 in Awawam, Massachusetts, the son of ordained pastor, Reuben Stedman Hazen. In 1860, James was ordained and the next year he was installed there at the First Presbyterian Church of Prattville. He pastored there until 1877.

During his time at the church he was one of the founders of the Orphans Home at Tuskegee, Alabama, which was later moved to Talladega, and was for many years chairman of the executive committee. This was developed as a haven for despondent youth providing training, education, and worship in a Christian atmosphere.

James attended Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and while there became good friends with classmate James A. Garfield. Garfield would go on to become the twentieth President of the United States, but serving only from March until September of 1881.

His tenure in office was the 2nd shortest (after William Henry Harrison) in United States history because of his assassination. And on another trivial note, President Garfield was the first to give his loved ones prime seating on the first row during his inauguration ceremony.

Hazen once remarked that he and Garfield were so close that Garfield knew him by his old college nickname of “Rex,” and that the future president welcomed him to his home many times. He went on to say that he and his college buddies had assumed Garfield would be successful in the political area, but that their class prophecies only predicted a term in Congress for him, failing to foresee a presidency in his future.

From the writings of James K. Hazen: “The first Presidential candidate of the Republican Party, John C. Fremont, was nominated shortly before our graduation. A college ratification meeting was held on receipt of the news, and, among others of the Senior Class, Garfield spoke. Probably this was his first Republican speech, and I can testify that it was enthusiastic and eloquent.”

After his graduation from Williams, James married Mary Salome Tichnor, niece of Prattville founder Daniel Pratt, on August 19, 1857 in Columbia, Connecticut and they had nine children together. In May 1877 Dr. Hazen was elected secretary of publication by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church.

In 1885 he settled at Bon Air, near Richmond, Virginia, where he established a Presbyterian church, and continued as its pastor until his death; he was also for nearly twenty years president of a literary circle, which was the center of the social life at Bon Air.

Mr. Hazen published “Eight American Generations of the Hazen Family,” a brief account of his own family branch and he died on August 22, 1902 in Bon Air, Virginia.

Article by Melissa Parker

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