James H. Wiggin

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James Henry Wiggin

Reverend James Henry Wiggin was an Unitarian clergyman and editor who was present at the founding of the Theosophical Society. He was sometimes known in Unitarian circles as "J. Henry Wiggin" because there were several instances of the name "James Wiggin" in the northeastern United States.

Early life

James Henry Wiggin was born to James Simon Wiggin and Sarah Elizabeth Robinson Wiggin on May 14, 1836 in Boson, Massachusetts.[1][2] He had three siblings, none of whom lived past 1861.[3] Wiggin took courses at Tufts College in Boston, 1857-58 before completing a Bachelor of Divinity degree at Meadville Theosophical School, a Unitarian Univeralist seminary, in 1861.

He married Laura Emma Newman on November 21, 1864 in Brattleboro, Vermont.[4][5] Their older son Albert Henry Wiggin (1868-1951) became a banker in Medfield, Massachusetts. They also had a daughter, Carrie, and a son, Langley.

Unitarian minister

Wiggin was ordained in the Unitarian church on November 6, 1862 in Boston.[6] He served as a clergyman until 1881.[7]

Among other locations, he was called as a pastor to churches in Lawrence, Marblehead, and Medfield.

The members of the Unitarian society in Marblehead gave a warm greeting to their new minister, Rev. James H. Wiggin, last Saturday. As he went to his newly hired house he found it in possession of a large number of his parishioners, who had assembled to prepare the house and welcome their pastor to his new home. A purse containing $100 was presented to Mr. Wiggin, with groceries, fuel and other necessaries to a large amount.[8]

He was very active in the Norfolk Conference of Unitarian churches, lecturing at public town halls; serving as an officer; and acting as moderator for meetings.[9][10][11]

After 1881, Rev. Wiggin left the pulpit and took up literary pursuits. He edited a monthly Unitarian newspaper, The Liberal Christian.

Theosophical Society involvement

On September 4, 1875, he published in The Liberal Christian an article titled "Rosicrucianism in New York" in which he described a meeting he had with The Founders a week before the lecture given by George H. Felt after which the formation of the Theosophical Society was proposed.[12] Col. Olcott quotes this report as follows:

He names H.P.B., myself, Signor Bruzzesi, a New Jersey judge and his wife, and Mr. Charles Sotheran (who had procured for him from H. P. B. an invitation to be present). He expresses his wonder at the range and depth of the conversation, remarking: "It would be discourteous to detail the minutiae of a friendly conversation where there was no desire for publicity nor any magic display, or offer notions about it. The phallic element in religions; recent wonders among the mediums; history; the souls of flowers; Italian character; the strangeness of travel; chemistry; poetry; Nature’s trinity; Romanism; gravitation; the Carbonari; jugglery; Crookes’s new discoveries about the force of light; the literature of Magic—were among the topics of animated discussion lasting until after midnight. If Madame Blavatsky can indeed bring order out of the chaos of modern spiritism she will do the world a service."[13]

It seems that Rev. Wiggin was present at that first meeting on September 7, 1875.[14]

In the meeting held on September 18 he was appointed as part of a committee appointed to select suitable meeting rooms for the nascent Society,[15] and on October 30 he was elected as one of the "Councillors".[16] He was a member of Council of the TS until March 1876 when he resigned and the Baron de Palm took his place in it.

Other activities

James Wiggin, like many other early Theosophists, was a Mason as of 1874, but little else is known of his participation.[17] He attended events of the Society of Colonial Wars, and lectured at the Newton Highlands Monday Club.[18][19]

One of his literary endeavors involved a new edition of Mary Baker Eddy's 1875 book, Health and Science. Mr. Frederick W. Peabody, in a lecture critical of Mrs. Eddy, wrote:

Mr. Peabody then proceeded to attack "Science and Health," which appeared in 1875, styling it "the veriest rubbish, considerably worse than the revised editions published today." He alleged that James Henry Wiggin, an Unitarian minister, repolished the work, corrected its grammar and orthography and punctuated it.[20]

When she was revising Science and Health in 1885, she was assisted by Rev. James Henry Wiggin, a former Unitarian minister turned copy editor/indexer. In a letter written during his first year assisting her, Eddy asked him to use the King James Version so that all Scriptural quotations in Science and Health would conform to the same standard. As she emphasized: “My notes on Genesis were upon the [King James] version. It changes the uniformity to go off on another one” (L02166, Mary Baker Eddy to James Henry Wiggin, n.d., The Mary Baker Eddy Collection, The Mary Baker Eddy Library).[21]

Rev. Wiggin died of Bright's Disease in Boston on November 3, 1900.[22]


  1. Massachusetts, Mason Membership Cards, 1733-1990.
  2. U.S., Find a Grave® Index, 1600s-Current.
  3. U.S., Find a Grave® Index, 1600s-Current.
  4. Vermont Vital Records, 1720-1908.
  5. Anonymous, "Marriages" Boston Evening Transcript (November 28, 1864): 2.
  6. Anonymous, "City Items" Springfield Republican (November 6, 1862): 4.
  7. Alaric Bertrand Start, editor, History of Tufts College. Published by the Class of 1897 in Boston, 1896. See page 324, "Directory of Alumni and Students."
  8. Anonymous, Christian Register (February 17, 1866): 3.
  9. Anonymous, Christian Register (May 1, 1869): 2.
  10. Anonymous, "Norfolk county Conference" Christian Register (December 11, 1869): 2.
  11. Anonymous, "Religious Intelligence" Christian Register (November 2, 1872), 3.
  12. "James H. Wiggin" Blavatsky Collected Writings Vol. 1, page 121.
  13. Henry Steel Olcott, Old Diary Leaves First Series (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1974), 135.
  14. Henry Steel Olcott, Old Diary Leaves First Series (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1974), 117.
  15. Henry Steel Olcott, Old Diary Leaves First Series (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1974), 130.
  16. Henry Steel Olcott, Old Diary Leaves First Series (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1974), 135.
  17. Massachusetts, Mason Membership Cards, 1733-1990.
  18. Anonymous, "Places of Interest Inspected" Boston Herald (September 30, 1897): 9.
  19. Anonymous, Boston Herald (April 3, 1898): 30.
  20. "New-Old Witchcraft" Boston Herald (August 2, 1901): 2.
  21. Michael Davis, "Mary Baker Eddy and Bible Ttanslation" The Christian Science Journal (December 2012). Digital version at this link.
  22. Massachusetts, Death Records, 1841-1915.