My great grandmother Elizabeth (Sargent) Trewin, daughter of Mary Wills and William (Slaymaker) Sargent, had three siblings: Samuel, her older brother, and Sadie and William, who were both younger. All four were born in England. While I know little if anything about the younger two, I know a bit about Elizabeth and Samuel, mostly that they were both devout Methodists, following in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents (George & Mary Wills). I’ve already mentioned my great grandmother in this regard and her support of missionaries.
Samuel became a Methodist minister, and, in his day, was widely regarded as an outstanding orator. His son, Rev. Norman Vincent Sargent, followed in his father’s footsteps, earning by some accounts an even more outstanding reputation. Norman’s son Gerald became a clergyman, too, serving for years as a chaplain in the US Navy.
I remember growing up hearing my mother mention Samuel from time to time. She does not recall ever meeting him, however, though she probably did as a baby or toddler (both Samuel and Elizabeth died in 1926).
Mom remembered her mother telling her that Samuel’s portrait hung in the Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove, NJ. Coincidentally, we used to travel down to Ocean Grove every so often until I was in my mid-teens to visit my mom’s elderly cousins on her father’s side of the family, sisters Louise and Jenny Nixon, who lived in a multi-storied Methodist retirement home there. They were lovely ladies and both had a great sense of humor. They passed away in the mid- to late-1970s, within a year or two of each other, and thus, the trips to Ocean Grove sadly came to an end, and we said adieu to the town’s wonderful Victorian architecture, pleasant beach, and unique ambiance.
The town was established in 1869 and developed as a summer, seaside Methodist camp meeting ground. According to Wikipedia, at the beginning of the last century, which is when Samuel would have preached there, Ocean Grove was known as “the Queen of Religious Resorts,” and it remains to this day “the longest active camp meeting site in the United States.” I remember we would always travel down there on a Saturday, because on Sundays the town was completely closed to motor vehicles. The idea of hoofing it around on a Sunday with two elderly ladies and four kids in tow was understandably impractical and unappealing to my parents, though I for one would have enjoyed experiencing a town where pedestrians were king if only for a day. Must be a bit like Venice, Italy, where the absence of cars lulls you into a completely different and totally relaxed mindset (at least if you travel there in the off season). It’s quite a rude awakening to leave.
I remember driving by Ocean Grove’s Great Auditorium and past its curious tent village. It all looked so charming and quaint. Hanging out there for even a week during the summer must have been very cool. No doubt, it was also a fun town to grow up in. Sadly, in all the time we spent in Ocean Grove, we never made it in to visit the Great Auditorium to see whether or not Samuel’s portrait is there. Perhaps it is there to this day. If anyone reading this knows or ever has an opportunity to visit, please share a photo with us. (For more on Ocean Grove’s history, visit the local historical society’s website. I may send them an e-mail myself just to see what they may know of the portrait.) In any case, it was to the tranquility and salty air of Ocean Grove that Samuel Sargent retired after all his many decades of service.
Samuel married Ella Tunison on June 1, 1879, in Jersey City, Hudson Co., NJ, the town in which the Sargent children grew up. In 1889 the couple was living in Kansas when son Rev. Norman Vincent Sargent (m. Grace Hornor) was born, and a daughter, Vivian T. Sargent (m. Clyde Packard), arrived roughly two years later. By then, they had returned to live in New Jersey.
Below are some biographical materials of unknown origin (probably Methodist conference publications) and some old postcard scenes of Ocean Grove. Samuel had a very rich and fulfilling life and impacted the lives of thousands through the years. His grandfather George Wills, known to be a powerful speaker in his church as well, would no doubt have been enormously proud of Samuel and the legacy he left behind in his adopted country.