Sophia Chase was born in 1782 to Duncan and Susanna Ingraham of Holland. In 1818, Sophia reunited with Philander Chase, whom she had met in Poughkeepsie while he and first wife, Mary, had lived there. Sophia and Philander married one year later in Worthington, Ohio, where the two made their residence, with Philander and Mary’s two-year-old son, Dudley. Two years later, in 1821, Sophia gave birth to her first child, Henry.
Philander could no longer support his wife and two children on his meager salary, so he accepted a position as president of Cincinnati College, and he and his family moved. They lived in Cincinnati for only two years, and while there, their only daughter, Mary, was born. While the Bishop was raising money in England for his seminary, the family lived with Sophia’s family in Kingston, New York, where she gave birth to a son, Philander, named in memory of her husband’s recently-deceased son.
Bishop Chase had worked to raise money to found Kenyon College in Worthington, Ohio. When the college moved to Gambier in 1828, so did Sophia, Philander, and their children. Sophia opened her home to arriving students and faculty, providing their meals and a place to stay until all buildings were completed. Beyond this, while the Bishop traveled to the South, Sophia was put in charge of Kenyon.
Bishop Chase resigned his presidency at Kenyon College in 1831 and the family moved to a remote, dilapidated cabin near Millersburg, Ohio, a short stay until their move to Gilead, Michigan, where Chase learned of his appointment to the newly-formed Episcopate of Illinois. After collecting enough money, the Chase family moved once more to Grand Prairie, Illinois, where they built their home, the Robin’s Nest. In Grand Prairie, Philander founded Jubilee College, and again, Sophia helped the Bishop in his collegiate duties, and may have even given her husband the idea of the girls’ school at Jubilee.
While in Illinois, Bishop Chase began writing his memoirs, the Reminiscences. Sophia was his editor for the project, which began publication in 1841. The next decade was spent at Jubilee, both Sophia and Philander tending to the College and the Bishop’s publications. In 1852, Philander died after being pulled from his carriage by his horse. Sophia inherited their home and one-third of her husband’s money. She continued to care for children and grandchildren. In 1864, Sophia suffered a stroke and died a few days later on November 15th.
Sophia Chase devoted her entire life to the happiness of her family. She fell into every assumption of women of the Ohio frontier in the nineteenth century. Though very much in love, she knew that her husband, at the time they found each other, was looking for someone to fill the role of mother to care for his two-year-old son, of housekeeper, and loyal wife. In Sophia, he found all three.
Sophia was stouthearted, as was needed in the Ohio wilderness. Upon arrival at her new abode in the woods of Ohio following her husband’s resignation from Kenyon College, the whole cabin was gutted, filthy, and rotting. Sophia pitied neither herself nor her family, but set to work to make it a home. When her Gilead home burned, she sent sorrowful word to Philander, who was abroad, but she had already begun to make new arrangements for her family. Sophia understood that these were all part of frontier life, and there was no time for sulking. It was her duty to keep her family going under all circumstances.
The wife of a bishop could not help but be especially devout. Philander left the religious education of the children to Sophia whenever business took him from his family, knowing that there was no one more dedicated to their children’s education, nor anyone more devoted to God in both word and deed. Thus, it was simply not in Sophia’s nature to give her time to impure thoughts and certainly not impure actions. Her intense faith both in God and in her husband’s service to God meant that Sophia would never think to defy him, as he was doing God’s work, and any distractions might bear hard on her, her family, and their salvation.
Domesticity was Sophia’s strongest trait. She almost instinctively knew just what to do in any domestic situation. She sheared sheep and spun the wool in order to make clothing for her family; she chopped wood for fences and even sometimes made or mended the fences; she raised her own crops and livestock and prepared each herself from beginning to end; she made clothes from animal pelts (long-lasting and economical); she even made many of the utensils, tools, and cookware necessary for her family’s frontier life.
Sophia was most challenged at Kenyon College by caring not only for her family, but also the students and faculty of the College. The College was far-removed from almost everything, so the students especially depended on her to meet their needs. While her husband was at home and not away on business, Sophia cooked for the students, did their laundry, tended their illnesses as best she could (she was known for her medical abilities), and cleaned for them. Students even affectionately called the ever-present "Mother Chase."
Sophia distinguished herself from her contemporaries more so than most women with the exceptional role which she played in helping her husband run Kenyon College. When Philander left the College to raise money, he left the day-to-day operations up to Sophia, not trusting anyone else to administer in his stead. She managed its records and accounting, in addition to her other duties.
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