history images Mound City on the Mississippi Home Page
image menu Buildings, Sites, and Objects People, Places, and Things Events, Incidents, and Occurrences Bibliography


Name:    Eliot, William Greenleaf
Category:  Education, Religion
Born/Started:     Aug. 05, 1811
Died/Ended:     Jan. 23, 1887
Description:    Referred to as the "Saint of the West," William Greenleaf Eliot was an ordained minister who came to St. Louis in 1842, tended to the sick, organized the Western Sanitary Commission, founded the Unitarian Church of the Messiah, and was founder and third chancellor of Washington University.

Born in New Bedford, MA, Eliot arrived in St. Louis to find there was no sewer system, and sickness and disease were rampant. He spent much of his time as a minister tending to the sick, especially during typhoid and cholera epidemics. With the onset of the Civil War he organized the Western Sanitary Commission which monitored the medical services of the Northern army and its fleet during the Civil War.

He spent thirty-six years as pastor of the Unitarian Church of the Messiah, which he founded. A year after he retired, he became chancellor of Washington University, which he had helped found and funded. He refused to allow his name to be used for the University because his religious beliefs were that one was to show himself in good works, not in name recognition. He also helped found Mary Institute for girls, Smith Academy for boys, the Manual Training School, and the Academy of Science. As an author, he wrote The Discipline of Sorrow and The Life of Archer Alexander, the story of the slave he bought and then freed.

He is buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery.

Washington University Founded
Western Sanitary Commission Established

Encyclopedia of the History of St. Louis Volume 2
Literary St. Louis: a Guide



about historic preservationnew entries4 kids onlymap it!

This site was made possible by: the City of St. Louis Planning and Urban Design Agency and
the City of St. Louis Community Information Network.

This site was funded in part by Federal funds administered by the Missouri State Historical Preservation Office, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, The National Park Service, and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Version 1.0