Henry Onderdonk

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Henry Ustick Onderdonk (March 16, 1789 – December 6, 1858) was the second Episcopal bishop of Pennsylvania.

The Right Reverend

Henry Ustick Onderdonk

Bishop of Pennsylvania
The Rt. Rev. Henry Ustick Onderdonk.jpg
ChurchEpiscopal Church
ElectedJuly 17, 1836
In office1836-1844
PredecessorWilliam White
SuccessorAlonzo Potter
OrdinationApril 11, 1816
by John Henry Hobart
ConsecrationOctober 25, 1827
by William White
Personal details
Born(1789-03-16)March 16, 1789
New York City, New York, United States
DiedDecember 6, 1858(1858-12-06) (aged 69)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
BuriedChurch of St. James the Less
ParentsJohn Onderdonk & Deborah Ustick
SpouseElizabeth Carter
Previous post(s)Assistant Bishop of Pennsylvania (1827-1836)
Alma materColumbia University
University of Edinburgh

Early lifeEdit

Onderdonk was born in New York City.[1] He studied at Columbia University, receiving his degree in 1805, and then traveled to Britain for further education, receiving his medical degree from the University of Edinburgh.[1] On returning to the United States, Onderdonk practiced medicine in New York before being ordained to the deaconate and priesthood by Bishop John Henry Hobart.[1] In 1816, he went to western New York as a missionary and then returned east to become rector of St. Ann's Church in Brooklyn, remaining there for seven years.[1]

Bishop of PennsylvaniaEdit

Onderdonk was elected assistant Bishop of Pennsylvania in 1827, serving initially as assistant to Bishop William White.[2] He was the 21st bishop of the ECUSA, and was consecrated by bishops William White, Alexander Viets Griswold, and James Kemp. However, bishop Kemp died of injuries received in a stage coach accident while returning from the consecration, so Onderdonk substituted in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland until a successor was elected.[3]

On Bishop White's death in 1836, Onderdonk succeeded him as bishop.[2] Onderdonk was a strong advocate of the pre-Tractarian High Church position, in company with his brother Benjamin Treadwell Onderdonk, who was also a bishop. When Rev. Alexander Crummell petitioned to be allowed to move to Pennsylvania to establish another church (besides the peripatetic St. Thomas congregation) to serve Philadelphia's African-American community, Bishop Onderdonk reportedly replied, "I will receive you into this diocese on one condition: No negro priest can sit in my church convention and no negro church must ask for representation there." Crummell reportedly paused for a moment before declining.[4][full citation needed]

In 1844, Onderdonk was suspended from the exercise of his episcopal office after rumors of alcoholism.[2] The suspension was lifted in 1856, two years before his death.[2]

He is buried in the churchyard of Church of St. James the Less in Philadelphia.


  1. ^ a b c d Batterson, 94
  2. ^ a b c d Batterson, 95
  3. ^ George Freeman Bragg, The First Negro Priest on Southern Soil (Baltimore: Church Advocate Press, 1909) p. 13, available at google books
  4. ^ Du Bois, W.E.B The Souls of Black Folk, p. 139.


  • Batterson, Hermon Griswold (1878). A Sketch-book of the American Episcopate. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippencott & Co. Retrieved 2009-07-30.
  • The Episcopate in America, by William Stevens Perry

External linksEdit

Episcopal Church (USA) titles
Preceded by
2nd Bishop of Pennsylvania
coadjutor 1827-1836

Succeeded by