December 24, 1789|
Pleasant Valley, Columbia County, New York
May 24, 1870 (aged 80)|
Nashotah, Waukesha County, Wisconsin
Baptized David Jackson Kemper by Dr. Benjamin Moore, the Assistant Rector of his parents' congregation at New York City's Trinity Church, he would eventually drop the given name "David." He had been born in the Hudson River Valley of New York, where his parents had taken temporary refuge during a smallpox outbreak in New York City. He was the son of Col. Daniel Kemper, a former aide-de-camp to Gen. George Washington at the battles of Germantown and Monmouth during the American Revolution, and Elizabeth (Marius) Kemper, who descended from well-known families of the Dutch New Amsterdam era.
He entered Columbia College at the age of fifteen, where he studied theology under Dr. Henry Hobart and graduated in 1809 as the valedictorian of his class. Relocating to Philadelphia, he was made a deacon of the Episcopal Church in 1811 and was ordained as a priest in 1814. In 1835, the Episcopal Church undertook to consecrate missionary bishops to preach the Gospel west of the settled areas, and Kemper was the first to be chosen. He promptly headed west. Having found that clergy who had lived all their lives in the settled East were slow to respond to his call to join him on the frontier, he determined to recruit priests from among men who were already in the West, and established a college in St. Louis, Missouri, for that purpose. He went on to found Nashotah House and Racine College in Wisconsin, and founded the mission parish that became the Cathedral Church of All Saints in Milwaukee. He constantly urged a more extensive outreach to the Native American peoples, and translations of the Scriptures and the services of the Church into their languages. From 1859 till his death in 1870, he was bishop of Wisconsin, but the effect of his labors covered a far wider area.