At his death in 1876, the Rev. Horace Bushnell, pastor of Hartford's North Congregational Church (now Immanuel Congregational), was Hartford's most loved and respected citizen and the leading American theologian of the nineteenth century. The author of 12 books, he was a true renaissance man, with interests--and genuine expertise--in many pursuits. He was an avid newspaper reader, followed politics with a passion, and expressed his opinions freely. The Rev. Robert L. Edwards of West Hartford, CT, who wrote a biography of Bushnell ( Of Singular Genius, of Singular Grace, Pilgrim Press, Cleveland, Ohio, 1992) once said, "He was a little too confident of his own opinions." Nevertheless, here was a man fully engaged in life, someone you'd want to invite to dinner.
He was born in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut, in Bantam, on April 14, 1802, and raised on his family's farm. He led a rugged farmers' life, working 14-hour days. Though of little means or social standing, his family always wanted him to become a minister. At the age of 21, he enrolled at Yale, where he spent the next 10 years, earning four degrees!
The idea for what was eventually to be called Bushnell Park was part of his deeply felt system of values. Since his early years, he had a love and appreciation for nature. Bushnell believed that man, nature and God are tied together in an organic whole. He said people influence each other in ways they don't really realize, just by going about their daily lives.