Halsey, Jesse, clergyman, was born in Southampton, N.Y., May 3, 1882, son of Charles Henry and Melvina Dunreath (Terry) Halsey. His father was a farmer.
After attending public schools in his native community, he attended Princeton University and was graduated in the Class of 1906. From 1906-09 he attended Princeton Theological Seminary (N.J.) and during 1907-09 took classes at the Princeton University Graduate School. He was graduated from Union Theological Seminary (N.Y.) in 1910 with the degree B.D. he also studied briefly in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1908. In 1910 he was ordained to the ministry of the Presbyterian Church.
For three years, immediately following ordination, he was associated with Wilfred T. Grenfell, M.D. at the latter’s medical mission on the Labrador, acting as business manager and supervising the installation of water and heating systems. In 1913, he returned to the United States and lectured on the Labrador mission for a year.
A call from the Seventh Presbyterian Church, Cincinnati, Ohio was accepted, beginning a pastorate which lasted for twenty-seven years, until December, 1941. During this period the congregation increased from about 350 to some 800 members, and the manse and church were remodeled at a total cost of approximately $200,000. In 1940, he became visiting professor of practical theology and liturgics at McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois. The following year he resigned his pastorate to accept a fulltime professorship, a position he held until his retirement in 1952. Previously, during the summer of 1937, he lectured at Union Theological Seminary (N.Y.) under the auspices of Columbia University.
Following his retirement he again resided in Southampton, N.Y., where he served as interim pastor to a number of churches: the Amalgamated Presbyterian Church there, the Cutchogue (N.Y.) Church, the Presbyterian Churches in Amagansett and Montauk, the Cutchogue (N.Y.) Church, and the Jefferson Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn, N.Y.
As a churchman he served as Vice-Moderator of the 121st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Enlisting the help of his congregation, he took a prominent part in the reorganization of the pension system of the church and in the establishment of the Board of Pensions for retired ministers and their widows. He was an active member of the denomination’s Committee on Camp and Church Activities and compiled a popular devotional booklet entitled Think on These Things for distribution to service men.
Ohio Presbyterians elected him Moderator of the Synod in 1940. Wise in counsel, he sat on every major committee of the Synod from time to time, and his interest in the aged number him among those who helped to establish the Ohio Presbyterian Homes, on whose directorate he served. The College of Wooster recognized him in 1927 with the degree Doctor of Divinity.
A leading citizen in Cincinnati, he served on the Americanization Committee and the Associated Charities Board. He was a director of the Bethesda Hospital and a trustee of Western College, Oxford, Ohio. From 1938-39 he served as President of the Council of Churches and a Trustee of the Lane Theological Seminary. He was a charter member of the Cincinnatus Association and of the Consumer’s League, a leading member of the Ministerium, and active in the Literary Society. He was also a member of the Rotary and Country Clubs of Cincinnati. Organizer of the Monday Morning Breakfast Club, he became beloved Dean of Cincinnati’s clergy.
His military experiences began in 1917 when he was granted leave by the Seventh Presbyterian Church, Cincinnati, to serve with the Y.M.C.A. as a secretary going from Vladivostok across Siberia to Moscow where he was on duty during the Kerenski and Bolshevik revolutions. In 1918, he became American representative and chaplain to British naval forces in Murmansk, Russia, and Red Cross worker. During World War II he served on the Presbyterian Committee of Camp and Church Activities. He was assigned during 1944-45, visitor to the 6th Army and Navy Chaplains.
He was well-known for his manual skills. Many a country church in the Cincinnati area, under his supervision, was rewired, remodeled, refurbished, or repainted. He was a skilled poly-chrome artist. His stained glass medallions were shown in arts and crafts exhibits in New York City. And the garden of many a parishioner bloomed with flowers he had transplanted from his own beds.
In addition to contributing articles to religious and secular publications, he was the compiler of A Living Hope, the Abingdon Press, 1932, and Open Prayer, Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1951.
He was married at Lake Placid, N.Y., March 26, 1910, to Helen, daughter of Frederick Asher and Laura Haynes Isham (q.v.), and had five children: Charles Henry, Frederick Isham (died while a college student), Helen Augusta (wife of theologian Dr. Joseph Haroutunian), Wilmun Haynes (who died in childhood), and Abigail Fithian (wife of noted physicist Dr. James Alfred Van Allen).
At one time a Republican, he later became independent politically. From his retirement until 1954, he was President of the Southampton Historical Society and active in community affairs. Jesse Halsey died in Southampton, N.Y., January 12, 1954, and is buried in the village cemetery.