January 7, 1820, West Brookfield, Massachusetts.
October 13, 1890, Bar Harbor, Maine.
Phillips Academy Cemetery, Andover, Massachusetts.
Austin’s father, Eliakim Phelps, a clergyman, was principal of a girls’ school in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and later pastor of a Presbyterian church in Geneva, New York.
After preparing for college at age 12, Austin studied at Hobart College, Geneva, New York (1833–35), then at Amherst College, Massachusetts for six months. He was by far the youngest boy in his class and was quite unhappy there. In 1835, he rejoined his family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he finally earned a degree in 1837 from the University of Pennsylvania.
He studied theology at Union Theological Seminary, New York City (including six months of Hebrew studies under Isaac Nordheimer), at the Yale Divinity School, New Haven, Connecticut; and later at Andover Theological Seminary, Andover, Massachusetts.
In 1840, Phelps was licensed to preach by the Third Presbytery of Philadelphia. In 1842, he became pastor of the Pine Street (Congregational) Church in Boston, Massachusetts. In the autumn of that year, he married Elizabeth Stuart, eldest daughter of Moses Stuart, president of Andover Theological Seminary. Elizabeth, aside from Jacob Abbott, was one of the earliest writers of books for girls, publishing the four volume Kitty Brown series of books for girls under the pseudonym H. Trusta.
In the spring of 1848 Phelps moved his family to Andover, Massachusetts where he became professor of sacred rhetoric and homiletics at Andover Theological Seminary. In 1869 he became seminary president, a role he filled until 1879, when failing health forced him to resign.
After his wife Elizabeth died of brain fever in 1852, their eight year old daughter Mary Gray asked to be renamed in honor of her mother. Austin married Elizabeth’s sister, Mary Stuart, in 1854, but she died only eighteen months later. He married a third time to Mary Ann Johnson of Boston, with whom he had two more children.
Phelps’ works include: