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Elias Neau (1662-Sept. 7, 1722). A successful “missionary vestryman” in colonial New York. He was born in France to Huguenot parents. He fled the country in 1679 and became an English citizen. He then came to the colony of New York. In 1692 his ship was seized by the French. He was made a slave and placed in a chain gang. When he was freed in 1698, he raised money in Europe for the Huguenots before returning to New York. While still a Presbyterian, he was licensed by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG) on Aug. 4, 1704, as a catechist and became a missionary to the slaves in New York. In Oct. 1704 he resigned as an elder with the Huguenots and joined Trinity Church, New York City. From 1705 until 1714 he was a member of the vestry of Trinity Church. The chief factor in his becoming an Episcopalian was his regard for the Prayer Book. Neau’s school for slaves met in the belfry of Trinity Church and later on the third floor of his house. After ten years he had 154 slave pupils, 44 of whom he presented for baptism. Neau died in New York City.
[Published Winter 2019]