Eminent Theologian

Historical Marker #1303 in Lebanon notes the life and service of Bishop John Lancaster Spalding.

Spalding was born in Lebanon in 1840 to Richard Martin and Mary Jane Lancaster Spalding. His uncle, John Martin Spalding, was the bishop of Louisville during the 1850s and 1860s. Educated at St. Mary's College in Marion County and Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Cincinnati, Spalding was ordained in 1863 after studying at American College in Louvain, Belgium.

Spalding returned to Louisville and became an assistant at the Cathedral of the Assumption. He established St. Augustine's in 1866, which was the first African American parish in Louisville. In 1872, Spalding moved to New York City, where he was a prolific writer. Among his works was a biography of his uncle, Bishop John Martin Spalding. He moved to Peoria, Illinois, in 1877, where he became first bishop of that parish. He served there until 1908.

Spalding was a major proponent of Catholic education. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries he wrote and published extensively about education. Spalding also helped found Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., and established several Catholic schools in Peoria. Considered a liberal in the church, Spalding both challenged and championed American virtues. In 1902, largely due to his reputation for fairness, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him to an arbitration panel during a major coal mining strike.

Spalding suffered a stroke in 1905 and retired from the ministry three years later. In 1908, he was given the honorary title of arch-bishop by Pope Pius X. Spalding died in 1916 in Peoria, where he was buried.