William Channing Gannett was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on March 13, 1840. He received an AB from Harvard in 1860 and an AM in 1863. He entered Harvard Divinity School in 1861 but left midyear to work on the Sea Islands of South Carolina for the New England Freedmen's Society. During his four years there, he managed several plantations and organized a school. In 1865, he studied in Europe and then returned to Harvard Divinity School to graduate in 1868. He served Unitarian churches in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (1868-70); East Lexington, Massachusetts (1871-72); St. Paul, Minnesota (1877-83), where he was ordained on March 9, 1879; Hinsdale, Illinois (1887-89); and Rochester, New York (1889-1908, afterward emeritus). From 1883 to 1887, he served as a minister-at-large for the Western Unitarian Conference. He died in Rochester on December 15, 1923.
Gannett was a strong supporter of the rights of women and African Americans, a prolific hymn-writer, and a champion of nonsectarian religion.
He was the author of The Thought of God in Hymns and Poems (1890) which he co-authored with Frederick L. Hosmer; the biography of his father, Ezra Stiles Gannett, Unitarian Minister in Boston, 1824-1871: A Memoir (1893); and his sermon on familial living as the essential beauty and spirit of the home, The House Beautiful (1895), which was heard by and influenced the architectural theory of Frank Lloyd Wright.
For more information, see Heralds of a Liberal Faith, ed. by Samuel A. Eliot. Boston: Beacon Press, 1952. Vol. 4, p. 142-46. [Photo: bMS 1446/68]