John Woods Borah

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister

1842 - 1934

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Deceased Ministers
Ewing-McLin Presbytery - J. W. Borah, Fairfield, Ill. Retired. Died April 19, 1934. Age 91 years.
[Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1934, page 78]


I was born in Wayne County, Illinois, November 28, 1842. I am now living in half a mile of my place of birth, on a little farm (forty acres) my father gave me. I grew up here with only the advantages that a comparatively new country afforded. In August, 1862, I enlisted in the army and served until the close of the war--came home in 1865.

On November 1, 1866, I was married to Mariam F. McLin. We reared a family of seven children--three boys and four girls, though the oldest girl has been dead twenty years, the rest are all married but one--the youngest daughter is at home.

In the winter of 1872 I accepted Christ as my Savior. In the fall of 1875 I placed myself under the care of Old McLin Presbytery, from that time on I made every preparation for the ministry that was possible for me to make. I worked on the farm and studied. I was poor and had a wife and three children to support; there was no way or plan that I could devise by which I could go to school. I had a sister who taught school, and she helped me until I became a fairly good scholar in common branches. But I have always felt the need of better education. With the advantages and opportunities that men have today, and the demands that are made for the ministers should impel our young men on to secure the very best education possible. If our church is to succeed it must have an educated ministry--men that will measure with the strong men of other churches. There is nothing that will kill the church quicker than an inefficient ministry. In some places our church is suffering now from this cause.

While I felt the importance of an education, I realized that for the minister theology was no less important, and as fast as I could get the books I secured Beard's Theology and Blake's Condensed Work, also Ewing's Lectures and Donald's Thoughts. But one day I visited my Grandfather Wilson, and in looking through his books, I found Dr. Bird's Doctrines of Grace. My grandfather gave me the book. I think I got more help out of that book than any other I studied, especially on the atonement. I began my ministerial work in my old home church and other surrounding churches. I preached to these churches for nearly thirty years, held many meetings in them in which there were from fifty to a hundred professions.

In 1901 I received a call to the Burnt Prairie congregation in a little town over in White County, but in this presbytery. It was one of the strongest churches in the presbytery. I preached to it for ten years, when I resigned the work and came home. I was in the Burnt Prairie Church when the Union question was sprung on the church. I was in the General Assembly at Nashville, Tenn., when the question of appointing a committee to meet with a like committee on the Presbyterian U.S.A. to see that there were grounds on which the two churches could be united. I voted against it, for I know the basic doctrine of that church was divine sovereignty, and starting from that basis the system of doctrine is logical and in harmony within itself; and I knew that they had not revised the whole system of doctrine.

When I came home I wrote to Rev. J. L. Hudgins and told him what had been done and that I was satisfied that the men that were the leaders at that time intended to land the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in the old Presbyterian Church, regardless of their doctrine. I opposed it in every way that I could and immediately went to work with the churches among whom I had labored. They all stood true, not one way lost.

[Source: Our Senior Soldiers: The Biographies and Autobiographies of Eighty Cumberland Presbyterian Preachers. Compiled by The Cumberland Presbyterian Board of Publication. The Assistance of Revs. J. L. Price and W. P. Kloster is Greatfully Acknowledged. Nashville, Tenn.: The Cumberland Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1915, pages 260-262]


Son of Jacob Baily and Emma Wilson Borah, was born in Jasper township, in Wayne County, Illinois, on November 28, 1842, and passed away at his home in Fairfield, April 19, 1934, age 91 years. He is a descendant of one of the early settlers of his community, his father, Jacob Baily Borah, being one of the first three white children born within the present boundaries of Wayne County. His early life was spent in Jasper township and in what, at that time, was the village of Fairfield.

He was married to Miriam F. McLin, November 1, 1866. To this union seven children were born. His oldest daughter, Anna, passed away in 1895, and his beloved wife preceded him March 17, 1932, which brought to a close a companionship of more than sixty-six years.

Rev. Borah was converted and united with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church at Old Tom's Prairie in 1871, and remained closely attached to that church until death. He entered the Cumberland Presbyterian ministry in 1875, to which he consistently devoted the remainder of his life, having preached his last sermon on his 91st birthday at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in this city. Although he acquired his knowledge of theology by self-study, he has been considered one of the leading theologians in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church for many years. His 58 years in the ministry were spent in the vicinity of Fairfield, and throughout this long period in the service he was consecrated to his church and the spiritual welfare of the people in this community.

He was a true and loving husband, a kind and devoted father. As a neighbor and friend to the several generations who have come and gone during his lifetime, he has shared the blessings of an unselfish Christian.

Mr. Borah is survived by three sons and three daughters: J. A. Borah, Mrs. W. M. Monroe, Miss Emma P. Borah, J. C. Borah, Frank D. Borah, all of Fairfield, and Mrs. J. R. Curtis, of Burnt Prairie, Ill. He is also survived by 19 grandchildren, 31 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren, one aged sister, Mrs. R. E. Mabry, of Fairfield, and one brother Joseph B. Borah, of East Alton, Ill.

The funeral took place Sunday afternoon at 2 o'clock at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in this city. Services were conducted by Rev. W. A. Cowgur, of Burnt Prairie, assisted by Revs. H. R. Robinson, pastor, and Rev. John Adams. The local post American Legion furnished a guard of honor, and the Post also gave the soldier's burial honors at the grave side at Tom's Prairie Cemetery. A short service was also conducted at Tom's Prairie, and burial was by the side of his wife in the cemetery there.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, May 3, 1934, page 16]

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