Gilbert Dodds

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister

1793 - 1872


From the pen of Rev. W. D. Dodds, of Chilicothe, Mo., we have the following interesting sketch of his father,


"Rev. Gilbert Dodds was born in Spartinburg District, South Carolina, on the 6th day of June, 1793. He was the seventh son of Francis Dodds. His father's family started on their journey from Carolina to Western Kentucky, but the father sickened and died on the route, and was buried at the foot of Spencer's Hill, a spur of Cumberland mountains. The widow and family continued their journey, and arrived, without any other misfortune, in the land of their destination. Here, in this then sparsely settled and comparatively wild region, the subject of this sketch was reared to manhood.

"In a new country, where the principal attention is given to the erection of dwellings and opening farms, the education of the youth, to a great extent, is lost sight of. Hence, the subject of our sketch enjoyed but few advantages for acquiring an education. But being of an aspiring mind, and passionately fond of reading, he left no stone unturned in the pursuit of knowledge. With the aid of a Winter term at the common school of his neighborhood, he obtained a knowledge of the primary branches of an English education.

"About the time he arrived at the years of manhood, in his eager search for reading matter he fell in with Tom Paine's 'Age of Reason' and Volney's 'Ruins.' The perusal of these infidel works, as he often remarked, came very near ruining his soul. But, in the wise Providence of God, whose inscrutable wisdom had marked him out as one of his chosen vessels, he was thrown under the powerful ministry of the Rev. Finis Ewing. This faithful embassador of Christ, who knew all the lurking-places of the infidel, by his logical reasoning and powerful gospel appeals, soon scattered the sophistries of Paine, Volney, and all the hosts of the opposers of our holy religion, to the four winds. The faithful preaching of this man of God led to deep and serious thought, and, after a series of severe mental struggles, he finally yielded himself into the hands of a merciful Redeemer. Not long after he embraced religion he, to the best of my knowledge, united with the old Bethlehem congregation of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

"In his 22d year he was united in marriage with Miss Mary Clinton, of Crittenden county, Ky. Their union was in all respects a happy one. They walked the pathway of life together almost fifty-one years, and raised a family of seven sons and five daughters, all of whom they lived to see grown up to manhood and womanhood. The wife and mother departed this life in her sixty-sixth year in the triumph of a living faith in Christ, having been a member of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church over forty-three years.

"At what date the subject of our sketch united with Presbytery and commenced the preparation for the ministry we are not able to say. The name of the Presbytery, however, we are pretty sure was old Logan, the Presbytery in which old father William Harris lived, labored and died. In the year 1824 he removed from Kentucky to Sangamon county, Illinois. Here he united with Revs. John M. Berry and Thomas Campbell in organizing Sangamon Presbytery. [Mr. Dodds was placed under the care of Illinois Presbytery at its organization as a candidate. For date of ordination see minutes of said Presbytery published elsewhere.--Editor.] [April 4, 1826]. During the early years of his ministry in Illinois he labored extensively in camp-meetings, and assisted in planting a great many congregations in Central Illinois. He often conducted camp-meetings without any ministerial assistance. We have often heard him say he had to travel one hundred miles to camp-meetings and Presbytery. After camp-meetings came into disuse he labored extensively in protracted meetings. His labors in protracted meetings were confined mostly to the counties of Menard and Sangamon. He was always a zealous advocate of temperance, and in the later years of his life he delivered many lectures on the subject, and aided extensively in organizing temperance societies.

"The last eight or nine years of his life his health became so feeble that his Presbytery (Sangamon) passed an order that he attend its session at discretion; but he always made it a point, although in feeble health, to attend Presbytery, and take part in its deliberations. During the last five years of his life he was threatened with paralysis, which finally terminated his life on the third day of May, 1872, he wanting only one month and three days of being seventy-nine years of age. During the last years of his life he seemed to enjoy much of the comforts of that blessed religion which he had preached to others in the prime of life, and in his last hours gave strong evidence of its power to conquer the last enemy, and administer an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."
[Source: Logan, J. B. History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Illinois, Containing Sketches of the First Ministers, Churches, Presbyteries and Synods; also a History of Missions, Publication and Education. Alton, Ill.: Perrin & Smith, 1878, pages 181-182]

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Updated February 22, 2016