David Lowry

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister

1796 - 1877


David Lowery, D.D.

HAVING waited several weeks for some abler pen than mine to pay a tribute of respect to the memory of one of the best men and ablest ministers our Church has ever had, I have finally concluded to engage my humble pen in the grateful task.

Rev. David Lowery was born in Logan county, Kentucky, January 20, 1796. His parents were worthy members of the Presbyterian Church, but, like many other good people, were entrusted with little of this world's treasure. The widowed mother died when he was only a little over two years old, leaving him a penniless and friendless orphan. He was bound out to a family that, in course of time, became very reckless and intemperate; but the covenant keeping God did not forget the poor little orphan boy. At a Cumberland Presbyterian camp meeting, held near his residence, he solemnly consecrated his heart and his life to God. This event happened when he was eighteen years old. Shortly after his conversion he became a candidate for the ministry, under the care of Logan Presbytery, and his proficiency and usefulness were so great that he was soon licensed and ordained to the work of the ministry. He devoted the early part of his ministry to Kentucky, but he also aided materially in planting Cumberland Presbyterianism in Indiana, and our Church in this great State gratefully recognizes him as one of its "fathers." He preached in this place (Newburgh) when it was only a cane-brake, with a few rude cabins scattered along the river, and in Evansville, when it was a poor little hamlet, giving no prophecy of its future greatness. Among the fruits of his early ministry was the conversion of a talented young Arian minister named Hargraves. He afterward became a prominent and useful minister of the Methodist Church and the author of a volume of able and interesting sermons, published some years ago.

On the 16th of December, 1830, Bro. Lowery began his publication, in Princeton, Kentucky, of the "Religious and Literary Intelligencer." It was a weekly journal, ably edited, and was the first paper published under the auspices of our Church. To him, therefore, belongs the honor of being the father of Cumberland Presbyterian journalism. Some years afterward he was editor of the "Cumberland Presbyterian," then published in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition to his editorial duties he had the pastorate of the Cumberland Presbyterian church in Nashville, which was then in its infancy; and for his year's labor he received, as compensation, the astonishing sum of one wagon load of corn in the shuck! Think of that, ye modern pastors with your fat salaries.

In the year 1832, under the administration of his friend, President Jackson, he received the appointment of teacher to the Winnebago Indians, who were placed on the government reservation in what is now northern Iowa and southern Minnesota. He arrived at Prairie Du Chien with his family in the month of November, of the above year. Prairie Du Chien was then a United States Military Post. Col. Zachary Taylor was in command, and Jefferson Davis was a Lieutenant under him. Shortly after his arrival he organized a "Military Church," and here was spread the first communion table in the Northwest. Rev. B. B. Bonham, then a very promising young minister of our Church, became the pastor of this "military society;" but his pastorate was a brief and unfortunate one.

Early in the spring of 1833, a council of Winnebago Chiefs was called for the purpose of deliberating in reference to Mr. Lowery's work. He made a brief statement of his object and plans, and then called for expressions from the various chiefs who were present. After brief speeches from others, Waukon rose up, and thus delivered his sentiments: "The Winnebagos are asleep, and it will be wrong to awake them; they are red men, and all the white man's soap and water cannot make them white." The result of the council, however, was favorable, and Mr. Lowery entered on his work. A mission school was established at the mouth of Yellow River in Iowa. He remained with the Winnebagos the greater part of the time, until about the year 1861 or 1862, when the tribe was moved west of the Missouri River. At the close of the late civil war he removed from St. Cloud, Minnesota, where he was then living, to Clayton county, Iowa, near the scene of his early labors with the Indians. It was while he lived on his farm in Iowa that the writer of this imperfect sketch formed his acquaintance, and enjoyed his society and the true, old fashioned hospitality of his family. For several years afterward I was intimately associated with him, and shall ever cherish his name as that of one of my dearest friends. Some years prior to his death he removed to Pierce City, Missouri. His death was caused by paralysis of the brain. He leaves an aged wife to mourn her loss. She was a sister of Rev. Laban Jones, an able minister of our Church, and author of a book entitled "A plea for Cumberland Presbyterians." He also left an estimable daughter, Mrs. Calhoun, widow of Rev. T. P. Calhoun, who was killed several years ago by being thrown from a bridge at St. Cloud, Minnesota. He had two sons, both of whom are dead.

His disease came on gradually, and like a shock of corn ripe and ready for the garner, he was gathered home by the heavenly reapers. When he was too feeble to sit up, and his thoughts were wandering, he would imagine himself in the pulpit trying to preach; but, after an ineffectual effort to arise his poor weary head, would fall back on the pillow, and would exclaim, "Oh, I am too feeble to preach to-day!"

As the readers of this paper know he was a strong and earnest advocate of temperance, and when he was too weak to sit up, he would insist on delivering temperance lectures. His head and his heart were so full of his Master's work that it would find utterance through his eloquent though wandering tongue. A little before his death he was heard repeating the triumphant words of the great apostle: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course," etc. His massive mind is no longer clouded, his eloquent tongue is no longer wandering, but with the bloodwashed and sanctified, he is singing the song of redeeming love.

He belonged to a generation of Christian ministers and Christian gentlemen that is fast passing away; but being dead they yet speak.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, April 12, 1877, page 2]



SUNDAY, April 15, 1877, was appointed by the Cumberland Presbyterian congregation at Lebanon, for a memorial service in honor of Rev. David Lowry, D.D. When the hour of service arrived, the choir sang, as an opening voluntary, that beautiful song, whose title is, "Only Remembered for what I have done." After this followed the hymn, "In the Cross of Christ I Glory," when the one hundred and forty-fifth Psalm was read, and prayer offered by Rev. W. H. Darnall.

The venerable Dr. Richard Beard then arose and spoke in substance as follows:

"Rev. David Lowry has been near sixty years a pillar in our spiritual temple. This service is a fitting tribute to the memory of one who has been so long in the service of the Church. It is especially becoming in this congregation that once enjoyed the instructions and counsels of some of the best years of his life. I approach my own share in the services of the occasion with tenderness and solemnity. The lines of Mr. Lowry's life and my own have been running nearly parallel for more than forty years. Sometimes these lives met and ran very nearly together. I knew him thus long, and knew him well. Of course this memorial occasion seems to come very near to myself. You will bear with me whilst quietly and thoughtfully I present for your consideration the following facts, having an intimate relation to the services of the occasion.

David Lowry was born January 20, 1796; died January 19, 1877, wanting but one day of having completed eighty-one years. this is a long pilgrimage in this world of trouble and sin. His parents lived in Logan county, Kentucky, at the time of his birth, and died within two days of each other, when he was about two years old. they had no relations near them, and he was, of course, left to the care of strangers. In his boyhood he was bound for service to a wicked man in the neighborhood, with whom he remained until he reached his majority. A few years before he completed his term of service he professed religion, and as soon as he reached his majority, became a candidate for the ministry, under the care of Logan Presbytery. His early education was of course, defective; and after he became a candidate for the ministry, his advantages in that way were still limited. But one school of six months is mentioned which he attended, paying for his boarding by laboring on Saturdays, and in the mornings and evenings of school days. Yet he became a man of books. He bought them and read them, and, at the time of his death, had one of the best ministerial libraries in the Church.

His early ministry was spent upon the circuit, and at camp meetings. The first time I ever saw him was at a camp-meeting in 1818. William Harris, Alexander Chapman, and Isaac O. Lewis were the preachers, and Mr. Lowry and William C. Long were the young men of the occasion. September 25, 1822, he was married to Miss Mary Ann Jones, of Union county, Kentucky, who still survives him.

Some time previous to his marriage, the time not known to the speaker, he was ordained by the Logan Presbytery. His first appearance at the old Cumberland Synod was at the meeting of 1822; at least this was the first meeting of the Synod at which he attracted special attention. He delivered a sermon on the occasion, which gave full promise of what he afterwards developed. It was an argument for the divinity of Christ, logical, earnest, and unanswerable. It may seem strange, but the text, the statement of the question, and to some extent, the line of argument, are recollected to this day. It was a sermon to be recollected. His settlement in the ministry was in charge of Eddy Grove congregation, in the neighborhood of and including Princeton, Kentucky. Almost of necessity, he had an active agency in the location of Cumberland College, and in its organization in 1826. He was for some time President of its Board of Trustees, and held various other relations to the institution in its earlier days.

In the spring of 1830, in conjunction with the President of the college, he commenced the publication of the Religious and Literary Intelligencer, our first religious paper. From the date of the fourth number the publication is supposed to have commenced with the first week in March of that year. The General Assembly, which met in May of the same year, advised rather informally that Mr. Lowry should take the control of the paper, and that Mr. Cossitt should give his whole time and strength to the college. In June of 1832, the paper was removed to Nashville, and became the Revivalist under the joint control of Mr. Lowry and Rev. James Smith. In the following year the Assembly very unfortunately, as time proved, transferred the control of the paper to Mr. Smith. Mr. Lowry was wronged, and felt it, but uttered no public complaint. A short time after the Assembly he received an appointment from President Jackson to an Indian agency in the North West. On his way to his new field of labor, he passed through Kentucky, and spent a few days in Bowling Green. His labors there resulted in perhaps the greatest triumph of his ministerial life. A powerful revival occurred which seems to have contributed largely to the present religious character of the place. He could not remain at Bowling Green, and other churches gathered the fruits of the blessed work. Ecclesiastically, he sowed but did not reap.

In the fall of 1844, he returned to Tennessee, in conformity with an arrangement of some of the leading members of the Church in the middle part of the State, with a view to operating as a missionary revivalist, and settled his family at Lebanon. In the following spring the death of Rev. George Donnell became the occasion of his taking charge temporarily of the Lebanon congregation as pastor. In a few months, however, he returned to the Northwest, having become greatly interested in the welfare of the Indians. After about two years he returned again to Lebanon, and took charge permanently of the congregation. This arrangement continued to the close of 1856, when he gave up his charge, and settled in St. Cloud, Minnesota. After a few years there, and again a few years at Council Hill, Iowa, we find him at Pierce City, in Southwestern Missouri. This was his last earthly home.

In the summer of 1874, whilst sitting at his writing-table, he experienced a slight paralysis of the brain. He gradually sunk under the stroke, laboring, however, in public as he could. When he became too weak, he turned his attention to the subject of temperance. Some of us have read occasional short, pithy articles from his pen in the CUMBERLAND PRESBYTERIAN on that subject. The last letter I ever received from him was wholly devoted to the necessity of a temperance reformation. I ought, perhaps, have told you before, but I tell you now, that the burden of it was the necessity of vigorous efforts in that direction by the people of Lebanon, from the great interests which they had a stake in the university. He certainly was correct, and the warning ought to be regarded.

For several months before his death he had been confined to his room. The decline was gradual. To inquiries in respect to his views of the future being now upon its borders, his customary reply was: 'I am just waiting for the last summons'--just waiting. There is a quiet sublimity in such a death: no terror, no alarm--just waiting. 'Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!'

I now call attention briefly to some personal characteristics of our esteemed friend and brother.

1. Dr. Lowry belonged to the second generation of the Cumberland Presbyterian preachers. He possessed the most valuable characteristics of the fathers, and no one of the sons has been before him in the spirit of progress. Spiritually he never could have been superannuated. He might have added days and years to his four-score but he would have been a live man to the end. As we have seen he was identified with our educational and publishing work in their incipiency. In the General Assembly of 1845, at this place, he was a leading spirit in the organization of our present Boards of Missions and Publication. In 1852 he was a member of the committee which formed the plan of the theological school, and recommended it to the Assembly. Some time after the organization of the school, he wrote to me that he never went to his knees in private without remembering the theological school. A striking contrast with the course of many. This latter record is painful enough, but I do not enlarge upon it.

2. He was one of the best preachers in the Church, or in the country. He was conscientious in preparing his sermons well--never wrote them, but studied them through and through. He was not eloquent except so far as vigorous thought and great earnestness constitute eloquence; in this sense of the term he was eloquent, and was always interesting. He never made a mistake in the pulpit, was never at a loss for a word, expressed a great deal in a short compass, knew exactly when he was done, and then came promptly to a close. He never lingered around a conclusion.

3. Such a case as we find in him seems to me to indicate a remarkable providence. That a boy at two years of age would be left without parents, and without friends, in what we call this cold-hearted and selfish world; should grow up free from the ruinous vices of youth, should be converted at an early age, and called to the ministry; should be eminent, and leave himself deeply and extensively impressed upon the age in which he lives is, certainly, no ordinary occurrence. It seems very much as though such a man was a chosen vessel. We can hardly resist the impression that he was called of God to the ministry. Some good and honest men, without doubt, are engaged in that work who are not called. They leave no traces behind them. God has not accepted them; but we may be assured if he lays his hand upon a man, he is not mistaken, and that man will leave his work behind him. The sheep will hear the voice of such a shepherd, and follow him.

4. Since Dr. Lowry's death the following record has been found among his papers, supposed to have been written about thirty-five years ago: "There is one thing fully settled with me: wherever I labor, as far as it can be ascertained, I am resolved to live and move in the will of God, and to make the burden of a dying world my own, and to devote the balance of my days, be they many or few, to the interests of suffering humanity." This seems to me to express something like the true spirit of the Christian ministry. To make the burden of a dying world our own is to imitate Christ. He not only suffered for our sins, but he bore our griefs, and carried our sorrows! This is a heavy weight for human shoulders, but the Church has some men who share largely in it--some men who can live above themselves.

5. No pastor was ever more devoted to a people than was Mr. Lowry to this congregation; nor could a pastor have been more fully consecrated to his work, as far as we can judge, than he was to his work here. I am certain that he bore each member upon his heart, and that his daily prayers reached his whole charge. Great and trying events have occurred since 1856, but it is unquestionable that the feelings of the old pastor often brought him back to the scenes of better and happier days. He had too, such a band of fellow-workers around him as any pastor night feel himself honored to have. The most of them preceded him to the better land. The interests of the meeting on the other side it is not for human lips to describe. They served their generation, and now 'rest from their labors and their works do follow them.' Honored men! Let their memory live!"

At the close of Dr. Beard's remarks, Chancellor N. Green arose and said: I had not expected to appear on this occasion. There is one other who ought to be heard in preference to me, but with his characteristic modesty he has declined. I am glad, however, as a representative of the officers and laity of this congregation, to say a word in honor of this great and good man. I remember well the first time I ever saw him. He was an impressive preacher, sometimes a little dramatic. I remember particularly his inaugural sermon when he took charge of this congregation. He left the pulpit and represented it as still occupied by the lamented Donnell, who was delivering his final charge to his people. He then put into his mouth the words of the apostle, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith," etc. He then stepped forward and took the place thus in imagination vacated, and such a peal of eloquence as came from his lips I scarcely ever heard. The effects on the audience were wonderful. One young man screamed aloud, and all in the house were deeply moved. I remember seeing him in the revival here in 1845. He took upon his own heart the burden of everyone who was seeking Christ. The fruits of this revival are felt here to-day. Perhaps it was the memory of such scenes as this that caused him to make the remark about Lebanon, mentioned by Dr. Beard. When I was a poor sinner seeking rest, he prayed for me and pointed me to Christ. When I stood at the matrimonial altar, he performed the ceremony; he baptized my children, and when some of them died he followed them to their last resting place. It is no wonder, then, that I loved him.

Here followed a number of incidents illustrating the life and character of Dr. Lowry, only one of which I will mention: While he was preaching, one day, a gentleman rose to leave the room. Dr. Lowry stopped speaking until the man was just passing out at the door, when he said in a loud but kind voice, "God bless the dear young man."

Chancellor Green closed his remarks by quoting that passage of Scripture which offers such sweet consolation to bereaved Christians: "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them."

Rev. W. H. Darnall said: "I have no personal reminiscences of your former pastor. I hope I may see him after awhile, with his flock and mine. The memory of a good man is a boon and a blessing. Three thoughts are suggested to my mind by these services and the Psalm which was read:

1. God's kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. "Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion throughout all generations." Ps. cxlv. 13. Generations come and go in this kingdom as wave follows wave in the abiding sea.

2. What do the generations of God's people do in this world as they come and go? "One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts." "They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness and shall sing of thy righteousness." "All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee. They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power; to make known to the sons of men his mighty acts and the glorious majesty of his kingdom." Ps. cxlv. 4, 7, 10-12. So our fathers speak to us, and so will we speak to those who come after us. This is illustrated here today. We have had the history of the dealings of God with one of the fathers, who is gone, uttered by one who is still living.

3. What of God's people when they leave this world? "He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him; he also will hear their cry and will save them." Ps. cxlv. 19. So our fathers are satisfied; so will we be and our children. Three pastors of this church are gone over the flood. Their record is interesting, and their memories are precious. The first one is gone with the friends that gathered around him; great Donnell is gone, with the friends that gathered around him; Lowry is gone, and most of those that were with him, too, have passed away. Their desires are fulfilled. When we go down will we be found without spot? God bless this service and make us more faithful and more consecrated to Christ.

The closing prayer was offered by Rev. T. C. Anderson, D.D. The congregation was dismissed after singing the song whose sweet refrain is,

"On the banks beyond the river,
We shall meet no more to sever--
In the bright, the bright forever,
   In the summerland of song."

[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, May 3, 1877, page 2]

The first town-site location at St. Cloud, covering what came to be known as "Middle Town,", now the business center of the city, was made in 1854 by John L. Wilson, who at this writing is still a resident of the city and enjoying good health at the advanced age of eighty-four years. The name was chosen by Mr. Wilson, who has no French blood in his veins, because his fancy had been struck by the name of the city in France which had been the scene of some of Napoleon's famous exploits. The same year General Sylvanus B. Lowry platted what was first known as Arcadia, afterward "Upper Town," and later Lowry's Addition. Within a few months afterward George F. Brott and Orrin Curtis, of St. Anthony Falls, surveyed and platted St. Cloud City, better known for many years as "Lower Town." These three surveys constituted about all of what until boom times was the city of St. Cloud, but which now, with its various additions, covers parts of three counties.

George F. Brott was a most interesting character, and in those early days was almost omnipresent. He was a born speculator and an ideal promoter, and his town-sites were scattered in all directions over the northern part of the state along the lines of proposed paper railroads. He was of medium size, with short, curly hair, small, restless eyes, a sanguine disposition, winning ways, and a volubility which has seldom been equalled. During the civil war he went to New Orleans, where in various speculations he made and lost several fortunes. Later he removed to Washington city, where he died a few years since.

General Sylvanus B. Lowry, by whom the northern part of the city was platted, was a typical Southerner,—swarthy, dignified, courteous, although at times somewhat taciturn. He was strongly imbued with the southern view regarding the divine right of slavery, and was a recognized leader of the Democratic party during those early days. When first coming to Minnesota he located at Long Prairie, where he spent two years; then going to Watab, he traded there with the Indians until his removal to St. Cloud in 1855. He had a mail contract, which, with real estate business, occupied his attention, and he made this city his home until his death in 1865.

Rev. David Lowry, father of General Lowry, was one of the foremost pioneers of northern Minnesota and one of the strongest intellectually. Leaving Tennessee in 1849 he came to Long Prairie, in the present county of Todd, where he remained for two years teaching an Indian school. He was a man of large frame and great physical strength, and perfectly fearless. It is said that on several occasions when the Indians, after having had too much liquor, became troublesome, he would dash in among them with a club and laying right and left would quickly bring them to good behavior. In 1851 he returned to Tennessee where he remained until the spring of 1856, when he came to St. Cloud, locating in the part of the city then called Arcadia. He at once organized a church of the denomination to which he belonged, the Cumberland Presbyterian, which was within a few months of being the first Protestant church organized in St. Cloud. Of the ten original members of this church, three, Mrs. Margaret A. Biggerstaff, Mrs. Ellen W. Lamb and Mrs. Mary E. Ketcham, are still residents of this city. Mr. Lowry was an unusually strong and able speaker, a man of fine education, and the author of several books. Although southern born he was of antislavery spirit, and bringing to the North the slaves which he had inherited he freed them, and during the civil war was a strong Union man. In 1864 he removed to Iowa and later to Missouri, where he died in 1876.

Mr. Lowry's son-in-law, Rev. Thomas P. Calhoun, followed later, coming to St. Cloud in 1857. He brought overland from Tennessee a herd of pure-bred Durham cattle, these being probably the first blooded cattle ever brought into Minnesota, although upon this point I would not venture to speak positively. His intention was to go into stockraising on a somewhat extensive scale, but in 1859, while crossing a narrow wooden bridge over the deep ravine where now is Fifth avenue south, his horse sprang to one side and breaking through the frail railing fell to the hard ground below, dragging the sleigh with it. Mr. Calhoun received injuries from which he died soon afterward, while his wife, who was by his side, was comparatively uninjured. His father was a cousin of John C. Calhoun, the great nullifier, but had no sympathy whatever with his political views, and after the rupture between Jackson and Calhoun he forbade the latter's name to be ever mentioned on his plantation. David T. Calhoun, the judge of probate of Stearns county, is a son of the Rev. Thomas P. Calhoun.

[Source: Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XII, 1910, "St. Cloud in the Territorial period" by William Mitchell, pages 641-642]

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