Benjamin Gilbert McLeskey

1834 - 1885

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister

This photograph appeared in The Cumberland Presbyterian, May 8, 1913, page 290.

December term of Court, 1857, Weakley Co. Tenn.

Be it remembered that a county court begun and held at the court house in the townof Dresden for the county of Weakley, State of Tennessee, on the first Monday in December 1857. It being the seventh day of said month there being present and presiding the honorable Nathan N. Edwards, county judge for said county and state aforesaid and E. J. Luoney clerk of said court when the following proceedings were had to wit:

Benjamin Gilbert McLeskey, on motion, this day, asked the county court of Weakley county, Tennessee, for a certificate provided by the Act of 1809, Chapter 6, Section 2, preparatory to obtaining a license to practice law in the various courts of law and equity in the state of Tennessee. This court being satisfied that the said B. G. McLeskey is a citizen of said county and that he is of good moral character and that he is twenty-one years of age, it is therefore ordered by this court that certificate be issued as provided by said act of assembly.

[Source: Weakley county records 1853 to 1857, part 2, page 609]



Benjamin Gilbert McLeskey was born near Dresden, Tenn., July 24, 1834. He became a Christian at the early age of fifteen, and was made a ruling elder in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church when only about eighteen. Actuated by the impulses of ambitious young manhood, he chose the profession of law, and entered the Law School at Lebanon, Tenn. He studied law but a short time before he yielded to his impressions to preach the gospel. He joined the Obion Presbytery Sept. 21, 1861, and was ordained in March, 1863. The Rev. L. N. Calvert preached the ordination sermon, and the Rev. C. W. McBride gave the charge. Soon after his ordination he entered the Confederate Army, and served as Chaplain until the close of the war. Far away from home, in the camp and upon the field, his ministrations were enjoyed; and rank and file, impressed by his burning messages of love, resolved to lead new lives. He was in succession the faithful, efficient, and successful pastor of the following congregations in Tennessee: Brownsville, Paris, and McKenzie. He and the lamented Dr. C. A. Davis were co-laborers in several meetings, and often exchanged pulpits. He preached much and organized several Churches in Haywood and Lauderdale Counties, Tenn., endearing his name to the hearts of the people of that country. He was married to Miss Ella L. Rogers, in Brownsville, Tenn., June 27, 1866.

In December, 1877, scarlet fever visited the happy McLeskey home. Jennie Blake, ten years of age, the pride and idol of the family, and a sweet babe of fifteen months were taken to the great Shepherd's bosom. Minnie was the only child left. She is now verging into beautiful womanhood--a comfort and joy to her widowed mother.

Dr. McLeskey was educated at Bethel College, Tenn., and in 1879 received the degree of D.D. from that institution. In 1881 he moved to Sherman, Texas, and took the pastoral care of the congregation of Cumberland Presbyterians in that city. In July, 1883, he was elected President of Trinity University, and in September following entered upon the duties of that office. He commenced at the same time his labors as pastor of the Tehuacana Congregation and lecturer to the theological students.

Dr. McLeskey was a true preacher of the gospel. He preached plainly, fervidly, fearlessly, vigorously, energetically, and sometimes with great pathos. He spoke very clearly and eloquently upon the "Resurrection." One of his favorite texts was Matt. vi. 19: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures," etc.

Several years ago, while holding a meeting in Tennessee, it is said that he preached with unusual power from Jer. viii. 20: "The harvest is past," etc. The people were greatly moved. Many of the congregation were standing, and with intense eagerness listening to the "champion of the cross" as he "vigorously wielded the weapons of truth for God" and thirsting immortals. Strong men, heads of families, some from fifty to sixty years of age, bowed, yielded their lives to God, and foined the ranks of Immanuel's army. The meeting resulted in about one hundred professions.

While conducting a communion service in the college chapel at Tehuacana, the first Sunday in October, 1885, he made his last effort in the pulpit. His text was 1 Cor. xi. 28, 29; "Let a man examine himself," etc. He spoke with more than ordinary pathos and power. His sould was touched with a heavenly sympathy that moved his people in the tenderest strains of the gospel. His words fell upon our hearts like the refreshing rain upon the thirsting vegetation.

Oct. 25, 1885, surrounded by his flock and family, he was called from "labor to refreshment." Oct. 27 the solemn funeral services were conducted in the chapel by the Faculty and Trustees of Trinity University. The large crowd of weeping friends, the black festoons, the drapery of sorrow, the sad funeral train, were the honest tributes of hearts that sincerely honored and admired, loved and respected Dr. McLeskey. He was buried with Masonic honors in the Tehuacana cemetery.

We can scarcely realize that we shall no more hear his voice until we hear it in the grand assembly of the redeemed, saying, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing."

He had entered upon his third year's work at Tehuacana. Great things were expected of him. The Faculty and Trustees were looking to him as a tower of strength--the hope of the school. His name was the talisman of success; his services indispensable; his death a dire affliction. He was in the midst of eminent usefulness, surrounded daily and hourly by pressing demands for the toil of his hands, and head, and heart. He was vigorously carrying forward the great work of his life. He had planned and arranged for the erection of the magnificent college-building, the foundation of which has been laid, and which, when completed, will be a monument to his wisdom, energy, and influence. He was enlarging his plans for the success of the school; his highest powers were developing to the full measure of the demands of the times, and perennial success was in sight when he laid aside his armor and yielded to the invincible call from the field of battle. His name is worthy to be engraved in durable letters upon the front of the University building and embalmed forever in the hearts of our people in Texas.

Who will wear his mantle? It is holy. Let it not be dishonored. Let it fall upon some talented, consecrated Elisha, who will wear it nobly, worthily, faithfully.

His last years were burdened with toil. He preached regularly every Sunday, performed the duties of pastor, lectured to the theological students every week, and attended to the duties of the Presidency. In each of these fields of labor he wielded a mighty influence. He laid his heart and life upon the altar. To the very last, with all the powers of his soul, he fought for Trinity University. Oppressed with an increasing sense of the responsibility of sustaining the highest and best interests of the school, he was on his way to the meeting of one of the Synods when the fatal sickness came upon him. With prostrated nervous system, and the end hastening, he turned back and came home to die. He was six feet three inches. He had a manly form, pleasant face, expressive eyes, a loud, clear, musical voice, commanding address, and persuasive manners. His bearing was that of a true gentleman. He was not only a fine-looking specimen of physical manhood, he had mental and spiritual endowments that gave him great efficiency in the Master's work.

Few men had more personal magnetism. He gathered about him a host of friends, and bound them to him with a golden chain. The executive chair was his stronghold. He was born to be a leader. Endowed with a high degree of executive ability and mental activity, he executed promptly, vigorously, and efficiently.

Few men were better adapted to extraordinary occasions. He was always ready for an emergency. He was determined in purpose. With a giant's stroke, and in the strength of Israel's God, he hurled all obstacles from his pathway, lifted aloft the banner of Christ, carried it forward unfurled in the face of the enemy, stormed the hosts of sin, scattered their ranks, waved the standard of the cross in triumph over Satan's strongholds, and pressed onward to the accomplishment of his high and holy purpose.

He was one of the delegates to the Pan-Presbyterian Alliance, Belfast, Ireland, June, 1884. After returning to Texas, he delivered lectures on London, Scotland, and Ireland.

The testimony comes from various parts of the Church, "He was my trusted friend, my best earthly friend." He was especially a true and tender friend to young men preparing for the ministry, and he offered them great encouragement.

He was not fully appreciated by the friends of Trinity University. We rarely every appreciate our good and great men until they are gone. The Texas Observer makes the following beautiful comment:

We are so constituted in this life that we seldom appreciate fully the bloom and fragrance of the richest lawns until the winter's blasts have borne away the fragrance, and the frosts have chilled in death their touches of living beauty. Such may be said of our loved Dr. McLeskey. Not till the voice had ceased to whisper, and the manly form had bowed to the King of Terrors, did we appreciate our loss.

We have a high regard for the memory of Dr. McLeskey. It is sad to linger upon it; it is a rich legacy; it is an imperishable treasure. Let it be cherished; it is sacred. We conclude this imperfect sketch with the following extracts:

Texas Observer, Mexia, Texas: "We cannot in any ordinary language draw any kind of picture of his worth in all the departments of life in which he moved."

Christian News, Glasgow, Scotland: "He was a man of culture, calm strength, goodness of heart, and large and liberal views."

Report of Committee on Deceased Ministers, Tehuacana Presbytery: "As President of Trinity University, his loss is felt most keenly. He displayed wonderful tact in governing the school. In this high position he was rapidly making friends and gaining the confidence of the entire Church."

Dr. Adamson, of Edinburgh: "Dr. McLeskey was a noble Christian man, and his loss cannot be otherwise than great to the Church of which he was a worthy minister. Farewell, brother! We shall meet thee in the morning, when the mists have passed away."

Dr. Harris, of Nashville: "He possessed a noble, genuine character, worthy of all admiration and praise. He was a Christian, a man of power, and yet a man of genuine simplicity and integrity. His death leaves a vacancy hard to fill. Our Church has met with a great loss. The University has sustained a direful calamity."

[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, May 6, 1886, page 2]


B. G. McLeskey - Tehuacana Presbytery

[Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1886]



The history of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, especially in West Tennessee, would be incomplete without mention of the McLeskey family, members of which have been so closely identified with it.

The Rev. William Hamilton McLeskey, himself the son of a preacher, the Rev. Jo McLeskey, Sr., of the Carolinas, came to Weakley County, Tennessee, January 1827, being at the time nineteen years of age, and was married to Miss Jemima Gilbert, July 24, 1828. In 1846 he was received under the care of the Hopewell Presbytery, and was ordained to the full work of the ministry in October, 1850. He was for many years a circuit rider, his circuit covering much of the territory between the Tennessee and the Mississippi Rivers, and it required a full month for him to make the trip round his circuit.

Four sons, Jo, Ben, Bob and Jim, and two daughters, one of whom, Mrs. E. M. Stolts, of Dyer, Tenn., is still living, grew to maturity in this family and their parents being ardent Cumberland Presbyterians, their children were, of course, trained up in the faith and doctrine.

Jo, (he was partial to this spelling of his given name,) was born January 23, 1832, near McKenzie, Tenn. He was received under the care of Hopewell Presbytery in 1855 and was ordained to the full work of the ministry in 1857. He was specially gifted in revival work and there are thousands in heaven and other thousands yet on earth who were born into the kingdom of Christ in his revival meetings. He was also pastor of many of the congregations of West Tennessee, his last work being Paducah, Ky.

Ben, the Rev. B.G. McLeskey, was born near Dresden, Tenn., attained to great distinction, being at the time of his death president of Trinity University in Texas.

Bob, the Rev. Robert Gilbert McLeskey, was born in Tennessee in 1877, was received under the care of presbytery and licensed to preach by Reuben Burrow in 1866, and was ordained to the full work of the ministry at Humboldt, Tenn., in October, 1867.

The Rev. Jo McLeskey was married to Miss Ellen Carter in June, 1858. Of the children born to this union, three, J. E. McLeskey, of Rives, Tenn., Mrs. W. H. Forbis, of Memphis, Tenn., and the Rev. W. H. McLeskey, of Clarksville, Tenn., are now living. His first wife having died while their children were quite young, he was united in marriage in December, 1879 to Mrs. Sallie Cooper. She, with three children, Mrs. D. A. Hipps, of Jackson, Miss Callie McLeskey, of Memphis, and Mr. Jo McLeskey, of Memphis survive him. He died at his home in Fulton, Ky., May 5, 1909, and was carried to Mt. Olive Cemetery, near Dyer, Tenn., where his funeral, attended by a large concourse of friends, was conducted by the Rev. J. A. McIlwain and others. From the time that he entered the ministry until within a few months of his death, he was preeminently a preacher. He preached his first sermon at Meridian camp ground in Weakley County, Tenn., from the text, "Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward," and his last sermon at Dyer, Tenn., only a short time before his death. His was an active life in the service of the church and he is said to have preached more funerals and married more couples than any other minister who ever lived in West Tennessee.

The Rev. William Hamilton (Hamp) McLeskey, the second son of the Rev. Jo McLeskey, Jr., is, and has been for the past four years, pastor of the strong and growing congregation of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Clarksville, Tenn. To him and his wife, who was Miss Florence Meadows, three children have been born, two of whom, the Rev. James M. McLeskey and Hamilton, a five-year-old boy, are now living. He and one of the elders of his congregation, Judge W. B. Young, will be members of the General Assembly at Bowling Green, Ky.

The Rev. James M. McLeskey, for the past two and one-half years the pastor of the Arrington Street Cumberland Presbyterian Church in the city of Nashville, is the youngest of the McLeskey family to enter the ministry of the church. Though but a youth when he came from Bethel College to the pastorate of this congregation, he has been quite successful in his work and his outlook for the future is full of promise. He began work as a pastor in the church at the age of sixteen and has been constantly engaged in that kind of work, though, in common with all of the McLeskeys, he delights in revival as well as pastoral work.

Thus it will be seen that the history of the ministers of the McLeskey family covers a period greater than that of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. In the pictures which appear upon this page, reading from top to bottom, the second, third, fourth and fifth generations are shown and we regret that the picture of the first generation is not available. Reading from left to right are three brothers of the third generation.

[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, May 8, 1913, page 290]

McLeskey Family Information

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Updated May 16, 2013