Family Stories

Rev. Thomas Horatio Cleland – Presbyterian Minister

The Kentucky Advocate, Danville, Boyle County, Kentucky

Saturday, August 26, 1933

Rev. Thomas Cleland

Rev. Thomas Cleland was born in Fairfax County, Virginia, May 22, 1778.  His father, in 1781, moved to Montgomery County, Maryland, where he remained eight years.  His mother was a Miss Richards.  In the fall, September 23,1789, the family moved to Kentucky, and located in Washington County, where his father procured an entry of 500 acres of land.  In April 1792, they moved to this land where a log cabin had been built.

The first school Thomas Cleland attended was Kentucky Academy at Pisgah in Woodford County.  In 1799 he entered the Transylvania University, at Lexington, where he finished his education, after which he came to Danville and studied for the ministry under Dr. David Rice.

On October 22, 1801, he married Miss Margaret Armstrong.  Among their nine children were: Thomas Horace Cleland, born December 19, 1816, who became a Presbyterian minister.  William Cleland, born October 24, 1824, was the youngest son and father of Mrs. Eastland of Danville, and Miss Rose Cleland, of Louisville, Kentucky.  While not a minister he possessed the high ideals and generous impulses of a splendid family.

Dr. Thomas Cleland preached his first sermon in 1802 at the home of Robert Caldwell (The grandfather of the Rev. Robert Caldwell, so long pastor of the Presbyterian Church on Salt River, built in 1788, four miles south-west of Danville.)  In 1813 Rev. Thomas Cleland returned to Mercer County.  March 31, he took charge of the New Providence Church.  He said:

‘As I had accepted a call at $250.00 per year for the Providence and Cane Run Churches, I bought a farm of 168 acres near the Providence.  It was all forest but a few acres.  A few logs were collected to build a home for me.  I entered on my duties the first Sabbath in April 1813.  The old church on Cane Run became so decayed that it could not shelter the congregation with comfort.  It was considered best to move the place of preaching to Harrodsburg as the majority of the congregation lived on the west side of Salt River.  This arrangement was made in 1816.  The town of Harrodsburg was then very small.  The buildings were of frame and inferior except one brick dwelling and the old stone Court House, in which we held worship until a more suitable building could be put up.  Soon it was found out that this building was to small and would not answer the desired purpose.  In a short while the Lord sent a strong Northwester which overturned the whole building.  This occurred on the 8th day of March 1819, the Sabbath day, but providentially, at a time not occupied.  By this event we were compelled to occupy the old stone Court House again.’

‘The New Providence church was erected by subscriptions and by selling pews.  In this church I have labored just 35 years, from April 1, 1813, to April 1, 1848.  I was engaged for a while by a small church in the Dutch settlement, four miles south of Harrodsburg, for which I received $50.00 in semi-annual installments.’

Dr. Cleland’s home became a School of prophets before the establishment of the Theological Seminaries.

During the year of 1819, an application was sent to the legislature of Kentucky at Frankfort for a charter for Centre College at Danville.  There existed the most violent opposition from the adherents of the Transylvania College, another rival institution.  The late Samuel K. Nelson went to Frankfort to use his personal influence for the Charter.  The prospects were so doubtful that Dr. Cleland was also sent to use his personal influence before the Legislature.  Mr. Nelson, meeting Dr. Cleland, told him how the matter stood, and of the bug-bear of sectarianism which was being used to defeat the measure.  In their conversation, Dr. Cleland related an anecdote to Nelson.  He was convulsed with laughter and said to Cleland, “Go to Frankfort and tell that story, and you will get the charter.’  And they did.

Know all men by these presents that we, Thomas Cleland and William Ivrine, are held and firmly bound unto his Excellency, James Garrard, Esq., Governor of Kentucky, in the just and full sum of fifty pounds current money, the payment of which well and truly to be made to the said Governor and his successors.  We bind ourselves, our heirs, jointly and severally, firmly by these presents, sealed with our seals and dated this 22nd day of October 1801.

The condition of the above obligation is such that whereas there is a marriage shortly intended to be solemnized between the above bound Thomas Cleland and Peggy Armstrong, for which a license has issued.  Now if there be no lawful cause to obstruct the said marriage then the above obligation to be void or else to remain in full force and virtue.

Thomas Cleland, William Irvine

Margaret, wife of Rev. Thomas Clelland, D. D., born March 29, 1779, died April 24, 1854.  New Providence Presbyterian Cemetery, Mercer County, Kentucky.

According to the 1858 Mercer County death records Rev. Thomas Cleland died January 31, 1858, age 79, Preacher of the Gospel, widower, born in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Thomas Cleland, D. D., born May 22, 1778, died January 31, 1858.

3 replies »

  1. On Google books, Memoirs of the Rev. Thomas Cleland, D.D.: comp. from his private papers, Part 4 By Edward Porter Humphrey, Thomas Horace Cleland.

  2. I am part of this family via his nephew also named Reverend Thomas Horace Cleland who preached in Mississippi & LA. (Pine Ridge, Union Church, & 2nd Presbyterian in Natchez, also Principal of Fayette Girls Acadmey in in Jefferson County, MS and later ran a school for Mrs. Savage of Salem Plantation near Delhi LA) I have copy of the Memoirs but would love to locate copy of his 1848 Family Biography it refers to, anyone know where to find copy?

    • I would like to know about a son of the man buried beneath this stone, a preacher also, who left for the west from Sioux City, Iowa, in 1869. His name is on a memorial in that city, along with two other Presbyterian ministers bound to bringing the gospels and “win the west for Christ,” as the monument says. What did this son of old preacher do in his life? Help?

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