REV. JAMES HOGE : A Look Back In Memorium


The Life of Reverend James Hoge was a blend of spiritual shepherd, community pioneer, and guardian to the blind and deaf. On the 50 Anniversary of Hoge Memorial Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Ohio, a series of articles were written about his life. The sketches were taken from notes gathered by the late Foster Copeland and assembled by his daughter, Miss Eleanor Copeland back in January 1956. The articles were written by M. K. Weber and Paul Hess, historians of Hoge Memorial P. C.


PART ONE: Dr. James Hoge Pioneered as Preacher, Civic Leader


Church history for Columbus and Franklin County began in 1805 when James Hoge, a young man of 21 years, rode horseback from Virginia into Franklinton, a small settlement centering at what is now West Broad St. and Sandusky St. This young man accompanied two Federal Judges who were sent to open the first Federal Court at Franklinton. This brief introduction will serve as a book mark to the story of Dr. James Hoge, man of God, who was destined to such an important part in the early history of not only Columbus and Franklin County, but also the state of Ohio.


James Hoge descended from a long line of Presbyterian preachers in Scotland. But the family goes back to the Hogues who were Huguenots, those great Protestants in Normandy, France. Under the religious persecution in reign of Louis XIV, thousands of protestants sought refuge in foreign countries. The Hogues came to Scotland, stronghold of Presbyterianism. Under the Stuart kings James I, Charles I, and Charles II religious freedom and human rights were greatly threatened and many fled the country.


At the close of the 17 century a young man, William Hoge, left Scotland and came to America. William Hoge, great-grandfather of James Hoge settled in Virginia. One of his sons, Alexander Hoge, was a member of the First Congress of the United States. Another of Williams sons, James Hoge was a famous theologian. This James Hoge was the father of Moses Hoge who became the father of the subject of this sketch, Rev. James Hoge. Moses Hoge was an eminent theologian and preacher. About 1783 he was called to the church at Mooresfield, Virginia, ( now West Virginia ). From 1807 until his death in 1820 he held the post of president of Hampton-Sidney College. He died while attending a meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. John Randolf once said, “ Only two men could bring quiet to a turbulent crowd on Court Day, Patrick Henry by his eloquence and Dr. Moses Hoge by simply passing through.” Two other sons of Dr. Moses Hoge became famous preachers. For more about the Hoge men in ministry go to www.history.pcusa.org.


That brings us to the subject of this sketch, James Hoge, son of Moses and Elizabeth Poague Hoge. Born at Mooresfield, Virginia, ( now West Virginia ) on July 4, 1784. He was taught at home by his father. One year was spent in an academy in Charleston, Virginia, ( now West Virginia ) and later in Baltimore under the tutorship of the learned Dr. Priestly who later became president of Cumberland College, Nashville, Tennessee. Soon after his mother died in 1802, he made his first journey to Ohio to do a piece of surveying in the Ohio country. It is known that the Hoge family had acquired rather large landholdings in Pickaway and Franklin counties. Exact documentary data are not in the writers hands but it appears from many references that the Hoge family held large tracks of land on the north side of Columbus, Old Neil Ball Park and Columbus Barracks ( Fort Hayes ) which we have reason to believe were included in the Hoge lands. There is also reason to believe that a part of the extensive Neil family land holdings came through the Hoge family when in 1831, Robert Neil married Mary Mitchell Hoge, daughter of Rev. James Hoge.

PART TWO: Rev. Hoge Organizes First Church In Franklin County

James Hoge returned from his first visit to the Ohio country aflame with enthusiasm for the great opportunities his new land offered to young men of courage and initiative. On his return in 1804 he opened a school for boys near Harpers Ferry. It was attended by his three younger brothers and ten other boys. He continued his theological studies and in the spring of 1805 was ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church. At his own request he was commissioned by the General Assembly in Philadelphia, April 17, 1805, as ( quote ) “ A domestic missionary to Ohio and territory adjacent thereto. “


In the autumn of 1805, when he was 21 years of age, he set out on horseback for Ohio. He stopped at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Woods; Wheeling, Virginia ( now West Virginia ) for a night’s lodging. ( There were no hotels in the town. ) The daughter in the home attracted the young minister and in 1810 he returned to Wheeling and claimed Jane Woods as his bride.

He had arranged with Lucas Sullivant to meet him on the banks of the Hocking River and from there they traveled together. Throughout the third day they traveled with two federal judges who were going to Franklinton to open the first term of Federal Court ever held in Franklin County. James Hoge and Lucas Sullivant became fast friends. Rev. Hoge remained for some time as a guest of the Sullivant family in their fine brick residence. This house still stands as a part of the building now known as the Convent of the Good Shepherd, West Broad St. at Sandusky St. The whole history of Franklin County and especially the Westside and the Hilltop is tied into the life and activities of Lucas Sullivant. For more about his life and the founding of Franklinton and the Hilltop go to www.touring-ohio.com/profiles/lucas-sullivant.html.

On Nov. 19, 1805, Rev. James Hoge arrived in this new frontier country at the town of Franklinton, founded by Lucas Sullivant in 1797. It was this Thursday evening that the little party of men, James Hoge, Lucas Sullivant, and the two Federal Judges rode into Franklinton. On the following Sunday, Nov. 22, the judges offered Rev. Hoge the use of the court room for a church service. The court room was a room in the house of James Overdier. The judges and the members of the grand jury came to hear him preach his first sermon in Ohio. In the following weeks he continued to hold services every Sunday in the John Overdier house. He spent much of his time during the week riding about on horseback through the woods visiting families living in cabins on remote farms. These lonely people warmly welcomed the young preacher.

Franklinton had the reputation of being a “wicked and depraved community.” Fighting and drinking were common among both white settlers and Indians. Not a bridge was over any stream within 100 miles, roads were all but impassable and mail was brought once a week on horseback from Chillicothe. On Feb. 8, 1806, Rev. Hoge organized a church with a membership of five men and eight women. As to our knowledge this was the first church of ANY denomination in all Franklin County which then covered parts of the present counties of Pickaway, Madison, Union, Licking and all of Delaware and Marion.


PART THREE: Rev. Hoge Accepts Pastorate Of Franklinton Church In 1807

Hardships of the country and the severe winter proved too much for Rev. Hoge’s frail constitution and in May, 1806, after six months in Franklinton he set out for his home in Virginia. Here at his father’s house he sought rest and restoration to health. Late in September he received a letter from the officers of the church in Franklinton, extending a call to become the regular pastor of the Franklinton Church. After much thought and consultation with his father and brothers he wrote his acceptance. By the following spring, 1807, his health had so greatly improved that he set out once more for the banks of the Scioto.


On June 11, 1807, he was installed by the Chillicothe Presbytery. His parish extended from Dublin on the north to Circleville on the south and east to the Big Walnut. Membership soon increased from the original 13 to 50. Services were held in the Court House. By 1811 the congregation had raised enough money, chiefly through the generosity of Lucas Sullivant, to begin the erection of a building. The War of 1812 came before the building was finished. General Hull, enroute north, took over the building for storing grain for horses. Heavy rains came and when the roof leaked the grain swelled and forced the walls of the brick building until it collapsed. Three years later in 1816, a new building was completed. This church was situated on the banks of the Scioto near Sandusky St. To this day the ancient burying ground still marks the site of the first church in Franklinton.

It was also in this same period, 1810-1812, that a new town site was laid out east of the Scioto River and named Columbus. Four men, Lynn Starling, John Kerr, Alex McLaughlin, and James Johnston formed the “Franklin Syndicate.” They promised that if the legislature would establish on the east side of the Scioto the seat of the State Government they would agree to (1) to lay out a town according to a plan acceptable to the legislature: (2) to give to the state a square containing 10 acres for a public building; (3) to erect a State House and a penitentiary. Dr. Hoge conveyed to the “Syndicate” 80 acres of land with the provision that one-half of the lots laid out on this acreage were to be reconveyed to Dr. Hoge. Lots at Broad and High sold for $200 to $1000. In one year more than 300 people lived in Columbus. These settlers were anxious for a church on the east bank of the Scioto. In 1814 a temporary building was erected, a log structure 25x30 feet built entirely of hickory logs and referred to ever after as Old Hickory Church. It was located at what is now Spring and 3 streets. Dr. Hoge conducted services in this church as well as in Franklinton.

At the same time he kept in touch with people living in the country within 50 miles of Columbus. He spent so much time in the saddle that he was often referred to as “preacher on horseback.” This kind of outdoor life may help to account for his apparently complete recovery in health. In 1818 Dr. and Mrs. Hoge moved to the east bank of the river. They built their home on E. Broad St. where the athletic club now stands. Here their first son, Moses Andrew, was born. ( Named for Dr. Hoge’s father, Moses Hoge and Mrs. Hoge’s father, Andrew Woods.) Dr. and Mrs. Hoge had 11 children, six of whom survived their father.

In 1818, the congregation of the Old Hickory Church decided a larger building was needed to accommodate their rapidly growing congregation. Ten men subscribed $100 each, the town authorities donated a lot of ground, and the congregation bought an adjoining lot for $300. These lots were on the corner of Town and Front Streets. Here, a framed church 40 feet by 60 feet was erected costing $1050. It seated 400 people and was really composed of three buildings constructed so that one might be removed from the others and sold as a residence. The Methodists nicknamed the building “Trinity in Unity.” This church was known as “The First Presbyterian Congregation of Columbus.” In 1821 the Franklin congregation united with this church.

PART FOUR: Dr. Hoge Is Instrumental In Church Establishing 

Ohio’s First Free Schools


In the early 1820’s Dr. Hoge began to campaign for free public schools. He appeared before the legislature again and again to plead his case, and was aided by Cutler of Marietta, Gifford of Cincinnati and Atwater of Pickaway County. In 1825 the legislature passed a bill providing for funds from taxes for educational purposes. Two schools were opened in Columbus, one for advanced pupils and one for small children, and free public schools had a beginning in Columbus, largely through the work and influence of Dr. Hoge.

Dr. Hoge also became interested in an experiment being tried in Hartford, Connecticut. Deaf people were being trained in a special school. He wanted these advantages for the deaf in Ohio. From 1824 he never ceased to work for that end. At last the legislature authorized Dr. Hoge to try the experiment with the Ohio deaf. As one legislature said, “I have no faith in the scheme but I have faith in Dr. Hoge.”

In 1829 the first Ohio State School for the Deaf was opened in a rented room at the corner of Broad and High streets where the Deshler-Hilton Hotel now stands. The school grew until a permanent site became necessary. Dr. Hoge, Peter Sells and John McDowell offered to sell 10 acres of land for the nominal sum of $300. This land became the location of the School for the Deaf located on Town Street. The first building was erected on this site in 1834. To learn more about the School for the Deaf he helped establish go to their website at www.ohioschoolforthedeaf.org.

Dr. Hoge received many calls to other churches and was offered the professorship of theology at Hanover College in Indiana. He refused them all. In 1827, Miami University conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Divinity. For several years he was a trustee there as well as Ohio University in Athens. Dr. Hoge and President William McGuffey, author of McGuffey Readers were fast friends.

Dr. Hoge was a great reader and a profound scholar. His knowledge of state craft was so great that lawyers and legislators of the state consulted him and his influence over legislation was such that much of the Ohio law at that time was affected by him. One eminent jurist of that day said; “I believe Dr. Hoge to be the best statesman in our commonwealth.” Dr. Osman Hooper in his “History of the City of Columbus,” writes, “No man in the city was more instrumental in shaping the charitable and educational policy of the state than Dr. Hoge.”


PART FIVE: Dr. Hoge Builds New Church; Founds Columbus Presbytery

Dr. Hoge’s church had been growing so rapidly that in the summer of 1830 it was decided to build a new church. Dr. Hoge, Gustavus Swan and David Deshler were appointed on the committee to select a suitable site. Three men of wealth, Lynn Starling, Gustavus Swan and Robert McCoy agreed to erect a building acceptable to the congregation. They were to be repaid by sale of pews and by subscription. The building was located at the corner of State and Third streets where the Hartman Theater now stands.

At the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, held in Philadelphia in 1832, Dr. Hoge was elected moderator. He was then 48 years old. Dr. Hoge may justly be called the founder of the Columbus Presbytery and a leader in the organization of the Synod of Ohio. Dr. Hoge was at his best in these church courts. On one occasion in a meeting of the Synod, a number of members tried to have the roll so called that Dr. Hoge’s vote might be cast last, lest it should influence all that followed him.

In the summer of 1833 a terrible scourge of cholera broke out in Columbus. The population of Columbus at that time was about 3000. Before the summer was over one-third of the people had fled the town. Dr. and Mrs. Hoge remained and Mrs. Hoge, with the other women of the First Church, working tirelessly to help the sick. This small group of women formed the beginning of what was later to become the “Columbus Female Benevolent Society”, still active [ in February 1956 ] at 40 S. Washington Avenue, and the oldest charitable organization in Columbus. Mrs. Hoge served as first president of the society. For more about the society go to www.faqs.org or look for them on facebook.

That same fall, work on the church building was completed and the First Presbyterian Church was dedicated. For that day it was an imposing edifice. Dr. Hoge’s salary was raised to $1000 annually. Dr. Hoge had now reached the most useful and influential period of his life. On Sunday mornings there gathered in the sanctuary many important men; governors, judges, members of the legislature, business and professional men. O.E. Randall, the historian wrote; “Dr. Hoge stood as a bulwark of strength in the rapidly growing capital city. He was universally trusted and honored. At one time when he was called as a witness in a case, his testimony, though decisive, was taken without oath. As he was about to be sworn the opposing counsel cried, “You need not swear that man.”


PART SIX: Dr. Hoge Completes 50 Years As Pastor And Civic Leader

During the time Dr. Hoge had been working for a school for the deaf he had been thinking, too, of the blind people of Ohio. Again he appeared before the legislature many times pleading the cause of the blind. On March 11, 1836, the legislature appointed a commission with Dr. Hoge as chairman to collective information relative to the education of the blind. Following a report of this commission, an act was passed April 3, 1837, making provision for the education of the blind in Ohio. A lot of nine acres was purchased through the benevolence of a few interested men. These lots were located on the corner of Main Street and Parsons Avenue, where the state school for the bling was located. Classes for the blind met in Dr. Hoge’s church until the building was completed in 1839.

The strain of constant hard work began to tell on Dr. Hoge, and in 1845 his doctor prescribed a rest. In August he set out on his journey home to Virginia. In 1850 he accepted a professorship of theology and church history in Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. He returned to his church in Columbus after his six month term in the professorship had ended.

Time and space will not permit the telling of the entire story of Dr. Hoge. It would include his stand against the liquor traffic. Our liquor spots today [ 1956 ] are mild compared to the taverns in Columbus in those early days. One such tavern, the scene of many brawls, was called, “The War Office”. Dr. Hoge was a pioneer for temperance. His story would also include his of a Presbyterian College in Ohio, such as Princeton, dedicated to the building of Christian character and ideals. While Wooster College was not founded until after Dr. Hoge’s death, he helped to pave the way for such an institution.

Also written in the history story would be the great revival of 1857 and his part in it. Or on the occasion of the 50 anniversary of the First Church in 1856, how honors and tributes were heaped on Dr. Hoge. Another chapter in the life of this man of God on which we could dwell, is that of the daily morning prayers held in Dr. Hoge’s church for many years. People in all walks of life attended. Members of the legislature and judges have left testimony of the help they received.

On February 28, 1857, the congregation at Dr. Hoge’s request, reluctantly consented to his resignation. Dr. Hoge’s state of health and advanced years made this action imperative. On June 30, 1857, The Patriarch of the Church, after 50 years in the ministry of the Presbyterian Church in Columbus, preached his last sermon as pastor of the First Church. In 1861, Dr. Hoge’s beloved wife, Jane Woods Hoge, died. Scarcely two years after his wife’s death, his own life ended on September 29, 1863, at the age of 79. His body was laid beside that of his wife in Greenlawn Cemetary. There tombstones, though very worn and hard to read, are in the middle of Section I, an oval area in the center of Greenlawn, under three large pine trees. For more about the site and the cemetery go to www.greenlawncemetary.org.

So the Old Warrior of the Cross fought a good fight and went home anticipating with joy the ”precious and exceeding great promises” of the Lord whom he has served so well.


WE REMEMBER: Dr. James Hoge

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