John H. Dale
The Life Of John Dale
The Life Of John Dale
John Dale was a remarkable man. He lived on this earth 105 years and 27 days. According to his death certificate he was born in Ireland on November 13, 1822. He came to America when he was a young man, perhaps in his late teen years. At that time he was a Roman Catholic. Shortly after coming to America he came in contact with Barton W. Stone in the Kentucky-Illinois area. Barton Stone baptized this young man and then his remarkable life as a gospel preacher and member of the church of Christ began.
During his active years as a gospel preacher he baptized about 8,000 people. Most of his preaching was done in the Kentucky-Illinois area. In his declining years he moved to the little town of Vina, Alabama in the northwest part of that state. This was about 1913. It is not known why he came to this little town located on the Illinois Central railroad. In his younger years he had a wife and two children. His wife died sometime after the war between the States. His children died in early childhood. He lived in Vina the last several years of his life. As I remember, at one time he lived alone in a small house. As his health began to fail and he could no longer live alone, he moved into the home of M/M Ellie Reed, a faithful Christian family in Vina. He was living there when he died on December 10, 1927. According to his death certificate his aged body was laid to rest in the Old Burleson Cemetery, located about 3 miles north of Vina. This is an old cemetery. There are many graves there but his name is not found on any of the grave markers. There are many other graves in this cemetery which are marked only by pieces of stone, bearing no names. His remains must lie in one of these. Although no grave marker bears his name, a fitting memorial stone honoring this great man has been placed in a prominent location in the cemetery. I am confident that his name is well emblazoned in the Lamb's Book of Life. During his declining years he was supported by the churches of Christ at Russellville and Vina, Alabama, and by some individual Christians.
There is no record that John Dale was widely known in the Restoration Movement. However, having baptized 8,000 people during the latter part of this Movement, he certainly must be considered as one of the spiritual giants of that great Movement.
I grew up in the little town of Vina. I was 7 years old when this great man, whom I remember as "Old Brother Dale" died. My father, Nello Rickard, completed and filed his death certificate. I remember this grand old man who had a long, gray beard. Even though I was a child when I knew him, I consider it a distinct honor to have known such a great man who was baptized by Barton W. Stone, one of the very great giants of the Restoration Movement. It isn't likely that there are many other people living today who can claim such a distinct honor by saying that they personally knew someone who was baptized by Barton Stone.
Some afterthoughts. As New Testament Christians living in 2004 we should consider these questions: Were it not for such spiritual giants as Barton Stone, Alexander Campbell, John Dale, and many others, what would be our spiritual relationship with God today? Would the New Testament church in all it's primitive splendor and glory exist in our great country today? Would there be a congregation of the Lord's people in the communities where we live today? Just think of the untold thousands of men and women who obeyed the gospel and whose souls are in paradise today because these great men worked so hard and sacrificed so much in restoring the church to what it was in New Testament times. Today, we are "standing on the shoulders of giants" because of the efforts of these men. Truly, we owe them a great debt of gratitude. May the memory of these great men five on and on in the hearts and minds of New Testament Christians.
-James Rickard -- April 16, 2004
Baptized Eight Thousand
A clipping from the Birmingham (Ala.) News, sent to us by Brother T.H. Roberson, of Russellville, Ala., under the heading, “Venerable Gentleman, 104, of Vina, Ala., Has Baptized Eight Thousand,” and the additional statement, “John Dale, born in Ireland, has a vivid background covering more than a half century of religious service,” says:
Eight thousand people!
A veritable army, yet all baptized by one man.
That is the contention of John Dale, of Vina, Ala., who was one hundred and four years old last November, according to T.H. Roberson, of Russellville, who write:
“Mr. Dale is one of the ‘grand ole men’ of Alabama, and, indeed, of the entire South. His career has included many phases of activity, but primarily the religious field.
“Born in Ireland, November 13, 1822, Mr. Dale came to America when a very young man and settled in Illinois. Although a member of the Roman Catholic Church, he became so interested in the Restoration Movement started by Alexander Campbell that he finally joined the church of Christ, being baptized by Barton W. Stone.
“He soon became a preacher and traveled extensively. On one of his trips, in the early ‘sixties,’ he visited the Holy Land, and he still enjoys recounting his experiences there. His work in the ministry continued for sixty years, during which he says he baptized more than eight thousand people. A few years ago, however, he felt his strength not equal to the task and resigned.
“Since then Mr. Dale has been making his home with Ellie L. Reed, in Vina. The Russellville Church of Christ is materially contributing to his welfare.
“Despite his advanced years, the old veteran’s mind is clear and active, and he still retains a bit of Irish wit in his conversation.
“And he anticipates enjoying life for many years to come.”
Long live Mr. Dale!-Gospel Advocate, September 1, 1927, page 821
Brother John H. Dale, of Vina, Ala., died on December 10, 1927. Brother Dale was one hundred and five years and about two months old. He was born in Ireland. He came to America a number of years ago. In his early life he became identified with the Catholics, but, learning the truth, he was baptized by Barton W. Stone soon after coming to America. He was married and became the father of two children whom he buried in early childhood. He had been a widower for more than fifty years. A great deal of his time was spent in the evangelistic field, and he preached up until about ten year ago. He claimed to have baptized over eight thousand people. For about fourteen years he has lived near Vina. About seven years ago he went to Russellville, Ala., to make application to the county court to enter the county poor-house. Brother T.H. Roberson, of the Russellville church, heard of his being in town and the mission on which he had come. He went to see him, and, after talking with him a while, told him that a man who had done as much as he had done for the cause of righteousness should not in his old days have to go to the poor-house. The church at Russellville gladly took up his support and, with the help of a few others, clothed and boarded him and otherwise looked after his material wants. During his last days he was unusually active for one of his advanced age. The writer, with the help of Brother Wilcut, of Fulton, Miss., conducted the funeral services, after which he was buried in the cemetery near Vina.
–Van A. Bradley
-Gospel Advocate January, 12, 1928. page 48
REMEMBERING BROTHER DALE
When I first began a serious study of Restoration history, an uncle, Brisco Kimbrough, told me about an old gospel preacher who lived in Franklin County, Alabama, in the early part of the twentieth century. He could not remember his name, or much about him, except that he had seen him in the services at the Russellville (Washington Avenue) church of Christ and that the church provided financial support for him during the last years of his life. Chester Stout, a long time elder of the church, also told me about an old preacher who was over a hundred years old who preached at Russellville. He said the old man sat in a chair and preached a sermon on the conversion of Saul, but he did not remember the preacher’s name. These were my first inklings that such a man as John H. Dale had ever lived. I thought no more of it until I came across the old preacher’s name several years later.
In the 1960s, while reading musty copies of the Franklin County Times in the basement of the Alabama Department of Archives and History in Montgomery, I came across the reprint of an item from the Birmingham News about John H. Dale. The heading read: “Venerable Gentleman, 104, Has Baptized Eight Thousand.” Thomas H. Roberson, an elder in the Russellville church, had sent a clipping of the item, along with some comments, to the county paper. He also sent a copy to the Gospel Advocate, where it was published September 1, 1927. Later that year, an obituary of Dale by Van Bradley of Phil Campbell, Alabama, appeared in the Advocate. Bradley, along with W. R. Wilcutt of Fulton, Mississippi, preached Dale’s funeral. It was from these sources that I wrote an article about John H. Dale that was published in the January 2002 issue of With All Boldness.
The article told about Dale, who was born in Ireland and came to America in early life. He came in contact with Barton W. Stone and was baptized by him when he was probably about eighteen or nineteen years old. Stone was then living in the frontier village of Jacksonville, Illinios, having moved there in 1834, the year that Stephen A. Douglas took up residence there. Although age and intermittent illness slowed his activity, Stone continued making preaching tours until 1841 when he suffered a severe paralytic stroke. He died November 9, 1844. It is apparent that Dale’s conversion occurred before Stone’s stroke. Roberson said: “[Dale] soon became a preacher and traveled extensively. On one of his trips, in the early ‘sixties,’ he visited the Holy Land, and still enjoys recounting his experiences there. His work in the ministry continued for sixty years, during which he baptized more than eight thousand people. A few years ago, however, he felt his strength not equal to the task and resigned. Since then Mr. Dale has been making his home with Ellie L. Reed, in Vina. The Russellville Church of Christ is materially contributing to his welfare.” (Gospel Advocate, Sept. 1, 1927.)
Of the many articles I have written on Restoration history, none has given me greater satisfaction, or more spine-tingling delight, than the one about John H. Dale. This is not so much from the article itself, although it is a thrilling story, as it is from subsequent events. In a section of a Restoration web site he maintains, Scott Harp, preacher for the Fayetteville, Georgia, church of Christ, writes: “I came across an issue of With All Boldness in 2002 and noted the article by Earl Kimbrough on the life of John Dale. I had never heard of Dale, but it peaked my interest because my home of Haleyville, Alabama is only about 40 miles from Vina where Dale had lived. Another thing that caused my interest to peak was that one of the elders of the Fayetteville Church of Christ where I preach grew up in Vina, Alabama, James Rickard.”
Harp adds: “I called James to ask if he had heard of the old preacher. The response was that he remembered him, and that he had not heard that name in seventy years. He began investigating the location of the grave of Dale, along with any other information he could find. He contacted public records departments in Alabama, Kentucky and Illinois where he came across just a little information, most of which appears on this site. He ordered a copy of Dale’s death certificate and saw that his own father, Nello Rickard, had signed it. This made this an even more personal connection for James to the old man of God.” (Scott Harp, “Personal Reflections,” TheRestorationMovement.com., May 11, 2004.)
At the same web site, James Rickard gives a sketch of John Dale, in which he says: “I grew up in the little town of Vina. I was 7 years old when this great man, whom I remember as ‘Old Brother Dale’ died. My father, Nello Rickard, completed and filed his death certificate. I remember this grand old man who had a long, gray beard. Even though I was a child when I knew him, I consider it a distinct honor to have known such a great man who was baptized by Barton W. Stone, one of the very great giants of the Restoration Movement. It isn't likely that there are many other people living today who can claim such a distinct honor by saying that they personally knew someone who was baptized by Barton Stone.” (Ibid.)
I have corresponded, talked by phone, and visited with Brother Rickard. He recently sent me copies of all the information he had gathered about John Dale, including a copy of his death certificate. I have also talked by phone with Brother Harp. Unfortunately, at the end of 2003, Brother Rickard’s wife Francis died and he, quite naturally, has had to make painful adjustments in his life. As soon as he could, he resumed his interest in John Dale. He learned that he was buried in an unmarked grave in Old Burleson Cemetery in Franklin County, Alabama. At his own expense, Brother Rickard ordered the erection of an appropriate stone marker in memory of his boyhood friend, which is placed “at a wonderful location near the entrance drive” up the hill in the old cemetery. He also sent me pictures of the cemetery where the old pioneer is buried and of the marker he erected there. The inclusion of John H. Dale in Brother Scott’s web site of deceased gospel preachers and the marker that Brother Rickard set up in his memory give evidence now that Brother Dale will not again be forgotten. The Web site contains several items including the article from With All Boldness that aroused the curiosity of Brother Harp, which in turn awakened a boyhood memory in Brother Rickard that had lain dormant for nearly three quarters of a century and resulted in the monument being placed near his grave site.
The memorial stone reads: “John Dale. Nov. 13, 1822. Dec. 10:1927. In this cemetery the body of John H. Dale lies in an unidentified grave. Born in Ireland, he came to America as a young man, where he met and was baptized by Barton W. Stone. He was a member of the Church of Christ and as a gospel preacher baptized about 8,000 people during his life. He lived his last few years in Vina, Alabama.”
I share with Scott Harp the sentiment he expressed in saying: “The outcome of this is that I know a man who knew a person baptized by Barton W. Stone [more than 160 years ago]. I say this is very unique.” Several in my father’s family and members of the Russellville church then living whom I knew also knew Brother Dale. I would only add to the uniqueness of this remarkable chain of events the thought that it may also have been providential. I am both grateful to God and personally pleased for the part I had in renewing and preserving the memory of John H. Dale, who was a living link in my lifetime to Barton W. Stone, when the old preacher was on the verge of being forgotten. I deeply appreciate the interest that Scott Harp and James Rickard took in this story that brought the monument at Old Burleson Cemetery to reality and placed the story of Brother Dale’s life on Brother Harp’s web site for all to see. Further, I am personally indebted to Pat Farish, the editor of With All Boldness, and to John Welch, the publisher, for their special interest in presenting and preserving Restoration history in general and for granting me the space in their journal that sparked the rediscovery of John H. Dale.
In his remarks about Brother Dale, James Rickard thought-fully says: “As New Testament Christians living in 2004 we should consider these questions: Were it not for such spiritual giants as Barton Stone, Alexander Campbell, John Dale, and many others, what would be our spiritual relationship with God today? Would the New Testament church in all its primitive splendor and glory exist in our great country today? Would there be a congregation of the Lord's people in the communities where we live today? Just think of the untold thousands of men and women who obeyed the gospel and whose souls are in paradise today because these great men worked so hard and sacrificed so much in restoring the church to what it was in New Testament times. Today, we are ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ because of the efforts of these men. Truly, we owe them a great debt of gratitude. May the memory of these great men live on and on in the hearts and minds of New Testament Christians.”
This is why John H. Dale deserves an honored place in our memory.
-Earl Kimbrough, Personal Notes
John H. Dale
Eight thousand people! A veritable army, yet all baptized by one man." These words introduced a feature article published in the Birmingham News in the early part of the twentieth century the reporter told about an aged gospel preacher then living in the little community of Vina, among the mountains of Northwest Alabama in Franklin County. The preacher, John H. Dale, at that time was a hundred and five years old. Few people today, and few then, ever heard tell of him, yet, he was a remarkable man.
Dale was born in Ireland on November 25, 1822. He came to
America when he was a young man and settled in Illinois, most likely in the
1830s. Although a Roman Catholic from early life, he came in contact with the
Restoration work of Barton W. Stone, learned the way of the Lord more perfectly,
and was baptized by Stone soon after arriving in this country. Stone had moved
to the Prairie State from Kentucky in 1834 and made his home at Jacksonville, a
few miles west of Springfield. Illinois was then on the frontier of the westward
expanding United States and still referred to as "the far west" by
those who lived on the Atlantic Seaboard.
While living in Illinois, Stone, in keeping with his custom,
gave much of his time to preaching tours. However, he suffered a stroke in the
summer of 1841, which left him crippled in body and limited in preaching for the
remaining three years of his life. He was no longer able to travel as he had
since beginning his reformatory work in 1801. It was evidently some time just
prior to his stroke when Stone came into contact with, taught, and baptized John
Dale. The young Irishman could hardly have been more than eighteen at the time.
A few years after his conversion, Dale began preaching the
primitive gospel and, like Stone, spent much of his time in the evangelistic
field. Both the scope of his ministry and the means by which he supported
himself are unknown. But he traveled extensively, and in 1860, made a trip to
"the Holy Land," a very rare and expensive venture in that day. This
was nearly twenty years before J. W. McGarvey's well-known trip to the region
where people of the Bible walked. McGarvey told about his journey in Lands of
the Bible (1881). In his old age, Dale especially enjoyed recounting his own
visit to Palestine.
John Dale's labors as a gospel preacher continued for more than
sixty years. In fact, it was not until he was near ninety-five that he felt that
his strength was not up to the task and "resigned" from evangelizing.
His career apparently included many activities, but his main interest was the
gospel. In baptizing more than eight thousand people, he accomplished a feat
comparable to several of the most successful Restoration preachers of the
nineteenth century. Dale had been married and had two children, but his wife
died soon after the War Between the States and he remained a widower. It is not
known what became of his children, but it is likely, in view of his age, that he
simply outlived them.
Dale for some reason came to Vina, a station on the Illinois
Central Railroad, around 1913. He was then ninety-one and near the end of his
ministry. Several years later, his resources gone and his physical strength
abating, he went to the courthouse in Russellville, Alabama, to seek admission
to the county poorhouse.
Thomas H. Roberson, a town banker and an elder of the
Russellville church of Christ, heard about Dale and the nature of his presence
at the county seat. Roberson went to see him and, after talking with the aged
brother told him that a man who had done as much as he had for the cause of
righteousness should not spend his last days in the poorhouse. Roberson made
Dale's plight known to the Russellville church and the members gladly undertook
his support. With the help of a few individuals, the congregation clothed,
boarded, and otherwise looked after his needs for the last seven years of his
life. Records of the Russellville church, at least for 1923-1927, show
contributions in various amounts paid to "Bro. Dale, including $2.50 for a
pair of glasses. During this time, Dale lived with the family of Ellie L. Reed,
Notwithstanding his advanced age, the old veteran's mind
remained active and he retained a bit of Irish wit in his conversation until the
end. His death came December 10, 1927, and he was buried in a cemetery near the
place where he spent the last fourteen years of his life. Van A. Bradley, then
living in Phil Campbell, Alabama, helped by W. R. Wilcutt of Fulton,
Mississippi, conducted his funeral. It was given to "Bro. Dale" to
sojourn on earth a hundred and five years and two months. How interesting it
would be to know more fully the story of his abundant life.
Dale's scant history reminds us of thousands like him, who
spent their lives laboring obscurely in the Lord's vineyard and whose bones rest
in long forgotten graves: But their history does not, end there for
their names are in the Lamb's Book of Life.
Earl Kimbrough, Brandon, FL 33511
I came across an issue of With All Boldness in 2002 and noted the article above by Earl Kimbrough on the life of John Dale. I had never heard of Dale, but it peaked my interest because my home of Haleyville, Alabama is only about 40 miles from Vina where Dale had lived. Another thing that caused my interest to peak was that one of the elders of the Fayetteville Church of Christ, where I preached from 1996 to 2006, grew up in Vina, Alabama, James Rickard.
I called James to ask if he had heard of the old preacher. The response was that he remembered him, and that he had not heard that name in seventy years. He began investigating the location of the grave of Dale, along with any other information he could find. He contacted public records departments in Alabama, Kentucky and Illinois where he came across just a little information, most of which appears on this site. He ordered a copy of Dale's death certificate and saw that his own father, Nello Rickard, had signed it. This made the investigation an even more personal connection for James to the old man of God.
At the end of last year, 2003, we said good-bye to James' dear sweet life-long wife and companion, Francis. What a great woman of God she was! It was my honor and privilege to preach her funeral. She had been sick for quite some time. Francis was a wonderful soldier of the cross in her own right. She was known far and wide for her Bible knowledge, especially of the Old Testament. She taught many women a better knowledge of God through Bible classes. She will be greatly missed.
In the new year James had to adjust to many differences in his own life, but his commitment to the remembrance of John Dale never faltered. I wish to express my personal thanks to James and his daughter Ann Hayes for being the personal benefactors in supplying a fitting monument in the Old Burleson Cemetery dedicated to the life of John H. Dale. It was placed in a wonderful location near the entrance drive in the cemetery. The pictures are below.
In April, 2004 I had the honor of spending the day with James, as we got up early and drove over to Northwest Alabama for the day to see the monument dedicated to Dale. It was a wonderful trip for many reasons. Knowing my love for old gospel preachers, I beamed with pride at seeing the monument that had been laid in the old cemetery. It was also a joy to visit with James and see the home of his childhood, their home in Hodges, Alabama, and visit the cemetery where Francis' parents and grandparents were buried. It was an honor and pleasure to hear James reminisce about his childhood and the people who influenced him. He is a dear friend and Christian gentleman. And of course it was a pleasure for this ole' Alabama boy to go back to the home I love and enjoy spending every day I can in "God's country!"
The outcome of this is that I know a man who knew a person baptized by Barton W. Stone. I would say that is very unique.
Firm Foundation Obituary
Dale—John H. Dale was born in Ireland, November 13, 1822, according to his own statement. He departed this life December 11, 1927, being one hundred five years and twenty-eight days old. He came to this country in his early manhood, probably while in his teens. After reaching this land of freedom he began to read his Bible, and search for a people who were worshipping as God directed. After some little time he found these people, and obeyed under the teaching of Barton W. Stone. He had taken an oath, however, to the Roman Catholic faith, and was so loyal to his vows that he made his way back to the old country to get a release from it.
We believe, and very strongly, that he was just as loyal to the church as to his mother country, and feel sure that he could look back on a life well spent in the Master's service, and could say as did Paul of old: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge, shall give me at that day."
Brother Dale was married some place in Georgia, to a Miss Mattie Akins, daughter of Judge Akins. To this union were born two children, a boy and a girl. Both died while very small, but he and his good wife took a niece and a nephew and reared them and educated them in the Ashley S. Johnson, Bible school at Kimberlin Heights, Tennessee.
Brother Dale did the work of an evangelist, having traveled over most of the United States preaching, and being away from home for long periods of time. On one occasion he was gone almost a year. He converted more than 8,800 persons, so he told me and baptized most all of them himself.
His Irish wit would manifest itself very often in his conversation. He was a good talker and very interesting. His mind was unusually clear for one of his age, and he was very active for that age. He came to my house very nearly every day when the weather was suitable. He always walked. he said he wanted the exercise. It was something like one-fourth of a mile. He had made his home with Brother Ellie Reed for six years or more, having come there about 1920. The church at Russellville, Alabama, had paid for his support.
He spent one winter in Florida a few years ago. The church kept up the contribution while he was there too. He wanted to go back and see old friends, and too, he had preached there, having some overland in a buggy from Tennessee down there.
Should any of his relatives be living and see this I shall be glad to hear from them and learn more to hear from them and learn more of his history if possible.
Directions To The Grave Of J.H. Dale
John H. Dale is buried in an unmarked grave in the Old Burleson Cemetery north of Vina, Alabama in the Old Burleson Community. In April, 2004 a marker was placed in the old cemetery by James Rickard stating that Dale is buried in the cemetery.
From Russellville, Alabama: Take Hwy. 24 toward Red Bay. Go south on Co. Rd. 23 to the Old Burleson Community. Turn Left on Co. Rd. 4 and go .5 miles and the cemetery will be on the left. Travel up the hill into the old cemetery and take the right fork. The John Dale marker will be on the left. (Caution: There is a bridge being rebuilt over Bear Creek. This is located on Co. Rd. 23 just before getting into the Burleson Community. If still out when visiting, one must return to Hwy. 24, go into Red Bay, and come through Vina on Hwy.19) as of 4/2004.
From Red Bay, Alabama: Take Hwy 19 south toward the small town of Vina. Turn left on Co. Rd. 23 pass the Vina High School on the right and stay to the right heading north on 23 out of Vina. Go 2.8 miles to the Old Burleson community and bear to the right on Co. Rd. 4. Go .5 miles and the cemetery will be on the left. Travel up the hill into the old cemetery and take the right fork. The John Dale marker will be on the left.
Photos taken by Scott Harp
Special Thanks to James Richard of Fayette County, Georgia for assisting your webeditor in the production of this site. In the spring of 2004 it was my pleasure to ride over to NW Alabama with James to see the cemetery and new gravestone set in memory of John H. Dale. His efforts to bring to remembrance this man of God is greatly appreciated. The day we spent together going back to Vina, Alabama where James was reared will always be a special recollection for my life.