James Nourse, 1805-1854

Posted: January 30, 2011, 11:01:32 am by jim

My Great-great-great Grandfather

James Nourse
born April 30, 1805 near Washington, DC
died July 5, 1854 in Salem, IA

Was an A.B. Jefferson College, 1823; A.M. same college; for further instruction he attended Dickerson College one year, and while there united with the church under the care of Rev. Dr. Duffield; and at once determined to enter the ministry.

James studied theology at Princeton, New Jersey; was licensed by the presbytery of the District of Columbia, of which his uncle, Joseph Nourse, was then a member, who in writing to his sister Elizabeth (Nourse) Chapline, July 1827, said: “I was gratified more than I can tell you at his trial; he was unanimously accepted.”

The history of James Nourse is that of an accurate and laborious scholar, an humble and devoted Christian and faithful preacher of the Gospel. After nearly twenty years’ service as pastor of the Presbyterian church at Milroy, Pennsylvania, he resigned on account of a serious bronchial infection, and returned to Washington, DC in 1849.

James edited with great care and labor ‘The Paragraph Bible’ (the first edition of a Paragraph Bible published in the United States); prepared for the press a critical commentary on the ‘Epistle to the Galatians;’ and an abridgment of Lowth’s lectures on Hebrew poetry. He also wrote several tracts, one of which, entitled ‘messiah and His Family,’ was received by scholars with universal approbation. ‘Uncle Hugh; or, Twenty Years Ago,’ a temperance story, was from the pen of Rev. James Nourse, whose talents and influence were used with success for the promotion of temperance reform. He believed in total abstinence to the extent of not even taking stimulants when ill. He became principal of Central Academy, a school for boys, combined with a book store, on the northeast corner of Tenth and E streets, Washington, DC, in 1850, and was assisted by his son, Joseph Harvey Nourse. In 1854 he visited Iowa, with a view to a settlement as pastor, and his sudden death at Salem from cholera filled many hearts with grief.

Susan Nourse Peterson transcribed the following newspaper article that was included with a scrapbook of Nourse letters collected by Reverand James Nourse.

RESPECT TO A DECEASED PASTOR.---It will no doubt be interesting to many readers of the Organ, to learn that the remains of Rev. Jas. Nourse, who left this city last July, on a visit to the southern part of Iowa, and there died of the cholera, after an illness of two hours, have been exhumed by two delegates from the congregation of the Presbyterian Church, Milroy, Mifflin county, Pennsylvania.

There are many interesting circumstances connected with the exhumation of the remains. The committee appointed by the Church consisted of but two. On arriving at Salem, the place of his death, one of them was taken sick. The other still persevered. The citizens of the place were terror stricken at the thought of raising the body, and could not be induced to lend their aid for love or money. So this gentleman alone, with tools that he bought for the purpose, (for he could borrow none,) the second night after his arrival, dug down to the coffin. The next day, by paying an exorbitant price, he obtained the necessary help to raise the coffin, and place it in a zinc case prepared for it; but then no one could be found in the place, who would solder the top. At last a man was sent for from a distant town, who fastened on the top and encased all in a wooden box. Then the citizens hastened to pay the deceased every respect in their power. On the boat coming down the Mississippi, in a fearful gale, the coffin came near to being swept from the boat, but one of the delegation threw himself on it, and held it down till it could be secured.

He now rests in the burying ground which surrounds that church. This act was voluntary on the part of his congregation, and the expenses amounting to $170, were cheerfully contributed by them. He had been their pastor up to the time he removed to Washington, in 1849, for nearly twenty years. In this city he was known as a faithful instructor of the young--and the present prosperity of the Central Academy is due to his exertions. It is seldom that we meet with such a tribute of respect to one after death, as that paid to Mr. Nourse by his former charge. Truly this people loved him, who, after an absence of five years, was still considered as belonging to them--as theirs--although he expected to settle in Iowa, where he fell a victim to the cholera and build up a new congregation.


Sarah North Harvey on October 1, 1829 in Germantown, PA


Joseph Harvey, born July 7, 1830 in Washington, DC
Elizabeth Rooker, born June 8, 1832 Milroy, PA
Mary Anna, born December 25, 1833 in Milroy, PA (died at age 11 on September 5, 1844)
Margaret McClay, born December 11, 1835 in Milroy, PA
Sarah Harriet Nourse, born October 23, 1837 in Milroy, PA
Eva Maria, born November 28, 1840 in Milroy, PA
James Michael, born May 14, 1840 in Milroy, PA
John Thomas, born February 24, 1845 in Milroy, PA
Mary Rittenhouse, born September 29, 1847 in Milroy, PA
Ann Caroline, born June 9, 1854 in Washington, DC


Michael Nourse, born September 1, 1778
Mary Rittenhouse, born September 2, 1779

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