Henry A. Boardman once had occasion to preach a funeral sermon for several individuals who perished in a railroad accident. In his 1855 sermon titled "God’s Providence in Accidents,” he said:
That death is among the objects of his providence, is a necessary corollary from his sovereignty. It is one of his inalienable prerogatives to create life, and he alone can destroy it. “I kill; and I make alive." Such is the concatenation of events, that the death of an obscure individual, or of an infant, at a different time or place from that which he had prescribed, might disorganize the entire scheme of terrestrial things, and even spread confusion through the whole boundless domain of his administration. "Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth?" "Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee: thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass." "Thou turnest man to destruction, and sayest: 'Return, ye children of men.'“
And this implies that the mode, and all the attending circumstances of death, are appointed in every instance. We may no more exempt one class of deaths from God's control, than another. The sword, the poison, the accident, are as much his instruments as the paralysis and the fever — the battle is no less his than the pestilence. The murder of Abel, and the tranquil death of Jacob; Joseph dying in Egypt, and Moses in Mount Nebo; Jonathan slain in battle and David peacefully expiring in the bosom of his family; John the Baptist beheaded, and Stephen stoned to death; all have a common place in the great scheme of Providence.
One of the features that makes Log College Press’ database of American Presbyterian writers so special is that — as often as possible — we have included photographs of these men, along with pictures of where they are laid to rest, as well as biographical information. Reviewing the lives and deaths of our Log College Press men, it is worth taking note of some of the unusual ways that some of them have finished their earthly course.
Maltbie Davenport Babcock — Composer of the famous hymn “This Is My Father’s World,” “Babcock died at age 42 in Naples, Italy, on May 18, 1901, returning from a trip to the Holy Land. According to a New York Times report of May 20, 1901, and widely carried by newspapers coast-to-coast, he committed suicide by slitting his wrist and ingesting ‘corrosive sublimate’ or mercuric chloride. He was being treated in the International Hospital in Naples for what was called ‘Mediterranean fever,’ an archaic term for brucellosis. Several of his travel companions suffered from this bacterial infection which causes fever, pain and depression. Babcock had been hospitalized for ‘nervous prostration’ (depression) in Danville, New York, ten years before his death.” — Wikipedia
Hezekiah James Balch — Presbyterian minister and one of the three primary authors of the 1775 Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, it is not known precisely how he died, merely that he died in early 1776, around the age of 30.
Elias Boudinot — After signing the Treaty of New Echota (1835), which ceded all Cherokee land east of the Mississippi to the U.S. federal government, Boudinot was assassinated at his Oklahoma home on June 22, 1839, by a group of Cherokees who were angry about his role in the removal of the tribe.
Ephraim Brevard - The reputed author of the 1775 Mecklenburg Resolutions and the scribe who penned the 1775 Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence spent time in British custody as a prisoner of war at Charleston, South Carolina, where the unwholesome air and diet crushed his health. After his release, he reached the home of his friend John McKnitt Alexander, in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, only to breathe his last shortly thereafter in 1781.
William Jennings Bryan, Sr. — This Presbyterian statesman and lawyer is most famous today for his role in the 1925 Scopes Trial in Tennessee regarding the teaching of evolution. He won the case for the prosecution (contra evolution), which was decided on July 21, 1925, though he lost in the court of public opinion. However, he passed away in his sleep just five days later on July 26, 1925.
Aaron Burr, Sr. — Burr was the second president of the College of New Jersey (Princeton). Like the next two succeeding presidents (Jonathan Edwards and Samuel Davies), Burr preached a New Year’s sermon on Jeremiah 28:16 and died later that same year on September 24, 1757.
James Caldwell — The “Fighting Parson” of the American War of Independence, “Rev. Caldwell was picking up a traveler in his buggy. After carrying the baggage to the horse-drawn buggy, he went back to pick up a package. An American sentry ordered him to stop but distance precluded the command from being heard. With that, the sentry fired and killed Rev. Caldwell on November 24, 1781. At the trial and subsequent hanging of the sentry, there were rumors that he had been bribed by the British to kill the soldier parson. At any rate, he was buried beside his wife in the cemetery of the First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethtown, New Jersey. A monument was placed up honoring him in 1846. Three towns in New Jersey are named after him, including an educational facility.” — This Day in Presbyterian History
Samuel Davies — Davies was the fourth president of the College of New Jersey (Princeton). Like each of the prior two presidents (Aaron Burr, Sr. and Jonathan Edwards), Davies preached a New Year’s sermon on Jeremiah 28:16 (“This Very Year Thou Shalt Die!”), and by February 4, 1761, Davies had passed away from pneumonia.
Moses Drury Hoge — “On Friday, November 4, 1898, Moses Drury Hoge was heading home after consoling a bereaved family when he suddenly heard the clanging bell of a trolley as it rammed into his buggy. He was thrown into the air and landed on his right side on the stone pavement and was severely injured. Dr. Hoge suffered with his injuries until he died on January 6, 1899.” — Presbyterians of the Past
George Howe — "In the case of George Howe, his fatal injury occurred after the Lord’s Day service. He was riding home when he was thrown from his carriage resulting in the breaking of one of his legs. He survived through two weeks of suffering before dying on April 15, 1883.” — Presbyterians of the Past
James Latta — An Irish-American Presbyterian who served as the third moderator of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, “The circumstances of his death, as related by one of his daughters, were as follows: — Riding to church one Sabbath with his daughter Mary, he was thrown from the carriage, and falling on his head, he was somewhat stunned. He observed to her, — ‘I am killed; but do not tell your mother.’ He proceeded to church, preached with some difficulty, and returned home. He soon after fell into a sleepy, comatose state, until his daughter, the next day, alarmed, related to her mother what had happened. Help was immediately called in, but in vain. He continued a few days, almost insensible, and then died.” — This Day in Presbyterian History
John Greshem Machen — After traveling to North Dakota in December 1936, Machen developed an inflammation of the lungs, and then was hospitalized for pneumonia. Before he passed away on January 1, 1937, at the age of 55, he dictated a telegram to his friend and colleague John Murray in which he stated: “I'm so thankful for active obedience of Christ. No hope without it."
Nathaniel Smyth McFetridge — In 1881, McFetridge was seriously injured in a railroad accident, and never fully recovered. He passed away on December 3, 1886 at Minneapolis, Minnesota at the age of 44.
Charles Henry Parkhurst — Parkhurst died on September 8, 1933, by sleepwalking and walking off the porch roof of his Ventnor City, New Jersey, home.
David Ramsay — Famed Presbyterian historian David “Ramsay was appointed by a court to examine one William Linnen, a tailor known for serial litigation and nuisance suits, after Linnen had attempted to murder his attorney. Ramsay reported to the court that Linnen was ‘deranged’ and that it would be ‘dangerous to let him go at large.’ After apparently regaining his sanity, Linnen was released; though he threatened Ramsay, the latter did not take the threat seriously.
On May 6, 1815, at 1:00 p.m., Ramsay passed Linnen on Broad Street in Charleston. Linnen took out a ‘horseman's pistol’ that he had concealed in a handkerchief, and shot Ramsay twice, in the back and hip. According to a contemporary source:
Having been carried home, and being surrounded by a crowd of anxious citizens, after first calling their attention to what he was about to utter, he said ‘I know not if these wounds be mortal; I am not afraid to die; but should that be my fate, I call on all here present to bear witness, that I consider the unfortunate perpetrator of this deed a lunatic, and free from guilt.’
Ramsay died at 7 a.m. on May 8, 1815.” — Wikipedia
William Tennent III — “In 1777, upon the death of his minister father, he sought to bring his surviving mother to South Carolina. In that trip, he was seized with fever and died on the way. It was said that his mind was calm at the sudden turn of events and that he was willing to die. Thus, on this Day in August 11, 1777, he went into the presence of his heavenly Father.” — This Day in Presbyterian History
Samuel Hall Young — This pioneer missionary who survived an accident on an Alaskan glacier decades previously was hit and killed by a streetcar in Clarksburg, West Virginia on September 2, 1927.