submitted by Neal Carter, November 28, 2007


John Hudson was born at Lexington, Ky., July 29, 1800. His father was a prosperous merchant of that city, dying when the subject of our sketch was a lad of 15 or 16 years. Visitors to Lexington speak of the old Hudson homestead and place of business as still standing on Main street, Lexington, just opposite the Court House where Henry Clay won his earlier fame. Soon after his father’s death, the son was sent to Transylvania college, where he attached himself, while a student, to the Presbyterian church of the city, under the pastorate of Rev. Dr. Bishop, president for many years subsequently of Miami University, Ohio. One can imagine how impressive would be the influence of the masterful intellect upon the plastic mind of the young student.

It was also during his college life here that our subject formed the acquaintance of the Breckenridges, of Kentucky, for whom, especially the Revs. John and Robert, and their venerable mother, he entertained great admiration and the mention of whose names kindled pleasant memories in his heart while life lasted. Mr. Hudson’s theological training was received at Princeton, he and the Rev. John Breckenridge entering the seminary together and being classmates and room-mates at that institution. The name of John Breckenridge recalls the fact that he was the father of Judge Breckenridge of St. Louis, who fell dead during the recent session of the General Assembly at Detroit.

The two classmates returned to Kentucky together, Mr. H. making his home at the Breckenridge mansion during the months that followed his ordination, and joining with his chum in the general work of the ministry in that part of Kentucky.

In 1824 Mr. Hudson was married to Elizabeth, daughter of David Bell, a farmer who had emigrated from near Staunton, Virginia, somewhere near the beginning of the century, and settled upon a beautiful tract of land nearly contiguous to the now famous Ashland, the home of Henry Clay. It was here that their four eldest children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Hudson, and where one lies buried. Mr. Hudson’s first pastorate was at Nicholasville, the seat of Jessamine county.

In 1832 he accepted a call from the church at Franklin, Warren county, Ohio, where he remained for 12 years, and where his younger children were born.

In 1843 he moved to Tennessee, to take charge of a church in Mandy county, near Columbia, as well as to preside over Union Seminary, the principal institution of learning in that part of the country. In this educational enterprise, he had the co-operation of two young gentlemen who had just graduated from Woodard College, Cincinnati, the one taking the professorship of languages, the other, of mathematics. These young men were Stanley and Charles Mathews, the former having fulfilled the promise of his youth as a distinguished barrister and Justice of the United States Supreme Court. At the solicitation of his children he subsequently returned to Ohio, and it was while pastor of the church at Xenia, Greene Co., that he was induced by many of his old friends removing hither, to turn his face towards the then far distant Iowa. Perhaps a small investment in land in the then sparsely settled country near West Liberty may have been a part consideration for this westward movement.

It was early in May, 1847, when he landed with his family at the Muscatine wharf, having made the trip from St. Louis in that staunch little steamer “The Falcon,” commanded by Captain Legrand Morehouse. There was plenty of work ready at his hands in Muscatine, where he accepted the pastorate of the Presbyterian church then holding its meetings in a two-story frame house on Walnut street, opposite the Kemble House, where he had among his auditors Ralph P. Lowe, since governor and supreme judge, Clinton Hastings, subsequently a supreme judge of two states, and other notables. The society was sorely straightened in money matters, but ……..…….. house of worship,

Pastor Hudson went on a missionary tour to some of his wealthier friends in the older states, and his friends in Lexington, Ky., being especially liberal, the result of his mission was the erection of a neat and commodious brick edifice on Mulberry street, opposite Court Square, of which a fragment is left, jutting out from a corner of Barry & Son’s big establishment. This edifice was a handsome monument to Mr. Hudson’s earnest endeavors, and was used by the society until 1855, in which year the writer often attended service there; but we believe that it was in the same year that the society removed to its present elegant home on the Avenue. From Muscatine, Mr. Hudson went to his farm near West Liberty, but continued preaching for a number of years in a little church erected by the society near Old Liberty somewhere in the ‘50s, and also conducting services at various paints within striking distance of his home until the infirmities of age left him content to sit in his easy chair and read his old Philadelphia Presbyterian to which he had been a constant subscriber for upwards of sixty years. He passed peacefully away on the 25th of May, his last words being as he tossed his arms toward Heaven, “OPEN WIDE THE GATES!”

This sketch reveals little but the ministerial side of the venerable pastor, and it must be said that that side was compactly built up with good, strong Calvinism, as it should have been in the oldest Alumnus living of Orthodox Princeton. But there was another side, equally a factor in his career, else how shall we account for Muscatine county’s Recorder, the son, John Hudson? Our sketch speaks little of his educational work, for wherever he went, pupils flocked to his study, young gentlemen preparing for college, young ladies desiring to add a classic finish to their limited education, and as many of these pupils rose to distinction and graced the higher walks of life, their correspondence with him was a source of the keenest enjoyment. His intimate acquaintance with the Clays, Breckenridges, Mathews, Ewings and other leading families of Kentucky and Ohio had bequeathed him a fund of entertaining reminiscence and anecdote which gave charm to his conversation, while his study of the Negro character, its oddities, whimsicalities, its superstitions, exaltations and purely religious side, were themes for his humor and philosophy as well as for his earnest praise.

How great the pleasure to meet this aged pilgrim, carrying his four-score and more years with such elasticity, greeting one with a smile as frank and open as youth’s, and the perennial springtime of immortality as strong as Holy Writ. We heard with no surprise that his last words on earth, but uttered not for mortal ear, were, “OPEN WIDE THE GATES!”

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