Deems, Charles Force

Life Span
Dickinson Connection
Class of 1839
    Full name
    Charles Force Deems
    Place of Birth
    Birth Date Certainty
    Death Date Certainty
    Sectional choice
    Slave State
    No. of Spouses
    Anna Disoway (wife, 1843)
    Dickinson (Carlisle College)
    Other Education
    Randolph Macon College, VA
    Writer or Artist
    Church or Religious Denomination

    Charles Force Deems (Dickinson Chronicles)

    Charles Force Deems was born in Baltimore, Maryland on December 4, 1820, the son of George and Mary Roberts Deems.  The family was very pious - his mother was the daughter of a Methodist minister - and from a young age Deems exhibited signs of his future calling, once preaching temperance in public at the age of thirteen.  He entered Dickinson College in 1835 with the intention of a career in the law.  By the time he graduated in 1839, however, he was well on his way to joining the clergy and entered the Methodist ministry in Asbury, New Jersey.

    Soon after, however, Deems began his sojourn in the South when he accepted a post in 1840 as general agent for the American Bible Society of North Carolina. This led to a professorship at the University of North Carolina, teaching logic and rhetoric from 1842 to 1848.  He moved on to Randolph-Macon College in Virginia for a year in 1849, teaching natural sciences.  At the end of that year he was named as pastor of the Methodist chapel at New Berne, North Carolina.  He had barely taken up his duties when he was elected to the presidency of Greensboro (N.C.) Women's College and served there until 1854.  He then returned to the New Berne district, concentrating on his pastorate and beginning his writing career in earnest.

    Secession and the Civil War brought rifts in Methodism as well, and Deems chose to remain loyal to North Carolina and the South.  His eldest son was killed in action in the service of the Confederacy.  In late 1865, nevertheless, he removed his family to New York City where his career as an author blossomed with the editorship of a newspaper called The Watchman.  He also began to preach independently in halls he hired himself, founding a congregation he called The Church of Strangers.  His popularity grew, as did his connections among the wealthy of the metropolis.  Cornelius Vanderbilt, for example, despite his life-long resolve against philanthropy, broke down at last in 1870 and built a permanent church for "the Strangers"; Deems may well have been the main influence behind the tycoon's 1873 gift of a million dollars which helped found Vanderbilt University.

    Although he had been writing since he left Dickinson, Deems' time in New York City produced his most notable works.  His writing in opposition to the theory of evolution was particularly well known, especially his 1885 effort Scotch Verdict in re Evolution.

    In June 1843, he married Annie Disoway of New York.  After an energetic life of ministry, writing, and travel, Charles Force Deems died in New York City on November 18, 1893. He was three weeks short of his seventy-third birthday.
    John Osborne and James W. Gerencser, eds., “Charles Force Deems,” Dickinson Chronicles,

    Charles Force Deems (Dickinson Alumni Record)

    *Deems, Charles Force – Born December 4, 1820, in Baltimore, Md ; A. B., 1839; D. D., Randolph Macon, 1850; LL. D., 1889; 1841, professor of rhetoric and logic in the University of North Carolina; 1847, professor of natural science in Randolph Macon college, Va.; 1850, president of Greensboro college, North Carolina; 1866-93, pastor of the Church of the Strangers, New York; 1877, founded “Sunday Magazine” ; 1877-80, editor “Sunday Magazine” ; 1881, president American institute of Christian philosophy; married June 20, 1843, Anna Disoway of New York city. Published “What Now,” “Home Altar,” “Weight and Wings,” “Who was Jesus,” “Triumph of Peace,” “Devotional Melodies,” “The Light of the Nations,” “The Watchman,” “Christian Thoughts,” Sermons, Reviews, &c.; U. P. society. Died November 18, 1893.
    George Leffingwell Reed, ed., Alumni Record: Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA: Dickinson College, 1905), 97.
    How to Cite This Page: "Deems, Charles Force," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,