April 23: Rev. David X. Junkin


junkinDXThe family was probably in its remotest ancestry Danish, but for many generations previous to the Revolution of 1688 had dwelt in Scotland. The Doctor’s maternal grandmother was Scotch, of the name of Wallace; his mother, Elinor Cochran born in Franklin county, Pa. The Junkins came to Pennsylvania early in the eighteenth century, and the grandparents of the Doctor to Cumberland about 1740, before Harrisburg was a town, and when Cumberland was a wilderness. His grandfather owned five hundred acres of land, on a part of which New Kingston now stands. The large stone-house, which he built a century and a quarter ago, is still standing north of that village.His father, Joseph Junkin, Esq., was born in Cumberland county, Pa., in January, 1750; his grandfather in county Down, Ireland. His father served three terms of voluntary enlistment in the Revolutionary army, and commanded a company at the battle of Brandywine, September 11, 1777, in which action he was seriously wounded.

In 1806 the family removed to “Hope Farm,” in Mercer county, where they built mills, and where the subject of this notice was born. He was the tenth son. He was educated at a school in Mercer, afterwards at the Mercer Academy. Then at the Milton Academy, under the celebrated teacher, Dr. Kirkpatrick, the teacher of Governors Curtin and Pollock, and other men who have risen to distinction in Church and State, and also in the medical profession.

After being prepared for the Junior class in college, young Junkin returned to Mercer and entered upon the study of the law in the office of the late Judge Banks.

After prosecuting legal study for two years—commencing at the age of seventeen—he resolved to complete his collegiate education, and for a time became a teacher, first in Northumberland, and then in Centre county, Pa. He was said to be fond of the profession, and quite successful as an instructor. After teaching for some time he repaired to Jefferson College, Pa., where he graduated A. B., in 1831.

Whilst in college he united with the Presbyterian church, and turned his attention to the Christian ministry. In college his contemporaries and professors considered him somewhat remarkable as a youth of genial affections, kind and generous impulses and proficient as a writer. He once was “contestor” as essayist for his literary society, and won the “honor.” After receiving the degree, in October, 1831, he repaired to Philadelphia, and spent the Winter of 1831-2 as a professor in the Pennsylvania “Manual Labor Academy,” at Germantown. In May, 1832, he entered the Theological seminary at Princeton, New Jersey, from which he graduated in the Fall of 1834. He had been, in October, 1833, licensed by the Presbytery of Philadelphia to preach the Gospel, and, soon after leaving the seminary, he was called to the pastorate of the First Presbyterian Church of Greenwich, New Jersey, and was ordained the pastor of it in the following Spring. In that pastorate he continued for nearly seventeen years, until he was called to F Street Church (now New York Avenue) Washington city, D. C.

Meanwhile, during his pastorate at Greenwich, which is just across the Delaware river from Easton, Pa.—the seat of Lafayette College—he was elected Professor of Belles Lettres by the trustees of that institution, and discharged the duties of that chair acceptably for seven years, until the increasing demands of his pastorate constrained him to resign. In 1834 he received from his alma mater the degree of A. M.

In 1845 he published, from the press of Wylie & Putnam, New York, the first edition of his work, entitled “The Oath, an Ordinance of God, and an Element of the Social Constitution,” which was highly commended by the press and the reviewers, and is quoted as standard on that subject. Shortly after this publication, the Columbia College, in the city of New York, conferred upon Mr. Junkin the degree of Doctor of Divinity.

After a very pleasant and successful pastorate of sixteen and a-half years at Greenwich, Dr. Junkin was called simultaneously to the pastoral office of the First Presbyterian Church at Chambersburg, Pa., and that of F Street, Washington City.

Personally he is said to have preferred the former, but, under advice of his Presbytery, accepted the latter.

In Washington he was the instrument, under God, of building up a strong church out of a weak one; and he there endeared himself, as he had done at Greenwich, to the people of his charge and to a large circle of other friends.

Some of the first minds in the country there sat under his ministry and appreciate it—such as Professor Joseph Henry, Governor McDowell, of Virginia, Gen. J. M. McCalla, the late Col. Nourse (the last two elders of the church), James Buchanan and others.

Whilst at Washington, Dr. Junkin made the acquaintance of the prominent men of the nation. At that time Webster, Clay, Benton, Calhoun, Graham, Cass, Fish, Filmore and men of like stamp in civil life, and Gen. Winfield Scott, Towson, Riley, Jessup and such soldiers were about the capital city. In October, 1853, Dr. Junkin accepted a unanimous call to Hollidaysburg, in his native State, and spent six and a-half years of a pleasant, laborious and profitable pastorate in that fine town and picturesque, locality.

His health being somewhat impaired, and needing rest from severe ministerial toil, he accepted the appointment of chaplain in the United States Navy, unexpectedly tendered him by his old friend, the President of the United States, and entered upon the duties of that office at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in May, 1860. On the 1st of January, 1861, under orders to that station, he entered upon duty as Chaplain of the United States Naval Academy, at Annapolis, Maryland. This was a very interesting field of labor, as his congregation was composed of the officers of the Academy and the midshipmen, some two hundred in number.

Captain, now Commodore Blake, was superintendent of the institution, and the Rodgers brothers were there, the one, Captain C. P. R. Rodgers (now Commodore), was Commandant of Midshipmen, and Lieutenant Geo. Rodgers in charge of the school-ship. This school-ship was the good old historical frigate, Constitution—”Old Iron-Sides”—the conqueror of the “Guerriere.”

During that Winter, Dr. Junkin preached regularly on board that frigate, and in the Academy chapel on shore, and made many pleasant acquaintances in city and naval circles.

But the mutterings of the civil war began to be heard, and after the assault on Fort Sumter there was a rush to arms, and troops began to hurry to Washington.

On the 18th of April Dr. Junkin went, via Baltimore and York, Pa., to Philadelphia, arriving in the latter city on the evening of the 19th. As he alighted from the cars, S. Bolivar Rowe approached him, asking in an excited manner: “Doctor, have you heard the news of the riot in Baltimore, and the burning of the bridge?” “Yes,” replied the doctor, “and it is startling news.” Said Rowe, “Gov. Curtin has just arrived from Harrisburg to try and forward troops to Washington, but they know not how to do it; two regiments that left this morning have returned—can’t get through Baltimore—and the authorities here are afraid that the rebels will take Washington before troops can be sent forward!” “Where is Gov. Curtin?” asked Junkin. “At the Continental.” “Well,” said the Doctor, “let us go thither forthwith and I can direct them how to forward troops.” They went to the hotel, but found that Gov. Curtin had gone up to the house of Gen. Patterson, in Locust street. Thither they hastened—rang the bell, and asked to see Gov. Curtin: “Can’t be seen, he is engaged with some officers in the General’s office,” said the porter. “Go tell Gov. Curtin,” said the Doctor, decisively, “that Dr. Junkin, of the United States Navy, must see him instantly on important public business.” This message brought the Governor to the parlor, where the following dialogue ensued:

“I understand, Governor, that you are at fault how to forward troops to Washington.”

Curtin replied, “Yes, Doctor, we know not what to do; we have plenty of troops here, but know not how to get them forward in season.” “It is to make a suggestion on that subject that I am come.” “You are acquainted about Baltimore, Doctor; can you tell me whether there is any road, say from ten to twelve miles north of Baltimore, on the Northern Central, by which troops can be moved across to the Relay House?”

“None, Governor; the roads all radiate from the city, but I have a better suggestion. I live at Annapolis, Maryland; the government has twenty-five acres of land and two good wharves at which to land troops and supplies at the Naval Academy, and I suggest that you at once charter or seize steamers and send troops to Annapolis. Keep the road from here to Perryville open by military guard, and you have a thoroughfare to Washington.” “But is there a railroad from Annapolis to Washington?” “A good single-track road to the junction, and double-track from thence to the city.” “That is the very thing,” said the Governor, “and I most heartily thank you for the suggestion.”

Dr. J. took his leave. The Governor returned to General Patterson’s office and reported the suggestion to the officers there assembled; and, as Governor Curtin afterwards said, “They all started to their feet exultingly.” Colonel Sherman exclaimed, “That is the very thing!” So said they all, and with that energy which marked the Governor’s conduct all through the war, he, General Patterson, and the officers present, at once hastened to put the suggestion in process of execution that very night.

Before morning the Massachusetts Eighth and the New York Seventh were en route; others followed. Annapolis was made the base of supplies, and the advance regiments marched into Washington just in season to deter the rebels from an assault contemplated the very night of their entrance.

It is true that General B. F. Butler has claimed the honor of making Annapolis a strategic point, but it rightfully belongs (Governor Curtin and General Patterson, and others have testified,) to the subject of this sketch.

In a speech made in New Castle in 1876, Governor Curtin publicly stated the above facts; (Dr. Junkin was absent from the city at the time). On his return to Annapolis, on Tuesday, April 23, Dr. Junkin was the instrument, by his self-possession and the risk of his own life, of preventing frightful destruction of life on Chesapeake Bay, opposite Annapolis. He was descending the bay in the large steam tug “Superior,” with fifty sailors and about three hundred Montgomery county volunteers. They were approaching the frigate “Constitution,” which had been hauled out for safety into the bay. The officers of the ship mistook the “Superior” for a hostile craft coming to take the frigate with armed men, two guns being also mounted at the bows of the tug, and no colors flying. They hailed, but could not hear the reply, and trained the ship’s broadside upon the thronged deck of the steamer.

“Come one rod nearer and I will blow you out of the water!” shouted Captain George Rodgers through his speaking-trumpet. Dr. Junkin had sprung upon one of the guns of the tug, where he waved a white handkerchief, and cried, “We are friends! we are friends!” but the wind was in his eye, and his voice not heard in the excitement of the moment. Still he cried, “I’m your chaplain! Do you think I would be in bad company?” Still he was unheard, though the vessels were now not two hundred feet apart. The word “fire!” was just about being given, when a midshipman rushed up to Captain Rodgers, exclaiming, “Captain, that man standing on, the Dahlgren gun is Dr. Junkin, our chaplain.” Then Rodgers recognized his chaplain, and the danger was over. Many lives would have been sacrificed but for his presence and exertions.

The Naval Academy was soon after ordered to Newport, Rhode Island, and the entire institution, officers, midshipman, and the whole personnel, with library, apparatus, &c., were transported on the ocean steamer “Baltic” to that city, landing at Fort Adams. Dr. Junkin continued to act as chaplain of the Academy until June, 1862, when he received orders to the receiving-ship “North Carolina” and the navy-yard at Brooklyn. He continued on duty there until September, when he was ordered to sea on the United States steam-frigate, “Colorado.” He joined his ship a Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and sailed in her first to Hampton Roads, Virginia, where she lay a month on guard-duty, and then proceeded to the West Indies and Key West, thence to the mouth of Mobile bay, opposite Fort, Morgan.

There the ship lay on blockade-duty for a year. But the Doctor’s health broke down, and the surgeons and Admiral Farragut advised him to take a month’s sick leave and go North. The Admiral, with whom he was on friendly terms, gave him leave-of-absence, and he returned to Brooklyn on board the steamer of that name. Just before he left the “Colorado,” his son William, paymaster in the navy, came on board, on his way from New Orleans to rejoin his ship, the “Potomac,” then lying at Pensacola, Florida. He had been to New Orleans for funds, of which he was bearing a large sum. That was the last interview between father and son in this life. A few weeks after his father sailed for the North, the son was cut down by yellow-fever in his twenty-second year. Dr. Junkin came to New Orleans in company with Admiral Farragut, and thence to New York. Whilst in the Gulf of Mexico he did a large amount of work, as he was the only chaplain in the East Gulf squadron.

He not only served in his own ship, but often conducted service and visited the sick: and wounded on other vessels. He instituted on his ship a school for the instruction of “contrabands,” some sixty of whom were on board, but he had to teach it himself, as no others were willing, although there were many professed friends of the Negro on board quite competent to teach if willing.

Pages upon pages might be filled with thrilling incidents connected with this part of Dr. Junkin’s life, both on sea and on shore, but the plan of this work will not admit of the detail. He kept a private “log” from which many extracts might be made. His exposure at sea and in a malarious climate—for the yellow fever was rife that year and was on the “Colorado”—had so sensibly impaired his health that he did not return to the Gulf of Mexico. Rheumatism set in and assumed a chronic form, from which he is still a sufferer. In consequence of this, after trying various methods of relief, he resigned his commission in the Navy and accepted a call to the North Presbyterian Church, in Chicago, hoping that a removal from the seaboard might result in the restoration of his health.

He served that church effectively for some two years, but instead of improving, his health grew worse under the moist and rigorous climate of that city, and he was constrained, with great reluctance, to resign his charge, which was so pleasant as a field of labor, and in which success seemed crowning his exertions.

He had received a unanimous call to the First Presbyterian Church of New Castle, Pa., in the Spring of 1866, and though still much disabled by rheumatism, he hoped that a return to his native air might be beneficial, and accordingly he accepted the call, and entered upon his duties in May, 1866. Since that date he has continued, amid much pain of body and other trials, a busy life as a Christian pastor. Although a sufferer, and hinder by bodily infirmity, his labors have been manifold, and have not been without tokens of God’s blessing upon them.

As might be expected in the case of a man of Dr. Junkin’s pronounced opinions and firm adherence to them, he has sometimes aroused opposition to his principles and person; but he is not a man who quails before opposition, if he is convinced that it proceeds from wrong principles or motives. People of integrity, it is believed, confide in him as a man of great kindness of heart and unswerving integrity, whilst those who differ with him in opinion, on temperance and other branches of moral reform in which he has been forward and firm, are apt to be severe and sometimes sour in their criticisms.

It is believed by all candid people, however, that his influence in New Castle has been always on the side of right, and that those who gainsay his course are no better members of the community, to say the least, than those who are his warm admirers and adherents. He is still enjoying, amid all his bodily infirmities, a green, active and cheerful old age.

Dr. Junkin has been a prolific writer. In addition to works already mentioned, he published, in 1857, his work entitled “THE GOOD STEWARD; or Evangelical Benevolence an Essential Element of Christianity,” which was published by the Presbyterian Board, and a second edition of his work on the “Oath” was issued about the same time, by the Martiens, of Philadelphia. In 1871, he published through the Lippincotts, of Philadelphia, his most extensive work, entitled, “GEORGE JUNKIN, D.D., L.L.D.A. A HISTORICAL BIOGRAPHY,” which contains not only the life of his brother, but a lucid history of the Presbyterian Church for the last half century. These works have had extensive sale.

Besides these, Dr. Junkin has given to the press many addresses, sermons and shorter publications, both in prose and verse, and has been one of the most voluminous writers for the periodical press.

For many years, including before and after the war, he wrote for the Presbyrian of Philadelphia, over the signature of “NESHANNOCK,” and his writings, whether narrative, descriptive or controversial, were always read with avidity.

The Doctor also wrote a biography of General Towson, one of the heroes of the War of 1812, which was published in New York in 1852.

This sketch of Dr. Junkin has been compiled by the historian from “scrapbook” jottings of the Doctor’s, made at various periods.  —  History of Lawrence County, 1877, pages 168-170

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