James Dicken was born of repectable parents in Madison county, Virginia, in the year 1785. His parents emigrated to Kentucky when he was but a youth, and about the year 1800 move to Boone county, and settled in the neighborhood of Bullittsburg Church. It was not long after this that both of his parents died, and the chief care of a large family and the education of the younger children devolved on him. Being thus early thrown upon his own resources, his manly traits of character, which were so prominent in after life, began early to be developed.
He was naturally of an amiable disposition, and his social, frugal and temperate habits, even in his youth, greatly endeared him to all his acquaintances. He possessed a quick, vigorous and sprightly mind, and native talents far above mediocrity. By application and diligent study, he was enabled to secure a fair English education, with comparatively small advantages from regular tuition. He was at one time under the tuition of Elder Absalom Graves, and, like Robert Kirtley, his immediate neighbor and associate and subsequent co-laborer in the Gospel, he received an impress from the character and spirit of that good man which was felt and seen in after life.
At the age of twenty-three he was joined in marriage with Peggy Ann Cloud, a genteel young lady, of respectable parentage, brought up in the immediate neighborhood. During the great revival of 1811, both of them experienced conversion, made a public profession of religion, and united with Bullittsburg Church. Soon after his baptism the mind of James Dicken was seriously exercised in view of preaching the Gospel. "His great anxiety for the salvation of souls and to promote the cause of Christ would occasionally constrain him to exercise his gift publicly in prayer and exhortation."* The brethren encouraged him so to exrcise; but, as his views became enlarged in relation to the magnitude of the work and the great responsibilities connected with it, he shrank back for some time from the undertaking. He was, however, active as a private member, and deeply interested in all the worship and acts of the church.
With the opening manifestations of the great revival of 1817 and 1818, came also the renewal of his former convictions, with an agonizing desire for the salvation of souls and the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom. With renewed zeal and courage he commenced again his public exercises of exhortation and prayer. At this time, from his advanced growth in grace and knowledge, with seasonable encouragments from his brethren, "and above all succored by the helping grace of God." he was enabled "by a kind of holy boldness to press forward in the ministry." The wonderful manifestations of divine grace during that most extraordinary revival, which continued through many months, called forth all the energies of his mind and exercises of his heart in promoting the Master's cause, and greatly stimulated his growth in piety, knowledge and active usefulness; so that, after frequent encouragements from the church, he was in July, 1819, formally licensed to preach the Gospel "wherever God in his providence should cast his lot." This ministerial growth was steady, yet rapid and full of satisfaction to the church; and on the 3d of June, 1820, he was ordained to the work of the ministry. He was at this time about thirty-five years of age -- a young man of great promise.
Taylor speaks of him as "a choice young minister," presenting in his robust, manly appearance "the very picture of health." "He was a man of excellent abilities, of fine appearance and address, and his heart and life were much adorned with the graces of the Spirit." He lived only about six years after his ordianation; but these were years of great activity and uninterrupted progress and usefulness. During this period he was most iontimately associated with Absalom Graves and Robert kirtley in ministerial labor. The three jointly served the church at Bullittsburg. Their ministry was much interlinked in supplying other churches, and they made frequent and extensive tours of evangelical labor through northern Kentucky, south-eastern Indiana and sout-western Ohio. James Dicken was for two or three years pastor of the Baptist church in Aurora, Indiana. Wherever he labored statedly, of even occasionally, indeed, as far as he was known, he was held in great esteem by his brethren.
About two years previous to his death, he labored with great efficiency through one of those pervading and long-continued revivals of religon with which Bullittsburg and some of her neighboring churches were so graciously favored. It was worth a life-time to be a participant in one of those glorious revivals. The ministerial course of James Dicken was brief, yet characterized by a bold and fervent spirit, and by unwearied activity,
"He was a bright and shining light;" and bid fair to fill a place of prominence in the ministry. But in the the very prime of his youthful manhood, he was cut down in a few weeks by a violent fever.
He died on the 10th of June, 1826, aged forty-one years. His faithful and pious widow, has also long since gone to her reward. A son and several daughtes still survive their godly parents. And many there are who join them in fondly cherishing the memory of James Dicken.
* This and other quotations, except those accredited to "The History of Ten Churches," are taken from a sketch prepared by Elder Robert Kirltey, approved by the church and spread upon her records. Other facts learned from Elder Robert Kirtley.
[James A. Kirtley, History of Bullittsburg Church with Biographies, 1872, pp. 50-52. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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