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Ryland T. Dillard, D. D.
By Samuel H. Ford, 1858

     Ryland T. Dillard was born in Caroline county, Virginia, on the 17th day of November, 1797. He was educated, for the most part, at the Concord and Rappahanock academies, which were, at that time, very flourishing institutions of learning.

     In the seventeenth year of his age, with all the ardor of youth, and with a patriotic zeal and determination which led him to dare every thing for his country's protection and redress, he volunteered in her service.

     In the eighteenth year of his age he was confirmed as a member of the Episcopal Church by Bishop Moore, of Virginia. He took upon him the vows of the church; but Christ had not formed within him the hope of glory; for he himself says of this period, "I was without saving knowledge of Jesus Christ."

     In 1818, at the age of twenty-one, he emigrated to Kentucky, and settled himself in Winchester. There he studied law and entered upon its practice. Success smiled upon him.

     In February, 1820, he was married to Pamela Ann Dudley, daughter of Capt. William E. Dudley, of Fayette county, and grand-daughter of Rev. Ambrose Dudley. This union has been blessed with nine children, seven of whom are still living, and six of that number are members of the church.

     In 1823 he was brought to a knowledge of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus, and united himself with the Baptist Church, having been baptized by Rev. Ambrose Dudley. His ordination took place the year following at East Hickman Church, in Jessamine county, where he immediately entered on his labors as pastor. At the time he accepted the charge of the church it was in a very feeble condition, numbering twenty-seven members, nominally, two of whom only were males, and one of these, a good brother, was so deaf that he had to be preached to through a trumpet. The committee that waited on Bro. Dillard and tendered to him the call of the little handful of God's children was composed of two sisters (now living), one of whom was for some time singing-clerk for the church. We mention these facts to show the condition the East Hickman Church was in when this faithful servant of God commenced his labors in her midst. Her present number and prosperity, as well as the flourishing condition of David's Fork Church, over which he has presided for more than twenty-five years, fully attest his zeal and faithfulness, and the blessing God has vouchsafed to his labors.

     In 1883 he was attacked with a fistulous disease, which threatened to bring him to an early grave. He was advised by wise counsel, Dr. B. W. Dudley, of Lexington, to take a sea-voyage; which advice (as it seemed nothing could be done to arrest and alleviate the disease) he followed, and in 1839 he crossed the Atlantic and traveled through England and France. After an absence of some months he returned very much improved in health. Whilst in Europe he wrote a series of letters, one of which we publish in connection with this sketch.

     Very soon afterwards he was appointed by Gov. Letcher Superintendent of Public Instruction in Kentucky, which arduous and responsible situation he filled with honor to himself and satisfaction to all. He was re-appointed to this same office by Gov. Owsley, and during his superintending of this most worthy and humane cause, extending over a period of between five and six years, he delivered lectures in almost all the counties of the State, thereby enlightening the public mind, and consequently breaking down the opposition of ignorance and prejudice, which stood as a barrier to the progress of light and knowledge.

     Through the advice of physicians, who feel it is the only means of his restoration to health, he has laid aside his labors with his churches for the past year. His affliction, which is of a chronic nature, seems to baffle the skill of his medical advisers, and he writes us that in all human probability it will take him to the grave.

     He has labored long, faithfully, and successfully in the cause of our blessed Lord and Master; and now, though deprived of the enjoyment of the pastoral relation, and thereby cut off, in a great measure, from usefulness, he is still doing all he can to forward and extend the great and glorious kingdom of the Prince Immanuel.

     "They also serve who stand and wait."

S. H. F.

[From Samuel H. Ford, editor, The Christian Repository, August, 1858, pp. 565-7.


     The delightful services were closed by a sermon from the venerable Dr. Ryland T. Dillard. This venerable man of God is regarded and loved as a father throughout all that country. By all classes respected and revered for his nobleness, his dignity, his piety, and talent, there are few men in any country more generally and devotedly esteemed. In closing his sermon, he alluded to the past. Remembered when the stand was occupied at that same spot years gone by, and those who occupied it: John Taylor, and James Suggett, and William Hickman, and Silas M. Noel, and Edmund Waller, when he was comparatively a young man among them. They were all gone. Their graves are around us, their spirits resting above. He referred to his age and infirmities - the oldest minister, and nearly the only old minister in the Association. A new generation of preachers has sprung up around him. He would soon sleep with the pioneer ministers of Kentucky. He could hardly expect to meet with the Association again; but he rejoiced to hear his young brethren preach the truth as they had during that meeting. He exhorted them to be firm, immovable. He closed with an eloquent appeal to the members and brethren to labor for God and truth, and, closing with a hymn, gave the parting hand amid a scene of affectionate tenderness which will be long remembered. Never in my life (I think) was my feelings so deeply moved. Loved man of God, never will that fatherly farewell be forgotten. Never.


[From Samuel H. Ford, Editor, The Christian Respository, November, 1859 - "Editorial", pp. 866-7. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

Additional Information:
An ACT for the Benefit of Ryland T. Dillard, and Others.
Approved, January 2, 1824.

Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, That Ryland T. Dillard, Daniel Curtis, Thomas Hort, James M'Cown, Robert Caldwell and John Simpson, be, and they are hereby entitled to draw from the treasury, out of any money therein not otherwise appropriated by law, the sum of one hundred dollars, (sixty dollars thereof to be drawn by said Dillard, Curtis, Hort, and M'Cown, and forty dollars therof by Proportion Caldwell and Simpson;) it being the reward to which they are entitled for the arrest of John Kees, who escaped from the penitentiary of this state; and that the auditor of public accounts be and he is hereby directed, upon application, to issue his warrant upon the treasury for the same.


Acts passed at the 1824 Session of the General Assembly for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, pp. 389-390.

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