Ransom Dunn

Ransom Dunn

Rev. Ransom Dunn, D.D. (July 7, 1818 – November 9, 1900) (nickname: "the Grand Old Man of Hillsdale")[1] was an American minister and theologian, prominent in the early Free Will Baptist movement in New England. He was President of Rio Grande College in Ohio, and Hillsdale College in Michigan.[2][3] A Discourse on the Freedom of the Will is one of his most notable works.

Early years

Dunn was born in the town of Bakersfield, in the north corner of Vermont to John (died 1835) and Abigail Reed Dunn (died 1858), a family of English and Scots descent.[4] Three brothers, Hiram, Lewis, and Thomas, also became ministers;[5] there were at least two older half-brothers, Joab and John.[6] He had at least one sister, Amanda Dunn Montague.[7]

Around 1840 Dunn attended the Baptist Seminary (later named Cobb Divinity School at Bates College) in New Hampton, New Hampshire.[8] In 1873 he received an honorary doctorate from Bates College in Maine, which was then affiliated with the seminary.[9]


Hillsdale College photo from, A consecrated life, a sketch of the life and labors of Rev. Ransom Dunn, D.D., 1818–1900

On the third Sabbath in August, 1837, Ransom Dunn, at the request of the Lenox church, was ordained to the gospel ministry.[10] Among his most important pastorates were in the cities of Dover, New Hampshire, Great Falls, New Hampshire, New York City, and Boston, Massachusetts.[8] By 1843, he was recording secretary of the Home Mission Society. In 1849, he began preaching at the Stuyvesant Institute in New York City. He became a pastor of the Free Will Baptist Church of Boston.

He is known for his publication A Discourse on the Freedom of the Will, published in 1850.[11] With John Jay Butler, he published Lectures on systematic theology: embracing the existence and attributes of God, the authority and doctrine of the scriptures, the polllinstitutions and ordinances of the gospel in 1892. Dunn once mused, "The real value of colleges and universities is not to be estimated by the magnitude of buildings or endowments, but by the increase of mental power and moral force."[12]

Dunn taught at Geauga Seminary (where he taught future president James Garfield and First Lady Lucretia Garfield), and he was a professor at Spring Arbor University.[13] He was the first President (1876–1879)[2] as well as professor of mental and moral philosophy at Rio Grande College.[14] He was later the president of Hillsdale College, Michigan,[3] its dean, Burr professor of Christian Theology,[8] and professor emeritus of moral theology.[15] Dunn secured the school's original financial support by riding on horseback for thousands of miles through the frontier lands of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin in the early 1850s, gathering donations.[16] In Minneapolis in 1882, at the 25th General Conference of the Free-will Baptist Church, Dunn was chosen to be the moderator.[17]

Personal life

In 1838, he met a relative of Ethan Allen, Mary Eliza Allen (died 1848), and they married in Ohio soon thereafter.[18] They had three children. Sons Newell Ransom Dunn (1841–1863) and Francis Wayland Dunn (Wayne, Ohio 1843–1874)[4] both served in the Civil War.[3] The youngest was a daughter, Cedelia Dunn (1845–1858).[19] In September 1849, he married Cyrena A. Emery (1824–1896) in Dover, New Hampshire;[20] and they lived in Boston. They had at least three children, daughters, S. Abbie Dunn Slayton, Helen ("Nellie") Dunn Gates, and Nettie Dunn.[21] Daughter Helen was the author of A consecrated life, a sketch of the life and labors of Rev. Ransom Dunn, D. D., 1818–1900.[5]

Dunn died in 1900 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He is buried with his wife, Cyrena, at Oak Grove Cemetery, Hillsdale, Michigan.[19]

Partial works


  1. ^ "Ransom Dunn". hillsdalesites.org. Retrieved 28 January 2011.
  2. ^ a b "Rio History". University of Rio Grande. Retrieved 28 January 2011.
  3. ^ a b c "Michigan in the Civil War". University of Michigan. August 5, 2007. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  4. ^ a b 150 years in the hills and dales: a bicentennial history of Hillsdale County, Michigan. Hillsdale County Historical Society and the Hillsdale County Bicentennial Commission. 1978. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  5. ^ a b Gates, Helen Dunn (1901). A consecrated life: a sketch of the life and labors of Rev. Ransom Dunn, D. D., 1818–1900. The Morning star publishing house. p. 9. Retrieved 28 January 2011. Cite error: The named reference "Gates1901" was defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  6. ^ Gates (1901), p. 31
  7. ^ Gates (1901), p. 18
  8. ^ a b c "Rev. Ransom Dunn, D.D." Free Baptist Cyclopaedia. Wisconsin Freewill Baptist Historical Society. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  9. ^ General catalogue of Bates college and Cobb divinity school, 1863–1915 By Bates College. Lewiston, Me, Cobb Divinity School. Lewiston, Me
  10. ^ Educators of Michigan: Biographical. J. H. Beers & co. 1900. p. 54. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  11. ^ Dunn, Ransom (1850). A discourse on the freedom of the will. W. Burr, Printer. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  12. ^ Brackney, William H. (October 2008). Congregation and campus: Baptists in higher education. Mercer University Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-88146-130-5. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  13. ^ Patterson, John C. (1883). "History of Hillsdale College". pure-michigan.com. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  14. ^ "Raccoon Township". History of Gallia County. Chicago & Toledo: H. H. Hardesty & Co., Publishers. 1882. Retrieved 28 January 2011.
  15. ^ Wiley, Frederick Levi (1892). Centennial souvenir of the New Hampshire Yearly Meeting of Free Baptists: 1792–1892. Pub. by the Board of Directors. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  16. ^ Gilbert, Arlan K. (June 2007). "06/2007". Imprimis. Hillsdale College. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  17. ^ Appletons' Annual Cyclopaedia and Register of important events of the year 1882... New series, vol. VII. Whole series, vol. XXII. New York: D. Appleton. 1883. p. 53.
  18. ^ Gates (1901), pp. 62–3
  19. ^ a b "Dr Ransom Dunn". findagrave.com. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  20. ^ Gates (1901), p. 90
  21. ^ Burgess, Gideon Albert; Ward, John T. (1889). Free Baptist cyclopaedia: historical and biographical : the rise of the Freewill Baptist Connection and of those general and open communion Baptists which, merging together, form one people, their doctrines, polity, publications, schools and missions, with brief biographies of ministers and others identified with the growth and strength of the denomination / by Rev. G.A. Burgess, Rev. J.T. Ward. Free Baptist Cyclopaedia Co. pp. 173–75. Retrieved 28 January 2011.


  • The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans; John Howard Brown, 1904

External links

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