The Reverend Alexander Dobbin was born in Londonderry, Ireland on February 4, 1742. His father was a sailor. Dobbin studied Latin and Greek in Londonderry and eventually studied in a Presbyterian Seminary in Glasgow, Scotland. He never pastored a church in Ireland, but had been trained from 1767-1774 with the express purpose of coming to America and establishing a congregation. Although the training was long, within a period of six weeks he was licensed, ordained, married, and sailing for America. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 4:20 PM on Thursday, December 18, 2008.
Christmas decorations of fruit grace the Alexander Dobbin House at 89 Steinwehr Avenue. Alexander Dobbin (1742-1809) was a Presbyterian Minister, educator, and community leader. In 1774 he purchased 300 acres of land and began to construct his house, which he finished in 1776. His school was a combined theological seminary and liberal arts college, or classical school, and was the first classical school west of the Susquehanna River.
Dobbin arrived in the Gettysburg area in 1774, twelve years before there was a Gettysburg, and purchased 300 acres of land. As a Reformed Presbyterian, he established a congregation at Rock Creek, approximately one mile north of the present town of Gettysburg. He also established a congregation at Greencastle in Franklin County, and made “missionary tours” to more remote areas. Eventually Dobbin split most of his time preaching in Gettysburg, where his Rock Creek Congregation had moved, and at Marsh Creek. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 4:20 PM on Thursday, December 18, 2008.
Dobbin was said to be short in stature, and always had a smile on his face. He dressed in short pantaloons with long stockings, and wore a wig. He had “a large pointed nose, and a bright black eye.” Dobbin also spoke with a heavy Irish accent. He would often be seen playing games of ball and other games with his parishioners. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 4:20 PM on Thursday, December 18, 2008.
Alexander Dobbin’s first wife was Isabella Gamble. When he would travel and stay at the houses of other people, naturally the talk turned to his family. He would sometimes say when asked how many children that he had, “Madam, I have seven sons, and every one of them has a sister.” This would excite his hosts until he explained that he had seven sons and one daughter. Eventually he and Isabella had ten children, seven sons and three daughters. One of his sons, Daniel, became a physician, and his son James became a lawyer. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 4:20 PM on Thursday, December 18, 2008.
The size of his family drove Alexander Dobbin to build this house in 1776 and begin a “classical school,” which was a combination liberal arts college and seminary. With so many children, he could not afford to send them to Europe to be educated. Therefore Dobbin started his own school to educate his children and others that wished to attend. This view was taken facing north at approximately 4:20 PM on Thursday, December 18, 2008.
Dobbin’s school, the first classical school west of the Susquehanna River, operated from 1788-1799. The school was well-respected, taught among other courses, Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, and influenced a generation of prominent individuals. Twenty five of his students became ministers. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 4:20 PM on Thursday, December 18, 2008.
Dobbin’s preaching style, which was described as “highly acceptable,” was listed as interesting, educational, and somewhat extemporaneous. That didn’t mean that everything he said in his sermons were “off the cuff” comments. He studied for his sermons, but did not write anything down or commit large passages to memory. He would make a brief analysis of his subject, and then “trust in his feelings for the delivery.” His voice was strong and “sonorous,” and his gestures were striking and somewhat “eccentric.” This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 4:30 PM on Tuesday, December 14, 2008.
When Dobbin first settled in the area, Adams County was part of York County. Dobbin was one of the community leaders who worked to establish Adams County in 1800. He was also one of two appointed commissioners to choose Gettysburg as the county seat. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 4:20 PM on Thursday, December 18, 2008.
Isabella Dobbin died on August 19, 1800 at the age of 49. Alexander Dobbin married Mary Irvin Agnew, the widow of Daniel Agnew, with whom she had nine children. Alexander Dobbin and Mary Irvin Agnew Dobbin did not have any children from their marriage. This view was taken facing north at approximately 4:20 PM on Thursday, December 18, 2008.
In October, 1808, while on his way to church in Gettysburg, Alexander Dobbin coughed and ruptured a blood vessel. He was no longer able to preach and he eventually developed “consumption.” Alexander Dobbin died on June 1, 1809 at the age of 67 years. He is buried at the graveyard of the Lower Marsh Creek Presbyterian Church. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 4:20 PM on Thursday, December 18, 2008.
See the following related posts:
Willoughby Run Quarry on December 4, 2008.
Gettysburg Diamond Christmas Lights on December 8, 2008.
Christmas Wreaths in the National Cemetery on December 9, 2008.
More Willoughby Run/McPherson Ridge Quarries on December 15, 2008.
Some Christmas Decorations at the Nicholas Codori House on December 17, 2008.