Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 19, 1968

Five Score Years And Five

Earl Kimbrough

"Eight thousand people! A veritable army, yet all baptized by one man." Thus began a story in the Birmingham News in 1926 telling about an aged gospel preacher who was then living near Vina, in Franklin County, Alabama. The preacher was John D. Dale and at the time he was one hundred and four years old. From the News report and some other sources we have pieced together a few interesting facts about this remarkable man.

John H. Dale was born in Ireland on November 29, 1822. When he was still a very young man he came to America and settled in Illinois. This was most likely in the late 1830's. Although he was a Roman Catholic from early life, he learned the gospel plan of salvation and was baptized by Barton W. Stone soon after coming to the New World. Stone himself had moved to the Prairie State from Kentucky in 1834 and made his home near Jacksonville, a few miles west of Springfield. Illinois was then on the American frontier and was regarded by easterners as the "far west." While living in this state, Stone gave much of his time to making preaching tours. However, in the summer of 1841 he suffered a stroke which left him crippled in body for the remaining three years of his life. It was evidently some time just prior to his stroke that Stone came in contact with and baptized John Dale. The young Irishman could hardly have been more than eighteen at the time.

A few years after being baptized by Stone, Dale began to preach the gospel and spent a great deal of time in the evangelistic field. He traveled extensively and in the early 1860's made a trip to Palestine, a very rare experience for that day. In old age he enjoyed recounting his experiences in the land of the Bible. His labors as a gospel preacher continued for more than sixty years. In fact, it was not until he was about ninety-five that he felt his strength not equal to the task and "resigned." His career included many phases of activity, but his main interest was the gospel. He claimed to have baptized more than eight thousand people. He was married and the father of two children, but his wife died shortly after the Civil War and he remained widower for half a century. It is not known what became of his children.

Brother Dale came to Vina, Alabama around 1913 when he was ninety-one and near the end of his preaching activity. Seven years later, his resources gone and his physical strength abating, he went to Russellville to make application to enter the county poorhouse. Brother T. H. Roberson, an elder of the Russellville church, learned about his being in town and the nature of his mission. He went to see the aged preacher and, after talking with him at length, told him that a man who had done as much as he had for the cause of righteousness should not have to spend his last days in the poorhouse. Brother Dale's plight was made known to the Russellville church and it gladly took up his support. With the help of a few individuals, the congregation clothed, boarded and otherwise cared for his material wants during the last seven years of his life.

Despite his advanced age, brother Dale's mind remained clear and active and he retained a bit of Irish wit in his conversation. He died December 10, 1927 and was buried in a cemetery near the place where he spent the last fourteen years of his life. Van A. Bradley, who then living at [sic] Phil Campbell conducted the funeral. It was given to John H. Dale to sojourn upon this earth a total of one hundred and five years and two months. How interesting it would be to know more fully the story of his abundant life.