First Chaplain of the Kentucky Militia – James Moore

by John Trowbridge, Kentucky National Guard Historian

James Moore, early 1800s
Oil on canvas by
Samuel Dearborn
Courtesy Special Collections & Archives: Artwork: 19th Century Art.  Transylvania University.

July of this year marks the 245th anniversary of the U. S. Army’s Chaplain Corps, what better way to celebrate this significant milestone than to tell the story of the Kentucky National Guard’s first Chaplain.

Lexington, Kentucky, was known as the “Athens of the West,” experiencing numerous notable occurrences and achievements during the period 1795 to 1833, becoming an intellectual and religious center.  The first institute of higher learning west of the Alleghenies, Transylvania University, was established in Danville in 1780, relocating to Lexington in 1789.  The university is still located in Lexington and was known as “The Tutor to the West.”  Many religious organizations were founded in Lexington that would become firsts for the state and in some cases America’s first western frontier.  Christ Church Episcopal was founded in 1796 and was the first Episcopal congregation west of the Allegheny Mountains.

One man was at the center of these notable events in the early history of Lexington and the Commonwealth.  Reverend James Moore.  Reverend Moore was the inaugural president of Transylvania University, the first university west of the Allegheny Mountains.  He was the first Episcopal priest to settle in and establish an Episcopal Church in Kentucky (now Christ Church Cathedral located in Lexington).  In 1803, he served as the first Chaplain of the Kentucky Militia (now Kentucky National Guard).  While Reverend Moore contributed much to the early history of Lexington and the Commonwealth, very little is known or has been written about his life and accomplishments.

James Moore was born in early 1765 in Walkers Creek near Rockbridge in Augusta County, Virginia, a son of John and Jane Walker Moore.  The Moore family originally emigrated from Ireland to colonial Pennsylvania, and his ancestors later moved south into Virginia.  Moore attended Liberty Hall Academy in Lexington, Virginia (later named Washington Academy, now Washington and Lee University) during the mid to late 1780s.  Moore was regarded by his fellow classmates as being so serious as to provoke ridicule, “and his timidity and reserve perhaps accounted for his few friends.”  He had a love of music and played the flute.  He was described as “tall, gaunt, somewhat neglectful of dress.”  It is believed Moore graduated in 1789, however, due to records having been destroyed, researchers are unable to determine if he graduated or received a degree.

On September 6, 1790, in Louisa County, Virginia, Moore married Margaret Todd.  Her parents were the Reverend John and Margaret Thomson Todd, of Louisa County.  In 1791, the newlyweds ventured to Lexington, Kentucky (then still part of Virginia).  Seven children would eventually be born to this union.  James Moore had migrated to Kentucky to become a candidate for the ministry in the Presbyterian Church, which he did in April 1792.   The Moore’s were welcomed to Lexington by members of Mrs. Moore’s family that had already settled in the area.  They built their first home on the southwest side of Main Street and running back to Water Street, living there until 1798, when Moore built Vaucluse, three miles outside of Lexington on the Georgetown Road, where he would reside until his death in 1814.  Moore named his secluded home after the fountain of Vaucluse, the source of the stream Sorgue, located near the French village of Avignon, the adopted hometown of Italian humanist poet and scholar, Francis Petrarch.  Though changed through the years under ownership of other families, Moore’s home still stands in a secluded section along the Georgetown Pike in Lexington.

The Transylvania Seminary, a classical preparatory academy led by Presbyterians but open to students of all denominations, was impressed by the newly arrived Moore’s academic stature and he became its director in September 1791.  Due to the small salary he received for the position Moore was allowed to charge an additional fee for the reaching of the Greek and Roman classics.  In 1791 – 1792, while operating the seminary in his home, he studied for the ministry, but he was refused licensure to the ministry by the Transylvania Presbytery, when some of the members of the presbytery asked him to repeat two sermons they had missed, he refused and was dismissed as a candidate.

Soon after Moore met with members of the “Episcopal Society” in Lexington.  Upon discovering that the differences between his beliefs and those of the small group of Episcopalians were minimal, Moore entered the clergy of the Episcopal Church. 

Moore traveled back to Virginia to be ordained as deacon by Episcopal Bishop James Madison on December 27, 1794.  Bishop Madison would later ordain him a priest as well.  Returning to Kentucky Moore quickly gained the support of Lexington’s growing Episcopal community.  Episcopalians were still a minority in Kentucky, while most people around Lexington remained allied with the Presbyterian Church.

In 1796, Reverend Moore became first rector of the recently formed Episcopal Christ Church Cathedral in Lexington, becoming the first minister to establish an Episcopal Church in Kentucky, or west of the Allegany Mountains.  Moore began holding services in what was described as “a dilapidated little frame house on the corner of Market and Middle Streets.”  In 1803 a small brick church replaced the little house.  On July 2, 1809, the parish was formally organized, and the first vestry chosen.  Reverend Moore was appointed minister, to officiate every fortnight (every two weeks) at a salary of two hundred dollars a year.  On December 9, 1809, at a meeting of the vestry, Reverend Moore and William Macbean were appointed a committee to draft a petition to the Kentucky Legislature for an act to incorporate the Episcopal Congregation, but the act was not passed until January 17, 1860.  From these humble beginnings the church has grown to what is today’s Christ Church Cathedral located on the grounds of the “dilapidated little framer house.”  All of this from the work started by Reverend Moore.

While continuing to teach at his home, in the spring of 1793, Moore warned the Transylvania Seminary board that he may have to resign his position due to low pay and poor prospects.  In his report to the board in April of that year he stated:

I am sorry to have to confess that our success has not answered the most moderate expectations.  Circumstances to which our failure may be attributed will occur to every person on reflection.  Our unaccomodated [sic] situation, want of teachers, neglect on the part of those who ought to be our patrons, no prospect of honorary degrees to stimulate the ambition and dilligence [sic] of students, and nothing to draw the attention of the public from which we have a right to expect additional funds as well as students.

Additionally, Moore accused the trustees of being indifferent and failing to provide adequate rules for academic discipline.  Moore remained Transylvania Seminary’s director until an internal dispute split the faculty and the board of trustees into factions.  One portion of the board elected Harry Toulmin as acting president in 1794, replacing Moore’s role as director, and resulting in an official schism within Transylvania Seminary.  Some members of the faculty and board, left to form the Kentucky Academy, located near Versailles in Woodford County.  Moore was appointed teacher of the grammar school and served on the board of trustees of the Academy. 

Moore’s respectable standing with both denominations earned him eventual positions at the head of both Kentucky Academy and again at Transylvania Seminary.  His favorable reputation around Lexington would become important once Transylvania University was established.  Moore’s influence unified the rift between these two academic institutions by citing a common cause of teaching individuals how to better serve God, and in December 1798, Kentucky Academy and Transylvania Seminary merged by consent of trustees of both institutions and Act of the General Assembly of Kentucky under the name Transylvania University.  Consolidation was made under the original laws which governed Transylvania Seminary as enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia.  Reverend James Moore was named the university’s first President.

Transylvania University would provide valuable educational opportunities to individuals living along the western frontier.  Additionally, Moore took up a faculty position as a Professor of Moral Philosophy, Logic, Metaphysics, and Belles-lettres.  Due to his diligent efforts and leadership, in those early years, Transylvania soon grew from a mere grammar school into the first major university in the western frontier.  During his tenure, medical and law schools were founded which greatly increased the prestige of the university.

From 1796 to 1804 Moore served as president and professor of Transylvania, helping lay the foundation for academic excellence in the first university west of the Alleghenies.  There are two thoughts as to why Reverend Moore left Transylvania University in 1804, the first was due to poor health and the second was because of his relatively liberal ideas towards religion which were not popular among the more conservative Presbyterian members of the board, however, and despite student protests he was replaced in 1804.  Moore remained on the university’s board of trustees until 1808. 

On July 16, 1803, Reverend James Moore became the first Chaplain of the Kentucky Militia (now Kentucky National Guard).  Reverend Moore was assigned to the 42nd Regiment 3rd Brigade, 5th Division, at Lexington.  The 42nd Regiment was organized with men from Fayette County.  It was established by Act of June 24, 1792, and was laid out December 16, 1799.  The first regimental commander was Colonel Cornelius Beatty, December 16, 1799, followed by Colonel Richard Deadmon on December 9, 1803.  There is no service record on Moore, his name appears in the Record of the Official Proceedings of the Executive: Part the Fifth, Commencing with August 1799 and Comprehending a Register of Commissions Issued to Captains, Lieutenants and Ensigns, on the listing for 1799 – 1804, but is his name does not appear on the 1805 – 1811 list.  We can only assume that Reverend Moore serve in this capacity for one to two years, and most likely in name only.  It is curious to note that his commander, Cornelius Beatty also served on the Transylvania University board of trustees.  During this period there were no active operations of the Kentucky Militia, and by law, the militia only conducted annual musters or by a call-out by the commander. 

Reverend Moore is credited as one of the individuals who contributed to the development of music in Lexington, and perhaps Lexington’s first music enthusiast.  When the Reverend Moore constructed Vaucluse on the Georgetown Pike, he personally supervised the creation of a parlor designed for recitals and musicales.  It was a square room with a high ceiling and special material to provide the best acoustics possible.  The room was flanked by two chambers, opening onto a recessed portico.  Information on musical events at Vaucluse is lacking, but it seems likely that this room was filled with the strains of the best music Lexington could provide during receptions given by the Moore’s.

In the imagination of Kentucky author James Lane Allen, (considered Kentucky’s first important novelist) Moore was a gentle, music-loving person with a great, tender heart.  In his 1897, The Choir Invisible, Allen has Moore declare his love for music in these words: 

Whole events in history come down to me with the effect of an orchestra . . . single lives sometimes like a great solo. . . . Martin Luther – he was a cathedral organ. . .  Plato! He is the music of the stars. . . . The most that we can do is to begin a strain that will swell the general volume and last on after we have perished. As for me, when I am gone, I should like the memories of my life to give out the sound of a flute.

Following his retirement from Transylvania University in 1804, Reverend Moore devoted the remainder of his life to his religion, serving as a minister to Lexington’s Episcopalian community.  Still wishing to teach, in 1813, he established Vancluse Academy, a private school, in his home.     

Reverend James Moore died at Lexington on June 22, 1814.  On March 17, 1847, the cornerstone for the current Cathedral was laid in place. In the publication, The Story of Christ Church, it states, “the bodies of some members were removed from the churchyard on Market Street to the Third Street cemetery.”  Is there a possibility there is no record of Reverend Moore being reburied at the Third Street cemetery, are his remains beneath the Christ Church Cathedral, or possibly buried on his property on Georgetown Pike?  We may never know for sure, as his burial site is currently unknown, except to God.  His spouse, Margaret Todd Moore died during the cholera epidemic on July 7, 1833, and she is buried in the Old Episcopal Third Street Cemetery, Lexington.     

Today, Reverend Moore is remembered on a Kentucky Historical Marker located at Christ Church Cathedral with the simple statement, “The Rev. James Moore was first rector and first president of Transylvania Univ.” 

In 1858 when improvements were made to Christ Church Cathedral, Reverend Moore’s memory was honored by the placing of a marble tablet located inside the entrance of the Cathedral (where it still remains), with the following inscription: 

In Memory of

the Rev. James Moore,

First President of Transylvania

University & first Minister

of this Church;

He was learned, liberal,

amiable & pious.

He departed this life June 22d 1814,

aged 49 years

Reverend James Moore was distinguished for sound learning, devoted piety, courteous manners, and liberal hospitality.  He believed the most vital goals of life were serving God and living well among others.

United States Army Chaplain Corps

The U.S. Army Chaplain Corps is one of the oldest and smallest branches of the Army.  The Corps dates back to July 29, 1775, when the Continental Congress authorized one chaplain for each regiment of the Continental Army, with pay equaling that of a Captain.  Chaplains were paid 1 ½ rations per day and $8 per month, and there was no required formal ordination or endorsement by a religious organization for someone to be a chaplain. 

July 29 has been established as the birthday of the U. S. Army Chaplain Corps.  This year marks the 245th anniversary of the United States Army Chaplain Corps.

Kentucky Law Governing Military Chaplains

(1st Act, 2 May 1792; 2nd Act, 8 May 1792)

Ministers of the Gospel were not exempted from military service by the Federal Government’s Militia Acts of 1792, which Kentucky’s Militia Law was based.

The first Constitution of Kentucky provided that,

Article VI, Kentucky Constitution, 1 June 1792

2.  The freemen of this commonwealth shall be armed and disciplined for its defence [sic].  Those who conscientiously scruple to bear arms shall not be compelled to do so, but shall pay an equivalent for personal service.

3.  The field and staff officers of the militia shall be appointed by the governor, except the battalion staff-officers, who shall be appointed by the field-officers of each battalion respectively. . . 

The Kentucky Legislature quickly enacted a statute designed to make Kentucky’s militia structure conform to the then recent Federal Militia Act.  The Act provided for the organization of various units, set age limits, and exemption of Negroes, Mulattoes, and Indians.  No white males were exempt from duty except for ministers of the gospel. 

In 1799, Kentucky’s second constitution, Clergymen alone continued to be exempt from military service of any sort. 

An Act (Congress of the United States).  Approved March 2, 1803,

Referring to Act of May 8, 1792:

Section 3.  Be it further enacted, That, in addition to the officers provided for by the said act, there shall be, to the militia of such State, one Quarter Master General; to each brigade, one Quarter Master of brigade, and to each regiment, one Chaplain.

The first Chaplain appointed to the Kentucky Militia was Reverend James Moore, assigned to the 42nd Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 5th Division of the Kentucky Militia, under the command of Colonel Cornelius Beatty, at Lexington.  Reverend Moore was appointed to the position on 16 July 1803.  The 42nd Regiment was organized with men from Fayette County.  It was established by Act of June 24, 1792, and was laid out December 16, 1799.  The first regimental commander was Colonel Cornelius Beatty, December 16, 1799, followed by Colonel Richard Deadmon on December 9, 1803.  There is no service record on Moore, his name appears in the Record of the Official Proceedings of the Executive: Part the Fifth, Commencing with August 1799 and Comprehending a Register of Commissions Issued to Captains, Lieutenants and Ensigns, on the listing for 1799 – 1804, but is not on the 1805 – 1811 list.

A Notable Address Presented by Reverend James Moore

During his lifetime Reverend Moore did not write any notable works, but two of his addresses which were made to the student body of Transylvania University were published in the Kentucky Gazette at the request of the students.  The first was delivered at the commencement of the Summer Session, May 1800 (transcribed below).  The second at the opening of Winter Classes, January 1801.  Moore’s address in part is as applicable today as it was over 200 years ago.

These essays give us some insight into Reverend Moore’s philosophy.

The Kentucky Gazette, May 15, 1800.

AN ADDRESS

Delivered by the Revd. James Moore, Principal of the Transylvania University, to the Students of the same, at the opening of the Summer Session, May 5. 1800.

Published at the request of the Students.

Young Gentlemen,

You have returned to the University after a short vacation, in order to resume your studies—It is with pleasure that we meet with you, not doubting but your diligence and perseverance in the pursuit of learning will fully answer the expectations of your friends, and wishes of your teachers—To secure success, however, several conditions are necessary, which we shall briefly suggest to you, that you may prosecute your studies with as much pleasure and profit as possible—The first, and not the least important of these is, an eager curiosity, or ardent desire of knowledge.

In youth, when the faculties are fresh and newly excited this is likely to be felt in the highest degree; and if it is kept up, and properly directed, the acquisition of knowledge becomes the gratification of a passion, and consequently proceeds easily and without painful sensations; but if this is wanting, or defective in vigour [sic],  the teacher labors in vain, and the pupil endures all the pain of pursuing knowledge, without pleasure and with little profit.—We rarely meet with a youth who does not possess original powers of mind, which if properly cultivated and employed, might comprehend the various branches of science so perfective of the human character, & so ameliorating of the condition of man.  And that young man’s mind must be very inactive, we should suppose, who feels no curiosity to explore those regions of science, which lie so clearly within his reach.

A strong conviction of the dignity and usefulness of learning in general, is likewise of great importance to youth.  This you should endeavor habitually to preserve and cultivate—It is impossible that we should exert that diligence, and perseverance, which alone can ensure success, in acquiring what we consider as useless, or of little importance in life—On this head the youth of our country labour under great disadvantages; and it depends on the active exertions of their own minds, to avoid the ill effects of popular errors—The unaccountable prejudice which prevails in favor of a partial, in preference to a liberal education, is but too well known; & on this principle we can best account for the little progress that has hitherto been made in learning, in a country, in other respects, the most flourishing in the world.—Our youth are told by those who are professedly ignorant of the subject, that classical learning is of  no use, that the time which they employ in studying the Latin and Greek languages, and reading the ancient classics, is sacrificed to the idol of custom, and be of no service to them in after life.—This doctrine tho’ contradicted by the almost universal suffrage of the learned, has unfortunately gained credit among too many of our youth, and their parents.—Hence what forms the first and fundamental part of a learned education in Europe, and the Atlantic States of America, has been despised, and of course neglected amongst us.  And when the principle of the inutility of any one branch of learning is once admitted, it is easily extended to every other branch, according to the whim of the parent, or the caprice of the student.—This is not an imaginary consequence of this principle, but is what we have often actually experienced in this institution.—If our students therefore wish to be learned, and to rank with those who graduate in the Eastern Colleges and Universities, they must cultivate a high sense of the dignity and utility of that course of learning which the wisdom of the learned, and the experience of so many ages have sanctioned.—And they must reject the absurdity of listening to the opinions of those, who are professedly ignorant of the subjects on which they would presume to decide.

A youth cannot be said to have conceived a just idea of the dignity of learning, who is capable of despising or willfully neglecting any part of it.  To conceive of it as only necessary to qualify us for certain particular professions, by which we may make money, is certainly betraying great ignorance of its worth—suppose one were possessed of so ample a fortune as to render the exercise of any profession quite unnecessary, yet learning would be no less valuable to him as a man, a citizen or a member of society.  Persons of fortune and distinction when destitute of learning and taste, are found frequently to disgrace themselves by gross sensuality, or childish ignorance.—Learning confers dignity on rank and fortune and enables the possessors of them to enjoy them with propriety, elegance and advantage, both to themselves and the public.—Learning is perfective of human nature in general, independent of professional pursuits.—It introduces us to grand, worthy, and sublime objects.—By making us acquainted with the works of nature, and that sublime harmony and order which reigns there, it leads our minds to the contemplation of Nature’s God, inspires us with a love or order, justice and religion, discloses the true nature and relations of men and things, and prescribes a deportment suitable to these—and thus it serves to improve and adorn every rank and condition of life—It dignifies wealth, and is more than wealth to the poor.  It directs the magistrate, inspires the legislator with public spirit, and unfolds to all men the value of liberty, and the necessity of justice, benevolence, order and good government.  You ought therefore to be firmly persuaded that your application to learning is highly honorable and useful to you, to whatever rank of life you are destined and whatever professions you may be called to exercise—If the enlargement of your faculties, and sources of pure and permanent enjoyment, and that elevation of mind which will preserve you from vicious and low pursuits, and qualify you for adorning any station in life, are objects worthy of your esteem and admiration, you ought to cultivate an habitual sense of the importance of the pursuits in which you are now engaged, this will inspire you with a diligence and perseverance answerable to the importance of the object.

Be particularly careful with respect to your manners and general deportment—let it appear from the whole of your conduct, that you have a just sense of the dignity of your character as students in the Transylvania University.—Discover this by an abhorrence of vice, and of everything low and mean—by being patient of discipline, or labour, and application to the duties prescribed by your teachers; by being dutiful to your parents, obedient and respectful to those who are charged with your education, and just, benevolent, and polite to one another, and to all, with whom you are conversant.—To the character of a student there is always attached elevation of sentiment, and dignity of manners.  The eye of the public is upon you—much more is looked for from you than from others of your age.  Expectations are formed truly honorable to yourselves, and important to the interests of this institution; never forget that this is your situation; beware of disappointing those expectations, and of ruining a reputation, which you should ever hold sacred.

It will also be of importance to you that you put confidence in your professors—you should be well persuaded that they are capable of instructing you in those branches to which they have been appointed by the trustees, and that they have your progress in learning, and your interest in every respect sincerely at heart.  This will enable you to proceed with alacrity, and save you from the hesitation and anxiety of perplexing doubts.  We do not however recommend to you implicit faith in the doctrines which we shall deliver, any farther than they shall be found conformable to reason, experience and the nature of things.—To this test we shall always appeal; and we invite you to propose your doubts and difficulties on any subject, to which we may call your attention.  Professing ourselves to be sincere enquirers after truth, as well as engaged in the communication of it to you, we recommend to you the same sincere and impartial inquiry; and we promise to render you every assistance in our power.—Be not afraid to hesitate with respect to old opinions, provided you see sufficient reason for so doing—we shall ourselves be obliged in some of the higher departments of science to differ from men of very celebrated names—but in so doing we shall always offer such reasons as we deem entirely sufficient—you must judge for yourselves how far a perception of truth, and a sincere attachment to it seems to govern us, in those opinions.—Be honest and diligent in your enquiries—never be satisfied with superficial views of abstract subjects, nor blindly rely on the word of your teacher—we require not your assent to any doctrine without the conviction of your own minds.—The ‘ipse dixit,’ of a preceptor governed the opinions of the world, and retarded the progress of science for many centuries—we disclaim any such authority, and invite you to the most careful and candid examination of every subject which can admit of diversity of opinion.  If you are sincere enquirers after truth, you will follow it wherever it leads you, and you will with equal caution embrace new opinions & discard old ones.  Listen always to the voice of reason; and beware of letting passion, prejudice, or the impertinent sneer of folly usurp her throne.—The solemnity of truth rejects with scorn the opinions which have no better foundation.—Be therefore honest to yourselves and just to the cause of science—Subject the man who would have you embrace a new opinion without offering satisfactory reasons for it; or who would induce you to discard an old one by the buffoonery of ridicule—This has often been employed by the pert coxcomb, and sometimes by the pretended philosopher, on ignorant young men with great success; but you will always despise such impertinence, whether you meet with it in books, or in conversation, and deem it an insult offered to your understanding.

Your time is precious, let none of it be wasted on trifles, or in unnecessary amusements—The time allowed you for exercise by our laws will be sufficient for all the useful purposes of relaxation, and we shall not expect to see you at any other time disengaged from your studies, unless necessarily called off.  Meet with us always at the appointed hour, acquire a habit of punctuality, and let us see that you are willing to join your own efforts with ours for advancing your education and promoting your happiness.  With respect to your opportunities in this institution it becomes us to speak with modesty—you will judge of the abilities and faithfulness of your teachers, when your advancement in science shall have rendered you better acquainted with them and more competent to estimate their merits.  You have access to a library which furnishes you with many valuable books, so that if you have any hours of leisure from your public lessons, they may be very well employed in reading history and improving your taste.  Our philosophical apparatus, tho’ far from being complete, is such as will enable your professors to make such experiments as will illustrate most branches of natural philosophy—And there is no doubt, from the many proofs, which the trustees have already given of their sincere and disinterested attachment to the cause, that they will as soon as they have it in their power, furnish the necessary additions—always remember however that without your own efforts, and diligent application to your studies, the best teachers, and the best libraries can be of no service to you—All that your professors can do is to give you the best instructions, and to set you the best examples, the rest depends on yourselves alone; if you are not learned, virtuous and happy it will be your own faults; it will be because you would not attend to our instructions, nor be governed by our advise and example.  But if you are not wanting to yourselves—if you have a just sense of the dignity and importance of learning, and will pursue it with the ardor which it deserves—and if your manners and general deportment be governed by the sacred dictates of virtue and religion, we will venture to say that you will never regret your having been here, nor have reason to be ashamed to acknowledge the Transylvania University as your Alma Mater.  In full confidence that our instructions will be seconded by your own best efforts we enter with cheerfulness on the business of the ensuing session—and have no doubt that at the close of it, your examination will show that you have not been idle, nor your teachers unfaithful to their trust.

Now we recommend you to the blessing of God, which can make you wise unto eternal salvation.

Reverend Moore delivered another address at the commencement of the winter session in 1801, which, again at the request of the students, appeared in the November 13, 1801, edition of the Kentucky Gazette.             

About stephendmartin