Biographical History of Central Kansas, Vol. II, p. 813
published by The Lewis Publishing Co, Chicago & New York, 1902
DAVID H. SNOWDEN,
D.D., L.L. D., M.D., F.R.S.
David H Snowden, a man of wide fame, needs no introduction to the student of biography. His leadership in the line to which he has devoted his energies becomes known without the resident history; but biography serves to perpetuate the record of brilliant achievements, of novel purposes, of successful accomplishments and of individual worth, - and where else can be found the inspiration and encouragement that is gleaned from the annals of a well spent life that has fulfilled its mission, leaving an influence immeasurable as infinity. “
The proper study of mankind is man,” said Pope, and aside from this in its broader sense what base of study and information have we? Thus we understand the full significance of the utterance of Carlyle, that “biography is by nature the most universally profitable, the most universally pleasant of all things.” With these thoughts in mind we undertake the somewhat difficult task of preparing an adequate record of one of the distinguished ministers of the Congregational church. The Rev Dr Snowden is now living in comparatively quiet retirement upon a farm on section 7, Sterling township, Rice county, Kansas, but for many years his strong mentality and forceful character have left their impress upon the lives of the intellectual activity connected with scientific research and with the dissemination of knowledge through the lecture platform and from the pulpit.
Dr Snowden was born at Fairview Court House, Virginia, April 25, 1840, and is of Scotch and Welsh lineage. His paternal grandfather, John Snowden, was one of the heroes of the Revolutionary war, and the father of our subject was William Snowden. In his youth Dr Snowden did not manifest special aptitude at his studies, - in fact he was usually behind his class and was often there made the subject of rude jest, but fortunate for him he eventually came under the influence of Professor D H Yant, a successful teacher then located at Fairview Court House, who recognized his good qualities of heart and mind and that his possibilities were of a high order. His trouble heretofore probably arose largely from the lack of sympathy on the part of his teachers and diffidence in his own nature, but Professor Yant won his love and co-operation and then stimulated his ambition. Dr Snowden completed not only a classical course of training but made science and medicine a specialty. He began the study of medicine in 1856, under Professor Robley Dunglison, Sr, of the Jefferson Medical College, where he attended lectures and was graduated in 1858. He won his degree of master of arts from Smithson College in 1890, and in 1888 received the unusual honor for an American of being made a fellow of the Royal Society of London, England. He began the practice of medicine in 1859, in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and there remained until 1870, with the exception of a period of four years, which he spent in the Union army during the Civil war, as a member of the Twelfth Regiment of West Virginia Infantry and as a medical purveyor in the medical department of the Army of the Potomac.
Dr Snowden was a student of theology, law and science in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, in 1865, and the degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him by Wilberforce University in 1886, while that of Doctor of Law was conferred upon him by Paul Quinn College in 1890. He continued medical practice in Pittsburg until 1870, when he entered the Lutheran ministry. He has been pastor of several important churches in his denomination, in which he stands among the first in scholarship, as a writer and as a preacher. He was pastor of the Congregational church in Little Rock, Arkansas, from 1887 until 1890, and when he left that city the following editorial appeared in the Little Rock Daily Register: “The pastor of Pilgrim Congregational church of Little Rock has tendered his resignation and left the city to fill another appointment. Dr David Harold Snowden is no ordinary man. Blessed by nature with a vigorous constitution and a powerful physical structure, he is at once an attractive figure among men, with a heart, brain and conscience as pure, brilliant and sincere as the physical structure is grand and dignified. With a clear voice and a mind well stored with knowledge, Dr Snowden is an instructive and entertaining speaker. While he is a logician, his fund of information is not confined to ecclesiastic subjects, but ranges over a wide and varied field. Notwithstanding his high literary attainments he is humble as a child. As Theodore Tilton once said of Rev. Henry Ward Beecher – ‘credulous, like a boy.’
“During Dr Snowden’s residence in this city he has won the admiration of all men with whom he came in contact, and his life has been as pure as his disposition is amiable. As a lecturer and as a minister he is the peer of many man in Arkansas, and wherever he may go in the world’s wide arena he will bear with him the admiration of the people of Little Rock and the love and devotion of his parishioners. Dr Snowden has that peculiar fascination which holds his audience and never fails to draw a full house. His departure will be regretted and his place difficult to fill.”
From 1890 until 1892 Dr Snowden was pastor of the Congregational church at Kokomo, Indiana, and in March of the latter year he accepted the pastorate of the church in Sterling, Kansas, where he remained until 1895. He then filled the pulpit at Nickerson for three and one half years, but during that time resided at Sterling. He has not since been actively identified with pastoral work, but his labors have been most effective. In this connection we cannot do better than quote from the biographical record which appeared of him in the Western World: “Being a man of broad and liberal culture, his nature has imbibed largely of the divine principle – charity. His confidence in humanity as a whole is great, hence his popularity among the masses of mankind. He, like all other men, has enemies no doubt among the bigoted and jealous, but his friends among the other classes are legion. In the preparation of his sermons he takes time and pains, never writing hurriedly or carelessly and always aiming to produce the best at his command. His theology partakes largely of the type of such men as Brooks and Parker and Farrar. In manner and style in the pulpit Dr Snowden stands among the best pulpit orators. He is graceful, fervent, clear and distinct in his enunciation, always logical and forcible and always interests his audience, not only in himself but in his subject. When he rises into the full dignity of his theme his eloquence is entrancing.”
During the years of his ministry and even before he accepted a pastorate, the Doctor was widely known as a lecturer, and from the platform he addressed the people on various subjects of broad interest. For several years past he has been a regular contributor to a number of literary and scientific journals of this country. He has also written three books, now in manuscript form, entitled “Materialism Under the Microscope,” “Science most Prominent of the Twenty-five Bibles of the World.” His sermons, many of which have been published in the newspapers, if put in book form would make several volumes. He reads much to keep abreast of the times. His lectures cover a wide range of subjects. To show his versatility and erudition we submit the titles of a portion of them: Evils of the Times, Unfolding of the Ages, Dignity and Labor, Work and Workers, The Expanded Life, The Beautiful, The Next Thing, and others. On scientific subjects: The Cell vs. Creation, The Air We Breathe, Ice, Hard Water, Heat, The Ocean – Its Relation to the Human Race and What it Teaches, Geology and Mineralogy of the Rocky Mountains, the Arts and Sciences. On sacred subjects: History of the Bible, Literary History of the Bible, Socrates vs. Christ, Tekel Upharsin, The Now, The Then, Adam to Guiteau, and many others. On humorous topics: Abuse of the English Language and Professional Education and addresses to schools and colleges on temperance, etc. The Doctor also finds considerable time to devote to scientific investigation and experiments, in which he has acquired a reputation among scientific men. A leading scholar and scientist recently, on being asked what he thought of Dr Snowden, answered: “Well, mentally, morally and physically he is splendid. There isn’t one particle of egotism in him. He is really one of the grand men of the day – lofty in thought and high in principle, while ‘practice what you preach” is his everyday life.” The Doctor is still a member of the Indiana State Medical Society and at one time was a member of the State Law Association. Prior to 1896 he became a member of the State Bar Association of Kansas.
On the 2nd of December, 1874, Dr Snowden was united in marriage to Miss Mary E Falconer, a daughter of the Hon. Robert S and Mary (Sill) Falconer. Her mother was born at Black Rock, New York, in 1811, and her father was a native of Brooklyn, born in 1809. He died at Sugar Grove, Pennsylvania, in February, 1876, and his wife passed away in June 1884. Mrs Snowden has two brothers and one sister yet living. She was educated at Sugar Grove, Pennsylvania, and in 1892 she received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Philander Smith College at Little Rock, Arkansas, and by her marriage has become the mother of two children, namely: Mary E, now the wife of William Wallace Hamilton, of Nickerson, Kansas; and David Harold, who is a youth of thirteen years and is now in school. In 1893 the Doctor purchased his present home farm in Sterling township, Rice county, becoming the owner of one hundred and sixty acres, and in 1896 he took up his abode thereon. He now has four hundred acres twelve miles away, in Rice and Reno counties, and this he rents. The Doctor is a member of the board of pension examiners for Rice county, is president of the board of United States examining surgeons for the interior, is a United States examining surgeon for the war department, president of Rice County Medical Society, and is the coroner of Rice county. He belongs to the Masonic fraternity, in which he was initiated in Ohio in 1865. He now has a life membership in Sharon Lodge, No. 115, Sharon, Wisconsin, and he also belongs to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in Sterling, Kansas, and to the encampment at Litchfield, Illinois. In the Masonic fraternity he has attained the thirty-second degree. Perhaps a better summary of his character and work cannot be given than in the words of Professor E C Tuttle, who says:
“As a lecturer he has but few equals and perhaps no superiors. While his statements may possibly be looked upon as somewhat exaggerated, it is nevertheless true that he is remarkably well qualified, both by nature and his requirements, for the platform. Though but in the prime of life, Dr Snowden has acquired a brilliant reputation among lecturers. He has appeared in nearly all the large cities and many of the towns of the United States, uniformly receiving a warm welcome and the highest encomiums. His return visits are more heartily welcomed than his first, which is an unmistakable evidence of his power and popularity as a lecturer. As a thinker Dr Snowden is bold and original to a marked degree. He accepts nothing, neither in science, theology nor philosophy that does not coincide with his exalted conception of right and truth. He is constantly seeking to bring out both new and old, particularly the former. All the available portion of his life has been given to thought and study.
“As a scholar Dr Snowden ranks high. He does not believe in any kind of surface work. He goes to the bottom of everything he undertakes, which accounts in part for his ripe scholarship. An editor himself said: ‘Dr Snowden is a man of rare ability and culture. Every sentence he utters indicates a thinker and a scholar, - one who not only studies but analyzes. In choice of language few public lecturers are his equals. The best words seem to have been chosen, while the sentences of his lecture impress the hearer as models of language. Added to this are sensible ideas, ease and grace in delivery, all combined to maker a lecture that is thoroughly enjoyed by listeners, critics though they be.’
“As a logician the Doctor is clear, forcible and convincing. When he grasps a subject he is able to formulate and present it in all its force, to hearer and reader. In proof of this assertion we quote from the Milwaukee Sentinel’s notice of his lecture, “Materialism Under the Microscope:” ‘It was without doubt the best expose of the sophistry of the “cell theory” ever given to a Milwaukee audience. The Doctor is a deep and logical reasoner and has evidently studied the subject well. By his trenchant logic he enabled his hearers to see the subject as he himself sees it.