Samuel K. Nelson


Samuel K. Nelson




Rev. Samuel K. Nelson, D.D., Presbyterian clergyman, served on the first Board of Trustees of Centre College from 1819 to 1827. Nelson was born in east Tennessee in 1787. He studied at Washington College and was licensed to preach by Holston Presbytery in 1807. Nelson preached in South Carolina and Tennessee before moving to Danville, where he was installed as pastor in 1809. He served as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church for the next eighteen years, doing well not only as a minister but also as a landowner. In 1825 he owned 1,300 acres of land and forty slaves. Nelson played a prominent role in founding the Kentucky School for the Deaf, and in fact died in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1827 while on a mission selling public land granted to the school by the federal government. In addition, Nelson was one of the fathers of Centre College. Presbyterians were strong supporters of education, for they felt it was vital to have a literate clergy and congregations able to read the Bible. In Kentucky, Presbyterians had first placed their hopes in Transylvania University, but by 1819 sectarian issues surrounding the university caused Transylvania Presbytery to form a committee to explore the possibility to establish a "literary and biblical institution of learning" under the patronage of the Synod of Kentucky. Nelson chaired the committee and undoubtedly played a major role in convincing the Synod to locate the new college, to be known as Centre College, in Danville.


“Samuel K. Nelson,” Centre College Digital Archives, accessed September 27, 2022,

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