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Deems, Charles Force

Charles Force Deems (1820-1893) was born in Baltimore, MD, to Mary Roberts and George W. Deems, a Methodist minister whose Dutch ancestral name was De Heems. After graduating from Dickinson College in 1839, Deems taught school and preached in New York City and New Jersey before coming to North Carolina in 1840 as an agent for the American Bible Society. Known as the "boy preacher," he came to the attention of Gov. Swain, who persuaded him to teach at the University "in order to get a Methodist on the faculty" (Dictionary of North Carolina Biography 2:49). In 1843 Deems married Annie Disoway. He left the University in 1848 to become professor of natural sciences at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia. From 1850 to 1854 he served as president of Greensboro Female College, simultaneously supervising the Glenn Anna School as a preparatory school for the College. During the Civil War Deems was associated with North Carolina schools in Randolph and Iredell counties. After the war he went to New York, established the religious newspaper The Watchman, and in 1866 began the ministerial work for which he is best known, establishing the Church of the Strangers. He received an honorary DD degree from Randolph-Macon in 1853 and an LLD degree from the University in 1877 (Dictionary of North Carolina Biography 2:49-50). Assisted by William H. Vanderbilt, Deems established a fund at the University to honor his son Theodore, who died in the Battle of Gettysburg. The Deems Fund for many years provided loans to needy students (Battle 1:517).