Born: De­cem­ber 4, 1820, Bal­ti­more, Ma­ry­land.

Died: No­vem­ber 18, 1893, Sta­ten Is­land, New York.

Buried: Mo­ra­vi­an Ce­me­te­ry, New Dorp, New York.



Charles was the grand­son of a Me­tho­dist min­is­ter, son of George Wash­ing­ton Deems and Ma­ry Ro­berts, and hus­band of An­nie Ma­rie Di­so­sway.

He be­gan preach­ing tem­per­ance at the ten­der age of 13.

He stu­died at Dick­in­son Col­lege, Car­lisle, Penn­syl­van­ia, in­tend­ing to be­come a law­yer. In­stead, af­ter gra­du­at­ing in 1839, he be­came a Me­tho­dist min­is­ter in As­bu­ry, New Jer­sey.

The next year, he be­gan work­ing for the Am­eri­can Bi­ble So­ci­ety of North Ca­ro­li­na, and lat­er be­came a pro­fess­or of lo­gic and rhe­tor­ic at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Ca­ro­li­na (1842–48).

In 1849, he taught na­tur­al sci­enc­es at Ran­dolph-Ma­con Col­lege, Ash­land, Vir­gin­ia for a year, then be­gan pas­tor­ing a Me­tho­dist con­gre­gation in New Berne, North Ca­ro­li­na.

Shortly there­af­ter, he be­came pre­si­dent of the Wo­men’s Col­lege in Greens­bo­ro, North Ca­ro­lina, serv­ing un­til 1854, when he re­turned to New Berne.

After the Am­eri­can ci­vil war, he moved to New York Ci­ty, where he ed­it­ed The Watch­man news­pa­per and found­ed the Church of Stran­gers, helped in part by a large grant from Cor­ne­li­us Van­der­bilt.

He al­so in­flu­enced Van­der­bilt’s de­ci­sion to con­trib­ute a mil­lion dol­lars to the Cen­tral Uni­ver­si­ty of the Me­tho­dist Epis­co­pal Church, South (now Van­der­bilt Uni­ver­si­ty).