Lady of the Covenant: Katherine Heath Hawes

When Moses Drury Hoge was seeking the right person to lead a Sunday school program at his pastorate, the Second Presbyterian Church of Richmond, Virginia, he called upon Miss Katherine Heath Hawes (1875-1956), then about 20 years old.

Miss Katherine Heath Hawes of Richmond, Virginia, is credited with beginning Presbyterian youth ministry in the Southern Presbyterian Church. After Hawes returned from boarding school in 1895, the pastor of Second Presbyterian Church, Dr. Moses Drury Hoge, asked Miss Hawes to teach either a boys or girls Sunday school class. She chose the boys class (they were ages eight to ten!). Seeing how few boys attended Sunday school, Miss Hawes opened her home to them on Friday evenings for games and music, to provide them a place for fellowship with their peers. The following March, Company No. 1 of the Covenanters was born. Officers were elected, and a badge, watchward, and flag provided symbols of the Covenanters. Reports from and offerings for missionaries proved to be the focal point of the group. They eventually developed a choir and orchestra, then a fife and drum corps, followed by an emphasis on service projects.

As the boys grew older, their enthusiasm for the Covenanters brought about a desire in other Presbyterian churches to have such a ministry. By 1900, Presbyterian churches in nine other states and the District of Columbia registered as Companies of Covenanters. Soon Miriams, a companion group for girls, was added. (Mark H. Senter, When God Shows Up: A History of Protestant Youth Ministry in America, pp. 180-181)

 Katherine Heath Hawes pictured in 1895.

Katherine Heath Hawes pictured in 1895.

The daughter of Samuel Horace Hawes, a member of the Confederate “Immortal 600,” Miss Hawes was also known, among other things, for her concern for the plight of blacks (particularly, black women) in her day. A student from her Social Service class in the 1920s wrote in 1986: “Miss Katherine was the first to awaken my conscious [sic] regarding the sorry plight of the negroes - especially the black woman sending off her children to school not knowing what insult, injury, or slight they might meet with during the day . . . .Their courage!" Compassion for the needs of the young and disadvantaged was a hallmark of Miss Hawes’ labors of love. She never married but she gave a life of service to the youth of the Presbyterian church, and the community around her. After her passing, her body was laid to rest at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.

Robert Pollok Kerr wrote a book-length history and tribute to the Scottish Covenanters. Published in 1905, The Blue Flag, or, The Covenanters Who Contended for 'Christ's Crown and Covenant', this volume was

DEDICATED TO
Miss Katherine Heath Hawes,

Who conceived and carried out the idea of
organizing the Presbyterian boys of the
United States in companies of “Covenanters”
to work for Christ and his Church, infusing
into them the spirit of those splendid heroes,
of whose toils and sufferings for liberty and
truth this book is a history:

And to the

Covenanter Companies:

May they keep the Old Flag flying, and be
faithful soldiers of Christ and his Church.

The Author