The Mother of Presbyterianism in Edgefield County, South Carolina

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John Abney Chapman writes concerning one particular South Carolina county (History of Edgefield County: From the Earliest Settlements to 1897, p. 299):

Edgefield was one of the three counties in the State of South Carolina, Lexington and Georgetown being the other two, which never, until 1877, had a Presbyterian Church in its bounds. This is somewhat remarkable when we consider the fact that the adjoining County of Abbeville is one of the great strongholds of Presbyterianism in the State. Abbeville, however, was settled by large colonies of Scotch-Irish and Huguenots, who brought their religion with them, whilst no such colonies of Presbyterians located in Edgefield.

As Chapman also notes, efforts were made in the first half of the 19th century to establish a Presbyterian church in the county, but the War of 1861 put a stop to that.

Meanwhile, there was at least one lone Presbyterian who resided in the county. Born in 1842, Martha (“Mattie”) Wardlaw Hill over a period of many years would cross the state line to worship in Augusta, Georgia, while praying and working towards the goal of establishing a Presbyterian church in her county of Edgefield. Her persistence would ultimately lead to its founding.

Source: Margaret Adams Gist,  Presbyterian Women of South Carolina

Source: Margaret Adams Gist, Presbyterian Women of South Carolina

Mary D. Irvine tells the story in Pioneer Women of the Presbyterian Church, United States (1923), p. 297:

Edgefield Church, Congaree Presbytery, owes its existence to Mrs. Martha Wardlaw Hill, through whose efforts an organization was effected. There were only four members, Mrs. Hill, herself, Mrs. A. E. Anderson, Miss Esther Rainsford and Mr. S. H. Manget. The latter was immediately elected and installed as elder and Mrs. Hill acted as deacon for some years. Mrs. Hill's wonderful magnetism and beauty of spirit drew many friends to her assistance. She solicited subscriptions far and wide and raised over $3,000.00. She organized a Sunday-school and when no man was available, was her own superintendent, her own organist, her own janitor, and at the same time served as the whole board of deacons. In May, 1882, through her efforts, the first pastor was called, our own Secretary of Assembly’s Home Missions, Rev. S. L. Morris. As soon as this good woman lifted all debt from the church, she began to dream of a manse. Miss Esther Rainsford (Mrs. Bunyan Morris), gave the lot for this manse and the communion service as well.

Mrs. Hill began teaching music and doing everything she could to create a manse fund. To make a long story short, the manse became an assured fact. At the age of fifty-two, she went Home, and on the walls of the church which stands as a memorial to her, the women placed a tablet, on which she is called “The Mother of Presbyterianism in Edgefield County.”

Margaret Adams Gist adds, in Presbyterian Women of South Carolina (1929), p. 324, that was so identified with the village church, finally constructed in 1884, that it was referred to by some as “Miss Mattie Hill’s Church.”

Rick Barbare, formerly pastor of the Edgefield Presbyterian Church (PCA) before it was disbanded in 2010, has done yeoman’s work over the years in researching and writing about the history of Edgefield Presbyterianism. He has a valuable series of articles posted on his blog covering many phases of the church’s history, including the additional congregations which grew out of the work. He writes:

Mrs. Hill remained a loyal Presbyterian even when her parents became Episcopalians. She never gave up on the idea having a Presbyterian Church in Edgefield Village, so she kept her church membership at First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, GA in the intervening years between 1859 and 1877. The sum of money raised for this purpose before the war was lost during hostilities. (No doubt it was in Confederate currency in a bank at the end of the war).

After reconstruction (1876), Mrs. Hill found three other persons in the county who were Presbyterians: (1) Mr. S. H. Manget …; (2) Mrs. R.  S. Anderson …; and (3) Miss Etta Rainsford. … Mrs. Hill enlisted them in a plan to get the Presbytery to organize a church. Three of the four then lived in Edgefield Village at the time. Miss Etta Rainsford lived at Pine House, later Trenton.

The labors of Mrs. Hill bore fruit as the Presbytery from 1875 to 1877 paid visits and sent men to preach to the core group that would constitute the initial members. During this period, visiting ministers who preached included John L. Girardeau (December 24, 1876) and William S. Plumer (February 25, 1877). After a petition was presented to Presbytery in April 1877 calling for the organization of the church, the charter was granted and the congregation was established on May 20, 1877.

Samuel Leslie Morris (who would later become the Secretary of Home Missions for the Southern Presbyterian Church) was installed as the first pastor of the Edgefield congregation in August 1882. Barbare adds that “The organization at that time included three churches — Trenton, Johnston, and Edgefield Village.” These preaching stations enabled the broader county to be covered. More congregations would grow out of this initial organization, and in 1884, Edgefield Village would get its own church building.

Rev. Barbare has wise words to ponder in conclusion as we consider the person credited with founding the first Presbyterian Church in Edgefield County. Such a thing is rarely the work of one person — especially not within Presbyterianism, which is based on the communion of saints, and the plurality of elders. Some have highlighted Mrs. Hill’s role to the exclusion of almost all others. The first pastor, Samuel L. Morris, in his autobiography does not even mention her. Barbare writes:

So, who was it that really planted the Edgefield Presbyterian Church? Rev. Morris? or Mrs. Hill? Neither one alone, both together, and with other people’s help is the short answer.

In the story of the Edgefield Presbyterian Church, when looking back at the history and taking note of the secondary causes, we ought not to lose sight of — indeed our primary focus should be to remember — the hand of God at work in the building of his kingdom.

The Original Seven American Presbyters

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Original Presbytery Roll 1.jpg

The original American Presbytery was established around March 1706* in Philadelphia under the leadership of Francis Makemie, who is often referred to as the “Father of American Presbyterianism.” It included a total of seven members, although one was not actually present at the time (his absence was excused later). One man was further ordained at the first Presbytery meeting. We now have the first eight members of the first American Presbytery on Log College Press.

Original Presbytery Roll 2.jpg
  • Francis Makemie (1658-1708) - Known as “the Father of American Presbyterianism,” the Irish-born Makemie was the organizer and first moderator of the first Presbytery in America. He did much to promote and defend the Presbyterian Church on from Virginia to New York. He is buried on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

  • John Hampton (1675-1721) - Hampton came to the Eastern Shore in 1705 with Francis Makemie and George McNish. In 1707, he spent two months in prison with Makemie under charges of nonconformity.

  • George McNish (1660-1722) - Born in Scotland, McNish is referred to by William B. Sprague as the “father of Presbyterianism” in New York. He arrived in America with Francis Makemie and John Hampton in 1705.

  • Samuel Davis, Sr. (1663-1725) - Born in Ireland, Davis was the first pastor of the Presbyterian church in Lewes, Delaware, and ministered in Snow Hill, Maryland, as well. He was not actually present at the first meeting of Presbytery, and his attendance at Presbytery meetings was a recurring issue. It is thought that he signed (along with William Shankland) an address of loyalty to King William and Queen Mary by the inhabitants of Somerset County, Maryland in 1689.

  • Nathaniel Taylor (?-1710) - He was the pastor of the Presbyterian church in Snow Hill, Maryland.

  • John Wilson (1674-1712) - He was the first pastor of the New Castle Presbyterian Church in New Castle, Delaware. He also ministered to the White Clay Creek Presbyterian Church near Newark, Delaware.

  • Jedediah Andrews (1674-1747) - Born in Massachusetts, he was the first Presbyterian minister to preach in Philadelphia, serving the First Presbyterian Church, or “Old Buttonwood.” He served the Presbytery as clerk, and engaged in many missionary tours.

  • John Boyd (1679-1708) - He was the first Presbyterian minister ordained in America on December 29, 1706. Sadly, his ministry was cut short by death less than two years later.

It is interesting to note that Makemie and Boyd both died in 1708, Taylor in 1710 and Wilson in 1712. But the seeds had been sown for the establishment of Presbyterial work in America. By 1716, there were 17 Presbyterian ministers, and that same year a General Synod was created as the first Presbytery (of Philadelphia) was split into four (Long Island, New Castle, Philadelphia and Snow Hill). To see the growing list of ministers added to the Presbytery of Philadelphia after John Boyd, see Willard M. Rice’s Roll of Ministers and Licentiates (1888).

These names represent the beginnings of organized Presbyterianism in America. They are names worthy of remembrance. Although our information about their lives is limited, and so are their published writings (we have a few now here at Log College Press), their contribution to American Presbyterianism must not be forgotten.

* For a more precise understanding of the dating of this event, see Benjamin L. Agnew, When Was the First Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America Organized?

The Lantern that John Rodgers Broke

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Samuel Miller tells a story of his mentor and senior colleague, John Rodgers, and a lantern that he once broke as a boy.

It is generally known, that Mr. [George] Whitefield often preached in the open air; sometimes, because houses of worship were shut against him; and at others, because his audiences were too large to be accommodated in any ordinary building. In Philadelphia, he often stood on the outside steps of the Court-house, in Market-street, and from that station addressed admiring thousands who crowded the street below. On one of these occasions [c. 1739], young Rodgers was not only present, but pressed as near to the person of his favourite preacher as possible; and to testify his respect, held a lantern for his accommodation. Soon after the sermon began, he became so absorbed in the subject, and, at length, so deeply impressed, and strongly agitated, that he was scarcely able to stand; the lantern fell from his hand, and was dashed in pieces; and that part of the audience in the immediate vicinity of the speaker’s station, were not a little interested, and, for a few moments, discomposed, by the occurrence.

The impressions thus begun, were confirmed and deepened, and resulted, in a short time afterwards, as he hoped, when he was but little more than twelve years of age, in a saving knowledge and acceptance of Jesus Christ as the only refuge and hope of his soul; and in a cordial devotedness to his service.

From this period he resolved, if God should enable him, to devote himself to the service of Christ, in the work of the Gospel ministry.

Miller adds that there is more to the story.

A subsequent circumstance, connected with this event, and not less remarkable, is worthy of being recorded. Mr. Whitefield, in the course of his fifth visit to America, about the year 1754, on a journey from the southward, called at St. George’s, in Delaware, where Mr. Rodgers was then settled int he Gospel ministry, and spent some time with him. In the course of this visit, Mr. Rodgers, being one day riding with his visitant, in the close carriage in which the latter usually travelled, asked him, whether he recollected the occurrence of the little boy, who was so much affected with his preaching, as to let his lantern fall? Mr. Whitefield answered, “Oh yes! I remember it well; and have often thought I would give almost anything in my power to know who that little boy was, and what had become of him.” Mr. Rodgers replied with a smile, “I am that little boy!” Mr. Whitefield, with tears of joy, started from his seat, took him in his arms, and with strong emotion remarked, that he was the fourteenth person then in the ministry whom he had discovered in the course of that visit to America, of whose hopeful conversion he had been the instrument.

This fascinating account is derived from Miller’s Memoirs of the Reverend John Rodgers, D. D. (1813). Rodgers was such an important figure in colonial American Presbyterianism that this biography is a valuable window into the period as well as a portrait of the man. Take time to peruse its pages, and learn more about the boy who broke a lantern in his excitement at hearing the gospel preached, and later became a leading minister of the gospel in the early American Presbyterian Church.

The History of Early Presbyterianism in All 50 States

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If you have been in search of resources covering the history of Presbyterianism in a particular state or regional area within the United States, the list below (which is by no means comprehensive) may be of some assistance. Links are provided to works by LCP authors, but also note that much of the other literature referenced can be found on our secondary sources page as well. PCA Historical Center Director Wayne Sparkman’s research here was one of several helpful resources in compiling this list.

  • Alabama - James Williams Marshall, The Presbyterian Church in Alabama: A Record of the Growth of the Presbyterian Church from its Beginning in 1811 in the Eastern portion of Mississippi (1977)

  • Alaska - Sheldon Jackson, Alaska, and Missions on the Pacific North Coast (1880); Aaron Ladner Lindsley, Sketches of an Excursion to Southern Alaska (1881); Thora McIlroy Mills, The Contributions of the Presbyterian Church to the Yukon During the Gold Rush, 1897-1910 (1977); Dianne Anderson O’Connell, The Yukon Presbyterian: An Unauthorized Biography (100 Years of Presbyterian Work in the Northern Parts of Alaska) (1999); Samuel Hall Young, Hall Young of Alaska, The “Mushing Parson”: An Autobiography (1927)

  • Arizona - Richard K. Smith and J. Melvin Nelson, Datelines and By-Lines : A Sketchbook of Presbyterian Beginnings and Growth in Arizona (1969)

  • Arkansas - Thomas H. Campbell, Arkansas Cumberland Presbyterian, 1812-1984: A People of Faith (1985); Charles Beatty Moore, The History of Presbyterianism in Arkansas, 1828-1902 (1902); James Wilson Moore, Presbyterianism in Arkansas (1858, 1905); H.L. Paisley, Centennial History of Presbyterianism (U.S.) in Arkansas (1954)

  • California - Jane Atkins-Vásquez, Hispanic Presbyterians in Southern California: One Hundred Years of Ministry (1988); Robert B. Coote & John S. Hadsell, San Francisco Theological Seminary: The Shaping of a Western School of the Church, 1871-1998 (1999); James Curry, History of the San Francisco Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and Its Alumni Association (1907); Henry Collin Minton, Presbyterianism in California (1897); Greg Roth, Gold Rush Legacy: W.W. Brier, Pioneer Presbyterian Pastor (2005); Edward Arthur Wicher, The Presbyterian Church in California, 1849-1927 (1927); James L. Woods, California Pioneer Decade of 1849: The Presbyterian Church (1922)

  • Colorado - Andrew E. Murray, The Skyline Synod: Presbyterianism in Colorado and Utah (1971); John Bernard Schoolland, A Pioneer church: Being a Reverently Realistic Account of the First Presbyterian Church of Boulder, Colorado in it's Total Pioneer Origin, 1872-1972 (1972)

  • Connecticut - See below (esp. Blaikie on Presbyterianism in New England)

  • Delaware - John W. Christie, Presbyterianism in Delaware (1947); James H. Lappen, Presbyterians on Delmarva: The History of the New Castle Presbytery (1972); United States Army Command and General Staff College, Presbyterian Patriots: The Historical Context of the Shared History and Prevalent Ideologies of Delaware’s Ulster-Scots Who Took Up Arms in the American Revolution (2015); James Laird Vallandigham & Samuel Alexander Gayley, History of the Presbytery of New Castle, From Its Organization, March 13, 1717, to 1888 (1889)

  • District of Columbia - Frank E. Edgington, A History of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church: One Hundred Fifty-Seven Years, 1803-1961 (1961); Dorothy Schaffter, The Presbyterian Congregation in George Town, 1780-1970 (1971); Dewey D. Wallace, Jr., Golden Wilson and Edith Holmes Synder, Capital Witness: A History of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. (2011)

  • Florida - James R. Bullock, Heritage and Hope: A Story of Presbyterians in Florida (1987); Karen Harvey, Florida’s First Presbyterians: A Celebration of 175 Years in St. Augustine, 1824-1999 (1998); Herbert A. Love, Opportunities, Responsibilities: The Work of the Presbyterian Church U.S. in Florida (1927); William Erskine McIlwain, The Early Planting of Presbyterianism in West Florida (1926)

  • Georgia - Lowry Axley, Holding the Torch Aloft: A Histor of the Independent Church of Savannah, Georgia (1958); Groves Harrison Cartledge, Historical Sketches: Presbyterian Churches and Early Settlers in Northeast Georgia (1960); Dwyn Mecklin Mounger, Who We Are As Presbyterians: Brief Scences From Our Past - A series of five vignettes to be presented at the fourteenth stated meeting of the Synod of the Southeast at St. Simons Presbyterian Church, St. Simons Island, Georgia, - September 16-17, 1986 in celebration of the 250th anniversary of Presbyterianism in Georgia (1986); James Stacy, A History of the Presbyterian Church in Georgia (1912); Franklin C. Talmage, The Story of the Presbytery of Atlanta (1960); Groves Harrison Cartledge, Historical Sketches: Presbyterian Churches and Early Settlers in Northeast Georgia (1960)

  • Hawaii - James McKinney Alexander, Mission Life in Hawaii: Memoir of Rev. William P. Alexander (1888)

  • Idaho - E. Paul Hovey, Presbyterian Yesterdays in Northern Idaho (1964)

  • Illinois - William Irvine Blair, The Presbyterian Synods of Illinois (1952); Leroy Jones Halsey, A History of the McCormick Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church (1893); James Gore King McClure, Sr., The Story of the Life and Work of the Presbyterian Seminary Chicago (1927); Augustus Theodore Norton, History of the Presbyterian Church, in the State of Illinois (1879); Andrew Stevenson, Chicago: Pre-Eminently a Presbyterian City (1907)

  • Indiana - Hanford Abram Edson, Contributions to the Early History of the Presbyterian Church in Indiana (1898); L.C. Rudolph, Hoosier Zion: The Presbyterians in Early Indiana (1963)

  • Iowa - J.F. Hinkhouse, One Hundred Years of the Iowa Presbyterian Church (1932); Joseph Welton Hubbard, The Presbyterian Church in Iowa, 1837-1900 (1907); H. Gene Straatmeyer, The Synod of the West: A History of the Presbyterian German Synod of the West and Its Churches (2016); Beth Wunder, North Central Iowa Presbytery: Bicentennial History (1989)

  • Kansas - John Boyton Hill,The Presbytery of Kansas City and Its Predecessors (1901); Robert H. McFarland and A.J. McFarland, Papa Got It Right! (2016)

  • Kentucky - Robert Hamilton Bishop, An Outline of the History of the Church in the State of Kentucky (1824); Robert Davidson, History of the Presbyterian Church in the State of Kentucky; With a Preliminary Sketch of the Churches in the Valley of Virginia (1847); Moses Drury Hoge, Memorial Discourse on the Planting of Presbyterianism in Kentucky One Hundred Years Ago.(1883); Louis B. Weeks, Kentucky Presbyterians (1983)

  • Louisiana - Benjamin Charles Bell, Presbyterianism in North Louisiana, Celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Red River Presbytery (1930, 1988); Penrose St. Amant, A History of the Presbyterian Church in Louisiana (1961); Louis Voss, Presbyterianism in New Orleans and Adjacent Points (1931)

  • Maine - See below (esp. Blaikie on Presbyterianism in New England)

  • Maryland - James E.P. Boulden, The Presbyterians of Baltimore: Their Churches and Historic Grave-Yards (1875); James William McIlvain, Early Presbyterianism in Maryland (1890)

  • Massachusetts - See below (esp. Blaikie on Presbyterianism in New England)

  • Michigan - Maurice F. Cole, Impact of the Civil War on the Presbyterian Church in Michigan (1965); John Comin & Harold F. Fredsell, History of the Presbyterian Church in Michigan (1950)

  • Minnesota - Maurice Dwight Edwards, History of the Synod of Minnesota, Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (1927); Edward Duffield Neill, Early Days of the Presbyterian Branch of the Holy Catholic Church, in the State of Minnesota (1873)

  • Mississippi - Robert Milton Winter, Outposts of Zion: A History of Mississippi Presbyterians in the Nineteenth Century (2014)

  • Missouri - Joseph M. Garrison,The Missouri Presbytery, 1817-1937  (1937); Eugene Edward Stringfield, Presbyterianism in the Ozarks A History of the Work of the Various Branches of the Presbyterian Church in Southwest Missouri 1834-1907 (1909)

  • Montana - George Edwards, The Pioneer Work of the Presbyterian Church in Montana (1907); Patricia M. McKinney, Presbyterianism in Montana: Its First Hundred Years (1972)

  • Nebraska - Charles Arthur Hawley, Fifty Years on the Nebraska Frontier: The History of the Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Omaha, Nebraska (2012); Julius F. Schwarz, History of The Presbyterian Church in Nebraska (1924)

  • Nevada - Zelvin D. Lowman, A Voice in the Desert: A History of First Presbyterian Church, Las Vegas, Nevada (1992)

  • New Hampshire - Samuel Lankton Gerould, The Congregational and Presbyterian Churches and Ministers of New Hampshire connected with the General Association : A Continuation of the compilation of Rev. Henry A. Hazen, issued in 1875, bringing the record down to 1900 (1900); see also below (esp. Blaikie on Presbyterianism in New England)

  • New Jersey - Allen H. Brown, Historical Sketch of the Synod of New Jersey For the Quarter of a Century, From 1861 to 1886 (1888); David B. Calhoun, Princeton Seminary (2 vols., 1996); Centennial, Presbytery of Newton: An Adjourned Meeting, in the First Presbyterian Church, Washington, N.J.: The Historical Narrative, Histories of the Churches and Other Data (1917); William Armstrong Dod, History of the College of New Jersey (1844); George H. Ingram, “The Erection of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, Together With Some Account of the Beginnings of Organized Presbyterianism in the American Colonies” in Journal of Presbyterian History, Vol. 6, No.6 (June 1912) [and a series of articles titled “History of the Presbytery of New Brunswick” appearing in the Journal of Presbyterian History from 1912 to 1919]; Theron Hewitt, One Hundredth Anniversary of the Organization of The Presbytery of West Jersey, November 5, 1839 - November 5, 1939, in the First Presbyterian Church, Bridgeton, New Jersey, November 6, 1939 (1939); John Maclean, Jr., History of the College of New Jersey, Vol.s 1&2 (1877); Samuel Miller, A Brief History of the Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church at Princeton, New Jersey, Together With Its Constitution, By-Laws, &c (1837, 1838); Joseph Gaston Symmes, Historical Sketch of Monmouth Presbytery and Its Churches (1877)

  • New Mexico - Ruth Kerns Barber, Sowers Went Forth: The Story of Presbyterian Missions in New Mexico and Southern Colorado (1981); Dale B. Gerdeman, Presbyterian Missionaries in Rural Northern New Mexico: Serving the Lord on the New Mexico Frontier (1999)

  • New York - Samuel Davies Alexander, The Presbytery of New York, 1738 to 1888 (1887); Dorothy Ganfield Fowler, A City Church: The First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York, 1716-1976 (1981); Philemon Halstead Fowler, Historical Sketch of Presbyterianism Within the Bounds of the Synod of Central New York (1877); Robert Handy, A History of Union Theological Seminary in New York (2011); Robert Hastings Nichols, Presbyterianism in New York State: A History of the Synod and Its Predecessors (1963); Theodore Fiske Savage, The Presbyterian Church in New York City (1949); Thomas S. Wood, History of the Presbytery of New York (1976)

  • North Carolina - Walter Conser & Robert Cain, Presbyterians in North Carolina: Race, Politics, and Religious Identity in Historical Perspective (2012); David Irwin Craig, A History of the Development of the Presbyterian Church in North Carolina, and of Synodical Home Missions (1907); William Henry Foote, Sketches of North Carolina (1846); Neill Roderick McGeachy, Confronted by Challenge: A History of the Presbytery of Concord (1985); Jethro Rumple, The History of Presbyterianism in North Carolina (1966); Charles Alfonso Smith, Presbyterians in Educational Work in North Carolina Since 1813 (1913); Robert Hamlin Stone, A History of Orange Presbytery, 1770-1970 (1970)

  • North Dakota - Stanley Norman Murray, Presbyterians on the Northern Plains: A History (2002)

  • Ohio - William Wilson McKinney, The Presbyterian Valley: 200 Years of Presbyterianism in the Upper Ohio Valley (1958); Rick Nutt, Contending for the Faith: The First Two Centuries of the Presbyterian Church in the Cincinnati Area (1991); E.B. Welsh, Buckeye Presbyterianism: An Account of the Seven Presbyterian Denominations With Their Synods Within the State of Ohio (1968)

  • Oklahoma - Michael Cassity & Danny Goble, Divided Hearts: The Presbyterian Journey Through Oklahoma History (2009)

  • Oregon - Clifford Merrill Drury, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and the Opening of Old Oregon, Vols. 1&2 (1986); Julie Joy Jeffrey, Converting the West: A Biography of Narcissa Whitman (1994); Nard Jones, The Great Command: The Story of Marcus & Narcissa Whitman and the Oregon Country Pioneers (1959)

  • Pennsylvania - Daniel M. Bennett, Life and Work of Rev. John McMillan: Pioneer, Preacher, Educator, Patriot of Western Pennsylvania (1935); Centenary Memorial of the Planting and Growth of Presbyterianism in Western Pennsylvania and Parts Adjacent (1876); Samuel John Mills Eaton, History of the Presbytery of Erie (1868); Peter E. Gilmore, Irish Presbyterians and the Shaping of Western Pennsylvania, 1770-1830 (2018); Dwight Ray Guthrie, John McMillan: The Apostle of Presbyterianism in the West, 1752-1833 (1952); Guy Solliard Klett, Presbyterians in Colonial Pennsylvania (1937); Donald Roth Kocher, The Mother of Us All: First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, 1698-1998 (1998); William Wilson McKinney, Early Pittsburgh Presbyterianism: Tracing the Development of the Presbyterian church, United States of America, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from 1758-1839 (1938); Thomas Murphy, The Presbytery of the Log College; or, The Cradle of the Presbyterian Church in America (1889); Robert Mayne Patterson, Historical Sketch of the Synod of Philadelphia (1876); Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, To God Be the Glory: Celebrating 200 Years (2008); Joseph Smith, Old Redstone; or, Historical Sketches of Western Presbyterianism, Its Early Ministers, Its Perilous Times, and Its First Records (1854); James Arthur Walther, Ever a Frontier: The Bicentennial History of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (1994)

  • Rhode Island - See below (esp. Blaikie on Presbyterianism in New England)

  • South Carolina - David B. Calhoun, Our Southern Zion: Old Columbia Seminary (1828-1927) (2012); Joanne Calhoun, The Circular Congregational Church: Three Centuries of Charleston History (2008); Erskine Clarke, Our Southern Zion: A History of Calvinism in the South Carolina Low Country, 1690-1990 (1996); George Howe, History of the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina, Vols. 1&2 (1870); Nancy Snell Griffith & Charles E. Raynal, Presbyterians in South Carolina, 1925-1985 (2016); F.D. Jones and W.H. Mills, History of The Presbyterian Church in South Carolina (1926); Edward Guerrant Lilly, Beyond the Burning Bush: First (Scots) Presbyterian Church, Charleston, S.C. (1986); Caroline T. Moore, The Reverend Archibald Stobo: Brief Account of Archibald Stobo's Immigration from Scotland in 1700 and His Ministerial Labors in Charleston, S.C., and Vicinity, Including the Founding of Presbyterian churches at James Island, Willtown Bluff, Pon Pon, Edisto Island, and Cainhoy (1969)

  • South Dakota - Bruce David Forbes, “Presbyterian Beginnings in South Dakota, 1840-1900” (South Dakota State Historical Society, 1977); Dakota Presbytery Council, The First 50 Years: Dakota Presbytery to 1890 (1892); Stanley Norman Murray, Presbyterians on the Northern Plains: A History (2002); Stephen Return Riggs, Sketches of the Dakota Mission (1873)

  • Tennessee - John Edmiston Alexander, A Brief History of the Synod of Tennessee, from 1817 to 1887 (1890); Thomas C. Barr, et. al., eds., The Story of the Presbyteries of Nashville and Columbia: From Early Settlement to 1972 (1976); Charles Edward Diehl, The Story of a Vineyard: The Work of the Presbyterian Church U.S. in the Synod of Tennessee (1927); Jovanna Emerson & Mary Ann Van Osdell, Historic Presbyterian Churches of Tennessee (2006); James Isaac Vance, Pioneer Presbyterianism in Tennessee (1898)

  • Texas - Thomas Chavez, Jr., Texas Mexican Presbyterians (1980); William E. Lytch, The Cradle of Texas Presbyterianism: A History of Memorial Presbyterian Church, San Augustine, Texas (1993); William McLeod, Presbyterian Expansion in the Synod of Texas of the PCUS (1927); George H. Paschal, Jr. and Judith A. Benner, One Hundred Years of Challenge and Change: A History of the Synod of Texas of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (1968); William Stuart Red, A History of the Presbyterian Church in Texas (1936); Levi Tanney, History of the Presbytery of Central Texas (1895)

  • Utah - Paul Jesse Baird, Presbyterian Pioneers in Utah (1996); Frederick Burton, Presbyterians In Zion: History of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Utah (2010); Andrew E. Murray, The Skyline Synod: Presbyterianism in Colorado and Utah (1971)

  • Vermont - See below (esp. Blaikie on Presbyterianism in New England)

  • Virginia - Patricia Alridge, ed., Virginia Presbyterians in American Life: Hanover Presbytery (1755-1980) (1982); Henry M. Brown & William M.E. Rachal, Yesterday and Tomorrow in the Synod of Virginia (1962); Thomas E. Buckley, Church and State in Revolutionary Virginia, 1776-1787 (1977); William Henry Foote, Sketches of Virginia (First and Second Series) (1850, 1855); Wesley M. Gewehr, The Great Awakening in Virginia, 1740-1790 (2011); James Robert Graham, The Planting of the Presbyterian Church in Northern Virginia (1904); Thomas Cary Johnson, Virginia Presbyterianism and Religious Liberty (1909); Dewey Roberts, Samuel Davies: Apostle to Virginia (2017); William B. Sweetser, Jr., A Copious Fountain: A History of Union Presbyterian Seminary, 1812-2012 (2016); Howard McKnight Wilson, The Tinkling Spring, Headwater of Freedom: A Study of the Church and Her People, 1732-1952 (1954), The Lexington Presbytery Heritage: The Presbytery of Lexington and its churches in the Synod of Virginia, Presbyterian Church in the United States (1971), Presbyterian Beginnings in Lower Tidewater Virginia (1973)

  • Washington - Robert Boyd, History of the Synod of Washington, of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, 1835-1909 (1910); Robert L. Welsh, The Presbytery of Seattle, 1858-205: The “Dream” of a Presbyterian Colony in the West (2006)

  • West Virginia - Dennis Eldon Bills, Presbyterianism in West Virginia: A History (2019); Lloyd Courtney, The Church of the Western Waters: An History of Greenbrier Presbytery and Its Churches (1940); Dorsey Daniel Ellis, Look Unto the Rock: A History of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. in West Virginia, 1719-1974 (1982); Gill I. Wilson, The Story of Presbyterianism in West Virginia (1958); The Work Projects Administration, Inventory of the Church Archives of West Virginia: The Presbyterian Churches (1941)

  • Wisconsin - William Fiske Brown, Past Made Present: The First Fifty Years of the First Presbyterian Church and Congregation of Beloit, Wisconsin; and A History of Presbyterianism in Our State Up to the Year 1900 (1900); Edward C. Wicklein, A Wisconsin History of the Associate Presbyterian Church of North America, Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church of the West (Later of America), Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod, United Presbyterian Church of North America, With Historical Sketches of Each Congregation, 1840-1958 (1974)

  • Wyoming - Art Randall, History: The Presbytery of Wyoming of the Synod of the Rocky Mountains, 1869-1988 (1988)

There are also a number of helpful regional studies of Presbyterianism in America:

New England

  • Alexander Cameron Blaikie, A History of Presbyterianism in New England (1881)

  • Charles N. Pickell and Mrs. George E. Bevans, Presbyterianism in New England: The Story of a MIssion (1962)

  • Earl A. Pope, New England Calvinism and the Disruption of the Presbyterian Church (1987)

  • William Henry Roberts, “The New England Churches and the First Presbytery,” in Journal of Presbyterian History, Vol. 5, No. 6 (June 1910)


  • Edward Marshall Craig, Highways and Byways of Appalachia: A Study of the Work of the Synod of Appalachia of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1927)

  • Irving Spence, Letters on the Early History of the Presbyterian Church in America (1838)



  • Daniel Walker Hollis, Look to the Rock: One Hundred Ante-Bellum Presbyterian Churches of the South (1961)

  • Harold M. Parker, Jr., Studies in Southern Presbyterian History (1979)

  • Walter Brownlow Posey, The Slavery Question in the Presbyterian Church in the Old Southwest (1949); and The Presbyterian Church in the Old Southwest, 1778-1838 (1952)

  • T. Watson Street, The Story of Southern Presbyterians (1961)

  • Ernest Trice Thompson, The Changing South and the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1950); and Presbyterians in the South, (3 vols., 1963-1973)

  • John Miller Wells, Southern Presbyterian Worthies (1936)

  • Henry Alexander White, Southern Presbyterian Leaders (1911)


  • Mark T. Banker, Presbyterian Missions and Cultural Interaction in the Far Southwest, 1850-1950 (1992)

  • R. Douglas Brackenridge and Francisco O. Garcia-Treto, Iglesia Presbiteriana: A History of Presbyterians and Mexican-Americans in the Southwest (1987)

  • Louis Voss, The Beginnings of Presbyterianism in the Southwest (1923)


  • Norman J. Bender, Winning the West for Christ: Sheldon Jackson and Presbyterianism on the Rocky Mountain Frontier, 1869-1880 (1996)

Puerto Rico

  • Graeme S. Mount, Presbyterian Missions to Trinidad and Puerto Rico (1983)

From chopping down cherry trees to roaring lions: How Pastor Weems' tall tales linger today

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It is well known that the source of the apocryphal story of young George Washington felling his father’s cherry tree with an axe is none other than “Parson” Mason Locke Weems (1759-1825), a Protestant Episcopal minister, traveling book agent and biographer, who in 1800 wrote The Life of Washington, the first time that story was told. The moral of the cherry tree story is that “I cannot tell a lie,” and there is a certain irony in that the story was entirely invented, assuming the best of motives, to promote truth-telling.

Another tale has been told over the past two centuries regarding Samuel Davies that has its origin in the 1816 edition of Sermons on Important Subject by the Late Reverend and Pious Samuel Davies . . . , "Printed for Mason L. Weems" in Baltimore. Nowhere prior to this publication did the story appear, but it was told there, and repeated by William Hill in correspondence to Albert Barnes, whose memoir of Samuel Davies appeared in the 1841 of his Sermons. It is further repeated by Gardiner Spring in The Power of the Pulpit (1848).

The story as told by Hill / Barnes concerns the trip made by Davies to England in 1753:

The circumstance alluded to is this - that his fame was a pulpit orator was so great in London, that some noblemen who had heard him, mentioned in the presence of King George II., that there was a very distinguished dissenting preacher in London from the colony of Virginia, who was attracting great notice, and drawing after him very crowded audiences; upon which the King expressed a strong desire to hear him, and his chaplain invited him to preach in his chapel. Mr. Davies is said to have complied, and preached before a splendid audience, composed of the royal family, and many of the nobility of the realm. It is further said, that while Mr. D. was preaching, the King was seen speaking at different times to those around him. Mr. Davies observed it, and was shocked at what he thought was irreverence in the house of God, that was utterly inexcusable in one whose example might have such influence. After pausing and looking sternly in that direction several times, the preacher proceeded in his discourse, when the same offensive behavior was still observed. The American dissenter is said then to have exclaimed, ‘When the lion roars, the beasts of the forest all tremble; and when King Jesus speaks, the princes of the earth should keep silence.’ The King is said to have given a significant, but courteous bow to the preacher, and sat very composedly and reverently during the rest of the service. If this be a correct statement of the fact that took place, it speaks louder than anything that has yet been said in praise of Mr. Davies’ promptness, intrepidity, and solemn self-possession while engaged in delivering God’s messages to his perishing fellow-men. Whatever authority Mr. Davies’ friends had for narrating this story is not now known, but it was universally believed among them to have occurred.

The explanation given of this strange affair is this. The King is said to have been so enraptured with Mr. Davies’ solemn and impressive manner and eloquence, that he was constrained repeatedly to express his astonishment and applause to those around him, and felt anything else but irreverence upon the occasion. He was so delighted with him, that he sent him an invitation to call upon him at a given time, which interview unquestionably did take place, and was repeated more than once; after which, and the explanations which were given, Mr. Davies was delighted with his Majesty, and not only received a handsome donation from him for the college whose cause he was advocating, but was led to form a most exalted opinion of George II. ever afterwards, as may be learned from a funeral sermon he preached upon his death and character.

The same story told seven years later by Gardiner Spring varies in some details:

That distinguished American preacher, Samuel Davies, then the President of the College of New Jersey, when on a visit to England, in behalf of the college, was invited to preach before George III. His youthful queen was sitting by his side; and so enchanted were they by the preacher’s eloquence, that the king expressed his admiration in no measured terms, and so audibly and rudely as to draw the attention of the audience, and interrupt the service. The preacher made a sudden and solemn pause in his discourse, looked around the audience, and fixing his piercing eye upon England noisy monarch, said, “When the lion roars, the beasts of the forest tremble; when Jehovah speaks, let the kings of the earth keep silence before him!: He was God’s messenger; he feared not man, who is a worm. It is not God’s ministers who tremble amid such scenes.

It was pointed out in a review of Spring’s The Power of the Pulpit which appeared in The New Englander (October 1848, p. 502) that errors abound in the telling, both by Hill / Barnes, and by Spring.

Now this anecdote, minute as it is in its details, is utterly unsustained by evidence, and in all probability is utterly untrue. It was originally written and published by the well-known “parson Weems,'‘ who was famous not only for telling, but coining good stories. The original journal of Davies, which he kept while in England, is still in existence; and in that he has given the occurrences of each day while he was on this mission to that country in behalf of the College of New Jersey. He states distinctly when and where he preached while abroad; and he does not say a single word about having preached before the king: nor does he allude to the king’s having made a donation to the college, though he carefully records every donation he received, and from whom he received it. And so far from preaching before the king, Davies states in his journal, that by the advice of his friends in England, he kept the object of his mission concealed from the knowledge of the British government, lest the charter of the college should be revoked….Such facts [sourced, it is acknowledged, by President James Carnahan of the College of New Jersey] render it morally certain that the story, which Weems first published in an edition of Davies’ sermons, is a sheer fabrication, having not the least foundation in truth.

In this [Spring’s] version of the anecdote, there are two mistakes in dates; for Davies was appointed to go to England in 1753, which was six years before he was chosen president of the College of New Jersey; and George III. did not come to the throne until 1760, which was several years after his return to this country.

The 1848 Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society (Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 127-130) make the same point that Davies’ journal while abroad in England contains no such account of preaching before the King, much less rebuking the King.

In view of these facts, recorded in President Davies’ journal more fully than are here stated, can any one believe that such an occurrence as is related in the memoir ever took place?

It may be inquired, how did the story if it be not true, get abroad in the world? Dr. Carnahan would not affirm who invented it, Dr. Thomas Gibbons, of London, the intimate friend of President Davies, with whom he had daily intercourse while in London, who published a funeral sermon on the death of Davies and who also superintended the first edition of Davies’ sermons in 1765, did not originate the story; nor did Dr. Samuel Finley who also published a funeral sermon on the death of President Davies. The anecdote is not mentioned in an obituary notice by the Reverend David Bostwick, prefixed to Davies’ sermons published in New York, 1792; nor did the late venerable Dr. Ashbel Green in his notes respecting the College of New Jersey, although acquainted with the story, deem it worthy of credence.

The most probable account of its origin is, that an agent employed in the Southern States some forty years ago in selling an edition of Davies’ sermons invented and circulated the story; and as it was not called in question at the time, it has recently passed for true history. So far as the reputation of President Davies as a Christian and a faithful and eloquent preacher is concerned the anecdote is of little importance. But if it be received as true it gives us an erroneous view of the spirit of the times and of the treatment of the Colonial dissenters by the civil authorities in England.

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A Centenarian Presbyterian: William Rankin

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Imagine what it would be like to live from the beginning of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century. William Rankin, Jr., who served as both a ruling elder and the treasurer of the PCUSA Board of Foreign Missions (for 37 years), did just that.

Born on September 15, 1810, on a farm near Elizabeth, New Jersey, his longevity was such that at the time of his death on October 20, 1912, he was 102 years old, and was then the oldest college graduate in the United States. He took up the study of law, graduating from the Cincinnati Law School, and served as a law partner to Salmon P. Chase, who later became Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. He was married to wife Ellen (née Smith) for 62 years. Ecclesiastically, he served as ruling elder for the Third Presbyterian Church of Newark, NJ for 15 years and in the same capacity at the Wicliff Church for 11 years. Sixteen times he attended the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church as Commissioner from Newark. He was a trustee for the Bloomfield Theological Seminary; President of the Essex County Bible Society; President of the Newark Library Association; President of the Board of Trustees for the High Street Church; and a member of the Presbyterian Church Extension Committee. He was also a member of the New Jersey Historical Society from 1848 until the time of his death.

His 1857 address to the Synod of New Jersey on the subject of the Board of Missions was published by request of the Synod. He also authored Handbook and Incidents of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. (1893) and Memorials of Foreign Missionaries of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. (1895). These latter two works are valuable resources which cover the history of Presbyterian foreign missions in the 19th century, written by a man who devoted much of his life to aiding the cause of missions worldwide. We have previously alluded to his account of American Presbyterian missionary to India Joseph Owen (1814-1870), and this is but one of many fascinating biographical sketches to be found in his books.

If the history of world missions is of interest to you, take time to visit the William Rankin, Jr. page and read his remarkable books on foreign missions, written by a centenarian Presbyterian who spent his life in the service of God and the church.

Farewell to a notable Presbyterian historian - James H. Smylie

It is with sadness that we note the recent passing of the great 20th century Presbyterian historian James Hutchinson Smylie (October 25, 1925 - January 5, 2019).

Executive Director Emeritus of the Presbyterian Historical Society Frederick Heuser writes:

Jim Smylie was the dean of American Presbyterian history for a very long time. And he will remain as such, joining others whose scholarly contributions helped us understand  why these ‘few of the folks of faith’ had such an impact on the global community.

Jim believed strongly that our history had to be usable. He consistently displayed a deep concern for making the lessons of history available to grassroots congregations.This vision was the driving force behind his long tenure as the Editor of The Journal of Presbyterian History. While highly regarded and respected by the academic community, he never lost sight of the fact that Presbyterian history had to be understood by the church at large.

We refer you to the memorial written by the Presbyterian Historical Society for more information about the man, as well as this obituary. He served as “[t]he editor of the Journal of Presbyterian History and the secretary of the American Society of Church History for nearly three decades.” Perhaps most well-known for this 1996 A Brief History of the Presbyterians, he has authored quite a few works on Presbyterian church history. Several of his books are available for purchase at our Secondary Sources page. For this writer, two works by Smylie stand out:

  • A Cloud of Witnesses: A History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1965) - Among the “witnesses” highlighted are: Francis Makemie, Samuel Davies,John Witherspoon, James H. Thornwell, Daniel Baker, Woodrow Wilson, “Stonewall” Jackson, Moses D. Hoge, George Washington Cable, James A. Bryan, William H. Sheppard, William M. Morrison, and John J. Eagan.

  • American Presbyterians: A Pictorial History (1985) - This volume provides a visual and textual record of the notables and highlights of American Presbyterian history, including a chart of the denominational divisions. This tour through our national church history is, in this writer’s opinion, not equaled elsewhere, and is an excellent starting point for further research.

As one who loved and taught the history of the Presbyterian Church to many, we remember Jim Smylie and continue to cherish his historical scholarship here at Log College Press.

Whatever happened to William Tennent, Jr.?

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Few figures in Reformed and Presbyterian history have had a greater cloud of mystery shrouding them than William Tennent, Jr. His first biographer, Elias Boudinot IV, wrote of him: We have never known a man in modern times concerning whom so many extraordinary things are related.” Frank R. Symmes adds: “His biography is of surpassing interest, a fascinating story of the unusual and extraordinary in spiritual life.” The son of the founder of the original Log College of Neshaminy, Pennsylvania, which was the seed that grew into the College of New Jersey (Princeton), he was trained for the ministry and then sent to New Brunswick, New Jersey for further training and theological exams under his brother Gilbert, who was already serving as a minister of the gospel.

While there, the toll of his intense studies affected his physical and emotional health greatly, so much so that his body wasted away and doubts of his salvation assailed him. In that condition, and he fainted. To all appearances he was in fact dead, and Gilbert with great sadness began the process of arranging for his funeral. A doctor arrived and thought he detected a slight tremor in one arm, but even a day later, no further sign of life was detected. Yet the doctor continued with efforts to revive him, delaying the scheduled funeral, until while Gilbert and the assembly who had gathered had grown impatient thinking the doctor’s efforts were useless, suddenly, William with a groan opened his eyes, and then relapsed into unconsciousness. This happened again and again until after a time he revived fully, though was bedridden for a year following. He experienced almost complete amnesia, which was discovered when his sister Eleanor found that he did not know what the Bible was. He had to be re-taught everything, although after more time, as he regained strength, the memory of his past life eventually returned to him.

Something else was learned of his experience. As he related it to both Elias Boudinot and separately to Dr. John Woodhull, while he was unconscious, he experienced a trance.

This was the substance of his recital: suddenly he found himself in another state of existence, with an innumerable throng of heavenly beings surrounding him, singing hallelujahs with unspeakable rapture. He was unable to define any shapes to these celestial beings, aware only of their adoration and the aura of glory enfolding them. His entire being was so pervaded with their rapture that he longed to join them, comforted by the thought that he had been redeemed and permitted to enter heaven. But at this point the guide who had led him thither told him that he must return to earth. The thought pierced his soul like a sword and at that instant he awoke to hear the doctor and Gilbert arguing above him. The three days had seemed but a few moments in length, but for three years afterward the echoes of that celestial music rang ceaselessly in his ears (Mary A. Tennent, Light in Darkness: The Life of William Tennent, Sr. and The Log College, pp. 104-105).

So William thus narrowly escaped being buried alive, and eventually was ordained to the ministry, and lived a full life until sickness and death overtook him in 1777. The story of his trance was widely discussed, with some understanding it in natural and others in supernatural terms.

Boudinot wrote: “The pious and candid reader is left to his own reflection on the very extraordinary occurrence. The facts have been stated and they are unquestionable. The writer will only ask whether it is contrary to the revealed truth or to reason to believe that in every age of the world, instances like that here recorded have occurred to furnish living testimony to the reality of the invisible world, and the infinite importance of eternal concerns” (Life of the Rev. William Tennent, p. 24).

Archibald Alexander did not view the trance as anything more than what could be “accounted for on natural principles.” Although there was other event in William’s life that led Alexander to conclude that God does still interpose in human affairs by means of dreams - a man and his wife who came from Maryland to Trenton, New Jersey after having both experienced the same dream whereby they were called to come to the aid of a Mr. Tennent who was in great distress. In fact, at the time they found him in Trenton he was facing a false charge of perjury for having served as a witness for the defense of a fellow minister accused of robbery under a case of mistaken identity. The arrival of the man and his wife from Maryland, who had previous contact with him, was helpful in establishing an alibi for William during his trial, and led to a verdict on “not guilty” on William’s behalf. It was a remarkable end to a troublesome situation (Biographical Sketches of the Founder, and Principal Alumni of the Log College, pp. 192-200, 222-231).

Back to William’s trace, Mary Tennent, writing in 1971, says: “Of course the simple explanation is that after a long and devastating illness, in a state of exhaustion and weakness, he sank into a coma from which he was at length aroused by the continuous efforts of his friend, the doctor. The vivid dream occurring during the few moments of returning consciousness was the natural result of his last conscious anxiety concerning his soul, while the tremendous surge of happiness at seeing and hearing the angelic choir was but a subconscious wish fulfillment” (Light in the Darkness: The Story of William Tennent, Sr. and The Log College, p. 105).

Many other fascinating anecdotes are recorded about William by Boudinot and Alexander. One that is mentioned by the latter, but not the former. One night he awoke from his sleep with intense pain in one foot. It seems that several of his toes had been cleanly amputated, although the toes were not to be found, nor was there any bloody trail or blade was found. There was simply no explanation for the event, which left him minus several toes. Whether he was a sleepwalker who had an accident or whether something else natural or supernatural occurred, we have no way of knowing.

This is just one of many extraordinary events in the life of an extraordinary man. The biographies consulted above are worth perusing to learn more about this remarkable figure and his place in church history.

Tennent, Jr., William, The Remarkable Trance of Rev. William Tennent.jpg

A Visit to the South Carolina Lowcountry

Charleston, South Carolina is a city famous, among other things, for its historic churches. A walking tour of the city, especially along Meeting Street, offers the opportunity to travel through time as it were and explore places of worship and graveyards that continue to testify to the faith of our forefathers.

This writer had such an opportunity recently and was privileged to visit such churches in Charleston and the surrounding vicinity. A trip to Elmwood Cemetery, Columbia, SC, was part of the experience as well, where John Lafayette Girardeau, James Henley Thornwell and George Andrew Blackburn were laid to rest between 100 and 150 years ago.

Having consulted several resources beforehand — Erskine Clarke, Our Southern Zion: A History of Calvinism in the South Carolina Low Country, 1690-1990; Charles E. Raynal, Johns Island Presbyterian Church: Its People and Its Community From Colonial Beginnings to the Twenty-First Century; George Howe, History of the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina; and Joanne Calhoun, The Circular Church: Three Centuries of Charleston History — I made my way first to the Johns Island Presbyterian Church (founded in 1710, its building dates to 1719 — three hundred years ago now). As with many of the churches I toured, the graveyard is an ever-present Memento mori. Next on the tour was the James Island Presbyterian Church (founded in 1706). Both of these churches were established by Archibald Stobo, a Presbyterian pioneer who also founded the first presbytery in the Western Hemisphere, as well as in the southern United States. He established other churches in the area which I do hope to visit on a future tour.


In Charleston proper, my walking tour began with a visit to the Unitarian Church, which began its existence in 1774 as the Archdale Street Meeting House, founded by Dissenters who branched off from what we know now as the Circular Congregational Church, originally a mixed Independent and Presbyterian Church, itself founded in 1685. William Tennent III (grandson of the founder of the original Log College) is buried on the grounds of the Unitarian Church, though he was no Unitarian. The fan vault ceiling is modeled after the one at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge.


Next, was the First Scots Presbyterian Church on Meeting Street (founded in 1731). It was another breakaway from the Circular Congregational Church, by a decidedly Presbyterian group. George Buist is buried in the church graveyard.


Further along Meeting Street is the Circular Congregational Church, a remarkable architectural and spiritual landmark, where I paid my respects at the graves of David Ramsay and Benjamin Morgan Palmer (1781-1847).


After this, I visited the Second Presbyterian Church of Charleston (founded in 1811), where I was given a tour of the sanctuary and the graveyard (Thomas Smyth and John Bailey Adger are laid to rest there).


Also on my tour I worshiped at the Independent Presbyterian Church of Savannah, Georgia (founded in 1755). At each stop along the way, I was reminded that the past is not dead, and American Presbyterians are not irrelevant. The old Presbyterian history of the South Carolina lowcountry is very much alive for those with eyes to see.

The Historical Sketches of Thomas Sproull

Thomas Sproull (1803-1892) was one of the nineteenth-century giants of the American Covenanter Church. As both a pastor and a professor (emeritus) of theology for the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, he spent his life in the service of “Christ’s Crown & Covenant.”

A frequent contributor to The Reformed Presbyterian and Covenanter magazine, in 1875 he authored a series of 10 articles titled “The Reformed Presbyterian Church in America: Historical Sketches.” This is a valuable history of the RPCNA from the first arrival of Covenanters from Scotland in New Jersey around 1685 up to the regrettable disruption of 1833. In 1876 and 1877, he further published a series of 13 articles titled “Reformed Presbyterian Church in America: Sketches of Her Organic History,” which constitutes an effort to extend the history of the RPCNA during this time period through her official judicial records.

Sproull covers much interesting ground his articles, discussing its Testimony and the distinctives of the RPCNA, its internal strife, the establishment of its seminary, its missionary labors, and its many contributions to the kingdom of God on the earth. The two series of articles were relied upon by William Melancthon Glasgow when he compiled his History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America (1888), and as consolidated PDF files here at Log College Press, they will assist the student of early American Covenanter church history greatly.

McFetridge on the religious nature of history

When Loraine Boetter wrote his 1932 classic The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, he included a chapter titled “Calvinism in History.” The chapter title and many quotes therein are borrowed from Calvinism in History (1882) by Nathaniel Smyth McFetridge, a book which Boettner describes as “splendid” and “illuminating.”

In McFetridge’s classic work, before giving an historical tour showing the influence and legacy of Calvinism as a moral, political and evangelical force in the world, he takes a moment to remind his readers that all history is essentially religious is nature. “Predestination and an overruling Providence are one and the same thing,” he says elsewhere, emphasizing the hand of God in history as well as salvation.

And here let it be remarked that events follow principles; that mind rules the world; that thought is more powerful than cannon; that “all history is in its inmost nature religious” [The United States as a Nation, p. 30, by Rev. Joseph Thompson, D.D., LL.D.]; and that, as John von Muller says, “Christ is the key to the history of the world,” and, as Carlyle says, “the spiritual will always body itself forth in the temporal history of men.” In the formation of the modern nations religion performed a principal part. The great movements out of which the present civilized nations sprung were religious through and through.

What part, then, had Calvinism in begetting and shaping and controlling those movements? What has it show as the result of its labors? A rich possession indeed. A glorious record belongs to it in the history of modern civilization.

Happy New Year and Happy Birthday!

We wish to take this opportunity to wish all of our readers a very Happy New Year! We have grown much in the past year, and we couldn’t have done it without your interest and support. We are excited to see what 2019 holds for Log College Press and its readers.

Meanwhile, January 1st marks the birthday of four of our LCP authors:

  • Leonard Woolsey Bacon (Jan. 1, 1830 - May 12, 1907) was a pastor of both Presbyterian and Congregational churches, and a prolific writer;

  • William Imbrie (Jan. 1, 1845 - Aug. 4, 1928) was both a Princeton graduate and a longtime missionary to Japan;

  • James Calvin McFeeters (Jan. 1, 1848 - Dec. 24, 1928) served as a minister of the gospel for 54 years; he was moderator of Synod (RPCNA) in 1894; he served as President of the Board of Trustees at Geneva College; and he authored several books about the Covenanters; and

  • Philip Schaff (Jan. 1, 1819 - Oct. 20, 1893) was a Swiss-born Reformed minister who joined the faculty of Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 1870, and wrote extensively on church history and other matters.

January 1, 2019 also marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Swiss Reformation in Zurich. Ulrich Zwingli’s (who also was born on January 1, 1484) biographer, William Maxwell Blackburn, in Ulrich Zwingli, The Patriotic Reformer: A History , tells us how it began on January 1, 1519:

On New Year s day, 1519, the thirty-fifth birthday of the preacher, Zwingli went into the cathedral pulpit. A great crowd, eager to hear the celebrated man, was before him. "It is to Christ that I desire to lead you," said he "to Christ the true source of salvation. His divine word is the only food that I wish to set before your souls." This was the theme of his inaugural on Saturday. He then announced that on the following day he would begin to expound Matthew s gospel. The next morning the preacher and a still larger audience were at their posts. He opened the long-sealed book and read the first page. He caused his hearers to marvel at that chapter of names. But it was the human genealogy of the Lord Jesus Christ patriarchs, prophets, kings were mentioned in it Jewish history was summed up therein and how forcibly did it teach that all the preceding ages had existed for the sake of him who was born of Mary, and named Immanuel! And there was the name Jesus " He shall save his people from their sins." The enraptured auditors went home saying, "We never heard the like of this before!"

Be sure to check out all of these authors, and more as we commence the New Year! “The deeper you root yourself backward in God’s work in the past, the more abundant will be the fruit you bear forward into the future.” — Caleb Cangelosi

The ED scholarship at Princeton Theological Seminary

The story is told by David B. Calhoun, “Old Princeton Seminary and the Westminster Standards,” in Ligon Duncan, ed., The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century, Vol. 2, pp. 41-42 and by Cortlandt Van Rensselear in The Presbyterian Magazine, Vol. 7 (August 1857), pp. 369-370, of a brother and sister, Robert and Marian Hall, originally of Scotland and raised under the minister of the esteemed John Brown of Haddington, who came to America in 1785.

In 1831, they gave $2500 to endow a scholarship at (what is now known as) Princeton Theological Seminary. In doing so, they said:

Whereas, after a life of nearly fourscore years, much of which has been spent in examining the Word of God, we are fully satisfied of the correctness of the doctrines of religion as laid down in the Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, drawn up by the Westminster Assembly of Divines, and as held by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the United States, we desire that the scholarship which is endowed by this our bequest of two thousand five hundred dollars, be called the ED Scholarship, as a witness between us and the Theological Seminary, that the Lord he is God, agreeable to the said Confession of Faith and Catechisms.

Farther, it is our will, that the Professors in said Seminary be careful, that no person holding sentiments inconsistent with the Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, be ever admitted to the benefit of said Scholarship.

It was their wish, furthermore, that this scholarship be given to “such as are poor and needy.” When Marian was asked why it should not be called the “Hall Scholarship,” a memorable exchange followed:

“As your brother and self have now founded a Scholarship, it can be called the Hall Scholarship.”

”I dinna wish my worthless name to be remembered after I am dead and gone, but I do wish to do something for the cause of true religion, which shall maintain the truth, as long as the Kirk shall lead, and, therefore, I wish the Scholarship to be named ED.”

Being asked the meaning of the name, she replied, “And dinna ye ken, young mon? E’en go and read your Bible.”

“Well, I have read it, and still I do not recollect the meaning of use of ED.”

“Do you not recollect that when the two tribes and a half, who had their inheritance on the east side of Jordan, had assisted the other tribes to subdue their enemies, and were about to return to their possessions, before they crossed the river, they built an altar? And do you not know that the other tribes were about to make war upon them for the erection of this altar, supposing it to have been intended for an altar of worship distinct from that appointed by Jehovah? The two and a half tribes gave the others to understand that they were entirely mistaken in their conjectures. The altar was not an altar of worship, but an altar of witness, that Jehovah alone was the true God, and that it had been created in token of their views and desires. (‘And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar ED; for it shall be a witness between us that the Lord is God.’ Joshua 22:34)

She continued, “I dinna like your Hopkinsian. I believe in the doctrines of the Bible, as expressed in the Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms of the Presbyterian Church, and I wish that the Scholarship be called ED, as a witness between us and the Theological Seminary, that the Lord is God, agreeably to said Confession and Catechisms: and I dinna wish that any person holding sentiments inconsistent therewith, be ever admitted to the benefit of said scholarship.”

And that is the story of how the ED scholarship began at Princeton Theological Seminary.

New Schaff resources at LCP

Although Philip Schaff was from Germany and originally a minister in the German Reformed Church, he later came to America joined the Presbyterian Church in the USA and served on the faculty of Union Theological Seminary in New York.

And although he was an exponent of Mercersburg Theology, he was also a very able and judicious church historian. A prolific writer, he published the first volume of his History of the Christian Church in 1858. Volumes 2-4, 6 and 7 were also published during his lifetime, and vols. 5, part 1 and 2 were edited and published by his son, David Schley Schaff, posthumously. Three volumes of The Creeds of Christendom were published in 1877. These two sets, in particular, have been republished to the present day, and remain standard works in church history and historical theology.

These, along with other volumes by these two noted church historians, are now available to read at Log College Press.

French Huguenot Blood in American Presbyterians

Ashbel Green Vermilye once wrote a work titled The Huguenot Element Among the Dutch (1877) in which he noted:

The Church of Jesus Christ is being made up in the same way "out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." No one people, no one nation is or will be permitted to claim a monopoly of contribution to her glory. Our great Centennial Exhibition, now in progress, where Chinese and Japanese from the gate way of the East, the mighty inventive genius of the West, and so many nationalities of different complexions and grades of advancement are vying together in peaceful competitive display, is not so large and various a combination of materials as will compose the Church and its glory when it shall be seen complete in heaven. We have occasionally heard a rich brogue or accent in the pulpit, and foreign turns of thought and expression, which added greatly to the charm and effect of the sermon or prayer; just as a child's lisp or a woman's voice have sometimes given a new touch of tenderness and beauty to the Lord's prayer. And this same variety, these effects of diverse training, experience, nurture, God is now working into the consummate glory of heaven. Ah! there, too, they shall hear them speak every man in his own language, “every man in his own tongue wherein he was born" — the dear mother tongue;" and the great assembly shall be perpetually reminded of tho largeness and freeness of His grace in Christ Jesus. "Out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation!" In the history of the Church's development thus far, how many names, each name a power, come up in illustration of this thought! What fine fruitage of grace Africa presents in Monica and Augustine, devoted mother, time honored son! But Ambrose, by whose help that son is at length ripened into fruitage of grace, is a branch from distant Gaul [France]. And so, as the ages proceed, and notwithstanding the darkness of some of them, we find the “good seed, the children of the kingdom," ever more widely scattered; and producing among different people and tongues such kings of thought and kingly souls as Bernard, and Luther, and Calvin, and Wesley, and Edwards…

While many American Presbyterians can unsurprisingly trace their ancestory to the Scots-Irish, many others have different backgrounds, which, in the providence of God, combine to make a beautiful tapestry. This post examines a sampling of the writers at Log College Press who share one particular thread of the tapestry - French Huguenot ancestory:

  • Elias Boudinot IV (1740-1821) - “Elias' paternal grandfather, Elie (sometimes called Elias) Boudinot, was the son of Jean Boudinot and Marie Suire of Marans, Aunis, France. They were a Huguenot (French Protestant) family who fled to New York about 1687 to avoid the religious persecutions of King Louis XIV.” - Wikipedia

  • Ephraim Brevard (1744-1781) - An important Presbyterian contributor to both the 1775 Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and the 1775 Charlotte Town Resolves, Ephraim was the grandson of Jean Paul Brevard (1664-1747), a French Huguenot émigré.

  • James Caldwell (1734-1781) - According to Norman F. Brydon’s biography of “the Fighting Parson,” Reverend James Caldwell: Patriot, 1734-1781, the Caldwell family originated from French Huguenot stock, which emigrated to Scotland to seek religious freedom, where they found instead Episcopal persecution. Ultimately, the Caldwell family made it to America where James became a distinguished hero of the faith in the fight for spiritual and political independence.

  • Samuel Jones Cassels (1805-1853) - “Cassels' father was a South Carolinian, a descendant of the Huguenots.” - Lawrence Huff, “Samuel Jones Cassels: A Pioneer Georgia Poet,” The Georgia Historical Quarterly, Vol. 47, No. 4 (Dec. 1963), p. 408.

  • Robert Lewis Dabney (1820-1898) - Dabney’s biographer, T.C. Johnson, says: “The Dabneys are numerous in Massachusetts, in Virginia and in the Mississippi Valley. It is commonly believed amonst them that they are all related, and it is prevalently held amongst them that their origin, on this side the Atlantic, was in three brothers — Robert Dabney, or d'Aubigne, who came to Boston a short time previous to 1717, and John and Cornelius Dabney, or d'Aubigne, who came to Virginia between 1715, perhaps, and 1720. It is also their prevalent belief that these brothers came to this country from England; that the family had fled thither from France on occasion of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Finally, many in all branches of this widespread family claim descent from the old confessor, Theodore Agrippa d'Aubigne.” (The Life and Letters of Robert Lewis Dabney, p. 2)

  • Hampden Coit Dubose (1845-1910) - The famous Southern Presbyterian missionary to China is a direct descendant of the French Huguenot émigré Isaac Du Bosc (1661-1718), who in 1685 following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes settled in Charleston, South Carolina, where Hampden was born 160 years later.

  • George Duffield II (1732-1790), and his descendants, including George Duffield IV (1794-1868), and George Duffield V (1818-1888) [and perhaps other notable Duffields, such as John Thomas Duffield (1823-1901) and Samuel Willoughby Duffield (1843-1887)] “were of Huguenot origin, their forefathers having escaped from France on account of religious persecution. The name was originally Du Fielde, but became Anglicised after the family settled in England.” (Biographical Annals of Franklin County, Pennsylvania, Vol. 1, p. 362)

  • John Lafayette Girardeau (1825-1898) - George A. Blackburn, citing records from Charles W. Baird’s History of Huguenot Emigration to America, affirms that “In this illustrious company were the ancestors of John L. Girardeau.” (The Life Work of John L. Girardeau, D.D., LLD., pp. 7-8)

  • Francis James Grimké (1850-1937) - One of the most interesting stories found here is that of the son of Henry Grimké, a white slaveowner from Charleston, South Carolina, and Nancy Weston, a slave of European and African descent, with whom Henry Grimké, as a widower, had a common-law relationship. Henry was the grandson of John Faucheraud Grimké (1752-1819), an eminent member of Charleston society, whose maternal grandparents emigrated from France to South Carolina to escape persecution after the 1685 Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. When Henry died in 1852, his will directed that Francis (and his brothers Archibald and John) be treated as members of the family. But, after they were claimed as slaves by their half-brother Montague in 1860, it was not until 1868, when a an address by Archibald at Lincoln University that was highlighted in The Anti-Slavery Standard received attention from Henry’s sisters, the abolitionists Sarah Grimké (1792-1873) and Angelina Grimké Weld (1805-1879), that Francis and his brothers were officially welcomed with open arms into the family and given financial support to pursue their higher education, which, for Francis, enabled him to graduate from Princeton and become a Presbyterian minister.

  • Charles Hodge (1797-1878) — and other notable Hodges, such as Archibald Alexander Hodge (1823-1886); Caspar Wistar Hodge, Sr. (1830-1891); and John Aspinwall Hodge (1831-1901) — had a connection to the French Huguenot diaspora through Charles’ great-aunt “Aunt Hannah.” A.A. Hodge writes in his biography of his father: “Mrs. Hannah Hodge, known for many years in the family as Aunt Hannah, was recognized in all the city as a mother in Israel. She was born in Philadelphia, January, 1721, the daughter of John Harkum, of English descent. Her mother, whose maiden name was Doz, was the child of a Protestant who fled from France on account of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantz, 1685, and afterward with other French Protestants, was principally instrumental in founding the First Presbyterian Church, then standing on Market Street above Second, of which the Rev. Jedidiah Andrews was pastor.” (The Life of Charles Hodge, p. 2)

There are likely many more American Presbyterians on our site with French Huguenot heritage, but this sampling gives an idea of the interesting stories that highlight the providence of God in building his Church. Get to know these men and their writings, and the various threads of God’s tapestry.

19th Century American Presbyterian Writings About the Waldensians

If one reads the writings of Samuel Miller, one of the most prolific American Presbyterian authors of the 18th-19th centuries, one may notice just how often he references the Waldensians, a stream of proto-Protestant Christianity centered in the Alps of France and Italy, in his many works on church history, church government and baptism.

Often Miller addresses the assertions of those Baptists who claim the Waldensians for their own, while showing that in fact they were paedobaptist in their sacramentology and Presbyterian in their understanding of ecclesiology.

The Waldensians (known as the Vaudois in French) began as a movement of conscience which practiced resistance against Papal authority in Lyon, France under the leadership of Peter Waldo in the 12th century, and they suffered tremendous persecution for centuries. They officially embraced the Protestant Reformation at the Synod of Chanforan in 1532. John Milton famously wrote a sonnet about their sufferings during the Piedmontese Easter of 1655, and in fact, worked on behalf of Oliver Cromwell and with Andrew Marvell to apply diplomatic pressure to assist the Waldensians in their need. Later, as noted by Walter H. Conser, Jr. and Robert J. Cain in Presbyterians in North Carolina: Race, Politics, and Religious Identity in Historical Perspective (p. 176), a body of Waldensians who had settled in Valdese, North Carolina joined the Southern Presbyterian Church in 1895, taking as their name the Waldensian Presbyterian Church. The Waldensians have long had a special place in the hearts of American Presbyterians because of their courage and faithfulness beginning centuries before Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, thus launching the Protestant Reformation.

Miller, who was a professor of ecclesiastical history at Princeton, wrote specifically about the Waldensians in the following works:

  • “The Doctrine and Order of the Waldenses,” The Virginia Evangelical and Literary Magazine (five articles appeared in 1820 and 1821) [these articles are not yet available to read at Log College Press, but it is hoped they will be in the future];

  • Appendix to James Wharey’s Sketches of Church History, Concerning the History and Doctrine of the Waldensians (1838, 1840); and

  • Recommendatory Letter to History of the Ancient Christians Inhabiting the Valleys of the Alps [an English translation of Jean Paul Perrin’s history of the Waldensians] (1845, 1847).

But Miller was not alone among the American Presbyterian writers of his day in taking note of the story and situation of the Waldensians.

Robert Baird spent time among the Waldensians of Italy in 1837 and 1851. His sons, Charles and Henry, who became noted Huguenot historians, both imbided his appreciation for the cause of Protestants in Europe, including the Waldensians. Henry’s biography of his father makes mention of the contacts Robert made with them, as well as his deep love for the people. And Henry would go on to speak of the Waldensians in more depth in his History of the Rise of the Huguenots of France, Vol. 1. Charles argued in his History of the Huguenot Emigration to America that a number of Waldensians settled in the Huguenot community of Manakintowne, Virginia (near Richmond). Both Robert and Charles introduced or translated the writings of Jean Henri-Merle D’Aubigné, whose histories of the Reformation and essays often highlighted the Waldensians. Robert wrote:

  • Sketches of Protestantism in Italy, Past and Present, Including a Notice of the Origin, History, and Present State of the Waldenses (1845); and

  • “The Modern Vaudois” (1847), an essay appended to the aforementioned History of the Ancient Christians Inhabiting the Valleys of the Alps.

William Craig Brownlee also wrote Saint Patrick and the Western Apostolic Churches: or, The Religion of the Ancient Britains and Irish, not Roman Catholic: and The Antiquity, Tenents and Sufferings of the Albigenses and Waldenses (1857).

Thomas Smyth wrote “The Waldenses—Were They Pedobaptists?” (Works, Vol. 6).

William Maxwell Blackburn has a great to say about the Waldensians in his History of the Christian Church From Its Origin to the Present Time (1879).

Robert Pollock Kerr has a chapter on the Waldenses in The People’s History of Presbyterianism in All Ages (1888).

Richard Clark Reed makes mention of the Waldensians in his History of the Presbyterian Churches of the World (1912).

Madison Monroe Smith wrote An Epitome of the Doctrines and Practice of the Old Waldenses and Albigenses (1866).

Joel Tyler Headley wrote History of the Persecutions and Battles of the Waldenses (1853).

These are really just to name a few of the works that are available here. Many more American Presbyterian works have been written about the Waldensians, and we at Log College Press continue to assemble them. Their memory is sacred, and they continue to inspire us; we do well even in the 21st century to learn all we can about them.

God's Providence in the Deaths of Log College Press Saints

Henry A. Boardman once had occasion to preach a funeral sermon for several individuals who perished in a railroad accident. In his 1855 sermon titled "God’s Providence in Accidents,” he said:

That death is among the objects of his providence, is a necessary corollary from his sovereignty. It is one of his inalienable prerogatives to create life, and he alone can destroy it. “I kill; and I make alive." Such is the concatenation of events, that the death of an obscure individual, or of an infant, at a different time or place from that which he had prescribed, might disorganize the entire scheme of terrestrial things, and even spread confusion through the whole boundless domain of his administration. "Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth?" "Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee: thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass." "Thou turnest man to destruction, and sayest: 'Return, ye children of men.'“

And this implies that the mode, and all the attending circumstances of death, are appointed in every instance. We may no more exempt one class of deaths from God's control, than another. The sword, the poison, the accident, are as much his instruments as the paralysis and the fever — the battle is no less his than the pestilence. The murder of Abel, and the tranquil death of Jacob; Joseph dying in Egypt, and Moses in Mount Nebo; Jonathan slain in battle and David peacefully expiring in the bosom of his family; John the Baptist beheaded, and Stephen stoned to death; all have a common place in the great scheme of Providence.

One of the features that makes Log College Press’ database of American Presbyterian writers so special is that — as often as possible — we have included photographs of these men, along with pictures of where they are laid to rest, as well as biographical information. Reviewing the lives and deaths of our Log College Press men, it is worth taking note of some of the unusual ways that some of them have finished their earthly course.

Maltbie Davenport Babcock — Composer of the famous hymn “This Is My Father’s World,” “Babcock died at age 42 in Naples, Italy, on May 18, 1901, returning from a trip to the Holy Land. According to a New York Times report of May 20, 1901, and widely carried by newspapers coast-to-coast, he committed suicide by slitting his wrist and ingesting ‘corrosive sublimate’ or mercuric chloride. He was being treated in the International Hospital in Naples for what was called ‘Mediterranean fever,’ an archaic term for brucellosis. Several of his travel companions suffered from this bacterial infection which causes fever, pain and depression. Babcock had been hospitalized for ‘nervous prostration’ (depression) in Danville, New York, ten years before his death.” — Wikipedia

Hezekiah James Balch — Presbyterian minister and one of the three primary authors of the 1775 Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, it is not known precisely how he died, merely that he died in early 1776, around the age of 30.

Elias Boudinot — After signing the Treaty of New Echota (1835), which ceded all Cherokee land east of the Mississippi to the U.S. federal government, Boudinot was assassinated at his Oklahoma home on June 22, 1839, by a group of Cherokees who were angry about his role in the removal of the tribe.

Ephraim Brevard - The reputed author of the 1775 Mecklenburg Resolutions and the scribe who penned the 1775 Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence spent time in British custody as a prisoner of war at Charleston, South Carolina, where the unwholesome air and diet crushed his health. After his release, he reached the home of his friend John McKnitt Alexander, in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, only to breathe his last shortly thereafter in 1781.

William Jennings Bryan, Sr. — This Presbyterian statesman and lawyer is most famous today for his role in the 1925 Scopes Trial in Tennessee regarding the teaching of evolution. He won the case for the prosecution (contra evolution), which was decided on July 21, 1925, though he lost in the court of public opinion. However, he passed away in his sleep just five days later on July 26, 1925.

Aaron Burr, Sr. — Burr was the second president of the College of New Jersey (Princeton). Like the next two succeeding presidents (Jonathan Edwards and Samuel Davies), Burr preached a New Year’s sermon on Jeremiah 28:16 and died later that same year on September 24, 1757.

James Caldwell — The “Fighting Parson” of the American War of Independence, “Rev. Caldwell was picking up a traveler in his buggy. After carrying the baggage to the horse-drawn buggy, he went back to pick up a package. An American sentry ordered him to stop but distance precluded the command from being heard. With that, the sentry fired and killed Rev. Caldwell on November 24, 1781. At the trial and subsequent hanging of the sentry, there were rumors that he had been bribed by the British to kill the soldier parson. At any rate, he was buried beside his wife in the cemetery of the First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethtown, New Jersey. A monument was placed up honoring him in 1846. Three towns in New Jersey are named after him, including an educational facility.” — This Day in Presbyterian History

Samuel Davies — Davies was the fourth president of the College of New Jersey (Princeton). Like each of the prior two presidents (Aaron Burr, Sr. and Jonathan Edwards), Davies preached a New Year’s sermon on Jeremiah 28:16 (“This Very Year Thou Shalt Die!”), and by February 4, 1761, Davies had passed away from pneumonia.

Moses Drury Hoge — “On Friday, November 4, 1898, Moses Drury Hoge was heading home after consoling a bereaved family when he suddenly heard the clanging bell of a trolley as it rammed into his buggy. He was thrown into the air and landed on his right side on the stone pavement and was severely injured. Dr. Hoge suffered with his injuries until he died on January 6, 1899.” — Presbyterians of the Past

George Howe — "In the case of George Howe, his fatal injury occurred after the Lord’s Day service. He was riding home when he was thrown from his carriage resulting in the breaking of one of his legs. He survived through two weeks of suffering before dying on April 15, 1883.” — Presbyterians of the Past

James Latta — An Irish-American Presbyterian who served as the third moderator of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, “The circumstances of his death, as related by one of his daughters, were as follows: — Riding to church one Sabbath with his daughter Mary, he was thrown from the carriage, and falling on his head, he was somewhat stunned. He observed to her, — ‘I am killed; but do not tell your mother.’ He proceeded to church, preached with some difficulty, and returned home. He soon after fell into a sleepy, comatose state, until his daughter, the next day, alarmed, related to her mother what had happened. Help was immediately called in, but in vain. He continued a few days, almost insensible, and then died.” — This Day in Presbyterian History

John Greshem Machen — After traveling to North Dakota in December 1936, Machen developed an inflammation of the lungs, and then was hospitalized for pneumonia. Before he passed away on January 1, 1937, at the age of 55, he dictated a telegram to his friend and colleague John Murray in which he stated: “I'm so thankful for active obedience of Christ. No hope without it."

Nathaniel Smyth McFetridge — In 1881, McFetridge was seriously injured in a railroad accident, and never fully recovered. He passed away on December 3, 1886 at Minneapolis, Minnesota at the age of 44.

Benjamin Morgan Palmer — “Palmer was struck by a streetcar in New Orleans on May 5, 1902, and died twenty days later.” — Wikipedia

Charles Henry Parkhurst — Parkhurst died on September 8, 1933, by sleepwalking and walking off the porch roof of his Ventnor City, New Jersey, home.

David Ramsay — Famed Presbyterian historian David “Ramsay was appointed by a court to examine one William Linnen, a tailor known for serial litigation and nuisance suits, after Linnen had attempted to murder his attorney. Ramsay reported to the court that Linnen was ‘deranged’ and that it would be ‘dangerous to let him go at large.’ After apparently regaining his sanity, Linnen was released; though he threatened Ramsay, the latter did not take the threat seriously.

On May 6, 1815, at 1:00 p.m., Ramsay passed Linnen on Broad Street in Charleston. Linnen took out a ‘horseman's pistol’ that he had concealed in a handkerchief, and shot Ramsay twice, in the back and hip. According to a contemporary source:

Having been carried home, and being surrounded by a crowd of anxious citizens, after first calling their attention to what he was about to utter, he said ‘I know not if these wounds be mortal; I am not afraid to die; but should that be my fate, I call on all here present to bear witness, that I consider the unfortunate perpetrator of this deed a lunatic, and free from guilt.’

Ramsay died at 7 a.m. on May 8, 1815.” — Wikipedia

Robert Lodowick Stanton - “Stanton died en route to Europe and was buried at sea on May 28, 1885, at the age of seventy-six.” — Wikipedia

William Tennent III — “In 1777, upon the death of his minister father, he sought to bring his surviving mother to South Carolina. In that trip, he was seized with fever and died on the way. It was said that his mind was calm at the sudden turn of events and that he was willing to die. Thus, on this Day in August 11, 1777, he went into the presence of his heavenly Father.” — This Day in Presbyterian History

Samuel Hall Young — This pioneer missionary who survived an accident on an Alaskan glacier decades previously was hit and killed by a streetcar in Clarksburg, West Virginia on September 2, 1927.

Samuel Miller on Dort

The Christian world, since the days of the apostles, had never a synod of more excellent divines (taking one thing with another) than this synod [Westminster] and the Synod of Dort were. — Richard Baxter

The divines of that assembly [Synod of Dort]...were esteemed of the best that all the reformed churches of Europe (that of France excepted) could afford.” — John Owen

The Synod of Dort, that great ecumenical Reformed council, was first convened on November 13, 1618, four hundred years ago today.

Thomas Scott (1747-1821), the famous British Anglican rector and Biblical commentator, published a study of The Articles of the Synod of Dort in 1818. Two decades later, in 1841, Samuel Miller wrote an Introductory Essay to this valuable work that itself is a worthy read. Sprinkle Publications of Harrisonburg, Virginia republished these works together in 1993.

Take time on this historic anniversary to read what Miller and Scott had to say about the great Synod of Dort. It is well worth your 21st century time to better understand this 17th century council through 19th century eyes.

The Protestant Reformation in the Writings of 19th Century American Presbyterians

To commemorate what is arguably the greatest event in church history since Pentecost, Log College Press wishes to highlight select works by early American Presbyterians which relate to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation:

  • Ezra Hall Gillett (1823-1875)The Life and Times of John Huss (1864) – This is a good introduction to the Bohemian (Czech) proto-Reformer, John Huss.

  • William Maxwell Blackburn (1828-1898)Aonio Paleario and His Friends, With a Revised Edition of "The Benefits of Christ's Death" (1866) – This is an interesting work which contains both a biography of the Italian Reformer, Paleario, and an edited version of the great Italian spiritual classic that was long attributed to him (modern scholarship now attributes authorship of “The Benefit of Christ” to Benedetto Fontanini, also known as Benedetto da Mantova (1495-1556)).

  • William Maxwell Blackburn (1828-1898)William Farel, and the Story of the Swiss Reform (1867) – A fascinating look at the life of the Swiss Reformer, William Farel, who with his friend John Calvin, so influenced Geneva and the world.

  • Henry Martyn Baird (1832-1906)Theodore Beza: The Counsellor of the French Reformation, 1519-1605 (1899) – The classic biography of the French Reformer Theodore Beza, who became Geneva’s spiritual leader after the death of John Calvin.

  • Thomas Carey Johnson (1859-1936)John Calvin and the Genevan Reformation (1900) – An important biography of the great French Reformer and spiritual leader of Geneva, John Calvin.

  • B.B. Warfield (1851-1921)The Ninety-Five Theses in Their Theological Significance  (1917) – Originally published in The Princeton Theological Review in honor of the 400th anniversary of the Reformation, this is a fascinating study of the document by Martin Luther that launched the Reformation on October 31, 1517.

  • Thomas Ephraim Peck (1822-1893), Martin Luther (1895) - This biographical lecture about the great Reformer was originally delivered in 1872, and is here found in Vol. 1 of Peck’s Miscellanies.

  • John William Mears (1825-1881), The Beggars of Holland and the Grandees of Spain: A History of the Reformation in the Netherlands, From A.D. 1200 to 1578 (1867) - This is another comprehensive look at the Dutch Reformation, and in particular, what lead up to it.

Note: This blog post was originally published on October 31, 2017, and has been edited.

Hughes Oliphant Old on Log College Press Men

Hughes Oliphant Old (1933-2016) is widely regarded as a preeminent church historian of the 20th century. He was the focus of the 2017 issue of The Confessional Presbyterian Journal. One of his greatest works is the 7-volume set titled The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church. It consists of biographical sketches and analyses of the preaching of important figures throughout the span of international Christian church history.

Volumes 5 & 6 contain important references to some of the men highlighted here at Log College Press. We commend to you the study of this resource as a method of better understanding the lives and preaching of select American ministers of the gospel.

Volume 5 (Modernism, Pietism, and Awakening, 2004):

Volume 6 (The Modern Age, 2007):

Some additional American Presbyterian ministers are highlighted in Old’s set, but the men referenced above are all to be found here at Log College Press. Old’s analyses of particular, noteworthy sermons by these men constitute very valuable studies of Presbyterian and Reformed preaching of an era that we here at Log College Press aim to remember.

One instance of Old’s analysis of particular sermons comes from Archibald Alexander’s Practical Sermons. He looks at “Obedience to Christ Gives Assurance of the Truth of His Doctrine”; “The Incarnation”; and “Christ’s Gift of Himself For Our Redemption.” As to the whole collection of sermons, Old explains what Alexander means when Alexander wrote that “The sermons contain what the author believes to be evangelical truth.” Old elaborates: “The phrase ‘evangelical truth,’ probably meant to Alexander the truth of the gospel, the faith of classical Protestantism. ‘Evangelical’ did not yet mean a particular party in the Church, but rather the central thrust of the Christian message.”

Old gives context to the former sermon by explaining Alexander’s familiarity with the Enlightment message so popular in Philadelphia at the time when he preached and which the sermon opposed. Old describes “The Incarnation” as a “doxological hymn” of praise to Christ. He highlights Alexander’s notable opening lines: “There are two memorable occasions, in time past, on which the angels are represented as joining in chorus to praise God in relation to our world. The first was when the corner-stone of the fabric of the universe was laid, and its foundations were fastened. Then ‘the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.’ The other was at the birth of a Saviour; which is referred to in our text” (Luke 2:13-14). Finally, Old takes note of Alexander’s sermon which so clearly affirms the divinity of Christ and opposes the Universalism prevalent in his day. As Old says, “This is a very rich sermon. Not brief summary could do it justice.” It is a powerful witness to the Christ of the Scriptures, and though the summary is brief, it is worth reading, as is, of course, the sermon itself.

These are men that Old thought worthy of inclusion and reflection in his valuable study of preaching in the Christian church. Take note of what he wrote as you study these ministers and their writings for yourself using primary and secondary sources. May these resources be a blessing to all ministers, students of the ministry and laymen for whom “the past is not dead.”