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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.
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?