James Robert Graham.

The planting of the Presbyterian church in northern Virginia, prior to the organization of Winchester presbytery, December 4, 1794 online

. (page 1 of 18)
Online LibraryJames Robert GrahamThe planting of the Presbyterian church in northern Virginia, prior to the organization of Winchester presbytery, December 4, 1794 → online text (page 1 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook









Winchester Presbytery,

DECEMBER 4, 1794. '










—in harmonious fellowship with whom my en-
tire ministry has been spent, and whose unvary-
ing kindness has cheered the labors and sweet-
tened the trials of a pastorate extending over a
period of more than half a century — this volume
is affectionately inscribed.



It is with many misgivings that this little volume is committed to the
press. Its author claims no special importance for it. It does not pretend to be
a complete and connected history of our Church, either in the period of
which it treats, or in the territory to which it relates. He is fully aware of
its fragmentary and imperfect character, and of the very limited interest
that will be taken in its pages. His excuse for offering it to the public,
already surfeited with books, is the fact that its publication has been insist-
ently urged by judicious friends, who have some knowledge of its charac-
ter. It is, moreover, his own conviction that such facts of our Presby-
terial history as he has here tried to rescue from oblivion, should be put in
a form most likely to secure their preservation. Though others have ex-
plored the field in which he has labored, and have made most valuable
contributions to the early history of our Church, he is persuaded that some
particulars are here given that will be new to most of his readers, and that
will have a special interest for the people of The Northern Neck.

Notwithstanding the care taken by the proofreader, a few typograph-
ical errors have somehow escaped his watchful eye. Such as have been
discovered are noticed in the " Hn-ata" at the close of the volume.





_ 1


« ei5^ «.5*' e^*

T is proposed, in this unpretending volume, to gather up, so far
as we have been able to obtain them, the facts relating to the
Planting of Presbyierianism in the territory originally covered by
the Presbytery of Winchester, down to the time of the or-
ganization of that Presbytery. This proposal excludes the
attempt to write a history of the Presbytery itself. It lim-
its our inquiries strictly to the period which precedes our Pres-
byterial existence. If this limitation should prove a disap-
pointment to any reader of this book, our defence is that the materials for
our history, as an organized body, are carefully preserved in our Presbyte-
rial Records and are readily accessible; while the facts relating to our ante-
Presbyterial existence are to be sought from sources more difficult of access,
many of which have already passed, and others are rapidly passing, beyond
our reach.

In the prosecution of this purpose, our work will be but the enlarge-
ment, in a more correct form, of statements presented in the Historical Ad-
dress delivered at Shepherdstown, W. Va., September, 1894, at the cele-
bration of onr Presbyterial Centennial.

The work here undertaken is not an easy one. To write the early -his-
tory of our churches at all is difficult; to write it with absolute complete-
ness and to the entire satisfaction of the reader, is impossible. That his-
tory is involved in the greatest obscurity. The most diligent and pains-
taking research is not able now to dispel the darkness that broods over it.
It must be remembered that Presbyterianism here is older than our Presby- ~
tery, and that in our efforts to trace its earliest introduction, the records of
Winchester Presbytery afford us no help. Our inquiries go far back of the
organization of our Presbytery, and the material for this history must be
gathered from sources not easily accessible, and not very satisfactory in
the information furnished when access is obtained.

But while the fact is to be deplored, that our knowledge of the early
history of our church is so scant and imperfect, it is gratifying to know
that neither the General Assembly nor the Presbytery can be held respon-
sible for the absence of this knowledge. Two years after the Assembly
was organized (viz: in 1791), it enjoined upon the Presbyteries, then 17 in


number, to gather up and forward to the Assembly all the material that
could contribute to a full and accurate history of our church ^rom the time
of its first introduction into this country. Successive Assemblies, through
a number of years, repeated this injunction, with which the Presbyteries
very generally complied; and in 1804 Dr. Ashbel Green and Mr. Ebenezer
Hazzard were appointed a committee to embody the facts that had
been collected into a history of the Church. For several years this
committee reported progress in their work; but the difficulties, which from
the first were formidable, were found at length to be so great that, in 1813,
the committee reported the work to be impracticable, and at their own re-
quest were discharged. But the Assembly, unwilling to abandon the
undertaking, appointed Rev. Samuel Miller D.D. to receive the material in
hand, and complete the history. In 1819 he, too, asked to be relieved and
Dr. Green was appointed to assist him. But in 1825 these gentlemen re-
ported their inability to do the work and asked to be relieved from their
appointment. While their request was granted, so important did the
Assembly deem the work to be, that another and larger committee was
appointed to continue and complete it. This committee reported from time
to time; but at the Disruption of the church in 1838, the history was still
unfinished, and from that period, so far as we have discovered, the matter
disappears from the minutes of the General Assembly.

The Presbytery of Winchester displayed equal zeal for the preserva-
tion of its history. One of the first things it did, after its organization in
1794, was to order its ministers to prepare a historical account of the origin
and growth of its respective churches, and when these several accounts
were presented to Presbytery, the Rev. Moses Hoge was appointed to com-
pile from them a detailed history of Presbyterianism within our bounds,
and in 1804 the manuscript volume he had prepared was forwarded to the
General Assembly.

And yet when the present writer, many years ago, enquired of the
proper authorities concerning Dr. Hoge's history, he was told that no defi-
nite information in reference to it could be given; that while there was a
mass of manuscripts nominally in possession of the General Assembly, in
the absence of any provision for their care, they had been deposited in the
basement of some building in Philadelphia. Some of these manuscripts,
it was supposed, had already perished, and if Dr. Hoge's History of Win-
chester Presbytery still existed, it would be impossible to find it, except at
the expense of more time and labor than anyone could afford to give.

Since that time " The Presbyterian Historical Society" has been


formed and is engaged in a most commendable effort to rescue and pre-
serve all papers bearing upon the history of the church. But the recent
death of the librarian, while collating and arranging these papers, and who
alone was thoroughly acquainted with the contents of his shelves, has pre-
vented us from learning whether the history in question is still in existence
or not.

But our own Presbytery gave further evidence of its interest in the
matter. In April, 1830, it appointed Rev. Drs. Hill and Wilson a commit-
tee to collect materials and prepare a history of the rise and progress of
our church within its bounds. Two years later Rev. Dr. D. H. Riddle
was added to this committee. As chairman, the burden of labor fell on
Dr. Hill, and he engaged in the work with great enthusiasm. Considerable
progress had been made when the controversy, which disturbed the church
at that period, arose. The effect of this was to change materially the char-
acter of his work. He decided to re-write it from the beginning, and to
publish it in "Parts " at intervals. " Part I " was published in 1839, and
is the only portion of his work that ever appeared; and, unfortunately for
us, this part, partaking of the spirit of the time, is more controversial than
historical, and sheds very little light upon the matters with which we are
concerned here. The large amount of material he had collected, and which
was intended for publication in the subsequent ' ' Parts ' ' of his history, was
never published, and is not available now. This is much to be lamented,
as he possessed special advantages for the work he had undertaken. His
long residence of nearly fifty years in this region, his opportunities for
obtaining the needed information, his personal acquaintance with many of
the facts to be recorded, and his acknowledged fitness for the work, all
conspire to deepen our regret that he did not finish the history he was
appointed to write.

In preparing the history here presented, every accessible source of in-
formation known to us has been laid under contribution. Our chief depend-
encies, however, has been the Records of the Presbyteran Church, Dr.
Foote's " Sketches of Virginia," and the more recent invaluable labors of
the Historical Committee of our Presbytery.


Planting of Presbyterianism


Lower Shenandoah Valley


t^* t^^ t^^


EFORE beginning our investigations, it is important that we
have a distinct understanding of the field to which these in-
vestigations are to be confined. This is the more important
as the bounds originally assigned to the Presbytery have been
greatly reduced. In the year 1859 the larger part of its terri-
tory was set off to forrn the Presbytery of " Potomac," and
the line of the Blue Ridge was made its eastern boundary.
But previous to that year our Presbyterial bounds were sub-
stantially co-terminous with what is properly known as "The Northern Neck
of Virginia." This " Northern Neck " was a tract of land granted by
King Charles II to Lord Culpeper when Governor of Virginia, and of which
Lord Fairfax afterward became the proprietor by inheritance. It was a
princely grant, extending from the shore of Chesapeake Bay to the sum-
mit of the Alleghany Mountains, and embracing all that territory bounded
on the northeast and north by the Potomac River throughout its entire length,
and on the south by the Rappahannock to its head waters, and thence by
a line extending westward to the head spring of the North Branch of the
Potomac. This magnificent domain, including twenty-five of the richest
counties in the State, was the territory which our Presbytery originally em-
braced. Our task is to discover, so far as it is possible to do so now, the
beginnings and earliest history of the Presbyterian churches in this territory,
down to the time of the organization of the Presbytery, December 4, 1794.
But as soon as we enter upon our task, the discouraging conviction is
forced upon us that very little is definitely known of the early history of these
churches, and that the most careful search can add but little to our knowl-
edge. This is due largely to two facts: First, the very scanty and imper-
fect records that were made of the earliest effort to establish in this region


our system of doctrine, polity, and worship; and secondly, the failure, in
most instances, to preserve even such scant records as were made. The
official proceedings of Presbyteries and Synods are often so brief and
meagre as to give us now no very distinct or satisfactory idea of the events
recorded. And, apart from the brevity of such documents as are now ex-
tant, whole volumes of Presbyterial records are hopelessly lost, while of
sessional records not a line has been produced. For these reasons the Plant-
ing of Presbyterianism within our bounds is, as we have intimated, involved
in much obscurity, and we are left in great uncertainty even as to the exact
period of its introduction.

While there was a settlement on the James River as early as 1607,
there is no documentary proof of any immigration to the Valley of the
Shenandoah for more than a hundred years later. And when settlers began
to enter it, they did not come, as we might have supposed, from the East,
across the Blue Ridge, but from the North, across the Potomac. Nor were
these hardy pioneers the English Episcopalians, who had so long held
Eastern Virginia : they were Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, and Germans
< Reformed ) and Quakers, who, having landed at more northern ports, had
pushed their way westward across the Delaware, and beyond the Susque-
hannah, into the Cumberland Valley, and thence southward across Mary-
land and the Potomac, till they found the home of which they were in search,
on the waters of the Opecquon and the Shenandoah. But the date of this
earliest immigration is not positively determined.

There is an old tradition that the first white man who took up his res-
idence in this Valley was Morgan Morgan, a native of Wales, who, in 1726,
settled at what is now Bunker Hill, in Berkeley County, and "built" (says
Dr. Hawkes in his "History of the P. E. Church in Virginia" ) "the first
cabin that was reared on the south side of the Potomac, between the Blue
Ridge and the North Mountains." Six years later, viz: in 1732, Joist
Hite, in company with sixteen families, came from Pennsylvania and set-
tled at or near what is known as Bartonsville, six miles southwest of Win-
chester, which. Dr. Foote says, "was the first regular settlement west of
the Blue Ridge in Virginia." Vol. I., p. 101. Three years later still, a
colony of much more interest and importance to us, settled in that same
neighborhood. William Hoge, the ancestor of the family of that name,
which through four successive generations has been so distinguished in the
ministry of our church, himself " an exile for Christ's sake from Scot-
land in the days of the persecution." had come to America some years be-
fore, settling first in Amboy, N. J., then in Delaware, then in Dauphin


County, Pa., and, removing thence, settled, about the year 1735, near
what is now Kernstown, three miles southwest of Winchester. The fam-
ilies of Glass, Vance, White and others, whose descendants are still among
us, either accompanied him here or joined him soon after his arrival, and
united with him in the organization of the Opecquon Church, "the oldest
congregation (says Dr. Foote ) west of the Blue Bidge." Their House of
Worship was erected on land given for the purpose by Mr. Hoge.

This is the generally accepted account of the earliest settlement of our
Valley, and of the introduction of Presbyterianism within our bounds. But
later investigations awaken serious doubts as to its correctness. It is at
least challenged by the tradition which Henry Howe preserved in his
"Historical Collections of Virginia" (p. 192) and which long ago was
current in Berkeley County, that "the spot where Tuscarora Church now
stands, is the //r5/p/

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryJames Robert GrahamThe planting of the Presbyterian church in northern Virginia, prior to the organization of Winchester presbytery, December 4, 1794 → online text (page 1 of 18)