John S Grasty.

Memoir of Rev. Samuel B. McPheeters, D.D. online

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Author of "Faith's Battles and Victories."





"J^ Faithful Martyr" — Rev. ii. 13.





Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1870, by

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

stereotyped and printed by






On the death of Dr. McPheeters the desire seemed spontaneous and
very general among those who had intimately known him, especially in the
last years of his life, that some permanent memorial should be preserved of
a man so noble by nature and of a Christian life and character so pure and

Such a desire might, indeed, have been the impulse of a very natural
feeling, akin to that which seeks to preserve the physical lineaments of the
departed loved ones by means of the artist's skill. The Christian men and
women who had contemplated with holy pride so heavenly a character among
them here on earth might naturally enough desire some memorial which
should preserve for them the lineaments of the spirit of this man of God,
with whom and under whose lead they had approached the very gate of

But still other considerations led to this desire of a Memoir of Dr. Mc-
Pheeters. Earnest and intelligent Christians, who looked to the valuable
results of such a life in strengthening the faith and increasing the courage of
the timid and desponding, judged rightly that in a day of rebuke and spiritual
declension it is important to hold up such examples of what the grace of
God is still doing in the Church on earth, notwithstanding the prevalence
of spiritual leanness, by way of demonstrating that the Church is not left
without witness how the Gospel, in its simplicity, is still the power of God
through faith unto salvation.


And what more effective "short metliocl" with tlie scoffers of our day-
can be put into the hands of Christian people — so often assailed with the
charge of the failure of the followers of Christ to come up to the Gospel
standard which they profess to accept — than the spiritual portraiture of a
man concerning whom skeptics were often heard to say, that his life and
character were an insurmountable difficulty in the way of accepting their
own skeptical theories ? The wish was, therefore, eminently reasonable
that in such a memorial Dr. McPheeters, being dead, should yet speak to
the railers and scoffers of this generation.

It will not be thought surprising either that the men with whom Dr.
McPheeters stood during the recent ten years' conflict in the Church, to
witness for what they deemed truths vital to the Church of God, and even
to suffer for them as occasion called for it, should earnestly desire to per-
petuate the memorial of one who witnessed so faithfully and suffered so
conspicuously in earnestly contending for the "faith once delivered to the
saints." Indeed, it may be suggested that, aside from considerations of
reverence for his memory, it is peculiarly important to the interests of truth
and righteousness that such an example should be held up before the men
of feeble convictions, that they may see how important the issues involved
were deemed by the wise and gentle servant of Christ — seeing that, however
averse by nature to strife and controversy, he felt called upon to stake ease
and comfort and personal friendship, in short, his all in this world, upon
issues which these men of feeble convictions have regarded as arising out
of mere personal or sectional prejudices.

It is not unfrequently the case, moreover, that a true portraiture of the
witness for the truth is highly important, if not essential, to the proper
defense of the truths for which he has testified. While, indeed, good men
often are the advocates of dangerous error, bad men are seldom the advo- •
Gates of truth. And, therefore, it has ever been the strategy of errorists


and usurpers, especially when argument fails them, to attack the character
of the witnesses for the truth, relying upon the experience of men to draw
the conclusion that truth and right can hardly be on the side of such advo-
cates and witnesses. Hence that tyrant of Rome, of whom Tacitus tells
us, was but a somewhat exaggerated type of partisan bigotry and violence
in all ages before and since. Speaking of Nero's effort to avert the popular
eye from himself as the great criminal in the conflagration of Rome, the
historian says: "Nero, to silence the rumor, substituted as the criminals,
and executed with terribly ingenious tortures, a people odious for their out-
rageous practices, whom the rabble called Christians, and at their execution
they were made a pubHc sport of and wrapped in the skins of savage
beasts, that, worried and torn of the dogs, they might miserably perish."

In both points of the strategy — the investing the innocent with the aspect
of the guilty in the eyes of rational men, and with the covering of the
savage beasts in the eyes of the irrational dogs, he seldom fails to find
imitators in every excitement of partisan fury; and it is only what is due to
the truth of history in calmer times that the persecutors and the persecuted
be set in their real light, at least b<?fore the rational world.

But, aside from all this, it is manifestly just that the principles for which
Dr. McPheeters testified should have the benefit of his lofty character as a
man, and his gentle, wise and holy character as a Christian minister.

With this general conviction of the importance of such a work, the first
inquiry Avas, *'\Mio shall be selected, or, rather, who shall be found, to
execute the task ? " For it was needful to find one who should combine in
himself the taste and skill, as a writer, requisite to the work ; the industry
to collect and the judgment to arrange and organize the materials collected
from so various quarters ; the opportunities to execute the work speedily
enough to gratify the public desire; with the personal knowledge of and
interest in the life and character of Dr. McPheeters that should make this a


labor of love. Among the large circle of friends there were many who
possessed some of the qualifications in an eminent degree, but few in whom
they all combined. It was determined, after carefully considering the ques-
tion, that his co-Presbyter and nearest ministerial neighbor, Rev. John S.
Grasty, should be requested to undertake the Avork, and after no little doubt
and hesitation he yielded to the request.

How the work has been performed must be left to the reader to judge.
It is not, however, risking much to express the opinion that the author has
displayed judgment and skill in his method, and in the arrangement of the
copious materials which his energy and industry had gathered, while excel-
lent good taste is exhibited throughout in the style of execution. His single
aim is to present in full view Samuel B. McPheeters — the man, the Chris-
tian, the minister, the hero. His conception of his office as the biographer
of a good man is just. He aims not to display himself, but his theme; to
present the portraitures of Dr. McPheeters as he appeared to those who
knew and loved him best, without attempting to retouch or improve them ;
to present the facts upon which the public may pronounce a verdict, without
attempting to play the advocate in coloring, or the judge in pronouncing
upon the facts. Even in detailing the story of strifes and controversies, he
wisely avoids becoming himself, in spirit or word, a party to the contro-
versies, but leaves each party in its records to tell its own story.

On the whole, there is every reason to believe that not only the friends
of Dr. McPheeters, but the public at large, will judge that ^Ir. Grasty has
in this work fairly won a title to their esteem and gratitude.




Ancestry — Origin of the name 9

Early Days 30

Seminary Life 4I

Imntation to Virginia — Ministry to the Colored People 67

Settlement and Labors in Amelia 84


Removal to St. Louis — Peaceful Years — ^Visit to New Mexico^Pastoral
Letters 107

Columbus Assembly — Correspondence with G. P. Strong and others . . ill


Reply to an Attack in ^lissouri Democrat — Action of Pine Street Ses-
sion 141




Dr. McPhceters puts his Resignation into the hands of Presbytery —
Why — Erastian Views of Northern Assembly 159

Statement of Doctrine and Principles 168

Interview Avith Mr. Lincohi — Appeal to Synod 183

Letter to Gov. Gamble — Letters of Judge Bates, President Lincoln, &c. 196

The Newark Assembly — Speech of Hon. Wm. T. Wood 202

Speech of Dr. McPheeters before the Assembly in Newark 242


Remarks of Drs, Rice, Junkin, Musgrave and Schenck — Assembly's
Decision — The Decision Reviewed 278

Pittsburg Assembly — Declaration and Testimony 299

Pastoral Work at Mulberry 331

Final Visit to St. Louis — Last Days 345

Testimonials — Letters of Condolence 348

The Author's Estimate 373




THE late Rev. Win. McPheeters, D. D., of Raleigh, N. C,
took pains to secure an accurate register of his ancestors
for several generations. This record shall be used freely,
First, because of its intrinsic interest; secondly, for the
reason that it will be agreeable to a wide circle of relatives and
friends to possess in a permanent form a family history so
complete ; but, in the third place, and chiefly, because the prov-
idential dealings with this household illustrate with singular
clearness that it is the way of the Almighty to " confirm to the
children" those rich promises of grace which "he made afore-
time unto the Fathers."

Dr. Wm. McPheeters says :

The origin of the name McPheeters, according to a family
tradition, is as follows : A certain man named Peter Hume,
who resided in the Highlands of Scotland, had by his first wife
several children. After her death he married a second wife,
by whom he had one son. If he had other children by her,
nothing is now known respecting them. Peter's second mar-
riage, it is conjectured, took place when he was somewhat


advanced in years, and after the children of his first wife (or
some of them at least) had arrived at maturity. This marriage,
it is supposed gave dissatisfaction to the children of his first
wife. In process of time Peter Hume died, and his landed
estate, it seems, fell into the hands of his first wife's children.
How long after his death the stepmother and her son lived
with the children of the first wife, as one family, is not known.
A separation, however, after some time took place. The chil-
dren of the first wife, being dissatisfied with their father's second
marriage, and probably regarding the stepmother and her son
as beneath them in point of respectability, so conducted them-
selves toward their half brother as to cause him to withdraw
from the family. It may be that they drove him off. What
became of the mother is not known, nor is it known how old
her son was at the time. After his separation from the family
he continued to reside in the neighborhood ; but instead of
receiving and retaining the name of his father, he was called
Mac-Pete7's — that is, Peter's son, the word JMac, in the
Highland dialect, signifying son. After various changes in the
orthography, the name at length came to be written as at
present. From this son of Peter Hume has descended, accord-
ing to the tradition, the McPheeters family.

My paternal great grandfather was named William. But
whether he was the son or the grandson of the so-called Mac-
Peters I have not been able to ascertain. My great grand-
father, William McPheeters, had several brothers, of whom he
was the youngest ; and when about sixteen years of age, dur-
ing the time of Oliver Cromwell, left Scotland and passed
over into Ireland. It may be that he and some of his brothers
were soldiers in Cromwell's army. My great grandfather set-
tled in Ireland, and was there twice married. The name of
his first wife is not known, and all his children by her are said


to have died when young. During the Hfetime of his first
wife the following incident is recorded of him : One day,
being absent from home, several native Irish came to the
house and demanded of his wife her husband's money, which
being refused, they dragged her out of the house and immersed
her in a spring or pool ot water, threatening to drown her if
she did not give up the money or inform them where it might
be found. During this barbarous treatment she got her thigh
bone dislocated. But her husband, providentially returning
home at the time, fell upon the savages, killed one or two of
them, put the rest to flight, and rescued his wife. After her
death, which it is supposed took place some years after, he
married a second time, when considerably advanced in years.
He is said to have lived to a great age. His second wife's
name was Janett McClellen. By her he had four children,
three daughters and one son. The son was the youngest child
of the family, and was named William, after his father. At the
time of his father's death he is said to have been about eight
years old. This William was my grandfather. He married in
Ireland, and after marriage lived there about seven years pre-
vious to his emigration to America, State of Pennsylvania.
His first wife was Rebecca Thompson, by whom he had ten
children. My grandfather, after living several years in Penn-
sylvania, removed to Augusta county, Virginia. Martha, his
second daughter, while living in Pennsylvania, married Samuel
Donney, and afterward removed with her husband to Augusta
county, Va. She was the mother of fourteen children. Re-
becca Donney married a Mr. McCutchen, of Augusta county,
and had a numerous family. Mary Ann married Captain
Charles Campbell, of Rockbridge county. Besides other chil-
dren, she was the mother of Dr. Campbell of Lexington ; of
John W. Campbell of Petersburg, and of William Campbell,


^vho married my youngest sister. Betsey Donney, the sixth
daughter, married Major Wilson, of Rockbridge. She was the
mother of the Rev. James C. Wilson, of Waynesboro. Mary,
or Molly McPheeters, the third daughter of my grandfather,
married Alexander Crawford, and was the mother of eleven
children, two of whom were Presbyterian ministers. The Rev.
Edward Crawford resided near Abingdon, Va. The Rev.
James Crawford removed to the State of Kentucky, and was
pastor of the Walnut Hill Church, near Lexington. Alexan-
der Crawford and J\lary his wife, the parents of this family,
were both killed in Augusta county by a party of Indians. He
was shot in his own house, and the house was burnt down over
him. She, in attempting to make her escape, was killed with a
tomahawk a short distance from the house. They were both
buried near the North Mountain, in the glebe graveyard, upper
end of Augusta county, Virginia.

William McPheeters, my father, was born in Pennsylvania
about the year 1729 or 1730. He married Rachel Moore, of
Rockbridge county, Va. Both were members of the Church.
My father was also magistrate and a Ruling Elder. The Rev.
A. Scott was his pastor. The family consisted of ten children,
three sons and seven daughters. My father died October 28,
1807, and was buried in the glebe graveyard before mentioned.
James, his fourth child, received a liberal education ; com-
menced the study of medicine in Staunton, afterward attended
medical lectures of Dr. Rush in Philadelphia, and for a few
years practiced medicine in the town of Fincastle, Va. Both
he and his wife were members of the Church and esteemed
exemplary Christians. Rebecca McPheeters, the fifth child of
my father, married John Gamble, the brother of Col. Robert
Gamble, of Richmond, Va. She was a woman of decided


James Moore, my maternal grandtather, was born in Ireland,
and emigrated with his brother Joseph to America, Pennsyl-
vania, sometime about the year 1726. My grandfather, after
his arrival in America, married Jane Walker. She, too, was
born in Ireland. I have a distinct recollection of both my
maternal grandparents, James Moore and Jane Walker. I
recollect that my grandfather used to retire regularly to a room
up stairs, where, after closing the door, he remained for some
time. Noticing this, when a small boy, and wishing to find
out what he was about, I discovered, through a small aperture
under the door, that he was on his knees engaged at secret
prayer. My grandmother, sometime previous to her death,
remarked, "when I die I shall have a bo?my easy death." Ac-
cordingly, during her last sickness, while some of the family
were sitting in the room with her, she eiflier turned herself
over in the bed, or was aided in so doing by some one present.
Thus lying still for some time, the remark was made, " into
what a fine quiet sleep our grandmother has fallen." ' But when,
after some time, her bed was approached and her situation
examined into, it ^vas found that her spirit had, quietly and
without a struggle, taken its flight to the unknown world.
Mary Moore, the second child of my grandfather, was twice
married. Her first husband was named Paxton, by whom she
had one child, named Samuel. Her second husband was
Major A. Stuart, by whom she had four children. She and
her husband were members of the Church. They resided near
Brownsburg, Rockbridge county. Major Stuart had two sons
who were Superior Court Judges, viz. : His son Archibald, by
a former wife, and his son Alexander, by Mary Moore, his
second wife. Elizabeth Moore, the third child of my grand-
fatlier, married Michael Coalter. They were both members of
the Church. A grand-daughter of Michael and Elizabeth


Coalter married Hon. Wm. C. Preston, of South Carolina.
Her sister married Judge Harper, of the same State. John
Coalter, son of Michael and Elizabeth, was Judge of the Supe-
rior Court of Virginia, and afterward Judge of the High Court
of Appeals. This gentleman was four times married. His
third wife was Frances Tucker, daughter of St. George Tucker,
Judge of High Court of Appeals, Virginia. The eighth child
of Michael and Elizabeth Coalter, my beloved cousin Mary,
after marriage, removed to the State of Missouri. She was the
first wife of Beverly Tucker, youngest son of St. George
Tucker, and half brother to John Randolph, of Roanoke.

James Moore, the sixth child of my grandfather, married
Martha Poague and had nine children. He removed some
time after marriage from Rockbridge county to a remote fertile
valley among the mountains in the Southwestern part of Vir-
ginia. After the family had resided for some time in their
frontier situation they were broken up and nearly all destroyed
by a party of Indians. James Moore, the oldest child of the
family, was first taken prisoner by two Indians. He had been
sent to a field some distance from the house for a horse. As
he went along he was seized with an unaccountable panic;
the impression on his mind was that he would be torn to pieces
by a wild beast. He was on the point of returning to the
house, but fearing lest he should be reproached for cowardice
he proceeded onward toward the field. He had not pro-
ceeded far before two Indians stepped out from behind a tree
and laid hold on him. On looking up and finding himself in
the hands of Jiuma7i beings and not in the paws of savage beasts,
he, for the moment, was somewhat comforted. The Indians
took him to the field and by his assistance endeavored to catch
one or more of the horses ; but in this they were unsuccessful.
The horses would allow the boy to approach them, but when


he put forth his hand to take hold of a horse one of the Indians
would immediately take hold of him. By this the horse being
affrighted, instantly made his escape. After repeated and un-
successful efforts to get possession of the horses the Indians
commenced their long journey, and conducted their little pris-
oner through a mountainous and pathless desert far North to
the place of their residence. He immediately fell into the
hands of a French family residing in the Indian country. In
this family he lived for several years, and, if I am not mistaken,
was kindly treated. About two years and a half after the cap-
ture of James Moore, the two Indians who took him prisoner
formed, as it is supposed, a company and conducted them to
the house of his unprotected and unsuspecting father. On a
certain day, early in the morning, the Indians were seen rushing
down an adjacent hill in a furious manner and approaching
the house. James Moore, the father of the family, not being
in the house at the moment, was shot and killed some two or
three hundred yards from the house. The three following
children, Rebecca, Alexander and Wilham, were shot down
near the house. The house was then plundered and burned
down. John, Jane, Mary and Margaret, with their mother,
were taken prisoners. A Miss Evans, who was at the time
residing in the family, was also taken prisoner. John, on the
first day of the march, a few miles from the house, was, on
some account, killed with a tomahawk, After traveling some
distance farther the Indians finding Margaret somewhat trouble-
some, she being only about fifteen months old, killed her by
dashing her against a tree. After a tedious and tiresome march
of about forty days, the Indians, with their four remaining pris-
oners, reached their towns, somewhere in the Northern part of
Indiana or Ohio, or perhaps in ]\Iichigan, near Detroit. After
their arrival Jane and her mother were given up to a disaftected


Indian and cruelly put to death. This, it is supposed, was
done by the Indian in the way of revenge for some injury
received by him from the white people. Joseph, one of the
children of this family, was in Rockbridge, going to school, at
the time when his brothers and sisters were murdered by the
Indians, and, of course, did not fall into their hands. As to
James Moore and his sister Mary and Miss Evans, they were
providentially located, it seems, at no great distance from each
other among the Indians. The brother of Miss Evans, some
years after, with the view and hope of recovering his sister, went
in search of her, and on finding her he succeeded, by purchase
or otherwise, in obtaining not only her liberty, but also the lib-
erty of James Moore and Mary Moore his sister. After a long
and fatiguing journey Mr. Evans, with his rescued captives,
arrived at my father's house sometime about the year 1790.
My aged grandfather and grandmother, being at the house at
the time, were overjoyed and almost overcome at the unex-
pected return of their long lost grandchildren. Being a small
boy at the time, and at school that day, on reaching home I
found the family, as I distinctly recollect, in a state of great
excitement. The dead was alive — the lost was found. In
process of time Mary Moore, the Indian captive, married the
Rev. Samuel Brown, a distinguished Presbyterian minister, the
pastor of New Providence Church, Rockbridge county. She
was the mother of a numerous family; and being a woman of
importunate prayer and devoted piety, it pleased God to give
her five sons, who, after receiving a liberal education, became
preachers of the Gospel. One of her daughters married the
Rev. James Morrison, who succeeded his father-in-law as pas-
tor of New Providence.

From a credible source I have derived the following infor-

Online LibraryJohn S GrastyMemoir of Rev. Samuel B. McPheeters, D.D. → online text (page 1 of 35)