HISTORY OF THE 1ST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH CONGREGATION
Statesville Daily Record
September 11, 1953
The first Presbyterian Church of Statesville, for many years known as the old 4th Creek
Church, began as a worshiping congregations 200 years ago.
The time of the founding is fixed by certain records, contemporary and subsequent, which
refer to the congregation and church. One of these is entitled “Remonstrance to N.C.
Presbytery Which is to Sit in April, 1773”. In this paper, the statement is made that the
petitioners, members of the “4th Congregation” had been “associated upwards of twenty
The time of the erection of the first church building is determined by the above mentioned
paper, a letter written when the people were shut up in Fort Dobbs and by certain other
documents. These evidences make certain that the first log church was completed by
1757 but there is some indication that it was constructed and possibly left unfinished by
First references to pioneer adventurers in the region between the Catawba and the Yadkin
Rivers begin about 1736. By 1740 there were scattered settlements and by 1750 these
communities had grown dense for a frontier and the people were associating themselves in
congregations. Between 1750 and 1753 the community on 4th Creek grew into a well defined
In 1755, Gov. Dobbs visited this settlement and Fort Dobbs was constructed………The settlers
in the Piedmont made a good buffer between the favored colonists along the coast and the French
and Indian trouble makers to the west. There were 3,000 men in the up country and under brave
Captain Hugh Waddell these would make an efficient army.
The pioneers of this section of the Carolina Piedmont were Scotch-Irish Presbyterians from
Pennsylvania. To the west of them, then and later, were Pennsylvania Dutch or German
Lutherans. There were also scattered settlements of pioneers from New Jersey, Maryland and
Virginia but the settlers on 4th Creek were Scotch-Irish and most of them came from Pennsylvania.
It was because of this that they looked to the Synod of Philadelphia for their ministers.
As early as 1744, the appearance of North Carolina colonists had moved the Synod in Philadelphia
to direct Rev. John Thompson to correspond with these people. In 1750 the minister settled in the
southern section of what is now Rowan and Iredell counties and the people crowded to his preaching,
often journeying through the forest for 25 miles. He was the first Christian minister in this wilderness.
In 1753, the Synod of Philadelphia sent Messrs. McMorine and Donaldson to minister to the
congregation between the Catawba and the Yadkin and in 1754 Mr. Donaldson was returned
to this work and in the same year the Synod of New York commissioned John Brainerd and Elihu
Spencer to visit the congregation in Virginia and North Carolina. The Synods of Philadelphia and
New York continued to sent missionaries in this service from two to nine months each year and in
1756 and 1758 Allison and Miller were commissioned to this task.
In 1758, the two synods were united and in 1764, Spencer and McWhorter were sent to help in
“adjoining boundaries, ordain elders and dispense the sacraments”.
In 1764, the 4th Creek congregation was formally organized by Rev. Elihu Spencer and in 1758 this
church, together with Thyatira, called Mr. Spencer as pastor. For some reason, he did not accept
the call. Elihu Spencer was a native of East Haddon, Connecticut, and a graduate of Yale.
Among the most valuable early documents now in the possession of the church is a copy of the map
of the congregations drawn with a pen by William Sharpe. He traces quite accurately the courses
of the streams, gives a clear idea of the country and fixes the homes of all the members of the
congregation in the year 1773. There are 196 heads of families given under 111 names.
Among the early settlers were James Hall and Prudence Roddy, born in Ireland, married in Pennsylvania.
They were progenitors of more than sixty ministers and thirty ministers’ wives, besides lawyers,
physicians, teachers and others. Themselves pioneers, their children after them were pioneers in
Tennessee, Texas and the far west. They were the parents of James Hall, the great minister, soldier,
teacher and patriot.
On April 8, 1778, Rev. James Hall, son of James and Prudence Hall, became the first pastor of 4th
Creek and the two churches, Bethel and Concord, that had grown out of the original membership of
4th Creek congregation. He was born in Carlysle, Pennsylvania on Aug. 22, 1844, and brought by
his parents to North Carolina in 1752. His first teachers were his father and mother but he soon took
over the task of his education himself. While going about his work on the farm, he mastered the
classics by himself and at the age of 17, had become proficient in mathematics. In 1774 he
graduated from Nassau Hall, Princeton with a bachelor’s degree and upon his graduation Dr.
Witherspoon offered him a professorship in mathematics. This honor he refused but continued his
studies under Dr. Witherspoon in theology and returned to his frontier home to become pastor of
his father’s church.
Inducted into office during the trying times of the Revolutionary War, Hall became the leader in the
American spirit of that time. When South Carolina was overrun by the troops of Cornwallis, he
assembled the men of his congregation, organized them into troops of cavalry, was elected their
captain and chaplain, and marched them off to the relief of the colonists of that state. He was a
natural leader and became a proficient military leader. When General Davidson fell at Cowan’s
Ford, General Greene offered him the commission of brigadier general. He refused the commission
and returned to his congregation. In the Cherokee wars in Georgia, he again organized his men and
served as their chaplain until that rebellion was quieted.
After the Revolutionary War, he established two classical schools, which, until the founding of the
University, were regarded as the best in the state. Besides many shorter journeys, he made 14
extended missionary adventures into Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and the Mississippi frontier.
Traveling on horseback and in his gig, he made 16 journeys into the north to attend the meetings
of the General Assembly and was once more elected moderator of that body. He was a delegate
at the founding of the American Bible Society and a life member…….He was one of the earliest
advocates of equal educational opportunities for women. Both Princeton and the University of North
Carolina conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity.
In 1790, Dr. Hall resigned the pastorate of this and Concord and devoted himself to Bethany Church
and his educational and missionary work. Dr. Hall’s friend Lewis Fueilletau(?) Wilson was installed
as pastor of this and Concord Church in 1793. Mr. Wilson was of English and French heritage, born
on St. Christopher’s Island in the West Indies. As a young child, he was placed in very thorough
preparatory schools in England. Coming as a young man with his uncle to America, he entered
Princeton and graduated with honors in 1773. It was at Princeton that Wilson and Hall became
Returning to England, his family pressed him to enter the Church of England ministry, but he refused
and returned to America where he re-entered Princeton as a tutor for a year and when that institution
was closed by the investment of the British army, he moved to Philadelphia and studied medicine
for two years. He then espoused the cause of the Revolution and entered the Continental Army as
a surgeon. After the Revolutionary War, he returned to Princeton and took up the practice of medicine.
In 1786, he came to Iredell through Dr. hall’s influence to practice his profession, but in 1791 he
gave up medicine, was licensed and in 1793 became pastor of this church and Concord Church.
In 1802, a wide spread spirit of revival swept over the country. From the first, there was a considerable
difference of opinion in regard to this revival and many of the Presbyterians deprecated the excesses
to which it led. Although both Dr. Hall and Mr. Wilson lent their great influence to the revival, some
of the people still held out against it. Mr. Wilson was loyally loved by both factions, but in realizing
the strength of the opposition, he resigned this church to devote himself exclusively to Concord.
The division of the 4th Creek was led by two devoted but unyielding elders, William Stevenson and
John McLelland. On account of differences among the members and particularly between these two
elders, the church remained without a pastor for 20 years. During the interval, however, the church
was served with some regularity by Dr. E. McCorkle, Dr. James McRae and by Rev. John Irwin and
Rev. Daniel Gould became the next regular pastor. He was born in Nottingham, New Hampshire on
Nov. 12, 1780(?), was a student at Harvard and a graduate of Andover. He was ordained by the
Presbytery of Londonderry in Bradford, Massachusetts in 1820 and became the pastor of this church
in 1823. He served until 1828 when he resigned to devote himself to missionary services and the
work of the American Bible Society.
A year after Mr. Gould resigned, Robert Caldwell, son of Dr. Samuel L. Caldwell, took up the work
of the church, first as a stated supply, and then in 1831 as the pastor. His delicate health soon
led to his death in 1832.
From 1832 to 1840 the church was served by four stated supplies—Rev. J.S. McCutchan, Rev.
Samuel Paisley, Rev. Jesse Rankin and Rev. John C. McPherson.
In 1841, Rev. E.F. Rockwell became pastor. In addition to Mr. Rockwell’s faithful and efficient
service as a pastor and preacher, the church owes him a great debt as the collector, preserver
and publisher of its records. In 1850, he resigned the pastorate to accept a position at Davidson
Rev. P.H. Dalton became pastor in 1851. He was a native of this state and a graduate of the
University of North Carolina. In 1856, he resigned to become a pastor in the eastern part of the
In 1857, Rev. Walter W. Pharr became pastor. He served the church with faithful devotion until
1869. He was a graduate of the University of North Carolina and Union Seminary.
Rev. Wm. A. Wood succeeded him in 1869. He was a native of Rowan County and a graduate
of Princeton. He served here for thirty years and he will always be remembered as one of the
best loved men in the history of North Carolina churches. After the death of Rev. Wood in April
of 1899(?), Rev. A.J. McKelway served the church until Dr. James McDowell Richards was
installed in December of 1900. He continued in the office until 1908 when he resigned to accept
the call to the Davidson College Church. Dr. Richards maintained the scholarly traditions of his
pulpit and combined with his powers as a preacher, the pastoral gifts that made him greatly beloved.
Under his ministry, the church grew rapidly in membership and liberality.
Rev. J.M. Whorey served as stated supply for some months after Dr. Richards’ resignation. He
left a multitude of friends here. He was followed by Dr. Charles E. Raynal who was installed in
the fall of 1909. He was a native of Savannah, Georgia and an graduate of Southwestern
Presbyterian University and of Princeton Seminary.
Throughout the history of the church, the elders and deacons have been men of exceptional
devotion and strength of mind. Their sturdy characters and faithful performance of their duties
had as much to do in molding the life of the church as the labors of its ministers.
In pioneer times, the session of this church was the principal court of order and justice in this
wilderness. Many feared citation before this tribunal more than they did that of a Federal court.
The older records reveal the spirit of the court as much as the spirit of the sanctuary. With the
passing of time and the establishment of adequate governmental agencies, the session became
more and more spiritual in its activities.
The Scotch Irish, wherever the colonization carried them, established schools. Often the church
and school were on the same ground and their first teachers were the preachers. One of the
strongest elements in the life of this community has been the interest in education.
From the services in the open grove beside the old spring, six church buildings have stood upon
this ground. The first log church was completed in 1755, the second was constructed of huge
log timbers, weather boarded and so sturdy that it served until 1863. In that year the first brick
church was dedicated and in 1870 this structure was taken down and rebuilt. In 1890 the third
brick church was dedicated and in 1926 the present church was completed at a cost of $200,000.
The ground upon which this congregation has worshipped for 200 years was first the property of
the Earl of Granville. Granted by him to John Oliphant on Nov. 26, 1753, it was deeded by
Oliphant to Fergus Sloan in 1755. In 1756, it became the property of the congregation by deed of
gift from Sloan. The old deed is still in the hands of the officers of the church.
The town of Statesville grew up around the 4th Creek Church and it is the child of this institution
but in 1875 the old church name was dropped and it became the First Presbyterian Church of
As the year of 1934 opened, the rock wall around the 4th Creek Burying Ground was reconstructed.
The cemetery was deeded by the church to the city of Statesville in order that the wall might be
reconstructed by government funds and W.P.A. labor.
In 1939, the rotary system was adopted by the congregation for the Board of Deacons. On October
22, 1939, the church celebrated its 175th anniversary by two members of the Synod of Philadelphia
and New York, Rev. Alexander McWhorter and Rev. Elihu Spencer, who were sent to Piedmont,
N.C., for that purpose. The following year, Dec. 22, 1940, the church building which had been
erected during 1924-25, was dedicated.
Dr. Raynal, who had served the church faithfully as its minister for 35 years, died on Dec. 1, 1944.
On Jan. 7, 1945, Rev. Neill R. McGeachy, pastor of the Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church in
Charlotte, was called by the congregation to be its minister.
Copy of newspaper page with map
MAP OF THE CONGREGATION OF 4TH CREEK CHURCH 1793
Statesville Dailey Record
September 11, 1953
In the article on the history of the 1st Presbyterian Church of Statesville, or the old 4th Creek
Church, it states: “Among the most valuable early documents now in the possession of the
church is a copy of the map of the congregations drawn with a pen by William Sharpe. He
traces quite accurately the courses of the streams, gives a clear idea of the country and
fixes the homes of all the members of the congregation in the year 1773. There are 196
heads of families given under 111 names.”
The names from the map have been transcribed, as best as possible, below, but please be
aware that the names were at times difficult to read.
Samuel Sneddy or Snoddy
James McLown(?) McLoun(?)
Waugh (no other name or prefix, just “Waugh”)
W. T.(or F.) Morrison
W.T. McClelland, Jr.
Transcribed by Christine Spencer, September 2008
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