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 
    John Mushat.
    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
    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.
    John Smith
    James Rogers
    Widow Ormand
    J. Hillman
    Robert Murdoch
    W.T. Ireland
    Ja. Trotter
    Samuel Sneddy or Snoddy
    Gabriel Alexander
    Robert Woods
    Patrick Morrison
    Archibald Wasson
    Alexander Witherspoon
    Wm. McKnight
    J. Ireland
    Allen Alexander
    J. Tesch
    Robert Carson
    Wm. Brown
    Robert Hall(?)
    James Houston
    John Witherspoon
    Jas. McKnight
    W. Young
    Thomas Cavin
    W. Graham
    W. Graham
    Jno. Knox
    W. Chambers
    W. Edmunds
    Jacob Thomas
    Moses Nesbit
    Tom Houston
    Christ Houston
    Widow Cavin
    Abraham Irvin
    James McLown(?) McLoun(?)
    Robert Tate
    Francis Wilson
    Thomas Porter
    Jno. Irvin
    Andrew Freeland
    Ja. Wilson
    John Dobbins
    Thomas McGuire
    David Caldwell
    James Dobbins
    Widow Roseborough
    Jno. Reed
    George Locke
    Thomas Bell
    Jno. Worton
    Henry Chambers
    Robert Steele
    Widow Rowbey
    J. Archibald
    T. McGuire
    Widow Bell
    Sam Reasborough
    Wm. Reasborough
    David Andrew
    George Reed
    Matthew Clendennon
    J.A. Watt
    Waugh (no other name or prefix, just “Waugh”)
    Ja. Shay
    Matthew Oliphant
    Jno. Higgins
    A.J. Miller
    Widow McLean
    John Fleming
    Wm. Murdoch
    Dan Boyd
    Ja. Sloan
    Ja. McFarlane
    Ja. Davis
    Ja. Holmes
    W. Chambers
    Andrew Johnson
    David Black
    J. Thompson
    Robert Guthrie
    Thomas McNeely
    George Irvin
    John Thompson
    Francis Shodman
    Jo. Stewart
    J. McClatchey
    W. T.(or F.) Morrison
    Sam Harris
    Nicholas McClelland
    Thomas Stinson
    Ja. Morrison
    W. Beaty
    Alexander Niceberry
    Ja. McClellan
    John McClellan
    Peter Thompson
    W. Watts
    Robert Griffin
    Moses Potts
    Ja. Morrison
    James Hill
    Henry Potts
    David Logan
    W. McCrary
    Ja. McCrary
    J. Dobson
    Hugh McWharter
    Robert Smith
    Robert Boyd
    Ja. McHargue
    John McHargue
    B. Dobson
    W. Hall
    John Montgomery
    Robert Hardin
    A Nichols
    Jno. Cooper
    Hugh Hall
    Wm. Tracey
    Adam Simonson
    Jno. Hall
    John Bones
    Ja. Bailie
    John Bailie
    Ja. Hamilton
    Widow McKee
    Robert Simonton
    Ja. Wedfork
    Sam Long
    Christ Irvin
    Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Reed
    Ja. Wasson
    Sam Wasson
    Ja. Logan
    Patrick Duffie
    Ja. Murdock
    Thomas Allison
    Adam Allison
    Winian(?) Steele
    W. Bears
    Robert Chambers
    Ja. Hall
    Ja. Roseborough
    Sam Thompson
    Thomas Archibald
    W. Archibald
    Hugh Bowman
    Wm. Simpson
    Alexander Reed
    Fergus Sloan
    Thomas Allison
    Thomas Wilson
    Ninian Steele
    Jn. McKee
    Hugh Stephenson
    W.T. White
    And.(?) Morrison
    Thomas Morrison
    W. McClelland
    W.T. McClelland
    W.T. McClelland, Jr.
    David Hall(?)
    James Potts
    James Knox
    Wm. Bones
    Thomas Bones
    And. Kirkpatrick
    Henry Reed
    James Hill
    James Guy
    John Purviance
    James Purviance
    Widow Stinson
    Jno. McWhorter
    W. Sharpe
    James King
    John Sharpe
    Adam Simonton
    Joseph Wasson
    W. Wadd
    Robert King
    James Adams
    Ephraim Hill(?)
    Transcribed by Christine Spencer, September 2008

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