ON STONY GROUND (2)

The town voted on September 10, 1719, to dismiss him, and not long thereafter he returned to Boston. In a letter of January 25, 1720, Cotton Mather writes that "poor Mr. Woodside, after many and grievous calamities in this uneasy country, is this week taking ship for London."

There is a local tradition to the effect that Woodside was disliked by some for not being sufficiently Puritanical, and this appears to have been a reproach brought against the Scotch-Irish clergy as a class. In a letter written to a friend in Scotland Cotton Mather spoke of them as having an "expression full of levity not usual among our ministers." It is evident that Puritanism had by this time come to connote austere manner and repressed behavior. That Puritanism should take this turn among the Independents instead of among Presbyterians exemplifies the familiar principle that custom is more exacting than law. Presbyterians had a systematized authority within whose bounds they were at ease. The Independents rejected systematized authority but custom established a formal pattern of behavior, from which it was dangerous for ministers to deviate.

The Rev. James Hillhouse was born about 1688 at Freehall, County Londonderry. He studied divinity at Glasgow and was ordained by Derry Presbytery October 15, 1718. He came to America in 1720 and in 1722 was called to a church in the second parish at New London, Conn., where he died December 15, 1740. Hill-house came of a distinguished Ulster family, and he founded a distinguished American family. His grandfather, Abraham Hillhouse of Artkill, Londonderry, was in the famous siege. His father, John Hillhouse, was owner of a large estate known as Freehall. James, an uncle of the emigrant, was Mayor of Londonderry in 1693. A son of the Rev. James Hillhouse was a member of the Continental Congress, a grandson was a member of the United States Senate, and a great-grandson was the James Abraham Hillhouse who was famous as a poet in the first third of the nineteenth century.

Mrs. Hillhouse was a Mary Fitch of a family that was among the earliest settlers of New England. Her second husband was the Rev. John Owen of Groton, Conn., whom also she survived, and she married the Rev. Samuel Dorrance, who like her first husband, was an Ulster clergyman. Dorrance was registered as Scotch-Irish, of Glasgow University in 1709. He was licensed by Dumbarton Presbytery in Scotland and in 1719 was received by the Presbytery of Coleraine. He came to America and settled at Voluntown, now Stirling, Conn., together with several brothers and friends. He was installed as town pastor in 1723, and served until March 5, 1771. He died November 12, 1775, at the age of ninety, leaving a large family.

The early arrivals of Scotch-Irish appear to have gone into the country, but later the flow made deposits in Boston and in connection with these a notable pastorate was created. The Rev. John Moorhead, son of a farmer at Newton, near Belfast, was born there in 1703. He was educated at the University of Edinburgh, and upon his return to Newton was influenced to go to America. He came to Boston in 1727 and soon began services, gathering about him a congregation which was known as the "Church of the Presbyterian Strangers." He was ordained as its pastor, March 30, 1730. John Little, a market gardener, was a member of the congregation, and for several years services were held in his barn. Eventually Mr. Little conveyed this barn and some land to the church, and in 1744 a building was erected which later became known as the Federal Street Church. Mr. Moorhead was an assiduous pastor, making periodical visits to each family under his care, to converse with the parents, catechize children and servants, and pray with the household. He died December 2, 1773. The funeral sermon was preached by the Rev. David McGregor of Londonderry.

The Scotch-Irish settlements on the Maine coast attracted a number of ministers of whom Woodside and Cornwall have already been mentioned. The Rev. Hugh Campbell, who obtained his M.A. degree at Edinburgh in 1714, spent a year at Scarboro, Me., in 1720, and was succeeded by the Rev. Hugh Henry in June, 1722. The Rev. Robert Rutherford came over in 1729 and preached at Bristol, Nobleboro, and Boothbay, Me. He was minister at Brunswick from about 1735 to 1742, and died at Thomaston, October 18, 1756, aged sixty-eight. The Rev. Robert Dunlap was born in County Antrim in August, 1715. He received his M.A. degree at Edinburgh about 1734 and emigrated to America in 1736. In December, 1746, he was called to Brunswick and preached there until October, 1760. He died June 26, 1776.

It would seem that so large a migration accompanied by so many ministers should have made an extensive planting of Presbyterianism in New England, and so it did; only Presbyterianism did not seem to take root and thrive, except at Londonderry where the Scotch-Irish had the field to themselves. As the settlement grew, it sent out colonies and in this way a church was planted at Windham in 1747 and at Bedford in 1757. Another colony went to Antrim and in 1775 formed a congregation that was organized into a church in 1778. The Scotch-Irish settlements on the Maine coast were not so fruitful. Between 1745 and 1791 churches were formed at Georgetown, Newcastle, Brunswick, Boothbay, Bristol, Topshew, Warren, Gray, Canaan, Turner and other places, all of which either died out or became Congregationalist.

From the Londonderry settlement appears to have issued the first New England Presbytery, constituted in or about 1729, by James McGregor of Londonderry and Edward Fitzgerald, together with LeMercier, pastor of the Huguenot Church at Boston, and some others. The career of Londonderry Presbytery affords another illustration of the difficulties occasioned by the contact of such diverse disciplines as Presbyterianism and Independency. On March 30, 1730, it ordained John Moorhead to the charge of the Presbyterian congregation in Boston. Thompson, a probationer of the Presbytery of Tyrone, Ireland, was received and ordained October 10, 1733. In 1736 the Presbytery was disrupted by a struggle over the admission of the Rev. James Hillhouse, who although a Presbyterian, was pastor of the Congregational Church at New London, Conn. Only five ministers were present when he was admitted by a majority of one vote. At the same meeting the Presbytery ordained David, son of the Rev. James McGregor. Three of the ministers present protested against the proceedings as unlawful. At the next meeting of the Presbytery there was a large attendance and the majority refused to recognize Hillhouse and McGregor and suspended Joseph Harvey and John Moorhead, who had voted for their admission. The effect was to break up the Presbytery.

On April 16, 1745, Boston Presbytery was constituted through the efforts of John Moor-head, David McGregor and Robert Abercrombie. They represented the party that had been excluded from the Presbytery of Londonderry in 1736. In 1768 they had grown to a body of twelve members. The original Presbytery of Londonderry appears to have died of inanition through the scattering of its members and inability to hold sessions. So late as 1771, however, there is record of an appeal to this Presbytery with reference to the organization of a Synod. Nothing appears to have come of it, and the Presbytery was probably then dead, although its name had survived. The Presbytery of Boston, however, developed such strength that on June 2, 1775, it organized as a Synod, composed of three Presbyteries: Newburyport with six ministers, Londonderry with four, and Palmer with six; in all, sixteen ministers and twenty-five churches. This Synod declined to receive the Presbytery at the Eastward, started by the Rev. John Murray of Boothbay, Me., who had been a member of the Presbytery of Philadelphia but had been deposed by that body. There was another independent Presbytery of Grafton, N. H., constituted by Eleazar Wheelock and others. The strength of Presbyterianism of New England at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War was one Synod of three Presbyteries and two independent Presbyteries. Dr. Briggs computes that these five had in all thirty-two ministers, at a time when the Synod of New York and Philadelphia had 132 ministers and the total number of Presbyterian ministers in the colonies was 186. This number is exclusive of the Dutch, German and French Reformed Churches, having the same polity but maintaining their separate organization. It is computed that these Reformed Churches had sixty-one ministers in 1775.

It therefore appears that notwithstanding the early start of Presbyterianism in New England it did not thrive there. Independency, which had overthrown the Presbyterian order in England, clogged its introduction in New England, and although New England obtained increase of population from Ulster, Congregationalism was a greater gainer thereby than Presbyterianism. While Presbyterianism was rapidly spreading in the West and South, the New England field was for the most part resigned to the Congregational variety of Puritanism. The common ancestry of the two denominations was however kept in remembrance, and served as a basis for fraternal association. Through the efforts of the Synod of New York and Philadelphia a convention was held at Elizabethtown, New Jersey, in November, 1766, attended by delegates from the Synod and from the Consociated Churches of Connecticut. It was decided that an annual convention should be held to which all the Congregational, Consociated and Presbyterian Churches in North America should be invited to send delegates. The following year the convention met at New Haven, and at that convention two delegates from Boston Presbytery were present. Thereafter the convention was exclusively composed of delegates from the Synod and the churches of Connecticut. The chief motive for the formation of this convention was opposition to the creation of an American episcopate. Hodge observed that this was "the great and almost the only subject which occupied their attention." The meetings of the convention were held alternately in Connecticut and at Elizabethtown, N. J., but were discontinued during the Revolutionary War.

When the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church was constituted in 1789 no New England Presbytery or ministerial association was represented, and New England was without any representation whatever, save for the fact that the Synod of New York and Philadelphia had some ministers under its jurisdiction in Connecticut. The General Assembly at its meeting in 1790 unanimously adopted the following:

"Whereas there existed, before the late revolution, an annual convention of the clergy of the Congregational Churches in New England, and of the ministers belonging to the Synod of New York and Philadelphia, which was interrupted by the disorders occasioned by the war;—this Assembly, being peculiarly desirous to renew and strengthen every bond of union between brethren so nearly agreed in doctrine and forms of worship, as the members of the Presbyterian and Congregational Churches evidently are, and remembering with much satisfaction the mutual pleasure and advantage produced and received by their former intercourse,—did resolve that the ministers of the Congregational Church in New England, be invited to renew their annual convention with the clergy of the Presbyterian Church."

A committee was appointed through whose efforts a plan was adopted of fraternal association through delegates. The General Assembly seated as members delegates from the general association of Connecticut, and from the general convention of Congregational and Presbyterian ministers from Vermont; and in its turn elected delegates to those New England bodies. Associations in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island were eventually included in these arrangements; but this intercourse languished, and by 1837 or 1838 had almost declined. In 1840 it was revived, but embarrassments through differences in discipline occurred, and the slavery controversy also made trouble. In 1857 the General Assembly decided not to send delegates to any of the Congregational bodies of New England.

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The Scotch-Irish in America cover

There ain’t nothing like the real thing — get the softcover second edition to read The Scotch-Irish in America at your leisure and help support this free Irish library. The author, Henry Jones Ford had this to say about the book:

“This book tells the story of the Ulster Plantation and of the influences that formed the character of the people. The causes are traced that led to the great migration from Ulster and the Scotch-Irish settlements in America are described. The recital of their experiences involves an account of frontier manners and customs, and of collisions with the Indian tribes. The influence of the Scotch-Irish settlements upon American institutions is traced, particularly in organizing and propagating the Presbyterian Church, in spreading popular education, and in promoting the movement for American national independence. In conclusion, there is an appreciation of the Ulster contribution to American nationality.”


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