Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The Ulster-Scot who brought Presbyterianism to Nashville

In the foreword to a history of Presbyterianism in Nashville, Dr James H McNeilly said:
Among the forces which have moulded the moral and religious character of the people of Tennessee, the Presbyterian Church must be allowed a prominent place.  The first settlers of the State were largely of that hardy, earnest Scotch-Irish race, upon which Presbyterianism has made the deepest impression.
It was the Scotch-Irish who brought Presbyterianism to Nashville and the first Presbyterian preacher, Rev Thomas B Craighead, came of a line of Presbyterian ministers

His grandfather Rev Thomas Craighead (1664-1739) came from Scotland to Ulster and was ordained as minister of First Donegal Presbyterian Church in 1698.  Eventually he emigrated with his family from Ulster to America and arrived in Boston in October 1714. 

Rev Alexander Craighead (1706-1766) emigrated from Ulster with his family and he followed in his father's footsteps by becoming a Presbyterian minister.  He preached in Middle Octorara Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania and then moved on to Augusta County, Virginia.  Finally he settled in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, where he was pastor of the Sugaw Creek and Rocky River congregations.  He was a supporter of the Great Awakening and is regarded as the spiritual father of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, which was writtennine years after his death.

Alexander Craighead married Agnes Margaret Brown and they were the parents of Thomas Brown Craighead, who was born in Bath, Virginia, in 1750.  He graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) in 1775 and was ordained by the Presbytery of Orange in 1780.  After preaching in South Carolina, North Carolina and Kentucky he moved to Nashville in 1785 when James Robertson and other pioneers invited him to establish a Presbyterian church and school. 
He settled at Haysboro (later Spring Hill), six or seven miles east of Nashville.  There a small stone building, 24 ft by 30 ft, was erected and it served as both church and school.  Craighead preached there for thirty years and there he established Davidson Academy, which was the cradle of the University of Nashville. 

Thomas Craighead preached frequently in Nashville until 1816.  He was a liberal Presbyterian and believed, for example, in 'free will'.  Such views led him into controversy with the Presbyterian synod and he was suspended in 1811.  However he continued to preach and teach and the sentence was rescinded shortly before his death in 1824, at the age of seventy one.

  • William States Jacobs, Presbyterianism in Nashville: A Compilation of Historic Data: Nashville, 1904

No comments:

Post a Comment