Continued – The following has been transcribed from Transactions of the Alabama Historical Society: New series, Volume 4 By Alabama Historical Society 1904
THE HISTORY OF THE CUMBERLAND PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN ALABAMA PRIOR TO 1826
By The Rev. James H. B. Hall, Birmingham
The Tide Of Settlers Continued South
Southward the tide of settlers rolled, bearing with it additional Cumberlands. About this time Pleasant Valley, Roupe’s Valley, Jones’ Valley, and Cahaba Valley, down to old Cahaba, near the present Selma,—all Middle Alabama—began receiving thousands of citizens.
Adams Grove Presbyterian in Dallas County, Alabama built ca. 1853
The country east of Cotton Gin Port—the Alabama side of the Tombigbee—near the present town of Aberdeen, Mississippi, was, likewise, filling with pioneers.
As early as 1817, but one year after the purchase of the port from the Indians, pioneer Cumberlands from that place asked the Elk Presbytery to send them a minister. It is said that five hundred names were attached to one petition. Mr. Donnell was requested by the Presbytery to go to their assistance. For satisfactory reasons he did not comply.
The following year, 1818, the Ladies’ Missionary Board of the Elk Presbytery sent to that field and a part of the adjacent Indian territory west of the Tombigbee the Revs. Samuel King and William Moor. These good men toiled for both the whites and the Indians, and so faithfully that they reported at the ensuing meeting of their presbytery compliance with the instructions given them by the Missionary Board. Men in those years usually did what they were directed by their church councils.
Interior of Adams Grove Presbyterian in Dallas County, Alabama
Fourth Presbytery Added
The three presbyteries, Nashville, Elk and Logan, composed the synod until its meeting, Oct. 19, 1819, when the McGee Presbytery was formed. This body, therefore, enjoys the distinction of being the first daughter of the old synod.
“Did you know that religious persecution of Presbyterians occurred in early America? Read about it in this historical series by Alabama author Donna R. Causey“
Dr. McDonnold, whom I must measurably follow in all these matters, since he is our only historian to date, says:
“The Elk Presbytery, in 1820, ordered two of its members to establish a circuit in South Alabama, but, for satisfactory reasons they both failed to comply.” Dr. McDonnold had access, doubtless, to the minutes of the Elk Presbytery, a help I have not had at command; and this, it will be noted, was a presbyterial act.
The names of these brethren are not known. Distance, lack of roads, no bridges or boats, dangers from various quarters, as well as excess of work at home, might one, or more, or all have been assigned as the grounds of their non-compliance. Those were days of daring and hardship.
More Prebyteries After 1821 – Minutes Lost
“The four presbyteries already named composed the synod until its session in the year 1821. At this meeting four new additions were made, viz: Alabama, Anderson, Lebanon and Tennessee. The minutes of this sitting, unfortunately, have been lost. The meeting, however, was held in the town of Russellville, Logan county, Kentucky, Oct. 16, et seq., 1821.
This was certainly one of the most eventful sittings of the old synod, and it is consequently all the more to be regretted that the records have perished. The next source of information would be the minutes of the presbytery itself; but these, if ever in existence, have been lost also.
These losses, it will be seen, create an impassable barrier in the way of acquiring some facts which would be highly valuable as they are necessary in giving the story of the Church in her first operations in the State.
The old people have all gone and consequently the facts cannot be supplied from memory. In fact, there are few, if any, now living who have any knowledge whatever of this early organization, which herein, and in my history of the Church, I shall call “The Alabama Presbytery, original.”
The organization of the First Presbyterian Church of Talladega, Alabama, occurred on Saturday, November 29, 1834 in a log house situated near our large town spring, the building them being used as a courthouse and the place for public meetings.
The Talladega Presbytery, Oxana Session, December 7, 1897
The writer, who has spent the last twenty-five years in Middle and South Alabama, does not recollect ever to have heard any one mention or refer to its existence as a matter of either personal or traditional knowledge. But a few years remove these human landmarks, and hence the necessity for written forms.
Alabama Not Younger Than the Fifth Nor Older Than the Eighth
It will be seen, from this history, that the Alabama Presbytery, original, could not be younger than the fifth nor older than the eighth presbyterial child in the Cumberland family. It was, beyond question, the second whose bounds embraced Alabama soil.
The precise date, of the formation of this presbytery I have ascertained from the Rev. Robert Donnell. It was October 18, 1821. How valuable the habit of making historic notes! Our thanks are due to all those who, in the times gone, have in any department of human activity, kept fresh the foot-prints of man’s progress.
Under the circumstances, it is impossible to give with certainty the number and the names of the ministers comprising its charter members. They were, most likely, only the Rev. Messrs. Robert Bell, Benjamin Lockhart, and William Moor. There may have been others, but it is doubtful. If others united with them after the organization it is unknown. Whether or not there were any probationers is also not known. All the first men, of course, were from beyond the State confines.
Metes And Bounds Of The Presbytery
The reader will at once see that it is equally impossible to define “the metes and bounds” of the presbytery. It, most probably, included the territory south of the mountains south of the Tennessee river, and west, embracing much of eastern Mississippi.
This last section was occupied largely by the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes of Indians. This is in harmony with the policy of those days, which was to form a new presbytery just as soon as a sufficient number of ministers could be found in any given field. This was, for various reasons, the wisest course to be pursued. It manned the territory, it brought the gospel to the people, it saved time and labor expended in long journeyings to ecclesiastical courts. I find myself confirmed in these opinions by the following history.
The old Cumberland Synod, in session at Suggs Creek meetinghouse, Wilson county, Tenn., Oct. 19, 1819, adopted the following:
“Whereas, Several letters have been directed to the Moderator informing the synod that a number of societies have been formed, the object of which is to raise funds for the purpose of establishing schools for the literary and religious instruction of the Chickasaw and the Choctaw tribes of Indians, and appointing the ordained ministers of this synod their board of trustees. Therefore,
“Resolved,That this appointment be accepted.”11
This is the first budding of the systematic conduct of missions in the church. It is pleasant to reflect that it had its inception in that presbytery whose arms first enclosed any portion of the State.
Presbyterian Orphans Home in Talladega, Alabama ca. 1930s
(Alabama Department of Archives and History)
It is also gratifying to know that Mr. Bell, one of her members, was a prime, if not the prime, mover in this glorious work. He prepared the constitution of the church’s first missionary society. As we shall see just a little later, he holds the first place on her long roll of regularly accredited missionaries.
Moreover, it is due to our women that this work received its earliest and most earnest support. All honor to them!
Faith and Courage: 2nd edition -A Novel of Colonial America (Tapestry of Love Book 2): Book 2 in Tapestry of Love Series