Rockbridge County Churches
Old Monmouth Church
(Written for the Gazette and the Roanoke Times by a Gazette feature writer.)1 The photograph carried here is of old Monmouth Church which was located on Whistle Creek about two miles west of Lexington, and used as a place of worship by many of the earlier settlers of Rockbridge County. This church organization is among the oldest in the community. The first settlers came to Rockbridge in 1737, and almost as soon as they had provided a roof over their heads they began to think of having a church building, or more commonly known in that day as a meeting house. The Rev. John Blair organized this congregation in 1746 during a visit to this section, and it was known at first as “Forks of James” Church. No records remain of the date of the first church building. It was perhaps of log construction though evidence exists that a frame building was at one time in use, succeeding the log church. The financing of the stone church (above) was evidently a heavy undertaking for the struggling congregation, but a subscription paper bearing the date of the first day of September, 1788, was circulated and many names appear on it, though the amounts promised were very meager. This paper is headed as follows: “We the subscribers do promise to pay for the purpose of building a stone meeting house the sums affixed to our names in cash and property viz., the property and half the cash on the first of May next and the other half of the cash on the first of October ensuing that date.” The present New Monmouth Church is located six miles west of Lexington on Route 60. The old photo print is the property of Miss Ellen G. Anderson.
1- The Lexington Gazette, 18 August 1948, pp. 1, 4.
by J.D. Morrison
After the collapse of the decayed roof of Old Monmouth church during a heavy storm in the latter part of September of this year (1896), which disaster completed the ruin of this historic old structure, it was suggested to me to write a sketch of the church for the ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY NEWS.1 I consented, but after looking over the field and inquiring about the necessary data, I found it a subject too large to be satisfactorily treated in a single newspaper article. I also discovered that much of the information in regard to it that I supposed to be easily accessible was unattainable by the loss of the records and the death and removal of the persons who might have supplied it. This determined me to write a series of articles of a little different character. This change leaves it uncertain what I may write as I am unable to tell what material I may obtain. I feel about it as a man does when he strolls out without a definite idea of where or how far he may go, and whom he may meet, and what he may see or find in his rambles. “Old Monmouth” shall be my text, but I will not promise to stick too closely to it. Any one reading the caption of these communications who may expect a straight-laced, prim, ecclesiastical history after the approved style, will be disappointed. True regard will be had to the dignity of the subject, but it may be interspersed with much that is rambling, reminiscent and gossipy.
At this point it will be proper to briefly sketch in outline a portion of the church’s history and to anticipate some things, which will be repeated hereafter in detail. “Old” Monmouth is the “New” Monmouth of the records of the Presbyterian church in the United States (South). This church organization was New Monmouth at first, and still retains its name and the designation “Old” simply applies to the old building on Whistle creek, about three miles north of Lexington. The New Monmouth Church now under the pastorage of the Rev. D. A. Penick, is six miles from Lexington, on the Alum Springs road, overlooking that part of Kerr’s creek which was the chief scene of the bloody Indian massacre, which will be mentioned hereafter. When Old Monmouth was built and for some years after, Lexington had no church and her people worshipped at Monmouth. When the village secured a church of its own Monmouth was deprived of a large portion of its congregation and was left on the extreme southern edge of what remained. There was a general decline in the support of the church from this and other reasons, which rendered it unable to support a regular pastor, and for a number of years it had what in church parlance was only a “stated supply.” In 1852 a new building was erected at the place above designated, and there being no use for the old building it gradually went to decay. HALLS’S MEETING HOUSE The old church was built on the site of what was known as Hall’s Meeting House, which was the name of the church until it changed to New Monmouth about the time, it is presumed, the new building was erected. The exact date of the change of name I have not found. In the records and papers relating to the church, a large number of which I have examined, Monmouth does not appear in a single instance before the close of the century. Monmouth was an old Scotch name transplanted with these people to America and from old associations and feelings of patriotism from the battle in New Jersey of that name, and it was given to the new church as Lexington was to the new town and Liberty Hall to the new school building. The date of the building of Hall’s Meeting House is in doubt. From the Presbytery’s records four congregations were organized into churches by Rev. John Blair in 1745-6, which were North Mountain, Timber Ridge, New Providence, and Forks of the James, the last being Hall’s Meeting House, afterwards Monmouth. This was the first church south of North river and the whole region between the two rivers was at that time known as the “Forks.” Within the memory of people now living the region south of Lexington to James river was called “The Forks.” The mother of the writer, whose birthplace was in the McCorkle neighborhood, south of town, always spoke of her father’s house as “home down in the Forks.” The lot, on which Hall’s Meeting House was built, was deeded to Joseph Lapsley and others, trustees, by Ben Borden in 1754. The name was from William Hall, who owned the adjoining property, and whose heirs sold it to Rev. William Graham, the first rector of Liberty Hall academy, in 1779. Graham is said to have built the odd looking hipped roof old stone house now owned by Colonel R. H. Brown in sight of the old church. The building of Hall’s Meeting House most probably existed before the date of this deed, and it is to be presumed was extant at the time of the organization of the church in 1745. I have the impression of having heard that there had been two buildings on the site prior to the erection of the stone church. The first may have been a mere booth covered with clap-boards or brush for summer services. This kind of temporary provision for preaching was very common in early days. Who were the ministers this church had prior to the beginning of Rev. William Graham’s pastorate in May 1776, when he accepted a joint call from Timber Ridge and Hall’s Meeting House. I have found no record. It is said a preacher of the Associate Reform church, named Irvine, was buried beneath the church. When this was and whether he preached regularly at the church are also unknown. (Here I will give notice, that when it may be necessary to speak of the Associate Reform Presbyterians, I will call them by the popular title of “Seceders.” I know they resent the appellation and that each branch of the church considers the other the “bolters.” I do it not offensively but for convenience and because they know themselves and others know better by that short name than by the long name of their official designation.) WILLIAM GRAHAM From the preceding it will be seen that Monmouth is as old as the oldest churches of this section and is associated with many of the most interesting features of the region’s early history. It was the church of the earliest settlers of the locality. It was the first church of the academy and the college, which have grown and ripened into Washington and Lee university. Rev. William Graham was the founder of both of the college and the church. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1746, and graduated at Princeton in 1773. In 1775 he was chosen principal of the Mount Pleasant academy, which was the germ of the future university. This school was on Timber Ridge near Fairfield and was afterwards removed to near the present Timber Ridge church, which was erected in 1756. At that place a new building had been reared and a new name, Liberty Hall, given it. Due to the interruptions of the war and the hard times and depreciated currency produced thereby, the school was suspended and was never resumed at that place, but afterwards removed to the new stone building, the ruins of which still mark its site a half mile north of Lexington, and stand as a monument of Graham, whose plunk and energy had conducted the school through all its early trials and vicissitudes of a most eventful period. For twenty-two years he was its rector and most active friend, till on the eve of the institutions entrance upon a new life of prosperity and usefulness as a college, bearing the name of the Father of his Country. Then he resigned his connection with it and Monmouth church at the same time, September 25, in the year 1796--100 years ago. Mr. Graham was pastor of Timber Ridge and Hall’s Meeting House churches jointly from May, 1776, until May, 1785. After an interval of four years, from 1785 to 1789, he accepted a call to Monmouth which connection continued till his final resignation as stated above. In the latter year the old church was built and he was the leader in the work. Of three subscription papers to raise funds, which now lie before me, his name heads the lists and generally leads in the amounts subscribed. What he was to the school he was to the old church. In the interim between the pastorate of Mr. Graham, the Rev. Moses Hoge, a name afterwards famous in the annals of the church, received a call as pastor, but declined. The subscription list to accompany this I give verbatim: “We the subscribers do promise to pay for the Labours of the Rev’d Mr. Hogg yearly and every year for his Labours as a minister if the meeting house or place of worship Continues where it now is, the sums to our names annexed.--September 19, 1786. (Signed), Samuel Miller, Robert Lawson, Robt. McCampbell, James Cunningham, Robt. McKee, John Gilmore, Isaac Lawson, George Smith, John Wilson, Wm. McKee, John McElwee, Hugh Were, Wm. Presly, Samuel Wilson, James McMath, Joseph Caldwell, John McKee, James McKee, John Moor, James Logan, John Hamilton, Chas. Kirkpatrick, Patrick Vance, Mathew Haunch, James Moor, Henry Skeen, Robt. Cravins, John McKemy, Abraham Goodpasture, John Cooper, George Townsley.” After Mr. Graham’s resignation, having caught the bright visions of prosperity through a grand land and colonization scheme, he purchased 6,000 acres of land on the Virginia side of the Ohio river, near Point Pleasant, and removed his family to that place. He was the victim of “sharpers” and his glowing visions proved empty and deceitful mirages. He bought defective titles for worthless lands and lawsuits and lost what he already had in this enterprise, and finally his life by exposure on his way to Richmond in 1799, in an effort to get his rights before the courts. William Graham was not the founder of the well known family of that name in Rockbridge, as is supposed by many, but its progenitor Edward Graham, a younger brother, who was professor in the college, and married a sister of Rev. Archibald Alexander. Hence the well known family names handed down to the present generation.
This period covered by the two previous articles is from the first settlement of the Valley up to the close of the Revolution. A short sketch of the history of the times of this period in this section would be appropriate here, but the character of this article precludes it. It has been remarked that the churches and schools have had undue prominence in all of the accounts of early history in this section. This was because other interests of these people in early days were so interwoven with those of their churches and schools that the history of one without the other would be meager and unsatisfactory. Any one who supposes that the business of these pioneers was to preach and teach and listen to church homilies, say their catechisms and learn Latin and Greek is greatly mistaken. They had all the labors, dangers and privations of frontier settlers in an unusual degree. Men, who carried their rifles to the field at their daily work--to church on Sabbath and had these trusty implements of destruction and defense always in reach--whose last act after they said their prayers at night was to pick up their flints and prime their guns, and their first act in the morning after they awoke, if they ever did awake, was to reach up and ascertain whether their scalps were still in place and sound on top of their craniums, carried their lives in their hands and by no means slept on beds of roses. Before the war of the Revolution and the establishment of the new government, there was but little civil law or civil history in the Valley. The Colonial government had its capital at Williamsburg. Its courts, legislative councils and governors were there. The colonial nabobs with their hundreds of slaves and their scores of retainers, lived like Feudal lords, which they were. They knew little and cared less for the little band of despised Dissenters beyond the blue mountains of the West. As long as the latter stood as videttes and afforded a defense against the murderous raids of the Indians beyond these mountains, the cavaliers of the East were content to let Scotch-Irish and the German Dissenters of the Valley be a law unto themselves. Hence the Valley has had no early history outside of its churches and church councils and its Indian massacres and border wars. Rockbridge county, though the center of this distinctive population of early settlers, has had no written history except incidentally as a part of something outside her limits. Here is a gap it would be pleasant to fill were this the occasion. The Old Monmouth congregation at the time and before the building of the stone church, covered a wide boundary of the county. Nearly all south of North river extending from below Lexington and north as far as the Baths, including all the Kerr’s Creek valley and Whistle creek south to Buffalo and Collier’s creek. Timber Ridge comprised the section north of the river, beginning opposite Lexington, following the ridge to and beyond the Augusta line. New Providence held the Hays’ creek and Walker’s creek sections, also beyond the present county line. When in 1788-9 the congregation determined to build a new house of worship this whole region was put under contribution with considerable help from the other congregations. The first subscription is dated September 1st, 1788. It was provided that the subscribers should pay in “property” or in “cash”, or both. There were parallel columns for each and a majority divided their subscriptions to pay a portion in each kind. They obligated themselves, if the first subscription were not sufficient, to subscribe further in proportion to the first. I have before me three papers and these did not finish the house but only completed the walls and covered the building which condition the congregation worshipped without floors or pews for a period of years, sitting on rude benches. It is said when the congregation was dismissed at the close of the service the house would be filled with a cloud of dust. Another condition was that “the house should be of stone 35X50 feet in the clear,” (it is 45X50) and the walls twelve feet high from the floor to the eaves and the floor two feet from the ground making fourteen feet. It seems the Lexington people had in view the erection of a church of their own as they subscribed upon condition that their subscriptions should be returned when they build their house. The names of the subscribers of the Halls Meeting House branch of the congregation are almost all included in the call for Rev. Moses Hoge published in a former number and will not be repeated here. The Lexington subscribers were Math Hanna, William Alexander, John Galbraith, William Lyle, John Jenkins, Jacob Ruff, James Gamble, James Caruthers, Thomas Whiteside, Phoebe Paxton, and John Moore, Sr. (A portion of this list I think has been lost and probably many other names should be added.) Wm. Graham, as said before, heads all of the lists, giving in the aggregate in three subscriptions, seventeen pounds. (the amounts were in pounds, shillings, and pence.) Wm. McKee and John Willson each the same amount, this being the highest. John McKee, Wm. Alexander, Wm. Lyle and James Moore each sixteen pounds; Robert Kincaid fifteen pounds; Sally McCampbell and James Logan each fourteen pounds, and so on down. This was from an aggregate made up Oct. 9th, 1790. Another subscription paper for finishing the house (which did not finish it) dated August 1800, shows many new names. The trustees who constituted the building committee were Wm. McKee, John Thompson, James Gilmore, Wm. Alexander, Samuel McCampbell, and John Willson. They contracted with Samuel Henry of Augusta, to do the work, the congregation furnishing the material. It seems this was only for the stone work, and as far as I can find there was no provision for the wood work at that time. Upon the article of agreement, which is dated February 9th, 1789, is endorsed Henry’s receipt to Colonel Wm. McKee in full of the balance of the money for the work. This is dated February 4th, 1794, and is witnessed by Zachariah Johnston. There is a story about the women packing sand and other material, as is stated concerning Providence church. This, I think is a myth, as the material of the character needed is too convenient for any necessity of that kind of transportage. This brings the history of the church proper up to the close of the century and leaves its massive walls with a roof over them, but inside a vacuum. It was unfinished and without a pastor. Some weeks ago a communication was directed to Rev. D. A. Penick, pastor of New Monmouth, from “The Society for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities,” asking what claims this old church would have upon their society. This communication was referred to me asking for something of its early history and its claims as a specimen of the antiquities of the Valley of Virginia. What I gave as an answer to that I condense here: It is an interesting and striking old ruin. It is associated with the earliest history of the region where it stands. The names of its congregations and its builders almost to a man are associated with the stirring and eventful times from the advent of the white man in this region to the close of the war of independence. There was scarcely a family in its bounds or a contributor to its support that would not furnish a vivid and startling picture of frontier life. They contributed to the forces which fought the bloody border wars with the Indians and French. Their families furnished victims to the Indian tomahawk and scalping knives in at least two famous massacres. Later they sent their fathers and sons to fight the battles to their country in its struggle for liberty and independence. They belonged to that class of heroes who fight the battles and gain victories of the world and go down to oblivion “unwept, unhonored and unsung.” In sight of where I write in a sparsely settled country neighborhood, two and a half miles from Old Monmouth, there went forth five revolutionary soldiers of whose names there is not a record--McElhany, two Mileys, Athan, and Winant. So it is all over this region. The question is asked why you extol the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians to the exclusion of other nationalities and other churches? Simply because there was nobody else here. There is probably not an example in the country where one people and one church have so completely occupied and held a region of country in the “New World” as entirely and as long as these Scotch-Irish Presbyterians of Augusta and Rockbridge now have. Notwithstanding 100 years of unparalleled progress with its immigration and emigration and its shifting of population, of forty or fifty churches and places of worship, in a county comprehending ten to a dozen different denominations, over twenty of them are today Presbyterian. ___________ NOTE:-- In the list of the names to Rev. Moses Hoge’s call in the last number, there are two misprints--John McElwee where it should have been John McKee, and Mathew Haunch instead of Mathew Hanna. When I was overhauling these old papers about the time of the election, the coincidences of names amused me. The newspapers were full of “Mark Hanna” and among these papers 100 years ago “M. Hanna” occurred I presume fifty times among those examined by me. The latter was a collector and secretary for the church. One was “Mathew” and the other “Mark”--a kind of “Apostolic Succession.” More on the Scotch Irish Presbyterians
Old Monmouth and Its Times By J. D. Morrison No. IV
The date of the completion of the church is uncertain. The stonework was finished promptly in 1789 or ‘90 and was well done too. Though its walls have stood 107 years they are as solid and plumb today as when they came fresh from the mason’s square and plummet. Preparations were made early for the inside work, but it was some years before it was completed. I find an account of Arthur Beaty, dated 1789-90, for “rounding and turning twenty-seven banisters and turning twelve pillars,” 4 pounds, 14 s., and 11d., and credits for three bushels of wheat at 3 s. per bushel, and one bushel of corn at 2 s., about the panic prices of late days. Lewis Brian is charged in an undated memorandum with payments made then for “lathing and plastering” stated both in pounds and dollars. There is a unique subscription list to raise funds for “lathing, plastering, and finishing the church,” dated August 1800. There are two columns of names--one column subscribes in pounds, shillings, and pence, and the other in dollars and cents. Saml. L. Campbell, James Moore, Ro. Gold, Arthur Beaty, A. Starr, Wm. McClung, And. Alexander, _____ Leyburn, Robt. Scott, Robt. McDowell, David Shields, James Barclay and Rich. Barnet in dollars, and Hugh Weir, John Moore, John Orbison, James Logan, Saml. Wilson, James and John McKee, Chas. Kirkpatrick, James Gilmore, James Blain, John Welsh, Wm. Ryley, James Gold, John Alexander, Nathan Watkins, Francis Furgerson, and M. Hanna in pounds. There is a list of those who subscribed for seats dated Sept. 5th, 1790. At that time it is quite probable there were no seats to take except they were mere benches, as by an ordinance passed by the board of trustees Feb. 13th, 1794, the galleries were laid off and the space assessed for parties who may have desired “to build a seat” therein, the same to be of “like workmanship of those in the body of the house.” This is conclusive that there were no pews at that time and then the complaints long after that of the ground in the aisles being worn into deep ruts, by long use show there were no floors below except the earth. Be it as it may, it was finally finished probably twenty-five years after the erection of the walls, and as we have said about the walls, it was well done in the very best style of such work in those days. There is one sad reflection about it. Its completion marks the beginning of its decadence. Like all things mundane. Like the ripe fruit--its ripening is the first stage of its decay. Like the maturity of man--when he matures he begins to die. before it was fully finished Lexington had built a church of her own and the Monmouth congregation was cut in two and the larger half lost to the old church. New churches had sprung up on the other sides of her bounds and before the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century she was dismembered and shorn of her strength on all sides. REMINISCENT When this old church was finished and in its prime it was the largest and best building of its kind, or of any other kind, in the county and probably in the Valley of Virginia. When I first knew it over fifty years ago it was in every respect an ideal specimen of an old fashioned country church. Its site in beauty and adaptability to its purposes could not be excelled. It stood on a little plateau excavated by nature out of the side of a gently sloping hill overlooking a meandering stream that murmured at its base. Towards the west with charming intervening scenery the House mountain loomed up in majestic grandeur, whilst towards the east in the distance the Blue Ridge stretched its indented line of cerulean blue forming the background of a picture of unrivaled natural beauty. Then the building itself was embowered in a grove of grand old oaks, many of which had weathered the storms of a century before the white man had ever sought their shade. Among these monarchs of the forest the old gray walls with their lichen covered roof stood as dignified and venerable as they. The inside in antiquated appearance was in strict keeping with its exterior and surroundings. Its high backed, narrow seated pews, its quaintly fashioned pulpit stuck half way up on the end of the house, then the “precentor’s seat,” a kind of second pulpit not quite so high--then in front of these a square enclosure--a kind of chancel, where elders sat and then suspended over all these level with the eaves of the house the “sounding board” like the convex side of a mammoth embossed shield, all combined to exhibit features which would be strange and striking to the present generation. The work was first-class for that day. The pews, pulpit and the wainscotting around the sides even with the tops of the pews was panel-work of heart pine. The inside plan was a broad isle in front of the pulpit and two parallel aisles perpendicular to this leading to doors in the south end of the building. In the middle block the pews were of the usual shape, but those on the sides were large square pews. The pulpit was reached on the inside by a flight of stairs through what the boys irreverently called the “elder’s pen” and from the session house by stairs through a narrow door on a level with the pulpit. My youthful recollections of the old pews were anything but pleasant. Through many a long service I had to do penance on one of these narrow seats and high perpendicular backs with my feet dangling a foot from the floor. It was conducive to anything else than early piety. REV. GEORGE A. BAXTER, D.D. After the resignation of Rev. William Graham in 1796 to 1799 when Dr. Baxter accepted a call to the church Monmouth was without a pastor. During this interragnune I find a subscription for a call for Rev. Mathew Lyle, but there is no account that he accepted. Dr. Baxter was a preacher of signal force and eloquence, and during his pastorate, which continued to July 10th, 1821, twenty-two years, was the palmy and prosperous period of Old Monmouth’s history. During his incumbency there were many happenings that may be of interest to the present generation and which will receive notice in a future number.
Old Monmouth and Its Times By J. D. Morrison No. V
The period of Dr. Baxter’s ministrations at Monmouth was a bright era in the history of the church and added largely to its membership. He preached alternately at Lexington and Monmouth and from habit and the short distance on his days at the latter place a large number of the Lexington people always attended. His fame as a preacher drew numbers from a distance to attend his services. So his congregations were always large. To the substantial qualities of his learning and fine reasoning powers were added the talents of a captivating orator and elocutionist when oratory meant much more than it does today. Shortly after Dr. Baxter’s installation there was a famous revival at Old Monmouth, beginning in the year 1802. The revival has become historic from the extravagances and disorders which accompanied it as well as the great awakening it produced. “THE JERKS” This revival with its peculiar concomitants was really a sympathetic offshoot of a most remarkable revival begun in Kentucky in 1800 and which extended over a portion of Tennessee and North Carolina. It was the period of the prevalence of the famous “bodily exercises” which in this region since have had the distinctive name of the “jerks.” It began first in Kentucky at a camp-meeting which was followed by a series of camp-meetings till all business and domestic affairs were suspended and neglected and the people flocked to these meetings, many traveling 100 miles to reach them. The excitement was intense and from the quiet, orderly services of these hitherto quiet and orderly people, their proceedings became a prefect pandemonium and they raved like inmates of a mad house turned loose. Under the excitement of the moment one would become infected with the mania which might develop itself into violent muscular spasms and contortions. Sometimes it affected the head which would be jerked back and forth with a violence and velocity that endangered the neck of the victim. It is said that women with long hair were sometimes agitated till their hair cracked like whips, and those subject to the “jerks” had to be shorn of their locks. Another time it would get into the legs and then the victim would either jump or dance, sometimes both. Again they would fall and roll over the ground without regard to obstacles or even mud puddles in their course. Another time they would get down on all fours and bark and growl and foam like a mad-dog. Falling in a swoon was almost always the finale of a fit. These were not the exhibitions of single individuals, but the seizure of one would probably be the signal of an attack of hundreds, till a whole meeting would be changed into a mass of dancing, shouting and writhing humanity. It was epidemic in the strictest sense of the term and those exposed seemed without the power to resist it and to lose completely the control of the will, and would relapse into what in these days would be called a state of hypnotic irresponsibility. After they had fallen into the trance and recovered they would frequently recount in glowing terms the heavenly visions they had witnessed. These attacks were usually due to great religious excitement at the time, but sometimes they came on persons on the road distant from where the meetings were being held. Occasionally men, who had gone to the meetings through mere curiosity or to scoff were attacked, who so far as being under religious influence, spent the time between paroxysms in cursing the “jerks.” Sometimes persons had nervous twitchings and stinging sensations, which were premonitory symptoms, but frequently the spells came without warning and the person would fall in a swoon as if shot. The swooning was usually the result of physical exhaustion produced by the various different “bodily exercises.” After prostrated they remained in an unconscious state for longer or shorter periods not more than a few hours in most cases, whilst a few remained unconscious for several days. Many who fell did not lose consciousness, but only the power of locomotion. The scenes of these camp meetings with large spaces covered with the prostrate forms, barring the blood were said to have looked like a field hospital after a battle. The foregoing has been derived chiefly from the descriptions of the scenes during the Kentucky revival. Many of its repulsive features, I am glad to say, were never repeated in our section. Monmouth had probably a larger experience with this mania, than any other church in this region. Dr. Baxter had visited Kentucky and wrote a letter to Dr. Alexander on the subject. This was published and bitterly criticized. He did not at first at least disapprove of these exercises. In his own church during the revival mentioned these manifestations were very numerous and many interesting stories are told of the proceedings, which I heard in my childhood but do not retain sufficiently to accurately repeat. Mrs. McFarland, who lived in the old stone house of Colonel Brown, mentioned in prior number said she had frequently all her beds and floors and other available space covered with the people brought in under this mysterious influence and that she spent many hours rubbing and bathing them to restore them to a condition to reach their homes. James Wilson, who lived in the neighborhood in former days spoke of seeing a girl bounce up on a seat in the back part of the church then on top of the pews, she skipped along till she fell unconscious near him in the front of the church. Mrs. Baxter relates seeing a girl frequently during services dance back and forth along one of the long aisles till exhausted, when she would fall. Mrs. Baxter gives another instance of Dr. Baxter having a call to marry a couple, and not knowing the road to the house, had a young man to direct him. The young fellow gave signs on the way of being under the jerking influence and the doctor very much apprehensive lest the young man should be seized during the wedding and spoil the enjoyment of the occasion. As it happened he held out until their return, when they were fording Kerr’s creek he was seized and Dr. Baxter had to work to keep him from falling in the water. Another instance and I will desist. Polly McElhany (Polly was both very spare and very tall) fell as she came out of church and rolled the whole distance to the front gate about 100 yards. These exhibitions are by no means confined to the age and period of which we have been speaking. All through the history of nations such things crop out in some shape or other, but always from the same unexplained and inexplicable source, which has been puzzling psychologists and physiologists from the early days of the world to the present. There is a big field here that is yet unexplored. Spiritualism, electrobiology, mesmerism, hypnotism and a hundred other kindred humbugs have been sporting in its confines, but none has found the secret of the source of that sympathetic power that moves and controls the minds of people in such epidemics. Of course there were two parties in regard to these “jerks”, and their warfare was long and bitter. One claimed it was the influence of the Holy Spirit and the other that Satan was at the bottom of it. After a right careful reading of the history and descriptions of these disorders, if a layman’s opinion has any weight, I am inclined to the notion that the devil has rather the better of the argument.
Old Monmouth and Its Times By J. D. Morrison No. VI
The character of the preaching has been described. The ministers were generally thoroughly educated men as far as the advantage of the times afforded opportunity. Monmouth had a liberal share of the best of these in such men as Graham, Baxter, Ruffner, and others. They called the Sabbath the Lord’s Day and they meant it. They had none of the new-fangled ideas of short services and short hours of labor. They went to church early and stayed late and spent the full time in the duties of the day. In the form and character of the services there was but little difference between those of that day and the Presbyterian service of today, except in the length. Their prayers were very long and their sermons were long too, and had “heads” and “divisions” enough in each one to appall a modern congregation. There were usually two services with a short intermission which was devoted to a lunch which was always provided. THE MUSIC The music was exclusively vocal and usually lacked both rhyme and melody. There was no instrumental accompaniment and to have suggested such a thing would have got a man outlawed in the community. Though Watts’ hymns and his version of the Psalms were authorized and in use, yet there was a very strong leaning among the old folks to David’s Psalms and to Rouse’s version of the same. They were printed in the backs of the old Bibles and many of the people had committed the larger portion of them to memory. The singing was congregational and was lead by a “precentor” or “clerk” as he was usually called. From his box before described he “parceled out the lines,” “pitched the tunes” and lead the singing. The parceling process consisted in reading two lines of a stanza and singing them, reading two more and so on. The effect of this was frequently to spoil sense and sentiment of the hymn or psalm and to spoil the music at the same time by a suspension in the middle verse. It was a part of the worship and each one felt it a religious duty to join without regard to his fitness or training. The greatest sticklers for this duty seemed to be the old ladies whose voices shrill by nature had become cracked with age and nasal by chronic catarrah. They seldom ever got an even start with the others, but dropped in on the way one after another and finished in the same order. It was like the fire of a skirmish line--one, then another till there was a full volley, then it dwindled down in the same style till after all the rest had finished a straggling voice out of tune and out of time would finish up. This most probable would be one of those old ladies who had got belated in making the tune in some of Rouse’s peculiar measures or by stopping to make two syllables out of “tion” like (conso-la-she-on) consolation. Frequently there was good, stirring and impressive music executed with fervor and spirit. This was when the congregation was requested to sing some familiar psalm or hymn without “parceling.” I recall Cowper’s old hymn, “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood,” that when sung to the old tune was always impressive and always touched the chord that vibrated to the tenderest feelings of the heart. I have heard the last line of each stanza repeated as a refrain with the finest effect; especially the last lines of the last verse-- “When this poor lisping stammering tongue Lies silent in the grave.” I have heard the last line repeated again and again by a sweet female voice (solo) each time in a lower, sweeter tone like an eolian echo it too seemed to sink “silent in the grave.” That certain old songs (both sacred and secular) have a great hold upon affections and feelings of men is an old truth, and wonderful as it is old. There is much more in the associations linked with them than there is in their poetical sentiment or musical merit. Back of these there is still something that appeals to the feelings that neither their associations nor music, nor poetry will account for. Music itself is conventional and the appreciation of it in the main comes of education and cultivation. The half-naked savage beating a tom-tom in an African jungle is more delighted with his own music than he would be the most exquisite symphony executed by a skilled orchestra. It was hard to convince those old people that their miserable droning and drawling discords were not the very best church music. It was hard for them to give up their metre-less old psalms and to yield the old custom of parceling out lines. The hardest of all was to acquiesce in instrumental music in the church. They never did yield. They simply died protesting in their old faith and a new generation that had gradually been educated to these innovations took their places. THE PEOPLE--THEIR PHYSIQUE In statue and physical prowess these early settlers were superior to the present generation. They came of a tall brawny stock, which their rough life and a favorable climate did not allow to deteriorate physically. There were many specimens of splendid physical manhood and not the slouchy, loose-jointed fellows frequently found in remote mountain regions. They were practiced athletes almost to a man--not in the scientific aspect of these times, but from a mode of life that developed every muscle in their bodies. They boxed and wrestled and practiced all of the old Scotch games, such as foot races, throwing the sledge, casting the pole, long jump, high jump, and hop-step and-jump, etc. In some of the old field schools boxing and fencing (with shelalahs) were taught. They fought too. When there was any doubt as to who was the better man, and such issues frequently occurred, they would form a ring and fight it out. Whatever may have been the influence of such a life otherwise, there is no question but that it developed a race that could scarcely be excelled in physical manhood. Fifty years ago Lexington had a volunteer company with many members that would have further turned the head of the crazy old king of Prussia in his mad quest of tall men. The women were fit companions of such men. The hardships and dangers of a frontier life made them rough in comparison with the modern woman surrounded by the advantages of this advanced age. The lack was simply a lack of polish. The innate refinement of conscious virtue and true modesty like a pure diamond sparkled beneath the rough exterior. These women had all the gentle qualities of woman with all the bravery and heroism of brave men. I give two instances illustrating the truth of this remark from the Indian massacre on Kerr’s creek. The first was the well known case of Mrs. McKee who was killed on the hill near the Big Spring mill. In her flight from the Indians she became exhausted and unable to travel further. She and her husband knew they would be overtaken. The question, which called for immediate decision, was whether both should died together or whether one should be saved? The woman promptly decided it by offering herself as a sacrifice by urging her husband to save himself for the sake of their young family. She became a heroine and martyr at the same time. The other was Mrs. Gilmore, higher up the creek, during the same raid. Her husband had been killed and the Indian who did it was in the act of scalping him, when the wife seized a dinner pot (I have always suspected it to have been an old fashioned skillet) and laid the savage prostrate bleeding beside her dead husband. When another Indian raised his tomahawk to kill her he was stopped by the Indian that had been knocked down, saying “Don’t kill her--she is a brave squaw.” Her bravery saved her. These are specimens of the Old Monmouth women and types of the Rockbridge women of the day.
Old Monmouth and Its Times By J. D. Morrison No. VII
HOW THEY DRESSED The day of fringed hunting shirts, buck-skin breeches, coon-skin caps and moccasins had gone out except in the case of an occasional backwoodsman. The times of which we write were the days of homespun. The loom and spinning-wheel were indispensable implements of every household. Each family produced the raw material and manufactured at home every article of apparel used by its members. They raised their own sheep, sheared, carded, spun and wove their wool into cloth for the garments of their person and for the coverings of their beds. They likewise raised their own flax and took it through all the processes of manufacture. Every article of apparel for men, women and children was made at home. They dressed well-- that is, substantially and comfortably. They may have lacked style but when there was no higher standard to judge it by it went unnoticed. To this homespun manufacture there were a few exceptions which showed themselves on sacramental and other extraordinary occasions. These were the wedding suits of a few old gentlemen and ladies which in the first consisted of a blue broad cloth, sparrow-tailed coat with bright brass buttons, collars ranging above the wearer’s ears. With this usually came a very tall fur hat with a very narrow brim. The wife would bring forth from her lavender box a silk dress and a bonnet of a kind that never went out of fashion. These exhibitions were few for two causes-- first, because such outfits were rare, and secondly, because as people grow old they frequently grow fat and get too big for their clothes made in earlier days. There was a great deal of good taste displayed by these people both in the manufacture of the material and the cut and make of their dresses. They, in many cases, used their home dyes with pleasant effect and in the cut and style of their garments made them really handsome. There are persons who have the knack of looking neat and dressing becomingly without much regard to what they have to work on. It is a talent--nascitur non fit.
HOW THEY TRAVELED In the country there were no carriages and buggies those days and no roads for them if there had been. They traveled afoot and horseback--principally the former style. The old people with the small children usually rode--the father with a little one behind and another before, and the mother with the baby on her lap and a larger child behind. They had plenty of children to make this arrangement generally successful. Except in unavoidable cases the children were always taken to church. Where the distance was too great to walk the larger boys and girls rode. As soon as a boy became large enough to be considered a young man and a girl to pass as a young lady (these periods did not serve as early then by a number of years as they do now) each of them had a saddle and usually a horse they called their own. When a girl was old enough to have a horse and a side-saddle of her own she was considered a debutante (“set-out”). But a majority walked. Whole neighborhoods would meet by concert and flock in together. This was the case with lower Kerr’s creek and the river region beyond (Lindsay’s they called it then, now Alone). This section mustered a larger crown that went together, because of the fact that there was two miles of lonesome and unsettled forest (and is yet) between the creek people and the church. They went afoot, and barefoot at that. North of the old church, near the mouth of the old lane now closed, there was a grove where the females stopped to put on their shoes and stockings and primped, whilst the male portion of the crowd modestly walked ahead. This may excite a smile and maybe a sneer from some who crucify their feet in high-heeled, spike toed, patent leather gaithers, but these old fashioned country girls of seventy-five or a hundred years ago showed without blushing and without guile many a pair neat feet and shapely ankles that would have made a “Trilby’s” fortune or thrown the artistic soul of a “Little Billee” into convulsions of delight. They were good girls and helpful and obedient daughters. They made faithful wives and true and affectionate mothers. They gave to the country a race of men who in the days of trial under any and all emergencies have never been fund wanting. THEIR BEHAVIOR Before leaving the subject of these old congregations a remark about their behavior in church will be in place. They were proverbial for their good order and close attention and their stern disapproval of anything approaching misbehavior during services. This too was the sentiment and conduct of persons not otherwise very strict in their walk and conversation. Being brought up in such a school I have all my life caught myself placing an estimate on men and women both by their conduct in church. A REMINISCENCE The foregoing recalls my unwittingly upsetting the gravity of the congregation. It was in the church’s decadence and its quietest and most seminiferous days. I walked to the church by myself. It was spring-time and the very height of the season of flowers. As I passed the old garden I reached through the fence and plucked a handful of big old fashioned red roses. Boy like, I dallied on the way and found a hundred other flowers and other things that attracted my fancy. I tired of my roses and not liking to throw them away I put them in my hat and put my hat on and forgot them. I was late getting to church and service had begun. As I walked in and walked down the long aisle I noticed I was exciting unwanted attention. My advents before never, as far as I could see, called forth say special notice. The young people were snickering and giggling behind their fans and hats and the old ones making awful grimaces in their efforts to look grave. I glided into one of the old high pews as quickly as possible and ducked my head to hide my embarrassment and my forgotten roses rolled at my feet. I had paraded down the aisle with enough roses on top of my head to have decked in the loudest style a woman’s hat of the present day. Those old roses still grow in the same place. Though they have been browsed off a hundred times each spring they bloom as young and pretty and fragrant as they did fifty years ago. ______________
Note:-- In these papers I notice some verbal errors after they are printed. May be the printers are to blame and may be I am. Probably both. I write carelessly and not very legibly and I have not had a chance to read the “proof.” In the last “rhyme” instead of “rhythm,” “statue” that should have been “stature,” and “tune” for “turn”.
Old Monmouth and Its Times By J. D. Morrison No. VIII
The Seceders In the Old Monmouth congregation there was always a considerable number of that branch of the Presbyterian church known officially as Associate Reformed Presbyterians, but popularly as Seceders. These deserve notice passing as a part of the history of the times we have been considering. My regret is that I have not had access to the information that would make a “chapter” on these as full and interesting as the subject deserves. When they first came to this region in numbers sufficiently large to form a church I have not the exact date. They had a minister here before the building of the Old Stone church, as the man buried under Hall’s Meeting House was of that church. Rev. Andrew Heron preached at Ebenezer and Timber Ridge churches jointly from 1815-16 to 1832. Whether the present building at Ebenezer was extant at the first date I do not know. This church is about five miles northwest of Lexington on the Alum Spring road, and its pulpit was lately occupied by the Rev. Mr. Griffith. Rev. Andrew Heron, D.D., mentioned was a highly educated man and left the reputation of being a fine preacher. During a portion of his time at the two churches he was also professor of languages at Washington college. After leaving Rockbridge through a checked career among the schisms of his church he died in Ohio at a very advanced age. WHO AND WHAT THE SECEDERS ARE Whilst ransacking my meager library for some information on the above question, which search was at random, as I had no knowledge of having anything on the subject, the unexpected happened and I picked up a little thin poorly bound old book, on the title page of which I read: “A Display of the Religious Principles of the Associate Synod of North America.”--”Revised by the Synod 1813.” On a fly leaf was written the name “Andrew Heron,” and at the end of the book was printed: “An act of the Synod of Scotland, dated Edinburg, May 7, 1788, in regard to the Associate church in America,” signed by James Morrison, synod clerk (my own name except the lack of the middle letter.) I read the book with all its “Solemn Leagues and Covenants” and its “Testimonies” without end almost. My conclusion was that the “Seceders” were after the most straitest sect, Presbyterians of the ironclad kind, who compromised their views to neither man nor devil in fear. They began seceding when Ebenezer Erskine preached his famous sermon in 1732 from the text, “The stone which the builders refused is made head of the corner.” This sermon criticized the loose conduct of the leading party of the church of Scotland. He was asked to retract his strictures but refused. Three others joined him and the four seceded. These formed themselves into a Presbytery and became a separate organization which grew and waxed strong till they had formed a synod. About twelve years after this when their number amounted to over twenty ministers they divided over a civil oath that had to be taken under such circumstances. There was another secession and both parties called themselves the Associate synod. This kind of thing was kept up with a bewildering frequency, both in Scotland and in this country, till it would neither be profitable nor proper at this late day to attempt to trace who was right or who was wrong. We say with a great deal of pleasure that our Seceders were generally strict and consistent Christians according to their faith and upright and loyal citizens. The difference between these and other Presbyterians was only upon the questions of psalm singing and close communions. Their form of church government, their confession of faith, their creed and catechisms are identically the same. The Seceders insisted that David’s Psalms, as near the accepted translation as possible, was the only psalmody fit to be sung in church and in religious assemblies and that only those belonging to their branch of the church had a right to be admitted to a participation in the rites of the Lord’s Supper by their church. Upon these questions they divided and upon them they still divide. The church never was strong in this community, because of its isolated position and the distance from its base of supplies. Its schools and the source of its supply of ministers have for the last half century been in South Carolina. The churches of this county, except in the cases of Dr. Thompson at Timber Ridge and Mr. McElwee at Ebenezer, since the time of Dr. Heron have been filled by supplies or temporary appointments. Dr. Thompson and Mr. McElwee were more permanently identified with the community than any others we remember and had a better opportunity to keep together and build up their churches. Within the bounds of the Monmouth congregation, of which we especially desire to speak, there are two churches--Ebenezer, and later the church on Kerr’s creek. The strongest Seceder neighborhood was Lindsay’s Mill, now Alone. The Lindsays, Kirkpatricks, McKemy’s and Harpers were all large families and solidly Seceder, just as the neighborhood is now solidly Lutheran. Two generations ago John Welsh, the grandfather of J. P. and Dan Welsh of Turkey Hill, and Benjamin Larew, where T.H. McGuffin now lives, were Presbyterians and the only two families in the region we remember outside of the Seceder church. Today I do not recall a Seceder in the neighborhood. The old families and their descendants are there, but of another faith. The question occurs to me here whether these people were from North Ireland or directly from Scotland. James Lindsay, the grandfather of Judge Lindsay, and the progenitor of the present Lindsay family, was a native Scotchman. On lower Kerr’s creek was another strong settlement composed of the Dixons, Bakers, and Walkups. Higher up came the Leckeys, a very numerous and influential family. James Leckey, who lived in the ravine at the north end of House mountain, was the head of this branch, and many of his descendants still live in the community. The Timber Ridge Lackeys belong to the same family but have changed the spelling of their names to “Lackey.” In the Leckey region were several families of Bains, an old family, a few of whom still remain. On the head of the creek were the Miller’s. whose broad bottoms stretch across the valley of the creek up towards the mountain. John Miller was the founder of this. James F. Harper was another prominent member of the church of that neighborhood. Samuel Miller, who lived still higher up, I think, was a Presbyterian. These are samples of the old families of this church in this region. There have been great changes and a great decline in the church, due to a multitude of causes. The breaking up of families by death and removal, the isolation of their church as suggested, that made their ministrations uncertain and irregular attracted their young people to other churches. They as a church were not progressive. In secular matters they were liberal and public spirited but in their church views they were ultra conservative and stern opponents to any changes or innovations. For an interference with any of their notions of doctrine or church policy, or church forms even, they would be as ready today to protest and “secede” as they were a hundred and fifty years ago in Perth and Stirling.
Old Monmouth and Its Times By J. D. Morrison No. IX
MONMOUTH MINISTERS AT THE OLD CHURCH
REV. ANDREW B. DAVIDSON After the resignation of Dr. Baxter in July 1821, the church’s pulpit was vacant till November 1822, when Rev. A. B. Davidson was appointed as a supply and continued to serve the church in that capacity for half the time until 1829 or 30. Mr. Davidson was born in Botetourt in 1779. His academical and theological studies both were pursued under the tutorship of Dr. Baxter. He married a sister of the late General Charles P. Dorman of Lexington, and left a family prominent and well known in this community. During a very long and active life (he died in 1861, eighty-two years old), there was no preacher better known or more esteemed within the confines of Rockbridge than he. His ministerial work was of a missionary and evangelistic kind. He was a Presbyterian itinerant and preached to the outlying regions that were too weak to support regular pastors. His chief fields were Oxford, Collierstown, upper Kerr’s Creek and Bethesda. He was instrumental in building up churches at all of those places. His ministrations were both acceptable and successful. He married more couples and had more children named for him probably than any other preacher of his day. His services to perform the marriage ceremony were in demand not only on account of his popularity but because he made a simple and quick job of it.
REV. JAMES PAINE Rev. James Paine supplied the Monmouth pulpit for about two years, beginning in 1833. He was of a family well known in the county in the past generation. His brother, Dr. John W. Paine, was for years one of the county’s leading physicians and most respected citizens, and he had another brother Rev. Henry Paine, a Presbyterian preacher. These men were all I think, born in Ireland and came to America early in the century. They traced their decent from the famous John Knox. John Welsh, of whom I have spoken and of whom I may speak again as an officer in the old church, was an uncle of these men and told me of he relationship but I was too young and not sufficiently interested to retain it in memory. (I have a spinning-wheel brought from Ireland by the mother of these Paines. I bought it at Dr. Paine’s sale for use in the family during the late war when spinning and weaving were revived in many households of our region. It is a unique old affair. The rim is nearly as broad as the tires of the old Newtown six-horse wagons that used to ply through the Valley between Winchester and Knoxville.) Of the Rev. James Paine’s character as a preacher or an account of the later period of his life I am unable to speak definitely.
REV. HENRY RUFFNER, D. D. Dr. Ruffner preached at Monmouth from March 1, 1836, to June 21, 1848, at which time he severed his connection with Washington college, of which at the time he was president. His position at college precluded his becoming a pastor, therefore his relation to the church was merely as supply. He was descended from the famous and populous family of Ruffners of Kanawha, West Virginia. He was of German descent and belonged to that very worthy and very useful stock of people who settled the lower Valley and are better known as “Pennsylvania Dutch.” These were a peculiar people as we said about the Scotch-Irish and the two races with their racial peculiarities were adapted to live and work side by side. Their intermarriages improved the original stocks. It is said of the Scotch-Irish that they first built the church and next a place to live in. The Dutch built their barns first and then cabins for their families. They were natural husbandmen, They had an eye to the good and fat lands of the new country they settled in. They were and are yet scientific and successful farmers, most of them without having an iota of book learning on the subject. The men, as a rule, are industrious, upright and thrifty farmers and the women the very best and most provident of housewives. The latter can make more and better things to eat out of what others throw away than a much vaunted French chef with everything in his hand. Somebody said he sat down to one of their suppers and they had twenty kinds of “applebutter.” Let me interpolate in this digression that the fact of some of these people being sensitive about being called “Dutch” is a mistake. “Dutch” is the Anglicized word for the national name of the race and language of the German empire. In no other language as far as I know, except English, are they called Germans. Dr. Henry Ruffner, though born out of it, was to all intents a Rockbridge man. As student, tutor, professor, and president nearly his whole life was spent in connection with Washington college. He married Sally Lyle, a daughter of Captain Wm. Lyle, of Lexington, an active promoter of the building of the old church. By this marriage he had two sons, Dr. Wm. Henry Ruffner, well known to all readers of the COUNTY NEWS, and Captain David L. Ruffner of Kanawha. Instead of going into a disquisition upon his merits as a man of learning and as an able preacher. I will be excused for again becoming reminiscent. Monmouth was my family church and he was the first preacher I remember. His position at college prevented pastoral visits and I never saw much of him except in the pulpit. When he came up from the old session house through the door on the level with the pulpit, which door was but a slit in the wall, and at the end of the service quietly made his exit the same way, he inspired in my youthful mind something akin to awe. I was not old enough to judge his sermons. All I remember was his quiet, pleasant manner of address and his kindly countenance. I used to be puzzled about his being the author of a novel. Novels were interdicted books in my early training, and how a preacher could reconcile it to his conscience to write one was past my ken. I had heard the story of Judith Bensaddi recounted over and over again. I had never read anything at that time but Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, and Fox’s Books of Martyrs with their grewsome pictures. The Scotland Chiefs, Children of the Abbey and Robinson Crusoe came later-- read in the hay loft. Dr. Billy Graham was a real hero to me and I with a great many older people regarded the whole story, embellishments and all as gospel. Some years afterwards when I went to college and became well acquainted with the hero, I boarded at his mother’s and he attended the classes at college, especially chemistry, almost as regularly as I did, I became disillusioned. Dr. Billy was a small, plain and genial old man, anything but my idea of the leading character of an exciting story. In the small congregation, and it was small at that time for reasons given before, Dr. Ruffner was very highly esteemed and beloved by his people. REV. THOMAS N. PAXTON After Dr. Ruffner’s retirement Rev. Thos. N. Paxton preached about two years. He was a Rockbridge man of the Timber Ridge family of Paxtons. He was a brother of the late Samuel D. Paxton, and left an extensive relationship in the county. He removed to North Carolina, I think, and died there. All I remember of him was that he preached acceptably to the people of his charge. After him came Rev. Philo Calhoun and Rev. R. J. Taylor for a short time each. This brings us up to the building of the new church on Kerr’s Creek in 1852, and to the proposed limit of the time of our history. Since then came Rev. W. P. Wharton, Rev. James B. Ramsey, D.D., Rev. Samuel Brown, and the present incumbent, Rev. D. A. Penick. _______
Note:-- I design to give brief sketches of some of the leading promoters of the building of the old church, and of some of the leading officers of the church during the period. To this I will add a brief sweeping sketch of the rank and file of the old congregation with which these “papers” will be concluded, which have been extended beyond my thought and may be growing prosy and tedious to those who read them.
Old Monmouth and Its Times By. J. D. Morrison No. X
THE OLD CONGREGATION In extent the Old Monmouth congregation resembles very much the “County of Fincastle,” which the territory south of Rockbridge was called before Botetourt was formed. Fincastle was bounded on the northeast by Augusta and on the west by the “Western sea” (pacific ocean). Monmouth was limited on the north and east by Timber Ridge and New Providence and towards the south and west it was without limits. To illustrate this remark there is before me “A List of Mr. Graham’s Congregation in the Forks of James River.” It contains sixty two names with the amounts subscribed by each. It begins with John McNutt, Mary Trimble, Moses Trimble, Samuel McCorkle, Arthur Glasgow, Patrick McCollum, William McClure, John Paxton, and others, in the first group, who will be recognized by older persons of that region as former residents of the county on the river south of Lexington. McNutt was a prominent member of a well known family of the county, an account of which was published in the COUNTY NEWS not many months ago. The Trimbles lived and owned a large boundary of land, the former residence of the late Joseph Steele and more recently owned by J. W. Barclay. Of the name nothing now exists in that region except the hills in the neighborhood known as Trimble’s hills. Samuel McCorkle was of the large and well known family of that name, which a generation ago consisted of six or eight miles of that section and who together owned several miles square of land of that region. Of the name there remains in the neighborhood now only the remnants of the families of Wm. H. and B. F. McCorkle. Arthur Glasgow was the grandfather of Hon. Wm. A. Glasgow of Lexington, none of whose name now live in the region of the old family home, except the wife of the venerable Colonel J. H. Paxton, who in turn with his family are the sole representatives of the long list of Paxtons of that section. I had not intended to sketch these old families but was simply tempted to note the changes in this section of the “Forks of the James” of the old names within a period of forty years at the beginning of which the McCorkles, Glasgows, Paxtons, Edmondsons, Hamiltons, McClures, and other well known names occupied all this region. Now these have almost entirely disappeared from the scenes of their former residence. In the “List” mentioned comes next the Lexington portion of the old congregation--Colonel Samuel Wallace, John Galbraith, Matthew Hanna, William Alexander, and others. After these follow the Whistle creek and Kerr’s creek names, most of which have been published in these papers. Near the end of he list occur the names of the “Widow Dale” and Joseph Logan. These lived at the very foot of Hogback mountain on the North branch of Kerr’s creek, and James Cunningham and John Moore at the head of the south branch of the creek. The last of these I take to be the ancestor of Captain J. P. Moore. There are three John Moores on this list. From this it will be seen that the congregation extended entirely from North mountain to the Blue Ridge. Logans and Dales at the foot of first, and the Glasgow lands at what is now Buena Vista, I think ran back into the Blue Ridge. It is not proposed to cover all this territory in this sketch, but to sketch briefly and with a free hand, which calls not for details, that portion west and north of Lexington in which is comprehended the present congregation.
COLONEL WILLIAM MCKEE Colonel McKee was one of the most active and liberal contributors towards the building of the old church. He gave of his time and means both without stint. He was not one of the Kerr’s creek McKees, but was born in Rockingham and removed to Rockbridge and lived on the west side of Brushy Hill on a place afterwards owned by Dr. Baxter. He held various offices of honor and trust. He was a member of the convention of 1788, sheriff of the county and trustee of Washington college. He was a soldier and fought under General Andrew Lewis at Point Pleasant, and was a member of Washington’s Continentals at Braddock’s defeat. He removed to Kentucky in 1816 and died there at the age of eighty-four years. His grandson was the Colonel McKee that was killed at the head of one of the two famous Kentucky regiments that fought at Buena Vista, the other regiment losing its Colonel Hardin and its Lieutenant-Colonel Clay at the same time.
WHO WAS MATTHEW HANNA? I asked Henry Myers, Esq., this question and he answered: “He was my great grandfather. He came to Lexington before the Revolutionary war and built the house on the corner of Main and Henry streets, now owned by Mrs. Gibbs, one of the oldest, if not the oldest house in town. I have his old family clock with his name on its face.” A daughter of Hanna married Rev. Daniel Blain, professor at Washington college and well known in the annals of the Presbyterian church by a succession of ministers of the same name. Another daughter of Mr. Hanna married John T. McKee of Kerr’s creek; another John Parry, father of the late M. H. Parry of Fancy Hill. So the children of Madison Dunlap, and of John C. Laird and Samuel W. McKee of Kerr’s creek, together with the children of John H. Myers, M. H. Parry, and Robt. C. McClure are all great grandchildren of Matthew Hanna. These with their descendants, even to the fifth generation give this man a host of descendants in Rockbridge, and not a person in the county bears his name as a surname. From what I learn from these old papers, Mr. Hanna was a good and useful man in matters relating to the church and his name deserves to be perpetuated in connection with Old Monmouth.
JOHN WILLSON This name stands third on all the subscriptions and equal with the highest. He was a member of the building committee and all through the records shows himself to have been a most efficient aid in the work. There are a number of John Willsons who lived in this region about that time and this one as yet I have not been able to locate. John Willson in Rockbridge as to designation by the name only is about as uncertain as the proverbial “John Smith.” His name is on the lists west of Lexington. There were two old families of the name on Whistle creek members of the church. One James Willson who lived where Mrs. McKemy now lives, father of Saml. C. Willson and of Mrs. J. A. M. Lusk, and Robert Willson, grandfather of Treasurer S. R. Moore. Whether the John Willson we desire to locate was of either of these families I am uncertain. Be his the honor whoever he be!
DR. SAMUEL L. CAMPBELL This is another name that deserves special mention. Dr. Campbell was a native of Rockbridge and a man of education and culture. He built the old Rock Castle residence and lived and died in sight of the old church and his remains lie buried there in one of the queer little stone enclosures in the old churchyard. Dr. Campbell was considered one of the best physicians of his day and had a practice that extended even to the adjoining counties. He became blind before his death but even in this condition he went about the country visiting patients. He rode to Lexington alone. Besides a friend of the church he was an earnest friend of education and for a time acted as president of Washington college.
CAPTAIN WILLIAM LYLE Captain William Lyle was a Timber Ridge man and belonged to that well known name of Rockbridge people. He resided for a number of years in Lexington during which time Monmouth was erected. He was a trustee of the church and a member of the building committee and took a very active part in the work. Captain Lyle was a soldier in the revolution. At home and in private he is described as a man of upright character and fine business capacity. He removed to what is the Sterrett farm near Timber Ridge and died at his old home at an advanced age leaving a numerous posterity that has done honor to his memory. __________ This closes our mention of the oldest men connected with the building of he church except incidentally.
Old Monmouth and Its Times By J. D. Morrison No XI
DROPPED STITCHES This number will be devoted to picking up “dropped stitches” and winding the raveled ends in our narrative. Some of these pertain to the history of the church, some to the “times” and some are simply gossipy.
CHURCH TOKENS The Presbyterian church formerly used tokens and I think the Seceders do yet or did until recently. These tokens were given out to intending communicants the day before or on the Sabbath morning of the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. They were in fact tickets of admission to the table and indicated that the communicant was in good standing in that church or of the church of which he was a member, if he were a visitor. In communing they sat at a table and did not receive the emblems sitting in their pews as the Presbyterians do now. In a broad aisle in front of the pulpit in Old Monmouth a long table was prepared with benches on each side at which the communicants sat. This was filled as often as the number of members required and the time of serving a table by the elders was occupied in exhortation by the pastor or visiting ministers. These tokens, as I remember them, were thin lead or pewter tablets about one and a half inches long and about half as wide. On them were raised letters, initials of the pastor or church where they were used. The custom of their use was discontinued by the Presbyterians about fifty years ago.
YOUTHFUL DEPRAVITY My father was an elder in Bethesda church under Rev. A. B. Davidson and in fact was an itinerant elder as Mr. Davidson was a preacher-- that is, he attended all the sacraments of that minister at his other churches. (He, afterwards for a number of years and at his death, was an elder in Monmouth). Under Mr. Davidson he was the keeper of the tokens which were deposited at home in a little stand drawer, where they remained after their disuse. About this time there came into the family an old-fashioned, long-barrelled, flint-lock shot gun, which I think was purchased at a sale of a large quantity of condemned arms and accourtrements when the Lexington arsenal became the Virginia Military Institute. These had accumulated at the arsenal and represented relics of all of the American wars of this country up to that date. I remember to have seen British and French muskets, continental rifles and Hessian guns, pronounced as if spelled “yaugers.” The last were short barrels with large boxes and the rifles had an extra twist. With these were sabres, cartridge boxes, belts and shoulder straps, and other accourtrements of all these nationalities. My gun, though not an army gun, had got into this company. The old gun remained in “innocuous desuetude” about the house for a long time until I thought I was big enough to shoot, but I had no shot and no means of getting them. My evil genius suggested the tokens. I took them and cut them into narrow strips and rolled them between two smooth flat stones and cut the strips into leaden pellets. With these I loaded the gun and the very first shot I ever fired I killed two crows, which shot signalized the proudest day of my life, and also an end of church tokens in our family. This old gun I have described before. It had two bad tricks in those days. One was, it went off half-cocked when you didn’t want it, and another, it wouldn’t go off at all when you did want it. It was rehabilitated by Mr. Beeton, father of John Beeton. It became the sporting companion of my youth and manhood till I traded it at the beginning of the late war for one brace of dueling pistols that belonged to a nephew of Patrick Henry.
THE KERR’S CREEK MASSACRES The saddest and most tragic episode in the history of this region were the Indian massacres on Kerr’s creek early after its settlement. The first incursion was in 1763 and the second two years afterwards in 1765. I will not attempt to recount the sad and pathetic story of horrors of these scenes. A full account of these massacres appeared in the COUNTY NEWS a few years ago from the pen of Rev. Samuel Brown, then pastor of Monmouth, which was written by that venerable and good man at my request for the Rockbridge Citizen. This account was so full and so reliable and has so recently been republished that I will content myself with a simple reference to account for a number of the old families of the old church. The incursions were from the West over the Alum Spring mountain and extended down to the Big Spring. The bloodiest scene was at Big Spring, at the house of Jonathan Cunningham, where the people of the region had collected for refuge. From the head of the creek to that point not a family escaped. The highest up lived Charles Daugherty who, with his entire family, was killed. Then further down Jacob Cunningham’s wife was killed and his ten-year old daughter scalped and escaped that time to fall into their hands on the second invasion and to be carried off a prisoner. Next Thomas Gilmore and his wife were killed at the Gilmore place owned in part now by Dr. Hileman. Then came Robert Hamilton at the old Dunlap place where Captain McNeel now lives. Five of his family were slaughtered. This ended the first raid. In the second incursion William Gilmore and Mrs. McKee, of whom I have spoken, a number of the Cunninghams and many other families that were extirpated at the time perished. The remnants of the Hamilton, Gilmore and Cunningham families were taken prisoner. A number of families and their names were blotted out in these massacres. With sad frequently comes the ludicrous. At that time there lived high up on the mountain an odd old genius of whom many funny tales are told. He went barefooted winter and summer and walked to Hall’s Meeting house with his rifle in a garb that would have made a model for a statue of Robinson Crusoe. It is said he was of a party that marched over the Warm Spring mountain to repel an Indian raid and it snowed on them during the trip and he made some of the party very angry going up the steep declivities by shoveling the snow back in the faces of those behind with his splay barefeet. To illustrate one of the phases of pioneer life of this region I give the following which is authentic: JAMIE M’HENRY--HIS DEATH, HIS WAKE AND HIS FUNERAL Had “Jamie” not have had “Molly” for a wife and had he not died and had a wake and a funeral, in all probability he would have gone down with the unknown herd a stranger to fame. As it was these advantages have rescued the name of an humble and obscure individual from oblivion. Jamie lived at the north end of House mountain on the eastern side in what was then a most retired spot, and it is equally so yet. It was at what the people of that region will recognize as the “Joe Webb place.” Joe himself was a character and if he had lived a little further back he too would have deserved a notice in these premises. As it is he was an octogenarian, a dyspeptic and a hypochondriac. One of his idiosyncrasies was that his legs were hollow and that his food passed into them and did not nourish him. It was about 100 years ago on a Tuesday morning that Mollie McHenry came down the hollow to Mrs. Bain’s and after the usual salutations she said, “I want you to come up to our wake tonight.” Whereupon Mrs. Bain in surprise asked: “Who is dead?” “Why Jamie is dead,” Mollie said, “he died the Sabbath day.” Mrs. Bain expressed surprise that she had not let it be known after such a length of time. “Weel,” said Mollie, “I wanted to give Jamie a dacent wake so I filled his mouth with salt as I thought he would keep till I got things fixed up for the people that would come to the wake.” They had the “dacent wake” and the day after the funeral of a like “dacent” character. The burial was to be at McKee’s graveyard at Big Spring, about three miles distant. They conveyed the corpse on a sled. There were no hearses nor other wheeled vehicles in that region in those days. When the procession arrived at the grave, those of them who were sober enough to discern it discovered that the sled was there but there was no corpse on it. They went back to look up the stray cadaver and over a mile distant in the branch in front of the present New Monmouth parsonage they found the coffin upside down in the creek. Mollie in course of time likewise died and had a wake, as the old man himself long since dead, who used to tell the story said he knew it was true, because “Mam and Dad courted and got engaged a’ Mollie McHenry’s wake.”
Old Monmouth and Its Times By. J. D. Morrison No XII
EXODUS AND EISODUS The American people, as a rule, have little more of the sentiment of local attachment than the Nomads of the deserts of the East. Since the settlement of the country they have constantly been going West in vain seeking for the “promised land” where they might find wealth and contentment. This they have kept up till they have reached the utmost confines of the continent, whence the tide must soon begin to flow back. After the close of the last war with Britain, which settled the titles to our western territory, there was from the East a brisk tide of emigration to what the old people called “Kaintuck” and to “The Ohio.” They always prefixed the particle “the.” In general they called it “going out back.” This going out of the old settlers was accompanied by a coming in of a new set to take their place. This process for a period of years caused a shifting and a great change in the population of Rockbridge and introduced, about seventy-five years ago, many new families that too have become old and disappeared. These changes and this mingling of the old and new make it difficult at this date to account for many of the old names of the congregation of the old church. I find many names that I can neither find whence they came nor whither they went. A GLEANING In the preceding papers there has been incidentally a liberal mention of the names of Old Monmouth’s congregation in all portions of its territory. What is left now is a gleaning of those left as far as we are able to find and locate them. At the mouth of Kerr’s creek were the Orbisons. David Orbison, who lives on a portion of the old lands, is the last of that name in this region. The descendants of Samuel Gold are related to the family through his first wife. The Gouls, who lived at what is now known as the “Gold Place,” was another Monmouth family, but of a later date. At the beginning of the late war there were four brothers in the prime of a stalwart manhood. One of them immediately before the war and the other three early in it died, all I think, of the same disease--typhoid fever. John M. Goul, one of these, who was a member of the famous Rockbridge artillery and a licentiate of the Presbyterian church, would deserve an extended mention if our limits extended down to as late a period. The name has ceased. Mrs. Stuart, mother of Mr. W. C. Stuart, of Lexington is the only living member. Adjoining this place on what is called the “Garland place” lived a family of Skeens. The Skeens of Alleghany county, and the Mateers were related to these. I remember a row of locust head and foot boards, or rather heavy posts neatly inscribed, that marked the graves of the Skeens. These stood in the old churchyard near the east gate. Next on the creek where T. Alphin now lives were the Wyants and Athans before mentioned. The Zink place and that where Philip Engleman owns were owned by the Wileys. Their homestead was up in Turkey hill on Engleman’s land. Of these were the two Revolutionary soldiers mentioned at the beginning of these articles and misprinted “Mileys.” The lands of Mrs. P. B. Alphin and the Morrisons were owned, I think, by the Kirkpatricks, a different family from any of the present name in the county. Next on both sides of the creek came the McElhanys, a very old family. Their home place was where M. Lindsay and Sandy Paxton now own. The old house is where Paxton lives and was built prior to the Revolutionary war, and a later building, the ruins of the chimney of which yet remain, was built during the war. Major John McElhany, a member of the family, the winter of the Valley Forge fame, quartered in the unfinished building a number of recruits which had enlisted for Washington’s army. He owned the place of the heirs of John K. McCown, and built their house, which has been since remodeled. He married a sister of General Lewis. Mrs. Gibbs of Lexington, and Mrs. Mary Lewis Lackey of Fancy Hill, are of this family and direct descendants of John Lewis, the pioneer settler of this portion of the state. Next above comes the Big Spring place owned by Thompson and Chaplin, on each side of the creek. This was owned by Walkup, noticed in the Seceder article. This brings us to the Big Spring. North of the creek up to this point, except in the Lindsay’s mill region, which has been mentioned, there were McCampbells on part of the lands of the McCowns and J. P. S. Teaford. John Adair, grandfather of J. McD. Adair, lived on the old place now owned by Samuel Adair. This family has been identified with Monmouth for a long series of years but was not one of the oldest families of the region. At the time of the war of independence the whole region now known as the “Barrens,” from Kerr’s creek to the Baths neighborhood of the McCowns, Sniders and Mohlers, was unsettled except by one squatter named Jimmy Dillon. From the Big Spring to Lowman’s mill the McKees owned. The portion next to spring, known as the Samuel W. McKee place, belonged first to Cunningham, whose house was burnt in the second Indian incursion as related in connection with the massacre. The old McKee homestead was the place now owned by Treasurer S. R. Moore. Of the earlier history of the beautiful little valley of the north branch of the creek I know but little. The O. B. Dunlap place fifty years ago was owned by William Gilmore of the Buffalo and James River family of Gilmores. Daughters of his married Joseph M. Adams, James C. C. Moore, and Andrew Lindsay, the second wife of the last being of that family. Further up came Robert and James Davidson in order of their names, The first was the father of the late Charles H. Davidson, and the last of Madison G. Davidson, S. W. McKee’s wife and the first wife of Andrew Lindsay, Judge Lindsay’s mother. Who owned these splendid lands before them I don’t know. Nearer the mountain were the Logans, Hulls, and Dales, all old families, a remnant of which now remain. On the other branch after the old Dunlap place, where the Hamiltons were slaughtered, comes a large boundary of lands of the Kerr’s creek Gilmores which have been mentioned in this account of the Indian massacre. Captain Wm. C. Gilmore, recently deceased, an elder in Monmouth and a prominent citizen in the public affairs of the county, was the last owner of these lands which continued in possession of the family from the first settlement till a few years ago. Next come the Millers, mentioned before. John Moore owned a large area including the Wm. T. Moore place, the old Harper place and that owned by Mrs. McKemy and H. H. Teaford, comprising over a thousand acres. This was the place of one of the Cunninghams spoken of last week. This John Moore was the father of James C. C. Moore, Wm. T. Moore, and Abner W. Moore, all late well known and prominent citizens who left families equally well known. His father lived and died in the Colliers creek region in the neighborhood of the Hutton place. He was the grandfather likewise of Dr. Thomas S. Moore, James and John S. Moore of that region. In early times before the organization of the Oxford church, there were a number of Monmouth families in that section and lower down on Buffalo. The Findleys and Mackeys occur to me. Coming back down Whistle creek in addition to the Wilson families before spoken of, is the Weir name. The name of Hugh Weir occurs in the old papers. He was a blacksmith, I take it, as there is an account of his for furnishing hardware for the church such as hinges, nails, etc., and of his making them. The late Wm. E. Weir, who owned the Seebert place, was, I presume, a descendant of his.
Old Monmouth and Its Times By J. D. Morrison No. XIII
APOLOGETIC Of course there will remain many worthy names that have escaped my attention. For this I can make no apology other than it was unavoidable. The ignorance of a majority of our people of the local history of their own section and even of their own families is amazing. I have consulted many of them seeking information for use in these papers and I generally have found that they, as a rule, knew little or nothing of their ancestry. ROBERT MORRISON AND A BIT OF FAMILY HISTORY After its founders Old Monmouth owed no man more than to Robert Morrison. During the long period that the church was without regular pastors he was its stay and prop. He was an elder and did the work efficiently, not only of an elder but performed many of the duties that pertained to a pastor. John Welsh and John T. McKee, two of the leading elders, had grown old and lived rather remote from the church. Morrison lived near, on an adjoining farm. He was young, energetic and zealous. He looked after the church’s temporal as well as spiritual affairs. He secured the services of ministers and entertained them at his home. He represented the church in its presbyteries, synods and general assemblies. Though not an educated man he had good general information, especially in church history and policy. He was a ready and fluent speaker and usually spoke to the point. Dr. Skinner in the famous “Skinner Trial” called him “Gude Robert.” He retained and deserved the appellation of “Gude Robert” to his death. He left three sons--J. Luther Morrison, who succeeded him in the eldership, and who in turn was succeeded by his son Robert, the third generation of elders in the family. Captain Henry Ruffner Morrison of the Liberty Hall Volunteers, was a second son, and Professor Robert Culton Morrison, late of Kentucky, the third. FAMILY HISTORY I am induced to write a short sketch under the above heading in answer to numerous questions on the subject, especially since I have been writing these articles. I cannot promise to be very explicit nor to go very far back. Like the witty John G. Saxe said in some of his writings, for fear in tracing the genealogical line I might find it to end in a “noose.” The father of Robert Morrison the Monmouth elder, was Robert Morrison, and was born in the north of Ireland and was brought an infant to this country some time prior to the Revolutionary war. His father settled in Bucks county, Pa., near the city of Philadelphia, and was a soldier in that war. He was badly wounded and left for dead on the field of Trenton. Further back than him I cannot go. From traditional stories he was a typical Scotch-Irishman of the church militant, covenantor stock. One story of him illustrates this. During the church troubles in Ireland between the Catholics and Protestants he got himself in trouble. There was a Catholic church procession passing and Morrison was required to uncover which he refused to do. One of the conductors of the procession knocked his hat off and Morrison promptly knocked him down. A hue and cry was raised and he had to trust to his heels to escape rough handling and even death. When hard pressed by the pursuit he came up with a man on horseback carrying a bag of onions to market and he unceremoniously tumbled the man and his onions off in the road and mounted the horse and escaped. Old Robert Morrison married a Miss Work in Pennsylvania, and removed to Augusta county early in the century. Of this marriage there were three sons and three daughters. The sons were James, Robert and William. The last was the father of the writer. James went to Ohio and never lived in this state. The other was the Robert above sketched. The first wife of the old Robert died and he married a second wife, a Miss Henderson, near Staunton, and removed to Rockbridge about seventy-five years ago, and lived for a time and taught school on Timber Ridge, when he purchased the lands now owned by Mrs. Alphin and Wm. Morrison’s heirs on Kerr’s creek, where he lived and died and was buried at Old Monmouth. Of the second marriage there was issue of four sons and two daughters. Colonel C. M. Morrison and Andrew D. Morrison were of this family, the latter was the father of the Buffalo and Collierstown Morrisons. The old man was a pedagogue of the old fashioned type. He taught the “three R’s” and prided himself on his arithmetic and his fine handwriting--the last an accomplishment not inherited by one of his descendants at least. The late Samuel W. Lyle of Timber Ridge, was one of his pupils and a great wag in addition. He used to entertain me with descriptions of the old gentleman’s system of impairing instruction, which from his account was of the heroic kind. He had a mode of disciplining his culprit pupils by what he called “cobbing.” He took the offender down across his knees and if the victim was a small one he used his hand; if larger he bestinadoed him with a heavy ruler. Some chap, either Lyle or one of the old man’s own bad sons, it would have been like either of them, bit him on one of these occasions. Whoever it was, said when the job was over and the old man was through with him, he was not able to sit down comfortably for a fortnight afterwards. RECAPITULATION Well, “Old Monmouth and Its times” is as a tale that has been told--poorly told. What has been poorly done might have been better had I known as much at the beginning as I now do at the end. I have been frequently since writing these articles very kindly furnished with information and suggestions, but almost invariably when it was too late for me to use them. The historical part relating to the early days and the building of the church will be found to be substantially correct. For this I am indebted mainly to the old papers of the church itself. For much information as to many of the persons spoken of in connection with the church in early days I am under obligations to the “Washington and Lee University Historical Papers.” Outside of these sources touching the “times” and the old families I have had to rely upon tradition and my own general knowledge of the old families and history of the county, which must necessarily at times be faulty. For the “rambling, reminiscent and gossipy part” promised from the beginning I offer neither apology nor explanation. To me at least this was the easy and pleasant part of the work which probably in extent is out of proportion to the more serious matter. RETROSPECT Memory lifts the curtain of the dead Past and shows a vivid picture of a scene over fifty years ago. It is a lovely Sabbath day in the spring time. The stillness of the country Sabbath is only broken by the music of the crippling waters of the little creek and the glad songs of the birds lately returned to their summer homes, nature is clad in the bright colors of the young year. The old church with its gray walls and its gray mossy roof stands in solemn dignity among its old oaks through whose widespread branches the gentle zephyrs of spring sigh a sad requiem over the graves of the silent sleepers who have found their last long homes beneath them. It is “intermission” between the services. Imagination peoples the scene again with its old congregation which again pass in review before the mind a living tableau. The mothers amid their baskets and babies sit in the shade of the old session house, whilst the larger children play among the graves and pluck flowers growing upon them. The older men and the minister consult within the house. The young men and boys again range themselves on the fence on wither side of the south gate, whilst the girls in their bright Sunday dresses and brighter sunny smiles sit or stand in groups under the trees towards the east gate. The familiar patient old horses each again nods at his old hitching post in the grove outside. This is “Old Monmouth restored.” But it is a shadow just as its old congregations are now shades, which as said of the knights of old---- “Their bodies are dust, Their good swords rust, Their souls are with the saints we trust.” THE END __________________
Note:-- I have a note from a lady, a descendant of Hugh Weir, asking me to correct the inference I drew that Weir was a blacksmith. She says he was a man of education and culture and owned slaves, and that it was one of his slaves that made the “hinges and nails” for Old Monmouth. My mistake was a natural one, when his account stands “To making hinges, etc., for the church,” that he was a blacksmith, which would in no wise have been to his discredit had it been so. I must say her once for all that I cannot make corrections nor give information in the multitude of cases these articles are calling for. I have said before that I knew and felt there were mistakes, which were unavoidable. I did this work as a labor of love to in some degree rescue the history of this old church and the names of its old congregations from entire oblivion; and those who have read these “papers” must take them as they are and with the good intentions of the writer. The work was in the line of “Old Mortality”-- to clear away the briars and brambles that hide the old graves, to reset its old tombstones, where there are any, and to rechisel their worn and obscured inscriptions. It is a work which I would be glad that some one would do better for every old graveyard and old church in the county. J. D. M.
End Note: 1- Rockbridge County News, late 1896 and early 1897, this series of articles appeared in this newspaper over a thirteen week stretch and are transcribed within.
I found recently the original subscription paper for the building of the first "meeting house" in Lexington. How it ever escaped the search of the late Jacob Fuller is a mystery! He not only searched the houses but the minds and consciences of all the old inhabitants for any item relating to temporal, as well as spiritual affairs, of the Presbyterian church in this town. In one of his memoranda, now before me, he gives the dimensions of the first church with so many particulars as to the sounding board, the location of the choir, the occupants of the pews and other matters, that I can almost see Davy Buck limp down the aisle, take hold of the rope, wrap it once or twice around his hand, and then work himself up and down while the little bell in the "loft" called the people into prayers-- and prayers and sermons they were too in those days! The invocation was a matter of fifteen or twenty minutes; then the Psalm, of many verses, read and expounded, and then lined out by the precentor and sung; then the Scripture lesson read and explained-- a matter of thirty or forty-five minutes, and then the long prayer! Well named it was, as even in my day I have heard them last from twenty to thirty minutes with several saving clauses for fear something had been omitted. Another Psalm, and then the preacher faced the congregation for an hour or two, winding up with a prayer which contained a summary of what he had said or intended to say, "if time had permitted;" another Psalm, lined out as the others, then the benediction, the congregation getting home in time to milk the cows before dark. But to come to my find. It says: "For the purpose of procuring in Lexington or its vicinity, where a majority of us may think most proper, a lott of land and building thereon a meeting-house of stone or brick, forty by forty-five feet in the clear, for making the lower floor, galary, doors, windows and roof of said building, we the subscribers do bind ourselves to pay several sums annexed to our names into the hands of the trustees that shall be chosen by the Lexington congregation for the direction and oversight of said building. The payments to be in proportion to our subscription, at such times as said trustees shall think proper to call upon us. Witness our hands this 22nd day of February, 1796." The subscribers were forty-five in number and the amount subscribed £541, 5s, 4p. Here is the list. The subscriptions were made in English pounds, shillings and pence: David Lusk £20; William Ramsey, 6; Arthur Walkup, 50; Talma Keys, 6; Daniel Windell, 5; Benj. Darst, 3; John Cox, 10; Arthur Beaty, 5; William Jackson, 1; John Bowyer, 60; John Moore, Sr., 5; John Moore, Jr., 10; Elizabeth Close, 1; Andrew Hall, 3; John McNutt, 6; Francis Foggy, 6; Samuel Moore, 6; John Moore,10; Samuel Walkup, 3; Matthew Hanna, 45; William Alexander, 30; William Lyle, 45; Jas. Grigsby, 20; James Blair, 6; James Gold, 24; Henry Williams, 6; Bernard Kayton, 4; Robert McDowell, 5; J. Trimble, 8; Samuel McCorkle, 5; James Steele, 1, 1s.; Alexander McCorkle, 2; James McCollom, 3; James Bailey, 6; Cornelius Dorman, 3; Samuel Campbell, 12; Thos. Margrave, 12; James Gilmore, 16; George Edgar, 5; Samuel Mateer, 3; John Galbraith, 18; Robert Scott, 12; Hugh McAllister, 3; Wm. Grigsby, 1, 4s, 4d; A. Reid, to be discharged by building pulpit, 30. A very liberal amount for that day as Lexington had, in 1780, not more than four dwelling houses. And now for Mr. Fuller's description of the building: "It was a substantial brick building, located in the north corner of what was then styled the Presbyterian graveyard. The building was fifty feet square, the foundation of stone, was commenced in 1797. The house being about eighteen feet in height, had a gallery extending around three sides and entered from the outside by two stairways at the south end. The lower floor had five entry doors (afterwards increased to seven), two on each side (right and left of pulpit) and one immediately opposite the pulpit in the south end, the main entrance door being about twelve feet from Main street. From this door an aisle led across the audience room, immediately in front of the pulpit to a door opposite. Another aisle led from the pulpit to the door in the south end. Then there were two aisles extending from the cross aisle to the rear of the building. The pulpit stood in north (or east) end of the house. It was a close box pulpit of the olden time, with a massive looking sounding board overhead. The present front entry gate of the cemetery opens directly in front of the door at the cross aisle and this aisle led to a door on the opposite side of the building, and twenty-five feet beyond was the 'Study' or 'Session House', a brick building of 18x16 feet, erected in 1821." The corner stone of the present building, corner of Main and Nelson streets, was laid June 22nd, 1844. The old building torn down soon afterwards and the material used in the erection of the manse. M.
1. Rockbridge County News, 9 February 1899, p. 1.